Paul's Passing Thoughts

Why Christians Cannot Trust the Biblical Counseling Movement: Its True History and Doctrine

Posted in Uncategorized by pptmoderator on December 14, 2015

Originally posted December 29, 2014


    The contemporary biblical counseling movement has brought counseling back to the church. Prior, the average evangelical congregation supplied comfort as much as they could while the experts were called on to treat whatever serious problem was at hand. Church was there to get people into heaven; the experts make people as comfortable as possible until they get there.

    That has changed dramatically. In-house counseling addresses every imaginable life problem within the church. Biblical counseling organizations abound and their networks have inundated the institutional church. At the top of the biblical counseling empire is the Christian Counseling & Education Foundation (CCEF) and its offspring: Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, and the Biblical Counseling Coalition. Together, these organizations hold sway over at least 90% of all biblical counseling taking place in the evangelical church.

    Who are they? How did they get here? What do they believe? And are they a help to God’s people, or a detriment? It is important to answer these questions because of the following fact: the present-day biblical counseling movement is the biggest scam ever perpetrated on God’s people, and the harm it will continue to inflict on souls is beyond measure.

    The information in this booklet is far from complicated. The present-day biblical counseling movement has an easily defined history, doctrine, and track record regarding results. Are God’s people being helped, or hurt? And if the biblical counseling movement is a detriment to God’s people, what are the viable alternatives?

    The biblical counseling movement is like clouds without water. That was Jude’s description of false teachers in his letter to the saints. Clouds offer hope that life-giving rain to a thirsty land is coming, but these clouds are merely a mist of empty promises and hopelessness. The goal of this booklet is to warn God’s people, and point to the only true hope of Jesus Christ and His truth.

Because only truth sanctifies (John 17:17),

Paul M. Dohse Sr.

The Beginning of the Biblical Counseling Movement

    In circa 1960, a middle aged Presbyterian pastor named Jay E. Adams had a life transforming experience:

Like many other pastors, I learned little about counseling in seminary, so I began with virtually no knowledge of what to do. Soon I was in difficulty. Early in my first pastorate, following an evening service, a man lingered after everyone else had left. I chatted with him awkwardly, wondering what he wanted. He broke into tears, but could not speak. I simply did not know what to do. I was helpless. He went home that night without unburdening his heart or receiving any genuine help from his pastor. Less than one month later he died. I now suspect that his doctor had told him of his impending death and that he had come for counsel. But I failed him. That night I asked God to help me to become an effective counselor (Jay E. Adams: Competent To Counsel; Zondervan 1970, Introduction xi).

    Therefore, it would be fair to say that whoever that gentleman was, he sparked the beginning of the most significant movement in recent church history. The experience must have profoundly impacted Adams because he was relentless in pursuing counseling knowledge in the years following. Then,

…suddenly, I was forced to face the whole problem in a much more definitive way. I was asked to teach practical theology at Westminster Theological Seminary. One of the courses I was assigned was Poimenics (the shepherding work of the pastor). As part of the course, I was expected to teach the basic theory of pastoral counseling. I had less than a year to think through the problem and prepare my lectures. Where would I begin? (Ibid).

How Did the Church Get There?

    To say that Christians, some 2000 years after the birth of the church, had come to live by biblical generalities, and were farming serious problems out to religious and secular experts is far from painting the church of that time with a wide brush. It’s not oversimplification; it’s the simple fact of the matter. The testimony of a mainstream respected pastor like Jay Adams is sufficient.

    But how did the church come to function that way? The answer is profoundly simple; the functionality of the church was a direct result from the gospel it adopted in the 16th century. The construct mentioned in the introduction of this booklet, church gets us to heaven, experts help us cope until we get there, was a direct effect caused by the Reformation gospel. So, what was that gospel?

The Reformation Gospel

    The Reformation gospel was predicated on the idea that salvation was a process, or progression. In other words, the justification of a believer had a starting point, a progression, and then finality. This is sometimes referred to as beginning justification experienced subjectively followed by final justification.

    So, instead of salvation, or justification being a finished work with the Christian life progressing in complete separation from justification, the Christian life is part of the progression of justification according to the Reformers. In fact, one of the primary Reformers and the father of the Presbyterian Church, John Calvin, titled one of the chapters in his Institutes of the Christian Religion, “The Beginning of Justification. In What Sense Progressive” (book 3, chapter 14).

    In that chapter, Calvin explains the crux of the Reformation gospel: beginning justification only covers past sins, but because Christians continue to sin, they must revisit the same gospel that saved them in order to receive continued forgiveness for new sins committed in the Christian life (section 11). Further clarification on this position can be seen in other sections of the Calvin Institutes:

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” (4.1.21).

    On the flip side, Calvin went to great lengths in 3.14.9,10 to emphasize the idea that Christians cannot do any work that is pleasing to God because perfect law-keeping is the prerequisite for any ability to please God in any way. Therefore, Christians must continually seek repentance so that the righteousness of Christ will be perpetually imputed to our account in what we would refer to as sanctification, or the Christian life (3.14.11). Therefore, Calvin stated that the Christian life had to be a passive affair focused on perpetual repentance for new sins committed in the Christian life in order to remain justified. This meant a perpetual return to the same gospel that saved us. To Calvin, the Christian life was the Old Testament Sabbath rest if one would progress in justification:

And this emptying out of self must proceed so far that the Sabbath is violated even by good works, so long as we regard them as our own; for rightly does Augustine remark in the last chapter of the 22nd book, De Civitate Dei, ‘For even our good works themselves, since they are understood to be rather His than ours, are thus imputed to us for the attaining of that Sabbath, when we are still and see that He is God; for, if we attribute them to ourselves, they will be servile, whereas we are told as to the Sabbath, “Thou shalt not do any servile work in it.”

The Complete Commentaries on the First Book of Moses Called Genesis: Jean Calvin; translated by Charles William Bingham ,1844-1856. The Harmony of the Law: Commentaries on the Four Last Books of Moses | Its Repetition—Deuteronomy 5:12-15. ¶2.

    Note that the Christian must attain the Sabbath (final justification) by the continued “emptying out of self” which results in the continued imputation of righteousness not our own. It is a perpetual “meditation” on the Sabbath to attain the Sabbath:

It may seem, therefore, that the seventh day the Lord delineated to his people the future perfection of his sabbath on the last day, that by continual meditation on the sabbath, they might throughout their whole lives aspire to this perfection (The Calvin Institutes 2.8.30).

Spiritual rest is the mortification of the flesh; so that the sons of God should no longer live to themselves, or indulge their own inclination. So far as the Sabbath was a figure of this rest, I say, it was but for a season; but insomuch as it was commanded to men from the beginning that they might employ themselves in the worship of God, it is right that it should continue to the end of the world.

The Complete Commentaries on the First Book of Moses Called Genesis: Jean Calvin; translated by John King, 1844-1856. Genesis 2:1-15, section 3.

    Why then did Christians live by biblical generalities, and find themselves inept in regard to helping people? Because the Protestant gospel called for a retaining of salvation through rest and a singular meditation on the same repentance that originally saved us. Since that occurs during the Christian life, and justification is by faith alone, the Christian life must be lived by faith alone, or again, according to the Sabbath rest. Obviously, a diligent study of biblical wisdom and its application to life would not only be a very low priority, but is antithetical to the authentic Protestant gospel. This made weak sanctification in Christian living a longstanding tradition. Church became all about salvation and little else.


    Dr. Jay E. Adams was not alone in misunderstanding the true gospel of the Reformation which led to the self-described dilemma he found himself in. Protestantism had become a soft version of the original article. Martin Luther’s alien righteousness was thought to pertain to justification only and not the Christian life as well. In other words, Luther didn’t believe Christians inherit any of God’s righteousness that becomes a part of them. Christians are only declared righteous positionally, but do not actually possess any righteousness in their being. John Calvin concurred throughout his institutes; e.g., 3.14.11.

    Protestantism and its entire offspring heavily emphasized justification only because that is the very premise of its gospel though the causality became very blurred with time. According to the authentic article, sanctification is the manifestation of Christ’s life for the purpose of moving justification forward to final justification.

    The “believers” role is to colabor with Christ by faith alone in order to keep things moving forward, and frankly, an endeavor to keep ourselves saved by faith alone. This requires a redefinition of what is a work in sanctification, and what is not a work in sanctification so that the obedience of Christ would continue to be imputed to us for the purpose of keeping us justified. In this way, according to the Reformers, we are “kept” by Christ because justification is not finished—it’s a process.

    Hence, the Reformers classified what activities in the Christian life are of faith alone. The writings of Luther and Calvin primarily concern a formula for living the Christian life by faith alone. The crux of the formula was a perpetual return to the same gospel that saved us originally for the atonement of “present sin.” That sin is not only covered, but one also continues to be covered by the righteousness of Christ alone and NOT any righteousness inherited by us via the new birth.   This is nothing new, and is what James sought to refute in his letter to the 12 tribes of Israel.

    What is important to establish at this point is the fact that the Reformed community at large began to realize in 1970 that they had drifted away from the authentic Reformed gospel, and stated such emphatically. And ironically, the discovery was made by an Adventist theologian named Robert Brinsmead. This Adventist theologian turned said religion completely upside down with what was known as the Awakening Movement. Many took note, and Brinsmead was joined by two Anglicans, Geoffrey Paxton and Graeme Goldsworthy in the forming of a project named The Australian Forum. The purpose of the project was to awake Christianity to the fact that it had drifted away from the true Reformation gospel resulting in a separation of justification from sanctification, and the idea that Christians inherit a righteous state of being through the new birth.

    And they were exactly correct which resulted in the Reformed community holding their noses and listening to what Brinsmead had to say. Brinsmead, Paxton, and Goldsworthy published a theological journal named Present Truth which had a massive impact on the evangelical world at large. The publication, for all practical purposes, was a contemporary rendering of the Calvin Institutes and was an astonishing articulation of authentic Reformed soteriology.

    Remember, Jay Adams had been called to Westminster Theological Seminary sometime during the mid-sixties, and was buried in developing a counseling construct for the purposes of training pastors. Running parallel to his activities was the Awakening Movement which he probably paid little attention to. That is, until Westminster invited the Australian Forum to meet with the Westminster brain trust. Though it has not been established positively, the legendary Reformed theologian Edmund Clowney, who was president of Westminster at that time, was more than likely present at the meeting. Adams was not happy about the meeting because of Brinsmead, and sarcastically suggested that pork be served for lunch which in fact ended up being the case (The Truth About New Calvinism: TANC Publishing 2011; pp. 59-65).

    After several years of hammering out a counseling construct for the institutional church, Adams published his counseling treatise titled, Competent To Counsel. This was a landmark publication and highly controversial. The theses of the book suggested that Christians, armed with the word of God, were competent to counsel each other and bring about changed lives. Said another way, Christianity is more than Redemption alone, but is also about changed lives for the glory of God. Adams even published another book that makes the same point: More Than Redemption. And yet another book, How To Help People Change. Adams is rightly known as the father of the biblical counseling movement, but he may better be described as the father of aggressive sanctification.

The Perfect Storm of Conflict: 1970

    Ordinarily, this Christian living revolution would have dramatically changed Christianity until the second coming, but remember something else happened the same year that Adams unveiled his counseling treatise in 1970: the advent of the Australian Forum. Therefore, you had two antithetical movements growing side by side in the Protestant community, especially in the halls of Westminster: the resurgence of authentic Protestantism and the biblical counseling movement. One emphasized the fusion of justification and sanctification, and the other emphasized the separation of the two.

    Early in Adams’ tenor at Westminster, a counseling wing of Westminster was established named, The Christian Counseling & Education Foundation, or CCEF. This was a biblical counseling think tank of sorts, and the academic counseling wing of Westminster as well. Its embodiment included proponents of both movements. Later, an accreditation organization was formed known as The Association of Nouthetic Counselors, or NANC.  The purpose of the organization was to certify biblical counselors. This organization was also embodied with proponents of both movements.

    Be advised that it is unlikely that many were conscious of the historical distinctions between the two movements. All in all, the differences were chalked up to disagreement in regard to application, but not anything that pointed to any questions regarding the Reformation gospel itself.

    That would change when a contemporary of Jay Adams at Westminster, Professor John “Jack” Miller developed the Sonship Discipleship program. Clearly, the program was based on the authentic Reformed gospel recovery movement. As the movement grew, Adams, who was gaining significant notoriety as the father of the biblical counseling movement, was called on more and more to weigh-in on the movement.

    This resulted in a contention between Miller and Adams which consummated into Adams writing a book published by Timeless Texts that contended against the program: Biblical Sonship; An Evaluation of the Sonship Discipleship Course. Adams published the book in 1999, the movement began circa 1986, or about 16 years after the resurgence began in 1970.

    Take note: though the program was based on the Reformation principle of fusing justification and sanctification together, it was wreaking havoc on the Protestant church during this time, and that is why Adams jumped into the fray. The point being that Presbyterianism was functioning according to Calvinism Light, and when the original article began to emerge, many Presbyterians, including Adams claimed the Sonship program was not according to the Reformed tradition. Several of these like confrontations pepper church history—usually in the form of antinomian controversies.

    It is important to pause here and establish the fact that these controversies arise because Calvinists often misunderstand what Calvin really believed, and this misunderstanding is most prevalent among Bible scholars and Christian academia at large. This is because seminaries rarely teach anything new, but are merely institutions that regurgitate the traditions of men.

    This is established by the fact that at the beginning of the 1970 resurgence, the Reformed community themselves admitted that the original gospel of the Reformation had been lost. Also, the very nomenclature of their ministries admit it as well; i.e., “The Resurgence,” “Modern Reformation,” etc.

    More to the point, Reformed scholar John H. Armstrong, who co-authored a book with John MacArthur Jr., stated the following in an article titled Death of a Friend on August 31, 2010:

One summer, in the late 1970s I believe, I attended a small gathering associated with the ministry of a popular magazine of the time called Present Truth. The magazine actually opened my eyes to the need for recovering gospel truths in an age that was fast losing its grasp on the grace of God. Two teachers were leading this small gathering and there could not have been more than 75 people in the room. One of those in the audience, and sharing insights only as a humble participant, was Dr. Don Bloesch. I was impressed that a man of such profound scholarship would take the time to share in a small event where he was not a featured speaker. Don believed something important was going on in that room and wanted to interact with it. So did I.

    Why was Armstrong impressed with Bloesch’s willingness to participate in a small Australian Forum Bible study using their theological journal Present Truth? First, because Bloesch was a Reformed heavyweight, but back to the main point: this is one of a myriad of open admissions that the Reformed community at large misunderstood the authentic Reformation gospel. Nevertheless, Jay Adams misunderstood Calvin for the better, and in a big way.

    Yet another example of this can be seen in Dr. John Macarthur Jr.’s keynote address at the 2007 Shepherd’s Conference: Why Every Self-Respecting Calvinist is a Premillennialist.  One blogger aptly described the fallout this way:

John MacArthur’s first message at the Shepherds’ Conference set off shock waves throughout the reformed evangelical church by upholding Premillennialism as being the only consistent position for any person who holds to the doctrine of sovereign electing grace.

online source:

    Amillennialism posits the idea that Israel lost its election (Supersessionism or Replacement Theology) because of rebellion, and this was MacArthur’s contention. If God sovereignly elected Israel, how could they lose their election? However, that idea is in fact perfectly consistent with John Calvin’s theology. He separated election into three categories of people, the non-elect, the called, and those who persevere until the end. The called, are in-fact temporarily illumined but then fall away at some point (The Calvin Inst. 3.24.7,8). Moreover, the massive Reformed pushback against this assertion by MacArthur was completely void in regard to this fact, viz, according to Calvinism, one can lose their election. Calvin stated such in no uncertain terms. In the final analysis, most Calvinists have no idea what Calvin believed.

Meanwhile, back to Westminster  

    Let’s now resume our place in contemporary history at Westminster Theological Seminary. We have two notable Calvinists teaching at the same seminary representing two different Calvinist gospel camps, and teachers from both camps are participating in CCEF and NANC. This is where Jay Adams began to come under serious attack within Reformed ranks, mostly from two mentorees of Dr. Miller, David Powlison and Paul David Tripp. These two men are key figures because they were working hard to develop a counseling version of the Reformed resurgence gospel to answer Adams’ counseling construct that heavily emphasized learn and do. In fact, one of the mantra’s among Adams counselors was, “the power is in the doing.”

    At any rate, the counseling construct developed by Powlison and Tripp while at Westminster is known as Theology of the Heart, and was heavily predicated on Miller’s deep repentance model that aligned well with Luther and Calvin’s ideology and practical application of gospel contemplationism. Their pilot program was operational from circa 2003 to 2005, and culminated in an impressive treatise in 2006 titled How People Change authored by Tripp and another former student of Powlison’s at Westminster.

    During the pilot program with the same name as the book, Powlison listed himself as a “contributor.” This was for the express purpose of plausible deniability because these men knew that the counseling construct they were promoting was counter intuitive to most evangelicals. The pilot program “tested” the material in hundreds of local churches between 2003 and 2005.

    In the introduction to the book (Punch Press 2006), Tripp in essence states that if anyone has a problem with the book, they should blame him, but Powlison should get credit for anything they agree with (the earliest literature from the program named Powlison as the actual “developer” of the curriculum). This was/is a ploy to make the book disagreement proof and protect the face of Theology of the Heart, David Powlison. This good cop—bad cop ploy has been utilized several times to defer criticism of the book.

    Consequently, the 2006 NANC conference was fraught with plenary session addresses and workshops that presented a host of contradictory views. Clearly, the civil war between the generally accepted relationship between justification and sanctification (the two are separate), and the gospel recovery movement was in full swing. During a biblical counseling seminar at John Piper’s church, Powlison stated outright that the difference between “first generation” biblical counseling and “second generation” biblical counseling was two different gospels. However, this was the elephant in the biblical counseling room that no one wanted to talk about:

This might be quite a controversy, but I think it’s worth putting in. Adams had a tendency to make the cross be for conversion. And the Holy Spirit was for sanctification.  And actually even came out and attacked my mentor, Jack Miller, my pastor that I’ve been speaking of through the day, for saying that Christians should preach the gospel to themselves.  I think Jay was wrong on that (David Powlison speaking at John Piper’s church May 8, 2010).

    Ironically, Adams’ primarily criticism of secular psychology has always been the lack of continuity plus the various and sundry theories of change that number over 200 within the discipline, but even though the biblical counseling movement doesn’t have that many varying theories, they are split on the issue that makes the whole discussion worthwhile, the gospel of Jesus Christ.

    This is the first reason the biblical counseling movement must be utterly rejected out of hand—because no one in the movement will draw a deep line in the sand in defense of the gospel. These difference are treated as matters of opinion concerning method instead of what it really is, a contention between two different gospels with heaven and hell in the balance.

    The one thing both camps unwittingly agree on is that the biblical counseling industrial complex must be preserved at the expense of the gospel. In the final analysis, those who function in this way cannot help people change, and will most likely do more harm than good. The movement is pregnant with counselors who lack conviction and love for the truth. They are best avoided at all cost.

    The issue concerning these two different gospels is far from complicated: if one must preach the gospel to themselves every day, that must mean they still need the same gospel that originally saved them, which means their salvation is not a finished work, which also means that they must play some role in finishing their salvation—this would seem evident. If Justification is not finished, works salvation is unavoidable on every wise, and a gospel contemplationism dubbed as a faith-alone work by no means changes this reality.

    And incredibly, this is verbally conceded often. Consider what John Piper said in his three part series, How Does The Gospel Save Believers? 

We are asking the question, How does the gospel save believers?, not: How does the gospel get people to be believers? When spoken in the power of the Holy Spirit, the gospel does have power to open people’s eyes and change their hearts and draw them to faith, and save them. That’s what is happening on Tuesday nights and Wednesday nights this summer. People are being drawn to Christ through the power and beauty of the gospel. But I am stressing what Paul says here in verses 16 and 17, namely, that “the gospel is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.” Believers need to be saved. The gospel is the instrument of God’s power to save us. And we need to know how the gospel saves us believers so that we make proper use of it (August 16, 1998, part 2).

    This is the very essence of the Reformation gospel: the idea that salvation is a process in which the “believer” is gradually drawn to Christ for a final salvation. The only way that this process towards final salvation can continue is if we continually return to the same gospel that saved us. This is egregious heresy perpetrated in broad daylight.

    Eventually, Jay Adams was driven out of any association with CCEF and NANC and started The Institute of Nouthetic Studies (INS) with Baptist pastor Donn Arms. INS experiences a significant contention with CCEF and NANC until this day, but unfortunately, the contention primarily focuses on sanctification issues, viz, heart theology, and not the truthfulness of the true gospel. The CCEF/NANC camp applied its latest slap in the face to Adams by changing the name of NANC to The Association Of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC).

    INS has two individuals on their staff that also have close relations to CCEF and ACBC. Adams and Arms are to be commended for their confrontation regarding the application of Theology of the Heart to counseling people, but unfortunately, they have not yet made it a salvific gospel issue.

The Big Lie

    Primarily, people go to counseling for one reason: because they see a need for change in their lives. The brain trust of the CCEF counseling empire and their aforementioned affiliates know that they do NOT believe that people change. The magnum opus of heart theology, How People Change, is a misrepresentation of its counseling construct and they know it. As we have seen, the authentic Reformation gospel rejects the idea that people can change in totality.

    Therefore, the goal of biblical counseling is to teach people to see life differently. If they merely see life differently, wellbeing occurs regardless of what is happening in the material world. What happens in the material world is entirely God’s business and not yours. Right seeing is the goal, not right doing, the doing is God’s job—not yours.

    In fact, according to the construct that has taken over the biblical counseling culture, any counseling that emphasizes doing is a false gospel. We, as John Piper often likes to say, must practice a “beholding as a way of becoming.” But remember, the “becoming” speaks to a progression of mere seeing while God himself manifests the doing in the material realm. This booklet will not explore all of the metaphysical constructs that may be applied, but one example comes from page 215 of How People Change:

When we think, desire, speak, or act in a right way, it isn’t time to pat ourselves on the back or cross it off our To Do List. Each time we do what is right, we are experiencing what Christ has supplied for us.

    In other words, we are only experiencing the works of Christ and not actually doing the work ourselves. There are many philosophical applications for this approach including subjective Idealism.  This is the idea that reality is defined by how it is perceived. In other words, there is really no material world per se; it only exists in the minds of individuals. Therefore, change a person’s thinking and you change their reality.

    Another approach is realm manifestation. The invisible world manifests reality in the visible world by whatever means, but those who dwell in the material realm are only experiencing what the invisible realm is manifesting. For the most part, the Reformers, particularly Martin Luther and his spiritual mentor Saint Augustine seemed to believe something along these lines.

    Luther stated in the Heidelberg disputation that the Christian life is lived subjectively; i.e., we really don’t know when we are doing a work or when God is doing the work. However, to believe that whatever we do is evil, and whatever good is done is only experienced by us, but not us doing it, is saving faith. To believe that we can actually do a good work, according to Luther, is mortal sin. To experience a good work as us doing it is only venial sin if we disavow our ability to do any good work and attribute the work to God only:

He, however, who has emptied himself (cf. Phil. 2:7) through suffering no longer does works but knows that God works and does all things in him. For this reason, whether God does works or not, it is all the same to him. He neither boasts if he does good works, nor is he disturbed if God does not do good works through him. He knows that it is sufficient if he suffers and is brought low by the cross in order to be annihilated all the more. It is this that Christ says in John 3:7, »You must be born anew.« To be born anew, one must consequently first die and then be raised up with the Son of Man. To die, I say, means to feel death at hand (Theses 24).

    This is also how Luther defined the new birth. Since we, even as “Christians,” can only do evil, we only seek to live a perpetual “lifestyle of repentance” as Paul Tripp et al call it resulting in a resurrection experience. But remember, we are never sure when these experiences are actually from God, but joy may be an indication, though we are never certain. Remember, this connects us back to “justification experienced subjectively.”

    Hence, we get ourselves to heaven with an ability to “stand in the judgment by faith alone” by revisiting our original salvation. THIS IS KEY, the new birth is not a onetime event which makes us a new creature, the new birth is redefined as a perpetual death and rebirth experience, or a perpetual repeating of our original salvation in order to keep ourselves saved by this living by faith alone formula. Simply stated, it is daily resalvation. We must be resaved or rejustified daily by “preaching the gospel to ourselves every day.”

    There is actually a formal doctrine from the Reformed tradition that defines the new birth in this way, it is called mortification and vivification. It is a perpetual reliving of our original baptism in order to keep ourselves saved.  It is returning to the same gospel that saved us daily in order to remain saved. We focus on our need for repentance (mortification, or death), and we then experience perpetual resurrection (vivification, or a joy experience) in ever-increasing levels.

    Though identified with the Reformed tradition, the father of contemporary biblical counseling, Jay Adams, believes the new birth to be a onetime event and would reject a proper understanding of mortification and vivification. In the same year that he unveiled his biblical approach to a more aggressive sanctification, the Australian Forum began to awaken the Reformed community to the fact that they had lost their way. Roughly sixteen years later, the original article began to be integrated into the biblical counseling movement which put the movement at odds with the very man who started It.

    Jay Adams believes that Christians can change because they are born again. They don’t merely experience a subjective justification; their changed behavior is proof of the new creature. Adams stated in no uncertain terms in the aforementioned treatise against Sonship Theology that justification is a declaration, and sanctification is NOT powered by it. In contrast, sanctification is powered by regeneration, or the new birth. The Christian can change through obedience to biblical wisdom and is helped in doing so by the Holy Spirit.

    But this clearly puts Adams at odds with the true Reformation gospel, and his hesitancy to completely break ties with CCEF et al will only continue to muddy the waters while Adams is accused of propagating a “behavioral model.”

Yet, a behavioral approach to change is hollow because it ignores the need for Christ and his power to change first the heart and then the behavior. Instead, even the Christian version of the approach [Adams] separates the commands of Scripture from their Christ-centered, gospel context (How People Change 2006, p. 26).

    This is egregiously disingenuous. On pages 64 and 65 of the same book, Tripp describes Christians the same way Luther would: “alienated enemies” who “suppress the truth in unrighteousness” and “dead,” and “When you are dead, you cannot do anything.” Tripp goes on to say on page 65 that denying we are unchanged is to deny Christ. The key to change is not getting better, but seeing ourselves for who we really are. This entails a peeling away of layers to see the “sin beneath the sin” as their mentor Dr. John Miller put it. So-called “heart change” is really just an ability to see or perceive, NOT an ever-increasing ability to do anything.


    The biblical counseling movement as it now stands is not about change. Unfortunately, the movement’s willingness to knowingly state otherwise is indicative of its character. It is predicated on this lie and a false gospel. It cannot help people, and must be utterly rejected in totality.

    Moreover, in our endeavor to find real change via the Scriptures, Christian academia must be held at arm’s length and viewed with suspicion in all respects. The very character of every Christian academic must be questioned, and their gospel assumed false. Why? Because after 2000 years and trillions of dollars, what do we have? Nothing more than those who proudly call themselves Calvinists while having no idea what Calvin really believed! We are not obligated to follow their zeal not according to knowledge resulting in our own demise.

    Secondly, Christians need to educate themselves in regard to full-orbed reality. Unfortunately, a lack of knowledge in the area of world philosophy, a discipline we are often told we do not need, is essential in understanding the foundations and functioning of traditional Protestantism. Clearly, the Reformers forced the Bible into their own philosophical presuppositions. The Bible must be perceived grammatically, literally unless stated otherwise, and according to its historical backdrop.

    Thirdly, Christians must discern who we are! Are we merely declared righteous because Jesus obeys for us, or are we actually recreated as righteous beings through the new birth? And what is our relationship to the law accordingly?

    Fourthly, we need to take up Jesus Christ on His promise to lead us in all truth if we seek it. We ourselves need to seek this truth while ceasing to listen to a Christian academia that has failed miserably. They have done little more than  create mass confusion, and have charged us trillions of dollars for the privilege of doing so.

    We live in an information age, and it is time for a new movement by those who originally made up the church:

“Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth.”

    In the same way the Corinthian church was vexed by the bondage of academia as if God chose the haughty things of the world rather than the meek, we find ourselves in the same tyranny and bondage to aristocratic lords. Let us break free and break bread together as noble first century Bereans, and let us change for the glory of God, and help others to do the same.

    We will close, perhaps ironically, with the verse of Scripture that Jay Adams chose as the thesis of his groundbreaking work, Competent To Counsel:

“As far as I am concerned about you, my brothers, I am convinced that you especially are abounding in the highest goodness, richly supplied with perfect knowledge and competent to counsel one another”

~ Romans 15:14  (Williams)

Spurgeon’s False Gospel

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on October 30, 2015

SpurgeonMeme Post #4

Where to start in all the ways that this meme contradicts Scripture and denies the new birth and true gospel? Let’s start with a few blatant contradictions.

Our faith does NOT rest. Our faith WORKS through love (Gal 5:6). Faith is a GIFT, but that doesn’t mean we don’t put the gift to work. In fact, the belief that our faith doesn’t work suggests that we must continue to keep ourselves saved through “rest.” Spurgeon, like most lying Calvinist heretics, held to the Reformation’s Sabbath Rest Salvation. It holds to the idea that the Old Testament Sabbath rest is New Testament sanctification and we must continue to live by faith alone in our Christian lives to keep ourselves saved. This, according to Calvin, happens through receiving continued forgiveness for “present sin” through church membership.

And remember, Spurgeon once said that Calvinism isn’t “just a nickname,” but “is the gospel” itself.

True faith doesn’t rest–it works. There is no true love in a faith that rests.

Secondly, the Bible makes it clear that we grow spiritually through obtaining knowledge; what’s up with the idea that knowledge doesn’t define who we are as believers? Frankly, I don’t care how many people think this guy is a spiritual icon–you know, kinda like the Bereans who held Paul accountable to Scripture.

Thirdly, the idea that who we are doesn’t point to the legitimacy of our faith and is therefore not a resting faith contradicts a vast number of Scriptures and Hebrews 11 in particular.

Fourthly, how we feel is most certainly important because the Bible says that faith not working in love will cause the believer to be full of fear.

Why is it ok for Spurgeon to blatantly contradict Scripture? Because Baptists have a longstanding tradition of being man-followers, that’s why.

Furthermore, note that we supposedly rest in the idea that who we are is NOT who Christ is! HUH!!!! Say what???? If Jesus is your big brother because you are literally born into the same family, you had better be like Him or you aren’t born again (see 1John).

And finally, note that we rest in what Christ has both DONE and is DOING. This is the Reformed doctrine of Double Imputation. It teaches that Christ came to secure our salvation by both dying for sin and keeping the law in our stead. It teaches that justification is based on perfect law-keeping rather than the new birth. Jesus could die for us because He lived up to the standard of the law, and presently keeps the law for us if we are “resting” in what He has “done and is doing.” This is a blatant contradiction to Galatians chapter 3. This is the very idea that Paul is refuting in that chapter.

This makes the law a co-life-giver with God and promotes an additional seed (offspring), but their is only ONE SEED (see Gal 3). In essence, Paul was arguing that this very idea makes the law a fourth member of the Trinity. And in fact, Calvinists state this openly when they say that “the empty hand of faith presents the doing and dying of Christ to the law and the law is satisfied.”

So, instead of God electing the means of salvation, Christ dying to end the law, and the Spirit fulfilling “The Promise” of resurrection and baptism to Abraham and Christ, we now have that added fourth element of the law being the standard for justification instead of new birth obtained by faith alone in The Promise. The contrary view of this meme keeps the so-called believer under law rather than under grace, and that’s supposedly ok because Jesus keeps the law for us.

But this also keeps the believer from performing the purpose of the law for sanctification, faith working through love. Instead, we must rest because Jesus is the only one that can keep the law perfectly as the law supposedly gives salvific life when fulfilled. In contrast, the Old Covenant kept sin captive until Christ came and ended it. The law was ended by Christ’s death in regard to its ability to condemn, and we are now free to serve the law in regard to love (Rom 7 and Heb 6:10). The Old Covenant still holds all sin captive that is committed against it (“all sin is against the law”) until a person believes in Christ resulting in the law being ended for condemnation and the person being set free to “use the law lawfully” (1Tim 1:8ff.) for purposes of loving God and others. Those who do not believe on Christ will be condemned by the law, but there is “NOW NO condemnation for those in Christ.” Rather, true believers are free to fulfill the law in aggressive love for God and others (Rom 8).

For the outcome of Spurgeon’s “rest” see the Parable of the Talents.  Resting in love that Christ supposedly fulfills for us evokes this response from Him: “You lazy, wicked servant.”

Bible Prophesy is Directly Linked to Assurance of Salvation: Part One

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on August 4, 2015 of the many Protestant myths that we hear often is that Bible prophesy, otherwise known as eschatology, is “secondary” truth. Yes, having a definitive understanding of its corpus which is about 25% of Scripture is optional.

Among the many disturbing insinuations in regard to this mentality is the idea that God prophesies about things that we can’t really understand. In other words, God is glorified by telling us things we can’t understand to prove some kind of point whatever that might be.

Not unlike many other Protestant mentalities, this particular one is warned against in Scriptures, and to the contrary promises blessings for those who study prophesy which assumes possible understanding.

One of the blessings of studying Bible prophecy and having a proper understanding of it is assurance of salvation. Much could be discussed on this wise, but the focus of this post will be the number of resurrections and judgments.

A Humble Faith is Confused and Uncertain?

There are many confused Protestants in the land because supposedly, being confused gives glory to God. One of myriad examples is a book written by Puritan wannabe Russ Kennedy of Clearcreek Chapel in Springboro, Ohio titled “Perplexity.” The primary thesis of the book is about how unanswered questions are a form of worship. But this is typical: the Bible states that God is not a god of confusion, but Protestant orthodoxy can always be counted on to set the Bible straight. My point here is that there are many Protestants that believe the Bible teaches about multiple resurrections and judgments, But that’s NOT Protestantism. Most Protestants do not know what a Protestant is…which of course in not commendable.

At any rate, confusion never walks with surety.

Justification by Faith: One Resurrection; One Judgment

What is Protestant orthodoxy on this matter? Answer: one resurrection and one judgment immediately following. And why does this matter? It matters because this view of eschatology is tied directly to the Protestant position on justification; or in other words, the essential doctrine of Protestantism known as justification by faith.

In that doctrine of salvation (soteriology), there is no assurance of salvation until your salvation is confirmed at the one final judgment at the end of the ages. In that one final judgment, God “separates the sheep from the goats.” This is the judgment of the nations and NOT the great white throne judgment, but articulating the differences is not the subject of this particular post; our subject is justification by faith and its necessary eschatology that supports its authentic soteriology.

Orthodoxy: Obedient Faith Not OSAS   

Most Protestants also believe that once saved always saved (OSAS) is Protestant orthodoxy, but this is something else you can add to the long (very long) list of things that Protestants think Protestants believe. Protestant orthodoxy holds to salvation as a process. It is the idea that the process has a beginning point, a progression, and a final confirmation. A good snapshot of this is how Protestant orthodoxy interprets Philippians 2:12,13.

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

First, “obeyed” is the Protestant “obedient faith” or “obedience of faith.” What’s that? It is the idea that Christians only perform one act of obedience, living by faith…alone. How do you live by faith alone? It’s a good question because our culture defines faith as purely mental. Therefore, how do we “live” actively by faith alone? As homo sapiens, we not only sit around and think—we do things.

The answer is in… “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” Here, orthodoxy interprets “salvation” as justification, or the saving of the soul by Divine decree. Therefore, salvation needs to be worked out through faith alone.

“The Imperative Command is Grounded in the Indicative Event”

Also, and this is a BIG also, our working out of our salvation by faith alone, or faith-alone work, should be motivated by the supposed fact that “Christians” remain under the condemnation of the law, and should live in constant fear of condemnation which motivates us to live by faith alone lest we fall into “works righteousness [justification].” Because justification is seen as a process, and its end acquired by faith alone, one must not “jump directly from the command to an act of obedience.” Instead, everything we do must be “grounded in the historical Christ event” via faith alone, or by faith-alone works. This is how orthodoxy categorizes works in the Christian life: works, or a “righteousness of our own,” jumps from the command to obedience which is not of faith while faith-alone works operates on all obedience being grounded in the cross event.

In our Heidelberg Disputation series, mainline Protestant evangelical Phil Johnson is cited in regard to orthodoxy’s very definition of faith: it is returning to the same historical Christ event that saved us over and over again. By doing this, the righteousness of Christ is imputed to our Christian life (sanctification, or a process of increased setting apart for God’s purposes), and the justification process continues to move forward. This is important to note because said imputation continues to satisfy the law, and remember, our primary motivation is fear of condemnation from being under law.

So, to clarify, our primary faith-alone work is to continually return to the same gospel that saved us, otherwise known as “preaching the gospel to ourselves” in order to keep the law satisfied. A perfect law-keeping is imputed to us as we live by faith alone in “what Jesus has done, not anything we do.”

The Preeminence of the Law in Protestant Soteriology  

Let’s tally all of this up in regard to the subject: Protestant orthodoxy makes law preeminent in salvation, and there is only one judgment that deals with the law; the great white throne judgment at the end of the ages. Orthodoxy rejects any judgment that excludes the condemnation of the law. Their gospel calls for a judgment that confirms those who “live by the gospel” well enough to be covered by Christ’s fulfillment of the law through His perfect law-keeping.

Judgments for rewards apart from the law and its condemnation are rejected by orthodoxy. The reward for living by faith-alone well enough is salvation. Because we are saved by faith alone, we must begin by faith alone, live by faith alone, and will be judged according to how well we did that. When we stand AT the judgment, if God only sees the works of Christ and not anything we did, we will “stand IN the judgment.”

Though Christ is said to have preeminence among Protestants, that’s only because Christ paid the penalty of sin under the law, and supposedly fulfilled its demands in our stead. The law is what really has preeminence in Protestant orthodoxy.

And this is why only one judgment is accepted; because all other judgments are for reward APART from the law’s condemnation.

What Saves a Protestant at the Judgment?

In the rest of Philippians 2:12,13 we read, “for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” If you have been following our Heidelberg Disputation series, you know that authentic Protestantism interprets this through Martin Luther’s bondage of the will. Luther believed that man was created with a passive will. Like water, it is only active when it is acted upon from outside of itself. Water doesn’t move unless gravity pushes it—it doesn’t change temperature unless the environment acts upon it from the outside. Likewise, the Christian does not work, he/she only has the will to act if acted upon from the outside. God is the only one who has an active will, and He created man with a passive will.

Luther framed this in context of death. According to Luther, death is not a nonexistent state, but merely a passive state. The dead exist, but they are in bondage to passivity unless acted upon. Luther also believed that this is illustrative of the Christian life. Christians are still dead in trespasses and sin, and only perform good works when acted upon from the outside by God. This is in fact central to the Protestant ideology that drives its soteriology.


Assurance of salvation cannot be a reality in authentic Protestantism because surety removes the condemnation of the law regardless of anything we do. The goal is not the obedience of love, but the so-called obedience of faith that satisfies the “righteous demands of the law.” If we live by faith alone, the obedience of Christ will be imputed to us. This belief is what saves the Christian at the final judgement.

In part two, we will examine what Philippians 2:12,13 is really stating, and its relationship to eschatology. Moreover, we will examine why Christians can have doubtless assurance of salvation accordingly.



Posted in Uncategorized by pptmoderator on April 25, 2015

PPT HandleOriginally published March 9, 2014

Find the word, “legalism” in the Bible; not there. Find the concept; not there. Why? Because there is no such thing. Wrong application/interpretation of any kind is against the word of God. That’s only called one thing and one thing only: antinomianism. If that is too boring for you, Christ did call it one other thing: the traditions of men. Christ was very concerned with the traditions and teachings of men. Why? Because it produces ideas things like, “legalism.”

Legalism is a concept that supports the idea that Christians can unwittingly obey in a way that “builds fruits back into the instrument of justification” (John Piper). In other words, the idea is based on salvation of the justification sort being progressive instead of a finished work. Hence, how we obey in our Christian life becomes very tricky business. It also posits the following idea: thinking that we can please God through obedience is the root of all evil—it is the very fiber of our vile being to justify ourselves by law-keeping. However, such an attempt is impossible for a real Christian because they know that justification is a finished work that cannot be affected by anything we do.

So, as the theory goes, since it is impossible to obey the law, we look for “loopholes.” If we would just let go and let God, we wouldn’t sin as much because we know we can’t keep the law perfectly anyway. Notice that perfection in law-keeping is still the standard. What does that tell you? Right, the Christian is still, “under law” and that is a huge problem. “Under grace” does not mean that Jesus’ perfect obedience is imputed to us—it means that we now obey the “law of liberty” and are very able to do so. The legalism concept circumvents the law transaction that must be part of a true gospel. The law’s ability to condemn was ended by Christ; we now obey the law from the motive of love.

The Bible does address those under grace who have an unbiblically trained conscience that passes judgment on more mature Christians who have the liberty to partake in certain things. More mature Christians are not to persuade those who are convicted that the issue is sin, nor are they to practice the issue in front of the “weaker brother.” There is no “loophole” issue except in the legalism concept that is the traditions of men and that is what primarily concerned Christ.

No doubt, with the latest scandal concerning Bill Gothard, we must once again suffer a flurry of this nonsense, and worse yet, people are bringing these articles to my attention for the express purpose of annoying me.

I know not if Gothard is a Christian, but the Bible if VERY clear why people fall into this kind of sin; they obey sinful passions. Under law is synonymous with being enslaved to sinful passions, provoked by the law, and ultimately judged by the law, albeit free to do good (Romans 6:20). Under grace is synonymous with being enslaved to righteousness, provoked to do good by the law, and released from the condemnation of the law, albeit free to do evil. No unbeliever sins perfectly, and no believer obeys perfectly. It’s a direction dictated by an exchange of slavery and two different relationships to the law.

Hence, people love to annoy me with the following:

This is surely part of what Paul meant when he said, “The letter (the Law, the old covenant) kills, but the Spirit gives life.” The Law kills because it focuses (or it tends to be applied so as to focus) on external behaviors: how high is high, how good is good, how shiny is shiny.

But the Spirit, which changes us from the inside out, gives life.

No, this is “surely” NOT what Paul was talking about. The law is only death to those born “under the law” who we pray will be transformed and brought under the “law of liberty,” or the “law of the Spirit.” The law is the “law of sin and death” to unbelievers, not believers. The only man born into the world that was not under the curse of the law was Christ because He is able to be judged by it without condemnation. Yet, He bore its curse on the cross so that He could put an end to the law of sin and death for believers. This frees them to zealously pursue the law of liberty in order to please God without fear. Same law; different relationship.

Furthermore, the Spirit does NOT change us from the “inside out.” That’s a bunch of stinking boloney. Christians are called on to change behavior and thinking both. It’s not from the inside out only—IT’S BOTH. Sometimes obedience brings internal blessings (Phil 4:9), and sometimes a change of thinking results in different behavior—it’s both, not either/or.

End rant.

The “Legalism” Myth and Why Antinomianism and Justification by the Law are the Same Thing

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on January 24, 2015

Good evening everyone welcome to False Reformation Blogtalk radio. This is your host Paul Dohse. This is a special live presentation for tomorrow night’s episode because I will be out of town attending a conference.

Therefore, tomorrow night’s weekly Friday episode will be prerecorded here tonight. If you would like to add to the show or ask a question call 347-855-8317.

Per the usual, I will say “This is your host Paul. You are live on Blogtalk what is your comment or question?” With that, just start talking—identifying yourself is optional. Also per the usual, we will be checking in with Susan to get her feedback on tonight’s show.

Now, on to our topic. Let’s summarize the commonly accepted narrative of our day. The Reformation’s justification by faith saved Western civilization and stands in stark contrast to its two primary nemeses: “legalism,” and “antinomianism,” with antinomianism being the lesser evil by far.

Legalism is attempting to be justified by the law, and antinomianism is the belief that there is no use for the law—it only condemns. In other words, Christians are not obligated to the law in any way, shape, or form. The word means literally, “anti-law.”

This is the theses for tonight’s show:

Point 1: There is no such thing as legalism.

Point 2: Antinomianism is really justification by the law—they are the same thing.

Point 3: The Reformation’s justification by faith is really justification by the law.

Point 4: Therefore, Protestantism is both justification by the law and antinomianism because the two are the same thing.

Point one, there is no such thing as “legalism.” Without a doubt, this is proffered as kingdom enemy #1. However, the term is found nowhere in the Bible, nor is the concept found anywhere in the Bible. What is it? What’s the technical definition according to Protestant orthodoxy?

So-called legalism is the idea that Christians can do a good work. Legalism is closely associated with the Reformed truism, the imperative command is grounded in the indicative event. The primary criticisms of legalism are “it jumps directly from the command to obedience.” This is also known as “fruit stapling.”

Closely associated with the legalism myth is the anti-legalism truism, “all change comes from the inside out.” That’s yet another truism among Christians that is accepted as absolute gospel out of hand. But what does it mean? I’m not saying that there is no truth in the statement, but what do they mean by it?

Listen carefully; I want to interject a principle of deception. Readily accepted truisms that sound good and not subjected to scrutiny are stepping stones that take you to a place of other people’s choosing. They know where you are going, but you don’t. No person anywhere or at any time ended up in a mass grave apart from this concept. No person was ever duped out of their lifesavings apart from this concept. No person has ever wasted years gifted to them apart from this concept. This concept applies to every strata of life.

So, what is meant by this anti-legalism myth truism? It is the idea that all good works must be filtered through the inner person before they appear outwardly. This dissects the role of the believer, if the dreaded legalism is to be prevented, into two categories: active and passive. The active is understanding only, and the passive is the actual manifestation of the outward work.

This necessarily requires an understanding of what is meant by “heart change.” Heart change is your capacity to see only. It defines faith as something that only perceives outwardly. So, the ONLY active role of the Christian is to SEE reality in a kingdom of God way, or at least what they define that to be. This is known as, watch it—we here it all the time: “a Christian worldview.”

So let’s pause for a summation thus far: in order to prevent the dreaded legalism myth, we must know that the only active role of the Christian is to have a proper worldview, or a proper perception of reality. This is faith, and the growth of faith is heart change. Got it?

This results in works being separated from the Christian and manifested by Christ. This prevents “legalism” which is the supposed errant belief that Christians can perform a good work, and thus, watch it, here is another one, “possessing a righteousness of our own.”

Are you getting this so far? So, in less than 700 words so far, we have defined: legalism; fruit stapling; faith; heart change; and Christian worldview. The Christian’s active role is to see according to the right worldview, his passive role is to WATCH…here is another one…here it comes…”what Jesus has done, not anything we do.”

Let’s now add this: typically, those who are supposedly guilty of legalism will only believe that Christ died for our sins, while denying that Christ lived a perfect life to fulfil the Old Covenant law for us. This is the Protestant/Lutheran/Calvinist formal doctrine of double imputation. Christ died for our justification, and lived for our sanctification so that His perfect obedience to the law of Moses can now be applied to our life through faith alone in our sanctification, or Christian living if you will.

That’s the “indicative,” viz, all works are grounded in what Christ did, not anything we do. Therefore, when you see a command in the Bible, it must be seen in its quote…”gospel context” of double imputation. The imperative shows us what we cannot do, but rather what Jesus has done for us. Hence, “the imperative command is grounded in the indicative event.” Supposedly, when Jesus commands us to be perfect, He is driving this point home that perfection is the standard and we cannot be perfect.

Side note: What Jesus is really doing is telling us to be who we are, viz, perfect. “But Paul, we sin!” Hold that thought, we will address that.

Another side note: Christ didn’t have to obey the law perfectly in order to prepare our works for us, the Holy Spirit did that before the foundation of the world:

Ephesians 2:10 – For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

1 Corinthians 6:11 – And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

The works were prepared by God and sanctified by the Holy Spirt before the foundation of the world, and Abraham was justified 430 years before the law of Moses—Christ did not have to obey the law for us and clearly, we are the ones who “walk” in the pre-prepared works sanctified by the Holy Spirit before the world was ever created. The more you study election, the more you realize it’s just another angle on trying to get it into the heads of Christians that law and justification are mutually exclusive.

So, in the closing of our first point let us define so-called legalism: it is the belief that a Christian can do a good work. See, among myriads of examples, the Calvin Institutes book 3, chapter 14, sections 9-11 and Luther’s Heidelberg Disputation. “Paul, the Heidelberg Disputation has 28 theses, which one?” Answer: All of them. Pick one.

Now let’s define antinomianism. That’s actually in the Bible. That’s actually a biblical word. What does it mean? “Antinomianism is the English transliteration of the Greek word, “anomia” which means “anti-law.” As we have discussed on this program before, “law” is a biblical word that really just refers to the full counsel of God. Antinomianism for all practical purposes is “anti-godly wisdom.” As we will see as we move along, the best meaning is “anti-love.”

In the biblical sense, antinomianism has no reference to justification. Because law and justification/righteousness/salvation are mutually exclusive, the bible would actually endorse an antinomian view of justification. The only biblical reference point antinomianism has regards sanctification, or the Christian life. Antinomianism is the absence of law in sanctification.

Curiously, the Reformers, both past and present, define antinomianism as the absence of law in justification. Remember, in Protestantism/Calvinism/Reformed soteriology, law is justification’s standard. This is a segue right into the definition of antinomianism according to the Reformed.

This is where the Reformed pound the pulpit against antinomianism and vehemently deny that they are antinomian. Some Reformed guy even wrote a book titled “Friends of the Law” expounding on the Reformed virtue of upholding the law of God. But of course, why wouldn’t they? They think law is the standard for justification! No law, no justification.

But here’s the dirty little secret: justification, which according to them is synonymous with perfect law-keeping, is justification by faith alone right? So, if the perfect demands of the law have to be maintained in order for there to be any justification, Christians cannot remain justified in sanctification unless the demands of the law continue to be met. Right?

That creates a problem: how can the perfect demands of the law continue to be met in sanctification, or in other words: the Christian life? The dirty little secret is that justification by faith alone (also known as simply “justification by faith”) also pertains to sanctification also.

Aside: Some in the Reformed camp, actually many, claim that antinomianism is a misnomer because mankind is helplessly enslaved to chronic self-justification. Someone who believes in throwing the law away so that grace may abound is a description of someone who is an anomaly. Elyse Fitzpatrick wrote an article advocating such a view that went viral. According to the view, man’s natural bent is to attempt to justify himself through law-keeping.

Aside to that aside: This teaching can be particularly cruel and confusing to many born again Christians because the new birth results in a desire to obey the law. Fitzpatrick et al are now charging that such a desire to please God is sin. Follow?

Well, how does one live by faith alone in their Christian life? That is the money question; that is the lynchpin in this study, and now moves us to the biblical definition of justification by law. This is a very biblical concept that saturates the Scriptures.

What is scriptural justification by law? What is the specific definition? Here it is: justification by law (JBL) makes law the standard for justification. The law’s perfect demands must be fulfilled at all times in order for anybody to be considered righteous. There is only one problem; obviously, no person can keep the law perfectly. So, what to do?

Answer: faithfulness to a ritual or authoritative tradition is added to the law as a qualified faith-act that fulfills the law for man. JBL is NEVER an attempt to keep the law perfectly because everyone knows that’s impossible; hence, faithfulness to a system that appeases the law is implemented. In the case of the JBL that drove the apostles nuts, it primarily came from the Jewish culture that was heavily influence by Philo.

Let me demonstrate from Scripture how this worked:

Galatians 5:2 – Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. 3 I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. 4 You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace.

Herein is the biblical definition of JBL: clearly, it is a ritual or tradition that replaced the necessity for being justified by keeping the whole law. It is a faith-based ritual that appeases the law. In this case what is it? Right, circumcision. Paul said “no,” if you want to be justified by the law you are obligated to keep the whole law because the law is not appeased by ritual. Circumcision, so they thought, was atonement for sin certified by the authority of leaders and their established traditions.

More than likely, circumcision was the ritual that got you in, and then you had to follow other traditions in order to keep the law satisfied:

Galatians 4:9 – But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more? 10 You observe days and months and seasons and years! 11 I am afraid I may have labored over you in vain.

Get it? The law is replaced and dumbed down with easy-to-keep rituals, customs, and traditions as a way of fulfilling the whole law and apparently atoning for sin according to whatever system you have signed up for. In some cases, it may be believed that these customs inaugurated by the authority of men actually abolish the law rather than fulfill it. But whatever it is matters not—the results are the same.

This brings us to the inevitable problem with such systems: the finer points of the law are disregarded because the ongoing demands of the law must be met to keep yourself saved. Besides, the law can’t be kept perfectly anyway, and focus on the accepted customs is what keeps you saved.

This is why JBL is antinomianism, because it voids the law by the traditions of men in sanctification in order to appease the law for justification. Let’s look at a prime example of this:

Matthew 5:17 – “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. 19 Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

Why would one relax the law in their Christian living? Because in justification by law the law isn’t for sanctification it’s for justification. That’s almost too obvious when you state it that way. And in regard to where this passage comes from what is the Sermon on the Mount about? Right, sanctification. The cross or justification is nowhere in that sermon. It’s a message about Christian living. Also, the dominate theme of the message is a warning against replacing the law of God with tradition. How many times in that message do we read, “You have heard that it was said… but I say to you…”?

Let’s look at some other examples:

Romans 2:17 – But if you call yourself a Jew and rely on the law and boast in God 18 and know his will and approve what is excellent, because you are instructed from the law; 19 and if you are sure that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, 20 an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of children, having in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth— 21 you then who teach others, do you not teach yourself? While you preach against stealing, do you steal? 22 You who say that one must not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? 23 You who boast in the law dishonor God by breaking the law. 24 For, as it is written, “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.”

25 For circumcision indeed is of value if you obey the law, but if you break the law, your circumcision becomes uncircumcision. 26 So, if a man who is uncircumcised keeps the precepts of the law, will not his uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision? 27 Then he who is physically uncircumcised but keeps the law will condemn you who have the written code and circumcision but break the law. 28 For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. 29 But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God.

Galatians 2:17 – But if, in our endeavor to be justified in Christ, we too were found to be sinners, is Christ then a servant of sin? Certainly not! 18 For if I rebuild what I tore down, I prove myself to be a transgressor. 19 For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God.

Side note: many in our day in-fact say that we are found justified in Christ by professing that we are what? Right, “sinners.” We hear it all the time!

Next, let’s look, as promised, at how antinomian justification by law leads to anti-love. This is because one biblical definition of love follows: love is an endeavor to learn God’s law and truthfully apply it to life:

Matthew 28:18 – And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

John 14:15 – “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.

John 14: 23 Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. 24 Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me. 25 “These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. 26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.

There is no surprise then that the Bible links antinomianism with lovelessness. It is impossible to love God and others without obedience. If there is law in justification that must be continually appeased, we must fear the motives for our obedience in sanctification, we are still enslaved to the law and its demand for perfect law-keeping. But if there is no law in justification and justification is a finished work, we are free to aggressively love in sanctification without fear that our justification will be harmed. Motives for obedience are a non-issue because law-keeping does NOTHING for our justification—the two are mutually exclusive. The only motive left is love. This is why justification by law is antinomianism leading to lovelessness:

Matthew 24:11 – And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. 12 And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold.

The word for lawlessness in this verse is “anomia.” Love will grow cold because of anomia. Why? because love and obedience are mutually inclusive and there is only obedience in sanctification—not justification. Elsewhere we read:

Psalm 119:70 – their heart is unfeeling like fat, but I delight in your law.

Lastly, why is Protestant justification by faith really the justification by law resulting in loveless antinomianism that the Bible warns us about? Because law is the standard for justification, its demands must be continually met during the Christian’s life, and “faith alone” ritualism fulfills the law on behalf of the Christian.

In the 1st century it was circumcision, now it is a baptism into church membership where we can find a continuing cover for sin. If we are faithful to the local church and disavow any “righteousness of our own,” the righteousness of Christ will continue to satisfy the law in our stead. It’s really the same justification by law resulting in loveless antinomianism that has plagued God’s people from the very beginning. In fact, we even hear notable Calvinists like John Piper in our day claim the following:

If you are not being accused of antinomianism, you are probably not preaching the gospel.

Why are they right about that? Because it is antinomianism—it replaces our obedience, and frankly our love as well, with the obedience of Christ. Also, it is supposed that justification and law are mutually inclusive because Jesus keeps the law for us. However, the Bible continually states that we justified APART from the law and “apart” means “totally separate.”

Who keeps the law is not the issue; the law period is the issue.

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