Paul's Passing Thoughts

Simple Theological Math: Protestantism’s Age-Old Gospel of Death and Misery

Posted in Uncategorized by pptmoderator on December 31, 2014

PPT HandleOriginally published June 6, 2014

“When it gets right down to the nitty gritty there is NO difference between John MacArthur Jr. and Joseph Prince. The theological math equation is exactly the same.”

“And of course, there are many different takes on which sanctification by faith alone formula best keeps us justified by reoffering the perfect obedience of Christ upon the alter of the law.” 

“Instead of the death of Christ ending the law of condemnation and setting us free to obey the law in order to glorify God, please God, love Christ and others, and abstain from grieving the Spirit by offering our bodies as a living sacrifice, we are told that we must instead continually reoffer the living sacrifice of Christ’s obedience instead… This takes the privilege and calling to love Christ with our obedience in sanctification and makes it part of justification. It circumvents the ability to love our Lord, and makes it works salvation.”      

A friend of this ministry sent me some books that have confirmed a suspicion I have had for some time: Protestants, regardless of the stripe, have always primarily functioned by the same core doctrine of “justification by faith.” I heard Joseph Prince use the term just the other day as I walked past a flat screen here at the Potter’s House.

What is “justification by faith” specifically? This is the core doctrine/gospel that has always driven all forms of Protestantism. Even though there are obviously various and sundry applications—the core ideology that drives its function is the same. When it gets right down to the nitty gritty there is NO difference between John MacArthur Jr. and Joseph Prince. The theological math equation is exactly the same.

The least common denominator is the fact that justification is not finished. As I was walking past the aforementioned monitor, Prince also stated in regard to justification by faith… “it is finished.” Yes, Protestants say that, but that’s not how we function—we function according to what the doctrine is really about; the doctrine is really about a justification that is not finished.

When justification is not finished, souls are skittish about what they do as disciples for fear that it will mess up their salvation, and there will be mass confusion in regard to the relationship between law and gospel. The Christian life will become complicated and in need of a priestly expert to give us our best shot at “standing in the judgment.” Protestant souls will be suspicious of obedience and their motives for doing so. Unhealthy introspection and paralyzing fear in sanctification has been the hallmark of Protestantism from the beginning.

“Yes,” they say, justification is a finished work in regard to our “positional justification,” but Jesus’ work is really not finished, He must keep working to KEEP us in that position where we are covered by His righteousness. So, positional justification and practical justification are both a work of Jesus, and we are justified by faith. This is because God has declared us righteous positionally, but that isn’t true unless we are really righteous practically which begs the question:

“How can we be considered truly righteous as people?”

‘The law must be kept perfectly.’

“But we can’t keep the law perfectly.”

‘Yes, that’s why we are saved by justification by faith.’

Therefore, according to the authentic gospel of justification by faith, there are two things we must believe in order to be saved: Christ’s passive obedience, and Christ’s active obedience. Stalwarts of the Protestant faith like Gresham Machen have stated that there is “no hope” without this belief also known as “double imputation.” Christ died for our positional justification, but He also came to live a perfect life of obedience for our positional justification. There are TWO justifications: positional and practical. One is finished, but Christ continues to be an “advocate” for us to keep us justified positionally:

“So, I must believe that Christ died for my justification and lived for my sanctification?”


“So, what we call sanctification is really a work by Christ that keeps us justified.”


“…until our resurrection?”

‘Right, we call that final justification.’

“So, there is positional justification, practical justification, and final justification?”


“So, why do they call practical justification sanctification?”

‘Because sanctification means to be set apart for holiness.’

“Oh, so sanctification describes what practical justification does—it describes the function of practical justification.”

‘That’s a good way to state it.’

“But I can’t keep the law perfectly.”

‘Right, that’s where justification by faith comes in.’

“So, justification by faith means I am justified by faith alone in what Jesus did on the cross for my positional justification, and faith alone in His perfect life of obedience for my practical justification, or what we call sanctification.”

‘You are correct.’

“So, positional justification is a finished work, but practical justification is not.”

‘Both are finished; Christ fulfilled the law by His perfect life so that it could be applied to our sanctification in order to keep us justified positionally. We are justified by Christ positionally and practically.’

This is a false gospel for several key reasons from a biblical perspective, and the reason that Protestantism, like Catholicism, has borne fruits of death over the centuries. It’s a matter of simple theological math. The Bible states explicitly that this very gospel will bear fruits of death for the following reason…


Clearly, the Protestant gospel focuses on one relationship to the law that never changes for the believer. That’s the first and primary element of the equation. Secondly, justification is a finished two-part work for Christ, but not us. The Reformers believed that the essence of all sin was a propensity on the part of man to believe that he/she can contribute to salvation in some way. Because the Protestant gospel demands a standard for justification that defines righteousness as a perfect keeping of the law, what people believe about practical righteousness becomes paramount. The bottom line becomes the following reality: we can’t keep the law perfectly, and if we can’t, we are not really righteous.

All and all, the issue at hand is what the Reformers believed about justification’s standard. Only recognizing ONE relationship to the law, they also made perfect law-keeping the standard for justification. This also necessitated the belief that because man falls short of perfection, even believers, that man remains fundamentally unchanged until the resurrection. Man remains under the same law that he/she was under before salvation, and that law demands perfection. And that is true, THAT one law does demand perfection, and in fact does nothing but condemn those who are under it. Therefore, justification by faith holds to the idea that Christ died to pay the penalty for our sins, and came to also fulfill all of the righteous requirements of the law of sin and death.

The fact that Protestantism keeps man under the law of sin and death is really the crux of the issue. Christ is one who has “satisfied the law” in our stead. But the law is not “satisfied” by His death only, it is also “satisfied” by His life. And if we are still under this one law, it cannot be satisfied by anything we do because we cannot keep it perfectly. Therefore, as ones still under it, we must be COVERED by the righteous obedience of Christ until final justification. Here are the elements of the equation:

One law + perfect covering – man’s contribution = final justification.

The following explanation from a Reformed publication could not explain it better:

The Holy Spirit gives the sinner faith to accept the righteousness of Jesus. Standing now before the law which says, “I demand a life of perfect conformity to the commandments,” the believing sinner cries in triumph, “Mine are Christ’s living, doing, and speaking, His suffering and dying; mine as much as if I had lived, done, spoken, and suffered, and died as He did . . . ” (Luther). The law is well pleased with Jesus’ doing and dying, which the sinner brings in the hand of faith. Justice is fully satisfied, and God can truly say: “This man has fulfilled the law. He is justified.”

We say again, Only those are justified who bring to God a life of perfect obedience to the law of God. This is what faith does—it brings to God the obedience of Jesus Christ. By faith the law is fulfilled and the sinner is justified (The Australian Forum Present Truth Journal: Law and Gospel; volume, 7 article 2, Part 2).

Contemporary Reformed theologian John Piper states it this way:

We are united to Christ in whom we are counted as perfectly righteous because of his righteousness, not ours. The demand for obedience in the Christian life is undiminished and absolute. If obedience does not emerge by faith, we have no warrant to believe we are united to Christ or justified (Matthew 6:15; John 5:28-29; Romans 8:13; Galatians 6:8-9; 2 Thessalonians 2:13;James 2:17; 1 John 2:17; 3:14). But the only hope for making progress in this radical demand for holiness and love is the hope that our righteousness before God is on another solid footing besides our own imperfect obedience as Christians. We all sense intuitively-and we are encouraged in this intuition by the demands of God-that acceptance with God requires perfect righteousness conformity to the law (Matthew5:48; Galatians 3:10; James2:10). We also know that our measures of obedience, even on our best days, fall short of this standard (John Piper: Counted Righteous in Christ; Page 123, 2002).

Though Piper often uses nuance to shade the reality of the less ambiguous prior statement, “We all sense intuitively-and we are encouraged in this intuition by the demands of God-that acceptance with God requires perfect righteousness conformity to the law… We also know that our measures of obedience, even on our best days, fall short of this standard.”


This requires an ongoing work by us to live our Christian life via a formula that perpetually presents the righteous obedience of Christ upon the alter of the law. This keeps us justified. And of course, there are many different takes on which sanctification by faith alone formula best keeps us justified by reoffering the perfect obedience of Christ upon the alter of the law.

According to Romans 6:14, we are not under law, but under grace :

For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.

The word for “over,” kyrieuō, means to “have authority or lordship over.”  However, Protestantism holds to the idea that Christians are still under the authority of this particular law which requires/required Christ to fulfill its demands. Remember what John Piper stated?

We all sense intuitively-and we are encouraged in this intuition by the demands of God-that acceptance with God requires perfect righteousness conformity to the law… We also know that our measures of obedience, even on our best days, fall short of this standard.

Clearly, Protestantism keeps us under the authority of this law. This requires a “covering” by Christ to protect us from its condemnation because we are unable to fulfill its righteous requirements. But yet, this does not subtract from the fact that we remain under its jurisdiction.

Law + fulfilment + covering = righteousness ≠ justification.

Another problem is that even if the law is fulfilled, its fulfillment cannot give life:

Galatians 3:21 – Is the law then contrary to the promises of God? Certainly not! For if a law had been given that could give life, then righteousness would indeed be by the law.

We see two things here: the law cannot give life even if it is fulfilled, “For if a law had been given that could give life,” and even if it was fulfilled, it is not the standard for justification; “then righteousness would indeed be by the law.” It doesn’t matter who fulfills it, whether it is fulfilled or not, it cannot give life and it is not the standard for justification—it can only condemn.

8:1 – There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. 3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

The apostle Paul drives this point home by reminding us that our father of the faith was declared righteous 430 years before the law:

Galatians 3:17 – This is what I mean: the law, which came 430 years afterward, does not annul a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to make the promise void. 18 For if the inheritance comes by the law, it no longer comes by promise; but God gave it to Abraham by a promise.

What is being missed is the two different relationships of the law: it is the law of sin and death to unbelievers, but it is the law of the Spirit of life to believers. Those UNDER GRACE are led by the law of the Spirit of life, and are not UNDER the law of sin and death. We are no longer under that law’s dominion or jurisdiction. Why would Christ need to fulfill a law that has no jurisdiction over us? Moreover, why does the righteousness of Christ need to cover us in the fulfilling of that law when those under it have died?

Romans 7:1- Or do you not know, brothers—for I am speaking to those who know the law—that the law is binding on a person only as long as he lives? 2 For a married woman is bound by law to her husband while he lives, but if her husband dies she is released from the law of marriage. 3 Accordingly, she will be called an adulteress if she lives with another man while her husband is alive. But if her husband dies, she is free from that law, and if she marries another man she is not an adulteress.

4 Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God. 5 For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. 6 But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.

Did not John Piper, like all of the Reformed, state that the law is still binding on us? Not if we died with Christ, and we did:

Romans 6:5 – For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 7 For one who has died has been set free from sin. 8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.

A dead person who is no longer under the jurisdiction of law does not need to be “covered” with the righteous of Christ’s perfect obedience; we don’t need a covering, in fact, Christ’s death put an END to the law:

Romans 10:4 – For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.

We don’t need a righteous covering for a law that has been ended. Our sins are not “covered,” they are ENDED:

Romans 3:19 – Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God.

Romans 4:15 – For the law brings wrath, but where there is no law there is no transgression.

If the law has nothing to say to us, how can we be, as John Piper asserts, under its demands? Why would Christ have to fulfill the law for us when it has nothing to say to us in the first place? Christ didn’t end the law for us because He fulfilled it, he ended it by His death, and if he ended it by His death, why would He have to fulfill it?

Romans 5:8 – but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Romans 5:13 – for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law.

Romans 10:4 – For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.

The Protestant gospel keeps people under the law, and requires a continual living sacrifice on the part of Christ to fulfill the righteousness of the law of sin and death. But that law is ended, and we are set free to follow the Spirit by obedience to the law out of a pure motive of love:

Romans 7:6 – But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.

We are now free to obey the law of the Spirit of life:

Romans 8:1 – There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.  2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. 3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. 5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6 For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 7 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. 8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

Christ died to set us free from the law of sin and death so that we would be free to obey the law of the Spirit of life. It is really the same law, but this all speaks of two different relationships to the law; i.e., those who are under its condemnation, and those who are free to obey it in order to please God. In regard to these two different relationships…

Galatians 4:21 – Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not listen to the law?

Instead of the death of Christ ending the law of condemnation and setting us free to obey the law in order to glorify God, please God, love Christ and others, and abstain from grieving the Spirit by offering our bodies as a living sacrifice, we are told that we must instead continually reoffer the living sacrifice of Christ’s obedience instead.

Romans 12:1 – I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

This takes the privilege and calling to love Christ with our obedience in sanctification and makes it part of justification. It circumvents the ability to love our Lord, and makes it works salvation.

But it gets worse as keeping people under the law has additional consequences.  It not only replaces our obedience in sanctification with the obedience of Christ in order to keep us justified by a perpetual reoffering of Christ’s living sacrifice instead of ours which Paul said was our reasonable service to God, it even takes the death of Christ and reoffers it continually in order to keep us justified as well. Think about it; if we are still under the law of condemnation and its demands, its righteousness requirement not only requires righteous actions, but sinlessness. Therefore, if the law of sin and death is not ended, Christ not only died for our sins under the law, but He must have also died for our sins committed as Christians because we are still under the law. This requires a reapplication of Christ’s death to present sins when we repent of them. Accordingly…

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).

…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).

…forgiveness of sins is not a matter of a passing work or action, but comes from baptism which is of perpetual duration, until we arise from the dead (Luther’s Works: American ed.; Philadelphia: Muhlenberg Press; St. Louis: Concordia, 1955, vol. 34, p. 163).

For the forgiveness of sins is a continuing divine work, until we die. Sin does not cease. Accordingly, Christ saves us perpetually (Ibid., p.190).

Daily we sin, daily we are continually justified, just as a doctor is forced to heal sickness day by day until it is cured (Ibid., p.191).

This is a perpetual return to the same gospel that saved us. In regard to that, the Hebrew writer stated the following:

Hebrews 6:1 – Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, 2 and of instruction about washings, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. 3 And this we will do if God permits. 4 For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, 5 and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, 6 and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt. 7 For land that has drunk the rain that often falls on it, and produces a crop useful to those for whose sake it is cultivated, receives a blessing from God. 8 But if it bears thorns and thistles, it is worthless and near to being cursed, and its end is to be burned.

In the final analysis, being yet under the law of sin and death can only bring forth fruits for death, and by and large, that is the testimony of Protestantism. Its original gospel keeps people under the law of sin and death, and under the slavery of sin. Those under the law of the Spirit of life have the seed of God in them because they are born of God, and are not under a law that can condemn them. A perfect fulfilling of the law of sin and death is not the standard of justification. Christians are under the law of liberty (James 1:25) that frees them from that law of sin and death to walk in the Spirit.

In the same way that one act of sin violates the whole law (James 2:10), one act of love fulfills the law of the Spirit of life (Galatians 5:14). It is obedience motivated by love, but weakened by the flesh. Nevertheless, we ARE righteous practically in sanctification accordingly.


Why Christians Cannot Trust the Biblical Counseling Movement: Its True History and Doctrine

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on December 29, 2014


    The contemporary biblical counseling movement has brought counseling back to the church. Prior, the average evangelical congregation supplied comfort as much as they could while the experts were called on to treat whatever serious problem was at hand. Church was there to get people into heaven; the experts make people as comfortable as possible until they get there.

    That has changed dramatically. In-house counseling addresses every imaginable life problem within the church. Biblical counseling organizations abound and their networks have inundated the institutional church. At the top of the biblical counseling empire is the Christian Counseling & Education Foundation (CCEF) and its offspring: Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, and the Biblical Counseling Coalition. Together, these organizations hold sway over at least 90% of all biblical counseling taking place in the evangelical church.

    Who are they? How did they get here? What do they believe? And are they a help to God’s people, or a detriment? It is important to answer these questions because of the following fact: the present-day biblical counseling movement is the biggest scam ever perpetrated on God’s people, and the harm it will continue to inflict on souls is beyond measure.

    The information in this booklet is far from complicated. The present-day biblical counseling movement has an easily defined history, doctrine, and track record regarding results. Are God’s people being helped, or hurt? And if the biblical counseling movement is a detriment to God’s people, what are the viable alternatives?

    The biblical counseling movement is like clouds without water. That was Jude’s description of false teachers in his letter to the saints. Clouds offer hope that life-giving rain to a thirsty land is coming, but these clouds are merely a mist of empty promises and hopelessness. The goal of this booklet is to warn God’s people, and point to the only true hope of Jesus Christ and His truth.

Because only truth sanctifies (John 17:17),

Paul M. Dohse Sr.

The Beginning of the Biblical Counseling Movement

    In circa 1960, a middle aged Presbyterian pastor named Jay E. Adams had a life transforming experience:

Like many other pastors, I learned little about counseling in seminary, so I began with virtually no knowledge of what to do. Soon I was in difficulty. Early in my first pastorate, following an evening service, a man lingered after everyone else had left. I chatted with him awkwardly, wondering what he wanted. He broke into tears, but could not speak. I simply did not know what to do. I was helpless. He went home that night without unburdening his heart or receiving any genuine help from his pastor. Less than one month later he died. I now suspect that his doctor had told him of his impending death and that he had come for counsel. But I failed him. That night I asked God to help me to become an effective counselor (Jay E. Adams: Competent To Counsel; Zondervan 1970, Introduction xi).

    Therefore, it would be fair to say that whoever that gentleman was, he sparked the beginning of the most significant movement in recent church history. The experience must have profoundly impacted Adams because he was relentless in pursuing counseling knowledge in the years following. Then,

…suddenly, I was forced to face the whole problem in a much more definitive way. I was asked to teach practical theology at Westminster Theological Seminary. One of the courses I was assigned was Poimenics (the shepherding work of the pastor). As part of the course, I was expected to teach the basic theory of pastoral counseling. I had less than a year to think through the problem and prepare my lectures. Where would I begin? (Ibid).

How Did the Church Get There?

    To say that Christians, some 2000 years after the birth of the church, had come to live by biblical generalities, and were farming serious problems out to religious and secular experts is far from painting the church of that time with a wide brush. It’s not oversimplification; it’s the simple fact of the matter. The testimony of a mainstream respected pastor like Jay Adams is sufficient.

    But how did the church come to function that way? The answer is profoundly simple; the functionality of the church was a direct result from the gospel it adopted in the 16th century. The construct mentioned in the introduction of this booklet, church gets us to heaven, experts help us cope until we get there, was a direct effect caused by the Reformation gospel. So, what was that gospel?

The Reformation Gospel

    The Reformation gospel was predicated on the idea that salvation was a process, or progression. In other words, the justification of a believer had a starting point, a progression, and then finality. This is sometimes referred to as beginning justification experienced subjectively followed by final justification.

    So, instead of salvation, or justification being a finished work with the Christian life progressing in complete separation from justification, the Christian life is part of the progression of justification according to the Reformers. In fact, one of the primary Reformers and the father of the Presbyterian Church, John Calvin, titled one of the chapters in his Institutes of the Christian Religion, “The Beginning of Justification. In What Sense Progressive” (book 3, chapter 14).

    In that chapter, Calvin explains the crux of the Reformation gospel: beginning justification only covers past sins, but because Christians continue to sin, they must revisit the same gospel that saved them in order to receive continued forgiveness for new sins committed in the Christian life (section 11). Further clarification on this position can be seen in other sections of the Calvin Institutes:

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” (4.1.21).

    On the flip side, Calvin went to great lengths in 3.14.9,10 to emphasize the idea that Christians cannot do any work that is pleasing to God because perfect law-keeping is the prerequisite for any ability to please God in any way. Therefore, Christians must continually seek repentance so that the righteousness of Christ will be perpetually imputed to our account in what we would refer to as sanctification, or the Christian life (3.14.11). Therefore, Calvin stated that the Christian life had to be a passive affair focused on perpetual repentance for new sins committed in the Christian life in order to remain justified. This meant a perpetual return to the same gospel that saved us. To Calvin, the Christian life was the Old Testament Sabbath rest if one would progress in justification:

And this emptying out of self must proceed so far that the Sabbath is violated even by good works, so long as we regard them as our own; for rightly does Augustine remark in the last chapter of the 22nd book, De Civitate Dei, ‘For even our good works themselves, since they are understood to be rather His than ours, are thus imputed to us for the attaining of that Sabbath, when we are still and see that He is God; for, if we attribute them to ourselves, they will be servile, whereas we are told as to the Sabbath, “Thou shalt not do any servile work in it.”

The Complete Commentaries on the First Book of Moses Called Genesis: Jean Calvin; translated by Charles William Bingham ,1844-1856. The Harmony of the Law: Commentaries on the Four Last Books of Moses | Its Repetition—Deuteronomy 5:12-15. ¶2.

    Note that the Christian must attain the Sabbath (final justification) by the continued “emptying out of self” which results in the continued imputation of righteousness not our own. It is a perpetual “meditation” on the Sabbath to attain the Sabbath:

It may seem, therefore, that the seventh day the Lord delineated to his people the future perfection of his sabbath on the last day, that by continual meditation on the sabbath, they might throughout their whole lives aspire to this perfection (The Calvin Institutes 2.8.30).

Spiritual rest is the mortification of the flesh; so that the sons of God should no longer live to themselves, or indulge their own inclination. So far as the Sabbath was a figure of this rest, I say, it was but for a season; but insomuch as it was commanded to men from the beginning that they might employ themselves in the worship of God, it is right that it should continue to the end of the world.

The Complete Commentaries on the First Book of Moses Called Genesis: Jean Calvin; translated by John King, 1844-1856. Genesis 2:1-15, section 3.

    Why then did Christians live by biblical generalities, and find themselves inept in regard to helping people? Because the Protestant gospel called for a retaining of salvation through rest and a singular meditation on the same repentance that originally saved us. Since that occurs during the Christian life, and justification is by faith alone, the Christian life must be lived by faith alone, or again, according to the Sabbath rest. Obviously, a diligent study of biblical wisdom and its application to life would not only be a very low priority, but is antithetical to the authentic Protestant gospel. This made weak sanctification in Christian living a longstanding tradition. Church became all about salvation and little else.


    Dr. Jay E. Adams was not alone in misunderstanding the true gospel of the Reformation which led to the self-described dilemma he found himself in. Protestantism had become a soft version of the original article. Martin Luther’s alien righteousness was thought to pertain to justification only and not the Christian life as well. In other words, Luther didn’t believe Christians inherit any of God’s righteousness that becomes a part of them. Christians are only declared righteous positionally, but do not actually possess any righteousness in their being. John Calvin concurred throughout his institutes; e.g., 3.14.11.

    Protestantism and its entire offspring heavily emphasized justification only because that is the very premise of its gospel though the causality became very blurred with time. According to the authentic article, sanctification is the manifestation of Christ’s life for the purpose of moving justification forward to final justification.

    The “believers” role is to colabor with Christ by faith alone in order to keep things moving forward, and frankly, an endeavor to keep ourselves saved by faith alone. This requires a redefinition of what is a work in sanctification, and what is not a work in sanctification so that the obedience of Christ would continue to be imputed to us for the purpose of keeping us justified. In this way, according to the Reformers, we are “kept” by Christ because justification is not finished—it’s a process.

    Hence, the Reformers classified what activities in the Christian life are of faith alone. The writings of Luther and Calvin primarily concern a formula for living the Christian life by faith alone. The crux of the formula was a perpetual return to the same gospel that saved us originally for the atonement of “present sin.” That sin is not only covered, but one also continues to be covered by the righteousness of Christ alone and NOT any righteousness inherited by us via the new birth.   This is nothing new, and is what James sought to refute in his letter to the 12 tribes of Israel.

    What is important to establish at this point is the fact that the Reformed community at large began to realize in 1970 that they had drifted away from the authentic Reformed gospel, and stated such emphatically. And ironically, the discovery was made by an Adventist theologian named Robert Brinsmead. This Adventist theologian turned said religion completely upside down with what was known as the Awakening Movement. Many took note, and Brinsmead was joined by two Anglicans, Geoffrey Paxton and Graeme Goldsworthy in the forming of a project named The Australian Forum. The purpose of the project was to awake Christianity to the fact that it had drifted away from the true Reformation gospel resulting in a separation of justification from sanctification, and the idea that Christians inherit a righteous state of being through the new birth.

    And they were exactly correct which resulted in the Reformed community holding their noses and listening to what Brinsmead had to say. Brinsmead, Paxton, and Goldsworthy published a theological journal named Present Truth which had a massive impact on the evangelical world at large. The publication, for all practical purposes, was a contemporary rendering of the Calvin Institutes and was an astonishing articulation of authentic Reformed soteriology.

    Remember, Jay Adams had been called to Westminster Theological Seminary sometime during the mid-sixties, and was buried in developing a counseling construct for the purposes of training pastors. Running parallel to his activities was the Awakening Movement which he probably paid little attention to. That is, until Westminster invited the Australian Forum to meet with the Westminster brain trust. Though it has not been established positively, the legendary Reformed theologian Edmund Clowney, who was president of Westminster at that time, was more than likely present at the meeting. Adams was not happy about the meeting because of Brinsmead, and sarcastically suggested that pork be served for lunch which in fact ended up being the case (The Truth About New Calvinism: TANC Publishing 2011; pp. 59-65).

    After several years of hammering out a counseling construct for the institutional church, Adams published his counseling treatise titled, Competent To Counsel. This was a landmark publication and highly controversial. The theses of the book suggested that Christians, armed with the word of God, were competent to counsel each other and bring about changed lives. Said another way, Christianity is more than Redemption alone, but is also about changed lives for the glory of God. Adams even published another book that makes the same point: More Than Redemption. And yet another book, How To Help People Change. Adams is rightly known as the father of the biblical counseling movement, but he may better be described as the father of aggressive sanctification.

The Perfect Storm of Conflict: 1970

    Ordinarily, this Christian living revolution would have dramatically changed Christianity until the second coming, but remember something else happened the same year that Adams unveiled his counseling treatise in 1970: the advent of the Australian Forum. Therefore, you had two antithetical movements growing side by side in the Protestant community, especially in the halls of Westminster: the resurgence of authentic Protestantism and the biblical counseling movement. One emphasized the fusion of justification and sanctification, and the other emphasized the separation of the two.

    Early in Adams’ tenor at Westminster, a counseling wing of Westminster was established named, The Christian Counseling & Education Foundation, or CCEF. This was a biblical counseling think tank of sorts, and the academic counseling wing of Westminster as well. Its embodiment included proponents of both movements. Later, an accreditation organization was formed known as The Association of Nouthetic Counselors, or NANC.  The purpose of the organization was to certify biblical counselors. This organization was also embodied with proponents of both movements.

    Be advised that it is unlikely that many were conscious of the historical distinctions between the two movements. All in all, the differences were chalked up to disagreement in regard to application, but not anything that pointed to any questions regarding the Reformation gospel itself.

    That would change when a contemporary of Jay Adams at Westminster, Professor John “Jack” Miller developed the Sonship Discipleship program. Clearly, the program was based on the authentic Reformed gospel recovery movement. As the movement grew, Adams, who was gaining significant notoriety as the father of the biblical counseling movement, was called on more and more to weigh-in on the movement.

    This resulted in a contention between Miller and Adams which consummated into Adams writing a book published by Timeless Texts that contended against the program: Biblical Sonship; An Evaluation of the Sonship Discipleship Course. Adams published the book in 1999, the movement began circa 1986, or about 16 years after the resurgence began in 1970.

    Take note: though the program was based on the Reformation principle of fusing justification and sanctification together, it was wreaking havoc on the Protestant church during this time, and that is why Adams jumped into the fray. The point being that Presbyterianism was functioning according to Calvinism Light, and when the original article began to emerge, many Presbyterians, including Adams claimed the Sonship program was not according to the Reformed tradition. Several of these like confrontations pepper church history—usually in the form of antinomian controversies.

    It is important to pause here and establish the fact that these controversies arise because Calvinists often misunderstand what Calvin really believed, and this misunderstanding is most prevalent among Bible scholars and Christian academia at large. This is because seminaries rarely teach anything new, but are merely institutions that regurgitate the traditions of men.

    This is established by the fact that at the beginning of the 1970 resurgence, the Reformed community themselves admitted that the original gospel of the Reformation had been lost. Also, the very nomenclature of their ministries admit it as well; i.e., “The Resurgence,” “Modern Reformation,” etc.

    More to the point, Reformed scholar John H. Armstrong, who co-authored a book with John MacArthur Jr., stated the following in an article titled Death of a Friend on August 31, 2010:

One summer, in the late 1970s I believe, I attended a small gathering associated with the ministry of a popular magazine of the time called Present Truth. The magazine actually opened my eyes to the need for recovering gospel truths in an age that was fast losing its grasp on the grace of God. Two teachers were leading this small gathering and there could not have been more than 75 people in the room. One of those in the audience, and sharing insights only as a humble participant, was Dr. Don Bloesch. I was impressed that a man of such profound scholarship would take the time to share in a small event where he was not a featured speaker. Don believed something important was going on in that room and wanted to interact with it. So did I.

    Why was Armstrong impressed with Bloesch’s willingness to participate in a small Australian Forum Bible study using their theological journal Present Truth? First, because Bloesch was a Reformed heavyweight, but back to the main point: this is one of a myriad of open admissions that the Reformed community at large misunderstood the authentic Reformation gospel. Nevertheless, Jay Adams misunderstood Calvin for the better, and in a big way.

    Yet another example of this can be seen in Dr. John Macarthur Jr.’s keynote address at the 2007 Shepherd’s Conference: Why Every Self-Respecting Calvinist is a Premillennialist.  One blogger aptly described the fallout this way:

John MacArthur’s first message at the Shepherds’ Conference set off shock waves throughout the reformed evangelical church by upholding Premillennialism as being the only consistent position for any person who holds to the doctrine of sovereign electing grace.

online source:

    Amillennialism posits the idea that Israel lost its election (Supersessionism or Replacement Theology) because of rebellion, and this was MacArthur’s contention. If God sovereignly elected Israel, how could they lose their election? However, that idea is in fact perfectly consistent with John Calvin’s theology. He separated election into three categories of people, the non-elect, the called, and those who persevere until the end. The called, are in-fact temporarily illumined but then fall away at some point (The Calvin Inst. 3.24.7,8). Moreover, the massive Reformed pushback against this assertion by MacArthur was completely void in regard to this fact, viz, according to Calvinism, one can lose their election. Calvin stated such in no uncertain terms. In the final analysis, most Calvinists have no idea what Calvin believed.

Meanwhile, back to Westminster  

    Let’s now resume our place in contemporary history at Westminster Theological Seminary. We have two notable Calvinists teaching at the same seminary representing two different Calvinist gospel camps, and teachers from both camps are participating in CCEF and NANC. This is where Jay Adams began to come under serious attack within Reformed ranks, mostly from two mentorees of Dr. Miller, David Powlison and Paul David Tripp. These two men are key figures because they were working hard to develop a counseling version of the Reformed resurgence gospel to answer Adams’ counseling construct that heavily emphasized learn and do. In fact, one of the mantra’s among Adams counselors was, “the power is in the doing.”

    At any rate, the counseling construct developed by Powlison and Tripp while at Westminster is known as Theology of the Heart, and was heavily predicated on Miller’s deep repentance model that aligned well with Luther and Calvin’s ideology and practical application of gospel contemplationism. Their pilot program was operational from circa 2003 to 2005, and culminated in an impressive treatise in 2006 titled How People Change authored by Tripp and another former student of Powlison’s at Westminster.

    During the pilot program with the same name as the book, Powlison listed himself as a “contributor.” This was for the express purpose of plausible deniability because these men knew that the counseling construct they were promoting was counter intuitive to most evangelicals. The pilot program “tested” the material in hundreds of local churches between 2003 and 2005.

    In the introduction to the book (Punch Press 2006), Tripp in essence states that if anyone has a problem with the book, they should blame him, but Powlison should get credit for anything they agree with (the earliest literature from the program named Powlison as the actual “developer” of the curriculum). This was/is a ploy to make the book disagreement proof and protect the face of Theology of the Heart, David Powlison. This good cop—bad cop ploy has been utilized several times to defer criticism of the book.

    Consequently, the 2006 NANC conference was fraught with plenary session addresses and workshops that presented a host of contradictory views. Clearly, the civil war between the generally accepted relationship between justification and sanctification (the two are separate), and the gospel recovery movement was in full swing. During a biblical counseling seminar at John Piper’s church, Powlison stated outright that the difference between “first generation” biblical counseling and “second generation” biblical counseling was two different gospels. However, this was the elephant in the biblical counseling room that no one wanted to talk about:

This might be quite a controversy, but I think it’s worth putting in. Adams had a tendency to make the cross be for conversion. And the Holy Spirit was for sanctification.  And actually even came out and attacked my mentor, Jack Miller, my pastor that I’ve been speaking of through the day, for saying that Christians should preach the gospel to themselves.  I think Jay was wrong on that (David Powlison speaking at John Piper’s church May 8, 2010).

    Ironically, Adams’ primarily criticism of secular psychology has always been the lack of continuity plus the various and sundry theories of change that number over 200 within the discipline, but even though the biblical counseling movement doesn’t have that many varying theories, they are split on the issue that makes the whole discussion worthwhile, the gospel of Jesus Christ.

    This is the first reason the biblical counseling movement must be utterly rejected out of hand—because no one in the movement will draw a deep line in the sand in defense of the gospel. These difference are treated as matters of opinion concerning method instead of what it really is, a contention between two different gospels with heaven and hell in the balance.

    The one thing both camps unwittingly agree on is that the biblical counseling industrial complex must be preserved at the expense of the gospel. In the final analysis, those who function in this way cannot help people change, and will most likely do more harm than good. The movement is pregnant with counselors who lack conviction and love for the truth. They are best avoided at all cost.

    The issue concerning these two different gospels is far from complicated: if one must preach the gospel to themselves every day, that must mean they still need the same gospel that originally saved them, which means their salvation is not a finished work, which also means that they must play some role in finishing their salvation—this would seem evident. If Justification is not finished, works salvation is unavoidable on every wise, and a gospel contemplationism dubbed as a faith-alone work by no means changes this reality.

    And incredibly, this is verbally conceded often. Consider what John Piper said in his three part series, How Does The Gospel Save Believers? 

We are asking the question, How does the gospel save believers?, not: How does the gospel get people to be believers? When spoken in the power of the Holy Spirit, the gospel does have power to open people’s eyes and change their hearts and draw them to faith, and save them. That’s what is happening on Tuesday nights and Wednesday nights this summer. People are being drawn to Christ through the power and beauty of the gospel. But I am stressing what Paul says here in verses 16 and 17, namely, that “the gospel is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.” Believers need to be saved. The gospel is the instrument of God’s power to save us. And we need to know how the gospel saves us believers so that we make proper use of it (August 16, 1998, part 2).

    This is the very essence of the Reformation gospel: the idea that salvation is a process in which the “believer” is gradually drawn to Christ for a final salvation. The only way that this process towards final salvation can continue is if we continually return to the same gospel that saved us. This is egregious heresy perpetrated in broad daylight.

    Eventually, Jay Adams was driven out of any association with CCEF and NANC and started The Institute of Nouthetic Studies (INS) with Baptist pastor Donn Arms. INS experiences a significant contention with CCEF and NANC until this day, but unfortunately, the contention primarily focuses on sanctification issues, viz, heart theology, and not the truthfulness of the true gospel. The CCEF/NANC camp applied its latest slap in the face to Adams by changing the name of NANC to The Association Of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC).

    INS has two individuals on their staff that also have close relations to CCEF and ACBC. Adams and Arms are to be commended for their confrontation regarding the application of Theology of the Heart to counseling people, but unfortunately, they have not yet made it a salvific gospel issue.

The Big Lie

    Primarily, people go to counseling for one reason: because they see a need for change in their lives. The brain trust of the CCEF counseling empire and their aforementioned affiliates know that they do NOT believe that people change. The magnum opus of heart theology, How People Change, is a misrepresentation of its counseling construct and they know it. As we have seen, the authentic Reformation gospel rejects the idea that people can change in totality.

    Therefore, the goal of biblical counseling is to teach people to see life differently. If they merely see life differently, wellbeing occurs regardless of what is happening in the material world. What happens in the material world is entirely God’s business and not yours. Right seeing is the goal, not right doing, the doing is God’s job—not yours.

    In fact, according to the construct that has taken over the biblical counseling culture, any counseling that emphasizes doing is a false gospel. We, as John Piper often likes to say, must practice a “beholding as a way of becoming.” But remember, the “becoming” speaks to a progression of mere seeing while God himself manifests the doing in the material realm. This booklet will not explore all of the metaphysical constructs that may be applied, but one example comes from page 215 of How People Change:

When we think, desire, speak, or act in a right way, it isn’t time to pat ourselves on the back or cross it off our To Do List. Each time we do what is right, we are experiencing what Christ has supplied for us.

    In other words, we are only experiencing the works of Christ and not actually doing the work ourselves. There are many philosophical applications for this approach including subjective Idealism.  This is the idea that reality is defined by how it is perceived. In other words, there is really no material world per se; it only exists in the minds of individuals. Therefore, change a person’s thinking and you change their reality.

    Another approach is realm manifestation. The invisible world manifests reality in the visible world by whatever means, but those who dwell in the material realm are only experiencing what the invisible realm is manifesting. For the most part, the Reformers, particularly Martin Luther and his spiritual mentor Saint Augustine seemed to believe something along these lines.

    Luther stated in the Heidelberg disputation that the Christian life is lived subjectively; i.e., we really don’t know when we are doing a work or when God is doing the work. However, to believe that whatever we do is evil, and whatever good is done is only experienced by us, but not us doing it, is saving faith. To believe that we can actually do a good work, according to Luther, is mortal sin. To experience a good work as us doing it is only venial sin if we disavow our ability to do any good work and attribute the work to God only:

He, however, who has emptied himself (cf. Phil. 2:7) through suffering no longer does works but knows that God works and does all things in him. For this reason, whether God does works or not, it is all the same to him. He neither boasts if he does good works, nor is he disturbed if God does not do good works through him. He knows that it is sufficient if he suffers and is brought low by the cross in order to be annihilated all the more. It is this that Christ says in John 3:7, »You must be born anew.« To be born anew, one must consequently first die and then be raised up with the Son of Man. To die, I say, means to feel death at hand (Theses 24).

    This is also how Luther defined the new birth. Since we, even as “Christians,” can only do evil, we only seek to live a perpetual “lifestyle of repentance” as Paul Tripp et al call it resulting in a resurrection experience. But remember, we are never sure when these experiences are actually from God, but joy may be an indication, though we are never certain. Remember, this connects us back to “justification experienced subjectively.”

    Hence, we get ourselves to heaven with an ability to “stand in the judgment by faith alone” by revisiting our original salvation. THIS IS KEY, the new birth is not a onetime event which makes us a new creature, the new birth is redefined as a perpetual death and rebirth experience, or a perpetual repeating of our original salvation in order to keep ourselves saved by this living by faith alone formula. Simply stated, it is daily resalvation. We must be resaved or rejustified daily by “preaching the gospel to ourselves every day.”

    There is actually a formal doctrine from the Reformed tradition that defines the new birth in this way, it is called mortification and vivification. It is a perpetual reliving of our original baptism in order to keep ourselves saved.  It is returning to the same gospel that saved us daily in order to remain saved. We focus on our need for repentance (mortification, or death), and we then experience perpetual resurrection (vivification, or a joy experience) in ever-increasing levels.

    Though identified with the Reformed tradition, the father of contemporary biblical counseling, Jay Adams, believes the new birth to be a onetime event and would reject a proper understanding of mortification and vivification. In the same year that he unveiled his biblical approach to a more aggressive sanctification, the Australian Forum began to awaken the Reformed community to the fact that they had lost their way. Roughly sixteen years later, the original article began to be integrated into the biblical counseling movement which put the movement at odds with the very man who started It.

    Jay Adams believes that Christians can change because they are born again. They don’t merely experience a subjective justification; their changed behavior is proof of the new creature. Adams stated in no uncertain terms in the aforementioned treatise against Sonship Theology that justification is a declaration, and sanctification is NOT powered by it. In contrast, sanctification is powered by regeneration, or the new birth. The Christian can change through obedience to biblical wisdom and is helped in doing so by the Holy Spirit.

    But this clearly puts Adams at odds with the true Reformation gospel, and his hesitancy to completely break ties with CCEF et al will only continue to muddy the waters while Adams is accused of propagating a “behavioral model.”

Yet, a behavioral approach to change is hollow because it ignores the need for Christ and his power to change first the heart and then the behavior. Instead, even the Christian version of the approach [Adams] separates the commands of Scripture from their Christ-centered, gospel context (How People Change 2006, p. 26).

    This is egregiously disingenuous. On pages 64 and 65 of the same book, Tripp describes Christians the same way Luther would: “alienated enemies” who “suppress the truth in unrighteousness” and “dead,” and “When you are dead, you cannot do anything.” Tripp goes on to say on page 65 that denying we are unchanged is to deny Christ. The key to change is not getting better, but seeing ourselves for who we really are. This entails a peeling away of layers to see the “sin beneath the sin” as their mentor Dr. John Miller put it. So-called “heart change” is really just an ability to see or perceive, NOT an ever-increasing ability to do anything.


    The biblical counseling movement as it now stands is not about change. Unfortunately, the movement’s willingness to knowingly state otherwise is indicative of its character. It is predicated on this lie and a false gospel. It cannot help people, and must be utterly rejected in totality.

    Moreover, in our endeavor to find real change via the Scriptures, Christian academia must be held at arm’s length and viewed with suspicion in all respects. The very character of every Christian academic must be questioned, and their gospel assumed false. Why? Because after 2000 years and trillions of dollars, what do we have? Nothing more than those who proudly call themselves Calvinists while having no idea what Calvin really believed! We are not obligated to follow their zeal not according to knowledge resulting in our own demise.

    Secondly, Christians need to educate themselves in regard to full-orbed reality. Unfortunately, a lack of knowledge in the area of world philosophy, a discipline we are often told we do not need, is essential in understanding the foundations and functioning of traditional Protestantism. Clearly, the Reformers forced the Bible into their own philosophical presuppositions. The Bible must be perceived grammatically, literally unless stated otherwise, and according to its historical backdrop.

    Thirdly, Christians must discern who we are! Are we merely declared righteous because Jesus obeys for us, or are we actually recreated as righteous beings through the new birth? And what is our relationship to the law accordingly?

    Fourthly, we need to take up Jesus Christ on His promise to lead us in all truth if we seek it. We ourselves need to seek this truth while ceasing to listen to a Christian academia that has failed miserably. They have done little more than  create mass confusion, and have charged us trillions of dollars for the privilege of doing so.

    We live in an information age, and it is time for a new movement by those who originally made up the church:

“Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth.”

    In the same way the Corinthian church was vexed by the bondage of academia as if God chose the haughty things of the world rather than the meek, we find ourselves in the same tyranny and bondage to aristocratic lords. Let us break free and break bread together as noble first century Bereans, and let us change for the glory of God, and help others to do the same.

    We will close, perhaps ironically, with the verse of Scripture that Jay Adams chose as the thesis of his groundbreaking work, Competent To Counsel:

“As far as I am concerned about you, my brothers, I am convinced that you especially are abounding in the highest goodness, richly supplied with perfect knowledge and competent to counsel one another”

~ Romans 15:14  (Williams)