Paul's Passing Thoughts

The Elephant in the Room: The Historical-Redemptive Gospel

Posted in Uncategorized by pptmoderator on November 30, 2015

ELEPHANTOriginally published September 3, 2013

How Should We Read Our Bibles?

There isn’t a bigger elephant in the Sunday school room or the sanctuary than the issue of Bible interpretation. The reason for this follows: the method of interpretation that comes natural to us is assumed.

What is that method? This gets into an area of study called hermeneutics (the theory of interpretation), and the two primary theories thereof are exegesis and eisegesis. These are big theological words that the average Protestant is not supposed to know. This is because the Protestant interpretation of the Scriptures is based on authority.

We will get to exegesis and eisegesis, but the crux of the issue is authority. The Reformers came from Romanism and clearly, their interpretive construct was based on authority; i.e., the average parishioner was not free to interpret the Bible and follow it according to one’s own conscience:

Rightfully and nobly did the Protestant Reformers claim religious liberty for themselves; but they resolutely refused to concede it to others. [1]

The very foundation of Protestant interpretation is based on authority; that is, the leaders dictate meaning. Therefore, traditionally, the need for Protestants in general to understand interpretive principles would be unnecessary, and as a result, Protestantism functions that way till this very day. In the early days of the Reformation, private interpretation was outlawed [2]; in our day, education regarding the tools needed to interpret the Bible are merely excluded.

This fact brings us to an interesting word, “orthodoxy.” Traditionally, this word is associated with “truth” as a synonym. This is not the case at all. Orthodoxy is the authority of truth based on counsels of any given sect. [3] The opinions of these counsels regarding the meaning of “truth” are known as “creeds” and “confessions.” These are “truths” (actually, opinions concerning the meaning of any given subject) repackaged for those who have limited understanding, and usually recited and learned through catechisms [4].

Authority Versus Individual Interpretation

Hence, Protestant interpretation is based on authority and not individual interpretation. The structure of this interpretive process is orthodoxy formed through counsels, distributed by creeds/confessions, and practiced through catechisms. In Europe and early Colonial America, it was a matter of civil law, in our day the process is tempered by the freedom to choose your own orthodoxy, but it is still orthodoxy. Once a typical American parishioner chooses who they want to believe, they will follow that leader as an authority. A like tendency caused the Apostle Paul to confront the believers at Corinth (1COR 3:1-9).

Of course, the authoritative method of interpretation is at the root of every cult. Traditionally, when people seek to find God, they begin by finding an authority that they are comfortable with. This is why many people prefer authoritative interpretation in a free society: it allows them to choose their own general truth while leaving the hard task of thinking to others. The Apostle Paul said this would be particularly problematic in the last days (2TIM 4:3-5).

The visible authority structure within the church is known as “church polity” or church government. [5] Again, the whole construct is based on authority. If authority is the interpretive prism, roles in the church are going to be seen as positions of authority rather than gifts. When Christ ministered here on earth, disciples were free to follow Him or not follow Him under their own free volition (JN 6:66-69). Christ made it clear to the disciples that their roles in the kingdom were not that of authority (Matthew 20:20-28).

The word “office” inserted in the English translations when associated with “bishop” or “deacon” were added in to the translations and do not appear in the Greek manuscripts while in other places these roles are spoken of as gifts (EPH 4:11-16). We have been given authority to proclaim the gospel of the kingdom on earth, but that is a vertical authority and not horizontal. Those who protest the gift idea versus the authority idea often cite the following text:

Hebrews 13:17 – Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.

The word for “obey” in this verse is πείθω (peithō) which means to persuade by argument. The word “submit” is ὑπείκω (hypeikō) which means “to surrender.”  Here is the best rendering according to a heavy paraphrase:

Be persuaded by your leaders’ arguments from Scripture and don’t be stubborn in regard to the truth for this is no advantage to your own spiritual wellbeing. Besides, they have to give an account for how they led you, and let that account be a joyful recital to the Lord rather than a sorrowful report.

Why is this important? Because every person is personally culpable before God for following the truth, not men. Paul was an apostle, yet the Bereans verified what he taught according to their own understanding of Scripture (Acts 17:11). Paul told the Corinthians that he should only be followed as he followed Christ (1COR 11:1). Every individual will stand before God to give an account of the sum and substance of their own lives, not who they followed among mortals.

The Exegesis and Eisegesis of Hermeneutics

The theological word for the science of biblical interpretation is hermeneutics. The first consideration of hermeneutics must be exegesis and eisegesis. Exegesis draws conclusions from written text depending on the grammatical meaning and arrangement of words. Eisegesis approaches the text with an interpretive prism. One who uses the exegetical approach will even approach the text to learn how the text itself should be interpreted. Eisegesis assumes one must approach the text with a proper presupposition in order to properly understand it.

Therefore, this takes us right back to the basic question of authority versus the freedom of individual interpretation. Eisegesis will approach the text with a prescribed method of interpretation while exegesis will look for the best way to interpret the text from the text itself. The interpretive prism for eisegesis comes from an authority. The common contention from those of the authority camp is that everybody approaches the Bible with presuppositions, and this is unavoidable; so, it is important to use the right interpretive prism. Since we are supposedly incapable of approaching the Bible objectively, we should bow to their authority in regard to the proper interpretive prism.

Historical-Grammatical Versus Historical Redemptive: The Elephant in the Room

Eisegesis and exegesis really boils down to authority versus individualism, and so does the two major methods of interpretation in the church: historical-grammatical method and the historical-redemptive method. This is where we get into discussion about the elephant in the room. These two devices of interpretation yield completely different results. When we sit under any given teacher, he/she will be using one of these hermeneutics. The two different approaches will sound the same because each uses all of the familiar terms, “gospel,” “justification,” etc., but the terms mean different things in each construct. This is the elephant in the sanctuary and the Sunday school room that no one is talking about.

As suggested by the terms themselves, one interprets the Bible grammatically, and the other interprets the Bible through a Redemptive prism. The latter seems perfectly reasonable: “Isn’t the Bible primarily about Redemption?” The former would judge that assertion by a grammatical evaluation of the text. In other words, conclusions are drawn by the arrangement of words, their meaning, and what those words meant to people in that historical context. This is exegesis.

The redemptive method presupposes that the Bible is a gospel narrative about the works and personhood of Christ. It presupposes that this is the dominate theme of the Bible and everything else in the Bible is secondary and points back to Christ. For example, biblical commands aren’t really meant for us to obey, but rather illustrate the works that Christ has accomplished for us and illustrative of what we are unable to do. This bypasses the normal grammatical interpretation of an imperative expectation, and interprets it as a finished work that God in fact does not want us to do. This is assumed because of the redemptive presupposition. As Neo-Calvinist Paul David Tripp has said, biblical commands must be seen in their “gospel context.” [6]

The Gospel Transformation Study Bible and the Redemptive-Historical Gospel

Dr. Kathleen Nielson, in a promotional video for the Gospel Transformation study Bible, stated that the historical-redemptive theme is not imposed on the text, “it’s actually in there!” This, we by no means deny, but are the works of Christ and His personhood something that every verse in the Bible points to? Nielson, like many from the redemptive-historical camp, use the grammatical approach to determine that something is in the text, and then make that an authoritative interpretive prism.

I have talked face to face with pastors who use this hermeneutic. As one stated to me, “You might have to cover multiple chapters in one sermon in order to see the Christocentric theme God is showing you at the time.”  Others are even more direct:

At this time, resist the temptation to utilize subsequent passages to validate the meaning or to move out from the immediate context. Remembering that all exegesis must finally be a Christocentric exegesis.

Look for Christ even if He isn’t there directly. It is better to see Christ in a text even if He isn’t, than to miss Him where He is. [7]

Again, we see that a “Christocentric exegesis,” something that is in the text grammatically, becomes the authoritative eisegesis. And this elephant is a big one, because interpreting the Bible this way is intrinsically tied to the gospel that comes part and parcel with the redemptive method. The historical-redemptive method is a tool for enabling the believer to live by faith alone in their Christian walk. The historical-redemptive method is actually a gospel in and of itself.  To interpret the Bible grammatically is to conclude that God actually wants us to exert our own will in response to commands in the Bible. To proponents of the redemptive-historical method, this is works salvation because Christ is not obeying for us in our Christian life. This is what the Reformation motto, “Christ for us” means. The Neo-Calvinist John Piper has stated it this way, “[Christ] 100% for us.” [8] Piper has also said that “necessary sanctification” comes from faith alone in the Christian life (Ibid).

Therefore, according to proponents of the redemptive model, a historical-grammatical interpretation of Scripture necessarily leads to works salvation and making what we do in the Christian life “the ground of our justification” (Ibid). For all practical purposes, Paul David Tripp has stated such:

….and the Bible does call us to change the way we think about things. But this approach again omits the person and work of Christ as Savior. Instead, it reduces our relationship to Christ to “think his thoughts” and “act the way Jesus would act.” [9]

Here, Tripp concedes that the Bible can be interpreted grammatically, “and the Bible does call us to change the way we think about things.” Grammatically, one assumes the commandments are to us and that we are called to do them. Again, Tripp clearly recognizes this fact. But what does he say the results are?

But this approach again omits the person and work of Christ as Savior.

What happens if we “omit” Christ as “Savior”? Clearly, Tripp is stating that if we interpret the Bible literally and obey it, we are circumventing Christ’s salvific work. Much more than mere semantics are at stake here. The elephant in the room is absolutely huge! This is about the gospel.

The historical-redemptive method of interpretation is all the rage in contemporary Christianity. Projects and programs that promote this method of interpretation and target all age groups abound. Almost all Christian publishers are on board with the historical-redemptive hermeneutic. The latest project that has been unveiled towards this endeavor is Crossway Publishers’ The Gospel Transformation Bible. It will be available 10/19/13.

The subtitle is, “Christ in all of Scripture, Grace for all of Life.” This is typical of those who promote this method of interpretation and its gospel. Christians will assume that the title only pertains to justification by faith alone, but it doesn’t. “Transformation” or change has to do with the Christian life, and in the subtitle, “Grace” replaces “gospel” to veil the real crux of this doctrine. Basically, it teaches that Christians are transformed by continually revisiting the same gospel that saved them. Not only that, we keep ourselves saved by doing such. This is what is behind the Neo-Calvinist mantra, “We must preach the gospel to ourselves every day.” John Piper has said that the question is not only how one gets saved, but how one must use the same gospel that saved him/her to keep themselves saved. [10] Piper has also said that we must “see” the same gospel that saved us over and over again as a requirement to enter heaven. [11]

Note: This is what’s so critical about the Reformed historical-redemptive interpretative model according to many Calvinists, it enables us to fulfill what is “required of us” to enter heaven (Ibid). In essence, once saved, how we read our Bible determines whether we keep our salvation or not. So therefore, those who promote The Gospel Transformation Bible actually see it as a resource for maintaining one’s salvation.

The “Gospel-Driven” Life

The question that is invariably raised is, “How do proponents of the historical-redemptive model explain obedience and the Christian life?” Primarily, they say Christians must “experience” obedience, but must not be the ones who perform it in the Christian life. By revisiting the gospel afresh, the works of Christ are “manifested” in our lives. When this happens, the obedience is experienced by a willing, joyful spirit. As we use the historical-redemptive model to see how sinful we are (a deeper realization of our sin, the realization that originally saved us), and thereby gaining a greater appreciation for what Jesus did for us, we experience “vivification.” This is some sort of joyful rebirth. Proponents of this hermeneutic, primarily those of Reformed theology, refer to this as “mortification and vivification.”  A “daily dying and rising,” a “living out of our baptism.” [12] [13]

The Origin of the Historical-Redemptive Hermeneutic

Where did this hermeneutic originate? Even though Martin Luther’s 95 Theses launched the Reformation, the framework of the Reformation’s doctrine and gospel was articulated by Martin Luther six months later. Essentially, Luther’s Heidelberg Disputation to the Augustinian Order in 1518 is the heart and soul of the Reformation. Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion is a greatly expanded treatise of Luther’s framework. However, every fundamental element of Reformation doctrine can be found in Luther’s Disputation, and this by no means excludes the historical-redemptive hermeneutic. [14]

The primary theme of Luther’s Disputation is known as The Theology of the Cross. It was comprised of the glory story and the cross story. Luther believed that salvation must be maintained by an incessant emptying of self. One’s focus must be OUTWARD only. Any semblance of an inward look was the “glory story.” The outward focus on Christ and His works, and nothing about us whatsoever is the “cross story.” A beginning focus on the cross saves us, and a continued focus on the cross story keeps us saved the same way we were originally saved: by faith alone. Sola Fide also pertains to the Christian walk/life. The historical-redemptive model came from Luther’s Theology of the Cross.

Luther believed the outward focus and utter eradication of self leads to a subjective power displayed by the Holy Spirit that we experience. However, we are not to be concerned with it because there is no way for us to distinguish between our own efforts and those of the Spirit. [15] Mortification and vivification can be ascertained in Theses’ 16 and 17 of the Disputation.

Never have Christians been so oblivious to such a critical issue. What we believe about the gospel and how we convey it to the world is at stake. Every Sunday in America, historical-grammatical parents deliver their children to historical-redemptive teachers while clueless in regard to the ramifications. This reality actually creates mixed families and marriages via two different gospels. One spouse buys into sanctification by faith alone while the other one doesn’t. Eventually, you have a mixed marriage.

The issue with these two hermeneutics is not a matter of semantics and preference—these are two different gospels. This issue is the elephant in the sanctuary and the Sunday school room.

ENDNOTES

1. Nabu Public Domain Reprints: The Principles of the Westminster Standards Persecuting; William Marshall, D.D., Coupar – Angus. Edinburgh, William Oliphant & Co. 1873, p. 13.

2. Ibid., pp. 19-22, 28.

3. Bruce Overton: MacMillan’s Modern Dictionary; The Macmillan Co. New York 1943.

4. Ibid.

5. Ibid. designated as synonymous with “politic” : the science of government.

6. Paul David Tripp: How People Change; Punch press 2006, p. 26.

7. The Biblical Theological Study Center: A Christo-Presuppositional Approach to the Entire Scriptures; Max Strange. Online source: http://goo.gl/5sGjP).

8. John Piper: Desiring God .org blog: Video, If you had 2 minutes with the Pope, what would you say?

9. Paul David Tripp: How People Change; Punch press 2006, p. 27.

10. John Piper: Desiring God .org blog; How Does The Gospel Save Believers? Part 2. August 23, 1998 Bethlehem Baptist Church.

11. Ibid, Part 3.

12. Michael Horton: The Christian Faith: A Systematic Theology for Pilgrims On the Way; Zondervan 2011, p. 661.

13. 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.

14. In its fundamental elements. It was not referred to as the historical-redemptive hermeneutic for many years afterward.

15. Heidelberg Disputation: Theses 24.

The Dirty Dozen: 12 Things that the Lying Calvinists Want You to Assume

Posted in Uncategorized by pptmoderator on September 29, 2015

Originally published June 16, 2013

1. Total Depravity pertains to the unregenerate only. No, they mean the saints also.

2. Sola Fide (faith alone) only pertains to Justification. No, it pertains to sanctification also.

3. Sola Scriptura (Scripture alone) means “alone” and not other “subordinate” truth that also has authority though “subordinate.” No, creeds and confessions also have authority; it is not Scripture “alone.” What does “alone” mean?

4. Solus Christus (Christ alone) only regards the way to the Father. Not so, Christ is the only way to understanding all of reality. This was the crux of Luther’s Theology of the Cross.

5. Progressive sanctification sanctifies us and is separate from justification. No, they say, “never separate” but “distinct.” Then why not call it “progressive justification”? Why not clearly say that we are sanctified by justification?

6. Election predetermines our eternity. No, the elect have to persevere. The perseverance of the saints is not a characteristic of the saved, it is something that the saints have to add to their faith to complete their justification. They call this “already-but not yet.” The promises of God are “conditional.”

7. Proponents of synergistic sanctification are mistaken. No, Calvinists think they are lost and promote a false gospel.

8. Spiritual growth is about change. Absolutely not. Calvinists believe we experience manifestations of Christ as we live by faith alone.

9. The imputation of Christ’s righteousness is only imputed for our justification. No, they believe it is imputed to our sanctification as well.

10. We should learn what the Bible teaches and apply it to our lives. No, they believe we should look for the cross in every verse which results in Christ manifestations in the Spirit realm. They call this “the imperative command is grounded in the indicative event.”

11. Calvinists don’t believe in absolution. Not so. Calvin believed Christians need a perpetual forgiveness of sins that can only be found in the church. Augustine and Luther propagated this as well.

12. Christ works within us. Only BY faith, and faith only exists in the object that it is placed in. Calvinists believe that when the work of Christ moves from outside of us to inside of us that it makes “sanctification the ground of our justification.” The contemporary doctrinal term for Calvinism is “the centrality of the objective gospel outside of us.”

If Calvinists want to deny this, have them explain to you what all of the aforementioned para-biblical expressions mean. If they don’t mean what is stated above, what do they mean? Perhaps there is a perfectly logical explanation for all 12.

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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Advocate for the Spiritually Abused? Then Wade Burleson Should Denounce Election in Sanctification

Posted in Uncategorized by pptmoderator on June 5, 2015

PPT HandleOriginally published March 11, 2013

“This is because Western culture has never adequately exposed Reformed theology for what it really is. As long as Protestantism clings to the Reformation myth, it will never completely break free from its bondage to anemic sanctification.”

 “If Burleson wants to be an advocate for the spiritually abused he should denounce his Reformed gospel of spiritual tyranny. While he may help some people heal from abuse, he will go back to his pulpit and produce twice as many abusers.”  

Last night at our evening Bible study we discussed election. Not election for justification (salvation), but election in sanctification (our Christian life). This is the Reformed idea that God sovereignly elects all of our good works in our Christian life in the same way that he elects some to be saved and passes over others. This leaves them to the choice that is inevitable if God doesn’t intervene: man will never choose God on his own. In the same way concerning sanctification, man is still totally depraved, and unless God intervenes will only do works that are filthy rags before God. In salvation, God only changes man’s position, not his nature. Therefore, in sanctification, God imputes His own good works to our life via intervention and leaves us to our own total depravity in the rest. Choice in justification; works in sanctification; God completely sovereign in both.

Though the application of this is somewhat complex, it boils down to the Reformation’s definition of double imputation: Christ’s righteousness was imputed to us positionally by His death, and the perfect obedience He demonstrated in His life is imputed to our sanctification as a way to keep our justification intact until glorification. Hence, to not believe in sanctified sovereignly elected works in our Christian life is paramount to works salvation. “The same gospel that saved us also sanctifies us.” Sanctification must be a continual revisiting of salvation by faith alone in order to maintain our justification. This is the very heart of Calvinism. Yes, we do something in sanctification: we continually revisit our need for the gospel, and as we do that, the works of Christ are imputed to us by faith alone in sanctification. This is the theses of the Reformation’s magnum opus, Luther’s Heidelberg Disputation to the Augustinian Order, and articulated by John Calvin in the Institutes of the Christian Religion. This opposes Biblicism which sees double imputation as our sins imputed to Christ and God’s righteousness imputed to us and sanctification being an entirely different consideration.

We discussed how this authentic doctrine of the Reformation has wreaked havoc on the church. When God is seen as completely sovereign in sanctification, ideological conclusions are then drawn from what actually happens in real life. Rape is God’s will, and the perpetrator is seen as one who is acting out expected behavior where God has not intervened. “But for the grace of God, there go I.” We have all said it. No? All of grace in salvation—all of grace in sanctification. The only difference between you and a rapist is grace; therefore, who are you to judge? Even if you are the victim. Luther and Calvin thought righteous indignation a joke, and Calvin called justice, “mere iniquity.” Luther’s theology of the cross deemed suffering as the most valuable asset of the Reformation’s inner-nihilist theology:

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 (Heidelberg Disputation: Theses 24).

Note that this constant seeking after suffering and self-deprivation leads to being “raised up” in the Christian life. This constant seeking after death leads to joyful rebirths when Christ’s obedience is imputed to us. This is the basis of John Piper’s Christian Hedonism which also implements Theses 28 of the Disputation. As you can see, it’s what they call the new birth. The new birth is something that continually reoccurs in salvation when Christ’s obedience is imputed to us.

The indifference towards suffering that this theology breeds cannot be overstated. It is such that Calvin’s beseechment of the Geneva counsel to have a detractor beheaded rather than burned with green wood is a supposed act of compassion that is Reformed folklore. And be absolutely positive of this: the roots of authentic Calvinism are %99.99 responsible for the spiritual tyranny in the contemporary church—especially among New Calvinists.

This is why I have a problem with Pastor Wade Burleson being postured as a spiritual abuse advocate. I realize that he is a well-known pastor and therefore a valuable advocate for a cause, but promoting him as a defender of the spiritually abused separates logic from consequences.  It encourages a hypothetical idea that because all Nazis didn’t execute Jews, Nazism doesn’t necessarily lead to the persecution of Jews. Right, not in all cases, but for every person Burleson helps his doctrine will produce twice the indifference and abuse in other people. Many members of the present-day Nazi party are seemingly quality people who could be utilized in good causes, but the possibility is remote because Western culture has been properly educated in regard to Nazi ideology. Such is not the case with Reformed theology. While a Nazi might make a good carpenter you would likely not hire one as an advocate for the Anti-Defamation League. There are Nazis who would do a fine job in that role but the ideology would do more harm than good in the long run.

We also discussed how authentic Calvinism dies a social death from time to time because of the tyranny that it produces and then experiences resurgence paved by the weak sanctification left in its wake. This is because Western culture has never adequately exposed Reformed theology for what it really is. As long as Protestantism clings to the Reformation myth, it will never completely break free from its bondage to anemic sanctification.

Reformation History

Burleson strongly endorses one of the core four individuals who helped found the present-day New Calvinist movement, Jon Zens:

One of my favorite theologians is Jon Zens. Jon edits the quarterly periodical called Searching Together, formerly known as the Baptist Reformation Review. Jon is thoroughly biblical, imminently concerned with the Scriptures …. The best $10.00 you will ever spend is the yearly subscription to Searching Together (http://www.wadeburleson.org/2010/09/searching-together-edited-by-jon-zens.html).

Zens, who has also been known as an advocate for the spiritually abused, was a key contributor to the Reformed think tank that launched present-day New Calvinism (The Australian Forum) of which some Burleson promoters refer to as the “Calvinistas.” It’s not meant as a compliment. But yet, Burleson’s theology is one and the same with them:

Those who have read Grace and Truth to You for any amount of time know that this author is persuaded the Bible teaches that the eternal rewards of Christians are those rewards–and only those rewards–which are earned by Christ. It is Christ’s obedience to the will and law of the Father that obtains for God’s adopted children our inheritance. It is Christ’s perfect obedience which brings to sinners the Father’s enduring favor and guarantees for us our position as co-heirs with Christ (http://www.wadeburleson.org/2011/11/therefore-knowing-terror-of-lord-we.html).

Those who have faith in Christ will never appear at any future judgment of God, or be rewarded for their good behavior. Our sins were judged at the cross, and the behavior for which we are rewarded is Christ’s behavior (Ibid).

Obviously, other than the previous points made, Burleson’s statement proclaiming Zens as “thoroughly biblical” and his outright rejection of 1COR 3:10-15 and 2COR 5:9-10 are troubling to say the least. Burleson also holds strongly to the exact same method of interpretation that makes elected works in sanctification possible among the “Calvinistas.” That would be the Bible as gospel meta narrative approach. It uses the Bible as a tool for gospel contemplationism which results in the works of Christ being imputed to our sanctification when we “make our story His story.” Luther got the concept from Pope Gregory the Great who believed that meditating on Christ’s works in the Scriptures endears us to Him romantically and thus inspires joyful obedience. It’s all the same rotten mysticism propagated today by John Piper and Francis Chan. It’s a mystical (actually Gnostic) approach to the Bible that makes elected works in sanctification possible.

As a cute way of propagating this nonsense, Burleson has named his para-church ministry “Istoria Ministries Blog.” His blog subheading noted that istoria is a Greek word that combines the idea of history and story:

Istoria is a Greek word that can be translated as both story and history. Istoria Ministries, led by Wade and Rachelle Burleson, helps people experience the life transforming power of Jesus Christ so that their story may become part of His story.

This ministry called him out on the fact that the word istoria does not appear anywhere in the Scriptures which led him to change the subheading a couple of days later. He then changed the subheading to a citation (GAL 1:18) that is the only place in the Bible where the word appears. Only thing is, even then, it’s not “istoria,” it’s “historeo”:

g2477. ιστορεω historeo; from a derivative of 1492; to be knowing (learned), i. e. (by implication) to visit for information (interview):— see.

This citation has nothing to do with his original point of naming his ministry as such. It’s simply the only reference he could find that proves that the word is in the Bible. Kinda, as I said, even then the word is not “istoria.” Istoria is a more contemporary Greek word that in fact can be used as “history” or “story.” But the earliest use of the word seems to be circa 1300, and is most prevalent in referring to the “story paintings” of medieval times. It’s just a lame, almost adolescent attempt to argue for this approach to the Bible.

If Burleson wants to be an advocate for the spiritually abused he should denounce his Reformed gospel of spiritual tyranny. While he may help some people heal from abuse, he will go back to his pulpit and produce twice as many abusers.

paul

The Elephant in the Room: The Historical-Redemptive Gospel

Posted in Uncategorized by pptmoderator on April 30, 2015

ELEPHANTOriginally published September 3, 2013

There isn’t a bigger elephant in the Sunday school room or the sanctuary than the issue of Bible interpretation. The reason for this follows: the method of interpretation that comes natural to us is assumed.

What is that method? This gets into an area of study called hermeneutics (the theory of interpretation), and the two primary theories thereof are exegesis and eisegesis. These are big theological words that the average Protestant is not supposed to know. This is because the Protestant interpretation of the Scriptures is based on authority.

We will get to exegesis and eisegesis, but the crux of the issue is authority. The Reformers came from Romanism and clearly, their interpretive construct was based on authority; i.e., the average parishioner was not free to interpret the Bible and follow it according to one’s own conscience:

Rightfully and nobly did the Protestant Reformers claim religious liberty for themselves; but they resolutely refused to concede it to others. [1]

The very foundation of Protestant interpretation is based on authority; that is, the leaders dictate meaning. Therefore, traditionally, the need for Protestants in general to understand interpretive principles would be unnecessary, and as a result, Protestantism functions that way till this very day. In the early days of the Reformation, private interpretation was outlawed [2]; in our day, education regarding the tools needed to interpret the Bible are merely excluded.

This fact brings us to an interesting word, “orthodoxy.” Traditionally, this word is associated with “truth” as a synonym. This is not the case at all. Orthodoxy is the authority of truth based on counsels of any given sect. [3] The opinions of these counsels regarding the meaning of “truth” are known as “creeds” and “confessions.” These are “truths” (actually, opinions concerning the meaning of any given subject) repackaged for those who have limited understanding, and usually recited and learned through catechisms [4].

Authority Versus Individual Interpretation

Hence, Protestant interpretation is based on authority and not individual interpretation. The structure of this interpretive process is orthodoxy formed through counsels, distributed by creeds/confessions, and practiced through catechisms. In Europe and early Colonial America, it was a matter of civil law, in our day the process is tempered by the freedom to choose your own orthodoxy, but it is still orthodoxy. Once a typical American parishioner chooses who they want to believe, they will follow that leader as an authority. A like tendency caused the Apostle Paul to confront the believers at Corinth (1COR 3:1-9).

Of course, the authoritative method of interpretation is at the root of every cult. Traditionally, when people seek to find God, they begin by finding an authority that they are comfortable with. This is why many people prefer authoritative interpretation in a free society: it allows them to choose their own general truth while leaving the hard task of thinking to others. The Apostle Paul said this would be particularly problematic in the last days (2TIM 4:3-5).

The visible authority structure within the church is known as “church polity” or church government. [5] Again, the whole construct is based on authority. If authority is the interpretive prism, roles in the church are going to be seen as positions of authority rather than gifts. When Christ ministered here on earth, disciples were free to follow Him or not follow Him under their own free volition (JN 6:66-69). Christ made it clear to the disciples that their roles in the kingdom were not that of authority (Matthew 20:20-28).

The word “office” inserted in the English translations when associated with “bishop” or “deacon” were added in to the translations and do not appear in the Greek manuscripts while in other places these roles are spoken of as gifts (EPH 4:11-16). We have been given authority to proclaim the gospel of the kingdom on earth, but that is a vertical authority and not horizontal. Those who protest the gift idea versus the authority idea often cite the following text:

Hebrews 13:17 – Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.

The word for “obey” in this verse is πείθω (peithō) which means to persuade by argument. The word “submit” is ὑπείκω (hypeikō) which means “to surrender.”  Here is the best rendering according to a heavy paraphrase:

Be persuaded by your leaders’ arguments from Scripture and don’t be stubborn in regard to the truth for this is no advantage to your own spiritual wellbeing. Besides, they have to give an account for how they led you, and let that account be a joyful recital to the Lord rather than a sorrowful report.

Why is this important? Because every person is personally culpable before God for following the truth, not men. Paul was an apostle, yet the Bereans verified what he taught according to their own understanding of Scripture (Acts 17:11). Paul told the Corinthians that he should only be followed as he followed Christ (1COR 11:1). Every individual will stand before God to give an account of the sum and substance of their own lives, not who they followed among mortals.

The Exegesis and Eisegesis of Hermeneutics

The theological word for the science of biblical interpretation is hermeneutics. The first consideration of hermeneutics must be exegesis and eisegesis. Exegesis draws conclusions from written text depending on the grammatical meaning and arrangement of words. Eisegesis approaches the text with an interpretive prism. One who uses the exegetical approach will even approach the text to learn how the text itself should be interpreted. Eisegesis assumes one must approach the text with a proper presupposition in order to properly understand it.

Therefore, this takes us right back to the basic question of authority versus the freedom of individual interpretation. Eisegesis will approach the text with a prescribed method of interpretation while exegesis will look for the best way to interpret the text from the text itself. The interpretive prism for eisegesis comes from an authority. The common contention from those of the authority camp is that everybody approaches the Bible with presuppositions, and this is unavoidable; so, it is important to use the right interpretive prism. Since we are supposedly incapable of approaching the Bible objectively, we should bow to their authority in regard to the proper interpretive prism.

Historical-Grammatical Versus Historical Redemptive: The Elephant in the Room

Eisegesis and exegesis really boils down to authority versus individualism, and so does the two major methods of interpretation in the church: historical-grammatical method and the historical-redemptive method. This is where we get into discussion about the elephant in the room. These two devices of interpretation yield completely different results. When we sit under any given teacher, he/she will be using one of these hermeneutics. The two different approaches will sound the same because each uses all of the familiar terms, “gospel,” “justification,” etc., but the terms mean different things in each construct. This is the elephant in the sanctuary and the Sunday school room that no one is talking about.

As suggested by the terms themselves, one interprets the Bible grammatically, and the other interprets the Bible through a Redemptive prism. The latter seems perfectly reasonable: “Isn’t the Bible primarily about Redemption?” The former would judge that assertion by a grammatical evaluation of the text. In other words, conclusions are drawn by the arrangement of words, their meaning, and what those words meant to people in that historical context. This is exegesis.

The redemptive method presupposes that the Bible is a gospel narrative about the works and personhood of Christ. It presupposes that this is the dominate theme of the Bible and everything else in the Bible is secondary and points back to Christ. For example, biblical commands aren’t really meant for us to obey, but rather illustrate the works that Christ has accomplished for us and illustrative of what we are unable to do. This bypasses the normal grammatical interpretation of an imperative expectation, and interprets it as a finished work that God in fact does not want us to do. This is assumed because of the redemptive presupposition. As Neo-Calvinist Paul David Tripp has said, biblical commands must be seen in their “gospel context.” [6]

The Gospel Transformation Study Bible and the Redemptive-Historical Gospel

Dr. Kathleen Nielson, in a promotional video for the Gospel Transformation study Bible, stated that the historical-redemptive theme is not imposed on the text, “it’s actually in there!” This, we by no means deny, but are the works of Christ and His personhood something that every verse in the Bible points to? Nielson, like many from the redemptive-historical camp, use the grammatical approach to determine that something is in the text, and then make that an authoritative interpretive prism.

I have talked face to face with pastors who use this hermeneutic. As one stated to me, “You might have to cover multiple chapters in one sermon in order to see the Christocentric theme God is showing you at the time.”  Others are even more direct:

At this time, resist the temptation to utilize subsequent passages to validate the meaning or to move out from the immediate context. Remembering that all exegesis must finally be a Christocentric exegesis.

Look for Christ even if He isn’t there directly. It is better to see Christ in a text even if He isn’t, than to miss Him where He is. [7]

Again, we see that a “Christocentric exegesis,” something that is in the text grammatically, becomes the authoritative eisegesis. And this elephant is a big one, because interpreting the Bible this way is intrinsically tied to the gospel that comes part and parcel with the redemptive method. The historical-redemptive method is a tool for enabling the believer to live by faith alone in their Christian walk. The historical-redemptive method is actually a gospel in and of itself.  To interpret the Bible grammatically is to conclude that God actually wants us to exert our own will in response to commands in the Bible. To proponents of the redemptive-historical method, this is works salvation because Christ is not obeying for us in our Christian life. This is what the Reformation motto, “Christ for us” means. The Neo-Calvinist John Piper has stated it this way, “[Christ] 100% for us.” [8] Piper has also said that “necessary sanctification” comes from faith alone in the Christian life (Ibid).

Therefore, according to proponents of the redemptive model, a historical-grammatical interpretation of Scripture necessarily leads to works salvation and making what we do in the Christian life “the ground of our justification” (Ibid). For all practical purposes, Paul David Tripp has stated such:

….and the Bible does call us to change the way we think about things. But this approach again omits the person and work of Christ as Savior. Instead, it reduces our relationship to Christ to “think his thoughts” and “act the way Jesus would act.” [9]

Here, Tripp concedes that the Bible can be interpreted grammatically, “and the Bible does call us to change the way we think about things.” Grammatically, one assumes the commandments are to us and that we are called to do them. Again, Tripp clearly recognizes this fact. But what does he say the results are?

But this approach again omits the person and work of Christ as Savior.

What happens if we “omit” Christ as “Savior”? Clearly, Tripp is stating that if we interpret the Bible literally and obey it, we are circumventing Christ’s salvific work. Much more than mere semantics are at stake here. The elephant in the room is absolutely huge! This is about the gospel.

The historical-redemptive method of interpretation is all the rage in contemporary Christianity. Projects and programs that promote this method of interpretation and target all age groups abound. Almost all Christian publishers are on board with the historical-redemptive hermeneutic. The latest project that has been unveiled towards this endeavor is Crossway Publishers’ The Gospel Transformation Bible. It will be available 10/19/13.

The subtitle is, “Christ in all of Scripture, Grace for all of Life.” This is typical of those who promote this method of interpretation and its gospel. Christians will assume that the title only pertains to justification by faith alone, but it doesn’t. “Transformation” or change has to do with the Christian life, and in the subtitle, “Grace” replaces “gospel” to veil the real crux of this doctrine. Basically, it teaches that Christians are transformed by continually revisiting the same gospel that saved them. Not only that, we keep ourselves saved by doing such. This is what is behind the Neo-Calvinist mantra, “We must preach the gospel to ourselves every day.” John Piper has said that the question is not only how one gets saved, but how one must use the same gospel that saved him/her to keep themselves saved. [10] Piper has also said that we must “see” the same gospel that saved us over and over again as a requirement to enter heaven. [11]

Note: This is what’s so critical about the Reformed historical-redemptive interpretative model according to many Calvinists, it enables us to fulfill what is “required of us” to enter heaven (Ibid). In essence, once saved, how we read our Bible determines whether we keep our salvation or not. So therefore, those who promote The Gospel Transformation Bible actually see it as a resource for maintaining one’s salvation.

The “Gospel-Driven” Life

The question that is invariably raised is, “How do proponents of the historical-redemptive model explain obedience and the Christian life?” Primarily, they say Christians must “experience” obedience, but must not be the ones who perform it in the Christian life. By revisiting the gospel afresh, the works of Christ are “manifested” in our lives. When this happens, the obedience is experienced by a willing, joyful spirit. As we use the historical-redemptive model to see how sinful we are (a deeper realization of our sin, the realization that originally saved us), and thereby gaining a greater appreciation for what Jesus did for us, we experience “vivification.” This is some sort of joyful rebirth. Proponents of this hermeneutic, primarily those of Reformed theology, refer to this as “mortification and vivification.”  A “daily dying and rising,” a “living out of our baptism.” [12] [13]

The Origin of the Historical-Redemptive Hermeneutic

Where did this hermeneutic originate? Even though Martin Luther’s 95 Theses launched the Reformation, the framework of the Reformation’s doctrine and gospel was articulated by Martin Luther six months later. Essentially, Luther’s Heidelberg Disputation to the Augustinian Order in 1518 is the heart and soul of the Reformation. Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion is a greatly expanded treatise of Luther’s framework. However, every fundamental element of Reformation doctrine can be found in Luther’s Disputation, and this by no means excludes the historical-redemptive hermeneutic. [14]

The primary theme of Luther’s Disputation is known as The Theology of the Cross. It was comprised of the glory story and the cross story. Luther believed that salvation must be maintained by an incessant emptying of self. One’s focus must be OUTWARD only. Any semblance of an inward look was the “glory story.” The outward focus on Christ and His works, and nothing about us whatsoever is the “cross story.” A beginning focus on the cross saves us, and a continued focus on the cross story keeps us saved the same way we were originally saved: by faith alone. Sola Fide also pertains to the Christian walk/life. The historical-redemptive model came from Luther’s Theology of the Cross.

Luther believed the outward focus and utter eradication of self leads to a subjective power displayed by the Holy Spirit that we experience. However, we are not to be concerned with it because there is no way for us to distinguish between our own efforts and those of the Spirit. [15] Mortification and vivification can be ascertained in Theses’ 16 and 17 of the Disputation.

Never have Christians been so oblivious to such a critical issue. What we believe about the gospel and how we convey it to the world is at stake. Every Sunday in America, historical-grammatical parents deliver their children to historical-redemptive teachers while clueless in regard to the ramifications. This reality actually creates mixed families and marriages via two different gospels. One spouse buys into sanctification by faith alone while the other one doesn’t. Eventually, you have a mixed marriage.

The issue with these two hermeneutics is not a matter of semantics and preference—these are two different gospels. This issue is the elephant in the sanctuary and the Sunday school room.

ENDNOTES

1. Nabu Public Domain Reprints: The Principles of the Westminster Standards Persecuting; William Marshall, D.D., Coupar – Angus. Edinburgh, William Oliphant & Co. 1873, p. 13.

2. Ibid., pp. 19-22, 28.

3. Bruce Overton: MacMillan’s Modern Dictionary; The Macmillan Co. New York 1943.

4. Ibid.

5. Ibid. designated as synonymous with “politic” : the science of government.

6. Paul David Tripp: How People Change; Punch press 2006, p. 26.

7. The Biblical Theological Study Center: A Christo-Presuppositional Approach to the Entire Scriptures; Max Strange. Online source: http://goo.gl/5sGjP).

8. John Piper: Desiring God .org blog: Video, If you had 2 minutes with the Pope, what would you say?

9. Paul David Tripp: How People Change; Punch press 2006, p. 27.

10. John Piper: Desiring God .org blog; How Does The Gospel Save Believers? Part 2. August 23, 1998 Bethlehem Baptist Church.

11. Ibid, Part 3.

12. Michael Horton: The Christian Faith: A Systematic Theology for Pilgrims On the Way; Zondervan 2011, p. 661.

13. 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.

14. In its fundamental elements. It was not referred to as the historical-redemptive hermeneutic for many years afterward.

15. Heidelberg Disputation: Theses 24.

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