Paul's Passing Thoughts

Preaching the Gospel to Ourselves: The Devil is in the Details

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on April 18, 2017

ppt-jpeg4

Originally published April 17, 2013

After nearly six years of research on the Reformation I have come to the conclusion that like all cults, its proponents deliberately deceive by changing the definition of familiar terms and using subtle verbiage. They condone this because they don’t think we are “ready” for the hard truth of the authentic Reformed gospel. John Piper said that outright during an interview while answering the question, “What would you say to the Pope if you had two minutes with him?”

A good example of this subtle deception is a recent article posted on SBC Voices. Here it is:

If you search through the blogosphere, you’ll see some who advocate Christians “preaching the gospel to ourselves” daily, and you’ll see others who are staunchly against “preaching the gospel to themselves.” I think some who speak against “preaching the gospel to ourselves” misunderstand and/or misrepresent what we mean. Here is why I preach the gospel to myself. Out of the gospel flows both justification (being declared righteous by Christ alone) and sanctification (the immediate positional adoption by Christ into God’s kingdom, and the progressive setting apart of our lives from the Devil’s kingdom into God’s kingdom). The gospel is the source of both, but the two are separate acts of the Spirit’s work in our lives. If you repent and have faith in Christ, trusting in His life, death, and resurrection for your salvation, you are immediately justified and sanctified, and you will be progressively sanctified as God works out salvation in you. Christ, the gospel, is the source of the Spirit’s work through faith alone.

This is a little less subtle than what followed in the same article, but the goal by the writer of said post is to sound biblical while trying to sell us Calvin’s progressive justification. The Devil is in the details. Like all cults, Calvinism distorts the Trinity by overemphasizing one member over the others. The Jehovah Witnesses overemphasize God the Father and destroy the role of Christ while others overemphasize the Spirit’s work to the exclusion of Christ and the Father. Calvinists overemphasize Christ and exclude the Father’s role in justification. Notice he states that Christ is THE gospel: “Christ, the gospel.” The definite article “the” is ever so subtle, and completely untrue. The Trinity is the gospel, not just Christ. Notice that he also states,

If you repent and have faith in Christ, trusting in His life, death, and resurrection for your salvation, you are immediately justified and sanctified, and you will be progressively sanctified as God works out salvation in you.

According to the post, we have to trust “in His life” as well as His death for our salvation. Did you catch that little subtle statement? That is the belief that Christ lived a perfect life on earth so that His obedience can be imputed to our sanctification while we are justified by His death. This comes from Calvin who believed that Christians are still under the jurisdiction of the law and it must be obeyed perfectly until we get to heaven where our final justification is verified. As long as we live by faith alone in sanctification, Christ’s perfect obedience is applied to our sanctification which prevents “making sanctification the ground of our justification,” a truism often uttered by John Piper.

This is where all of this living by the same gospel that saved us and preaching the gospel to ourselves comes into play. If we live by the same gospel (faith and repentance only) that saved us in sanctification to prevent our sanctification from being the ground of our justification, the perfect obedience of Christ to the law will continue to be imputed to our Christian walk. This promotes the idea that it is alright for Christians to remain under the law as long as Christ keeps it for us. This is why they say justification is “distinct” from sanctification but “never separate” because Calvin saw sanctification as a process that completes justification. That’s a VERY problematic gospel. Note:

Christ, the gospel, is the source of the Spirit’s work through faith alone.

The Spirit’s work? Is he talking about the Spirit’s work in justification or sanctification?  Yes, because they believe they are both the same. And here is the kicker: if you don’t live your Christian life by faith alone (the same gospel that saved you) resulting in Christ’s obedience being imputed to your sanctification, you lose both justification and sanctification. So, you have to keep your salvation by living by faith alone in sanctification. Remember, you have to trust in Christ’s life, not just His death and resurrection. Note the following statement by New Calvinist Michael Horton:

Where we land on these issues is perhaps the most significant factor in how we approach our own faith and practice and communicate it to the world. If not only the unregenerate but the regenerate are always dependent at every moment on the free grace of God disclosed in the gospel, then nothing can raise those who are spiritually dead or continually give life to Christ’s flock but the Spirit working through the gospel. When this happens (not just once, but every time we encounter the gospel afresh), the Spirit progressively transforms us into Christ’s image. Start with Christ (that is, the gospel) and you get sanctification in the bargain; begin with Christ and move on to something else, and you lose both.

Much more could be said, but I think you get the picture. The author of the post furthers his position by referring his readers to seven elements pertaining to the same subject by a Rick Phillips. Phillips is much more subtle, but his first element reads as follows:

1. Justification and Sanctification are twin benefits that flow from union with Christ through faith. Christ is himself the center of the gospel, and through faith we are saved in union with him (Acts 16:31; Eph. 1:3). Justification and Sanctification are distinct benefits flowing through union with Christ by faith alone.

Regardless of whatever else these guys say, this is the bottom line: if we remain in union with Christ by faith alone, justification and sanctification continue to flow by “faith alone.”  What did James say about that? John Piper:

We are kept by the power of God through faith [emphasis mine].

It’s works salvation by living by faith alone in sanctification; i.e., the same antinomianism they claim to refute. Because we are supposedly still under the law, Christ must keep it for us so His perfect obedience to the law will cover us at the judgment day. But the only obedience of Christ that is part of the atonement is His obedience to the cross—we don’t need obedience to a law that we were justified apart from. We are now enslaved to the law and its righteousness, but it can’t judge our justification.  It has no jurisdiction over our justification, period.

The Devil is in the details.

paul

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Often Asked By Those Looking For a Church: How Do I Know If It Is New Calvinist Or Not?

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on March 6, 2017

Originally published December 7, 2011

Addendum

New Calvinism is not only dangerous to one’s soul, it is very subtle, and its proponents are deliberately covert. A post on what to look for is overdue, and my thanks to the reader who wrote and reminded me of this need. First, know this: in our day, New Calvinist churches will be the rule and not the exception. When you visit a church, assume that it is in the process of being taken over by New Calvinists, or has been in that camp completely for a period of time. Churches that have been solidly New Calvinist for a number of years will have cult-like characteristics.

Now, let me first begin my list by specifically answering the readers question and then I will expand from there: “….and would like to have a few questions to ask a Pastor to be able to know for sure if he is or is not in the NC camp by how the questions are answered.  At the top of your head what questions would you recommend be asked that would be very telling?”

1) The biggie: “What hermeneutic do you use when you are preaching? Do you use the grammatical historical hermeneutic, or the redemptive historical hermeneutic?” Whether the pastor is NC or not, a deer in the headlight look will follow because most parishioners of our day do not know any theology.  Think about it for a moment. These are two very different ways of approaching the Bible with the results being radically different; but yet, 99% of the parishioners out there have no idea which one their pastor uses.

GHH  seeks to be exegetic; all ideas about everything are drawn from the text. RHH has an eisegetic approach; the sole purpose of the Bible is to gain a deeper understanding of Christ. It is sometimes called the “Chrstocentric” hermeneutic.

If the pastor admits that he is RHH, he is a NC. If he becomes aloof, for example; “Well, why don’t you come and see what we are about at one of our services, and then if you still want to talk about theology, we can do that” (by the way, that’s an actual quote from a pastor in response to my question concerning his hermeneutics), he is suspect. If he claims to be both, he is also suspect. If he is NC, he will know the very second  you asked that question that he does not want you in his church.

2) Ask him who his favorite teachers are (you may want to word the question in a different way).  If aloofness follows, he is suspect. If his favorite teachers are the likes of John Piper et al, he is either undiscerning or NC. In other words, he’s suspect.

3) You can ask him about his view on obedience, but you have to ask it this way in order not to be roper-doped: “Does all legitimate obedience and duty come out of a deeper understanding of our salvation? And when it does, is it a ‘mere natural flow?’”

4) “Do you believe that we are sanctified (set apart) by contemplating the  gospel that saved us, or colaboring with the Holy Spirit in applying the word to our life.”

Bottom line: a skilled NC pastor can get around all of these questions except question number one. Even then, he can claim that he uses both hermeneutics.

Things to Look For

5) Is everything going on in the church about the gospel and Jesus? Is all of the music about redemption? Are all the messages about salvation, even though it’s a Christian setting? Is God the Father and the Holy Spirit rarely mentioned?

6) Another biggie: The missing transition communication technique in teaching and conversation. Like number one, this is huge. A message will begin with the subject of our Christian walk, but then will move into the subject of salvation without a transition in subject, as if the two are the same thing. Really, number one and number six are the most significant answers to the reader’s question.

7) The either/or communication technique, or the missing option C communication technique. The classic example is this prayer I heard spoken by a New Calvinist elder: “Lord, forgive us for obeying you in our own efforts.” The prayer insinuates that it’s either all of our effort, or all of something else that we don’t need forgiveness for. New Calvinists use this communication technique over a wide spectrum of teachings.

The Danger Zone

8.) Don’t forget, New Calvinist elders believe they have authority over you if you are a professing Christian and you are in their neck of the woods. Never, never, never, never meet with an elder or a group of elders ALONE. Never. And document everything. If you find yourself trying to ascertain where a church is doctrinally, and things are getting uncomfortable—that’s a New Calvinist church, or a cult, one or the other. Also, in this type of situation in a NC church, they consider these meetings to be steps of Matthew 18. They also consider any type of formal or informal counseling to be part of the discipline process. Regardless of whether you are a member or not, they will formally excommunicate you from the church universal in a Sunday morning service. And by the way, you have no legal grounds for a lawsuit in any state. Please, please, avoid these situations.

9) Watch for signs of exclusiveness; such as, “We preach the scandalous gospel,” ect. Or, “We teach this, as opposed to the ‘vast majority’ of other Christian churches.” “This is what makes us unique.” If you hear verbiage like this, gather your family and run for the nearest exit door. And don’t look back.

10) Watch out for love bombing. An overemphasis on love usually replaces things that are missing—like TRUTH! True loving relationships, even among Christians, are developed over time.

Also, in a NC church, if you are thought to be discerning, you may be approached by an elder with an unsolicited offer to “disciple” you on a weekly basis. This is more than likely for the purpose of neutralizing you as a threat. In many NC churches, this is considered counseling/discipline whether you are aware of it or not. It is known as “redemptive church discipline.” The goal is to bring you to a “redemptive” view of sanctification.

paul

It’s All About the “O” – Mohler, DeYoung, Lucas: We Own You

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on January 6, 2017

ppt-jpeg4Originally posted September 15, 2012

Join a New Calvinist Church if you will, but let it be known: they now own you. Newsflash for the husbands: Calvinist elders believe they have the ultimate say and authority in your home. And another thing: the gospel they hold to rejects synergism in sanctification as works salvation. So, guess what? If your wife buys into that, you are now in what they call a mixed marriage. You are now dangerously close to divorce court as the divorce rate in these churches has skyrocketed.

At the TANC 2012 conference, in his third session, author John Immel nailed it—it boils down to who owns man: in the Christian realm, does Christ own you or Reformed elders? In the secular realm, does man own man or does government own man? Recently, our President stated that government owns man. Recently, in a trilogy of articles by three Reformed  pastors published by Ligonier Ministries, it was stated that the church owns Christians, and I will give you three wild guesses as to who represents the authority of the church. That would be the elders.

So it’s all about the “O.” It’s all about “ownership.”

As we shall see, these articles plainly state the Reformed tradition that came from Catholic tyranny. The Reformers never repented of the same underlying presuppositions concerning man’s need to be owned by enlightened philosopher kings. The Reformation was merely a fight for control over the mutton with the Reformers seeing themselves as the moral philosopher kings as opposed to the Romish ones. Their doctrine was just a different take on how the totally depraved are saved from themselves. But both doctrines reflect the inability of man to participate in sanctification.

The three articles posted were: Should I Stay or Should I Go? by Albert Mohler; Where and How Do We Draw the Line? by Kevin DeYoung; and, Who Draws the Line? by Sean Michael Lucas. All linked together for your indoctrination convenience.

Al Mohler states in his ownership treatise that Christians have “no right” to leave one church for another because of preferences. Emphasis by underline added:

Swami Albert Mohler

Swami Albert Mohler

Far too many church members have become church shoppers. The biblical concept of ecclesiology has given way to a form of consumerism in which individuals shop around for the church that seems most to their liking at that moment. The issue can concern worship and music, relationships, teaching, or any number of other things. The pattern is the same, however – people feel free to leave one congregation for another for virtually any reason, or no reason at all.

Church shopping violates the integrity of the church and the meaning of church membership. When members leave for insufficient reason, the fellowship of the church is broken, its witness is weakened, and the peace and unity of the congregation are sacrificed. Tragically, a superficial understanding of church membership undermines our witness to the gospel of Christ.

There is no excuse for this phenomenon. We have no right to leave a church over preferences about music, personal taste, or even programming that does not meet expectations.  These controversies or concerns should prompt the faithful Christian to consider how he might be of assistance in finding and forging a better way, rather than working to find an excuse to leave.

Where to begin? First of all, while many New Calvinist churches will bring you up on church discipline for leaving because of “unbiblical” reasons, those reasons vary from church to church. So, not only do the reasons for leaving vary among parishioners, but what constitutes proper “biblical…. ecclesiology” in regard to departure varies as well. Mohler states in the same post that doctrine is a valid reason to leave a church, but yet, one of the more prominent leaders of the New Calvinist movement (CJ Mahaney), who is strongly endorsed by Mohler, states that doctrine is not a valid reason to leave a church. CJ Mahaney substantiated that New Calvinist position and clearly indicated what New Calvinists are willing to do to enforce that position when he blackmailed the cofounder of SGM, Larry Tomczak:

Transcript of Phone Conversation between C.J., Doris and Larry Tomczak on October 3, 1997 pp. 10-11:

C.J.: Doctrine is an unacceptable reason for leaving P.D.I.

Larry: C.J., I’m not in sync with any of the T.U.L.I.P., so whether you agree or not, doctrine is one of the major reasons I believe it is God’s will to leave P.D.I. and it does need to be included in any statement put forth.

C.J.: If you do that, then it will be necessary for us to give a more detailed explanation of your sins [ie, beyond the sin of leaving for doctrinal reasons].

Larry: Justin’s name has been floated out there when there’s statements like revealing more details about my sin. What are you getting at?

C.J.: Justin’s name isn’t just floated out there – I’m stating it!

Larry: C.J. how can you do that after you encouraged Justin to confess everything; get it all out. Then when he did, you reassured him “You have my word, it will never leave this room. Even our wives won’t be told.”

I repeatedly reassured him, “C.J. is a man of his word. You needn’t worry.” Now you’re talking of publically sharing the sins of his youth?!

C.J.: My statement was made in the context of that evening. If I knew then what you were going to do, I would have re-evaluated what I communicated.

Doris: C.J., are you aware that you are blackmailing Larry? You’ll make no mention of Justin’s sins, which he confessed and was forgiven of months ago, if Larry agrees with your statement, but you feel you have to warn the folks and go national with Justin’s sins if Larry pushes the doctrinal button? C.J., you are blackmailing Larry to say what you want!―Shame on you, C.J.! As a man of God and a father, shame on you!

This will send shock waves throughout the teens in P.D.I. and make many pastors’ teens vow, “I‘ll never confess my secret sins to C.J. or any of the team, seeing that they‘ll go public with my sins if my dad doesn‘t toe the line.”―C.J., you will reap whatever judgment you make on Justin. You have a young son coming up. Another reason for my personally wanting to leave P.D.I. and never come back is this ungodly tactic of resorting to blackmail and intimidation of people!

C.J.: I can‘t speak for the team, but I want them to witness this. We’ll arrange a conference call next week with the team.

Doris: I want Justin to be part of that call. It’s his life that’s at stake.

C.J.: Fine.

(SGM Wikileaks, part 3, p.139. Online source)

Of course, this example and many others makes Mohler’s concern with the “integrity” of the church—laughable. But nevertheless, Mohler’s post and the other two are clear as to what common ground New Calvinists have on the “biblical concept of ecclesiology.”

sean-lucasBesides the fact that parishioners “have no right” to leave a church based on preference, what do New Calvinists fundamentally agree on in this regard? That brings us to the article by Sean Michael Lucas :

Because the church has authority to declare doctrine, it is the church that has authority to draw doctrinal lines and serve as the final judge on doctrinal issues. Scripture teaches us that the church serves as the “pillar and buttress of the truth.”

So, even in cases where New Calvinists believe that doctrine is an acceptable reason for leaving a church, guess who decides what true doctrine is? “But Paul, he is speaking of doctrine being determined by the church as a whole, not just the elders.” Really? Lucas continues:

In our age, this understanding—that the church has Jesus’ authority to serve as the final judge on doctrinal matters— rubs us wrong for three reasons. First, it rubs us wrong because we are pronounced individualists. This is especially the case for contemporary American Christians, who have a built-in “democratic” bias to believe that the Bible’s theology is accessible to all well-meaning, thoughtful Christians. Because theological truth is democratically available to all, such individuals can stand toe to toe with ministerial “experts” or ecclesiastical courts and reject their authority.

Creeped out yet? Well, if you are a blogger, it gets better:

Perhaps it is this individualistic, democratic perspective that has led to the rise of websites and blogs in which theology is done in public by a range of folks who may or may not be appropriately trained and ordained for a public teaching role. While the Internet has served as a “free press” that has provided important watchdog functions for various organizations, there are two downsides of the new media, which ironically move in opposite directions. On the one side, the new media (blogs, websites, podcasts, Facebook, Twitter) allow everyone to be his own theologian and judge of doctrinal matters. But because everyone is shouting and judging, the ironic other side is that those who are the most well known and have the biggest blogs gain the most market share and actually become the doctrinal arbiters of our electronic age. In this new media world, the idea that the church as a corporate body actually has authority to declare doctrine and judge on doctrinal issues is anathema.

Lucas continues to articulate the Reformed tradition that holds to the plenary authority of elders supposedly granted to them by Christ:

For some of us, again reflecting our individualism, such understanding of the church unnecessarily limits voices and perspectives that might be helpful in conversation. But restricting access to debates and judgments about theology to those who have been set apart as elders in Christ’s church and who have gathered for the purpose of study, prayer, and declaration actually ensures a more thoughtful process and a surer understanding of Christ’s Word than a pell-mell, democratic, individualistic free-for-all. Not only do we trust that a multiplicity of voices is represented by the eldership, but, above all, we trust that the single voice of the Spirit of Jesus will be heard in our midst.

So, bottom line: the priesthood of believers is a “pell-mell, democratic, individualistic free-for-all.” Still not creeped out? Then consider how they answer the question in regard to elder error:

Of course, such slow and deliberate processes do not guarantee a biblically appropriate result. After all, the Westminster Confession of Faith tells us that “all synods or councils, since the apostles’ times, whether general or particular, may err; and many have erred” (WCF 31.3). Sometimes, entire denominations err significantly as they prayerfully consider Scripture and judge doctrine. Such error, however, does not negate Jesus’ own delegation of authority to the church and set the stage for a free-for-all.

This brings us to another issue that DeYoung propogates in his post: since Reformed elders have all authority, their creeds and confessions are authoritative and not just commentaries. Hence, they declared in the aforementioned confession cited by Lucas that even though they may be in error, they still have all authority. Whatever happened to the Apostle Paul’s appeal to only follow him as he followed Christ?

DeYoung:

deyoungThose who wrote the ancient creeds, such as the Apostles’ Creed, the Nicene Creed, and the Chalcedonian Definition, were not infallible, but these creeds have served as effective guardrails, keeping God’s people on the path of truth. It would take extraordinary new insight or extraordinary hubris to jettison these ancient formulas. They provide faithful summaries of the most important doctrines of the faith. That’s why the Heidelberg Catechism refers us to the Apostles’ Creed, “a creed beyond doubt, and confessed through the world,” when it asks, “What then must a Christian believe?” (Q&A 22–23).

FYI: If you see something in your own Bible reading that contradicts a Reformed creed or confession, you are partaking in visions of grandeur.

This is the crux of the matter, the question of authority. It is almost crazy that Christians don’t have this issue resolved in their mind before they join a church. You could be in a church that is subtly indoctrinating your family with the idea that they are owned by the government; in this case, church polity.

Let there be no doubt about it, New Calvinists are drooling over the idea of another Geneva theocracy with all the trimmings. And someone shared with me just the other day how this shows itself in real life. “Mike” is a local contractor in the Xenia, Ohio area. He is close friends with a farmer in the area who lives next door to a man and his family that attend a New Calvinist church.

One day, his new New Calvinist neighbor came over to inform him that he needed to stop working on Sunday because it is the Lord’s Day, and the noise of his machinery was disturbing their day of rest. Mike’s friend told him, in a manner of speaking, to hang it on his beak. Mike believes what transpired after that came from the neighbor’s belief that he was a superior person to his friend, and that his friend should have honored the neighbors request by virtue of who he is.

The neighbor has clout in the community, and to make a long story short—found many ways to make Mike’s friend miserable through legal wrangling about property line issues; according to my understanding, 8” worth. It was clear that Mike’s friend was going to be harassed until he submitted to this man’s perceived biblical authority.

New Calvinists have serious authority issues, and you don’t have to necessarily join in official membership to be considered under their authority. A contributor to Mark Dever’s  9 Marks blog stated that anyone who comes in the front door of a church proclaiming Christ as Lord is under the authority of that church.

It’s time for Christians to nail down the “O.” Who owns you? Are you aware of who owns you (or at least thinks so)? And are you ok with that?

paul

Dear Christians: Don’t You Get It? Calvinists Think You Are Going to Hell

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on January 3, 2017
Originally Published February 27, 2013

ppt-jpeg4I think I have taken my last trip to SBC Today .com and SBC Voices .com. I have been referred over there a number of times to observe truth tone deafness on steroids. A heretic is running our flagship seminary, but the big news is that Tim Tebow cancelled his speaking engagement at FBCD. The big hero this time in the ongoing drama of SBC folklore (in our own pitiful minds) is Dr. Jeffress, who like all other SBC notables has never called out another leader for the same scandalous filth that is going on in most denominations. He will call out homosexuals, but the rape cover-ups in the SBC are a taboo subject. We call out the sins of the world, but to call out our own sin is “gossip.” All of these guys just really make me want to puke. Because they are sorry excuses for leadership—we are a joke in the eyes of the world and rightfully so.

Other articles posit the supposed strength of Calvinists and non-Calvinists working together in the SBC. So, the likes of David Platt will gladly play along while believing that synergistic sanctification is a false gospel and works salvation. This is a simple thing, Jerry Vines needs to call Al Mohler on the phone and ask him if synergistic sanctification is works salvation. I think the answer would surprise him if Mohler has a rare moment of truth telling. Of course, if Vines decides to do something about it, he then has to explain how he missed this all along and focused on symptoms rather than the issue of Calvin’s false gospel. I have been a lay pastor since 1986, and I missed it. Why? Because I was clueless, that’s why. More studied than a lot of Christians, I had a very poor understanding of justification, sanctification, and covenants, and still have a lot to learn. What’s so hard about that? Just admit it! What’s the big deal?

All of this conversation in the SBC about getting along with Calvinists could just as well include the Jehovah Witnesses or the Moonies. There is no difference; a false gospel is a false gospel and a cult is a cult. Calvinism was the epitome of a cult in Calvin’s Geneva and still is. You could slip a playing card in-between Calvin’s Geneva and Jonestown save the fact that Jonestown wanted to go out with a bang. But more to the point let’s talk about Calvin’s false gospel—the gospel that SBC yesomites  say we should work together with.

In today’s church words don’t mean things because if they did we would have to do something about it. And we are mostly business as usual loving spiritual slugs. That’s what we need more than anything in the church today: leaders who take words seriously and will act accordingly. They will be easy to spot. When the sun is out during the day they will be walking around rather than sunning themselves on flat rocks like the majority. So, let’s talk about words.

“We must preach the gospel to ourselves every day.” Really? Does this raise any red flags? No. It is so, so indicative of how mindless Christians are in our day. “Wow, that sounds pretty cool. More fish anybody?” Come now, let’s be honest; do we really believe that we have been appointed stewards of God’s life-giving word? Is that how we function? A name that has come up in this ministry a lot this week is Miles McKee. He states a lot of things on his Facebook page that brings hearty kudos from many because their eyes immediately gravitate to the word, “gospel” in the sentence. “Oh there it is! The word gospel! Amen brother!” But let’s

GOSPEL GOODIES! Yum, Yum!

GOSPEL GOODIES! Yum, Yum!

look at his statements more closely. Here is the subline of his Facebook page:

“Preaching Christ crucified to the saved and lost alike. The goal is to pack this web site with rich gospel goodies.”

Yes, and that is exactly what Christian children in adult bodies seek in our day, “rich gospel goodies.” Yum, yum, yum. We can’t take the word of God and help people in real trouble; we are too busy feeding on our gospel goodies. Note the picture at right—that’s us. It is also how the world sees us, and rightfully so.

But note that we are supposed to be preaching Christ crucified to Christians. This doesn’t raise any red flags. Note that the same message preached to unbelievers is also fundamental to the message Christians still need to hear daily. Still no red flags. Particularly alarming should be the idea that Christ’s crucifixion is perpetual in the Christian life. That’s what Calvin believed. He believed the atonement is perpetual. He believed Christ’s death is continually reapplied to the Christian’s life by faith alone until we reach heaven. We are then judged according to whether or not we continually appropriated Christ’s death in our life by faith alone until that day. It’s keeping our salvation by staying at the foot of the cross. We are saved by faith alone, and at any given time that we are not living our Christian life by faith alone we lose our salvation (or they say we were not really saved to begin with). That’s why we preach the same gospel to the saved as well as the unsaved.

It would therefore seem that the new birth would have to be redefined, and you would be right about that. This doctrine necessitates the denial of the new birth. Hence, McKee also states the following:

“Contrary to much of today’s evangelical preaching, we must state that the message of New Birth is not the gospel.”

Regardless of the fact that Christ’s own gospel presentation to Nicodemus was, “You must be born again,” this doesn’t raise any red flags either. The mindlessness truly boggles the imagination. Graeme Goldsworthy, the foremost hermeneutical authority recognized by Calvinists in our day footnoted (with full agreement) an article written by Anglican Geoffrey Paxton entitled, “The False Gospel of the New Birth.” Yes, the gospel that SBC dimwits think they can colabor with denies the new birth in no uncertain terms. This isn’t rocket science: if the gospel that is good for the goose is also good for the gander; this assumes that no change takes place inside of the believer. And in case you haven’t read the papers lately that’s exactly what Christians are acting like.

Moreover, Calvinists think the evangelical new birth gospel is works salvation: “It would be better to die a heathen than to live a religious life and die without Christ” (McKee). And trust me, synergistic sanctification is the “religious life” being spoken of here.

The Calvinist gospel, the centrality of the objective gospel outside of us, is a perfect storm of deception that perfectly facilitates the confounding of salvific terms—I get that. But yet, I see a prevailing arrogance among Christians that since we are so smart, deception will always be evident to us. We are so good at doing Christianity we don’t need practice or diligent study. Our claim that faith is pure and simple is a cloak of arrogance that covers for our bankrupt spirituality and the brunt of jokes among the heathen. If there is a God, where is His representation upon the earth? “Well, we don’t attempt to be the gospel with our own works, we only preach the gospel.” And to that the heathen say,

“Amen.”

paul

The Philosophy of the Reformation and Its Historical Impact, by John Immel – Part 4

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on December 22, 2016

Taken from John Immel’s third session at the 2012 Conference on Gospel Discernment and Spiritual Tyranny
Published with permission
~ Edited by Andy Young

Click here for Part 1
Click here for Part 2
Click here for Part 3

(Continued from part 3)

Now I want to make a series of contrasts.

The Enlightenment begins around 1650, give or take. The Enlightenment thinkers included men such as John Locke, David Hume, and Adam Smith. From these men comes a large amount of the foundational thought of human freedom, human competence, and human liberty. Enlightenment thought influence our Founding Fathers – Benjamin Franklin, James Madison, and Thomas Jefferson to name a few.

Recall that the three English civil wars were religious wars. The American Civil War was not a religious war. It was a war specifically fought in pursuit of liberty and freedom.

james-madisonIn an article written in 1786 by James Madison, “A Memorial in Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments,” Madison weighs in against the establishment of civil government, civil patronage, and religion. I want you to notice the Founding Fathers’ clarity on the arguments against merging the state, no matter how small, with ecclesiastical establishments.

Madison begins:

“We, the subscribers, citizens of the said Commonwealth, have taken into serious consideration [that] a bill establishing provision for teachers of the Christian religion and conceiving of the same if finally armed with sanctions of law, will be a dangerous abuse of power.”

There was no illusion here. The nature of Christianity, as our Founding Fathers understood, was that it was a dangerous force to be contended with when it was merged with the power of the state. Madison then goes on to detail several reasons for this understanding.

“1. Because we hold it for a fundamental and undeniable truth that religion or the duty which we owe our Creator and the manner of discharging it can be directed only by reason and conviction, not by force and violence.”

This was revolutionary. While this idea had circulated amongst any number of different sects and any number of different intellectual ties, for the first time, there was a formal effort to challenge at the root that religion could not ever be merged with the force of the state. But rather the force of government was to be tempered by intellect and reason.

This is a central Enlightenment idea.

Madison Continues:

“2. Because the rulers who are guilty of such encroachment exceed their commission from which they derive their authority and are tyrants. The people who submit to it are governed by laws made neither by themselves nor by an authority derived from them, and are slaves.”

“3. Because the free men of America did not wait till usurped power had stricken itself by exercise and entangled the question in precedents. They saw all the consequences in the principle, and they avoided the consequences by denying the principle.”

Hold that thought. I will come back to that in a moment.

“We revere this lesson too much soon to forget it. Who does not see that the same authority which can establish Christianity, in exclusion of all other religions, may establish with the same ease any particular sect of Christians in exclusion of all other sects?”

This is why the historic fight between Calvinists and Arminians gained some attraction, because we fail to identify the principle that Madison is arguing here. The issue is not necessarily the Arminian perspective versus the Calvinist perspective. The issue at central root is man’s fundamental competence to master his own life, however that may be accomplished. The reason all other doctrinal fights are useless in this instance is because, at the root, until you defend man’s right for moral existence, you have lost. Madison makes this observation in point seven.

“7. Because experience witnesses that ecclesiastical establishments, instead of maintaining the purity and efficacy of Religion, have had a contrary operation.  During almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What have been its fruits? More or less in all places, pride and indolence in the clergy, ignorance and servility in the laity, and in both, superstition, bigotry and persecutions.”

It is important to understand that our Founding Fathers had no illusions about the nature of what Christianity was and was not. They understood its broad history. They understood what Puritanism did. They understood what the Massachusetts colony theocracy did. For many of them, it was close enough to their lifetime that it would not have been lore as if we were learning it out of the book. They certainly would have been within striking distance of the religious wars in England and the tides of warfare that swept across the face of the earth.

James Madison goes on to say in Point 8.

“8. Because…what influence in fact have ecclesiastical establishments had on civil society? In some instances they have been seen to erect a spiritual tyranny on the ruins of civil authority; in many instances they have been seen upholding the thrones of political tyranny; and in no instance have they been seen as the guardians of the liberties of the people.”

This is one of the most scathing denunciations ever! Until Christians are guardians of the liberties of the people, all we are doing is perpetuating spiritual tyrants.

Madison wrote this a mere ten years from the Declaration of Independence and the adoption of the U.S. Constitution. I want you to notice that this memorial and remonstrance takes place dead square between two events: from the specific overthrow of tyranny in 1776, within ten years’ time we already have a religious movement trying to use civil authority to create patronage. In other words, you have a specific group of people seeking to create a means by which others pay taxes to support a religious organization. They were trying to use taxation to advance sectarian orthodoxy.

Madison is arguing for the supremacy of human reason, and he is denouncing the use of civil authority – the merging of religious faith and the power of the state. He is saying it is a menace. Christianity is a menace because Calvinism demands war for all who refuse to bow to its edicts. The current Calvinist defenders can pooh-pooh my point all they like, but I win this argument only because all I have to do is educate people on the public record. This is not complicated.

The Founding Fathers had no illusion about the destructive force of Christian religion, and it is the most virulent forms of Christian thought that the Founding Fathers put absolute barriers in place to curtail this acquisition of civil power.   declaration_of_independenceFor the first time in human history, men sat down and they finally said, “No, man is entitled to the sum and substance of his own life,” and they penned these words:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by the Creator with certain inalienable rights that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, that to secure these rights governments are instituted among men deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed that whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and to institute new governments laying its foundations on such principles and organizing its powers.”

Let’s do a contrast.

Puritan theology:

  • Man is incompetent.
  • Man is morally guilty.
  • Man needs the force of government to compel him to good action.
  • Government is an unquestionable manifestation of God’s appointment.
  • God is wrathful and offers man no rights of existence.
  • God appoints man to a predetermined existence of suffering and bondage.
  • God’s sovereignty appoints man to slavery.

This is the Puritan construct. This is Reformation theology. This is Calvinism. This is the most virulent form of Reformation thought.

Contrast this with what comes out of the Declaration of Independence:

  • That man is competent to understand.
  • That man can understand the world in which he lives.
  • That his epistemology is fully intact.
  • That by virtue of that ability, truth is self-evident.

The equality of human creation endows all with the same right. There is no election to specific privilege, yet in the Calvinist construct, the men standing in the pulpits today are claiming a special privilege.

Man has a right to life, liberty, and happiness, yet the Calvinist construct says there is no such thing; that any effort towards right or life or liberty or the claim to any happiness is a self-deception and a manifestation of your depraved nature. Just government is a product of human consent.

Consider this, that for almost 1,800 years, the Church had said that it was the divine right of kings to dictate government, and that government was in fact divinely appointed. Man had no right to question, for the most part. Whatever happened was in fact the product of God’s will.

The American Declaration of Independence was the first time in human existence that men articulated that just government must be the product of human consent. I am only governed in as much as I choose to let you govern me. Truth is not the property of the state. The state is in fact the servant of man’s defense. This was revolutionary.

The advances of man, the things that have eradicated human suffering across the board, are directly tied to human liberty, because when man is free, man is free to think.  Thinking men are free to create, and creating men are free to exchange value with whomever they chooses to associate. Man can better his life as he sees fit, and he can solve the problems of the beggarly elements of this earth.

I am able to do in the 21st century what a paltry number of human beings had ever been able to do, and it is directly related to the legacy of human competence, human freedom, and human liberty. You do not get this level of prosperity with the ideology of the Dark Ages. Every place this ideology has manifested itself, it has driven man back to the Dark Ages.

These exact same metaphysical assumptions that are in Calvin are in Augustine. These exact same metaphysical assumptions that are in Augustine are in Islam. Notice that if you go to any place in this world where there is a purely Islamic state you will see the dark ages in modern times: you will see the same paltry human condition from over a millennia ago in western civilization. This is true because the ideas are the same.

Liberty, freedom, thought; they are absolutely tied together. Human competence and human liberty are essential for the benefit of man.

I have now come full circle in my argument. The cohesive structure of ideas from the metaphysical premise to the epistemological ability to the ethical understanding to the political action; all of them run in a progressive line of thought.   This is the answer to my original observation:

The Gospel According to John Immel, chapter 3:1-3

1. All people act logically from their assumptions.
2. It does not matter how inconsistent the ideas or insane the rationale. They will act until that logic is fulfilled.
3. Therefore, when you see masses of people taking the same destructive actions, if you find the assumptions, you will find the cause.

Christians love to thump their ESV while laying claim to the Declaration of Independence and the Founding Fathers. They hold freedom of religion as a certainty. They love the prosperity that rational thought, logic, and industry produce. But they do not even blush at the hypocrisy when they pound that same ESV to claim solidarity with Reformation orthodoxy. They will then rate John Calvin as the great reformer of Geneva. They will speak sagely, calling Jonathan Edwards their homeboy, not once realizing the philosophical schizophrenia. These are mutually exclusive worldviews.

In the world of election and limited atonement, there is no such thing as self-appointment and self-determination. There is no such thing as self-governance, because you do not own you.

In a world of irresistible grace, there is no such thing as private property, private possessions, or even personal boundaries, because whatever good you have is a manifestation of God’s grace, and all grace is administered by His stewards of grace.

And in a world of predestination, there is no right to inquire. In a world of predestination, there is no human sensibilities to be conservative. Your pain and your suffering is irrelevant. Who are you, O man, to challenge God, to inquire the things of God, the mysteries of God! Your pain is what you should have.

In the metaphysical world of T.U.L.I.P., there is no real justice. Everything is one great big fat sin before God, because the nature of man is utterly offensive to God. If you happen to be a part of the group that gets picked, it’s all good. And if you don’t, then it sucks to be you. The threat of damnation hangs over your head like the Sword of Damocles. Your sin violates God. So, who are you to demand recompense for a violation of sins against you? How dare you speak justice? You don’t own you.

Or do you?

This is the first choice. This is the fight within the ages. Who owns man?

Father, in the name of Jesus, we must live in understanding. Never before has man been defended. We’ve defended you and we’ve swatted our own. But never have we defended man’s right to live, right to exist, right to live, right to prosperity; never have we done this successfully. To throw off the tyranny of the ages, Father, we need your wisdom and understanding. We need to have the eyes of our understanding opened, that our insides will be filled with light. We ask these things in Jesus’ name. Amen.

~ John Immel


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