Paul's Passing Thoughts

How and Why “Gospel-Driven” Sanctification / Sonship Theology Creates Cult-Like Churches

Posted in Uncategorized by pptmoderator on February 21, 2015

PPT HandleOriginally published January 31, 2011

In all of my writings on gospel-driven sanctification / gospel sanctification, and its apparent mother, Sonship Theology, I have primarily addressed the error, and not its ill effects on discipleship and people’s lives. Basically, refutation of false doctrine has prevention in mind, not theological debate for entertainment purposes.

My firsthand experience with a “gospel centered” church is applicable here because this same church and its leaders are well respected in Reformed circles, and especially among those who propagate gospel-driven sanctification. Paul David Tripp speaks at this particular church often, and others such as Stewart Scott and Robert Jones have recently participated in major events there as well. Therefore, it is fair to conclude that this particular church’s activities are not considered to be abnormal among “gospel centered” persuasions.

The church I am using as an example regarding the “what,” (I will write about the “how” last) would classify themselves as being a New Covenant Theology church. They consider “Theology of the Heart, redemptive-historical hermeneutics, gospel-driven sanctification, and Christian hedonism to be tenets of NCT. What does this church and many others look like as a result of this theology?

Foremost, the leadership is very controlling. Members must have permission from the elders to vacate membership status. Those who attempt to leave membership for “unbiblical reasons” can be placed under church discipline. I have personally counseled former parishioners of said church on how to “get out of there” with minimal stress, and how to leave without being placed under church discipline. At this particular church, leaving for doctrinal reasons is considered “unbiblical.” In one particular case where the elders deemed the reason for departure “biblical,” the parishioner informed me that the chairman of the elders told him, “We would never prevent you from leaving for that reason.”

These elders are also very controlling in the area of thought. In a sermon preached by one of its elders entitled, “How to Listen to a Sermon” the following idea was introduced: Christians are not able to grow spiritually from personal study, but must only learn from sitting under preaching; specifically, preaching by the elders at that church. Here is an excerpt from the manuscript:

“You think, perhaps, that [you] can fill up the other half of the plate with personal study, devotions, or quiet times, or a radio program. Beloved, you cannot. Scripture is relatively quiet on such practices. [Particularly on the issue of radios]. But on preaching, the case is clear and strong. Neglect preaching and neglect your soul. I know that some are kept from services for legitimate reasons which are out of their control, but I doubt that is the case for most. I beseech you, change your ways for the good of this people and for the good of your own selves. Give the Word its rightful place. As I have often said, there is no better place you could be than here, under the preaching of the Word.”

Of course, the first thing that would come to mind for any thinking Christian is the biblical account of the Bereans who studied the Scriptures on their own to determine the truthfulness of Paul’s teaching. But according to this elder, the account in Acts 17 wasn’t referring to that, but rather was illustrating the proper way to listen to a sermon:

“The text here implies that there was an interactive nature between three entities: The preacher, the hearers, and the Word. Note this cycle: Paul, from the Word, delivers words. The Bereans, from Paul’s words, go to the Word. The Word cycles from God, through the preacher, to the people, back to the Word, and this, verse 12 tells us, produced belief in the God of the Word.”

In other words, personal study alone cannot produce belief; preaching from an elder must be part of the “cycle” that produces belief (notice the emphasis on “belief” rather than increased knowledge per the progressive justification element of gospel sanctification). In fact, he said that personal study only “flavors” the preaching:

“So a good preparation for the public preaching of the Word is the private consumption of the Word. It will be the seasoning that brings out the flavor – salt on your French fries, if you will”

So, personal Bible study isn’t the food, it’s just the flavoring. And, personal Bible study is for “flavoring,” not discernment. Buyer beware.

In another category under mind control, separate small groups that meet during the week under the supervision of individual elders in homes of members are instructed not to associate, or speak with members who have left for doctrinal reasons. Also, the primary purpose of the meetings is to get feedback from the parishioners on what was taught the previous Sunday, and fielding objections or concerns. In other “gospel centered” churches, these mid-week meetings are closed to outsiders, or non-members. These meetings have also been known to produce weird occurrences like the time an elder unexpectedly produced all of his financial records in plain view of the group for their inspection. A parishioner confided in me that he found the incident to be surreal, and more information than he cared to know about.

Unknown, for the most part, is the gospel-driven use of what’s called redemptive church discipline. It is a staple of these churches, and it is a very broad use of church discipline. Reformed Christians who join “gospel centered” churches assume it is a reference to traditional forms of church discipline. Parishioners can be placed in this process for any sin, and without any prior notice or inclination. It is not the normal process of inquisitive steps to determine a Christian’s willingness to repent, but more like a counseling process in which elders judge when the parishioner has actually repented. Verbal repentance on the part of the subject is not accepted. Members are not free to leave membership while in this process without being excommunicated for supposedly attempting to vacate membership while in the midst of an unresolved sin issue. Those who dispute gospel sanctification are often placed into the process to convert them to a “redemptive” view of sanctification. They either convert, or they’re excommunicated. Accounts of “gospel centered” churches using this process to control parishioners is vast.

However, the major complaint coming out of these churches is the ignoring of clear biblical mandates by their elders. Parishioners are often perplexed by this. But this is because the elders of these churches believe the Bible is solely for the purpose of showing forth redemptive principles (ie., the gospel) and not instruction. Per New Covenant Theology, they are only obligated to a “higher law of love” which replaced biblical imperatives. The idea is the following: all actions done with the motive of love are righteous. As Francis Chan wrote, “….because when we are loving, we can’t sin”(Crazy Love p.102). As in one case when an elder was caught counseling someone’s wife without the husband’s knowledge – his defense was that he did so “in love.” Therefore, just about anything goes in gospel-driven churches, and well published accounts include excommunicating hundreds of members at one time for non-attendance, which is a questionable act when Scripture is considered to say the least.

How does this happen? First, it begins with a niche doctrine. Propagators often admit that gospel sanctification is a “radical departure” from orthodox doctrine. Those are the words of the propagators, not mine. Any movement that begins with a niche doctrine is in danger of becoming a cult, that’s Cult Apologetics 101. My research has made the following evident: the doctrine was conceived by a man named Jack Miller in, or about 1980.

Secondly, the niche doctrine draws leaders who are more interested in being unique than being in the truth. Take note of what one of the elders of the aforementioned church said while introducing a Sunday school class teaching Christian hedonism: “This doctrine is what makes us unique.” Whenever the goal is to be unique, trouble is not far behind.

Thirdly, niche doctrines and a striving to be different leads to subjectivity and confusion because the leaders are constantly striving to make the doctrine fit with reality and orthodoxy. This results in the kind of events mentioned above.

Fourthly, these elements mixed with the fact that most Reformed churches are autonomous in their polity is an extremely dangerous combination. Basically, the leadership is not accountable and the congregation is on their own.

Niche doctrines, the control of members in thought and action, the ignoring of clear biblical mandates, misuse of unbiblical church discipline in order to control parishioners through fear, manipulation, and intimidation; this is how the “gospel centered” leaders of our day adorn their vile doctrine. Therefore, perhaps they should be named with the cult leaders of ages past accordingly.


Robert Jones Will Return to Clearcreek Chapel to Teach a Refresher Course on Controlling Parishioners

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on November 25, 2013

CCCThe New Calvinist movement is much attuned to its European Reformed roots. Though the New Calvinists deny a mentality of equal footing between orthodoxy and Scripture, their endearment to Reformed authority is evident. Though documents like the Westminster Confession and the Calvin Institutes are said to be “subordinate truth,” we must remember that these documents are, “orthodoxy,” and orthodoxy is synonymous with “truth” in Western culture. “Heterodox” is the opposite, and commonly refers to those who oppose the commonly accepted creeds and confessions of the Reformed church.[1]

The fact that these documents were drafted under the auspices of church states is a major consideration. For example, The Westminster Confession of Faith includes specific standards for the enforcement of orthodoxy by the state.[2] The most formidable result of the Enlightenment era, the United States of America, changed all of that. What we clearly have now is a desire to follow the dictates of 17th century Reformed orthodoxy in a post Christian era ruled by the separation of church and state. As an aside, it would be wrong to say the Enlightenment era was anti-Christian; in contrast, it championed freedom of Religion by insisting on the separation of faith and force.

The desire to follow in the footsteps of those who believed in the civil enforcement of orthodoxy poses unique problems for the Neo-Calvinist movement. This created a niche consulting market that specializes in teaching churches how to improvise in an open society. One of the first organizations to exploit this need was Peacemaker Ministries. Founded in 1982, the organization equips church leaders to control parishioners under the pretense of “peace making.”

The present-day New Calvinist movement was born in 1970, and from its beginning spawned massive church splits and conflict. By 1982, an emphasis on damage control would have been in high demand, especially in regard to lawsuits provoked by the heavy-handed leadership style of New Calvinists.

The organization strives to help churches “build a culture of peace.” One way of doing that is through “peacemaking teams.” Keep in mind, organizations like Peacemakers are supported by the institutional church and have no vested interest in obtaining a peaceful solution for individual concerns. Peacemaker Ministries routinely turns a blind eye to the out of control misuse of church discipline in Neo-Calvinist church culture. The excuse PM employs for not getting involved would be funny if not so dastardly: they cite the bogus church discipline itself as a reason to not get involved because they only get involved in controversies between Christians. And since the bogus church discipline has declared the offended party an unbeliever—all bets are off. Again, keep in mind who is paying PM.

On their website, it is stated that the purpose of peacemaking teams is to “serve their leaders and to advance their vision to build his church.” So, it is not true reconciliation that is in mind, or gaining brothers between brothers, but rather a team that diffuses controversy that hinders the leaders’ “vision.”  This is just another tool in the repertoire of control infrastructures common in Neo-Calvinist churches. What these control structures look like is discussed here.

Once again, Robert Jones of Peacemaker Ministries will teach at the annual “Family Enrichment Conference” held at Clearcreek Chapel in Springboro, Ohio. Jones is scheduled to teach at the 2014 conference. Clearcreek Chapel has a long history of unresolved conflict with many Christians, and is well known for its cult-like heavy-handed leadership style. Since the departure of the founding pastor, Clearcreek has consistently drifted from one conflict to another. The latest controversy involved complaints by parishioners that the Clearcreek elders were teaching “some kind of Christian mysticism.” The Chapel elders recently changed their titles to less controversial words like “overseer” as opposed to “pastor of spiritual formation” etc. In addition, the radical Christian mystic Chad Bresson is no longer on the board of elders, and is seemingly no longer a member there as well.

A Robert Jones tune-up may be well overdue.


1. Webster’s New World Dictionary of the American Language: World Publishers 1959.

2.  William Marshall: The Principles of the Westminster Standards Persecuting ; D.D., Coupar – Angus. Edinburgh: William Oliphant & Co. 1873. Specific citations: Paul’s Passing Thoughts .com; Inseparable: The Reformation’s Principles of Persecution and its Gospel; Part One – August 31, 2013.

How Kinky Does it Have to Get? Stuart Scott et al Don’t Care

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on January 30, 2012

ScottI have never been much for getting into the more bizarre aspects of New Calvinism, but we know that errant theology leads to life getting stranger and stranger. This post is about  well-known Christians and their determination to associate with bizarre sects of New Calvinism. Without a doubt, the best example is my old stomping grounds, Clearcreek Chapel in Springboro, Ohio.

Clearcreek is still a training center for the National Association of Nouthetic Counselers and is on NANC’s national referral list. The Chapel is frequented by guest speakers such as Robert Jones, Paul David Tripp, Stuart Scott, and Lou Priolo. Apparently, Martha Peace has an ongoing teaching arrangement with Clearcreek as well. PPT has sent most of these folks letters asking them to not grant Clearcreek credibility in this way, but to no avail. Scott’s basic response was, “Not my problem.”

So, what doesn’t matter to these folks? Primarily, it doesn’t matter that one of Clearcreek Chapel’s staff elders (over adult education) is Chad Bresson, a former Christian radio personality. Bresson is one of the charter members of the Earth Stove Society which is a fringe group that promotes New Covenant Theology. Bresson authors the blog, Vossed World which is dedicated to the Bible Theology of Geerhardus Vos.

Vos has a cult following from this group. Literally. NCT fringe groups lead yearly pilgrimages to Vos’ gravesite in Pennsylvania to pay homage to Vos. Bresson led such a pilgrimage last year that was nothing short of a worship service. Bresson himself stood before Vos’ headstone and wept while reading from books written by Vos. Shockingly, Bresson posted the affair on his Facebook page and the information was forwarded to PPT.

“Standing in the midst of the obvious decay that is the hallmark of the already, speaks of the inbreaking ‘not yet’ through lumped throat and wet eyes.”

Just last week, I had the following encounter with an advocate of NCT and  acquaintance of Bresson’s  in the PPT comment section of a post:

My dear anti-Pneumian friend, we are heading there in a few weeks for our winter Pilgrimage . . . we will be sure to light a prayer candle or two for you at his shrine as we offer up prayers on our special new covenant Rosary to our beloved patron Saint Geerhardus. May he grant to you out of his treasury of grace to be spared some time in purgatory. Until then, walk in the power of the Spirit and be filled with the joy and wonder of the Gospel!


I would be inclined to think you are kidding, but I know Bresson all too well, so, I think you are serious about this. If Vos shows up, take good notes and I will let you write a guest piece here.

Also troubling is Bresson’s outright denial of a literal, instructive approach to Scripture. Bresson believes the Holy Spirit only illumines the word when it is approached as a gospel narrative for purposes of Gospel Contemplationism. Any use of the Bible for instructive purposes is to use the Bible in the same way that the Pharisees used the Torah (Vossed World blog: “The Word of God is a Person,” 7/17/2008 archives). As the foremost respected theologian at Clearcreek Chapel, the idea that every single verse in the Bible must be read as concerning Christ and the gospel can be seen in the following post by another Chapel teacher: Clearcreek Chapel Biblical Theological Study Center blog: “Interpreting the Unfolding Drama the Way Jesus Did,” student archives 2/19/2011, by Max Strange. Online source:

The Clearcreek elders are so bent on not implementing instruction in counseling that on at least one occasion, according to a former counselee I talked to, they will draw pictures of the person’s life on a piece of paper and illustrate were the counselee is located in the picture. I witnessed a testimony firsthand in which a Clearcreek elder said a marriage was miraculously transformed before his eyes by merely showing forth the gospel from the Scriptures in the first counseling session. When I confronted the elders about it, the response was, “Oh, that’s just Dan.”

Even by NANC standards, the fact that NANC associates with them and refers people there who have deep problems is unconscionable.

Another example is New Calvinist Mark Driscoll who has been a keynote speaker at such events like CCEF’s 2009 national conference at the behest of David Powlison. The following video in which he claims to see visions is self-explanatory:

Truly, New Calvinists like John Piper and CJ Mahaney must get together and giggle about what they can actually get away with. The following video documents their strange “The Scream of the Damned” concoction. This actually took place at the 2009 resolved conference sponsored by John MacArthur’s church. The fact that Grace Community Church would host such nonsense speaks for itself. Following are quotes concerning the message and then the 2009 resolved promo trailer:

CJ spoke of our Savior’s cry, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken Me?” And though I have contemplated that amazing cry often, never did it hit me as hard as in CJ’s message, when he referred to it as “the scream of the Damned.”

Then there was break and music and announcements, and John Piper stood up to bring his message. Several of us had prayed in a back room that God would anoint John, and pick right up where He left off in the previous message, and wow, did He. John referred repeatedly to the “scream of the Damned,” and then moved into Romans 8.

A flood of tears came as God preached the message to me yet again. That Deity would be Damned. That the God who is called upon righteously by the saints and angels in heaven to damn people, and called upon habitually by unbelievers flippantly and unrighteously to damn people, would in fact damn his Son, would (from the Son’s willingness to drink the cup) damn himself…for us. That it could be said of the Beloved One, “God damned Him,” and that He screamed the scream of the Damned….it was too much for me. It is too much for me this moment. And in the ages to come it will continue to be too much for me.

~ Randy Acorn

Everything exists to magnify the worth of the scream of the damned. That’s the point of the universe. What we will do forever in heaven is magnify the worth of the scream of the damned. Calvary will not be forgotten. It is the most-horrible, most sinful, most agonizing event that ever was – it will be the center of heaven forever. Hell exists, cross exists, sin exists, heaven exists, you exist, universe exists, in order to magnify the worth of the scream of the damned. What is the apex of the revelation of the grace of God? And the answer is the scream of the damned on the cross.

~ John Piper from his sermon on “The Screamed of the Damned.”

TGC Part 20: Directory May Give Clue Regarding What GS/S Churches “Look Like”

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on April 15, 2011

This will be the last part in this series concerning The Gospel Coalition. While looking into the possibility of posting a directory of Gospel Sanctification / Sonship churches—it quickly became evident that such a task would be too time consuming. Unfortunate, because many give testimony to the fact that the average lay person will spend two years figuring out that their leadership has adopted the GS/S doctrine. In all cases reported so far, the eldership of GS/S churches refused to come clean to the very end.

Therefore, the best course of action is to refer Christians to the TGC Network Church Directory:

On the list is a church in Springboro, Ohio named Clearcreek Chapel (hereafter: CCC). CCC, often referred to as “Clearcreek Cult,” and “Cloudy-Creek Chapel” by former members, is one of the most respected churches among the who’s who of GS/S. The church was founded by Dr. John Street, a prominent board member of the upstart Biblical Counseling Coalition which is intimately connected with TGC and T4G. DA Carson, Jerry Bridges, and Robert Jones have done conferences there (CCC), and Paul David Tripp speaks there often. CCC was one of the pilot churches that tested David Powlison’s “Dynamics of Biblical Change” before it was published as “How People Change” authored by Tripp and Timothy Lane. CCC is also a NANC training center.

Therefore, CCC, as one of the first independent Reformed churches to ascribe to the GS/S doctrine, could represent what churches  who follow GS/S doctrine may look like in future years. For expediency, I will use an unpublished (until now) document that expresses concerns regarding CCC—and it also makes a good questionnaire for other churches that hold to this doctrine. The document was derived from actual events and testimonies from former members.

An Open Challenge To Clearcreek Chapel In Springboro, Ohio:

I.  A primary hallmark of a cult is covert doctrine and church policy that is gradually assimilated into the thinking of its members incre­mentally. The organization “CultWatch” states the following: “…if people knew their true practices and beliefs beforehand then they would not join. A cult needs to hide the ‘truth’ from you until they think you are ready to accept it.” Therefore, we challenge the Chapel elders to fully reveal what they believe about the following doctrine and policies to all present members, new members, and visitors:

A.  Sanctification: Please inform them that you believe that sanctifi­cation is purely monergistic in the same way as it is in justification, and that participation by believers in the sanctification process is a false gospel.

B.   The Word of God: Please inform them that you believe that every verse in the Bible is about justification only, and that the Holy Spirit is only active in sanctification when the Scriptures are used to that end only. Affirm or deny that Christians need salvation every day.

C.   Church Discipline: Please inform them that you believe that any member can be placed into your church discipline process at any time, and for any reason, and without prior notice. Please inform them that a verbal repentance from the subject does not end the process, but that true repentance must be determined by elders over time. Please inform them that they are not free to leave the Chapel until they are released from this discipline process by the elders, and that any attempt to do otherwise will result in excommunication. Please inform them that all subjects who enter into formal, or informal counseling, are considered to be in the discipline process, and are not free to leave Clearcreek Chapel until they are released from counseling. Please inform them that you believe that you have the authority to place any individual into your church discipline process regardless of membership status, including those who have never been a member of Clearcreek Chapel in the past.

D.   Divorce: Please inform all present members, new members, and visitors that you believe that your members are free to divorce any spouse that is unbelieving, or declared to be unbelieving by you because of a wide range of perceived failures as a spouse. Also, many of these perceived failures can be considered abandonment even if the spouse has not physically left or filed for divorce. Furthermore, in regard to an unbelieving husband, you believe that he has no authority in the home, but that his authority resides with you instead.

E.  Elder Authority: Affirm or deny that God will honor any decision you make as long as it is according to the single law of love governed by your own conscience (as supposedly formed by read­ing the “gospel narrative” only), and to the exclusion of objective, biblical imperatives, and the authority thereof.

F.   Church Membership: Affirm or deny that members need permis­sion to leave the Chapel for another congregation. Affirm or deny that members can be brought under church discipline if the elders affirm that they are leaving for “unbiblical” reasons.

II.   Cults propagate a strong exclusivism mentality among their members. Clearcreek Chapel members are characterized by a pre­dominant attitude that the Chapel is the only truly relevant ministry within hundreds of miles. This mentality is clearly propagated by the elders of Clearcreek Chapel and would be necessary by default because of your belief that synergistic sanctification is a false gospel, which is far from what most churches consider orthodox.

III.   Cults inflict fear through character assassination and inimida­tion. Character assassination in regard to those who have left the Chapel is rampant, and the elders stand by and give approval by participating or refusing to stop this activity, regardless of the pleadings from those who have left. This is a well documented fact. CultWatch says the following in regard to this third element: “Character Assassination is a sure sign of a cult,” Also, “Cult leadership is feared. To disagree with leadership is the same as disagreeing with God.” Fear of leadership at the Chapel is very prevalent and easy to ascertain.

IV.   Information control is a sure sign of a cult. The Chapel elders have specifically told parishioners that observing a particular website critical of the Chapel is “sin.” Because any sin is cause for church discipline at the Chapel; in essence, you are clearly threaten­ing church discipline for anyone who observes the site. A member was instructed by the Chapel elders, in writing, not to study doctrine or attempt to ascertain an understanding concerning your hermeneu­tics. One elder told the same member not to be concerned with the Chapel’s doctrine for “at least two years.” The following is another quote from CultWatch: “If you are instructed by a group not to read information critical of the group, then that is a sign of a cult.” Also, “legitimate groups have nothing to fear from their members reading critical information about them.” We therefore challenge the Chapel elders to encourage the congregation to read material critical of Chapel doctrine and elder behavior, and also assure them that there will be no retribution for doing so.

V.   Love Bombing and relationship control are also signs of a cult. Love bombing is a Clearcreek staple. When an elder was caught having an inappropriate, divisive conversation with a Chapel spouse, he offered “love” as a defense in plain contradiction to biblical instruction. The motivation of supposed love is license to do what is right in your own eyes at the Chapel, regardless of Scriptural guidelines. This also speaks to your antinomian doctrine. The Cha­pel elders seek to drive a wedge between spouses when one spouse challenges your doctrine. This is well documented, and is a staple mode of operation used by Jehovah Witnesses. A constant, and unbalanced emphasis on love also replaces concern for sound doc­trine in dramatic fashion at the Chapel, and is a distinctive mark of a cult. Also, on numerous occasions, members who have left the Chapel have been instructed not to associate with present members, and have been threatened with church discipline accordingly. Cha­pel members have also been instructed not to ever speak to specific members, and others who have left the Chapel. Weekly flock meet­ings are used to disparage individuals who have left the Chapel and to set the table against possible conversations that may take place at a later date. CultWatch says the following: “Beware of a group that tells you who you can and cannot see.”

VI.  Cults will usually have reporting structures. Elders are placed in strategic relationships with people who are perceived as individuals who may question doctrine. Elders will often invite parishioners or visitors to weekly breakfast meetings for the purpose of keeping tabs on what they perceive at the Chapel. A members wife was recruited to feed the elders private information concerning who her husband was associating with and other private information. The elders also recruited a member to be an “encourager” to him during a time when they were concerned that he would confide in others. CultWatch says the following: “Is information you expect to be kept confidential reported to the leadership? If so, then it’s a cult.”

VII.   Cults practice high pressure coercion. To say that members who leave the Chapel to join other churches are made to feel uncomfortable, and threatened, would be an understatement. For members to leave the Chapel without some kind of tension is often a balancing act. In fact, at least one member was held there under threat of excommunication for unbiblical reasons, and against his own wishes, for almost four months.

VIII.  Cults practice time control. The idea is to keep subjects preoccupied with constant events to prevent contemplation in regard to doctrine, personal involvement, or involvement with those out­side of the organization.

IX.  Cult leadership is not accountable to outside organizations or the congregation. We challenge the Chapel elders to repeal changes they have made to Chapel polity in order to implement plenary elder rule.

X.  Cults seek to control their subjects through coercion and fear in regard to finances. We challenge the Chapel elders to repent of teaching the congregation that God curses all of those who do not tithe ten percent of all financial increase to the Chapel.

“The ‘Gospel’ Coalition” Series, Part 13: Dr. John Street Joins the Noun Coalition

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on April 5, 2011

Just yesterday, when I was introduced to the new gospel upstart organization in our everything gospel church culture, I was verbless. Somebody sent me a link to the upstart’s Facebook page (the “Biblical Counseling Coalition”) which posted this statement: “Sanctification is the art of getting used to our full salvation: justification, regeneration, redemption, reconciliation.”

Rush Limbaugh often says “Words mean things,” but [do] they really? After all, I did some investigation and this new coalition is overseen by the spiritual brain-trust of our day. So, when the apostle Paul described sanctification as “abstain[ing]” (1Thess 4:3), “running” by obedience (Gal  5:7), also through obedience: “work[ing] out….with fear and trembling” (Phil 2:12), beating our bodies into subjection, discipline, running a race, and for a prize (1Cor 9:24-27); surely, we peasants of this contemporary dark age must be misunderstanding him because that’s a lot of verb-iage. Since Michael Horton says the purpose of corporate worship is for reviving our valley of dead bones by contemplating the gospel, should we forget all that stuff in Hebrews about encouraging each other unto good works? Should we rather relax and say, “Hey bro, how are you coming along in the art of getting use to you salvation?”

Inquiring minds, what’s left of them, want to know. Because one of the board members of this coalition is David Powlison, we could have a clue. In an interview with Nine Marks, Powlison said that the church forgets stuff, but when it is rediscovered by CCEF’s  Research and Development Dept., it has to be reevaluated in a contemporary historical context. Hmmmm. Powlison also believes that a thorough search must be made of all past and present philosophies, literature, history, etc., just in case God has shown other people stuff that he hasn’t shown the church, or has shown the church in the past, but was forgotten, because the church forgets stuff. At this years TGC (The Gospel Coalition) 2011 conference, Powlison will be conducting a seminar on “Recent Advancements in Biblical Counseling.” So, for all of you that draw propositional truth from interpreting the verb, noun, subject, preposition, etc. structure of sentences in the Bible, you may not want to miss that seminar if you really want to able to take the word and help people.

Yet another clue may come from another board member of the BCC, Paul David Tripp. He believes that biblical verbs must be seen in their “gospel context.” In other words, all verbs in the Bible pertain to Jesus. In “How People Change,” Tripp says that the art of getting use to our sanctification is “resting and feeding” on Christ. In the same book, Tripp  also writes, like Michael Horton in “Christless Christianity” (or, “Verbal Christianity”), that Christians are dead, and as Tripp states it in HPC: “When you are dead, you can’t do anything.” Tripp also mentions in the same book that Christ is not a cognitive concept that we apply to life, but he is a “person.” Got that? No cognitive concepts, just the personal pronoun.

But another board member that caught my eye on the list was Dr. John D. Street who has actually counseled me in the past. I have been reluctant to write in regard to him previously because I am privy to the fact that he used to employ lots of verbs in counseling that applied to the counselee, and I didn’t want to get him into trouble. In fact, I was a perfect candidate for this new form of counseling when I came to him many years ago. I remember coming to one of our appointments and proudly proclaiming: “I have read my Bible and prayed for—four hours!” Now how do you like that for contemplative spirituality?! His answer? “I’m not going to tell you not to do that, but the power is in the doing.” Ouch! I can just imagine the look of horrific angst on Powlison’s face.

Back then, I think Street might have got this idea from the old way of interpreting the Bible. “But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.” “But” is a coordinating conjunction which indicates contrast in this sentance; so being interpreted, don’t do the previous verses—hearing only, and not doing. But that exact contrast that James warns us of is the mantra of the new biblical counseling movement. I was recently sent a webinar conducted by a NANC Fellow who was clearly propagating a hearing only model of change that left the results up to being “amazed by the gospel.” Apparently, James didn’t get the memo. He presents hearing and doing as two components that work together to bring about—at the very least, blessings. The blessings occur where? Well, if we answer that question by finding the preposition, the blessings are “in” the “doing.” Also note that James does not present the gospel as the primary motivator, but rather blessings.

There is no misunderstanding about how this false approach to counseling fleshes itself out in real life. I was a longtime member and former elder at Clearcreek Chapel, the church John Street founded in Springboro, Ohio. The church is presently endorsed by both CCEF and NANC, and is a NANC training center. Two members on the upstart BCC board, Robert Jones and Paul Tripp, speak there often. My information regarding this doctrine includes hundreds of hours of discussion with the Clearcreek elders, who again, are highly respected in GS / Sonship circles. The pastor of the church, Russ Kennedy, has said, “Any separation of justification and sanctification is an abomination.” Obviously, this can only leave sanctification by justification as the dynamic for change. This can also be seen in the statement regarding sanctification as something we “get used to” as opposed to what the apostle Paul taught. Though the movement is hideously covert, if one pays attention, their noun-iage exposes them from time to time.

The former Clearcreek elder who was in charge of counseling at Clearcreek once announced from the pulpit (at Clearcreek) that he learned to read his Bible in “a whole new way” from Chad Bresson, Clearcreek elder and author of “Vossed World,” a blog that promotes the belief that the Spirit only illuminates the word of God in a gospel context. Bresson also believes the postmodern concept that because truth is in a person, it cannot be propositional or cognitive / objective, which is why the Bible is strictly a narrative and not for instruction. Presumably, this is why Dan Turner, another elder / counselor at Clearcreek, sometimes (if not all the time) draws diagrams of people’s lives and shows them where they are at in the diagram / picture / gospel narrative as a way of avoiding an instructive paradigm. I once heard Turner explain how a marriage was miraculously transformed before his eyes after showing them the glory of the gospel from the Scriptures. Turner also told me that I was like the Pharisees because I believed that Scripture should often be used to determine objective truth. No surprise then that the elders at Clearcreek were never heard (while I was there) saying, “How do we do that?” But were rather heard saying—often,  “What does that look like.” In fact, we were taught that the “how” word was indicative of a heart problem, and the use of that word in a question to an elder resulted in a repeating of the word (how) back to the inquisitor in question form to correct the parishioner.

Will the BBC be able to help people with a counseling model based solely on nouns? I doubt it. Will John Street get kicked-off the BCC board for taking James literally? Or has he repented of such Phariseeism? Perhaps he now says: “I’m not going to tell you not to obey, but the power is in the contemplation.”  I hope he hasn’t, but if not, what does that look like? “[Run] John, [run]!”