Paul's Passing Thoughts

Smoking Gun: ACBC is a Nationwide Divorce Mill

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on July 13, 2017

OrigEDMinally published July 13, 2015

For a more detailed discussion on this book, check out Susan Dohse’s book review and commentary here

Christ made it clear that what God has brought together NO man is to separate. Does this mean God predetermines every marriage in regard to particular spouses? I doubt it. This probably refers to God’s covenant of marriage and the theology of vows. At any rate, death, unrepentant adultery, and an unbeliever who abandons their believing spouse are the only exceptions.

How does one live happily with a spouse who has become difficult? For Protestants, that is a hard question because the focus has been on justification for 500 years with little emphasis on the biblical art of godly living (sanctification). When you are supposedly sanctified by a perpetual “return to the gospel afresh”… knowledge on how to repair a marriage is going to be what it is today, practically nonexistent. And of course, living by the same gospel that saves us (not saved us) is a very complex matter needing the ongoing “research and development” of gospel-centered experts.

Add to that: Protestants don’t even have justification right. Little wonder then that the institutional church is a train wreck after 500 years of scholarship and trillions of hard-earned laity dollars. What is the answer? The answer is a laity movement that will reclaim the priesthood of believers seized by Gnostic hacks dressed in biblical garb.

The answers will come through one Lord, and one word interpreted by individuals indwelt by the Spirit who gives all knowledge needed for life and godliness liberally. In case we forget the obvious, “I was only obeying the elders” will not cut it when you stand before Christ and His blazing eyes of fire. The Nazis were very good at being “subordinate,” and many were hanged accordingly. I realize Reformed elders claim God gave them His authority to rule on earth, but you may want to rethink that claim.

As predicted, the biblical counseling movement overseen primarily by the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC) has become a divorce mill via its efforts to build marriages that “look like the gospel.” And the smoking gun is a book written by Leslie Vernick titled The Emotionally Destructive Marriage: How to Find Your Voice and Reclaim Your Hope that is widely used among ACBC counselors.

The obvious problems here are first seen in the title of the book. As Christians, is it really our goal to, “find our voice”? I thought it was our goal to please God in every circumstance. Secondly, the idea of emotional destruction is subjective at best and a ticket to do anything you want at worst. To make the point here, Google “American Civil Law.” In a culture judging anything that causes bad feelings to be abuse, such an approach to “biblical counseling” should give one pause.

Thirdly, why do Christians need a 240 page book written by a serial regurgitator of other people’s thoughts to FIND hope? You would think that by now Christians would be fairly certain about where hope is found.

Chilling is the examination of the 61-question survey found in the book that supposedly determines if one is in an abusive relationship or not. In the hands of a person that is unhappy in their marriage, the outcome will be a foregone conclusion. It’s like asking a chicken if Colonel Sanders is an emotional abuser.

The lynchpin becomes the ACBC’s loose interpretation of 1Corinthians 7:12-16. If the spouse is already an unbeliever, emotional abuse is tantamount to departing from the marriage even if they have not left physically or filed for divorce. Church discipline takes care of the pesky obstacle of the “abusive” spouse being a believer—they can be declared an unbeliever…actually MADE an unbeliever by elder authority supposedly vested to them by God. This paves the way for sanctified divorce.

It boils down to this: whoever is handed the book by the counselor is coronated as the abused spouse. Be sure of this: if both counselees in a bad marriage were handed the book, both would be guilty of the same thing. This is the smoking gun: it depends on who the ACBC “biblical counselor” wants to label abusive for whatever the motives might be.

I think a present situation that I am involved in says it all. I know enough about the situation to know that if the person I am talking with took the book’s survey, the other spouse would be judged as emotionally abusive hands down. The other spouse was handed the book because of who the ACBC counselor wanted to label “abusive.”

This is the niche service that Leslie Vernick now supplies to ACBC counselors.

paul

Calvinism and the Problem with Perfection

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on May 8, 2017

PPT HandleOriginally published November 7, 2013

Augustine, Luther, and Calvin were first and foremost Platonists. They integrated the Bible with Platonism. Plato’s theory of forms posits the idea of two worlds; the mutable material world of illusion where reality can only be partially known, and another world where the immutable objective true forms exist. This material world is a shadow world; everything is shadows of the true forms. Therefore, man can only interpret and experience this world subjectively. The tendency is to interpret reality by observing the shadows. To the degree that mankind thinks the material world is reality according to the five senses, subjectivity and chaos will abound.

Therefore, Plato’s ethic was to improve the subjective experience of this life by accessing the true forms through ideas and mathematics—things that transcend the five senses (he believed math was an unchangeable rule and therefore not part of the shadow world). He believed that those who have the capability and willingness to bring more understanding of the objective into the subjective to be an elite minority. These were Plato’s philosopher kings whom he thought should rule society in order to decrease chaos as much as possible. Without philosopher kings, the world would be awash in a sea of subjectivity, everyone living by their own subjective presuppositions based on the shadows of this world. Hence, the arch enemy of the Platonic ideal is individualism.

Plato’s world of true objective forms was his trinity of the true, good, and beautiful. Experiencing the pure form of goodness in this world is impossible—only a shadow of good can be experienced subjectively. Plato’s social engineering has a doctrine, and to the degree that doctrine is applied, a higher quality of subjective existence occurs.

The Reformers put a slightly different twist on this construct. There is no doctrine to apply, only an orthodoxy that focuses on seeing and experiencing. Their version of Plato’s philosopher kings are pastors who possess the power of the keys. Orthodoxy is mediated truth determined by “Divines,” and passed down to the masses for the purpose of experiencing the objective power of the gospel subjectively. The Reformers made the true forms “the gospel,” and reality itself the gospel, ie., the work and personhood of Jesus Christ in particular.

Therefore, in the same way Plato envisioned a society that experiences the power of the true forms subjectively through ideas and immutable disciplines like mathematics, the Reformers sought a heightened subjective experience through a deeper and deeper knowledge of their own true, good, and beautiful—the gospel. And more specifically, instead of the gateway of understanding being reason, ideas, and immutable disciplines, they made the gospel itself the interpretive prism. So: life, history, the Bible, ie., everything, is a tool for experiencing true reality (the gospel) in a higher quality subjectivity. The Bible and all life events are a gospel hermeneutic. Salvation itself is the interpretive prism. All of reality is about redemption. Salvation itself is the universal hermeneutic.

But both constructs have this in common: Pure goodness and perfection cannot exist objectively in the material world. This is where Calvinism and Platonism kiss. The Bible only agrees with this if it is a “gospel narrative.” But if it is God’s full orbed philosophical statement to all men to be interpreted grammatically and exegetically, contradictions abound. To wit, if man possesses goodness and the ability to interpret reality objectively, Platonism and its Reformed children are found wanting. If Reformation orthodoxy is not evaluated biblically with the very theses of its own orthodoxy as a hermeneutic, even more wantonness is found.

The Apostles rejected Platonism because they believed goodness and perfection could indeed be found in this material world. There is no question of the quality of goodness inside of man that enables mankind to interpret reality objectively, the quantity of goodness notwithstanding.  In contrast, a dominate theme in the Calvin Institutes is the idea that no person lost or saved can perform a good work. Like Plato’s geometric hermeneutics, the Reformers believed the Law lends understanding to man’s inability to do good because eternal perfection is the standard. The best of man’s works are tainted with sin to some degree, and therefore imperfect. Even if man could perform one perfect work, one sin makes mankind a violator of the whole law. The Reformers were adamant that no person could do any good work whether saved or lost.

Why all the fuss over this point? Why was Calvin dogmatic about this idea to the point of annoyance? Because he was first and foremost a Platonist. The idea that a pure form of good could be found within mankind was metaphysical heresy. Because such contradicts every page of the Bible, the Reformers’ Platonist theology was made the hermeneutic as well. Instead of the interpretation method producing the theology, they made the theology the method of interpretation. If all of reality is redemptive, it must be interpreted the same way.

For the Platonist, the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh poses a huge problem. He is the truth. He came to the material world in a material body. Platonism  became Gnosticism and wreaked havoc on the 1st century church. Notice how the first sentences of 1John are a direct pushback against the Gnosticism of that day:

1John 1:1 – That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— 2 the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— 3 that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. 4 And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.

Christ is the true, good, and beautiful, and He was touched, felt, seen, heard, and understood. Game over. This is the paramount melding of Plato’s two worlds resulting in a plenary decimation of his philosophy. Nevertheless, Calvin et al got around that by keeping mankind in a subjective realm while making the material world a gospel hermeneutic. Reality still cannot be understood unless it is interpreted by the gospel—everything else is shadows.

Martin Luther took Plato’s two worlds and made them two stories: our own subjective story, a self  “glory story” that leads to a labyrinth of subjectivism, or the “cross story” which is the objective gospel. Luther made Plato’s two worlds two stories, but still, they are two realms: one objective and one subjective. In the final analysis mankind is still incompetent, and void of any good whether saved or lost.

Whether the Reformed gospel or Platonism, the infusion of objective goodness is the heresy. Man cannot have any righteousness in and of himself, whether lost or saved. The pushback against this idea can be seen throughout the New Testament. A few examples follow:

1John 2:4 – Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, 5 but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected.

1John 2:20 – But you have been anointed by the Holy One, and you all have knowledge.21 I write to you, not because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and because no lie is of the truth.

1John 2:26 – I write these things to you about those who are trying to deceive you. 27 But the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie—just as it has taught you, abide in him.

1John 2:29 – If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him.

1John 3:2 – Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears[a] we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. 3 And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure. 4 Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. 5 You know that he appeared in order to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. 6 No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. 7 Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous.

Romans 15:14 – I myself am satisfied about you, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able to instruct one another.

Christians can know goodness, and perform righteousness objectively. This speaks to the quality of the righteousness when it is performed—it is perfect and acceptable to God. We are not limited to a mere subjective experience in regard to righteousness. When we are resurrected, the quantity thereafter will be 100%, but our present righteousness is acceptable to God when it is performed by us. If it is accepted by God, it is perfect.

Even the unregenerate know good, and can perform it. The works of the law are written on their hearts, and their consciences either accuse or excuse them (Romans 2:12-15). Though enslaved to unrighteousness, they are free to perform righteousness (Romans 6:20). The very goodness of God can be understood from observing creation as well (Romans 1:20).

The only way the Reformers can make all goodness outside of man is to make the Bible a salvation hermeneutic. It is the only way they could integrate the Bible with their Platonist philosophy.

paul

Church “Covenants” and How You Should Behave in a Protestant Church

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on September 29, 2016

Originally published July 23, 2015

https://paulspassingthoughts.com/One endeavor on the long list of objectives here at TANC ministries is to get solid legal insight into what has become protocol in evangelical churches. That process began yesterday during a consultation with a local attorney. As documented here at PPT, the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC) and its network of churches has become a virtual divorce mill. The pattern that this ministry continues to be made privy to is documented in an open letter to the executive director of ACBC, Heath Lambert.

Simply stated, New Calvinism, which is a return to the original church polity of the Reformation, does not have the force of state to compel church members to follow its orthodoxy. So, it improvises. Instead of simply burning heretics at the stake, or burning a hole through the tongues of those who ask questions in a challenging way, they ruin names and finances.

We must remember, the orthodoxy of the Protestant Reformation was tailored for a church state. America was originally founded by the Pilgrims who didn’t like how the Church of England did church-state, so they came to America and founded “New England.” The name is not happenstance. The American Revolution put an end to the Pilgrims’ theocracy that dominated the colonies. Actually, “Pilgrims” is a soft term for “Puritans.” And please, spare me the emails about the differences between the Pilgrims and the Puritans—the differences are insignificant in the whole scheme of things.

That brings us to the discussion of soft terms. First, the original Protestant Reformation was a simple church state, but in reality, the definition of “cult” comes into play when church states had to improvise in order to control people because of the American Revolution. A cult is defined as follows: it is any religious organization that controls people by means other than a church state. The etymology of the word “cult” does not become significant until post American Revolution.

In other words, without the force of the state to compel people to obey its orthodoxy, it must resort to manipulation and brainwashing to control people. Yes, church states also emphasize brainwashing because murdering people is costly in its implementation, and fewer people amounts to less resources, but brainwashing becomes even more important and refined when the final solution has been outlawed in an open society.

So, let’s state a definitive definition of cult: it is any religious organization that controls people by means other than a church state, and combines faith with authority. Like its church state predecessor, it assumes that the nature of man cannot obtain unity for a given cause without being ruled by those with superior knowledge of realty.

After the American Revolution, churches became a hybrid of orthodoxy and enlightenment thinking. It became an alphabet soup with a broad range of attitude concerning the ability of man to rule self. But, this never resulted in the full-blown focus on individual responsibility mirrored by the 1st century assembly of Christ. The concept of “church” spawned in the 4th century has always permeated the American church psyche, i.e., orthodoxy being a storybook form of truth written by church “Divines” that the saints can understand, and enforced for their own wellbeing.

With that said, soft terms become vital to the American church as we know it today. Church polity is a soft term for church government; church discipline is a soft term for Unam sanctam, or John Calvin’s power of the keys that gives church authority to decide someone’s salvation on behalf of God. It goes without saying that you obey someone that can take away your salvation.

And, “church covenant” is a soft term for “church contract.” Basically, when you sign a church covenant church contract, you are signing away your right to be heard. In most of these contracts, you agree to obey the leadership and to be “teachable.” Hence, from now on, when our ministry hears, “Gee whiz, all I did was ask questions and now my life is being destroyed,” the subject will mostly likely hear, “No, what you did is breach of contract so take your medicine.”

Note: in many churches that deem themselves congregational, the parishioners unwittingly circumvent that reality by agreeing to a revised church covenant prepared and presented by the elders. See how that works?

Moreover, these third party contracts often negate rights found under civil and criminal law. This ministry, more specifically I, stands corrected in my assertion that coercion is being used to control parishioners. In fact, it is not coercion, but according to what the parishioner has agreed to and signed, especially regarding permission to leave church membership. It’s a contract—you signed it, so shut up, nod your head, say amen, and put your money in the plate. It’s all good; if the elders like you—you will more than likely “be able to stand in the judgement.”

What are the redeeming facts here, if any? Education: NEVER sign a church contract. It’s NOT a “covenant” bolstered by your signature—it’s a CONTRACT. This is why TANC does what it does; education, then solution/alternative.

Is there a way to get justice after signing our rights away? Perhaps, because apparently, marriage is also a contract. Rather than burning you at the stake and burying you in the church yard under a stone edict condemning you to hell, which of course is against the law presently, they will begin by ruining your name, and then destroy you financially via divorce.

The process goes something like this: you break your contract and stop being “teachable.” This tells the leadership that you no longer see yourself as a sinner, and you have become “insubordinate.” A dozen or so respected leaders and their wives start telling your wife that you are no longer “humble” and whether she realizes it or not, she is married to an “angry man.” And hark, behavior that your wife formerly assumed not to be abusive, in fact is abusive. Yes, she is married to a man who “doesn’t love her like Christ loved the church.” It’s all downhill from there.

Apparently, legally, this is interference with a marriage contract. Damages would be determined by a jury if the situation ends in divorce. Also, the idea that ACBC could eventually be subject to a class action lawsuit is not all that farfetched.

However, this is just more evidence that the premise and foundations of the institutional church is egregiously flawed and was designed for a church state to begin with. The solution is the cooperation of spiritual gifts, not authority, and fellowship—not membership.

Meanwhile, if you do not like the solution, behave yourself in the Protestant church. Stop going to discernment blogs and whining—you signed the contract, shut up and live by it.

paul

Helping Tim Challies and Other Calvinists with Evangelism

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on September 29, 2016

Originally published January 29, 2015

ChalliesYesterday, I was sent the following article about Calvinist evangelism written by blogger Tim Challies: How To Offend a Room Full of Calvinists. Miffed by the suggestion that somebody knows better than me how to offend Calvinists, I immediately read the article.

Apparently, according to Challies, Calvinists get offended when people suggest that their soteriology hinders evangelism.  According to Challies, the argument goes like this:

Many people are firmly convinced that there is a deep-rooted flaw embedded within Reformed theology that undermines evangelistic fervor. Most blame it on predestination. After all, if God has already chosen who will be saved, it negates at least some of our personal responsibility in calling people to respond to the gospel. Or perhaps it’s just the theological-mindedness that ties us down in petty disputes and nuanced distinctions instead of freeing us to get up, get out, and get on mission.

Protestants en masse think Calvinism’s greatest sin is weak evangelism, and of course, that makes them very angry because it’s supposedly the last criticism standing. I could start with the fact that Calvinism is works salvation under the guise of faith alone, or progressive justification, or salvation by antinomianism. Pick one; any of the three will work. But I have a mountain of data on that subject already; let’s do something different. Yes, let’s use Challies’ own words in the post to refute his argument. Before we call on Challies to refute his own protest, we will address his take on church history.

We go to history to show that the great missionaries, great preachers, and great revivalists of days past were Calvinists, and that Reformed theology was what fueled their mission… There are only so many times I can point to Jonathan Edwards, George Whitefield and the Great Awakening, or William Carey and the great missionary movement of the nineteenth century, or Charles Spurgeon and the countless thousands saved under his ministry. Sooner or later I have to stop looking at my heroes and look to myself. I can’t claim their zeal as my own. I can’t claim their obedience as my own.

In the post, Challies argues that we know that a straight line can be found from Reformed theology to evangelistic zeal because of history. Supposedly, Calvinists throughout history were driven directly by this deterministic gospel to reach thousands. It is very interesting when you consider the examples given which will aid in making my point.

The Great Awakening had absolutely nothing to do with Reformed soteriology. We should know this as a matter of common sense to begin with because the Holy Spirit doesn’t colabor with a false gospel. The Great Awakening was fueled by the ideology of the American Revolution and was expressed to a great degree in churches, especially among African Americans. Fact is, guys like Edwards and Whitefield then got on their horses and rode around the countryside bloviating and taking credit for the freedom movement tagged with “The Great Awakening” nomenclature.

Fact is, the Great Awakening was a pushback against the Puritan church state driven by Reformed soteriology that came across the pond as a European blight on American history. I would liken Challies’ assessment to our present President taking credit for things he is against when the results are positive.

What about Spurgeon? That example is just too rich because it makes the last point for me. Spurgeon, who once said Calvinism was no mere nickname but the very gospel itself, was the poster boy for getting people to come to church in order to get them saved. That’s important, hold on to that because it’s our last point.

But before we get to the last point, let’s look at the major point: Challies argues against the idea that fatalism hinders evangelism, and then confesses that he doesn’t evangelize like all of the great Calvinists in history because of…fatalism. Calvinism doesn’t cause fatalism resulting in lame evangelism, but Challies doesn’t evangelize because of fatalism.

After all, if God has already chosen who will be saved, it negates at least some of our personal responsibility in calling people to respond to the gospel… We go to the pages of Scripture to show that God’s sovereignty and human responsibility are not incompatible, but that people truly are both free and bound, that God both chooses some while extending the free offer of the gospel to all.

So why does Challies not evangelize according to him? First, because he just doesn’t, but secondly, he is responsible:

It is my conviction—conviction rooted in close study of God’s Word—that Calvinism provides a soul-stirring motivation for evangelism, and that sharing the gospel freely and with great zeal is the most natural application of biblical truth. But it is my confession—confession rooted in the evidence of my own life—that my Calvinism too rarely stirs my soul to mission. The truths that have roared in the hearts and lives of so many others, somehow just whisper in me. The fault, I’m convinced, is not with God’s Word, or even with my understanding of God’s Word; the fault is with me.

He is responsible, but not often stirred. And what’s his solution? There isn’t one, it is what it is; he is responsible, but not called to evangelism. No corrective solution is offered in the post. Why not? Because, as he said, we are responsible, but unable. Responsibility and inability are not incompatible. So, Calvinism doesn’t hinder evangelism, but if you don’t evangelize, there is no solution. Others did it, and you don’t, the end.  Well, I suppose that approach doesn’t prevent evangelism either!

And funny he should cite Edwards. Susan is doing a session on Edwards for TANC 2015 and is studying his sermon Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God. She approached me and wanted to discuss something about the sermon that she was perplexed about. Edwards spent the better part of an hour addressing the total hopelessness of man and his likelihood of ending up in an eternal hell, but in the end offers no counsel on how to escape. Why? Because if God is going to do something, he is going to do it, and man is responsible either way.

This now brings us to the final point with a bonus; we are going to help Challies with his evangelism shortcomings. There is, in fact, a solution for Tim’s lack of evangelistic zeal. He doesn’t properly understand Calvinism and its history. This isn’t about saving Tim from the false gospel of Calvinism, this is about being a good evangelist in the context of Calvinism. If I can’t save a Calvinist, I can at least teach them how to be a better Calvinist. Really, it’s disheartening when Calvinists don’t properly understand Calvinism.

This is how we will help Tim Challies. We will bring him back to the historical significance of Spurgeon using some of his own observations. First, let’s get a lay of the land; how does true Calvinistic evangelism work? First, it is the “sovereign” gospel which means the subject must not be told that they have a choice. This is some fun you can have with Calvinists. Ask them if they tell the recipients of their gospel message that they have a choice. Most will avoid answering because they don’t want to admit the answer is, “no.” By their own definition, that would be a false gospel speaking to man’s ability to choose God.

Secondly, if God does do something, if “the wind blows,” that puts the subject in two categories according to Calvin: the called and those who persevere.  The called are those that God temporarily illumines, but later blinds resulting in a greater damnation. Those of the perseverance class are the truly elect. So, the “good news” is that you have a chance to make it. But, if you don’t make it according to God’s predetermined will, your damnation is greater than the non-elect. God has either chosen you for greater damnation or the jackpot, but I guess it’s worth a try if God so chooses.

But hold on, and this is huge: all of that can be bypassed by Calvin’s “power of the keys.” What’s that? If you are a formal member of a Reformed church, and the elders like you, whatever they bind on earth is bound in heaven and whatever they loose on earth is loosed in heaven.

Furthermore, according to Calvin, sins committed in the Christian life remove us from salvation, but membership in the local church and receiving the “impartations of grace” that can only be found in church membership supply a perpetual covering for sin. And here is the crux: one of those “graces” is sitting under “gospel preaching” of which Spurgeon was chief. In one way or the other, Spurgeon sold this wholesale and the results speak for themselves.

See, the solution for Challies is simple.  There is a solution for the disobedience he himself is responsible for: simply invite people to church in order to “get them under the gospel.” And that often looks like this…

Or perhaps it’s just the theological-mindedness that ties us down in petty disputes and nuanced distinctions instead of freeing us to get up, get out, and get on mission.

Problem solved. That’s how Calvinism is a straight line from its theology to evangelism—you are saved by being a formal member of a Reformed church, and your salvation is sustained by remaining a faithful member of that church and obeying everything the elders tell you to do and think. But let’s not call it intellectual rape, let’s call it “keeping ourselves in the love of Jesus.” Let’s call it “preaching the gospel to ourselves every day.” Let’s call it “being faithful to the church every time the doors are opened.” Let’s call it “putting ourselves under the authority of Godly men.” Let’s call it “trusting God with our finances.”

You’re welcome Tim, glad I could help.

paul

Louisville Cross Conference 2013 and the Seven Questions

Posted in Uncategorized by pptmoderator on January 28, 2016
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