Paul's Passing Thoughts

The Horrible Protestant Doctrine of Mortification and Vivification

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on April 13, 2015

Like any other super cult, Protestantism has hijacked and redefined every biblical definition of words and concepts from front cover to back cover. Any denomination that believes the clergy has authority is by definition a cult. The clergy has no horizontal authority, but only appeals to the free conscience of man in regard to the one vertical authority. The clergy has no authority by proxy. Any religious organization that believes the Bible defines an authority that they have by proxy is by definition a cult. Those who appeal to the free conscience of men in regard to the Bible are NOT a cult.

When the grammar is completely co-opted, the group being deceived is divided into two groups: those who know what you mean by the words, and those who think they know what you mean by the words with a slow indoctrination from the latter to the former. That’s how the deception has worked from the very beginning. If you are not a definer of words—you will be misled. In the garden, Eve thought she knew what the serpent meant by the word “death” and so it goes.

A good example is this article posted by the new cult hero among Neo-Calvinists, Rosaria Champagne Butterfield. On its face, few evangelicals are going to have any objection to anything written in the article because few evangelicals really know what’s behind the Reformed doctrine she underscores in the article: mortification and vivification. Remember, Reformed academics think they understand things the average parishioner can’t grasp, so Butterfield, like all Reformed philosopher queens, is going to let you assume definitions for the time being—it’s part of the indoctrination process.

So, what is the Reformed doctrine of mortification and vivification? Let’s reference two Reformed heavyweights in order to ascertain the formal definition.

“Progressive sanctification has two parts: mortification and vivification, ‘both of which happen to us by participation in Christ,’ as Calvin notes….Subjectively experiencing this definitive reality signified and sealed to us in our baptism requires a daily dying and rising. That is what the Reformers meant by sanctification as a living out of our baptism….and this conversion yields lifelong mortification and vivification ‘again and again.’ Yet it is critical to remind ourselves that in this daily human act of turning, we are always turning not only from sin but toward Christ rather than toward our own experience or piety” (Michael Horton: The Christian Faith; mortification and vivification, pp. 661-663 [Calvin Inst. 3.3.2-9]).


“At conversion, a person begins to see God and himself as never before. This greater revelation of God’s holiness and righteousness leads to a greater revelation of self, which, in return, results in a repentance or brokenness over sin. [mortification] Nevertheless, the believer is not left in despair, for he is also afforded a greater revelation of the grace of God in the face of Christ, which leads to joy unspeakable.[vivification] This cycle simply repeats itself throughout the Christian life. As the years pass, the Christian sees more of God and more of self, resulting in a greater and deeper brokenness. Yet, all the while, the Christian’s joy grows in equal measure because he is privy to greater and greater revelations of the love, grace, and mercy of God in the person and work of Christ. Not only this, but a greater interchange occurs in that the Christian learns to rest less and less in his own performance and more and more in the perfect work of Christ. Thus, his joy is not only increased, but it also becomes more consistent and stable. He has left off putting confidence in the flesh, which is idolatry, and is resting in the virtue and merits of Christ, which is true Christian piety” (Paul Washer: The Gospel Call and True Conversion; Part 1, Chapter 1, heading – The Essential Characteristics Of Genuine Repentance, subheading – Continuing and Deepening Work of Repentance).

Where to begin? This is a horrible doctrine that turns true biblical soteriology completely on its head. Obviously, the least common denominator of this doctrine is a perpetual re-justification through “participation in Christ.” And how do we participate in Christ? By returning to the same gospel that saved us in a deeper and deeper way in order to keep ourselves saved.

In order for this doctrine to work, we must remain unchanged. Participation in Christ requires a deeper and deeper understanding of our present unchanged being coupled with a deeper and deeper understanding of present sin which supposedly causes deeper and deeper gratitude for the redemptive work of Christ resulting in joy. Our primary work is peeling away the layers of sin and seeing the sin under the sin (mortification) resulting in a deeper joy EXPERIENCE.

So basically, this redefines the new birth as a joy experience only and not a definitive recreation, makes the new birth a perpetual re-enactment rather than a one-time event, and makes the Christian life experience-oriented.

That’s all pretty major, but we are just getting started and an exhaustive articulation of this error would literally take several volumes of work, which we will not attempt in this post.

Mortification and vivification also correlates with the Reformed idea that present sin separates Christians from grace, or justification, and mortification, also known as “deep repentance,” rewashes the Christian and keeps them saved. The original water baptism that makes them official members of the church supplies an overall covering for sin, but if one practices mortification they will experience more of their salvation in a deeper way (vivification). But at any rate, mortification can ONLY be practiced and is only effective for re-salvation and vivification if one is a formal member of the Reformed church. This aspect of Reformed thought makes it the super cult that it is.

“Moreover, the message of free reconciliation with God is not promulgated for one or two days, but is declared to be perpetual in the Church (2 Cor. 5:18, 19). Hence believers have not even to the end of life any other righteousness than that which is there described. Christ ever remains a Mediator to reconcile the Father to us, and there is a perpetual efficacy in his death—viz. ablution, satisfaction, expiation; in short, perfect obedience, by which all our iniquities are covered” (The Calvin Institutes: 3.14.11).

“Where we land on these issues is perhaps the most significant factor in how we approach our own faith and practice and communicate it to the world. If not only the unregenerate but the regenerate are always dependent at every moment on the free grace of God disclosed in the gospel, then nothing can raise those who are spiritually dead or continually give life to Christ’s flock but the Spirit working through the gospel. When this happens (not just once, but every time we encounter the gospel afresh), the Spirit progressively transforms us into Christ’s image. Start with Christ (that is, the gospel) and you get sanctification in the bargain; begin with Christ and move on to something else, and you lose both” (Michael Horton: Christless Christianity; p. 62).

“Nor by remission of sins does the Lord only once for all elect and admit us into the Church, but by the same means he preserves and defends us in it. For what would it avail us to receive a pardon of which we were afterwards to have no use? That the mercy of the Lord would be vain and delusive if only granted once, all the godly can bear witness; for there is none who is not conscious, during his whole life, of many infirmities which stand in need of divine mercy. And truly it is not without cause that the Lord promises this gift specially to his own household, nor in vain that he orders the same message of reconciliation to be daily delivered to them” (The Calvin Institutes: 4.1.21).

“To impart this blessing to us, the keys have been given to the Church (Mt. 16:19; 18:18). For when Christ gave the command to the apostles, and conferred the power of forgiving sins, he not merely intended that they should loose the sins of those who should be converted from impiety to the faith of Christ; but, moreover, that they should perpetually perform this office among believers” (The Calvin Institutes: 4.1.22).

“Secondly, This benefit is so peculiar to the Church, that we cannot enjoy it unless we continue in the communion of the Church. Thirdly, It is dispensed to us by the ministers and pastors of the Church, either in the preaching of the Gospel or the administration of the Sacraments, and herein is especially manifested the power of the keys, which the Lord has bestowed on the company of the faithful. Accordingly, let each of us consider it to be his duty to seek forgiveness of sins only where the Lord has placed it. Of the public reconciliation which relates to discipline, we shall speak at the proper place” (Ibid).

“…by new sins we continually separate ourselves, as far as we can, from the grace of God… Thus it is, that all the saints have need of the daily forgiveness of sins; for this alone keeps us in the family of God” (John Calvin: Commentaries on the Catholic Epistles; The Calvin Translation Society 1855. Editor: John Owen, p. 165 ¶4).

The Reformed redefinition of law and gospel could also be discussed here if there was room, but let’s move on to the focus of this particular post.

It radically redefines what faith is. Instead of faith being a result of new creaturehood and working through love (Galatians 5:6), faith is narrowed to the work of repentance only to keep ourselves saved rather than endeavoring to take part in many-faceted forms of love.

Add to this the simple fact that it circumvents love in sanctification for the sake of keeping ourselves justified.

The doctrine excludes using our members for holy purposes. According to Washer, “He has left off putting confidence in the flesh, which is idolatry, and is resting in the virtue and merits of Christ, which is true Christian piety.” This circumvents the clear biblical mandate to use our members for holy purposes (Romans 6:13, 19, Romans 12:1).

It violates one of the primary virtues of love: not delighting in evil (1Corithians 13: 6). In mortification and vivification, focusing on sin leads to joy.

It violates the principle of one baptism (Ephesians 4:5) and replaces it with many baptism experiences.

It redefines the interpretation of reality through the gospel. “Subjectively experiencing this definitive reality.” Reality is only experienced through “this definitive reality”; i.e., the gospel.

It circumvents one of the primary causes of peace: what we dwell on (Philippians 4:8). Obviously, mortification and vivification is a call to dwell on sin, and if it’s not immediately evident, look for it via the “sin beneath the sin” (deep repentance).

In summary, this dastardly, vile doctrine claims that present sin removes us from grace, denies the new birth, empowers the institutional church to forgive sins on earth, reinterprets reality itself, makes the Christian life experience oriented, redefines biblical faith, circumvents Christian love towards God and others, violates the principle of one baptism, circumvents peace, and delights in evil.