Paul's Passing Thoughts

Achieving Total Conquest Over Depression, Part 1: Paul and Susan Christian Living Series on Blogtalk Radio Program 3

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on January 12, 2016

blog-radio-logoIntroduction for all parts:

Everyone wants to be happy. Happiness is the essence of a quality life. Closely akin to happiness is peace; a relaxed and tranquil state of mind. Clinical depression prevents both and thrusts one into the pits of darkness and despair. Trouble in life can put people into a day by day survival mode, clinical depression puts people into an hour by hour survival mode.

This type of depression is an oppression of the soul that often torments people with out of control thoughts coming from a racing mind. The person may experience psychopathic thoughts that are totally out of character for the individual. Interests and enjoyments vanquish—the depressed person loses all self confidence and believes they are losing their mind.

Depression’s greatest ploy is how it is experienced; it seems to be a foe that attacks from outside of us and oppresses whomever it chooses. In fact, the medical model of depression does nothing to lessen that fear. Can depression come upon us in the same way that we catch a cold? What are its causes, and what is the cure? Is there a cure? Is there hope for those stricken with major depression?

Susan and Paul will speak from their own experiences with clinical depression, and how it has stricken others. The topic of depression has been a focus of Paul’s studies for 35 years, and he has experienced it as an unbeliever and believer. But, ideas that come from experience alone are not adequate; facts must explain why life is experienced in the way that it is.

Don’t give depression another year; join Paul and Susan live and contribute to the discussion.

Achieving Total Conquest Over Depression: Part 1; Audio Podcast Link

Greetings truth lovers from the Potter’s House in Xenia, Ohio. This is Paul and Susan Dohse broadcasting live from Tonight, part 3 of our Christian Living series: “Achieving Total Conquest Over Depression.” [This is part 1 in regard to the subject of depression.]

If you want to join in the discussion, call 937-855-8317—you may remain anonymous—when you hear me say, “This is Paul and Susan, what is your comment or question” just start talking. You can also add to the program by emailing a comment or question to that’s paul@ tyrant, tulip, Alice, Nancy, cat .com. We keep an eye on the email during the program. You can also find our published materials at

So, of course, we are a pretty small-time ragtag operation here at blogtalk, so let me give you instructions on how to listen to the program over your phone if you don’t want to be patched in live to discuss this issue on the air. Call in, wait till you hear the show live; then hangup and call back. That’s our signal that you only want to listen to the show over your phone. If you want to be patched in to discuss the topic with Susan and me live, just call in and wait for us to patch you in. If your PC or MAC is near by, turn down the speakers to prevent feedback.

Let me begin tonight with this: even though depression has been a significant interest of mine for 35 years, it goes without saying that there is a lot about depression and related struggles that I do not know. Tonight is about what I do know, and how you can use it to help others who are in a state of depression.

First, here is what I know about depression’s most formidable weapon in its arsenal: the idea that depression is [always] a chronic medical problem is a lie. Depression is curable…always. I know this from personal study, personal experience, and my experience with helping others with depression. No, just because I am using the nomenclature, “clinical depression,” doesn’t mean I buy into the medical model. With that being said, I know from personal experience that depression can be caused by physiological conditions. Some medications can cause depression, and it is said that thyroid problems can cause depression as well. As far as the latter—don’t know, but in regard to the former—I do know from experience with other people.

Here is the first thing you do when you get depression: you go to the doctor. Doctors are an efficacious ally in the fight against depression, but many get some important things wrong; specifically, the idea that depression is a chronic medical problem—that’s just wrong.

Ok, so, let’s take my own case with depression for example. My doctor at the time was an awesome doctor, but he and I had some disagreement on this whole “chemical imbalance” thing. Undoubtedly part of God’s plan, I joined a church at the time pastored by a disciple of Dr. Jay Adams. And we have much to say tonight in regard to the infamous Dr.J., but suffice to say for now that I had bought into his idea that depression is not hopeless—there is something you can do about it.

Now, no doubt, people with severe depression probably have a chemical imbalance. And no doubt, medication makes the patient feel better. But here is the question: “Which comes first; the cause or the symptoms?” There is no doubt that causes of depression can lead to symptoms that all but totally disable the depressed person. Listen to me, lack of sleep alone will totally put you down. So here is what I decided early on: Adams’ counseling model was the ticket, but I needed the drugs to help me through the physiological symptoms caused by the depression.

At first, I took the doses prescribed by the doctor, and no doubt, the stuff works. But as I improved, I began cutting the doses back without telling the doctor. Of course, he believed that the medication was making me better, but I believed my change of thinking and lifestyle was making me better and the drugs were just taking care of the debilitating symptoms. He would often say, “Wow, this is great, we are finding just the right balance in the dosage” while in reality I was cutting in half whatever he told me to take. See the problem here? And, was that whole experience kinda fun? Yes it was.

But here is the problem: any sane person is going to naturally assume that because the medication is making them feel better, that the “cure” confirms the diagnosis and this is just not true. Listen, here is something else that we know…long term use of psychotropic drugs will mess your body up bad. Drugs are not the cure.

So, the most formidable weapon of depression is this whole idea that it has a medical cause. You get depression like you catch a cold or something. This leads to the medication whack-a-mole game and the real cause is never addressed. This leads to depression’s second greatest weapon: hopelessness. Um, I suppose people can live without hope, but it ain’t pretty. Who wants to hear a doctor say, “There is nothing we can do”? Second to that, “All we can do is help you cope.” However, whenever you can do something, well, obviously, that gives hope. Here is something about hope and please don’t miss this: the Bible makes hope synonymous with TRUTH. If a “truth” has no hope, it’s probably not true. This whole thing with DOING is big in regard to our discussion about Jay Adams which we will get to shortly.

Thirdly, another big weapon of depression follows: the gravity of it is only understood by those who have suffered from it. Those who have never experienced depression seem to assume that it is an overreaction to the blues or merely being bummed out. To the contrary, depression is a debilitating oppression. Imagine not having any interest in anything, or finding no enjoyment in anything that you formally enjoyed. In fact, things that you formally enjoyed like music may disturb and agitate you. The mind races with uncontrolled and disturbing thoughts. Though most of these thoughts are not accompanied by a desire or motive to carry them out, they are yet very disturbing and will involve hurting one’s self or others. Women will often put their children in the care of others because the presence of the children incite thoughts of hurting them. Of course, because one thinks they are losing their mind because of all of this, sleep deprivation follows which only further inflames the situation.

This is what I mean by the term, “clinical depression.”

A fourth weapon of depression is isolation. The depressed person believes that no one but them can understand what they are going through, and therefore, no one can help them. This will often lead the depressed person to suffer alone and not seek help.

The fifth weapon of depression is the downward spiral. Thoughts and actions create certain feelings, BUT feelings also produce thoughts. The depressed person’s worst enemy is thinking provided by feelings, and worse yet, when those thoughts are believed to be true. The depressed person will sometimes say, “I feel like I am losing my mind.” Note: their feelings are telling them something, leading to fear that such might happen. This think, feel, think, feel, think, feel, downward spiral is a very dangerous thing. [Thoughts (fears) produced by feelings accompanied by depression are lies].

Yet a sixth weapon of depression is the idea that depression comes from the outside and inflicts whomever it will. Depression is seen as an ominous force that comes from without and cannot be defeated or controlled. Many depressed people wonder if depression is demon oppression, and in fact I believe this to be the case in many instances. Worse yet however is the belief that Christians can be demon possessed, which definitely adds another recipe for disaster to the situation.

But the beginning of complete victory over depression starts with these facts: You are NOT losing your mind, your depression has a cause or causes, and when you find those causes, there are solutions that overcome the causes. In other words, HOPE. Without hopelessness, depression is dead in the water. Hopelessness is the food that feeds the depression beast. Depression has no greater ally than the medical model. This is not to say that depression doesn’t become a medical problem, this is saying the following idea is proven to be a lie: depression is caused by a chronic medical problem that requires medication throughout the remainder of the person’s life. This robs the depressed of hope as they are continually returning to doctors to get their medication adjusted.

Let’s pause here to make a point based on the obvious. Those who have lost a loved one or suffered some other sort of tragedy may become depressed. The cause is obviously grief. The cure is wisdom in regard to grief. The Bible has a lot to say about the proper way to grieve. We are not to grieve as those who have no hope [1Thess 4:13]. Also, we are created to be social beings; people can become depressed because they are lonely. Now look, I am not that much of a social being, so I don’t relate that much to people who are struggling with loneliness, but let me tell you something…I have seen loneliness utterly destroy people. It can be a very strong emotion. This is where I will point to one of many advantages of home fellowships versus the institutional church. Being around lots of people doesn’t cure loneliness, but can rather merely remind you of how lonely you are. Being around lots of people engaging in superficial conversation doesn’t cure loneliness, real friendships are the cure, not people gathered together to pay their salvation dues by participating in institutional sacraments.

Let’s look at another cause and effect depression issue. The Bible teaches that our heart will be where we invest. This is kind of in the area of preventative medicine regarding what we call a “balanced life.” You have an over-investment in a particular area of your life, and then you lose whatever that is. With women, it’s usually children; with men, it’s usually their careers. When the loss happens, it leaves a huuuuuge empty void in the person’s being. Empty nest syndrome can cause very severe depression in women.

These are easily defined types of depression.  Tonight, we are dealing with oppressive types of depression which I described earlier—this type of depression seems to come out of nowhere.

What am I saying in all of this? Debilitating depression (not the depression all of us are bound to experience from time to time) is BOTH preventable and curable. And in both cases, practicality and wise living is the key.

So, we have three areas yet to visit tonight in regard to this issue of depression that is of the oppressive type: history, cause, and cure. As Christians, contemporary church history is very relevant to the subject of mental wellbeing among Christians and depression in particular.

When I became a Christian in 1983, one of the things I assumed was that Christians would be experts in good living. I thought, “I am saved, now it is time to get on with this living godly thing.” Boy, was I ever in for a surprise. Secondly, I assumed that no life problem was too big for God, and that the Bible had the answers for all of them. Again, I was in for a really big surprise. From the outset, I was perplexed about all of the discussion surrounding the same gospel that saved us.

Here is what I didn’t understand: Protestantism, hereafter, “church,” was/is predicated on the idea that salvation is a process that is maintained by faithfulness to church and its sacraments. Catholics are pretty upfront about this; Protestants and their “means of grace” are less so. You get saved by faith alone, but then faithfulness to the “means of grace” (grace refers to salvation) keeps the salvation process moving forward.

Both Catholics and Protestants (authentic Protestantism) believe that salvation is an ongoing process, aka progressive justification. Catholics believe in a literal new birth which qualifies one to do good works as one of the sacraments that progress salvation forward. Protestants cry foul on that and deem it works salvation. How then does Protestantism get around the works salvation charge? Well, since mere belief in the gospel that saved you is not a work, you keep yourself saved by returning to the same gospel that saved you over and over again. The likes of Dr. Micheal Horton call this, “revisiting the gospel afresh.”

So, how exactly do you return to the gospel? Well, how were you originally saved? Right, you repented and were forgiven of sin. Think about this: if you keep yourself saved by returning to the gospel, you must still need the gospel and salvation, right? Paul David Tripp calls this a “lifestyle of repentance.” Right, because of “present sin”, Christians still need ongoing forgiveness. Beginning salvation took care of all of our past sin while “preaching the gospel to ourselves every day” takes care of the “present sin.” IF we live our “Christian” lives by faith alone well enough, we will be able to stand in the final judgment covered by the righteousness of Christ and not a “righteousness of our own.” But take note: there is only ONE place where you can receive forgiveness for present sin and keep your salvation moving forward; that’s right, your good ol’ local institutional Protestant church. Look, this is documented Protestant orthodoxy. This is irrefutable.

But over the course of years from the Protestant Reformation, primarily from people reading the Bible grammatically within the Protestant camp, that gospel began to get integrated with other ideas like OSAS (once saved always saved) and ideas of obedience to the law, but not to the point where it had any real significance. As far as Protestants go, this led to living by biblical generalities. Yet, churchians functioned according to original Protestant tenets, but verbally professed things like OSAS and obedience to the law. As always, real life problems were farmed out to secular “experts” because the church’s business is keeping people saved, not solving life problems. I heard a pastor recently commend himself for not counseling in order to not be distracted from what really matters: the gospel.

In 1970, a Presbyterian pastor, Dr. Jay Adams, decided to pushback against the church’s inability to help people with the word of God. Dr. Adams was like most Protestants of that day; they really didn’t understand what the Reformation was really about. Adams is what we call a grammatical Calvinist; he interprets reality literally, and interprets the Bible grammatically. Much of Adams’ theology is predicated on the plain sense of Scripture, but that’s NOT Calvin and Luther, nor is it Augustine who Calvin and Luther followed. The big three of Protestant soteriology, Augustine, Luther, and Calvin, held to a redemptive view of reality (cross metaphysics) and a redemptive interpretation of Scripture.

These are also two different gospels. A grammatical Calvinist believes that salvation is a finished work and the Christian life, or sanctification, is completely separate from justification. The grammatical interpretation of Scripture and reality begins to formulate a hybrid theology with the redemptive fundamentals of Reformed doctrine. But this is not what the Reformers believed. Adams did not understand why the church was so passive in regard to helping people change, but nevertheless, he sought to apply his studies to changing that mode of operation.

In 1970, his book, Competent to Counsel, launched the biblical counseling movement. Let me also say this: Adams wanted this to be a laity movement. Adams was not the founder of CCEF or NANC. He was not in favor of certifying counselors. This is one of the many things he is to be commended for. His movement resulted in a real revival. I believe this movement, primarily in the 90s when it really picked up steam, was one of the few true revivals, if not the only true one post-Reformation. And don’t bring up the Great Awakening as an argument though that is a great example of many, many pseudo Reformed revivals claimed by that camp. The Great Awakening was a product of the American Revolution and its ideas concerning freedom. Then you have Edwards/Whitefield et al riding in on their mangy horses and taking credit for it. They shared the exact same Puritan soteriology that incited the American Revolution. At any rate, the biblical counseling movement was a true revival in that people’s lives were being changed dramatically. I was there and witnessed it with my own eyes, and was an avid supporter of the movement.

Also in 1970, a Seventh Day Adventist theologian named Robert Brinsmead launched a movement that revealed the real and original tenets of the Protestant Reformation. This movement led to several other movements resulting in a massive resurgence of Reformation soteriology known as the New Calvinism movement. Born out of the New Calvinism movement was an alternative to Adams’ counseling construct known as “second generation biblical counseling.” At first, both movements got along ok with Psychology being the primary whipping boy for both movements, but eventually their conflicting gospels would collide. While Jay Adams is the primary personification of first generation biblical counseling, Dr. David Powlison is such for second generation biblical counseling. While speaking at pastor John Piper’s church (the “elder statesmen of the New Calvinism”), Powlison admitted openly that the difference between the two counseling movements is a contrary gospel.

Now, let me make this as simple as I can. In change and problem solving, if you can do something, there is hope—if you can’t do something, there isn’t hope. If the doctor comes to you and says, “There is nothing we can DO,” that is NOT hopeful. If the doctor says, “There is something we can do,” there is hope. This would seem fairly evident. Listen to what Jay Adams told me himself face to face: when he was traveling about speaking at churches regarding his counseling movement, his talks were treated as if they were a “strange new gospel” because he was saying that we could DO something about our problems. A title of a book Adams wrote during that time is “More Than Redemption.” Say what?!! That title and the idea of it is completely antithetical to the Protestant Reformation which contended that justification is the whole enchilada from beginning to end. The point of all of this? In considering where to go for help in the evangelical church, what gospel is the counseling based on? Can one be helped by a false gospel? I think not.

In addressing the causes and biblical cures of oppressive types of depression we cannot discuss everything tonight, but we can discuss the most important things. In the case of my depression, I was never able to pinpoint a specific cause…until recently. I guess the cause is now so obvious that it escaped recognition as the obvious sometimes does—you are looking for something deeper rather than what is right in front of you.

Like most unbelievers, I believe I had an intuitive understanding of the new birth. I think most unbelievers know salvation means being saved from your present life. And that’s exactly the reason that unbelievers resist; even in the face of imminent disaster there is something about their life that they don’t want to give up. Perhaps they think they are free and the Lord’s commands are “burdensome.” At any rate, in my childlike state of mind as a new believer, I was shocked to realize that I was still sinning. You see, I assumed a radical transformation would take place. Sure, my life greatly improved, but I didn’t want to sin at all! I read book after book and agonized over the Scriptures in order to find out what was going on. And of course, no one in the institutional church could correctly explain it to me. The lame explanations that I received didn’t ring true to me [especially the “two natures” fighting against each other motif].

Bottom line: how could I be absolutely sure that anything I did for God in my life wasn’t an effort to justify myself? This threw cold water on any attempts to love God and kept me in constant doubt and turmoil.

Consequently, I doubted my salvation. Not only that, there were sins in my life that I just couldn’t overcome. Here is what I believe led to my depression: fear of condemnation, AND being under law. That’s where it began, and then some of the other factors we have discussed tonight all joined in resulting in a colossal downward spiral. If you doubt your salvation, your hope is greatly diminished. A basic fear of condemnation and judgment, I have come to believe, prefaces the massive list of phobias that exist in our society. The Bible states that fear and death go hand in hand, and the terror of death is defined by the fear of judgment that follows [Hebrews 2:15].

Moreover, a single perspective on law leading to a mentality verbalized to me just the other day, “sin is sin,” leads to slavery to sin because you are still under law and provoked by it leading to even more fear of condemnation [Romans 7:1-11]. I believe my former depression was the result of my defective understanding of law and gospel and justification specifically.

The Bible states that mature love casts out fear, but this does not speak of acts of love per se [acts of love however do bring peace and joy], but a state of being. Working out our love to the point of maturity is the antithesis of being under law and its condemnation—condemnation is impossible, and all that is left is the wages of life as opposed to the wages of death. We are under grace where love fulfills the whole law. If we still need the gospel, that means we still need salvation from the law’s condemnation. In fact, Calvin and Luther both stated that fear of condemnation is the catalyst for sanctification—they plainly said it! Hence, more depression should be expected in the church than anywhere else! [See the booklet, “It’s Not About Election” @].

Fear is a really really big deal, and is more times than not a perquisite to depression. Please note the following from the Anxiety and Depression Association of America:

A1F.jpgA2FF.jpgA3FA4F[Note that fear/anxiety is associated with almost every mental illness that there is.]

I have come to believe that helping people with the deepest needs of life begins with a biblically accurate view of justification and its relationship to sanctification. This is where it begins, let’s go to the phones.

The Magnum Opus of the Reformation: Martin Luther’s Heidelberg Disputation; Part 2

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on June 6, 2015

Blog Radio LogoListen to the lesson or download audio file. 

Welcome truth lovers to Blog Talk radio .com/False Reformation, this is your host Paul M. Dohse Sr. Tonight, part 2 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 catalogue can be found at

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 That’s Tom, Tony, Alice, Nancy, cat, 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.

Last week we did pretty well; we began with an introduction and completed the first two theses. Tonight, we begin with thesis 3.

Thesis 3: Although the works of man always seem attractive and good, they are nevertheless likely to be mortal sins.

Human works appear attractive outwardly, but within they are filthy, as Christ says concerning the Pharisees in Matt. 23:27. For they appear to the doer and others good and beautiful, yet God does not judge according to appearances but searches »the minds and hearts« (Ps. 7:9). For without grace and faith it is impossible to have a pure heart. Acts 15:9: »He cleansed their hearts by faith.«

The thesis is proven in the following way: If the works of righteous men are sins, as Thesis 7 of this disputation states, this is much more the case concerning the works of those who are not righteous. But the just speak in behalf of their works in the following way: »Do not enter into judgment with thy servant, Lord, for no man living is righteous before thee« (Ps. 143:2). The Apostle speaks likewise in Gal. 3:10, »All who rely on the works of the law are under the curse.« But the works of men are the works of the law, and the curse will not be placed upon venial sins. Therefore they are mortal sins. In the third place, Rom. 2:21 states, »You who teach others not to steal, do you steal?« St. Augustine interprets this to mean that men are thieves according to their guilty consciences even if they publicly judge or reprimand other thieves.

In this third thesis, Luther declares ALL works of men evil. That includes the works of believers as well. Again, we come to a paramount tenet of the Reformation; total depravity does not only pertain to mankind in general, but also the saints. Even though the works of men appear “good and beautiful” (eerily similar to Plato’s trinity of the good, true, and beautiful), they are evil:

If the works of righteous men are sins, as Thesis 7 of this disputation states, this is much more the case concerning the works of those who are not righteous.

By the way, this is synonymous with the Calvin Institutes 3.14.9-11. Luther hints in this thesis in regard to why all the works of men can be deemed wicked: they are under the law, and no man can keep the law perfectly:

 But the works of men are the works of the law…

This is another way of saying that Christians remain under the law just like unbelievers, and since no person can keep the law perfectly, all bets are off. The Calvin Institutes 3.14.10 is an in-depth articulation of this idea. This is amazing because it’s right here where Reformed soteriology falls completely apart and turns the whole Bible upside down. Right here, you are looking at it. It’s the idea that Christians cannot perform a good work because they are still under the law and the law demands perfect obedience.

Also, amazingly, all of the major tenets of the Reformation gospel are in this one thesis. Let’s begin with Luther’s heart theology that actually laid the foundation for the contemporary biblical counseling movement; at least what came out of Westminster’s CCEF. An illustration can be seen below.

Luther cites Matthew 23:27 and Psalms 7:9 to make the point that the outward works of men are meaningless and God looks upon the heart. In this theology, the “heart” is the seat of faith. Even though the believer can do no good work; the believer’s heart (or faith) can be pure. What Luther proffers as we move along is a purity totally disconnected from works, and purity (faith) that is strictly an ability to perceive, and depending on the Reformed camp, experience the works of God completely separate from anything man does. If we pay close attention, we see these ideas in this third thesis.

For without grace and faith it is impossible to have a pure heart.

We must continue to remember that what Luther is saying about the heart is completely disconnected from man’s ability to do a good work. Why? Because everything man does is under the law and no man can keep the law perfectly. Again…

But the works of men are the works of the law…

Everything man does whether lost or saved is under the law, and since no man can keep the law perfectly; all of his works are condemned. The next part is very important:

Acts 15:9: »He cleansed their hearts by faith.«

The heart is cleansed by faith alone, and as we will see further along in our study, Luther believed that these cleansings needed to be repeated for ongoing present sin. But a little bit of thinking will reveal it here as well. If we are still under the law, we continue to sin against the law which necessarily demands a repurification. Especially since this sin is “mortal sin.” However,

But the works of men are the works of the law, and the curse will not be placed upon venial sins. Therefore they are mortal sins.

It boils down to this: if one thinks they performed a good work or are able to perform a good work, that’s mortal (subject to death) sin. But a faith that separates itself from works is venial (forgivable) sin which must be continually sought to receive ongoing cleansing. Luther elaborates on this more in the latter theses, but note how he uses Psalm 143:2 in this regard:

 »Do not enter into judgment with thy servant, Lord, for no man living is righteous before thee«

To not completely depend on faith alone, and thinking that you can do a good work is being under the curse of the law:

Gal. 3:10, »All who rely on the works of the law are under the curse.« But the works of men are the works of the law, and the curse will not be placed upon venial sins.

So there is no middle ground; one either depends totally on faith or on works. The belief that one can do a good work is tantamount to being cursed.

This third thesis is the very heart of the Reformation: no man can do a good work, and to believe that is pure faith apart from any good works. Again, faith and good works are separated. Now you know why Luther didn’t like the book of James. The premise for this is the supposed fact that believers remain under law which is a glaring contradiction to Scripture. The “heart” is the seat of pure faith apart from any works; faith and works are mutually exclusive throughout the life of the “believer.”

Thesis 4: Although the works of God are always unattractive and appear evil, they are nevertheless really eternal merits.

That the works of God are unattractive is clear from what is said in Isa. 53:2, »He had no form of comeliness«, and in 1 Sam. 2:6, »The Lord kills and brings to life; he brings down to Sheol and raises up.« This is understood to mean that the Lord humbles and frightens us by means of the law and the sight of our sins so that we seem in the eyes of men, as in our own, as nothing, foolish, and wicked, for we are in truth that. Insofar as we acknowledge and confess this, there is »no form or beauty« in us, but our life is hidden in God (i.e. in the bare confidence in his mercy), finding in ourselves nothing but sin, foolishness, death, and hell, according to that verse of the Apostle in 2 Cor. 6:9-10, »As sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as dying, and behold we live.« And that it is which Isa. 28:21 calls the »alien work« of God »that he may do his work« (that is, he humbles us thoroughly, making us despair, so that he may exalt us in his mercy, giving us hope), just as Hab. 3:2 states, »In wrath remember mercy.« Such a man therefore is displeased with all his works; he sees no beauty, but only his depravity. Indeed, he also does those things which appear foolish and disgusting to others.

This depravity, however, comes into being in us either when God punishes us or when we accuse ourselves, as 1 Cor. 11:31 says, »If we judged ourselves truly, we should not be judged by the Lord«. Deut. 32:36 also states, »The Lord will vindicate his people and have compassion on his servants.« In this way, consequently, the unattractive works which God does in us, that is, those which are humble and devout, are really eternal, for humility and fear of God are our entire merit.

Here we have the Reformed mainstay doctrine of mortification and vivification. This is a major Reformed soteriological doctrine along with double imputation and the vital union. But in regard to M&V, here it is folks—right here. This is probably where this doctrine is first introduced.

But first, let’s look at the Reformation’s single perspective on the law also in this thesis. Luther makes it clear that the supposed sole purpose of the law is to bring man down into despair because of his total depravity:

This is understood to mean that the Lord humbles and frightens us by means of the law and the sight of our sins so that we seem in the eyes of men, as in our own, as nothing, foolish, and wicked, for we are in truth that. Insofar as we acknowledge and confess this, there is »no form or beauty« in us, but our life is hidden in God (i.e. in the bare confidence in his mercy), finding in ourselves nothing but sin, foolishness, death, and hell, according to that verse of the Apostle in 2 Cor. 6:9-10, »As sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as dying, and behold we live.« And that it is which Isa. 28:21 calls the »alien work« of God »that he may do his work« (that is, he humbles us thoroughly, making us despair, so that he may exalt us in his mercy, giving us hope), just as Hab. 3:2 states, »In wrath remember mercy.« Such a man therefore is displeased with all his works; he sees no beauty, but only his depravity. Indeed, he also does those things which appear foolish and disgusting to others.

Once we use the law, and God uses circumstances to bring us into despair, that is the mortification part, God brings about vivification, or exaltation. As you can see, Luther uses 2Corithians 6:9,10 to make the case for that. This suffering is actually the good works of God as opposed to the evil works that look good to man; ie., good works done by men whether saved or unsaved. Later in this disputation Luther will define that as the story of man, or the glory story, viz, good and beautiful works done by man, versus the cross story, viz, the works of God that look unattractive. As we will see further along, this is Luther’s very definition of the new birth. The Christian life is a perpetual death (mortification) and resurrection (vivification) cycle that continually repeats itself experientially from despair to joy.

This is also the basis of John Piper’s Christian Hedonism doctrine. Joy must be part of the salvation experience because it is the upside of the perpetual new birth experience that keeps salvation moving forward by faith alone. If you only experience despair, that’s a half gospel. Many are confused by John Piper’s Christian Hedonism doctrine until they understand M&V, then it all makes perfect sense why joy must be part of the salvation experience. Contemporary Reformers state it this way:

Progressive sanctification has two parts: mortification and vivification, ‘both of which happen to us by participation in Christ,’ as Calvin notes….Subjectively experiencing this definitive reality signified and sealed to us in our baptism requires a daily dying and rising. That is what the Reformers meant by sanctification as a living out of our baptism….and this conversion yields lifelong mortification and vivification ‘again and again.’ Yet it is critical to remind ourselves that in this daily human act of turning, we are always turning not only from sin but toward Christ rather than toward our own experience or piety (Michael Horton: The Christian Faith; mortification and vivification, pp. 661-663 [Calvin Inst. 3.3.2-9]).

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

Now, the next thesis is fairly interesting. In the fifth thesis, Luther distinguishes between crimes and mortal sins.

Thesis 5; The works of men are thus not mortal sins (we speak of works which are apparently good), as though they were crimes.

For crimes are such acts which can also be condemned before men, such as adultery, theft, homicide, slander, etc. Mortal sins, on the other hand, are those which seem good yet are essentially fruits of a bad root and a bad tree. Augustine states this in the fourth book of ›Against Julian‹ (Contra Julianum).

This is pretty straight forward. Criminal acts are NOT classified as mortal sins. Criminal acts are works that are condemned among men while mortal sins are the good works of man that are really “fruit of a bad tree.” Those of orthodoxy must deny that man does any good work at all that is not condemned by God. The belief that any man can do any kind of meritorious work falls under sin that will not be forgiven. This means that Reformed persons in the know would seek daily forgiveness for every, and all acts performed by them. It pretty much boils down to this quotation cited by a theological journal:

The flesh, or sinful nature of the believer is no different from that of the unbeliever. “The regenerate man is no whit different in substance from what He was before his regeneration.” — Bavinck [Reformed philosopher Herman Bavink] (Present Truth: Sanctification-Its Mainspring  Volume 16 Article 13).

At this point it is fairly easy to draw a watershed conclusion in all of this: the lynchpin idea of the Reformation was that salvation can only be obtained and maintained with a righteousness not our own, but also the exclusion of righteous acts performed by us. At this point, there is only one way forward: a mystical manifestation of works performed by deity; Martin Luther’s Alien Righteousness. This necessarily demanded and still demands a discussion of a philosophical ideology to make manifestation and realm birthing feasible. The Heidelberg Disputation not only does that, but articulates the theoretical life application and how these manifestations are experiences in reality. Luther was very concise in that regard while anticipating future objections.

Thesis 6: The works of God (we speak of those which he does through man) are thus not merits, as though they were sinless.

In Eccles. 7:20, we read, »Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins.« In this connection, however, some people say that the righteous man indeed sins, but not when he does good. They may be refuted in the following manner: If that is what this verse wants to say, why waste so many words? Or does the Holy Spirit like to indulge in loquacious and foolish babble? For this meaning would then be adequately expressed by the following: »There is not a righteous man on earth who does not sin.« Why does he add »who does good,« as if another person were righteous who did evil? For no one except a righteous man does good. Where, however, he speaks of sins outside the realm of good works he speaks thus (Prov. 24:16), »The righteous man falls seven times a day.« Here he does not say: A righteous man falls seven times a day when he does good. This is a comparison: If someone cuts with a rusty and rough hatchet, even though the worker is a good craftsman, the hatchet leaves bad, jagged, and ugly gashes. So it is when God works through us.

Luther’s rusty and rough hatchet is an interesting metaphysical illustration. Notice carefully who the “’good’ craftsman” is. That can’t be us, right? Right, we are the rusty and rough hatchet. A hatchet, like all other tools, is a completely passive instrument. It has no life of its own. It only does what the craftsman does with it. Like one Reformed teacher said to me, “The Christian life is done to us not by us.”

Also, the hatchet doesn’t get any credit for the work, but only the good craftsman using the axe. This is Luther’s cardinal point of the thesis. This is a strict metaphysical dichotomy of good and evil with man defining evil and God defining good (The Calvin Institutes 1.1.1.). All manifestations of good on earth must come from above, and no good can be in man or come out of man.

Of course, this makes God the creator of rusty and rough hatchets; ie., sin and evil, but remember, as Luther stated, the good work of the craftsman only appears to be evil to us, right?

Although there is no room in this series to unravel every Scripture text that Luther twisted for his own purposes, I will speak to his use of Ecclesiastes 7:20 to make his point. All that verse is really saying is that man needs wisdom because he is not sinless and is prone to erroneous ways and death without wisdom. It’s not saying that no man does any good work. The idea in the text as noted by translations like NASB follows: no man does only good exclusively.

A thought before we go to the phones for you who are aware of our ministry’s dustup this week with the Wartburg Watch. Some folks from over there came over to PPT claiming that we have no orthodoxed credentials; therefore, apparently, our views are not relevant. Well, two things: if this is not orthodoxy, what is? And secondly, how can people claim to be advocates for the abused when they hold to this doctrine? They are either blowhards that don’t even understand what they are talking about, or they do understand. Which is it? Let’s go to the phones.

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The Issue of New Calvinism May Be Simple to Understand After All

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on December 20, 2011

It has happened more than once until the lightbulb went on a couple of days ago. Susan and I often eat in the same booth at a local restaurant where I proposed to her and where she said, “yes.” In our discussions there on New Calvinism, she often gets a perplexing look on her face and asks questions that seem to indicate that she doesn’t get it. Then the light went on, and I said, “Honey, this point here, they really believe this stuff!”

Yes, often, we don’t connect the dots that lead to understanding because we reject the idea that intelligent people would really believe certain elements of a doctrine. I think that is what gives New Calvinism its cover in many cases. I stayed at Clearcreek Chapel for at least five years after knowing something wasn’t right because I was in denial. “Did he really just say that? Well, I don’t think he meant that exactly, he probably meant to say, you fill in the blank.

Folks wonder why I constantly engage myself in debating mindless, Kool-Aid drinking New Calvinists. The answer is simple; the linguistic exercise creates avenues in my mind that help me better articulate the doctrine. Has the most simplistic formula for understanding this doctrine been right in front of me for months now?  Though the calling card for New Calvinism is “the objective gospel outside of us,” I don’t think that my mind would let me connect the dots that these guys believe that the objective gospel is still “completely” outside of us in salvation. And “completely” is their word, not mine.

Now, when I say “gospel,” think, “justification.” Remember, New Calvinists, like their SDA ancestors, interpret everything through justification. Hence, sanctification can’t be separate, it must be a manifestation of justification in some way. Orthodoxy believes justification makes sanctification possible, New Calvinists (those who know what they believe and are functioning on more than soundbites) believe sanctification is justification in growing form. But justification can’t grow, it is a legal declaration that was accomplished once, and for all those the Father gives to the Son.

When we are saved (because we were justified before the earth was even created), something else happens: “You must be born again.” Justification makes this possible, or better said: it determines it will happen, but the new birth is not justification. At this point, New Calvinists cry, “foul!” And, “You are infusing grace (think, “justification”) into us, and inside of us, making a work inside of us the ground of our justification!”

Ok, what’s going on here? Well, at issue is our ability to participate in our own spiritual growth. Because they view everything through justification like their momma, Ellen White, we can’t be enabled to participate in justification. BUT WE AREN’T BEING ENABLED TO PARTICIPATE IN JUSTIFICATION, JUSTIFICATION IS A COMPLETED WORK.

We are born again, and we are not only declared righteous, we are righteous because we are “new creatures” and, “Behold, all things are new.” Us minus this body we are in, does equal perfection, and we long for the day that Jesus Christ will deliver us from it. But our efforts in sanctification are not an effort to participate in being justified, that’s impossible, we were justified not only before we were born, but before the earth was even created!  But New Calvinists refuse to separate the two, and insist that an inside enablement is an enablement to participate in justification. Let me repeat that: “But New Calvinists refuse to separate the two, and insist that an inside enablement is an enablement to participate in justification.” Which wouldn’t be a good thing.

Therefore, according to New Calvinists (those who know what they really believe, and aren’t mere followers), if we are enabled to participate in justification, that is infusing the righteousness of grace within us—that is making us righteous for the purposes of maintaining justification, or a “righteous standing before God.”  Hence, all righteousness that justifies must be OUTSIDE OF US. And since sanctification is “justification in action,” that active justification has to be fueled by a righteousness that is outside of us lest we be participants in justification. BUT WE CAN’T PARTICIPATE IN JUSTIIFCATION—IT’S A FINISHED WORK!

Also, all righteous works have to be apart from us and are the exclusive works of Christ. Let me repeat that: “….all righteous works have to be apart from us and are the exclusive works of Christ.” Because all righteous works are intrinsically connected to the gospel, or justification, all righteousness points back to justification.

New Calvinists believe that this was the crux of the Reformation. Rome infused righteousness within the believer—they infused the righteous works of Christ within the believer. No, Rome was guilty of the exact same thing that New Calvinists are guilty of, believing that justification has to be maintained through sanctification. The major difference is the following: Rome said that was obtained by ritual and their traditions from an infallible pope. New Calvinists say no to that, but yes to Jesus performing sanctification on our behalf and without our participation. Then they have made that issue “semper reformanda.” But both are guilty of the same thing, fusing justification and sanctification. When you do that, there can only be two results: works salvation (according to ritual and tradition), or let go and let God, or outright sanctified antinomianism (“Oh yes, the law is very, very important, but we can’t keep it, Jesus keeps it for us).

Now, let me pause here and cite some quotations:

Author: What do you think the unique theological findings of the Forum were in light of history? Robert Brinsmead: “Definitely the centrality and all sufficiency of the objective gospel understood as an historical rather than an experiential event, something wholly objective rather than subjective – an outside of me event and the efficacy of an outside-of-me righteousness.”

When the ground of justification moves from Christ outside of us to the work of Christ inside of us, the gospel (and the human soul) is imperiled. It is an upside down gospel

~John Piper

Thus, it will inevitably lead not to self-examination that leads us to despair of ourselves and seek Christ alone outside of us, but to a labyrinth of self-absorption.

~ Michael Horton

So what does this objective Gospel look like? Most importantly, it is outside of us.

~ Tullian Tchividjian

The blessings of the gospel come to us from outside of us and down to us.

~ John Fonville

If we happen to say No to one self-destructive behavior, our self-absorption will merely express itself in another, perhaps less obvious, form of self-destruction. Jesus sympathizes with our weaknesses. He was tempted in all ways as we are, yet without sin. We need help from outside ourselves—and he helps.

~ David Powlison

The saving action of God took place “outside of me” in the finished work of Jesus Christ.

~Robert Brinsmead (Australian Forum)

It robs Christ of His glory by putting the Spirit’s work in the believer above and therefore against what Christ has done for the believer in His doing and dying.

~ Geoffrey Paxton (Australian Forum)

But to whom are we introducing people to, Christ or to ourselves? Is the “Good News” no longer Christ’s doing and dying, but our own “Spirit-filled” life?

~ Michael Horton

And the new-birth-oriented “Jesus-in-my-heart” gospel of evangelicals has destroyed the Old Testament just as effectively as has nineteenth-century liberalism. (footnoted to Paxton’s article with above quote).

~ Graeme Goldsworthy (Australian Forum)

In it [Goldsworthy’s lecture at Southern] it gave one of the clearest statements of why the Reformation was needed and what the problem was in the way the Roman Catholic church had conceived of the gospel….I would add that this “upside down” gospel has not gone away—neither from Catholicism nor from Protestants.

~ John Piper

Geoffrey Paxton convinced Robert Brinsmead that the SDA fusion of justification and sanctification via our participation was not the ticket (works salvation). Instead, they devised a fusion of the two that was not “justification by works.” But the base error is the same, and the brilliant John Piper cartel has bought into it hook, line, and sinker.

But how does it all work in “real life.”

So how is this all packaged to appear orthodox? That is what we refer to as “Gospel Sanctification.”

What is Gospel Sanctification?

First, let’s look at a traditional view of sanctification. The Scriptures make it clear that there is nothing we can do to save ourselves, it is a work of God alone. But once we are born again we are new creatures set apart and enabled by God to dependently work with him in the sanctification process. Sanctification is the spiritual growth process that takes place until God brings us home. Most evangelicals would agree with that definition. However, proponents of gospel sanctification would say: “No, no, no, God alone saved us but now you say we can work for our sanctification? No we can’t, that’s bunk. The gospel saved us and it also must sanctify us, both are a work of God alone. We are saved by the gospel and sanctified by the gospel.” Hence the term gospel sanctification. As Jerry Bridges often says: “We must preach  the gospel to ourselves every day.” Therefore, we are saved by the gospel and must live by the gospel every day (there is some element of truth to this; for instance, everyday repentance likens somewhat to our original repentance at salvation, but in fact, is not exactly the same [Jn 13:10]). The next logical question is: how does that apply to our everyday walk with God? As a friend of mine often says, “Put feet on that.” Well, think salvation. The main key to gospel sanctification is that you couldn’t do anything to be saved and you therefore cannot do anything to be sanctified. Dana L. Stoddard, in his treatise on gospel sanctification in the Journal Of Biblical Counseling entitled “The Daily Christian Life,” put it this way:

“It is by virtue of Christ’s perfect life, death on the cross and resurrection-plus nothing-that we are justified (made and declared right with God) and sanctified (set apart, kept, and viewed as right in the Lord’s eyes by virtue of his obedience). Christ is our holiness. Christ is our sanctification.”

Therefore, according to Stoddard in this article which is an excellent representation of the gospel-driven life, both justification and sanctification are brought about by the life and death of Christ “plus nothing.” Stoddard further drives this point home by quoting John Murray who calls this view definitive sanctification (sanctification by virtue of the indicative alone): “Being made and declared holy is a definitive act of God alone in Christ” (emphasis mine). Therefore, gospel sanctification by virtue of its definition alone is necessarily a passive approach to sanctification. It seeks to synthesize justification and sanctification as much as possible making everything a total work of God alone. Is it biblical? And if it isn’t, what are the ramifications?

But first, let me say that  proponents of gospel sanctification would be very quick to answer a charge of let go and let God. Gospel sanctification does have a practical application. But again, it is necessarily limited by its passive definition and attempts to make sanctification as monergistic as justification (or otherwise as passive as possible). In other words, our contribution to the sanctification process is limited and narrow. Paul David Tripp, a propagator of gospel sanctification, even refers to biblical thinking as a  “technique that is not sufficient for real change.” For all practical purposes, he says in one of his books that 2 Corinthians 10:4-6 is unbiblical:

“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” (How People Change pg. 27).

When you warn readers that even our own efforts to change our thinking to the mind of Christ is a work that eclipses the person and work of Christ, that is excessively passive. Also, note that the crux of the matter in Tripp’s mind is “omitting the person and work of Christ as Savior” (emphasis mine). This is a very defining statement in regard to gospel sanctification; we cannot exclude Christ as Savior from the sanctification process. Any effort on our part, even an attempt to align our thinking with the mind of Christ is to exclude the person of Christ from the sanctification process. Proponents of gospel sanctification make no distinction between justification and sanctification; both are monergistic and obtained by the gospel. Of course, this approach would be a really hard sell to Christians at large if there was no real-life application. So then, what are the primary working dynamics of gospel sanctification, if any? In other words, is there a practical application? As one person asked me, “So what are we supposed to do?” (GS proponents often say that very question is indicative of a grave spiritual problem).

Deep Repentance

Remember, think  gospel. What did you have to do to get saved? Believe and repent. The sanctification process is then no different. Daily repentance is the primary thrust of gospel sanctification because it is the lowest common denominator of passivity that proponents can come up with. Remember, we are dealing with a narrow concept, so whatever elements they have must be greatly embellished. So, we have deep repentance as opposed to regular everyday biblical repentance. This is a process in which the heart is emptied of any desire that exceeds our desire for Christ. This can be done through our recognition of daily sin but not stopping there, we must determine what desire led to the sin (good luck).

Theology of the Heart

This is the process that is used to determine the sinful desires of the heart (see “How People Change,” chapter 6). It involves a knowledge of how the heart supposedly works in the milieu of life and often explained through visual charts. Besides outward sin and response to circumstances, desires can be evaluated by asking ourselves  “X-ray questions.” Paul Tripp supplies a list of thirty-four with two or three phrases in each that ask additional questions in each separate question on page 163 of “HPC” for a total of about 100. The most popular one that you will hear often is: “What did you want?” Imagining possible future circumstances of life and thinking about how we might respond while asking ourselves the right X-Ray questions is yet another way to determine desires of the heart that cause sin. We empty our heart of idols that distort our desires by confessing them daily, and then Christ fills our hearts with himself resulting in an effortless flow of obedience. Supposedly.

Belief and Identity

Once we have emptied our heart of  idols, we then “rest and feed” on the living Christ who then fills our heart with Himself, replacing the idols of the heart (idols that create desires that exceed a desire for Christ, “HPC” pg. 28). We also focus and learn about who we are, and what we have in Christ to fill the void left by the eradication of sinful desires / idols  effected by deep repentance.

New Obedience

The result of this process is new obedience. Or as Tripp explains it in “HPC”: “New and Surprising Fruit” (chap. 14). Or as others explain it, obedience is always a “mere natural flow” (The Imperative Command is Grounded in the Indicative Event, “Vossed World” blog). In other words, we are walking along and holy fruit just starts popping up everywhere without any effort and to our surprise. However, Philippians 2:8 says Christ was obedient to the cross. Now go to Matthew 26:36-46 and read about the struggle Christ experienced as he faced the cross. Hebrews 12:3,4 says: “Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood” (emphasis added).

Nevertheless, according to proponents of gospel sanctification, Christ died to pay the penalty for our sins and justify us before God, but also lived an obedient life in order to obey for us as well (remember what Stoddard said about us being justified and sanctified by the “life” and “death” of Christ with His active obedience being imputed to us, not just righteousness). To accept anything less is to exclude the person of Christ from the gospel, so they say. Some call this belief monergistic substitutionary sanctification. Christ was not only a substitute for the penalty of sin; but was also, and presently is, a substitution for all our works in sanctification as well.


So how do we know when we are obeying God in our own efforts or when it is the work of Christ through us? Easy, our obedience is accompanied by joy and all willingness, that’s how we know according to proponents of the gospel-driven life. Joyless obedience is always in our own efforts and not pleasing to God. Please do not misunderstand me, I realize there is much obedience in the life of a believer accompanied by joy and complete willingness, but sometimes that joy comes as a result of the obedience at a later time. Knowing this often helps us to endure accordingly: “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb 12:2). Here I must pause and interject a very important note: Paul Tripp is the guru who has articulated the supposed practical application of the gospel- driven life via “How People Change.”

John Piper is the guru who has articulated the experience of gospel sanctification via Christian hedonism and other such writings. Much of the theory in regard to how the gospel-driven life is experienced is through the writings of John Piper.

What does that look like?

This is a gospel sanctification (GS) buzz question / mantra that replaces “how do we do that?” How, is now the wrong question to ask because it indicates there is actually something we can do to participate in the sanctification process, a crime worthy of death. If you doubt the wide spread influence GS has today, take note of how often you here that  phrase. Even the terminology must be changed to discourage some kind of effort on our part in the sanctification process that might imply some verb to follow.

The GS Hermeneutic

But what about all of those pesky Bible verses that seem to contradict gospel sanctification’s passive approach? Like say for instance, 1 Corinthians 9:27; ”No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.” No problem. GS has its own process for interpreting the Bible through the lens of a gospel perspective so everything comes out redemptive. It’s called the redemptive-historical hermeneutic, or the Christocentric hermeneutic, or the cross-centered hermeneutic; so you have the theology of GS doing the interpretation.

GS Characteristics

Gospel sanctification is well suited for American culture. It’s new, It’s easy, and claims to have a low failure rate. It also has a strong intimidation factor. To speak against GS is to be against Christ and his gospel. To be against GS is to propagate the “legalism” of self-discipline and hard work in the sanctification process. Worse yet, if you believe that obedience is an exercise of the will to please God, you are supposedly engaging in works salvation. First of all, any Christian knows that we cannot please God apart from His life giving Spirit, but neither are we merely potted plants in the process:

“We sent Timothy, who is our brother and God’s fellow worker in spreading the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you in your faith” (1 Thess 3:2, emphasis mine. Some translations: “coworker”). “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth” (2 Tim 2:15, emphasis mine).

GS is destructive error for the following reasons:

It takes away from the word of God in regard to elements of biblical sanctification.

Our resources and guiding truth concerning sanctification in the Bible are many faceted and numerous. GS is a narrow approach that excludes or ignores key truths of sanctification such as satanic strategy and our battle with the flesh. According to GS proponents, these kinds of considerations, and many others distract us from “owning our own sin.” They say that the flesh is not our problem, the heart is the problem, the flesh is a realm (I expand on this in the other essays). As only one example among many, most GS teachers do not see Satan as being in the loop of spiritual warfare, regardless of clear warnings from the Scriptures. This is no trite matter.

The following quote concerns John Piper’s Christian Hedonism which is the articulation of how gospel sanctification is experienced. But, the same concerns expressed by Dr. Masters below can also be applied to gospel sanctification as a whole. Gospel sanctification applies, and confines sanctification to the same elements of justification which are much fewer; namely, by faith alone.

“But Dr Piper’s formula for its use undoubtedly alters the understanding of sanctification long held by believers in the Reformation tradition, because it elevates one Christian duty above all others.

Delighting in God, we repeat, is made the organizing principle for every other spiritual experience and duty. It becomes the key formula for all spiritual vigor and development. Every other Christian duty is thought to depend on how well we obey this central duty of delighting in the Lord. The entire Christian life is simplified to rest upon a single quest, which is bound to distort one’s perception of the Christian life and how it must be lived. Whatever the strengths of Dr Piper’s ministry, and there are many, his attempt to oversimplify biblical sanctification is doomed to failure because the biblical method for sanctification and spiritual advance consists of a number of strands or pathways of action, and all must receive individual attention. As soon as you substitute a single ‘big idea’ or organizing principle, and bundle all the strands into one, you alter God’s design and method. Vital aspects of Truth and conduct will go by the board to receive little or no attention.”

It denies specific biblical instruction.

GS denies that the Bible includes specific instruction. The hit list of GS includes: living by lists; do’s and don’ts; put off and put on; biblical thinking; discipline; and a traditional view of obedience among many others. Yet 2 Timothy 3:16 says: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.”

It redefines obedience and the gospel.

It makes obedience in the sanctification process synonymous with works salvation. Therefore, it redefines Christ as a Lord that does not require obedience, and in fact, rejects it. Is it therefore a half gospel that presents Christ as Savior only? Yes.

It redefines spiritual warfare.

This can best be summarized by a statement I make in another essay contained in this book:

“Tripp’s battleground location would suggest a totally different form of warfare as opposed to warfare with sin that abides in the flesh. For one thing, warfare with the flesh is much more defined as opposed to the subjective nature of what the Bible calls the heart. As a matter of  fact, Jeremiah suggested that we cannot know the heart to begin with. These are two separate paths of sanctification. Saints would do well to choose their path carefully.

The Church for the most part defines spiritual warfare as Scripture describes it, a warfare between our regenerate heart and the flesh. Disciplines that feed our spirit God’s pure milk and deprive the flesh of provisions is not merely an outside warfare verses an inside warfare, it is the biblical prescription.”

It robs Christians of assurance of salvation.

Throughout Scripture, striving in obedience to the word of God is said to result in assurance of salvation. Most notably, 2 Peter 1:5-11. This is a far cry from the prescription for assurance by Jerry Bridges who counsels us to have assurance via “preaching the gospel to ourselves every day.”


It boils down to this: when we are saved, and born again, is God’s righteousness imparted to us? And if it is—is that working for justification? I believe orthodoxy answers that second question with an unequivocal NO!


The Australian Forum 3 and Contemporary New Calvinists Sittin’ in a Tree, K-i-s-s-i-n-g

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on August 18, 2011

The false gospel of the new birth imagines that the new birth refers primarily to what happens in the believer and that this is the greatest news in the world. This is classical Roman Catholicism. It teaches that a good thing is the best thing, that the work of the Spirit is greater than that of the Son

~ Geoffrey Paxton

When the ground of justification moves from Christ outside of us to the work of Christ inside of us, the gospel (and the human soul) is imperiled…. Catholicism had reversed the vision so that the prime focus was on the work of Christ or his Spirit within us.

~ John Piper

And the new-birth oriented ‘Jesus-in-my-heart’ gospel of evangelicals has destroyed the Old Testament just as effectively as has nineteenth-century liberalism.

~ Graeme Goldsworthy

It robs Christ of His glory by putting the Spirit’s work in the believer above and therefore against what Christ has done for the believer in His doing and dying.

~ Geoffrey Paxton

But to whom are we introducing people to,  Christ or to ourselves? Is the ‘Good News’ no longer Christ’s doing and dying, but our own ‘Spirit-filled’ life?

~ Michael Horton

This meant the reversal of the relationship of sanctification to justification. Infused grace, beginning with baptismal regeneration [which evangelicals reject], internalized the Gospel and made sanctification the basis of justification.

~ John Piper

[Evangelicals] unwittingly teach justification by sanctification.

~Graeme Goldsworthy

[Brinsmead on evangelicals and Catholics:] “Justification is a process of inner renewal in us. Justification is given to us by an infusion of God’s grace.”

~ Robert Brinsmead

It is an upside down gospel.

~ John Piper

It is an upside down gospel

~ The Australian Forum


Comments by “Karen” and “Jill” Capture the Fundamentals of the New Calvinist Lie and its Life Formula

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on July 29, 2011

Hardly anything that comes out of New Calvinism is the truth. I was reminded of this as I read  a recent comment by “Karen” on the Michael Horton Trilogy post. See no law, hear no law, speak no law:

In the comment, Karen regurgitates the usual New Calvinist canned gospel along with the usual communication techniques that attempt to cover for a lack of validity; and attempts to demean those who are not on the cutting edge of the “New Reformation.” Here is the comment:

“You obviously haven’t listened to Horton on his White Horse Inn broadcasts, where he and the panel are always admonishing the church to preach the Law AND the Gospel. One must recognize the Law’s demands before one can appreciate the fact that we are not capable of achieving the righteous requirements of the Law, and therefore we NEED the Savior, who lived a perfectly righteous life which is imputed to my account at the point of justification. Horton’s cry to the church is not to abandon the imperatives of Scripture (those lists of godly behaviors in Paul’s epistles), but to practice them in light of the indicatives (what Christ has already accomplished on our behalf). Perfect case in point: Phil. 2:12 and 13 — ” . . . work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” Most of Paul’s epistles are indicative heavy up front (Gospel) and imperative heavy following (Law). But the Good News is what keeps us from becoming frustrated in our failure to attain the righteousness that “exceeds that of the pharisees” (Matt. 5:20).”

 I. Communication

The first thing we see in Karen’s comment under “communication” is the New Calvinist (NC) prerequisite for those who are not followers of  NC. You have to read EVERY  book any particular NC has written in order to be qualified to criticize them. This is a technique often used to defend John Piper who has written about 600 books on joy.  He is the spiritual counterpart to Anne McCaffrey who wrote the mystical “Pern” series, and trust me, she couldn’t hold a candle to the first pope of NC, John Piper. Of course, this sets a standard not even foisted upon Holy Writ—the idea that you have to read the whole Bible to understand any of it. But as the fawning, Koolaid drinking writers of the Pyro blog note, “To know Piper is to understand Piper”(gag).

The second thing we see under communication is the misrepresentation of terms. Yes, Horton and the White Horse Inn gang constantly talk about law and gospel, but what they mean by those terms are not orthodox. Horton believes that the purpose of the law is to drive Christians to despair so that they will be totally dependant on Christ. Like Paul David Tripp, he also believes that any effort on our part to keep the law only breeds self righteousness. In “Another Gospel,” there will be a whole chapter dedicated to NC phraseology.

The third element in NC communication is intimidation: “You obviously haven’t…,” and “One must….” etc. Ever heard the one about what was written in the preacher’s sermon notes? “Point weak—pound pulpit here.” This works particularly well for Piper who is also helped by this because he looks like Yoda’s big brother.

II. New Calvinist Doctrine

1. The Synthesis of Justification and Sanctification.

The first element of NC doctrine can be seen in Karen’s statement as follows: “One must recognize the Law’s demands before one can appreciate the fact that we are not capable of achieving the righteous requirements of the Law,…” The goal of a believer is not to achieve righteousness for justification; that is a onetime legal declaration by God that happens when we believe. Christians seek to obey the law because “we make it our goal to please him” as colaborers with God in sanctification (2Cor. 5:9, 1Cor. 3:9, 1Thess. 3:2).

2. The Total Depravity of the Saints.

If the law has the same role in the lives of unbelievers as it does for believers, this logically speaks of ability being the same. In fact, Horton plainly writes in Christless Christianity, page 62, that justification (or, “gospel”) gives life to unbelievers in the same way that it gives life to believers when they revisit the gospel “afresh.” Horton also states on the same page that any other application besides the gospel in the Christian life results in the loss of salvation.

3. Denial of the New Birth.

Obviously, if our ability to obey the law is no more than that of an unbeliever, one must ask: “What about Christians being “new creatures”? That’s easy, NC deny the significance of the new birth. In the cradle of New Calvinism, Robert Brinsmead’s  Australian Forum (along with G. Paxton and G. Goldsworthy [the Australian 3 or “A3”]), concurred that there is a new birth, but that lending significance to that fact would eclipse  the preeminence of the gospel and the works of Jesus Christ. Example: yes, it’s true that there are planets that are 300 light years away from us, but what is the significance of them when discussing the Sun? Rick Holland uses this same hermeneutical logic in his book, “Uneclipsing The Son” to promote the NC doctrine of Gospel Sanctification. Consider this side by side comparison of quotes from G. Paxton and Michael Horton:

Paxton: “It robs Christ of His glory by putting the Spirit’s work in the believer above

and therefore against what Christ has done for the believer in His doing and dying.”

Horton: “Is the ‘Good News’ no longer Christ’s doing and dying, but our own

‘Spirit-filled’ life?”

4. The Obedient Life of Christ as Part of the Atonement.

Known as the imputed active obedience of Christ, it adds the obedience that Christ practiced during His incarnation to our account along with righteousness. Therefore, active obedience is imputed to us, and any attempt on our part to obey is a denial of a key part of the atonement. I highly recommend pastor Terry Rayburn’s sound refutation of this doctrine here (5 Part series):

Karen’s reflection of this doctrine can be seen in this statement: “….and therefore we NEED the Savior, who lived a perfectly righteous life which is imputed to my account at the point of justification.”

5. The Imperative Command is Grounded in the Indicative Event.

Karen says: “Horton’s cry to the church is not to abandon the imperatives of Scripture (those lists of godly behaviors in Paul’s epistles), but to practice them in light of the indicatives (what Christ has already accomplished on our behalf). Perfect case in point: Phil. 2:12 and 13 — ‘ . . . work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.’ Most of Paul’s epistles are indicative heavy up front (Gospel) and imperative heavy following (Law).”

This is the NC teaching that the Bible demonstrates contemplation on the gospel as the key to spiritual growth by a supposed grammatical pattern that always displays the works of Christ/gospel (indicative) prior to commands (imperative). This is hardly a consistent pattern throughout Scripture. Don’t be fooled by Karen’s typical NC nuanced doublespeak. She seems to be saying that our good works are a result of being saved by Christ, but she is really toeing the classic NC line that Christ is obeying for us because His obedience was imputed to us through the atonement. Contemplating the gospel results in an effortless display of His obedience—not ours. This can be seen in this part of her statement: “(what Christ has already accomplished on our behalf).” Obviously, if Christ has already “accomplished” IT, there is nothing more for us to “accomplish.” Notice that in her citation of Phil. 2:12,13, both God and believer “work,” but her implication is: go ahead and do what Jesus did and it will be effortless because he already accomplished it. So, any works in our OWN effort is not of Christ because when it is Him doing it, it doesn’t require our effort. If you doubt that’s the take, consider this statement by “Jill” whom I was having a discussion with last night:

“When Christ lives in us, everything is effortless because it is Christ living in us doing it all through us. When we have to work in our own strength to please God, we know that we are still bound by the law.”

In Jill’s statement, all the elements of what we are discussing here can be seen.

However, we must remember: like the new birth, the will to obey God is a gift, but with all gifts, we still possess it (new creatureship and the will) regardless of the fact that it is a gift. Therefore, we are enabled to obey—have the will to obey (which does not imply that we will always feel like the will is there), and it is really us obeying/working.

6. The Pharisees were really, really good at keeping the law and look how angry God was with them, so let that be a lesson to you; if you try to keep the law, your nothing but a Pharisee. No, no, even though the Pharisees were really, really good at keeping the law, you need a righteousness that exceeds the righteousness they had—the righteousness of Christ that comes by your non-effort which shows your faith.  

This worn out, straw man eating a red herring argument used often by NC can be seen in these words by Karen: “But the Good News is what keeps us from becoming frustrated in our failure to attain the righteousness that “exceeds that of the pharisees” (Matt. 5:20).”

Again, pleasing Christ, and putting on the new creature while putting off the old, is not an attempt to secure justification as Karen suggests. And, Christ was saying the exact opposite of what NC say He is saying in Matthew 5:20. Because the Pharisees were actually antinomian law-breakers of the worse sort, Christ was saying that your life better look a whole bunch better than theirs. Christ’s beef with the Pharisees was not their supposed attempt/efforts to apply the truth to their life, but the fact that they distorted the law with their traditions, and thereby making the law “void” ( Matthew 15:6 ESV). This fact can also be clearly seen in the context of Matthew 5. The Pharisees were the ones who “relaxed” the law and taught others to do the same.

7. By attempting to keep the law, the Pharisees were only cleaning the outside of the cup and not truly dealing with the heart (Matthew 23:25-28).

Karen doesn’t touch on this, but it is the matching bookend of NC’s Pharisee angle, so I present it here as a bonus point. Supposedly, any effort on our part to keep the law only concerns the outer person. We supposedly change from the inside out by contemplating the gospel with the result being an outer manifestation of Christ’s obedience, not ours. But again, that is a distortion of what Christ was really saying. Christ was saying that outer obedience is always preceded by inner obedience, not contemplative spirituality:

“So you alsooutwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full ofhypocrisy and lawlessness.”

The word for “lawlessness” in this passage is “anomia” which means “without the law” or “anti-law” or “against the law.” The Pharisees were disobedient in regard to their inner life (thinking, reasoning, knowledge, etc). They were law-breakers on the inside and the outside both. Apparently, one of the primary reasons God destroyed mankind except for Noah’s family was: “And Jehovah saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.”

III. Conclusion

Despite the fact that NC are masters of nuance and double speak, their formula for life is simply this: Living the Christian life is an effortless endeavor that only seeks to display the works of Christ and the gospel that flow from “worship” and spiritual contemplation. It is a formula that is wreaking havoc on Christian families and will continue to do so. And although most Christians today deny this doctrine based on terminology, it is how they function in real life. This can be easily demonstrated. When one goes to college, he/she will have to labor in various ways to eventually earn a degree. Not only that, they will have to learn something NEW in every class they attend every day in order to obtain a grade that illustrates that they have the knowledge necessary to perform a trade. That’s college—not sanctification, but yet, how many Christians have that attitude about what’s necessarily for the Christian life? And regardless of the fact that the apostle Paul said: “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth,” Christian leaders insist that believers make the ABC’s of Christianity the A-Z.