Paul's Passing Thoughts

Rick Holland’s “Uneclipsing The Son,” Part 1: John MacArthur Comes Completely Out of the Closet

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on August 21, 2017

Originally published July 7, 2011

July 6, 2011 is a day that will live in infamy for the rest of my life. I’m not kidding. My copy of  “Uneclipsing The Son” by Rick Holland arrived two days ago and was on my desk. Susan came and sat in a chair by my desk, observed the book, picked it up, and started reading to me the forward written by John MacArthur Jr. My worst fears were realized. MacArthur’s forward to the book is a clear, concise, mini-treatise that promotes Gospel Sanctification in no uncertain terms. He is now totally out of the closet. As the name, “Gospel Sanctification” indicates, we are supposedly sanctified by the same gospel that saved us. In other words, our spiritual growth flows from a contemplation on Christ’s personhood (whatever that means exactly) and His works. Therefore, the sole purpose of the Scriptures is to gain a deeper and deeper knowledge of Christ and His works with everything else in Scripture being a mere picture or description of what Christ has fulfilled for us. One might say that it is a hyper-Calvinistic view of monergism in justification that is also projected onto sanctification. So, if one carries the doctrine to its logical conclusion, the primary, if not sole duty in the Christian life is meditating on Christ and His works which results in the Holy Spirit elevating us to higher and higher levels of sanctification. In fact, MacArthur all but writes exactly that in the forward to Holland’s book.

First, Some Historical Background

This is not the first time in church history that contemplative spirituality using the gospel as the object has been propagated. However, what makes Gospel Sanctification unique is its unified systematic theology. Gospel Sanctification has a theory regarding a favorable method of interpreting the Scriptures, a supposed practical application, an explanation of how it is experienced emotionally, its own eschatology, and a covenant theology. More than likely, Gospel Sanctification as we know it today was conceived by Robert Brinsmead and his Australian Forum project. The clear mandate of that project was to systematize a theology that was gospel-centered sanctification. One of the concepts created by the project was the centrality of the objective gospel. It went so far as to indicate that all reality is interpreted through the gospel (objective), and anything given more priority than the gospel (subjective) was to “eclipse the Son.” The Forum’s writings are saturated with descriptions of various woes that come from “eclipsing” Christ and the gospel. Robert Brinsmead worked closely with Jon Zens (the father of New Covenant Theology) in developing the same kind of theology for a supposed biblical view of law/gospel or “New Testament ethics.” The result was New Covenant Theology and Zens tried to propagate the Theology in Reformed Baptist circles. It was met with fierce resistance, and the movement was relegated to a meager group presently known as the Continental Baptist.

However, the idea found new life through another venue where Forum doctrines were being tossed around via the fact that Zens was a student there, and Michael Horton was greatly influenced by Forum ideas—Westminster Seminary. Primarily, a professor of theology there named Jack Miller took the same ideas and formulated a doctrine known as Sonship Theology. Again, the movement was met with fierce opposition, this time in Presbyterian circles. The Sonship label was then dropped and replaced with “gospel,” ie., gospel-centered this, and gospel-driven that. This led Baptist and Presbyterian protestors to believe that the movement was all but dead for the past ten years. But really, the movement was growing covertly under the guise of the gospel nomenclature, and has recently emerged as New Calvinism—a  gargantuan movement including church networks, missionary alliances, cooperative training conferences, and “biblical” counseling organizations. The doctrine is overrunning the contemporary church like a giant tsunami and its proponents claim that it is a second Reformation.

In fact, I would probably be conceding myself, thinking, “Everyone else, and now MacArthur? It must be me—I’m missing something on this,” if not for a few souls like Walter Chantry and Dr. Jay Adams. In 1999, Adams published a book to refute Sonship Theology in the same way that Walter Chantry published a book in 1980 to refute Jon Zens’ views (and essentially that of the Forum as well). One year later  Zens coined the phrase, “New Covenant Theology.” One of many obvious connections that can be seen in all of this is the fact that two major players in the New Calvinist movement, Tim Keller and David Powlison, were disciples of Jack Miller who coined the phrase: “We must preach the gospel to ourselves everyday” which is an often-heard mantra within the movement. Another connection is the popularity of “The Goldsworthy Trilogy (Gospel and Kingdom; Gospel and Wisdom; The Gospel in Revelation)” within the New Calvinist movement—written by Graeme Goldsworthy who was one of three major participants in the Australian Forum project along with Geoffrey Paxton and Robert Brinsmead. This speaks to the likeminded beliefs regarding the gospel shared by the Forum and New Calvinist. I strongly suspect Holland’s book will bear more of the same.

On the back cover of Holland’s book, we read this statement in bold print: “Christ, The Son Of God, Has Been Eclipsed, And We’ve Made Ourselves At Home In This New Normal.” Nothing could be farther from the truth. Since the 1950’s the church has been inundated with a hyper-grace mentality. This first gospel wave with a lack of emphasis on discipleship paved the way for Gospel Sanctification. Jay Adams started the true contemporary Reformation in 1970 with his book, “Competent to Counsel” which had a very strong emphasis on discipleship and true biblical counseling.  Adams often comments that during that time as he traveled about and spoke, Christians seemed to be surprised that they could actually “do something in their walk with God.” The “normal” in Christianity today is a profound ignorance regarding the sufficiency of Scripture and how to apply it to life in our walk with God. Christ hasn’t been eclipsed—we think He does it all for us. What has been eclipsed is what Jesus says—not who He is. Furthermore, Adams has suffered some significant persecution for his attempt to emphasize doing in the Christian life, especially from the New Calvinist counseling culture and David Powlison who was offended by the book Adams wrote to refute Sonship Theology. New Calvinist like Powlison describe the real contemporary Reformation via Adams (in regard to being used by God) as the “first generation of biblical counseling” in the same way that Luther’s Reformation was first generation. But now, the New Calvinist counseling culture is supposedly part of the second Reformation through the discovery of Gospel Sanctification. Of course, the notion is preposterous and takes arrogance to a new level that has never before been seen.

John MacArthur’s Coming Out

MacArthur’s  forward is fraught with blatant error and contemplative spirituality in the form of Gospel Sanctification. MacArthur begins his forward with the following:

“As Christians we have one message to declare: ‘Jesus Christ, and Him crucified’( I Corinthians 2:2). ‘For we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’ sake’ ( 2 Corinthians 4:5; cf. I Corinthians 2:2; Galatians 6:14).”

Gospel Sanctification follows the way of many other false doctrines throughout church history; specifically, the eclipsing of other members of the Trinity by overemphasizing one over the others. Jehovah’s Witnesses overemphasize the Father. Charismatics  overemphasize the Holy Spirit, etc. Christ Himself, in His mandate to the church, said to baptize in the name of all Three. The Father elects; the Son  atones, and the Spirit sanctifies—but we are to only preach Christ? Christ’s emphasis on the Father in regard to salvation saturates the Gospels, especially in the book of John:

 John 6:44
“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day.

John 6:65
He went on to say, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled him.”

Christ instructed us to pray to the Father, and according to the apostle Paul:

“Now when it says that ‘everything’ has been put under him, it is clear that this does not include God himself, who put everything under Christ. When he has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all” (1Cor. 15:27,28).

MacArthur continues:

“Rick Holland understands that truth.  This book is an insightful, convicting reminder that no one and nothing other than Christ deserves to be the central theme of the tidings we as Christians proclaim—not only to one another and to the world, but also in the private meditations of our own hearts.”

No one, or no thing, “deserves” to be the central theme of our private devotions? This follows the Gospel Sanctification tenet that we shouldn’t seek to be instructed from the Scriptures (ie., seeking to know how to love our wives in a way that pleases God, etc). If we meditate on Christ and His works (the gospel), all that Christ commands will happen naturally. Supposedly.  I can only assume NO one and NO thing means exactly what the sentence states. But again, it begs the question: “He doesn’t mean to exclude God from that statement, right? Also note the GS teaching that our message is the same for justification AND sanctification: “….nothing other than Christ deserves to be the central theme of the tidings we as Christians proclaim—not only to one another and to the world, but also in the private meditations of our own hearts.”

MacArthur:

“Christ is the perfect image of God (Hebrews 1); the theme of Scripture (Luke 24); the author of salvation (Hebrews 12:2); the one proper object of saving faith (Romans 10:9-10); and the goal of our sanctification (Romans 8:2).  No wonder Scripture describes the amazing growth-strategy of the early church in these terms:  “They ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ” (Acts 5:42).  That is the only blueprint for church ministry that has any sanction from Scripture.”

Not exactly. The early church also went about preaching “the good news of the kingdom of God”:

Acts 1:3
After his suffering, he showed himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God.

And what did that teaching by Christ also entail?:

Acts 1:6
So when they met together, they asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”

And….:

Acts 14:22
strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith. “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God,” they said.

Acts 19:8
Paul entered the synagogue and spoke boldly there for three months, arguing persuasively about the kingdom of God.

Acts 20:25
“Now I know that none of you among whom I have gone about preaching the kingdom will ever see me again.

Also, in other passages, Christ, and the kingdom of God seem to be separate subjects within the gospel:

Acts 8:12
But when they believed Philip as he preached the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women.

Acts 28:23
They arranged to meet Paul on a certain day, and came in even larger numbers to the place where he was staying. From morning till evening he explained and declared to them the kingdom of God and tried to convince them about Jesus from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets.

Acts 28:31
Boldly and without hindrance he preached the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ.

Obviously, to the first-century church, “the gospel” included the whole picture of the Trinities saving work.

MacArthur:

“The pastor who makes anything or anyone other than Christ the focus of his message is actually hindering the sanctification of the flock.  Second Corinthians 3:18 describes in simple terms how God conforms us to the image of His Son: ‘And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another’ (emphasis added).  We don’t ‘see’ Christ literally and physically, of course (I Peter 1:8). But His glory is on full display in the Word of God, and it is every minister’s duty to make that glory known above all other subjects.”

To this point in the forward in Holland’s book, MacArthur is using all of the proof texts typically used by Gospel Sanctification proponents. But in regard to 2Cor. 3:18, the correlation between gazing or “beholding the glory of the Lord” and spiritual growth has no direct correlation to being the only facilitator thereof. Such a direct cause and effect correlation is assumed. Besides, Macarthur is being disingenuous by quoting the ESV here because all other translations include the word “glass” or “mirror” with difficulty in ascertaining whether we are looking at Christ’s glory in a mirror, or “reflecting” His glory as in a mirror. Either way, mirrors of that day were polished metal and did not have the perfect reflection like modern mirrors made of class. This creates difficulty for those who want to use this text to show that our primary  duty is to gaze on Christ’s glory rather than an understanding of what He’s teaching for the purpose of obedience. However, MacArthur continues to expound on this point with his paramount coming out of the closet statement in the following excerpt:

“As believers gaze at the glory of their Lord—looking clearly, enduringly, and deeply into the majesty of His person and work—true sanctification takes place as the Holy Spirit takes that believer whose heart is fixed on Christ and elevates him from one level of glory to the next.  This is the ever-increasing reality of progressive sanctification; it happens not because believers wish it or want it or work for it in their own energy, but because the glory of Christ captures their hearts and minds.  We are transformed by that glory and we begin to reflect it more and more brightly the more clearly we see it.  That’s why the true heart and soul of every pastor’s duty is pointing the flock to Christ, the Great Shepherd.”

In these last two excerpts mentioned, we see MacArthur aping the GS belief that all of Scripture is about Christ and Christ must be seen in every passage. As Jay Adams aptly points out, several books in the Bible do not have Christ as their central theme and plainly say so; for instance, Jude initially intended to write about our common salvation, but instead was led to write an exhortation to contend for pure doctrine. In this statement, MacArthur continues to use 2Cor. 3:18 to make the following point: “As believers gaze at the glory of their Lord—looking clearly, enduringly, and deeply into the majesty of His person and work—true sanctification takes place as the Holy Spirit takes that believer whose heart is fixed on Christ and elevates him from one level of glory to the next.” How do you look “clearly”; “enduringly,” and  “deeply” by “see[ing] through a glass, darkly” (1Cor. 13:12)  which  depicts the mirrors of those days? Christ’s instruction on how we become a house that will withstand the storms of life is plainly stated in Matthew 7:24-27, we hear His words and put those words into practice.

In classic Gospel Sanctification form, MacArthur also implements the either / or  hermeneutic in this statement: “This is the ever-increasing reality of progressive sanctification; it happens not because believers wish it or want it or work for it in their own energy, but because the glory of Christ captures their hearts and minds.” Here we go again with this serving Christ by our own efforts stuff ( when Peter said, “Make every effort to add to your faith…., “ who’s effort was he talking about?!). If we are to exert effort in the sanctification process, which I’m sure MacArthur would concede, how would we know if it is our own effort or that of the Holy Spirit? And why can’t it be both? Why does it have to be either all of us or all of the Spirit? GS advocates have to create a whole theology just to deal with that question, and it’s called Christian Hedonism which is John Piper’s contribution to the movement. This is the road now traveled by MacArthur: unlike his preaching of the past, but like other Gospel Sanctification advocates, his preaching will now raise more questions than are answered; like, “what do you mean when you say that real servitude to Christ will have nothing to do with my own desires? If I am a new creature—are my desires not changed?” Depending on how far MacArthur decides to go with all of this—the answer would be “no” because GS doctrine holds t a total depravity of the saints. The logical conclusion is that Christ does it all for us as a result of contemplating the gospel. In order to say that without saying it, GS proponents have to work hard (presumably in their own efforts) to make it all fit together.

MacArthur:

“After more than four decades of pastoral ministry, I am still constantly amazed at the power of Christ-centered preaching.  It’s the reason I love preaching in the gospels. But I discovered long ago that the glory of Christ dominates Romans, Galatians, Colossians, Hebrews, Revelation—and the rest of Scripture as well. Focusing on that theme has led my own soul and our congregation to a fuller, richer knowledge of Christ—loving Him, worshipping Him, serving Him and yearning for the day when we shall be like Him, having seen Him in His glory (I John 3:2).

Our prayer is that of Paul: ‘that I may know Him!’ (Philippians 3:10). The apostle knew Him well as Savior and Lord (having been privileged to be the last person ever to see the resurrected Christ face to face, according to I Corinthians 15:8)—but never could Paul plumb the rich,  sweet depths of the glories of Christ, the inexhaustible, infinite Treasure.”

I am unmoved by MacArthur’s self-delusions and his musings concerning the ever-morphing neo-Calvinist novelties of our day. Peter said that though he and others witnessed the miracles of that age—the testimony of Scripture is more sure, and Gospel Sanctification does not align with the plain sense of Holy writ.

MacArthur:

“Far from allowing Christ to be eclipsed—even partially—by any other object or affection, every believer should pursue with relentless zeal the ‘full knowledge of the glory of God’ provided by a fervent concentration ‘on the face of Christ’ (2 Corinthians 4:6).”

In context, 2Cor. 4:6 refers to those who don’t recognize Christ as Savior in comparison to those who do, and does not prescribe John Piper’s “beholding as a way of becoming.” Christ’s prescription for loving Him is plain in John 14:15,16; we are to obey what he commands with the HELP of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit HELPS us—He doesn’t obey for us by replacing our “own” efforts with something else as a result of contemplation on nebulous concepts concerning the personhood of Christ. Such nonsense has led to all kinds of mystic speculations by New Calvinist; such as, the supposed truth that Christ experienced a suffering in darkness while in Mary’s womb as part of the atonement. Soon, MacArthur will be espousing such speculation from the pulpit if he doesn’t repent and return to orthodoxy. Also, note that he says that we don’t even want to eclipse Christ “partially.” This is like the Forum’s centrality of the objective gospel which led them to relegate the new birth to a position of insignificance because it involves a focus on us (subjective), and away from Christ / gospel (objective), and therefore “eclipses Christ.” And unlike the MacArthur of the past, we just have more questions to ask: “How do we partially eclipse Christ? So, other than Christ, what can we talk about? And will it partially eclipse Christ or not?”

In all of this, one should consider what the focus of Peter’s message was to the church when he knew his time of departure was near (2Peter. Ch.1). He plainly said that there was one thing that he wanted them to remember so that their calling and election would be sure. He said he wanted to constantly put them in remembrance of this theme so they wouldn’t forget after he was gone. What was that message? As glorious as it is, was it a laser focus on the personhood of Christ to the exclusion of all else? No, it was a focus on the saints “making every effort” to add certain things to their faith. If  contemplation on the personhood of Christ is singularly paramount to spiritual growth, how could Peter possibly say what he did?

This is certain: The apostle Paul said that even if he or an angel  came preaching another gospel—reject it, and trust me, MacArthur is no apostle Paul,  and I will not follow Gospel Sanctification—even if I am the last person on earth not to do so.

paul

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Horton’s Systematic Theology Adds To The Sonship/Gospel Sanctification Massive Subculture: Revised

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on May 30, 2014

[NOTE: This was written before I discovered that New Calvinism is in fact the same gospel that the Reformers taught. The resurgence movement began as COG in 1970, became Sonship circa 1986, Gospel Transformation in 2000, dubbed Gospel Sanctification by detractors in 2007, and finally New Calvinism in 2008. This was also written before I understood that orthodoxy is a part of spiritual caste in general]. 

“Gospel Sanctification,  as Sonship is now called, will begin to totally rewrite orthodox Christianity”  [Note also that I no longer equate “orthodoxy ” with truth per se].

[Further revision: much has been learned since this post, but the general idea is very accurate: the Neo-Calvinist movement is seeking to develop a subculture within American culture that will eventually, if all goes as planned, devour American culture as we know it. This is part and parcel with Calvinism’s dominion theology. This post submits a sketchy framework of useful categories under the general idea. For instance, one college that focuses strictly on the Neo-Calvinist vision is a far cry from the fact that this movement owns (in an intellectual capacity) most of the seminaries in America. Other categories could be added as well, e.g., Christian publishing ].   

The Fix is now in. The false doctrine of the centrality of the objective gospel (COG) which found new life in  Sonship Theology about thirty years ago—now has its own theology, hermeneutic, practical application, defined experience, ecumenical (inclusiveness) movement, history, college, counseling organization, missionary organization, Bible—and now, its own systematic theology. Gospel Sanctification (GS), as Sonship is now called, will begin to totally rewrite orthodox Christianity. It won’t be long; those who we minister to will have to be deprogrammed before we can help them, starting with convincing them that the Bible is to be taken as literal instruction from God as our authority for ministry and life. Not understanding GS beforehand will make any attempt to help people with the word of God—dead on arrival.

GS Theology

The movement started with a very powerful concept in the minds of its perpetrators. Supposedly, we grow spiritually by revisiting the gospel that saved us every day. Proponents were convinced (and still are) that this thesis stands alone as truth; therefore, all other propositions must bow to it.

The GS Hermeneutic

A literal interpretation of Scripture will continually contradict GS. So, the proponents have changed how we read/ interpret the Bible accordingly. The GS hermeneutic is an interpretive prism that will always yield results that make GS plausible. Unlike the rest of the elements (which are very contemporary), the hermeneutic (known as Biblical Theology or Redemptive-Historical hermeneutics) was borrowed from times past. It originated in Germany under the liberal teaching and writings of Johann Philipp Gabler (1753-1826), who emphasized the historical nature of the Bible over against a “dogmatic” interpretation thereof. Nearly a century later, Geerhardus Vos (1862-1949) was instrumental in taking the discipline of biblical theology in a, supposedly, more conservative direction. Graeme Goldsworthy tweaked the doctrine to facilitate COG, and today, Goldsworthy’s “Trilogy” is the pillar of interpretation within the movement.

Practical Application

The GS narrow approach to sanctification must be embellished and applicable to life in some way in order to be sold. This is Heart Theology, and was developed through David Powlison’s Dynamics of Biblical Change at Westminster Seminary. In 1996, two former students of Powlison articulated Heart Theology in a book entitled, “How People Change.”

Defined Experience

John Piper seeks to articulate how Sonship is experienced via Christian Hedonism. Because GS makes our works and the work of the Spirit an either/or issue, someone needed to develop a thesis that explained how the difference can be ascertained. John Piper answered the call with the development of Christian Hedonism.

Ecumenical Bent

GS now encompasses any group that agrees with its primary view of plenary monergism and the synthesis of justification and sanctification. All other disciplines are seen as secondary and irrelevant to fellowship and joint ventures. The Gospel Coalition (holding national conferences on odd years, 2011, etc.), and T4G (Together For The Gospel, holding national conferences on even years) work together to promote GS/S while promoting inclusiveness among denominations and religions.

History

GS proponents claim a historical precedent dating back to Creation, and also claim to be the second part of the first Reformation. Of course, this is laughable. Sonship, the Antioch school, TGC, T4G, NCT, CH, and HT have no historical precedent prior to 1970. Many of the notable proponents of GS are associated in some way with the father of  Sonship Theology, Dr. John “Jack” Miller. Tim Keller and David Powlison were followers of Miller. Paul Tripp and Timothy Lane are followers of David Powlison. Jerry Bridges attributes his view of the gospel to Miller as well.

College

The Antioch School of leadership training has GS as its foundation and basis for training. It is located in Ames, Iowa.

Counseling Organization

The upstart Biblical Counseling Coalition, which seeks to network other counseling organizations as well, is intimately associated with T4G and The Gospel Coalition. The who’s who of Gospel Sanctification sit on its governing board including David Powlison and Paul David Tripp.

Missionary Organization

It’s primary missionary organization was founded by the father of Gospel Sanctification / Sonship—Dr. John “Jack” Miller. Banner of Truth states the  following in The Movement Called Sonship: “Miller encouraged New Life Presbyterian Church into originating the ‘World Harvest Mission’, a non-denominational missionary organization. Sonship became its main teaching vehicle.”

Bible

The English Standard Version (ESV) was first published by Crossway in 2001. Its vice president of editorial is Justin Taylor who also authors The Gospel Coalition Blog, the multimedia propaganda machine for GS doctrine. One of the translators was Wayne Grudem, also well known as a major proponent of GS doctrine. The ESV’s GS connection has made it the most purchased English Bible in the past ten years. The latest promotion of the ESV by Crossway, “Trusted: Trusted Legacy [a whopping ten years]; trusted By Leaders; Trusted For Life,” features an endorsement by the who’s who of  GS doctrine.

The Complete Fix

With Michael Horton’s recent publication of “The Christian Faith: A Systematic Theology for Pilgrims On the Way” (2011), the total fix is in place. The GS machine will now begin to move forward—rewriting and re-forming orthodox Christianity. I confidently predict that Horton’s book will be widely used in seminaries nationwide. Seminary students will be pumped into the local churches with a skewered view of truth—but using all of the same terminology that was formally orthodox.

What Can Be Done?

This doctrine thrives on the fact that Christians are theologically dumbed-down. If most Christians do not know the difference between justification and sanctification (and they don’t), they are helpless against this false doctrine. If most Christians don’t realize the importance of understanding hermeneutics (and they don’t), they are even more helpless. Local churches need to start in-doctrineating their people.

paul

John Piper’s Vine and Branches Conference: A Synopsis of its Heresy

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on December 14, 2013

“Take note that Calvin is also confirming the Reformed belief that sins in the Christian life separate us from salvation. Therefore, the same repentance and faith that was needed originally continues to be needed as a way to keep ourselves saved. However, according to Calvin, the same gospel that originally saved us must be continually administered by Reformed pastors.”

John Piper states in the promotional video for his Vine and Branch conference that the union with Christ doctrine could be the most important doctrine that you have never heard of. The blogger Alex Guggenheim responded to that notion this way:

Okay, so here we have Neo-Calvinists who have, for the last 15-20 years and certainly the last 10 years, overwhelming their people and those being assimilated, being offered a conference on “the most important doctrine you’ve never heard of.”

Hmmm…so Neo-Calvinists, what have you been doing all this time if this doctrine is central to all things as your promo says? Suddenly you now offer the most important doctrine. I suggest theological and ecclesiastical malfeasance with such an admission.

If it was and is so important, and it is, why haven’t you made it the centrality of your teaching and articulations all this time or…is this just another gimmick to incite spiritual anxiety in people who now believe they have been missing something and cannot miss this?

Good grief.

The Calvin Institutes of the Christian religion is their playbook, and it is a very thick linguistic droning. This is their bible, and they are continually mining it for new ideas. Sometimes these ideas take a while to find in the book of Calvin. However, I believe it is the same document that will hang them because people are starting to read the document for themselves. Piper begins the promotion for the conference with a statement by Calvin, so let’s start with Calvin.

John Calvin

The crux of the Reformation false gospel is the idea that justification is not a finished work. Therefore, they make the separate work of sanctification the growing, or progression of justification. The saint becomes a colaborer in the finishing of justification rather than a colaborer for the kingdom as an ambassador. The saint is not working towards a reward from his Master, he is working towards the final prize of salvation.

Therefore, the saint must obtain that final prize the same way he received it, by FAITH ALONE. So, he must run the race of salvation by faith alone. This is made possible by the “vital union with Christ.” Our “union with Christ” sanctifies our participation in justification. Let me repeat that:

Our “union with Christ” sanctifies our participation in justification.

It makes running the race by faith alone possible. It enables us to gobble up more and more grace in order to keep ourselves saved—by faith alone of course. James addressed the problem of this very notion in James 2:14-26. It hearkens back to the problem of justification and sanctification not being completely separate; one being a finished work and the other being a progressive work. This is the Achilles’ heel of every false gospel that has ever come down the pike.

So, how do we supposedly run the race by faith alone? The same way we started; by faith alone which entails “living by the gospel.” We live to get more grace. If we keep filling up our gas tank at the salvation filling station, we will be able to “stand in the judgment” that we are driving to. In fact, this is exactly how Reformed theologians frame the issue:

We repeat, Justification is not a thing that we pass and get behind us. As Barth rightly said, it is not like a filling station that we pass but once. As we hold to its eschatological implications, justification by faith can never become static but must remain the dynamic center of Christian existence, the continuous present. We are always sinners in our eyes, but we are always standing on God’s justification and, perhaps more importantly, moving toward it. To be justified is a present-continuous miracle to the man who present-continuously believes, knowing that he who believes possesses all things, and he who does not believe possesses nothing. Such a life is only possible where the gospel of justification is continually heard and where God’s verdict of acquittal is like those mercies which Jeremiah declared were new every morning—”great is Thy faithfulness” (Lam. 3:22-23).[1]

Also…

Rather than obsessing through a checklist of necessary Christian behavior, he argued that it is important to get back to the heart of Christianity. Faith, he says, shouldn’t be based on “our performance” but, instead, it should be predicated upon “God’s performance for us in Jesus.”[2]

But there is no “performance” for us by Jesus in the Christian life that maintains justification. That work is done. In regard to justification, “It is finished” and Christ has sat down at the right hand of the Father. We work together with Christ in our sanctification. Again, at issue is the fusion of a finished work with a progressive work. But since the Reformation sees justification/salvation as progressive, we must continually fill our gas tanks with the same grace that saved us. That is the essence of union with Christ; it enables us to receive perpetual fillings of salvation. There are two primary ways that we “keep ourselves in the love of God”[3] or in union with Christ.

1. Mortification and vivification. According to Calvin, mortification and vivification is obtained through the union with Christ.[4] It is a lifestyle of “constant confession and repentance” that avoids the pursuit of a godly life and embraces a life that is “literally Christ himself.”[5] Simply stated, it is perpetual resalvation through the same repentance and sorrow for sin, and belief in the works of Christ only that saved us. By focusing on our depravity (“deep repentance”), a new need for grace is realized and when embraced results in a refreshing of the soul (vivification); viz, a joy experience.

This is the perpetual reliving of our baptism—a “daily dying and rising.”[6] It also results in EXPERIENCING the works of Christ in our life “subjectively,” but it is not really us doing the work—it is a manifestation of Christ’s work that we only experience [7]. This is otherwise known as “new obedience” in Reformed circles. It can be compared to standing in the rain; you experience it, but you are not participating in the work of it or producing it. This enables us to live our Christian lives by the same gospel that saved us, and resulting in being able to “stand in the judgment.”

2. The Sacraments. We get more saving gospel through the Sacraments. Said Calvin:

It is irrational to contend that sacraments are not manifestations of divine grace toward us… We conclude, therefore, that the sacraments are truly termed evidences of divine grace, and, as it were, seals of the good-will which he entertains toward us. They, by sealing it to us, sustain, nourish, confirm, and increase our faith.[8]

God gathers his people together in a covenantal event to judge and to justify, to kill and to make alive. The emphasis is on God’s work for us – the Father’s gracious plan, the Son’s saving life, death, and resurrection, and the Spirit’s work of bringing life to the valley of dry bones through the proclamation of Christ. The preaching focuses on God’s work in the history of redemption from Genesis through Revelation, and sinners are swept into this unfolding drama. Trained and ordained to mine the riches of Scripture for the benefit of God’s people, ministers try to push their own agendas, opinions, and personalities to the background so that God’s Word will be clearly proclaimed. In this preaching the people once again are simply receivers – recipients of grace. Similarly, in baptism, they do not baptize themselves; they are baptized. In the Lord’s Supper, they do not prepare and cook the meal; they do not contribute to the fare; but they are guests who simply enjoy the bread of heaven.[9]

3. Absolution through church membership. According to Calvin:

Nor by remission of sins does the Lord only once for all elect and admit us into the Church, but by the same means he preserves and defends us in it. For what would it avail us to receive a pardon of which we were afterwards to have no use? That the mercy of the Lord would be vain and delusive if only granted once, all the godly can bear witness; for there is none who is not conscious, during his whole life, of many infirmities which stand in need of divine mercy. And truly it is not without cause that the Lord promises this gift specially to his own household, nor in vain that he orders the same message of reconciliation to be daily delivered to them. Wherefore, as during our whole lives we carry about with us the remains of sin, we could not continue in the Church one single moment were we not sustained by the uninterrupted grace of God in forgiving our sins. On the other hand, the Lord has called his people to eternal salvation, and therefore they ought to consider that pardon for their sins is always ready. Hence let us surely hold that if we are admitted and ingrafted into the body of the Church, the forgiveness of sins has been bestowed, and is daily bestowed on us, in divine liberality, through the intervention of Christ’s merits, and the sanctification of the Spirit.

To impart this blessing to us, the keys have been given to the Church (Mt. 16:19; 18:18). For when Christ gave the command to the apostles, and conferred the power of forgiving sins, he not merely intended that they should loose the sins of those who should be converted from impiety to the faith of Christ;531 but, moreover, that they should perpetually perform this office among believers. This Paul teaches, when he says that the embassy of reconciliation has been committed to the ministers of the Church, that they may ever and anon in the name of Christ exhort the people to be reconciled to God (2 Cor. 5:20). Therefore, in the communion of saints our sins are constantly forgiven by the ministry of the Church, when presbyters or bishops, to whom the office has been committed, confirm pious consciences, in the hope of pardon and forgiveness by the promises of the gospel, and that as well in public as in private, as the case requires. For there are many who, from their infirmity, stand in need of special pacification, and Paul declares that he testified of the grace of Christ not only in the public assembly, but from house to house, reminding each individually of the doctrine of salvation (Acts 20:20, 21). Three things are here to be observed. First, whatever be the holiness which the children of God possess, it is always under the condition, that so long as they dwell in a mortal body, they cannot stand before God without forgiveness of sins. Secondly, This benefit is so peculiar to the Church, that we cannot enjoy it unless we continue in the communion of the Church. Thirdly, It is dispensed to us by the ministers and pastors of the Church, either in the preaching of the Gospel or the administration of the Sacraments, and herein is especially manifested the power of the keys, which the Lord has bestowed on the company of the faithful. Accordingly, let each of us consider it to be his duty to seek forgiveness of sins only where the Lord has placed it. Of the public reconciliation which relates to discipline, we shall speak at the proper place.[10]

…by new sins we continually separate ourselves, as far as we can, from the grace of God… Thus it is, that all the saints have need of the daily forgiveness of sins; for this alone keeps us in the family of God. [11]

Take note that Calvin is also confirming the Reformed belief that sins in the Christian life separate us from salvation. Therefore, the same repentance and faith that was needed originally continues to be needed as a way to keep ourselves saved. However, according to Calvin, the same gospel that originally saved us must be continually administered by Reformed pastors.

John Piper

John Piper is the guru of Christian joy. Most Christians find it strange that he puts so much emphasis on Christian joy; that is, until you understand mortification and vivification. If vivification is not taking place; viz, the upside of mortification and vivification, then you are not in union with Christ. This totally explains the following outrageous statements by him:

“Unless a man be born again into a Christian Hedonist he cannot see the kingdom of God” (Desiring God  page 55).

“Could it be that today the most straightforward biblical command for conversion is not, ‘Believe in the Lord,’ but, ‘Delight yourself in the Lord’?” (Desiring God page 55).

“The pursuit of joy in God is not optional. It is not an ‘extra’ that a person might grow into after he comes to faith. Until your heart has hit upon this pursuit, your ‘faith’ cannot please God. It is not saving faith” (Desiring God page 69).

“Not everybody is saved from God’s wrath just because Christ died for sinners. There is a condition we must meet in order to be saved. I want to try to show that the condition…is nothing less than the creation of a Christian Hedonist” (Desiring God page 61).

“We are converted when Christ becomes for us a Treasure Chest of holy joy” (Desiring God page 66).

 “Something has happened in our hearts before the act of faith. It implies that beneath and behind the act of faith which pleases God, a new taste has been created. A taste for the glory of God and the beauty of Christ. Behold, a joy has been born!” (Desiring God page 67).

“Before the decision comes delight. Before trust comes the discovery of treasure” (Desiring God, page 68).

Michael Horton

The following statement by Michael Horton is a good summation of the Reformation’s false gospel:

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.[12]

Paul David Tripp

Lastly, out of necessity, Calvin’s doctrine must depend on an allegorical interpretation of Scripture. As Rick Holland has stated, “bad grammar makes good theology.”[13] That’s because this doctrine cannot survive a grammatical examination. Tripp, one of the more viral forms of Calvinism, concedes on page 27 of How People Change (2006) that a literal interpretation of Scripture does call us to “change the way we think” (one of the more passive forms of obedience), but that this approach “omits the person and work of Christ as Savior.” In other words, a literal interpretation that circumvents use of the Bible as a tool for returning to the same gospel that saved us cuts off the progressive justification process.

paul

Endnotes  

1. “We” are the authors of the theological journal published by the Australian Forum project that launched the present-day Calvinist resurgence: Graeme Goldsworthy, Robert Brinsmead, Geoffrey Paxton, and Jon Zens. Citation from Present Truth Magazine volume 35—article 3, Righteousness by Faith part 4, chapter 8.

2. The Blaze interview with Tullian Tchividjian: Oct. 15, 2013 9:01am  | Billy Hallowell.

3. CJ Mahaney has used this theme many times and prescribes “preaching the gospel to ourselves” as the prescription. In reality, this is a means of keeping ourselves saved according to Reformed theology.

4. The Calvin Institutes 3.3.9, first sentence.

5. Paul David Tripp: How People Change Punch Press 2006, p.6

6. Michael Horton’s Systematic Theology for Pilgrims on the Way: p.661

7. Ibid p.661, Ibid note 5, p. 215

8. The Calvin Institutes 4.14.7

9. Michael Horton: Christless Christianity; pp.189-191

10. The Calvin Institutes 4.1.21,22

11. John Calvin: Commentaries on the Catholic Epistles; The Calvin Translation Society 1855. Editor: John Owen, p. 165 ¶4

12. Michael Horton: Christless Christianity; p. 62

13. Rick Holland: Uneclipsing the Son; p. 39

Revised Vital Union Chart

JCPJ 2

Linear Gospel 1

parallel gospel 1

Has a Particular Path Unfolded for TANC?

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on December 14, 2013

Cross Square

VINE 3

My journey into the “justification by faith alone” doctrine of the Reformation started in 2006. By 2012, I established that it is far from being a justification by faith alone. I believe the Reformation is the biggest hoax ever perpetrated on mankind by the traditions of men and the kingdom of darkness. This is a simple matter of theological math. Calvin et al knew the doctrine doesn’t add up, so they implemented a system of orthodoxy to keep Christians dumbed down. I believe Calvinism has become the epic evangelistic mission field of our day.

Thanks to my wife Susan who has been the leading supporter of this ministry for three years, I have been able to devote myself to this ministry fulltime since 2011. I am undoubtedly the idea guy, while Susan and others associated with our ministry help me sort through those ideas and categorize them. We have tossed around numerous ideas in regard to getting the word out that we must repent of fearing man and turn to the Chief Shepherd. Glory to His great name. There is NO mediator between God and man other than Christ. As the Calvinist tsunami intensifies in our day, its leaders are becoming bolder in exemplifying Calvin’s power of the keys. This is a major concern.

I am also concerned with how this movement has turned up the heat recently in regard to aggressively promoting this doctrine through conferences that target the bread and butter of Christianity. These conferences draw thousands from all over America who then go back to local churches with these ideas. And these conferences are funded by God’s people. Most of the pastors who go to these conferences do so on the local church’s coin. Never before in church history has so much money been poured into a false cause.

Though seven years of research has been necessary in order to articulate the problems with this doctrine, our Lord also said to “go.” I was motivated to do just that in regard to the “Cross” conference in Louisville that targets Christian youth. I cannot stand by and let that happen without a fuss. This will be a test in regard to a possible path going forward for TANC; an evangelistic/educational ministry that takes this message directly to where people have gathered for these conferences. It’s a start; to make even one pastor stop and think before he takes these ideas back to the local church. And pastors are usually members of local church fellowships; even one pastor could make a huge difference. When will we begin to plead that Chrsitians start applying the brakes in order to think about where they are going? This takes the message from the blogosphere to the streets.

Furthermore, I am concerned with another upcoming pastor’s conference in February of 2014 that focuses on “the vine and the branches.” I believe this conference will turn up the volume on Calvin’s power of the keys doctrine. It will convince many young pastors that they are key mediators between their parishioners and Christ. This is greatly increasing instances of spiritual tyranny in the church. Consider the mentality being conveyed by notable Calvinist leaders to their younger understudies:

The spiritual life of any congregation and its growth in grace will never exceed the high-water mark set by its pulpit.

~ Steven J. Lawson

TANC receives many encouraging letters from people who stand with us. They rightly assess that it must be “a very lonely ministry.” However, that’s changing. People also write that they “feel powerless” to do anything about the tyranny of this movement. That is changing also. Let us be a voice for you in Louisville and Minneapolis.

The truth is a very powerful thing, and a little of it will bring down any formidable stronghold. We need your support for Louisville; ie., the printing of materials and travel expenses for the missionary team. If we can pull this off, Minneapolis is next.

TTANC, a nonprofit LLC

PO Box 583

Xenia, Ohio 45385

PayPal: mail@ttanc.com

Contact: mail@ttanc.com

Join the team!

paul

Calvinism’s Platonist Rejection of the Trinity

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on May 7, 2013

conf-logoHow do Calvinists reject the Trinity? Basically, they make God the Father and the Holy Spirit lesser forms of Jesus Christ. Their rejection of the Trinity is based on Plato’s theory of forms. This shouldn’t be any big surprise as one of the forefathers of the Reformation, St. Augustine, was a Plato groupie. My wife Susan will address the Plato/Augustine love affair in significant detail at this year’s TANC conference.

Plato’s basic idea of forms led to the Reformed Emphasis Hermeneutic, also known as the Redemptive Historical Hermeneutic. Plato’s trinity was the good, the true, and the beautiful, and all other forms, or solid matter if you will, are lesser forms of the true form. In one sense, Calvin believed that Jesus Christ brought the two together, but that is a philosophical angle we will not pursue here because other manifestations of this heresy are more plainly and easily seen. Calvinists merely make Jesus Christ the full expression of the good, true, and beautiful while representing the other members of the Trinity as lesser forms.

Hence, Jesus Christ, and His works become the stargate to all understanding of reality. The “gospel” is a term that encompasses the personhood of Christ and His works—this is the gateway to understanding ALL reality. The saving act (singular) of Jesus Christ is not something done in history as part of the Trinity’s plan to reconcile them to mankind, but is the key to understanding all reality. Therefore, many Calvinists refer to the “saving acts” (plural) of Christ and His personhood as keys to understanding. The Bible is therefore 100% about the gospel i.e., the personhood and works of Christ. More on this further along.

This is abundantly evident via the everything Jesus mentality of today’s churchianity. The books, the sermons, and the music are everything Jesus. This is why; it is a Protestant family tradition set on fire by the Neo-Calvinist movement. And it all begins in a galaxy far, far away known as Western philosophy. Calvin notes the following in his Institutes of the Christian Religion:

For this reason Augustine [who he quotes on average every 2.5 pages in the Institutes], treating of the object of faith (De civitate Dei lib. 11 c. 2), elegantly says, “The thing to be known is, whither we are to go, and by what way”; and immediately after infers, that “the surest way to avoid all errors is to know him who is both God and man, It is God we tend, and it is by man we go, and both of these are found only in Christ.

Therefore, supposedly, the “only” sure way to avoid error is to focus on Jesus Christ only, the idea that spiritual reality and physical reality are only seen in Christ notwithstanding. A clearer way to see how this all fleshes out is in the first tenet of New Covenant Theology which is a spinoff of Neo-Calvinism:

New Covenant Theology insists on the priority of Jesus Christ over all things, including history, revelation, and redemption.  New Covenant Theology presumes a Christocentricity to the understanding and meaning of all reality.

Considered to be the foremost authority on Reformed hermeneutics in our day, Graeme Goldsworthy stated the following on page 48 of Gospel-Centered Hermeneutics (InterVarsity Press 2006):

If the story is true, Jesus Christ is the interpretative key to every fact in the universe and, of course, the Bible is one such fact. He is thus the hermeneutic principle that applies first to the Bible as the ground for understanding, and also to the whole of reality.

Calvinism concurs. ALL reality is Chrsitocentricity. The gospel is a stargate to the pure form of the good. Geoffrey Paxton, an Anglican theologian and authority on the Reformation, stated the following on page 41 of The Shaking of Adventism (Baker Book House 1978):

Christ alone means literally Christ alone, and not the believer. And for that matter, it does not even mean any other member of the Trinity!

This statement is both shocking and representative of Reformed trinitarian thinking. Paxton is absolutely right, Solus Christus means just that. Another way of understanding this is via the solar eclipse. This is the most popular example of how Christ must be the gateway to pure understanding. Christ is the Sun, the life-giving rays of light. To let anything obscure that light, no matter what it is—is to deprive ourselves of wisdom and life to that degree. When we let objects, even objects that are factual and true obscure Christ, we are “living in the shadows.” This is the theses of longtime John MacArthur confidant Rick Holland’s book, Uneclipsing The Son. The book is a Platonist/Gnostic treatise that is not even ambiguous. On page 11, Holland writes that the book of James presents Christ as the “rule and standard of all spiritual instruction.” On the same page, Holland asserts that Christ is the “one true God” and then cites five Scripture references that say no such thing.

John MacArthur wrote the Forward to Holland’s book being presently considered, and made these statements:

Rick Holland understands that truth.  This book is an insightful, convicting reminder that no one and nothing other than Christ deserves to be the central theme of the tidings we as Christians proclaim—not only to one another and to the world, but also in the private meditations of our own hearts.

The pastor who makes anything or anyone other than Christ the focus of his message is actually hindering the sanctification of the flock.

No greater subject exists than Jesus Christ–no greater gift can be given than uplifting His glory for another soul to see it  and be changed by it. This book will be a wonderful help to anyone who senses the need to orient one’s life and message properly with a Christ centered focus. It is full of fresh, practical, and memorable spiritual insight that will show you how to remove whatever obstacle is blocking your vision of the Son and allow His light to blind you with joy.

Christ, while praying to the Father, referred to the Bible as “your word” and “your word is truth” (John 17:17). We pray to God the Father, not Christ, and we baptize in the name of all three Trinity members. The Bible is not Chrsitocentric. The Bible has many major themes. The father of our faith looked for “a city built by God.” This contradicts the plain sense of Scripture, which brings me to my next point.

The Redemptive Historical Hermeneutic calls for a contemplation on Christ and His works only, or the gospel, and a logical conclusion drawn from the formation of verbs, nouns, adjectives, prepositions, etc., must be disregarded for a Chrsitocentric conclusion or a “truth” that “shows forth the gospel.” In the aforementioned book, 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.” 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.

A good example of this is a statement by Paul David Tripp on page 27 of How People Change (Punch Press 2006). Tripp acknowledges that the Bible in-fact does state that we should apply biblical commands to our life, but to take that literally, and not in its “Christ-centered gospel context” (p. 26) is to “omit” Christ in our life as “Savior.” Therefore, a literal approach to the Bible harkens to works salvation. The results of this can be seen in this approach to preparing Bible lessons:

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

Look for Christ even if He isn’t there directly. It is better to see Christ in a text even if He isn’t, than to miss Him where He is (Biblical Theological Study Center: A Christo-Presuppositional Approach to the Entire Scriptures; Max Strange. Online source: http://goo.gl/5sGjP).

Another authority on the Reformation, Robert Brinsmead, states this perspective concisely:

That which makes the Bible the Bible is the gospel. That which makes the Bible the Word of God is its witness to Christ. When the Spirit bears witness to our hearts of the truth of the Bible, this is an internal witness concerning the truth of the gospel. We need to be apprehended by the Spirit, who lives in the gospel, and then judge all things by that Spirit ­ even the letter of Scripture (Brinsmead, Robert D. ”A Freedom from Biblicism” in The Christian Verdict, Essay 14, 1984. Fallbrook: Verdict Publications. Pgs. 9-14).

In other words, the meaning of Scripture according to the letter [i.e., logical interpretations from the grammatical construction] must be judged by “that Spirit” which “lives in the gospel.” All bets are off concerning any interpretation that seems to be the plain sense of the text.

Moreover, New Calvinists take this concept dangerously close to disparaging God the Father. In the book here cited by Holland, he suggests that Christ saved the world 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 the idea that Christ saved us from God’s wrath, it’s hardly the whole story 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 and smacks of Marcionism.

Holland is hardly alone in this approach among New Calvinists. Paul Washer suggested to an audience of European college students that the goodness of God is man’s biggest problem (Online source: http://wp.me/pmd7S-1A3). At any rate, a standalone dichotomy of wrath versus love associated with Christ and the Father that is unqualified,  is a concept that should make Christians very uncomfortable.

Calvinism promotes a Platonist-like distortion of the Trinity. It shouldn’t surprise us as the Plato/Reformed love affair is well documented. New Calvinists in our day even sport ministry subtitles with Platonist themes: “Between Two Worlds,” “Between Two Spheres,” and in regard to Plato believing that pure truth is static, “Truth Unchanging.”

Like all cultic false religions throughout history, they distort and therefore reject the Trinity.

paul

ADDENDUM 

Calvin presented the priority of Christ over the other two Trinity members in the following way as explained by Mark Driscoll associate  Justin Holcomb:

According to Calvin, the object of faith’s knowledge is Jesus Christ. He defines faith by proceeding to the center of a series of concentric circles: God’s existence, God’s power, God’s truthfulness, God’s will “toward us” as revealed in Scripture, and finally Christ. All these circles are implied in faith, but only the last is properly understood as the object of faith. Calvin goes so far as to say that those who say that God is the proper object of faith “rather mislead miserable souls by vain speculation, than direct them to the proper mark” (Institutes III.2.i). Christ as mediator is necessary if humans are to know God. Christ is not set over against God. Rather, Calvin asserts, Christ is the means—the only means—by which we can believe in God (Online source: http://theresurgence.com/2009/07/10/calvin-on-faith-christ-and-his-gospel).

ADDENDUM 

One might consider the ruckus that was created over my suggestion that salvation involves all members of the Trinity and not Christ alone. I think this is telling. The following is a reprint of the controversy on Pastor Joel Taylor’s blog that resulted from some comments I had made on that subject:

5 pt salt .com

JUSTIFICATION IS NOT OF CHRIST ALONE

POSTED BY JOEL TAYLOR ON DECEMBER 15, 2011 IN GENERAL | 24 COMMENTS

I’m not even sure I like the title of this post. Not because it’s not true, but because it’s confusing.

Let me explain.

A few days ago I posted this piece promoting the book by Paul Dohse entitled The Truth About New Calvinism: It’s History, Doctrine, and Character.  It’s worth reading. In fact, I think his book is an important one, and yes, I highly recommend you get it.

But, of course, not everyone feels that way.

Yesterday, after reading that post of mine, one 5ptsalt reader left this comment to me regarding Dohse and his book:

I’m pretty shocked you are promoting this book. Taking a peak inside reveals some pretty far out stuff. Just one example:

“First, justification is not by Christ ALONE. If God didn’t elect Christ, elect the elect, and draw them to Christ, along with sacrificing His only Son, what Christ did would have been for naught. So, justification is not by Christ alone.”

Buyer beware. This is dangerous stuff.

Well brethren, don’t be shocked that I promote this book. Be glad. And for you buyers, no need to beware.

Dohse is Right

Fact is, Paul Dohse is spot on, and even though he doesn’t need me to defend his statements, this reader’s comment gives us the opportunity to look at Scripture and, hopefully, instruct all of us. As Martha Stuart is apt to say, “That’s a good thing.”

See, it’s always important to look at statements in their proper context, a practice often overlooked and disregarded in the heat of defending what one is doctrinally comfortable with. But we need more importantly to examine all things in light of Scripture, it being – yes, I’m saying it again – the final authority in all things.

This comment by Dohse can be found from this post [link] of his which itself is a response to a series of questions by one of his readers. Here’s the question of the reader, followed by Dohse’s response:

Q: You have raised many issues in the last post that would take a book to answer. If I may, I would like to ask a few questions that might help us to clarify the issues on which we disagree. First, I want to state a couple of points on which I think we agree. Incidentally, I am convinced Piper and others would also agree.

…….

2. Justification is based on the work of Christ alone and our works do not contribute to it at all.

…..

Dohse responds to the second point:

2. First, justification is not by Christ ALONE. If God didn’t elect Christ, elect the elect, and draw them to Christ, along with sacrificing His only Son, what Christ did would have been for naught. So, justification is not by Christ alone.

Now, as I said earlier, Dohse is right. In fact, spot on. Here’s why: In a nutshell, it took all three persons of the Trinity to accomplish our justification. Father, Son and the Holy Spirit. If one dogmatically asserts that the Son alone is responsible for our salvation, including our justification, such a statement is clearly, from the Biblical testimony, an error.

Yes, the basis of our justification is the finished work of Christ alone, apart from our own works. That is true. Yet Dohse is merely pointing out the fact that unless the Father had predestined some to salvation, there would be none. The Father sent the Son to redeem us. The Holy Spirit works in us to make us holy. So Dohse is pointing out the involvement of the Trinity in our complete salvation. Although the basis for justification is Christ alone, there would be no justification without the involvement of all three persons of the Trinity in our redemption.

First, let’s give a simple definition of what justification is. Be sure and learn this, I implore you. When this is learned, hopefully, much confusion will be dismissed altogether.

Justification Defined

Justification is a declaration from the throne of God the Father concerning our legal status before His law. It is a single act, occurs one time, is never again repeated and is definitely not a process.

God the Father is the Author and Origin of Our Justification:

since indeed God who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith is one. – Romans 3:30

But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness, – Romans 4:5

and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified. – Romans 8:30

By the way, who predestination the elect unto salvation? Jesus Christ the Son? No! God the Father predestination us, according to Scripture. You see, it is God the Father who makes the declaration of justification, so to think justification is of Christ alone, well, that is simply not a biblical position.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him – Ephesians 1:3-4

Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; – Romans 8:33

When anyone objects to statements like “Justification is not by Christ alone”, I would suggest one needs to pull back, calm down, and search the Scriptures and strive towards of a biblical understanding of precisely what justification is, a declaration from God the Father.

Brethren, I hear far, far, far too much praying for the Holy Spirit to “come down” and manifest Himself. I strongly object to such, and I would encourage pastors, and elders who are allowing such to continue to rethink what they are encouraging.

Listen. The Holy Spirit, third person of the Trinity, points us to Christ, not to Himself, and does not anywhere in Scripture ask us to ask more of Him! (John 16:13, 14).

Listen again, please. Christ Jesus points us to the Father! He is the way to the Father, not just to Himself! John 14:6.

Look at Ephesians 2:18, 19 brethren, and for all you New Calvinists, contemplate this:

for through Him we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household

Now, why do so many focus only on the Son? For you to be redeemed, it took the entire Trinity, the triune Godhead, in perfect agreement together regarding a predestined, glorious plan of redemption of those given by the Father to the Son by the work of the Holy Spirit.

Sonship theology, indeed. Paul Dohse is right, because Paul Dohse is listening to God’s written Word, not the latest guru of truth.

Brethren, in love, I ask you not to ignore two members of the Trinity. Christianity is not wearing a Calvinistic t-shirt, boasting of your reformed views, and getting people to contemplate on the Gospel more.

That is utterly absurd. It is ignoring the whole counsel of God. This business of “Gospel sanctification” and Sonship theology is a dangerous – and exceedingly popular movement. And it is a movement that endangers souls.

So get that book, read it, be alert, and learn and be aware of anything and anyone who, in your heart, trumps the Word of God. May we all strive to better acknowledge the final authority of God’s Word, and rest our beliefs on its veracity alone.

24 COMMENTS

JOSHUA

DECEMBER 15, 2011

Did you believe this before Dohse made his statements or did he lead you to this understanding?

REPLY

ELLEN

DECEMBER 15, 2011

What then are we to think about the following scripture, relating to the reasoning in this post? In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word

was God. John 1:1

REPLY

JOEL TAYLOR, PASTOR-TEACHER POST AUTHOR

DECEMBER 15, 2011

You should think that Jesus was in the beginning, eternal, and was with God, with God the Father, God the Holy Spirit, and was/is God Himself, and created all things, and all things are upheld by Him, for Him and through Him.

REPLY

JOE

DECEMBER 15, 2011

I like John 3:16

REPLY

JOHNDUNNINGUK

DECEMBER 15, 2011

I believe that if we are to truly accept the doctrines of grace as being true, we cannot do so sincerely, and yet fail to understand the crucial role that all three Persons of the Godhead play in our salvation.

In covenant theology, there is a sense whereby that which we know as the covenant of grace, flows directly out of an agreement within the Godhead made before creation, known as the counsel of peace, and sometimes as the covenant of redemption.

It was in this coming together of the Godhead to form a plan of creation, redemption and salvation, that each Person of the Godhead took upon their role. (I realise this is a pretty poor description on my part, so please excuse me). Each Person of the Godhead being indispensible to the other, and the faithful work of each Person, utterly vital for the plan of salvation to succeed.

Although I can sort of understand peoples reaction to this post generally, I have to agree that I think it more emotional than intellectual. It is undoubtedly true to say that there is absolutely no sacrifice for sin that is acceptable to God, other than Christ. However it would also be true that without the sovereign election of the Father, giving a people to His Son to redeem through His own blood, His sacrifice would be for nought. And were it not for the Holy Spirit, sealing those who have been chosen and redeemed, acting as the deposit that guaranteed their inheritance in Christ, then none would be brought to glory anyway.

REPLY

MAY

DECEMBER 15, 2011

However it would also be true that without the sovereign election of the Father, giving a people to His Son to redeem through His own blood, His sacrifice would be for nought.

Why would His sacrifice be for nought? The Father knows that some will and some will not believe.

REPLY

JOHNDUNNINGUK

DECEMBER 16, 2011

Why would His sacrifice be for nought? The Father knows that some will and some will not believe.

If you read through John 6:37-44 you will see what I meant more clearly. Christ did not come to the earth to do His own will, but the will of the One who sent Him. Namely the Father.

It is the Father who elects those who are to be saved and gives them to His Son to raise up on the Last Day, and we are told that ALL those who are given by the Father shall come to the Son.

The willingness of Christ to lay down His life to save us as the redeeming price, can only redeem those the Father has given Him to redeem. Therefore without being given a people by His Father, His sacrifice would purchase nothing.

REPLY

TIM SCOTT

DECEMBER 15, 2011

I’m a little confused. I want to ask a clarifying question, just to make sure I have read your article correctly. Aren’t you denying a central tenet of the Reformation? I mean, yes, salvation involves all persons of the Godhead but how was that salvation accomplished? Through Christ right?

REPLY

JOEL TAYLOR, PASTOR-TEACHER POST AUTHOR

DECEMBER 15, 2011

What ‘central tenet’ of the reformation would I be denying? The Father is the one who justifies, according to Scripture.

REPLY

Pingback: God Making His Appeal Through Us. « Kevin Nunez

TIM SCOTT

DECEMBER 15, 2011

Solus Christus

REPLY

JOEL TAYLOR, PASTOR-TEACHER POST AUTHOR

DECEMBER 15, 2011

Tim, the Father elected those who would be saved, and gave them to the Son to be redeemed, which He did at the cross. That is the testimony of Holy Scripture. We must be careful not to make being ‘reformed’ more important than being biblical. Solus Christus is not about the doctrine of justification brother.

REPLY

TIM SCOTT

DECEMBER 15, 2011

Thanks. That is why I was making sure I understood what you were saying. Appreciate your answer bro.

JOHNDUNNINGUK

DECEMBER 16, 2011

It seems to me that this is the result of a sloppy question/statement followed by a precise answer. I’m not saying that to lay blame on anyone, but merely to say that where matters of doctrine are concerned, precision in our language is essential. All the JW’s do is add one little letter “a” to John 1:1 and it turns the whole Gospel on its head!

The statement made was: “2. Justification is based on the work of Christ alone and our works do not contribute to it at all.” To which the response made was bang on. The intent of the statement maybe obvious enough to some, but it is far from being accurate, and may well lead to wrong doctrine developing if left unchallenged.

REPLY

VINCEPLANETTA@GMAIL.COM

DECEMBER 16, 2011

It doesn’t seem to me the statement should be shocking at all (Jam 2:24). I think reformers have placed too much emphasis on “alone” and is so often misleading. Not that it is incorrect but can potentially detract from man’s response and action.

REPLY

GRACEWRITERRANDY

DECEMBER 16, 2011

The real issue is not whether all three persons of the Trinity are involved in the work of salvation, That should go without saying for anyone who has read the Scriptures. The question that I originally asked to Paul Douche concerned the basis of the sinner’s justification before God. Is it the work of Christ alone or is it the work of Christ’s work or Christ’s work plus our obedience. Whether you like it or not, the Father’s work in electing believers was not the basis of our justification; the Spirit’s work in regeneration was not the basis of our justification. Were those works necessary in order to justify us? Of course they were! Were they the basis of our justification? No way! The basis of our justification was the obedience of Christ alone.

REPLY

JOEL TAYLOR, PASTOR-TEACHER POST AUTHOR

DECEMBER 19, 2011

The basis of our justification is the finished work of Christ, absolutely. However, this post never mentions you, nor is it about you. it concerns a comment left on 5ptsalt in regards to PD.

REPLY

GRACEWRITERRANDY

DECEMBER 16, 2011

“Solus Christus is not about the doctrine of justification brother.”

If it is not about justification. what is it about?

REPLY

JOEL TAYLOR, PASTOR-TEACHER POST AUTHOR

DECEMBER 17, 2011

Salvation.

Acts 4:12 – and there is salvation in no other One, for neither is there any other name under Heaven having been given among men by which we must be saved.

1Ti 2:5 For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,

1Ti 2:6 who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.

REPLY

GRACEWRITERRANDY

DECEMBER 17, 2011

johndunninguk,

You stated that there is something inaccurate about the statement I made. I would be interested in knowing what part of that statement you find sloppy. Do you think it is inaccurate to say that God’s declaration is based on [not by] Christ’s finished work alone or do you think it is inaccurate to state that our works do not contribute to justification at all? If it is not based on Christ’s finished work, on what basis do you think an absolutely holy God could declare sinners righteous and remain righteous himself?

REPLY

JOHNDUNNINGUK

DECEMBER 17, 2011

Hello Andy,

Firstly I do fully believe that our justification is based upon the finished work of Christ on our behalf. I also believe that the very reason that God is willing to justify sinners, can only be because by faith we have accepted and put our trust in the only acceptable sacrifice that can be made for our sins, and that is the One who God sent as that sacrifice. Our own works have nothing to do with it, apart from maybe fighting against the process.

The thing I disagree with is your initial statement “Justification is based on the work of Christ alone”, which is not fully true. Our justification can only come through repentance and faith, both of which I would consider the works of Father and Holy Spirit, as opposed to Christ Himself.

I only object because unless we are elected by the Father, given the gift of faith and drawn by Him, and regenerated and convicted of our sin by the Holy Spirit; then the completed works of Christ alone do not justify us at all. To believe otherwise leaves pitfalls such as universalism wide open for us to fall into.

God bless you, and please excuse me if I have come across harsh in any way. John.

REPLY

GRACEWRITERRANDY

DECEMBER 17, 2011

John,

Thanks for your reply. I don’t think we disagree re: the statement I made. It seems our only areas of disagreement have to do with the difference between the basis of justification and how justification is received. Justification is clearly THROUGH faith which includes repentance, but we are never told that justification is BASED ON, that is on account of or because of the sinner’s faith.

It is important that we distinguish between redemption planned, redemption accomplished and redemption applied. Although the Father and the Spirit were both involved in the offering up of Christ’s obedience unto death, it was his obedience that formed the basis upon which the Father declares us righteous in his sight. It is his righteousness that is put to our account and forms the basis for the Father’s declaration that we are righteous before him. The Father’s primary work in the process of redemption occurred in the area of redemption purposed or planned. He is also involved in the application phase, i.e., effectual calling. The Spirit’s primary work occurs in the application phase. As essential as these works of the Father and the Spirit are, none of those activities on their part form the judicial basis upon which God justifies sinners.

Randy

GRACEWRITERRANDY

DECEMBER 17, 2011

John,

One additional thought. Part of Christ’s redemptive work is reconciliation that not only effects the putting away of the Father’s holy wrath toward the elect, but also guarantees the putting away of our unholy hostility toward God. It is this redemptive accomplishment that the Spirit applies to the elect in regeneration. If we are believers, we have now received the reconciliation (Rom. 5:11) that Jesus accomplished objectively on the cross. That is, Jesus’ accomplishment has now been applied.

Randy

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