“When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost.” ~ John 19:30
τετελεσται (teh-tel-es-tai) – verb; indicative mood, perfect tense, passive voice, 3rd person singular. It is derived from the Greek noun telos which is used to refer to something set out as a goal or an aim, or the conclusion of an act or state.
All Churchians most likely at some point in their life have heard the explanation that when Jesus uttered these words that He meant that he had finished what He had come to earth to accomplish. And what was it that Jesus accomplished? The orthodox interpretation of that would be that Jesus accomplished the forgiveness of sins. Moreover, it would be that Jesus lived a perfect life of obedience. Now having demonstrated perfect obedience to the Law, Jesus could fulfill his purpose as the perfect sacrifice for sin. His job was done.
It is true that Jesus did accomplish the forgiveness of sin with His death on the cross. But how exactly did this happen? Furthermore, Reformed orthodoxy would have us believe that Christians need to preach the gospel to themselves every day. They must daily return to the cross to continually have Jesus’ obedience imputed to their lives as a covering. This is accomplished by “faith alone” works through the “means of grace” administered by the local church. If Christians need an ongoing imputation of righteousness from Christ through His obeying the law for us in our stead, how exactly can one say that Jesus’ work is “finished”?
Lest I be accused of setting up a “straw man” argument, consider that after almost nine years of research here at TANC ministries, all of the problems with Protestant orthodoxy and the institutional church can be boiled down to one thing: a misunderstanding of the Law. Reformed orthodoxy keeps Christians “under law” (the Biblical definition of an unsaved person) by making perfect law-keeping the standard for righteousness. Because Protestantism’s metaphysical assumption of man is “total depravity”, man cannot keep the law, so he must rely on Jesus to keep the law for him.
But the Bible says that righteousness is apart from the law (Romans 3:21, 28). If Jesus must keep the law for us, not only does that make Jesus’ work not “finished”, but it is also not a righteousness apart from the law. What could Jesus have possibly meant when He said, “It is finished”?
It is important to note the grammar of that phase, which is only one single word in Greek. First of all, it is in the “passive voice”. That means the subject is the recipient of the action. Jesus did not say I have finished something. Some subject “it” received the action of being finished, and Jesus’ death accomplished that.
Second, the word “tetelestai” is in the “perfect” tense. The perfect tense is a verb form that indicates that an action or circumstance occurred earlier than the time under consideration, often focusing attention on the resulting state rather than on the occurrence itself. Although this gives information about a prior action, the focus is likely to be on the present consequences of that action. In fact, the King James rendering of this verb is incorrect. The correct rendering of this phrase in the perfect tense would be, “It has been finished.” Jesus declared that His death produced a resulting state of something that now exists that is different from an earlier state.
Third, “tetelestai” is in the singular third person. The subject is not Jesus and something He did. The focus is on some third party subject that was the recipient of some action being performed upon it. Therefore, the statement, “It is finished” could not be a reference to Jesus finishing His work of perfect obedience to the Law. Something else had the action of “finished” performed upon it.
The question then remains, when Jesus said, “It is finished”, what exactly then is the “it”?
For one thing, the Law was actually a living will or “testament”, a covenant made between God and Israel that was ratified with Moses by the sprinkling of blood (Hebrews 9:18-21). This covenant of the Law acted as a guardian until the promise made to Abraham and his “seed” was fulfilled. (Galatians 3:16, 22-24). The Law took Old Testament saints into protective custody, protecting them from the Law’s condemnation upon their death. All sin was imputed to the Law. This was the “atoning” or “covering” aspect of the Law.
The Law’s testament pointed to the coming “promise” to Abraham that all the nations would be blessed. There would come one who would “take away” sin once and for all. This was so clearly symbolized by the picture of the “scapegoat” in Leviticus 16. The high priest would lay his hands on the head of a goat, signifying the imputation of sin to the Law. The goat would then be delivered into the hands of a strong man who would carry that goat into the wilderness and release it, signifying the taking away of sin as far as the east is from the west.
Jesus was the promised “seed” of Abraham. He was the “testator” of which the Law’s covenant spoke. Just as with any will, it could not be in force until after the death of the testator (Hebrews 9:16-17). It would seem reasonable then that the perfect tense of the verb “tetelestai” would put focus on the Law, its testament, and its role as guardian. The initiating of the Law was an event or circumstance of the past, but Jesus’ death now causes us to focus on its resulting change of state. The passive voice indicates that the Law is the recipient of this change of state. What is now changed?
- The testament of the Law is finished. Jesus’ death now allowed its promises to be fulfilled; that is, sin would be ended because the Law was ended. All sin that was imputed to the Law would be taken away forever. The Law can no longer condemn.
- The Law’s role as a guardian is finished. Since the “promise” had been fulfilled, believers are now the righteous offspring of the Father. There is no Law to condemn them, and where there is no law there is no sin. And since there is no sin there is no longer any need of a guardian. The covering aspect of the Law is ended.
- The distinction between Jew and Gentile is finished. Now every born again child of God would be baptized into one Body. This is the mystery that Paul spoke of in Ephesians. He called it the New Man. Every person who is a member of the Body is given a gift to exercise to the edification of the Body and to demonstrate love to God and others. The Law is the means by which believers show love through obedience.
One could say that because of Jesus’ death to end the Law, there is now a new relationship to the Law. There is a change of state; not only of the law but the state of the believer as well!
It was God’s plan to reconcile every man to Himself by putting to death the “old man” who is “under law” and replacing him with a new creature who is the literal offspring of the Father. In this way sin is ended because the Law is ended for those who are born again. The Law is fulfilled in us, every believer, each time we show love to another.
On this “Good Friday”, take time to consider this: Sin sought to bring death by condemnation and alienate man from God. God defeated Sin by providing a way to make man part of His own family!
The following is the conclusion of a nine-part series.
Taken from John Immel’s sixth session
at the 2014 Conference on Gospel Discernment and Spiritual Tyranny
~ Edited by Andy Young
|Click here for the introduction
Click here for part two
Click here for part three
Click here for part four
|Click here for part five
Click here for part six
Click here for part seven
Click here for part eight
Will the New Calvinist movement produce political indifference?
Throughout history, the masses at some point realize that the fruits of these ideas wreak havoc on humanity. Then humanity rises up and pushes back, but for the most part in human history, it is a vicious cycle. The ideas that produce the fruit have never really been dealt with at the root. People just start picking up guns because they know it’s bad. And then something a little better rises from the ashes that fixes the immediate problem (for a little while at least) that started all the shooting.
We need to realize then that the founders of the American government were one of the few in history, if not the first ones that said, “Wait a minute here. We are going to deal with the ideas that lead to this tyranny.” That is why the United States of America is the only country ever founded on philosophy. They actually understood that the ideas behind tyranny were the problem, and they understood that the ideas behind liberty were the source of genuine political liberty. They went through great pains to try to craft a government that prevented the madness that had washed across the face of the globe for the whole of human history, and they succeeded.
The problems that we have had are the same problem that Christians are confronted with every time you see this cycle or the resurgence of the Calvinist movement. After the initial pushback, there remains no full philosophical statement. There is no fortress to fall back to and use as rebuttal to these ancient doctrines, and that is because most people do not know them. They just accept them.
I am confident there are people reading this right now holding their breaths saying, “How can he possibly reject the whole of Christianity?” And they are scandalized that I have been so bold, but the realities are what they are. Christians need to get their heads wrapped around this. Christianity as it is currently taught has always been on the forefront of tyranny. It has always been a competitor in tyranny or the leader in tyranny.
So, will the New Calvinist movement produce political indifference?
This is not an issue of political indifference. The issue is that Calvinism advocates self-sacrifice and submission to authority as an ideal. The Dark Ages were dominated by Augustine’s dogmatism, the assumption that select men have the moral authority to define intellectual content. the modern version of this is the doctrine of submission and authority. The only fundamental difference in the modern age is by contrast; Augustine had the power of the state to use violence to compel intellectual compliance.
Modern Neo-Calvinists are only barely restrained from claiming the right to violence to enforce church doctrine. Mark Driscol once made reference to putting people “in the wood chipper”. Now I’m not sure how exactly that metaphor passes muster on any level, but nonetheless what he is ultimately saying is he believes that the church authorities should have the right to use violence for disagreement.
(Editors Note: consider this article recently published on Paul’s Passing Thoughts.)
The pious preacher will object, “But I don’t believe that.” But neither are you running those preachers out on a rail for saying it. If you won’t take action when it is merely talk, how will you take action when it is actually the government-endorsed violence? I suggest, preacher, that you are a fraud. You say your job description is to protect the flock, and yet you do nothing. You take no action. All preachers who demand submission for protection are frauds. If they cannot intellectually defend their right to exist, they cannot hope to defend against tyranny.
And here is the central question of this theological shell game. If men cannot correctly judge ideological outcomes after the fact, if they cannot see the impact of Lutheran doctrine and its shaping of National Socialist Germany, how can they be defenders of the flock in our time?
Christianity’s growing abuse problems are no accident. The truth is before our eyes. This is Christianity in its infancy, the doctrine in action minus real civil power. And the reality is the blogosphere is already reeling from the stories. Today’s Christian national leaders are bold and clear about their ultimate goals, yet people reject the doctrine as irrelevant. They wipe out the universe to choose to call that action wisdom. For you pew-sitters, no matter how the preacher wants to hedge and caveat and smile, when they are asking for your submission to their authority, they are claiming the unique qualification to rational superiority. They are saying it is their moral right to define all intellectual conclusions. So if you submit to their authority, you cannotmake a claim to your own mind. You cannot utter the word “I” before the word “think.”
It is important to understand that authority is merely force. So whenever you hear some preacher thumping the Plexiglas podium, no matter how polite his words demanding your submission to his authority, you must realize he is really demanding your submission to his force. It does not matter how nice he makes it sound. He is overtly declaring his right to use force against your unrepentant body.
And I want to make one amended comment here. When I say right, I mean prerogative, just like in the divine prerogative of kings. Rights are specific and delimited exactly as John Locke described them. Individuals have rights. Groups, collective states do not have rights. All states, all just states, all moral states are created at the behest of the individuals and given delimited powers.
Pastors do not have rights. They do not have the right to compel. And make no mistake, the modern New Calvinist movement is just as politically motivated as the Evangelical Lutherans were in the 1920s. They are motivated by the exact same themes. They condemn individuality and egoism. They advocate sacrifice and statism. They condemn freedom as license. They advocate socialist economic policies, and above all else, they condemn capitalism. And the condemnation of capitalism is the condemnation of the individual. There is no such thing as liberty without capitalism.
American Christians are under the delusion that they can have Enlightenment reasoning, Enlightenment liberty, Enlightenment property, Enlightenment prosperity, Enlightenment government, and Enlightenment freedom together with medieval Christianity. It is not possible. These are mutually exclusive philosophical expectations. America, you must pick.
“But, John, no one is out there preaching medieval Christianity.”
Oh yes, they are. It is called orthodoxy. American Christians like the sound of orthodoxy. It sounds good to them, but that is only because the average pew-sitter has no clue what orthodoxy really means. Orthodoxy means they must abandon reason, which is the root of all Enlightenment beliefs. Under orthodoxy, there is no such thing as, “but I believe,” or, “but this is what I believe.” So every time you want to object to my broad generalizations about this brand of Christianity, you do not have the right to your objections. You have already abandoned your rational capacity to somebody else’s authority.
The American church is, unfortunately, under the delusion they are entitled to make up their own minds. This, unfortunately, is a condition that affects the college crowd quite a bit. They think their opinion matters, and it really does not. College kids are only allowed to hold their own opinions inasmuch as they pose no challenge to leadership, and the definition of challenge is constantly moving. There is no such thing as a little bit of subordination. It is kind of like being a little bit pregnant. You either are or you are not. Once you concede the premise that you must submit your rational faculties to authority, the only question left is how much subordination, and as far as the Neo-Calvinist leadership is concerned, it must be in toto. You are lying to yourself if you think otherwise.
Here is my challenge. I double dog dare you. Walk into any New Calvinist church and object to their doctrine. And then, you bold man, go tell everybody that you did. And then, you really bold man, keep telling everybody you did. Tell everybody that they have the right to make up their own mind about which one is right, the preacher or you. And after you do, and after the cuts and bruises heal, and after you finally put your head back on straight (because they will wreck you in the process), come to me, and I will tell you how to handle it.
I submit that the current church leadership is eroding the church’s intellectual base at the root. This is in direct answer to what Paul asked me at the beginning of this series. The top tier of the Calvinist leadership are mostly old men. The younger generation are typically young men, and despite their aspirations to leadership, they are picked to be part of the super spiritual crowd only because they are intellectually compliant. Intellectual strength and insular communities do not go together. Most of the Neo-Calvinist churches are very insular, and the intellectual limitations that are imposed by the leadership on the parishioners can do nothing but erode the intellectual rigor. The more a group isolates itself, the more the intellectual energy stagnates. The leadership is selecting a subsequent generation of church leaders because they are not independent thinkers. They run independent thinkers out on a rail as fast as they can get it done.
Make no mistake. New Calvinist movement is deliberately eroding the foundations of church intellectual base. I predict that within a generation, the church will be intellectually helpless. We are talking about 30 to 40 years. Without independent thought, man has no choice but to turn to the collective for his intellectual content. If you have made a habit of deferring thought to other men under pressure, you will default to what you have practiced.
Tyrants create intellectual dependency the same way they create the welfare state. The welfare state erodes self-sufficiency by robbing people of the opportunity to work. By grooming intellectual subordinates and advancing those specific mentalities to leadership, they are creating the same environment of dependency. Tyrants and despots always find ideas threatening, not because they fear ideas specifically. Most of them ignore ideas on principle. Tyrants find ideas threatening because men who can think are by definition individuals. There is no such thing as collective thinking. Only individuals think.
Achievement is the foundation of self-confidence. So the thinking man grasps his achievement. Rational independence is directly proportional to self-confidence. And you see this in children all this time. The better they do in school, the more happy they are about themselves. The more they demonstrate the ability to reason correctly, the more satisfaction they get in their life and their own happiness. This is a function of human existence. Men are thinking machines. It is the means by which we engage the world on the broadest levels, and our ability to master our own environment and our own minds and our own rational faculties are directly tied to our sense of happiness and well-being.
I give you a challenge for those of you who I know are out there reading and paying atention. If you are suffering from fear and doubts and unbelief, go put your brain to work. Go do something. Go achieve something. Do not worry about what anybody says. Go achieve. And I guarantee you that the day after you achieve, you will wake up happy. And for many of you, you will be scared that you are happy because you have been told you should not be happy with yourself. This is how much this doctrine is wrecking you.
You cannot tyrannize a self-confident man because he will never concede the premise of a tyrant’s right to make him a slave. A self-confident man will not crumble under moral assault. A self-confident man will not internalize moral criticism. A self-confident man understands his moral worth.
But the rationally subordinate man can never have rational confidence because he must defer all thoughts to someone in authority. This man has no rational success, so he is incapable of self-confidence. The rationally subordinate man will always crumble under moral assault. The rationally subordinate man will always internalize moral criticism. The rationally subordinate man will always abandon his moral worth.
This is why ad hominem attacks are so prevalent in the New Calvinist movement against all opponents. The leadership is taking advantage of the moral weakness of those who submit. They are habituated to condemning the man. They do not recognize rational arguments on principle. They do not recognize rational arguments as such. There is no rational appeal. There is only submission to authority.
Therefore, the only argument they must win is why the user of reason is morally condemned for his objection. If a New Calvinist cannot win a proof text exchange in the first three minutes, he will immediately switch to a personal attack. They will morally condemn their adversary. The moment they are confronted with ideas with reason and with logic, they quit the field. I see this with stunning consistency.
We must recognize where we are in American history. I told you that the assault against the Enlightenment came almost immediately after Locke. The assault against the Western way of life that was born from the Enlightenment and the liberties that we enjoy, the assault against reason, the assault against the individual have been unrelenting, and if you banish reason from human interaction, the only thing left to deal with men is force. We are at the very tail end of and the Age of Reason and the Enlightenment, and we have a crucial choice to make about what comes next.
If you banish reason, the only thing left is the Dark Ages.
Now you look around and you consider the technology and you see the developments of this modern day and age, and you have a hard time picturing a return to the Dark Ages. But the farther and farther away we get from reason in our culture, the more the cultural descent into violence because it will be the only way to deal with your neighbor. So when I say that we are going to lose Western society, I mean a society that upholds the primacy of existence, the effectiveness of reason, the political sovereignty of the individual, man’s inviolate right to private property, a secular state founded on delimited government whose sole purpose is to defend the individual in his life, property and liberty.
Our generation, my generation, this generation is presiding over the destruction of the single greatest political achievement this world has ever seen. The collectivist long knives have been hacking away at the foundations of the Western society almost from its inception. The collectivist doctrines have finally succeeded in uprooting the foundations of political liberty.
When I have these conversations in public, somebody will say to me, “But, John, we need to get to the next generation. We need to teach these kids.” And I have to stop them. It is not the kids’ job to save the world. It is your job. If you are my age, I guarantee you, if we lose this battle for reason and liberty, when the history books are finally written about this generation, they will hold us responsible. They will say, “What in the heck did they do? How could they have done this? They had it, and yet they let the collectivists, the socialists, the communists, and the Christian orthodox wreck it in the name of brotherly love and kindness and heaven and worker’s utopia. How?”
This is not optional. It is not a 15-year-old’s job to save the world. It is the 15-year-old’s job to be 15. This is the adult’s job. We inherited this world from men who had an enormously capable opinion of humanity, and it is our job to live up to their expectations. It is our job to make sure the ideas to defend liberty, the rights of men, prevail. And if we don’t succeed, it will be our fault and nobody else’s. Far too many people are quiet. They hear political leftists, communists, socialists, and collectivists speak, and they refuse to raise a challenge. Shaking your head and wringing your hands over the state of the world is not a rebuttal. You have a moral obligation to speak out against the collectivist ideologies.
Collectivist ideologies only win because proponents of liberty quit the arena of ideas. Offer a better argument. At the very least, Christians need to understand that a proof text is not an argument. A proof text is nothing more than an appeal to authority. The easiest way to defeat such an argument is to reject the source of authority. Christians do this to Muslims all the time. A Muslim quotes his Quran, and Christians go, “Well, I don’t believe that.” Well, the reciprocal is equally valid. You point to your proof text, and your audience goes, “I don’t care.” Using a proof text really means that you really have nothing else to say.
You need to gain some self-awareness about the nature of your own arguments. How many things do you have to accept at the base level to arrive at “but the Bible says”? All of that background goes into your conviction that this is something you should believe, but if nobody else holds that, then the proof text has no rational effectiveness. If your audience does not accept any of those things, then you have not made an argument. Proof texts only persuade – and I use that word loosely – those who (a) accept the interpretive methods and (b) accept the interpretive conclusion. If at the end of the argument you are left with “I will pray that God reveals it to you,” then what you have really said is you had nothing to say.
Neo-Calvinists like to pretend they are the only intellectual and theological game in town. I should hope after the last three years of these conferences that you know that is just flat untrue. Over the last three years, I have given you the scope of Western thought. They are not the only game in town. They reflect a mere thimble-full of thought in the intellectual game. Most of them in the modern age are fourth-rate thinkers at best. They would be lost without the giants upon whose shoulders they are standing or clinging desperately to their knees. The broader intellectual perspective that I have tried to bring to you is a powerful tool to combat the errors implicit to the Neo-Calvinist movement.
And so here we have it, ladies and gentlemen. The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for men to change the definition of good. Until you can defend that it is good for men to exist for his own sake, evil will always triumph. Ladies and gentlemen, I have given you the basics. Now go forth and defend Man.
~ John Immel
|Click here for the introduction
Click here for part two
Click here for part three
Click here for part four
|Click here for part five
Click here for part six
Click here for part seven
Click here for part eight
Those who hold to a redemptive-historical interpretation of scripture also unwittingly hold to a redemptive-historical interpretation of ALL of reality. Such an interpretation is rationally inconsistent with regard to reality itself. You cannot on the one hand talk about “God’s redemptive drama” and then on the other hand suggest that you have any say in the matter by any pretense of “choice”. The cognitive dissonance created by such duplicity is the reason why so many have rejected authentic protestant orthodoxy.
Addendum 10/17/2016: New comments in the Facebook thread have been added below.