Paul's Passing Thoughts

Rick Holland’s “Uneclipsing The Son” Part 4: Mr. Holland Was For Obedience Before He was Against It, And The Sonship / AF Connection

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on July 22, 2011

On pages 46 through 56 (most of chapter 4), Holland makes a case that the book of Job is all about Christ. Of course, New Calvinist believe every verse in the Bible is about Christ so that’s no surprise. Though I believe his exegesis is a stretch to come to that conclusion, these pages are by far the less ghastly so far and have some merit. In addition to making this point, he seems to slightly redefine the word transcendence as primarily the difference between two things, rather than something that is superior or not confined by immanence. I know, this seems like nitpicking, but Holland seems to use his primary definition to make some sort of strict dichotomy between the Son and the Father that effects how we perceive the Trinity, and such dichotomies tend to make me suspicious. Not only that, it’s eerily similar to the “objective” part of COG (the centrality of the objective gospel) which teaches that gospel reality is completely outside of us. This can subtly set up a prism that requires all realities about the Father to be seen through the Son, rendering the Father as true, but insignificant when compared to Christ; and in fact, our biggest problem—with Christ coming to the rescue. Of course, there is some truth to that, but that approach also makes me uncomfortable with what seems like an unbalanced view of the Trinity that can lead to bad places.

Nevertheless, what follows is much easier to expound on. On page 59, Holland reiterates what makes GS what it is: contemplative spirituality. Holland states on page 59: “In other words, we see Christ now, and the more we know Him and the more we study Him, the more we become like the clear image we see of Him. Looking for  [emphasis mine. This is supposedly what job one is for Christians when reading their Bible] and seeing and gazing [my emphasis] at the excellencies, the glories of Jesus leads to greater vision, sharper focus, deeper awareness of Jesus and His permanent abiding presence. It elevates the soul to a higher vantage point of worship. We must learn to stare at the Son of God such that we are blinded to all the allurements of the world! All encumbrances aside, all slack hardeness aside, everything aside but…Him.”

Along with this statement being a superb specimen of how GS instructs followers to read the Bible, looking for Jesus only; and specifically, his “excellencies” and “glories,” the statement shows the kinship between GS and Sonship Theology. In a book Jay Adams’ wrote to warn the church about Sonship, he wrote the following:

“The problem with Sonship is that it misidentifies the source of sanctification (or the fruitful life of the children of God) as justification. Justification, though a wonderful fact, a ground of assurance, and something never to forget, cannot produce a holy life through strong motive for it.”

And,

“Certainly, all of us may frequently look back to the time when we became sons and rejoice in the fact, but there is no directive to do so for growth, or even an example of this practice, in the New Testament….The true reminder of the good news about Jesus’ death for our sins is the one that he left for us to observe-the Lord’s supper (‘Do this in remembrance of Me’).”

Holland follows this up on page 60 and 61 with the usual GS slight of hand. On page 60, using John 14:21 as a point of reference, he makes several orthodox statements concerning  obedience. He seems to be clearly saying that obedience is the gateway to a deeper love for Christ. He seems to be saying the same thing Christ is clearly saying in that text: obedience to Christ is synonymous with loving Him. In other words, obedience is a loving act (John 3:16).

I used to become perplexed by these sudden bursts of orthodoxy after reading page after page of “truth” seasoned with nuance because God’s people are not yet ready to accept that we have been supposedly living under a false gospel  for the past 100 years. I calmly read pages 60-61 while enjoying a nice lunch Susan fixed for me. Two all beef patties smothered in pepper-jack cheese and jalapeños. No buns because I’m on a low-carb diet that is working fabulously (email me at pmd@inbox.com if you want the details). She also brought me a glass of tea sweetened with something other than sugar, but it was really good. Before I finished the last bite, Holland began to explain exactly what he means by “obedience” on page 61. He was for it on page 60, but on page 61, well, you see, what Jesus meant in John 14:21 is love and obedience are the same thing.

But you say: “Paul, that agrees with what you just said was orthodox!” Not exactly. I said that obedience is an act among many that is a demonstration of love. On page 61, Holland makes the point that they are the same thing, but obedience must be defined by love, and now we must ask ourselves what “love” is. Hmmmmm—get you hand on your wallet:

“So what does it mean to love Jesus? Yes, we’ve already seen obedience. That’s a given [I’m sure]. But [just like the “But”Light commercial: “Here we go!”] true Christians are distinguished from unbelievers not only by their obedience, but by their love for Christ. Let this question echo in your soul: Do you love Christ? Is He precious to you, as He was to Peter? Is He the hub of your faith and your life, [and here is the crux:] or have you made Christianity something of a way to live instead of a person to love?”

NOTE, after saying obedience and love are intrinsically connected, he makes a dichotomy that is impossible to distinguish in real life. How can one possibly distinguish Godly obedience from making “Christianity something of a way to live instead of a person to love?” It’s a false dichotomy that forces the reader to decide whether true love is a way of life or a “person to love.” And again, and again, regardless of a calling to live in a new way throughout Holy Writ, Holland does not qualify the statement.

HOWEVER, Holland then defines what this true love is on pages 61-67 after the pesky subject of obedience is relegated to its proper place in the back of the bus. He then breaks down a “biblical” definition of love into three categories: Love And Faith (p.61), Love And Understanding (p.64), and Love And Affections (p.66).

In the first segment, “Love And Faith,” Holland clearly shows this book’s kinship with the Australian Forum. I devote a whole chapter in my book, “Another Gospel” to Robert Brinsmead’s interpretive prism as taught by him and Paxton / Goldsworthy. Following this post, a full copy of that chapter can be viewed. On page 62, Holland describes faith as the “eye of the soul.” He then writes that Scripture is the lens used by faith and the Holy Spirit illuminates Scripture for one purpose and one purpose only: “Suddenly the Bible comes alive and we see Christ’s excellence, His splendor!” Hence, this is the EXACT position of the AF: the Bible’s only purpose is to obtain a deeper knowledge of the gospel, and the Holy Spirit will not illuminate anything else but that. Holland writes on page 63: “There must be a faith that engages with God’s Word on Jesus and estimates it to be the most important information in the world” [which then becomes the interpretive mode of operation].

Therefore, the Bible is for the purpose of plunging the depths of seeing the glory of Christ and nothing else. Any other information in the Bible that seems to be contrary to that thesis is descriptions of what Christ has done and should teach us more about Him instead of being an instruction book for a different “way to live.” All of the commands in the Bible are meant to show us what Christ has done for us already, and to humble us because we can’t keep all of them perfectly anyway. As I heard one pastor say from a pulpit about three months ago: “You can’t keep all of God’s law anyway, so don’t even try.”  Pondering the volume of commands should also drive us to the foot of the cross and more dependence on Christ. Supposedly.

Therefore, the only logical conclusion is that obedience is a natural result of “Staring  At The Son” (the actual  title of chapter 5). But how do we know when we are committing the horrible sin of “obeying Jesus in our own efforts?” Well, because it will FEEL like it—that’s how you supposedly know, and Holland emphasizes that point throughout the rest of chapter 5. Throughout the book, Holland reiterates the same worn-out GS points made by  Francis Chan (“When it’s love, it feels like love”), John Piper (“Beholding as a way of becoming” and joy is synonymous with faith), Paul David Trip (Christians are still spiritually dead), and Michael Horton (we only grow spiritually when we “revisit the gospel afresh”). The following is the chapter of my future book where the AF view of interpretation is dealt with—which is the same approach propagated by Holland:

Rick Holland’s “Uneclipsing The Son,” Part 3: Mr. Holland’s Theological Train Wreck Has A Destination

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on July 19, 2011

There isn’t much new thus far in Mr. Holland’s “Uneclipsing The Son,” other than being the usual theological train wreck one expects from the New Calvinist crowd.

On pages 4-7, Holland expounds on the whole how Ephesus lost their first love routine. They supposedly lost their first love by not focusing on seeing Jesus in deeper and deeper ways as a person (ie., contemplative spiritually). However, Christ makes it clear how the Ephesians were to repent and find their first love again: “….do the works you did at first.” Holland begins the book by butchering Scripture and does not relent moving forward.

On page 8, Holland connects “think[ing] of Christianity as behavior modification” with “effectively estrange[ing] ourselves from Christ.” Regardless of the fact that many verses in Scripture are concerned with behavior modification, Holland doesn’t qualify the statement. In fact, consider 1Thess. 4:3; “For this is the will of God,your sanctification:that you abstain from sexual immorality….” Neither does he qualify what being “estrange[d] from Christ” means. The statement strongly insinuates that behavior concerns in sanctification will separate us from Christ. This is run of the mill Gospel Sanctification stuff.

On page 9, things get a little creepy: “After all, Christianity is the worship of Jesus Christ. It’s the worship of Jesus Christ exclusively, and it’s the worship of Jesus Christ comprehensively. He alone is worthy; He alone is God….” Uh, what about the Father? In many instances, GS proponents hint at some kind of skewed view of the Trinity, and Holland is no exception. There is very little doubt that GS theology often eclipses the other two members of the Trinity.

On page 10, Holland again takes a jab at obedience by saying biblical books “….are not a mere directive for a new way to live, but a manifesto of the amazing greatness of Jesus.” The focus is the greatness of Jesus, not what Jesus says (….”teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”). Holland’s thesis seems to clearly contradict Luke 11:27, 28 which records the reaction of a woman who realized the greatness of Christ: “As Jesus was saying these things, a woman in the crowd called out, ‘Blessed is the mother who gave you birth and nursed you.’ He replied, ‘Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.’”

On page 11, Holland writes that the book of James presents Christ as the “rule and standard of all spiritual instruction” (in other words, as Paul David Tripp says: “All commands must be seen in their gospel context”). This is simply not true, and again, what about the Father?! The Father has no part in spiritual instruction? What standard did James use to “serve” God AND the Lord Jesus Christ? Holland plainly contradicts James’ opening statement of the book.

On page 12, he reiterates the thesis of the book; primarily, conjuring up a heightened “value” of Christ in our minds as the key to emerging from the eclipse which he assumes most Christians are in because after all, like all New Calvinists, he is on the cutting edge of the great Reformation that wasn’t finished by Luther et al. All and all, it reduces the Scriptures to a tool for contemplating the greatness of Christ exclusively for the purpose of being motivated by emotions, as we will see later.

On page 14, obedience is again devalued by describing it as a “treadmill” of engagements, polite conversation, and good behavior. Yet, Peter exhorted Christian wives to win their lost husbands through their “good behavior.” Once again, Holland does not qualify any of these statements regardless of the fact that they contradict the plain language of Scripture.

On page 15, he toe’s the usual GS line by indicting Christianity for considering the gospel to be “Basic/Christian /Truth,” and reiterates the need to see the gospel “afresh.” This contradicts 2Peter 1 and Hebrews 5:11-6:3, as well as many other Scriptures that speak of the gospel as a foundation of faith that we build on. In addition, and on the same page, he makes feelings the standard for whether or not the gospel is once again stirring our hearts: “Do these words move you as they once did?”

In the previous post, I eluded to Holland’s butchering of Romans 5 starting on page 18 and following where he speaks of Christians as being presently in a pre-salvation condition. In other words, it is strongly insinuated that Christians are still spiritually dead as they were before salvation. This idea is often promoted by other New Calvinists such as John Piper, Paul David Tripp, and Michael Horton by citing pre-salvation texts that are clearly in the past tense as pertaining to Christians presently. On page 39, Holland has the audacity to make the following statement under the heading “When Bad Grammar Makes Good Theology”: “The rules of grammar are intended to be guardrails for communication. But sometimes they prevent it.”

At that particular place in the book, Holland uses that point to speak of the apostle Paul’s supposed “awkward” grammar. His idea is that Paul used the phrase “to live is Christ” to communicate the idea that true spiritual life only comes from contemplating the person[hood] of Christ. Also insinuated is the idea that Christ’s greatness transcends mere grammatical rules, and therefore, one must break those rules to communicate how consumed our life must be with Christ. But in what context? Who Christ is as a person (whatever that means) only, or what Christ teaches about our role in sanctification? But in his relentless onslaught of distortion, he claims that Paul’s grammar is “awkward”; no it isn’t, Paul is using a simile to communicate the idea that Christ should be first priority in our lives—it’s not awkward or “bad grammar” at all. But first priority doesn’t equal a nebulous contemplation that supposedly results in a passive obedience earmarked with a joy that gives all obedience moral value. That isn’t biblical truth, and Paul didn’t distort grammar guardrails—it’s the New Calvinists that do the distorting based on their version of the gospel interpreting all reality. And if grammar gets in the way, they do what all good antinomians do—change the rules.

On page 23, Holland addresses one of the newest challenges to New Calvinism—that being the subject of hell and the New Calvinist paranoia that somebody might think that hell is an incentive to confess the gospel rather than the pure unadulterated motive of seeing Christ in His full glory and the accompanying treasure chest of joy that validates the confession. The story line that seems to be emerging from New Calvinists is that hell is good news because it shows how Christ saves us from God. In fact, the heading on page 23 reads, “Saved—From God.” So, apparently, hell is a God the Father sort of thing. On page 43 and following, Holland presents God as “our most pressing problem.” And, “man’s greatest problem is God, God Himself.” And of course, it’s Christ to the rescue, right? Though few would reject that premise, it’s not exactly right and promotes the subtle New Calvinist goal of making Christ more significant than God the Father. Holland gives no Scripture references for this concept of Christ saving us from God because there isn’t any. God was just as involved in the salvation solution as Christ was, and Christ is also a God of wrath just as much as the Father is (Rev. 6:16,17 and 19:11-16) This whole concept is a subtle, but dangerous distortion. At the very least, making a strict dichotomy that associates wrath with God and salvation with Christ is ill advised.

On page 25 and 26, Holland espouses the well traveled indicative / imperative GS paradigm. This is the idea that all commands in the Bible are always preceded by a description of what Christ has done through the gospel, which incites gratitude and awe, which in turn incites joy, and the joy incites us to do whatever the following verses describe in the way of imperatives. Michael Horton describes it as a formula (formulas are ok if they are NC approved): Gratitude + (leads to) Doxology = (leads to) Obedience. Of course, the notion that the Scriptures always follow that grammatical pattern is patently absurd, but yet, New Calvinists now realize that our dumbed-down Christian culture will drink anything you put in front of them. This is especially crippling for Christians to buy into because the Bible often presents the exact opposite: obedience + (leads to blessings) doxology = gratitude (for example: James 1:25). To refute this, New Calvinists will refer back to a text several chapters prior and claim that the indicative there is linked to the other pattern in question, which is ridiculous.

On pages 29 through 41, chapter 3, Holland toes the GS line on the desire = value paradigm. This entails using the Bible for the sole purpose of contemplating  the greatness of Christ and the gospel (as Piper describes: “always reading with an eye for the gospel”) with the result of our desires being changed, which in turn changes our value, which in turn changes our behavior. It’s based on the premise that we are controlled by our desires, and therefore, change the desire, and you will change behavior and what you worship. This also coincides with the supposed purity of feelings with the action that gives obedience its moral value. In fact, throughout chapter three, Holland suggests that feelings are an acid test for how we are progressing in uneclipsing the Son: “Do you seek to enjoy and honor and feel the fellowship of the risen, living Jesus?” And, “What does that feel like? It’s all about appraising Jesus as infinitely and personally precious. It’s all about a conscious, deliberate enjoyment of His worth.” Oh really? Is that what it is “all about”? I thought it was all about “make[ing] it our goal to please him.” What’s so complicated about the word “goal” and the fact that it is God’s pleasure being the focus, not ours?

To drive this point home, Holland uses “Gollum” of JRR Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings to make his point. Gollum called the ring “precious” because that was his focus. In the same way, Christ will be precious to us if we focus on just Him, and our lives will be consumed with Him like the ring consumed Gollum’s life. But this is not the biblical paradigm of fighting desires of the flesh while putting off the old man and putting on the new creation. Christians are to withhold provisions from the flesh that bolster sinful desires while walking in the Spirit. Nowhere in Scripture are we commanded to change our desires through spiritual contemplation as the singular discipline from which all other disciplines flow as a natural result. Rather, “walk by the Spirit (according to the Spirit’s will as revealed in the Bible), and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.”

In order to make his points in this chapter, Holland blatantly distorts several texts. According to Holland, when Christ restored Peter with the three questions, He only wanted to know if Peter loved Him, not “Do you have your philosophy of ministry down?’ Not, “do you have church strategy ready?’ Not, ‘have you practiced your sermon for the day of Pentecost?’” Holland’s point is that “affection” is the issue, not anything we do. However, Holland completely excludes the fact that Christ followed-up each question with three imperatives that cover three different aspects of ministry—all but a total contradiction of how he exegetes that particular text. Does Holland think his audience is biblically illiterate? To conclude the chapter, Holland summarizes the main point: “If there’s anything in your faith that isn’t anchored in the person of Jesus, you’re living in an eclipse. You are not enjoying the eternal life made available by the gospel.” Note the focus of all biblical truth, according to Holland (and all other New Calvinists as well) is the nebulous “person of Christ” rather than the objective “….teaching them to obey all that I have commanded” which was Christ’s mandate to the church.

What a theological train wreck! But yet, it has a destination: away from the law; and to let go and let God theology.

paul   

By Request: A Summary Of The New Calvinist Genealogy Chart; Part 1 / Introduction

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on July 13, 2011

The contemporary history of New Calvinism begins with Robert Brinsmead and Jon Zens. They are the fathers of New Calvinism. Between my interview with Brinsmead and an informal document written by Zens I found on the internet—this is apparent. Brinsmead started a project called the Australian Forum (he wanted me to note that it was one of many projects that focused on certain subjects) that sought to articulate a gospel-centered sanctification into a unified, consistent systematic theology. One of the major considerations was a focus on covenant theology in relationship to this endeavor. Jon Zens is the father of New Covenant Theology, but it is clear that Brinsmead had a major influence in the formulation of that doctrine. All of this took place in the 70’s. So, New Calvinism has been around for about 35 years in various forms. It is primarily based on the Forum’s centrality of the objective gospel (COG). COG is the very heart of New Calvinism. Though NC has many different expressions, this doctrine is the heartbeat that drives it.

The Forum was having a significant impact on two spheres of Christianity in the 70’s and early 80’s; namely, Reformed Baptist and Westminster Seminary. Zens was a Reformed Baptist and also a student at Westminster. Zens taught a Sunday School class where his ideas on New Testament ethics were being presented, and Westminster students attended those studies. Michael Horton was infatuated with the Forum’s teachings, and COG can be seen in many of his teachings throughout his career. Keep in mind, the Forum’s magazine, Present Truth, and later, Verdict, according to Zens, had the largest readership among all Evangelical publications at that time. Apparently, Zens was initially introduced to the Forum by receiving Present Truth while he was a student at Westminster, and eventually formed a close relationship with Brinsmead.  Also, G. Goldsworthy’s involvement in the Forum as one the AF three is one of the interesting the top is the same as the bottom in the genealogy chart. Till this day, the Goldsworthy Trilogy is a mainstay of New Calvinism’s  Gospel Theology. Again, at the very heart of Goldsworthy’s Trilogy is COG. Goldsworthy was close to Brinsmead, and Brinsmead learned his Hebrew skills from Goldsworthy.

Zens, with the help of several men who are now the who’s who of New Covenant Theology while Zens is in the background (probably because of his connections with Brinsmead), attempted to propagate the doctrine, yet unnamed, via the Baptist Reformation Review . Zens received a very zealous contention from other Reformed Baptist such as Walter Chantry. At that time, Brinsmead wrote several articles defending Zens’ doctrine in the BRR. According to Zens:

“A sort of (unintended) [I doubt that] culmination occurred in the Spring, 1981, BRR. There were lengthy review articles of Walt Chantry’s God’s Righteous Kingdom [a book Chantry wrote to contend against COG, though he saw it as neo-antinomianism, which is also a correct assertion] and Robert Brinsmead’s Judged by the Gospel: A Review of Adventism. The dynamic N.T. approach to law and gospel [“NT approach to law and gospel” is a present-day NC mantra] was stated forcefully by RDB:

‘[Paul’s] appeals on how to live are made on the basis of what God has done for us in Christ. It is in view of God’s gospel mercies that we are to present our lives as a living sacrifice to God (Rom.12:1-3) . . . . Paul virtually never appeals to the law – ‘Thou shalt not.’ When he demands certain behavior of the church, he appeals instead to the holy history of Christ . . . and from that stand point then makes his ethical appeal.’”

Note here, and this is very important: the Forum’s the imperative command is grounded in the indicative event can be seen in Brinsmead’s statement cited by Zens above, which is a pillar of Gospel Sanctification till this day, and originated in COG doctrine by the AF. Chantry and others effectively beat COG within an inch of its life, and the doctrine, coined by Zens one year later as “New Covenant Theology” (in 1981), continued on in a meager existence among Continental Baptist. Most likely, John Piper was introduced to COG among Reformed Baptist and was probably well aware of the controversy. The wherewithal of his injection of Christian Hedonism into the movement is sketchy at this time and needs extensive investigation which I will do Lord willing.

Meanwhile, COG was finding new life at Westminster Seminary. In fact, Brinsmead and the Forum met with the Westminster faculty in the I think early 80’s, I will add references to this summary later. Brinsmead remembers little about the meeting other than he noted that the faculty served pork to him and the other forum members which he suspected was deliberate due to the Forum’s connection with Adventism. I informed him that it was deliberate because they were incited to do so by Jay Adams (a faculty member at the time) who was not a happy camper that the meeting took place. Brinsmead stated that one individual present at the meeting seemed to be an “elder statesman” of Westminster. I’m guessing it was Edmund Clowney.

At this point, COG, as the face of the AF disappears, leaving behind its remnants with Continental Baptist because Robert Brinsmead departed from orthodox Christianity all together. But the heart of COG incited a new movement begun by Westminster professor John “Jack” Miller called “Sonship Theology.” Again, COG met stiff resistance in Presbyterian circles under the new name of Sonship. Leading the charge was Dr. Jay Adams who also knew Jack Miller personally. His contention against Sonship is well documented in his book, “Biblical Sonship: An Evaluation Of The Sonship Discipleship Course.” Unfortunately, the book is out of print. One may well note: Some big dogs of the present-day New Calvinists movement; specifically, Tim Keller and David Powlison, were disciples of Jack Miller and his Sonship program. Tim Keller’s propagation of Sonship is well known and documented. At a conference conducted at John Piper’s church while Piper was on sabbatical, Powlison specifically cited Miller as his “mentor” and ridiculed Adams for criticizing Miller while failing to mention that the “criticism” was in the form of a book—which I am sure slipped his mind. Miller is the one who coined the phrase often aped by Jerry Bridges: “We must preach the gospel to ourselves everyday.” Funny, while an elder at a reformed church in the mid-nineties, I heard Jerry Bridges say that without realizing what a profound effect that little phrase would have on my life ten years later.

But with COG again under heavy fire and the Sonship coat of arms being shot full of holes, “Sonship” was replaced with “gospel,” ie., “gospel-driven” this, and “gospel-centered” that. The movement was now underground, but steadily growing while avoiding labels like the plague. Take note: for almost ten years between 2000 and 2009, the movement was nameless. The name “New Calvinism” is very recent and was attached because movements that become massive cannot avoid a label. Meanwhile, David Powlison had been busy for a number of years  integrating  Jack Miller’s form of COG into “biblical counseling” through his Dynamics of Biblical Change which became the basis for biblical counseling at Westminser Seminary. Hence, different players were at work making COG relevant to different areas of Christian theology and life that were important to them in making COG work. Brinsmead conceived the primary foundation (with other Reformed elements not unique with him—what he called “jewels” that contributed to what was important to him) and helped Zens formulate the covenant theology. Goldsworthy integrated COG into hermeneutics and eschatology with a little bit of Gabler and Vos mixed in for good measure. Piper contributed to the experience / emotional aspect, and Powlison was paramount in his contribution to the life application part; otherwise, COG would be more vulnerable to its unbiblical passivity in the sanctification process.

Unbeknown to many in the biblical counseling movement, the integration of  COG into biblical counseling, primarily in David Powlison’s Theology of the Heart that came out of Westminster’s DBC, was at the core of tensions between NANC and CCEF, the counseling wing of Westminster Seminary (other than the integration of Psychology as well, but COG deserves infamous merit there as well). Eventually, CCEF’s influence totally infected NANC with the disease, and NANC advocates act as if the cupbearer, upon realizing he has tested a deadly cup, should use his last words to compliment the superb taste of the drink. Eventually, disciples of David Powlison; Paul David Trip and Timothy Lane, wrote a book that articulated COG’s supposed life application in the book,  How People Change. The centrality of the objective gospel (COG) and all of its elements are glaringly obvious in the book—almost as if it was written by Robert Brinsmead himself.

Starting in, or about 2004, Christians began to realize something was wrong, but because the movement had no label, other than, “gospel” (and who is going to diss the “gospel”?), many simply just remained confused as to what this was all about. However, I was in a unique situation at the time. I was in a church that was on the cutting edge of the movement for many reasons. In NANC’s glory days, this church was a training center for biblical counselors. The church was eventually infected by COG via CCEF’s influence over NANC, and Reformed Baptists  who joined the same afoermentioned church who were of the Jon Zens  persuasion. Once I knew something didn’t smell right, I spent several months researching and interacting with the elders of that church. Their story, which of course I didn’t buy, was that COG has been historically true all along, and a Reformation was afoot. Eventually, after hundreds of hours of conversation / debate with these elders and my own research, I named the movement “Gospel Sanctification” and started a blog called the “Berean Call” which later became PPT. Initially, I thought the movement was confined to those group of elders (who are all men drunk with visions of grandeur), and they were trying to formulate a system that made Heart Theology, Christian Hedonism, NCT, and redemptive-historical hermeneutics work together as  a unified theology. Four years later, I came to realize that they were a mere reflection of a total package.

About a year ago, I received a book from an individual whom I suspect knew that there was a connection between Gospel Sanctification and Sonship Theology, but wanted me to see it for myself. The connection was immediately seen in the first 100 words of Adams’ book. After much more research, it looked like Jack Miller was the father of Gospel Sanctification, but I was haunted by a few things. GS seemed to need NCT’s view of the law to function without contradiction. Also, all elements of  Sonship and the historical connections were easy to match with GS, but NCT theology seemed to be dropped in out of nowhere. Of course, it didn’t surprise me that the elders of the church I was a member of or CCEF never uttered the name, “Sonship” because that would supply Christians with an interpretive prism that could expose them. Then, several months later, by accident, I stumbled upon an article that mentioned the Australian Forum and how it had a profound effect on the theological mindset of Michael Horton. That prompted me to say to myself,  “Oh really?” “What is the Australian Forum?” Well, the rest is history.

Future parts will put veneer on the framework posted here, but any clarifying questions are welcome.

paul

Francis Chan Not Sure That Hell Is Eternal Suffering

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on July 11, 2011

The Bible’s clear message of eternal torment for those who reject Christ poses a problem for New Calvinism’s doctrine of Gospel Sanctification. The most troubling aspect of GS is how John Piper’s contribution to the doctrine (Christian Hedonism) effects the all important presentation of the gospel. The need of repentance is not included for fear that the hearer would think that “they could do something to be saved.” Piper believes that gospel presentations must only include a description of the gospel as a treasure to be desired, and as such, saving faith will always be earmarked by joy. Likewise, Michael Horton describes any participation by us in the salvation process as “just more bad news” instead of good news. Hence, a call to repentance or a call to escape hell may cause a hearer to accept the gospel with wrong motives, making it unclear as to whether God was really at work in the decision.

So, the dilemma: should we include things that the Bible talks about in gospel presentations or not? And if not, what is the purpose for such information in the Christian life? Frankly, this is the problem with all false doctrines—proponents spend most of their time coming up with new explanations and answering hard questions. Who can deny that New Calvinism is constantly morphing?

But secondly, hell also brings up the whole issue of accepting what God says whether we like it or not. In other words, the whole concept of being obedient to the truth, but not liking it, and even having a distaste for it. However, also knowing that our distaste is due to our lack of understanding from God’s righteous perspective. This is obedience to the truth without the joy which runs afoul of Piper’s Christian Hedonism. According to one of Piper’s favorite illustrations to make this point: If there is no joy in the duty of kissing our wife, the duty is stripped of its moral value. Or, would we bring our wife flowers and tell her that we did it out of mere duty? Therefore, supposedly, we can fool our wife but we can’t fool God—He knows that our duty is without moral value.

Missed in these supposedly profound illustrations is how real life really works. Getting my wife flowers may be an inconvenience because I am under the gun to finish a project, but after I die to self and get her the flowers, I am thrilled because of how happy she is to receive the flowers. My initial denial of self does not strip the deed of its moral value just because the self-denial didn’t initially feel good. And in regard to escaping hell being a motivation for one to give their life to Christ, I like what a pastor friend of mine said about that: “If someone gives their life to Christ to escape hell—that tells me they knew they deserved to go there.”

Moreover, that’s why in their endeavor to make round theological pegs fit in square holes, GS advocates like Francis Chan have to ignore the literal plain sense of Scripture. In an interview with Christianity Today conducted by Mark Galli regarding Francis Chan’s book Erasing Hell (which is supposedly a rebuttal to Rob Bell’s recent book), Chan proclaimed himself “agnostic” in regard to believing that hell is eternal torment. Here is how Galli framed the question:

“In your book you seem agnostic as to whether hell is a conscious eternal torment or annihilation.”

Chan answered this way:

“That was one of the things I was a little surprised by: the language [uh, you mean God’s language?]. I would definitely have to say that if I leaned a certain direction I would lean toward the conscious torment that’s eternal. But I couldn’t say I’m sure of that, because there are some passages that really seem to emphasize a destruction. And then I look in history and find that’s not really a strange view. There are some good, godly men—and maybe even the majority—that seem to take the annihilation view [so what? They are men—not Scripture]. I was surprised because all I was brought up with was conscious torment. And I see that. I see that in Scripture and I would lean more that way but, I’m not ready to say okay I know it’s this one. So say here Here are a couple of views.’ I don’t even remember if I wrote that I lean towards that, but maybe it comes across.”

This brings to mind the rank hypocrisy of New Calvinists that mock Joel Olsteen for this same kind of double-minded pontification while praising Chan for being “one of the greatest Christian thinkers of our age.” Though many verses could be cited, I think this chilling passage from the book of Revelation speaks clearly in regard to the issue:

“’If anyone worships the beast and his image and receives his mark on the forehead or on the hand, he, too, will drink of the wine of God’s fury, which has been poured full strength into the cup of his wrath. He will be tormented with burning sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and of the Lamb.  And the smoke of their torment rises for ever and ever. There is no rest day or night for those who worship the beast and his image, or for anyone who receives the mark of his name.’ This calls for patient endurance on the part of the saints who obey God’s commandments and remain faithful to Jesus.”

Sometimes obedience isn’t joyful at all. I have relatives who are dear to me that aren’t saved. The thought of them going out into eternity, and into eternal torment, is beyond horrifying. But yet, I stand on Psalm 145:17 which states that God is righteous in all of His ways. It’s a trust in God, a resolve to stand on Scripture regardless of how it makes me feel. This is an issue of obeying truth rather than strong feelings about truth. Feelings cannot dictate what our doctrine is—this is a recipe for disaster. Furthermore, in the same issue, Chan eludes to other issues about hell that throws a monkey wrench into GS:

“I think there is also some misunderstanding on degrees of punishment. I do see Jesus saying that judgment is going to be worse for some, like the rewards are going to be better for some. But that might be a slight issue.”

Chan sees it in Scripture (so he’s for it), “But that might be a slight issue” (but he might be against it before he is for it). This is a huge problem for GS doctrine because it assumes God recognizes human merit in some way—even among the lost. Galli’s subtitle is also telling: “Why ‘Erasing Hell’ was his most difficult book, how ‘Love Wins’ prompted repentance, and whether ‘Believe in Jesus or you’ll go to hell’ is good news.” So, should hell be in our gospel presentations? And if not, since the same gospel that saved us also sanctifies us, what is information about hell all about?

New Calvinism is nothing more than a novelties empire full of all kinds of misfits vying for book sales, popularity power, and if CJ Mahaney’s recent fall is any indication—glorious greenbacks. It’s a sideshow of rebels like Bell pushing the envelope too far while others try to clean up the mess in various and sundry ways to keep the empire’s cash cow alive. Piper, who at times creates controversy by who he invites to conferences, excommunicated Bell with a tweet, while Chan told Galli that Bell’s book was bad, but had good things in it, but bad things too, but also led him to repent for certain sins in his (Chan’s) life. And yes, it has error, but the kind of error that makes us think, which is good error—right?

paul

The Significance of Kevin DeYoung’s Top Ten

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

“However, it is my hope that [DeYoung] will realize that as we grow spiritually using everything in our ‘sanctification tool belt,’ that we become increasingly aware of what we have been saved from, and hence, a deeper appreciation of our original salvation.”

 “One can only pray that DeYoung will free himself completely from the insanity that creates such questions.”

“Whenever New Calvinist followers feel guilty, they don’t check their Holy Spirit tool belt; they are rather taught to contemplate the gospel that saved them.”

Kevin DeYoung, hereafter, “Special K” (SK), recently wrote a third post

( http://shar.es/HeU1Q ) clarifying his position on sanctification. SK wrote a prior post

( http://shar.es/HeU3w ) which  was a capitulation to Tullian Tchividjian who responded to his first post on the same subject. In the second post, SK listed ten interpretive questions that he is considering while on a sabbatical for the purpose of writing a book on sanctification. The significance of these ten questions should not be missed. Those ten questions strike at the heart of New Calvinism, and it would seem that in light of his latest post, he has answered those questions in a way that is not favorable to New Calvinism. In fact, it almost seems like the latest post is in your face when compared to his response to Tchividjian’s “pushback” regarding his first post which only hinted of orthodoxy to begin with. The significance of these ten questions is the following:

1. Can the justified believer please God with his obedience?

SK didn’t pull these questions out of the clouds. This question has to be asked because New Calvinist (NC) teach that God cannot be anymore pleased with us than He already is in Jesus Christ (that’s true in regard to justification). The “justified” believer, as opposed to simply, “believer” is not worded that way for no reason. Supposedly, to admit that there is something we can do to please God as believers is to take away from the sufficiency of Christ’s atonement. Also, remember that the core beliefs of New Calvinism came from the Australian Forum, and their doctrine is primarily driven by the centrality of the objective gospel. In other words, the gospel is something outside of us, not inside (subjective). Inside considerations (like anything we would do [subjective])  cannot “eclipse” anything Christ has done (note: Rick Holland’s “Uneclipsing The Son” will soon be available for purchase).

2. Is the justified believer displeasing to God in some way when he sins?

This question is simply the other side of number one. New Calvinist teach that God cannot be displeased with us anymore than he can be displeased with Christ, and for the same reasons that we cannot do anything to gain more favor with God than we already have in Christ. Again, it’s not about us (subjective) and how the supposed displeasure of God would make us feel (subjective). SK seems to have answered this question for himself in the third post: “But God also motivates us by a sense of duty, by gratitude, by threats, by promises, and by the fear of the Lord.” And by the way, to NC, this statement is barely less than blaspheme.

3. Is unbelief the root of every sin? Or is it pride? Or idolatry? Should we even both

trying to find a root sin?

Obviously, SK is questioning one of the four major tenets of NC: Theology of the Heart. This theology was added to NC via Sonship Theology and David Powlison’s Dynamics of Biblical Change which was articulated in Paul Tripp’s “How People Change”

( http://wp.me/pmd7S-K7 ).

What Jonah knew and believed about God is what caused him to rebel. He knew God was a merciful God and would probably save the Ninevites, whom Jonah hated. That’s why he didn’t want to go there. In Jonah’s case, it was attitude, bad thinking, and a refusal to obey, not unbelief. It is evident in the book that Jonah had tremendous faith in God. But NC must make all issues in sanctification the same as justification which is primarily by faith only; so, it stands to reason that they have to make all sin issues in sanctification a belief issue. The NC position on this question is no better defended than in Tripp’s book. SK needs to read “How People Change” followed by the Donn Arms book review of HPC (  http://wp.me/pmd7S-EC ).

4. How are justification and sanctification related?

I think this question is now rightly, for the most part, answered by SK’s third post. I only take exception to a few statements thereof, but here is one: “Are we sanctified by remembering our justification? Yes.” SK is saying that contemplating our justification is still a viable way to grow spiritually, but he is presenting it as another tool “in our tool belt” rather than the only discipline from which all other duties flow (Dr. Peter Masters’ contention regarding Piper). However, it is my hope that SK will realize that as we grow spiritually using everything in our sanctification tool belt, that we become increasingly aware of what we have been saved from, and hence, a deeper appreciation of our original salvation.

5. Can we obey God?

This speaks to the NC doctrine of the total depravity of the saints. Again, most definitely, this originated with the Australian Forum who denied the new birth, or being born again. Michael Horton also denies the significance of the new birth and takes his cue from the Forum on that issue.

6. Can we feel confident about our obedience, not in a justifying way but that we

have done as we were commanded?

This clearly speaks to the NC belief that obedience in sanctification is synonymous with an attempt to be justified. Hence, asked another way: “Is the totally depraved believer really able to obey and know that it is legitimate obedience that pleases God?” One can only pray that DeYoung will free himself completely from the insanity that creates such questions.

7. How does Scripture motivate us to obedience?

By describing the tools in our tool belt, not the NC belief that the Bible is only a tool for contemplating the gospel.

8. Are most Christians too hard on themselves (thinking they are filthy scum when

they actually walk with the Lord in a way that pleases him)?

No Kevin. Many Christians are walking in violation of their conscience because of what New Calvinism teaches. Whenever New Calvinist followers feel guilty, they don’t check their Holy Spirit tool belt, they are rather taught to contemplate the gospel that saved them. My brother—please flee—perhaps there is not too much blood on your hands.

9. Or are most Christians too easy on themselves (thinking nothing of holiness

and content with little progress in godliness)?

Of course they are! They are taught that they cannot be a part of the progress!

10. What is the role of union with Christ in sanctification? And how do union with

Christ and sanctification relate to justification?

It’s the antithesis of the Forum’s view that formed New Calvinism: “The centrality of the objective gospel.”

paul

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