Paul's Passing Thoughts

The Gospel According to John MacArthur’s Reformation Myth

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on August 14, 2017

Originally published September 8, 2012

Let me state something right out of the gate: the church has never been in a Dark Age. Christ said, “And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it” (Matthew 16:18). Imagine that. Peter wasn’t anybody—he was an everyday Joe—a blue-collar guy in that culture. Then one day God shows up personally and informs everybody that He would  oikodomhsw “be building His church,” or some translators, “I shall be home building”….mou (of me)….the ekklesian (out-called, not “church” which is not a biblical word) on Peter. You can trust me on this one: Jesus has been home building His out-called, and the construction project has never slowed down or stopped. The building project has always been on schedule and within budget—funded by the Blood. And Christ didn’t choose a John MacArthur Jr. of that day—He chose an ordinary Joe.

Right here, two pillars of the Reformation myth are found wanting. There has never been an out-called Dark Age, and Christ doesn’t primarily use renowned scholars like Martin Luther to get things done. Today’s “Reformed” “church” is built on the foundation of lofty creeds and confessions written by men of fleshly renown. The very name, “Reformed” is fundamentally false—our Lord’s building project has never needed a  “reformation”—especially at the hands of murdering mystic despots.

But two days ago, Susan and I had the rare privilege of sitting down with four men who exemplify what Christ is using to build His out-called. We held siege at the restaurant for three hours. These men so encouraged me that it is a wonder that the local police were not called accompanied by men in white attire. They bore four marks of God’s true out-called:

  1. Ordinary men.

  2. Thinkers who constantly wrestle with understanding.

  3. Wholly devoted to truth.

  4. Sold-out to the sufficiency of the Scriptures as their only authority.

Somewhere in the world since the day Christ showed up and walked into the everyday lives of twelve men, He has been slowly building His out-called. He has been building with those who possess the same spirit of Noah and is in-fact a fifth mark: they will stand alone if they have to. In the present day neo-Reformed blitzkrieg, it is, and will be two or three families who come out from among them, weeping with sorrow, often leaving the only church they have ever known while the door is held open for them by the young, petulant Reformers of our day that despise the sweat and blood that built the work that they have covertly sieged. As our brother Jude said of these brute beasts, they slip in “unawares” (v.4).

Basically, the problem is the same as when Christ showed up to found His out-called. The religion of the day was founded on the authority and institutions of self-important men. People where amazed that Christ didn’t check in with the academics before He launched His ministry, nor quoted the spiritual brainiacs of that day. Likewise, if Christ came today, John MacArthur, Al Mohler, and the insufferable likes of obnoxious men like Steve Lawson and Paul Washer would watch with incredulities as Christ would ignore them and make a b-line for the ghettos—choosing His workers and confidants from among them.

So how should I view an article sent to me by a reader that was written by John MacArthur regarding the Reformation motif of “Justification by faith.” First, as I am presently teaching my family, ALL ideas presented by men, and I believe that MacArthur fits into that category, will entail a litany of propositions that lead to a conclusion. Therefore,  let us examine and wrestle with the propositions presented by MacArthur in this article (Justification by Faith: online source: http://goo.gl/xJyFO).

Proposition 1: “The Reformation doctrine of justification by faith is, and has always been, the number one target of the enemy’s attack.”

The “Reformation doctrine”? Excuse me Mr. MacArthur (hereafter, JM), but we get our doctrine from the Bible, not the Reformers, who, as I have noted, are an oxymoron to begin with. In the first sentence of this article, JM sets up an authority between the out-called priests (that’s us) and the word of God. Therefore, his article is predicated on a proposition by men who are not original authors chosen by God— buyers beware. Hence, if we are discerning, JM has raised the propositional ante to a considerable level. By citing the preapproved authors of the Bible, additional consideration could have been avoided.

JM goes on to state that this doctrine, “….provides the foundation of the bridge that reconciles God and man — without that key doctrine, Christianity falls.” This should now incite interpretive questions for the proposition:

  1. Could the Reformers have been wrong?

  2. Even if they were right, is there a danger in making Reformed epistemology a standard of truth?

  3. Is the claim that the church stands or falls on this doctrine establishing Reformation doctrine as a significant authority? And if so, is this wise?

Proposition 2: “Social and political concerns have brought evangelicals and Catholics together in recent years to unite against the forces of secularism. Under the influence of ecumenism, it’s difficult for either group to remember what it was that divided them in the first place.

The pragmatists and ecumenicists are aided in their forgetfulness by new theological movements that redefine justification in more Catholic terms. Under the influence of liberalism and postmodernism, proponents of the New Perspective on Paul, the Emergent Church, and others have so confused and redefined the doctrine of justification that it has become shrouded in darkness once again

The Christian church today is in danger of returning to the Dark Ages. The seeker movement has Christianity turning in its Bibles; the ecumenical movement urges Christians to use worldly means to accomplish temporal ends; and current theological movements look through the lens of philosophy — Enlightenment rationalism and postmodern subjectivism — rather than Scripture. The departure from sola scriptura has led to the departure from sola fide — justification by faith alone.”

JM asserts that the Reformation was a marked contrast between Catholicism and the Reformers. Catholic influence is dragging the “church” back into a “Dark Age.” Regardless of the nomenclature of which he frames this proposition, he begins to articulate the Reformation motif in a way that is traditional, and packaged for fairly easy digestion—if you understand the premise of the motif, and we soon will.

The key here is this part of JM’s proposition: “….and current theological movements look through the lens of philosophy — Enlightenment rationalism and postmodern subjectivism — rather than Scripture.” First, throughout his post, JM uses the term “Reformation doctrine” and “Scripture” interchangeably. Hence, he is proposing that the two are synonymous—he is asking that you accept this proposition as fact. But what we want to focus on here as a gateway of understanding is the word “subjectivism” in his proposition. This is key to understanding my counter proposition:

  1. There was no difference in Reformation doctrine and Catholic doctrine.

  2. Subjective verses objective  is key to understanding the Reformed denial of the new birth that predicates its false gospel.

MacArthur begins to propagate the traditional Reformed dogma of subjective verses objective;  that is, as I have previously stated, the crux of their doctrine.

And is that biblical? Is Reformed doctrine biblical doctrine? Is the Reformed gospel the biblical gospel?

The History of the Reformation Motif / Myth

We will take an interlude on the way to our understanding to examine the very significant contemporary contribution to understanding Reformation doctrine by its own proponents and advocates. It is true that Reformation doctrine has experienced  times of low recognition followed by “rediscovery,” “resurgence,” and “revival” since the Sixteenth century. The last resurgence began in 1970. It was a rediscovery of authentic Reformed theology that launched the SDA Awakening Movement. Until then, the doctrine had never been framed in a subjective verses objective  model of understanding. “Subjectivism” was fingered as the root of all evil verses the, and here it is: objective gospel outside of us.  More specifically, “The Centrality of the Objective Gospel Outside of Us.” Hereafter, COGOUS.

This apt method of framing Reformation doctrine was the brainchild of SDA theologian Robert Brinsmead, who was joined by Anglican theologians Geoffrey Paxton and Graeme Goldsworthy, and later by Reformed Baptist Jon Zens. They attributed all contra Reformation beliefs and movements such as the Enlightenment era to “subjectivism.” JM shows his kinship to this contemporary understanding of Reformation theology via his propositions in said article, of which the sender asked, “Does this muddy the waters?” Answer: no, in-fact, it clarifies MacArthur’s participation in the endeavor to save the church from a supposed “Evangelical Dark Age.”

The theological think tank formed by this “core four” was known as the Australian Forum and their theological journal was Present Truth Magazine which was the most publicized theological journal in English speaking countries during the Seventies. They compiled a vast amount of documentation that clearly shows that the Reformation gospel of Luther and Calvin was the Centrality of the Objective Gospel Outside of Us. It contends that if the power of God is infused into the believer, it will enable him/her to, as the truism states, “know enough to be dangerous.”

Because the Reformers saw justification and sanctification as the same thing, they argued that any enablement infused into the believer would automatically contribute to the justification process which they saw as progressive. Please note: this is exactly what JM et al accuse the Catholics of, but as we shall see, they are both guilty of this same thing: the fusion of justification and sanctification together.

Hence, in contemporary lingo, the outcry of the Reformers against Rome was the “infusion of grace into the believer—making sanctification the ground of his/her justification.” In other words, all enablement and spiritual life must remain outside of the believer. All of the power of grace must remain ‘objective” by staying outside of the believer. This Reformed paradigm was brilliantly illustrated by the Australian Four, hereafter A4, by the following pictorial illustration:

Also let me demonstrate by another A4 pictorial that they believed justification was progressive:

I will later explain the application of the two-man chart  in this post. I can most certainly read your mind as you look at it: “How in the world does that work in real life?”

We will now further my contra proposition by substantiating some of my sub-propositions. Let’s first establish that one of the elder statesmen of the neo-Reformed movement, John Piper, and a close confidant of JM, agree with the AF’s contemporarily framed assessment of authentic Reformed doctrine, hereafter, ARD. Graeme Goldsworthy, one of the original A4, recently lectured at Southern Seminary on the Reformation. John Piper wrote an article on Goldsworthy’s lecture (Goldsworthy on Why the Reformation Was Necessary: Desiring God blog, June 25, 2009). Piper’s assessment of Goldsworthy’s lecture is a major smoking gun in regard to agreement on ARD:

In it [Goldsworthy’s lecture at Southern] it gave one of the clearest statements of why the Reformation was needed and what the problem was in the way the Roman Catholic church had conceived of the gospel….I would add that this ‘upside down’ gospel has not gone away—neither from Catholicism nor from Protestants….

This meant the reversal of the relationship of sanctification to justification. Infused grace, beginning with baptismal regeneration, internalized the Gospel and made sanctification the basis of justification. This is an upside down Gospel….

When the ground of justification moves from Christ outside of us to the work of Christ inside of us, the gospel (and the human soul) is imperiled. It is an upside down gospel [emphasis Piper’s—not this author].

Note, if you think about it, it is impossible to “reverse” justification and sanctification unless they are on the same plane. Nor can you turn a two-part object upside down unless both parts are attached—making either one the “ground” or otherwise. Hence, a careful observation of Piper’s use of words betrays his subtleness in regard to believing in the fusion of justification and sanctification together. Furthermore, Piper’s beef with Catholicism is not the fusion of justification and sanctification together per se, but rather the infusion of grace into the believer. The AF two-man illustration depicts Piper’s contention to a “T.” Note the exact same issue: Christ within, or Christ without. Just grasp that for now, and put the absurdity of it on the back burner—it will come together for you later.

Basically, if God’s grace/goodness is placed within the believer, he/she becomes enabled enough to become dangerous leading to all of the terrible things inside of the guy looking down. Everything must remain outside of the believer, leading to all of the good things listed on the right side of the chart which are listed outside of him. Don’t miss that. Today’s church owes Robert Brinsmead a tremendous debt of gratitude for publishing this chart.

A Major Key to Understanding: John H. Armstrong and SUBJECTIVISM

Now, let’s take yet another sub interlude to further my contra proposition. The following illustration shows how the AF made the objective/subjective / Christ within / Christ without the major crux of ARD:

A theologian named John H. Armstrong eludes to this exact survey in Present Truth to make a point in an article that he wrote (The Highway blog: Article of the Month;  Sola Fide: Does It really Matter?). Armstrong was the general editor of a combined work called The Coming Evangelical Crisis (1996 by Moody Bible Institute) that included the who’s who of the neo-Reformed movement: R. Kent Houghs; John MacArthur; RC Sproul; and heretics Michael S. Horton and Albert Mohler Jr. Armstrong stated the following in the aforementioned article:

The sixteenth-century rediscovery of Paul’s objective message of justification by faith [and sanctification also because justification is supposedly progressive] came upon the religious scene of that time with a force and passion that totally altered the course of human history. It ignited the greatest reformation and revival known since Pentecost.

Now, if the Fathers of the early church, so nearly removed in time from Paul, lost touch with the Pauline message, how much more is this true in succeeding generations? The powerful truth of righteousness by faith needs to be restated plainly, and understood clearly, by every new generation.

In our time we are awash in a “Sea of Subjectivism,” as one magazine put it over twenty years ago. Let me explain. In 1972 a publication known as Present Truth published the results of a survey with a five-point questionnaire which dealt with the most basic issues between the medieval church and the Reformation. Polling showed 95 per cent of the “Jesus People” were decidedly medieval and anti-Reformation in their doctrinal thinking about the gospel. Among church-going Protestants they found ratings nearly as high….

I do not believe that the importance of the doctrine of justification by faith can be overstated. We are once again in desperate need of recovery. Darkness has descended upon the evangelical world in North America and beyond, much as it had upon the established sixteenth-century church.

As JM said in our observation of the article at hand:

….the doctrine of justification….has become shrouded in darkness once again. The Christian church today is in danger of returning to the Dark Ages.

And,

Enlightenment rationalism and postmodern subjectivism — rather than Scripture. The departure from sola scriptura has led to the departure from sola fide — justification by faith alone.

JM, John Piper, Armstrong, Graeme Goldsworthy, and what they call the “Justification by faith” doctrine—all the same camp, and the same belief: The Centrality of the Objective Gospel Outside of Us.

How in the World Does COGOUS Work in Real Life?

As far as how this doctrine functions, there are two camps. But in both camps, the believer remains unchanged and totally depraved. The crux of COGOUS is that sanctification is a total work of God because it finishes justification. The doctrine then frames man’s role in regard to Gnostic ideas. In fact, the very first sentence of the Calvin Institutes is a Gnostic idea. Calvin claims therein that all knowledge is contained in the knowledge of ourselves and knowledge of God. Since we already know that Calvin believed in the total depravity of man, this is the knowledge of good and evil.

Calvin, right out of the gate, states that this is the core of all true wisdom. So, what you begin to see when reading the works of various Reformers of old and new, is the idea that change begins with wisdom, and as we see our own depravity in deeper and deeper ways, and the holiness of God in deeper and deeper ways (which the former facilitates as well), a transformation takes place. Not in us, of course, we are totally depraved—we therefore cannot change—we rather manifest a realm. As it was explained to me by a fairly well known Calvinist, there is a Spirit realm, and a flesh realm (not an old nature within us), and both put pressure on us if we are saved, and we either “yield” to one or the other realms at any given time. But again, we don’t change, we merely manifest a realm. Out of this comes terms like, “Pastor of Spiritual Formation,” and “heart formation,” or “spiritual transformation.” Notice that the “spiritual” is being transformed, not us. I am presently doing research to get a more refined understanding in regard to “what this looks like.” Apparently, an exercise of our own will to obey is creating our own reality instead of “His preordained story.”

A rough sketch follows: all reality points to Christ’s glory, and all reality is wrapped up in the gospel and interpreted by it (the first tenet of New Covenant Theology).  All history is “redemptive.” Therefore, all historical events, and events period, are preordained by God to show us wisdom; ie, the knowledge of the good (Christ), and the knowledge of the evil (our own depravity), and both point to God’s glory and “show forth the gospel.” So, all events in life are preordained by God to show us our own depravity, and His holiness. That’s the first way we gain wisdom of ourselves and God, and when we see it, our manifestation results in part of the grand gospel narrative preordained by God.

The second way that we manifest the gospel is through seeing historic events in the Bible that represent the same kind of events that happen in redemptive history. The Bible, in the same way that redemptive history does, gives us wisdom in regard to our own evil and God’s holiness, again resulting in redemptive historical manifestations. If we respond improperly to the redemptive historical event (whether good or bad), we reap “bad fruit” (ie., a bad manifestation) which lends further opportunity for deeper understanding of our own depravity and more glory for God. If we participate properly in the gospel story, we are assured peace and joy regardless of our circumstances (because we are in essence detached from reality in my view). Many Reformed  thinkers such as David Powlison and Paul David Tripp call this,

The big picture model is the story of every believer. God invites us to enter into the plot! (Paul D. Tripp: How People Change, p.94).

As I said before, there are two camps: one rejects any kind of work at all by Christ in us, but Tripp is of the other camp that teaches that we remain totally depraved,  but Christ does do a work in us, albeit His work in totality. Tripp states that as we gain deeper understanding of our own evil (deep repentance), our hearts are emptied of idols which then results in a filling of Christ resulting in spiritual formations or manifestations (Ibid, p. 28). Others believe that whatever we see in the Bible ( like a circumstance of Christ’s love) is imputed to us as we see it and understand it. Many of Reformed thought call this “such and such ( love or whatever) by proxy.”  It is also known as the “active obedience of Christ” or progressive imputation. Following is an illustration of some of these ideas presented here (Ibid, p.100):

But you can also see some of these concepts if you refer back to the two-man chart. The gospel man meditates on “Grace, Justification, Perfection, Security, immortality, Law,” but these things remain outside of him as manifestations of the objective gospel. But the Christ within man has these things inside of him because that is where his focus is (subjective). Following is another Reformed illustration of what we are talking about. Notice that the cross gets bigger—not us. We don’t grow—the cross does. The cross represents grace outside of us; so, the cross is seen as bigger (ie, God is glorified) while we don’t change. These manifestations make God look bigger while not being connected to anything recognized as us being new and improved. Michael Horton refers to this as “preaching the gospel instead of being the gospel.”

MacArthur often conveys ideas that do nothing in regard to separating himself from this absurd mysticism. In writing the Forward to the Gnostic masterpiece, Uneclipsing the Son  by former associate Rick Holland, JM states the following:

As believers gaze at the glory of their Lord—looking clearly, enduringly, and deeply into the majesty of His person and work—true sanctification takes place as the Holy Spirit takes that believer whose heart is fixed on Christ and elevates him from one level of glory to the next.  This is the ever-increasing reality of progressive sanctification; it happens not because believers wish it or want it or work for it in their own energy, but because the glory of Christ captures their hearts and minds.  We are transformed by that glory and we begin to reflect it more and more brightly the more clearly we see it.  That’s why the true heart and soul of every pastor’s duty is pointing the flock to Christ, the Great Shepherd.

Let’s now return to the article at hand and address the more relevant parts. In the section entitled, “Back to the Beginning,” JM sates the following:

In the 1500s a fastidious monk, who by his own testimony “hated God,” was studying Paul’s epistle to the Romans. He couldn’t get past the first half of Romans 1:17: “[In the gospel] is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith” (KJV).

One simple, biblical truth changed that monk’s life — and ignited the Protestant Reformation. It was the realization that God’s righteousness could become the sinner’s righteousness — and that could happen through the means of faith alone. Martin Luther found the truth in the same verse he had stumbled over, Romans 1:17: “Therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, the just shall live by faith” (KJV, emphasis added).

JM then fails to mention that Luther believed that this justification passage also applies to sanctification. Then JM sates the following under the next heading, Declared Righteous: What Actually Changes?:

In its theological sense, justification is a forensic, or purely legal, term. It describes what God declares about the believer, not what He does to change the believer. In fact, justification effects no actual change whatsoever in the sinner’s nature or character. Justification is a divine judicial edict. It changes our status only, but it carries ramifications that guarantee other changes will follow. Forensic decrees like this are fairly common in everyday life….

Similarly, when a jury foreman reads the verdict, the defendant is no longer “the accused.” Legally and officially he instantly becomes either guilty or innocent — depending on the verdict. Nothing in his actual nature changes, but if he is found not guilty he will walk out of court a free person in the eyes of the law, fully justified.

In biblical terms, justification is a divine verdict of “not guilty — fully righteous.” It is the reversal of God’s attitude toward the sinner. Whereas He formerly condemned, He now vindicates. Although the sinner once lived under God’s wrath, as a believer he or she is now under God’s blessing.

This all looks to be very solid theologically, but I want you to notice that JM fails to mention that Justification is a finished work. That’s key. And it’s key because of what he states next:

Justification is more than simple pardon; pardon alone would still leave the sinner without merit before God. So when God justifies He imputes divine righteousness to the sinner (Romans 4:22-25). Christ’s own infinite merit thus becomes the ground on which the believer stands before God (Romans 5:19; 1 Corinthians 1:30; Philippians 3:9). So justification elevates the believer to a realm of full acceptance and divine privilege in Jesus Christ.

The problem here is the implication that a pardon is not enough, and that our “standing” must be maintained lest we find ourselves “without merit”…. “before God.”  This is problematic because any kind of standard that would maintain merit before God for justification is voided (Romans 7;1-4). There is simply no merit or standard left for a Christian to be judged by in regard to justification.

But the smoking gun that convicts MacArthur in fusing justification and sanctification together in this same article follows under “How Justification and Sanctification Differ.” JM starts out well with this statement:

Justification is distinct from sanctification because in justification God does not make the sinner righteous; He declares that person righteous (Romans 3:28; Galatians 2:16). Notice how justification and sanctification are distinct from one another:

After stating this, JM, evokes the classic neo-Reformed double-speak sleight of hand for fusing justification and sanctification together without appearing to do so:

Those two must be distinguished but can never be separated. God does not justify whom He does not sanctify, and He does not sanctify whom He does not justify. Both are essential elements of salvation.

JM also clearly states that progressive sanctification is part of the same “salvation” process that justification is also a part of ; hence, they supposedly can’t be separated. But the Bible authors only speak of sanctification as salvation in a manner of speaking because there are three sanctifications: positional (1Cor. 6:11), progressive/practical (2 Cor. 7:11, 2 Peter ch. 1),  and complete (1 Cor. 6:11[those who are sanctified positionally are glorified as well]), but only one justification that is a onetime legal declaration (Romans 8:30).

Furthermore, JM’s use of the distinct but never separate sleight of hand is the exact same mantra constantly used by many in the neo-Reformed crowd:

Though justification and sanctification cannot be separated they must be distinguished.

~ Ernest Reisinger

It would also stand to reason therefore that MacArthur, like all of the neo-Reformed, would not see any role for the believer in sanctification other than gospel contemplationism.  This can be confirmed by reviewing the previous excerpt from Holland’s  book.

Classic Reformed Kettles Calling the Pot Black

We now observe a trait by JM that was never true about him before he went over to the dark side—blatant contradictions that assume the utter stupidity of his followers. He follows the neo-Reformed protocol for drawing the line of distinction between the Reformers and Rome in this way:

Roman Catholicism blends its doctrines of sanctification and justification.

So, the two cannot be “separate,” but they can be blended? But what JM states next brings us full circle to what we observed in John Piper’s article on the Goldsworthy lecture at Southern:

Catholic theology views justification as an infusion of grace that makes the sinner righteous. In Catholic theology, then, the ground of justification is something made good within the sinner — not the imputed righteousness of Christ.

Please note JM’s either/or interpretive prism, (a neo-Reformed distinctive) that eliminates the possibility that the believer is empowered by the Spirit internally for something that is separate from justification; namely, kingdom living. Notice that the issue is specifically “something good” inside the believer verses the “imputed righteousness of Christ.”  Obviously, JM rejects the idea that it can be both, and whatever it is, it must point back to justification if it is something “good” inside of the believer.

Rome’s motive for fusing the two together is beside the point, both the Reformers and Rome believe the two cannot be separated. Hence, for Rome it was easy: Christ forgives all of your past sins, but now you must do certain things to complete your justification because salvation is linear with both justification and sanctification on the same plane. Likewise, the Reformers believe in the same linear gospel, but pardon it by making everything that needs to be done to complete justification—totally of Christ alone. This requires us to remain totally depraved in the process and utilizes Gnosticism for whatever application can be surmised. Frankly, this is the first time that I have seen writings from JM that totally remove all doubt that he has bought into this doctrine , hook, line, and sinker.

JM continues:

If sanctification is included in justification, the justification is a process, not an event. That makes justification progressive, not complete. Our standing before God is then based on subjective experience, not secured by an objective declaration. Justification can therefore be experienced and then lost. Assurance of salvation in this life becomes practically impossible because security can’t be guaranteed. The ground of justification ultimately is the sinner’s own continuing present virtue, not Christ’s perfect righteousness and His atoning work.

The contradictions here are mindboggling. Again,  “If sanctification is included in justification….” Is somehow different from, “… . but can never be separated.”  Like all in this camp, JM complains about those who combine the two, while at the same time stating that they cannot be separated.

But perhaps the whole issue should be narrowed down to the most glaring contradiction in all of this.  While MacArthur states that justification and sanctification cannot be separated,  but are distinct,  like all neo-Calvinists, he then complains that Rome “blends” the two. According to the standard New Calvinist MO, the cardinal sin in regard to this blending is “progressive justification.”  Note once again the following excerpt in this post by JM:

If sanctification is included in justification, then justification is a process, not an event. That makes justification progressive, not complete.

But MacArthur is a Calvinist, and progressive justification is exactly what John Calvin propagated.  Again, they accuse Rome of exactly what they are guilty of themselves. In fact, Calvin entitled chapter 14 of the the third book of the Calvin Institutes, “The Beginning of Justification. In What Sense Progressive.” Calvin then makes the same case throughout the rest of the chapter that all New Calvinists constantly make–that a believer must continually return to justification for their sanctification. Seeing these kinds of blatant neo-Reformed contradictions in his teaching is truly sad to watch.

What is it going to take to overcome this kind of error in the church? Christians who think, and love truth enough to wrestle with it long and hard. That’s going to be a small percentage of Christians as thinking is also not in vogue.

Nevertheless, they are out there—Christ said they would be in increasing numbers as He continues to build His out-called ones.

Addendum:

But perhaps the whole issue should be narrowed down to the most glaring contradiction in all of this.  While MacArthur states that justification and sanctification cannot be separated, but are distinct, like all neo-Calvinists, he then complains that Rome “blends” the two.  According to the standard New Calvinist MO, the cardinal sin in regard to this blending is “progressive justification.”  Note once again the following excerpt in this post by JM:

If sanctification is included in justification, then justification is a process, not an event. That makes justification progressive, not complete.

But MacArthur is a Calvinist, and progressive justification is exactly what John Calvin propagated.  Again, they accuse Rome of exactly what they are guilty of themselves. Calvin entitled chapter 14 of the third book of the Calvin Institutes, “The Beginning of Justification. In What Sense Progressive.” Calvin then makes the same case throughout the rest of the chapter that all New Calvinists constantly make–that a believer must continually return to justification for their sanctification. Seeing these kinds of blatant neo-Reformed contradictions in MacArthur’s teaching is truly sad to watch when one considers what he once was.

paul

Strange Fire Conference: John MacArthur’s Insufferable Hypocrisy

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on February 24, 2016

ppt-jpeg4Originally published October 16, 2013.  See addendum below.

John MacArthur may go down in church history as one of the most confused pastors ever to step into a pulpit. His steroidal cognitive dissonance constantly results in insufferable hypocrisy.

For certain I thought he could not outdo himself in this regard, but he has. After writing Charismatic Chaos in 1992, he partnered with Charismatic CJ Mahaney for eight years in the Resolved conferences sponsored by his church, Grace Community in Sun Valley, California. One year after the last Resolved conference, MacArthur is hosting the 2013 Strange Fire conference that is fustigating Charismatic doctrine in no uncertain terms. The hypocrisy of it all is staggering.

MacArthur also seems to have a problem with the mysticism promoted by Charismatic theology, but yet is a close confidant of John Piper who not only has Charismatic leanings himself, but led the 2012 Passion conference in the mystic practice of Lectio Divina.

Furthermore, Geneva style Calvinists (also at the conference: Sproul, Lawson, Phil Johnson, et al) criticizing Charismatics is beyond the kettle calling the pot black. Calvin and Luther both attributed their theology to Neo-Platonist St. Augustine. The practical outcome is sanctification by faith alone through gospel contemplationism resulting in realm experience/manifestation. MacArthur himself now claims that he only explains the word of God and the Holy Spirit applies it resulting in his followers obeying God without realizing it (http://wp.me/pmd7S-1In).

Moreover, Calvinism is based on Hindu-like sanctification that posits perpetual mortification followed by vivification. As we dwell on our sin only, we are brought to despair (mortification) leading to the joy of our original rebirth (vivification).  Calvinists Paul Washer and Michael Horton have both referred to this as continually “reliving our baptism.”

In MacArthur’s keynote address at this year’s Strange Fire conference, he also criticized Charismatics for their misrepresentation and overemphasis on the Holy Spirit leading to the dishonoring of the other two Trinity members. But likewise, Calvinists do the same thing with their Christocentric approach to the Scriptures. In the forward to Rick Holland’s book, Uneclipsing The Son (an in-your-face Gnostic treatise), MacArthur stated that ANY emphasis on ANYONE or ANYTHING other than Christ hinders the sanctification of God’s people.

All in all, Charismatics are barely any different than Calvinists. They both partake in epistemology that sees the horizontal as purely subjective and the vertical as purely objective. The goal is to experience the spirit realm horizontally through mysticism. For the Calvinist it is gospel contemplationism. For the Charismatic it is speaking in tongues.

What’s the difference?

paul

Addendum:  John MacArthur is one of the scheduled speakers at the 2016 T4G conference in Louisville, KY.  He will be sharing the stage with John Piper, CJ Mahaney, and other influential reformed leaders.

Sola Scriptura???

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on October 1, 2015

Steve Lawson Sloppy Hermeneutics: Will Christ Personally Torment Unbelievers in Hell for Eternity?

Posted in Uncategorized by pptmoderator on March 7, 2015

Lawson-PreachingOriginally published January 2, 2014

Something has been on my mind for some time that I have never written about. During the 2009 Resolved conference, “Pastor” Steve Lawson preached a sermon on the Great White Throne Judgment. In that message, Lawson claimed that Christ Himself will “be in hell”… “personally inflicting the wrath on unbelievers” for eternity. I know that Calvinism is heavily predicated on fear so I wasn’t surprised that Lawson said it. Rob Bell committed the unpardonable sin among New Calvinists by removing the fear factor in his book “Love Wins.” Calvin himself taught that fear and terror of judgment was efficacious to the mortification and vivification process that enables Christians to stand in the final judgment (CI 3.3.3-7). Bell didn’t merely violate Scripture, he dissed a Reformed mainstay: fear and its kissing cousin control.

Hell, in and of itself, is sobering enough, but apparently Lawson thought the reality of it needed some embellishing. The idea that Christ Himself will be in hell inflicting the punishment personally is a bit unsettling to me. It seems to picture Christ as a hateful God whose wrath never ceases. Instead of punishment being meted out in a hell prepared for the devil and his angels, we have Christ in hell inflicting the torment personally for all of eternity. Christ always spoke of hell as a PLACE of torment, and any idea of Him being the personal tormentor is conspicuously missing. Lawson used the following passage from Revelation for his proof text:

Revelation 14:10 – he also will drink the wine of God’s wrath, poured full strength into the cup of his anger, and he will be tormented with fire and sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb.

This is really sloppy hermeneutics for many reasons, but let me discuss a few. The context of Rev 14:10 is the tribulation period. Revelation 14:6ff. predicts the final wrath of God being poured out upon the earth. This is preceded by a final warning heralded via three angels. The first proclaims the gospel; the second announces the final judgment of Babylon the great, and the third announces the primary woe that will befall those living in Babylon—this is specifically what Rev 14:10 is about. That verse describes the specific woe that the inhabitants will suffer in the presence of Christ and the angels; i.e., fire and sulfur.

This is exactly what happens when the judgment is executed upon Babylon:

Revelation 18:9 – And the kings of the earth, who committed sexual immorality and lived in luxury with her, will weep and wail over her when they see the smoke of her burning. 10 They will stand far off, in fear of her torment, and say, “Alas! Alas! You great city, you mighty city, Babylon! For in a single hour your judgment has come.”

…And all shipmasters and seafaring men, sailors and all whose trade is on the sea, stood far off 18 and cried out as they saw the smoke of her burning, “What city was like the great city?”

In verse 11 of Revelation 14, the angel also warns that the inhabitants of Babylon will seal their eternal fate by accepting the mark of the beast. That verse begins with the transition And which adds information. In the same way they are burned with fire when Christ and the angels execute judgment on Babylon, they will suffer for eternity. But the point is the following:

And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever, and they have no rest, day or night, these worshipers of the beast and its image, and whoever receives the mark of its name.”

The judgment in the presence of Christ and the angels regards the judgment on Babylon during the tribulation period, verse 11 speaks of their eternal judgment as a consequence of accepting the mark of the beast. And apparently, they are warned beforehand by the third angel not to do so. This is the theses of the third angel’s message and it has two parts: receiving the mark of the beast will lead to a present judgment by Christ and the angels upon Babylon, and a sealing of their eternal fate:

Revelation 14:9 – And another angel, a third, followed them, saying with a loud voice, “If anyone worships the beast and its image and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand,

Hence, verse 12 calls for the endurance of the saints because not receiving the mark of the beast will cost them their lives. Verse 13 promises a blessing for those who die in the Lord thereafter. Right before the judgment on Babylon, God calls for his people who have not received the mark to come out of Babylon before the judgment (Rev 17:4,5).

Furthermore, the subject is clearly not EVERY person who will be condemned to hell, but rather those who receive the mark of the beast. Any other conclusion from the context is presumptuous at best.

A suggestion: make the Bible your authority and not men. Such a rendering of Revelation 14:10 constructs a certain image of Christ in our minds. And it is not a good idea that such images are founded on iffy interpretations of God’s word.

Moreover, there is no other verse in the Bible that supports this view by Lawson. His manly academic credentials do not trump common sense.

paul

Ground Zero for Understanding the Biblical Counseling Movement

Posted in Uncategorized by pptmoderator on February 2, 2015

CWW 4

Originally published September 18, 2013

“I believe this will go down in church history as one of the most grotesque betrayals ever perpetrated on a man in the name of friendship and the gospel.” 

A Chapter Theses for Clouds Without Water: The Biblical Counseling Movement; It’s True History and Doctrine

 In the Beginning, Plato, and then Augustine.

During the first century, the upstart assemblies of the risen Christ suffered a viral affront from Gnostic sects. The first century church was made up of people from all socioeconomic strata, and the Gnostics infiltrated Christianity for that purpose. Those in the first century church well-endowed with money were a valuable resource, and this is who the Gnostic sects primarily targeted with their false doctrine.

Gnosticism has always been about elitism, power, and money. If you want to see an immaculate mural of the American church, read Philip J. Lee’s “Against the Protestant Gnostics.”

Gnosticism finds its roots in the philosophy of Plato. Every American born into the world should be thoroughly apprised of Plato the man and his philosophy. To understand Plato is to understand Western culture politically and spiritually. All the philosophers agree on this point. From there, the math is easy: Augustine was the father of Reformation doctrine, and a rabid follower of Plato. Augustine had little use for the Bible without Platonist insight, and considered Plato a Pre-Christianity Christian.

Of course, the favorite red herring is that Plato is not agreed with on every point, but the fact remains that his primary construct founded Reformed theology: the incompetence of man, and the need for a select few (the enlightened) to rule over the masses. Those with gnosis know how society best functions, and they know how the masses can find individual peace from the desires that rule over them.

The Age of Enlightenment (circa 1630) produced men who were the first to confront Plato’s construct successfully. The most formidable product of that movement was the American experiment which obviously turned out quite well. It was founded on the competence of the individual. The competition was the Platonist Puritans who unfortunately survived the voyage from Europe and wreaked havoc on the East coast. But fortunately, their worldview kept them from settling further inland. “Go west young man!” is hardly the motivational words of competence found among the purer forms of Reformed thought.

Let there be no doubt about it, the idea of merging church and state is grounded in the religion of man’s incompetence. The masses need the state to take care of them. Plato’s philosopher kings contrive orthodoxy, and the soldiers enforce it. This concept did not find its way into the Westminster Confession by accident.  Even those who think the state should be separate from the church think a utopia would arise if the church ran the state. “Separation of church and state” doesn’t mean no theocracy; theocracy would be a good thing, supposedly. The state has always had an interest in ruling over religion because ideas are dangerous, and the church has always been a willing participant if the state agrees to enforce their orthodoxy. The battle between the two for the upper hand of control is the political intrigue that is European history in a nutshell. And that is how the world as we know it will end: the zenith of church statecraft as described in the book of Revelation.

This is Western history, and the  children of the enlightenment would have no part of it on American soil. Ten years after the Declaration of Independence, James Madison successfully stopped a European style push for a church state in A Memorial in Remonstance Against Religious Assessments. For all practical purposes, it was an indictment against the fruits of European Reformed doctrine.

The Reformation’s Historical Cycle of Social Death and Resurgence

The Reformers, being children of Plato, didn’t interpret reality with a normative epistemology. Plato’s Achilles’ heel has always been the application of Eastern mysticism. Instead of reality being interpreted empirically, and a course of action being determined by discovery, conclusions are drawn by using interpretive gateways to the “pure” form of reality that is hopefully good. Plato thought it was good, but his interpretive gateway to reality rejected the five senses out of hand. Gnosis was the key.

The Reformers merely replaced gnosis with the personhood of Christ as a sort of stargate to reality. That reality was predicated on the difference between the unchangeable pure form of Christ, and the inherent evil of man dwelling in a world that constantly changes. Plato equated the pure forms with immutable objectivity, and evil matter with mutable subjectivity. Hence, today’s Platonist Reformers speak of the “objective gospel experienced subjectively.”  This is clearly Plato’s metaphysical construct based on the incompetence of man in regard to interpreting reality. Like Plato, the Reformers of old and new alike bemoan man’s attempt to understand reality “in the shadows” of all matters that “eclipse Christ.” While donning the persona of Biblicism, pastors like Steve Lawson call for pastors to “come out from the shadows.”

This is the theme of books like “Uneclipsing the Son” by John MacArthur confidant Rick Holland. In his book, he hints at why purest Reformed theology gets lost in the minds of Christians from time to time and therefore needs periodic resurgences and rediscoveries. He notes in his book that good grammar makes bad theology. The mystic heretic Paul David Tripp makes the same assertion in “How People Change,” noting that a literal interpretation of Scripture circumvents the personhood of Christ and His saving work. What’s in an interpretation method? According to Tripp—your salvation.

This is the paramount point at hand: the Reformers did not interpret the Bible grammatically, objectively, exegetically, or literally at any point; they interpreted the Bible through the dual prism of  “reality” seen in God’s holiness and our evil. The only objective truth is the person of Christ leading to a mere subjective experience of His power and  grace manifestations. Hence, many Reformed purists in our day embodied in the New Calvinist movement speak of, “spiritual growth in seeing our own evil as set against the holiness of God.” Therefore, commands in the Bible become part of the narrative that helps us see what we are unable to do rather than commands to be obeyed. We merely seek to see, and wait for the subjective experience of “vivification.” The seeing is the “mortification.” Reformed theologians like Michael Horton explain this as a continual re-experience of our original baptism as we perpetually revisit the same gospel that saved us “afresh.”

This reduces the Christian life to experiences of perpetual rebirth found in Eastern concepts Plato borrowed for “practical life application.”  This is the foundation of Historical Redemptive hermeneutics born of Reformed purism.  This is also the interpretive method that is all of the rage in our day through programs like BibleMesh.

This is not the natural bent towards interpreting truth. We are wired to interpret truth objectively, and grammatically—tools like allegory and parables notwithstanding. This is why Reformed purism dies a social death from time to time throughout history. Thus, this metaphysical anomaly experiences “rediscovery” and “resurgence” movements. Be certain of the following: this is the New Calvinist movement in our day, and in essence, a return to the exact same viral Gnosticism that plagued the New Testament church with this caveat added: we by no means possess the doctrinal intestinal fortitude of the first century church.

Ground Zero: The 1970 Resurgence

1970 is ground zero for the present landscape of American Christianity.  In that year, two movements emerged. Since colonial times, the third resurgence of Reformed purism was born through a project called the Australian Forum. In that same year, Dr. Jay E. Adams, a hybrid of Calvinism and Historical Grammatical interpretation, launched the biblical counseling movement. His movement was predicated on the competence of enabled congregants to counsel each other through the deepest of human problems. Adams also recognized the simple concept of anthropology and its relationship to helping people. Because all humans are created by God, what works well for the unsaved should work even better for the saved. If unsaved people who don’t violate their consciences are happier, this should also aid Christians in their walk with God. Bad ideas are simply bad for everyone, the ultimate need for eternal salvation notwithstanding. But that doesn’t mean you throw out the unsaved baby with the bath water of practicality. And in addition, does practicality show forth the wisdom of God and thereby point people to God? Should God not know what makes people tick? Moreover, what is the authority for interpreting human existence? Philosophy,  or the Bible?

Adams’ biblical construct produced astounding conclusions, especially in areas where a medical model covered for escape mechanisms that create another reality for realties one may not like. If Bob is in big trouble, he merely becomes Ted, or maybe even Jane. This is a bad idea for Christians. Adams created a dichotomy between salvation and the Christian life. He believed in the utter incompetence of man to save himself, but abundant competence in colaboring with God for a victorious life over sin. With Adams, it is about CHANGE for the glory of God and the happiness of His people.

Thus, with the resurgence of Reformed purism at the same time, the battle lines were drawn, and a confusion of conflict emerged in the biblical counseling movement. The one predicated on the utter incompetence of man whether saved or unsaved, and the other predicated on the competence of the Spirit-filled Christian. The one predicated on Christians only being righteous positionally, and the other predicated on the idea that Christians are also practically righteous. The one predicated on contemplationism, the other predicated on obedience. This is the civil war that has raged in the biblical counseling movement from its conception until this day. It is for the most part a civil war of servility, lest two different gospels be separate, and careerism maimed.

The Forum doctrine quickly found footing at Westminster Seminary in Pennsylvania where Adams was a professor. The initial vestige of relevant infection was found in Dr. John “Jack” Miller, also a professor at Westminster Seminary. True, Westminster was founded by Reformed purists that believed the many acts of Christ’s righteousness were part of the atonement, not just His one act of death on the cross, but for the most part, the Reformation’s metaphysical anomalies had reduced Westminster to moderate Reformed ideology. If you will, a hybrid Calvinism that interpreted reality grammatically.

Miller changed that. While the doctrine was in the process of suffering a brutal death in Reformed Baptist circles by moderate Calvinists, being labeled as antinomianism, it found resurgent life at Westminster in Miller’s Sonship Theology incubator. The forerunner of this doctrine in Reformed Baptist circles, Jon Zens, discovered the doctrine  in the early years of the Forum while he was a student at Westminster. He actually became heavily involved with the Forum in the 70’s, convincing them that everyday Covenant Theology would be a hindrance to infecting Christianity with the newly rediscovered disease. From that conversation came the birth of New Covenant Theology circa 1981. It was a significant addition to the present repertoire of elements that confuse the real crux of the issue. Till this day, few moderate Calvinists make this historical connection between New Covenant Theology and New Calvinism.

But it was a particular mentoree of Miller’s that saw Adam’s construct as a threat to the successful spread of the Forum’s rediscovery: Dr. David Powlison. Powlison, working closely with Miller, developed the Dynamics of Biblical Change which is a counseling construct based on Reformation purism. This became the counseling model for Westminster’s biblical counseling wing known as The Christian Counseling & Education Foundation (CCEF). Later, there was a proposal for an organization that would certify counselors for CCEF. Adams was opposed to it as it smacked of the kind of elitism that he was trying to avoid. Remember, Adams was all about the competence of the average congregant to counsel. But Purist Reformed ideology is all about elitism because Gnosticism is all about elitism; the two go hand in glove.

Show Me the Money

Gnosticism rejects the average man’s ability to understand reality. So, assimilation for purposes of functionality is the main concern; ie., that the masses are controlled by indoctrination that is not necessarily understood, but invokes behavioral goals. But another primary goal is the spiritual caste system that provides millions of dollars for elitist educators. In essence, these are the professional Sophists produced by Platonism. This is why Gnosticism always dwells in the upper socioeconomic strata, as Phillip J. Lee notes in the aforementioned book, Gnosticism is a rich man’s game. CCEF certified counselors are extremely rare in zip codes of average incomes less than $80,000 per year, and nowhere to be found in zip codes of $50,000 or less. This of course, is very telling. Their conferences require registration fees of  $300.00 per person or more.

Meanwhile, NANC Happens

Powlison followed a classic mode of Gnostic deception by seeking to be identified with the persona of Adams’ successful counseling construct while despising the doctrine as a supposed false gospel. To be more specific, he wanted to gain ground by being identified with Adams’ success, and with a deliberate long-term goal of destroying the historical grammatical approach to biblical counseling.

Unfortunately, and to the chagrin of Adams, the National Association of Nouthetic Counselors was born (NANC). “Nouthetic” counseling was a Greek term introduced by Adams and often associated with him. Therefore, Powlison et al were able to be identified with the tsunami like personal transformations of the Adams reformation as a jump start for their own construct, and with a long-term goal of destroying the competition. They did this so effectively that Adams was often thought of as the founder of NANC, which was never true.

Consequently, Adams experienced an increased persecution from within the contemporary biblical counseling movement that he founded. His counseling was dubbed “first generation” biblical counseling and referred to as nothing more than “producing better Pharisees.” I believe this will go down in church history as one of the most grotesque betrayals ever perpetrated on a man in the name of friendship and the gospel.

The fallout in our day is indicative of the spiritual carnage that has always been left in the path of Gnosticism. While the spiritual peasantry cries out in hopes that the elite will police their own, the Nicolaitans of our day laugh all the way to the bank. After all, subjective reality is messy business and peasants just don’t understand. The biblical counseling community has founded organizations who seek to keep them out of court and prevent the obscuring of cash flow. The New Calvinism movement is intrinsically connected by a complicated and massive network of  associations—in many cases disagreeing with each other on “secondary issues.” A prime example is the G.R.A.C.E mediatory organization headed by Boz Tchividjian.  While playing the part of advocates for the spiritually abused, they are professionally networked with serial abusers of the worst sort.

Conclusion

The biblical counseling movement embodied in New Calvinism is nothing more or less than a return to the exact same Gnosticism that plagued the first century church. The fact that Eastern mysticism is often the application can be seen by what happened at a Passion Conference where the who’s who of New Calvinism led the audience in a form of Transcendental Meditation. Tim Keller, a co-mentoree of Miller along with David Powlison in the early days, is a staunch advocate of Eastern mysticism as a practical application for Christian living.

CCEF, and NANC are the epitome of false advertising. They advertise the gospel and change, but believe in neither. Like the father of their faith, St. Augustine,  it is Plato they trust. The banner over them is not love, but a sense of elitist entitlement to be paid and supported by the unenlightened masses for their own good. Sheep that don’t get it are more than expendable; the one in 99 is expendable for the 99 who know their place and pay the Shamans their tax deductible dues.

They invent and sell orthodoxy, the layman’s manual for experiencing perpetual rebirth. On the one hand, there is a Christianity that posits the living water that is received once, the onetime washing, and the moving on to maturity from the beginning principles of baptisms, and then there is the gospel of our day that posits the perpetual rebirth of Eastern mysticism.

But this is not a mere disagreement about how to live the Christian life. How we see the Christian life reveals the gospel that we really believe. When our salvation is not a finished work, something must be done by us to finish it—even if that means doing nothing with intentionality. NOT living by a list of do’s and don’ts is the work that keeps us saved. It is playing it safe by hiding our talents in the ground and giving the Lord back what He originally gave.

Christians would do well to choose which gospel they will live by in our day.  At this point, that conversation has not arrived yet. And to be sure, many do not want the conversation to be clarified to that point. The gospel itself has become the elephant in the room.

paul

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