Paul's Passing Thoughts

Escaping Church and its Culture of Death

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on August 17, 2017

HF Potters House (2)

Originally published August 19, 2015

Week in, and week out, and days in-between, professing Christians meet at a local institutional church to further indoctrinate their families in the Protestant culture of death. It doesn’t seem like death as families cheerfully socialize together and lift up their hands as the hipster praise bands make a joyful noise to the Lord. In addition, charismatic orators speak of things that are clearly in the Bible.

But let’s talk about good old fashioned theological math found in the Bible. The Bible addresses the only two people groups that exist in the world: the lost and the saved. As professing Christians, we want to be biblically defined as saved people, no? Can a case be made in this post that present-day evangelicals define themselves according to what the Bible defines as “lost.” Yes. All in all I am sure you will agree; any religion that defines itself as unregenerate is a really bad idea.

Here is how the Bible defines the two people groups:

Romans 6:14 – For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.

Every person living in the world is under law or under grace; lost or saved. Protestants define themselves as under law with under grace as a covering. Romans 6:14 is defined this way:

We are under grace because the righteousness of Christ continually saves us from being under law.

So, with Protestantism, it’s both. Under grace means we are still under law but progressively saved by grace. Under law is who we are, while we “experience” grace. Under law is what we do, under grace is what we experience. Supposedly, when Paul stated that we are “not” under law, what he really meant to say is under law is the absence of grace. The lost are only under law, but the saved are under both.

Hence, we are still under the “righteous demands of the law,” but if we are under grace, Jesus keeps the law for us. This is achieved by focusing on our sinfulness against the law, and returning to the same gospel that originally saved us out of gratitude. Objections to this idea are met with accusations of indifference to Christ’s sacrifice. Therefore, the “Christian” must live a “lifestyle of repentance” and constantly seek a “greater revelation of self” which is inherently sinful. The goal is to plunge the depths of our supposed total depravity. And if you are paying attention, our sin and the original gospel that saved us are the constant drumbeats we hear in the institutional church week in and week out.

Consequently, our goal is to see more and more of our reality of being under law resulting in an increased joy regarding our original salvation. Mainline evangelical Paul Washer states it this way:

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

This not only turns the Bible completely upside down, but leaves the Christian in a lifestyle of death while rejoicing in it. This is a true celebration of death, and church is the culture thereof. Romans 6 is clear about what it means to remain under law:

3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

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. 9 We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

Obviously, if we believe our formal sinful self has been “brought to nothing,” Paul Washer’s sanctification construct is impossible, and his statement speaks to the authentic soteriology of the Protestant Reformation. How do you achieve a greater revelation of your sinful self when your former sinful self has been “brought to nothing”?

You don’t, which leaves the “believer” yet under law and in need of salvation. The “believer” needs to continually return to the same gospel that saved him/her in order to remain saved. Instead of the new birth being a onetime event that brings the former sinner to “nothing,” the new birth is defined as a joy experience resulting from revisiting the gospel afresh for forgiveness of sin that still condemns us.

This cycle simply repeats itself throughout the Christian life. As the years pass, the Christian sees more of God and more of self, resulting in a greater and deeper brokenness. Yet, all the while, the Christian’s joy grows in equal measure because he is privy to greater and greater revelations of the love, grace, and mercy of God in the person and work of Christ (Ibid).

We are asking the question, How does the gospel save believers?, not: How does the gospel get people to be believers?… 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 (John Piper: Part 2 of a series titled, “How Does the Gospel Save Believers”).

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

…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).

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

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

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

Therefore, “under grace” is defined as a mere qualification to return to the same gospel that saved us; in other words, “We must preach the gospel to ourselves every day” in order to keep ourselves saved. How prevalent is this idea in the contemporary church? Consider this laundry list from Peter Lumpkins .com:

“As Pastors we must first preach the gospel to ourselves before we proclaim to the world the necessity of a Savior” Scott Thomas, President of Acts 29 Network.

“Yet even when we understand that our acceptance with God is based on Christ’s work, we still naturally tend to drift back into a performance mindset. Consequently, we must continually return to the gospel. To use an expression of the late Jack Miller, we must “preach the gospel to ourselves every day” Jerry Bridges, Reformed author.

“We must preach the Gospel to ourselves and one another every day” Ashland Avenue Baptist Church Distinctives, Lexington, KY

“The Gospel must be central to our lives and central to our message. Strive to keep the Gospel in the center of your worship ministry. Jerry Bridges tell us that we must preach the Gospel to ourselves everyday. It has been said that we never move on from the Cross, only to a more profound understanding of the Cross”

Dr. Greg Brewton, Associate Dean for Music and Worship Leadership at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

“We must preach the Gospel to ourselves” Francis Chan, Passion 2011

“Yesterday was a powerful moment in the Word of God as we studied Romans 8:1-4. I challenged those present to learn to preach the gospel to ourselves daily. Why? If we do not preach the gospel to ourselves daily, we will return to sin, bondage, guilt, the Law, and legalism…You see, this is why we must preach the gospel to ourselves daily” Ronnie Floyd, former Chairman of the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force

“I’ve been re-reading Jerry Bridges’ excellent book The Discipline of Grace…Bridges reminded me of just how important it is to “preach the gospel to ourselves everyday” if we are going to be transformed into the likeness of Christ” Tullian Tchividjian, Senior Pastor, Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church

“…I once assumed…that the gospel was simply what non-Christians must believe in order to be saved… But I’ve come to realize that once God rescues sinners, his plan isn’t to steer them beyond the gospel, but to move them more deeply into it. The gospel, in other words, isn’t just the power of God to save you, it’s the power of God to grow you once you’re saved… . This idea that the gospel is just as much for Christians as it is for non-Christians may seem like a new idea to many but, in fact, it is really a very old idea” Tullian Tchividjian, Senior Pastor, Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church

“We must preach the gospel to ourselves everyday… . As we preach the gospel to ourselves, we should be both encouraged and overwhelmed with gratitude, and both should give us a desire to deal with the sin in our lives” Casey Lewis, student, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary

“A Prayer for Preaching the Gospel to Ourselves… . …Most gracious Lord Jesus, even as Paul was eager to preach the gospel to believers in Rome, so I’m eager to preach it to my own heart today…” Scotty Smith, Guest blogger at Justin Taylor’s The Gospel Coalition site and Pastor, Christ Community Church, Franklin, TN

“We must constantly be preaching the gospel to ourselves, filling our hearts with your beauty and bounty, Lord Jesus… . Dear heavenly Father, it’s not about “mind over matter,” or the power of positive thinking, or the pragmatic good of cognitive therapy. It’s all about preaching the gospel to ourselves every opportunity we get…” Scotty Smith, Pastor, Christ Community Church, Franklin, TN (here and here, respectively)

“We must constantly be preaching the gospel to ourselves, filling our hearts with your beauty and bounty, Lord Jesus… . Dear heavenly Father, it’s not about “mind over matter,” or the power of positive thinking, or the pragmatic good of cognitive therapy. It’s all about preaching the gospel to ourselves every opportunity we get…” Scotty Smith, Pastor, Christ Community Church, Franklin, TN (here and here, respectively)

“How can we not shift from the hope of the Gospel? By preaching the Gospel to ourselves daily… . “Preaching the Gospel to yourself” is a phrase I first ran across in The Discipline of Grace by Jerry Bridges, and have observed for years in the life of my good friend, C.J. Mahaney. C.J. has written persuasively, biblically, and practically on this topic in his new book, Living the Cross Centered Life… . Don’t take a day off from preaching the Gospel to yourself” Bob Kaulfin, Director of Worship Development for Sovereign Grace Ministries and worship leader at Covenant Life Church led by Josh Harris.

“Far too many Christians are passive in their fight for joy…. What can I do?’ Well, God does not mean for us to be passive. He means for us to fight the fight of faith t he fight for joy. And the central strategy is to preach the gospel to yourself… . John Piper, When I Don’t Desire God, p.81, as quoted by Bob Kauflin

I am thoroughly engrossed with Joe Thorn’s personal mediations on preaching the gospel to oneself” Tom J. Nettles, Professor of Historical Theology, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, promoting Joe Thorn’s book, Note to Self: the Discipline of Preaching to Oneself

“In the few months prior to Verge God was really working on me. I’ve been doing a lot of repenting of the idols in my heart. I’ve been preaching the gospel to myself” Steve McCoy, SBC Pastor

“This may sound really selfish, but faithfully preaching the gospel to myself is actually what enables me to share it faithfully to others” Timmy Brister, SBC Associate Pastor.

“I chose not to include the response to the gospel…but just tried to focus on what the gospel actually is. I edit it regularly as I try to grasp and preach the gospel to myself” Ed Stetzer, LifeWay

This isn’t a technique for boosting our spiritual growth; this is a means of re-salvation because we are still technically lost and under law. “Under grace” merely qualifies us for perpetual re-salvation. That’s Protestantism…period!

And the culture that will result is defined in the Bible:

Romans 6:15 – What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! 16 Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves,[c] you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, 18 and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. 19 I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification.

20 For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 21 But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. 22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Christ said, “You must be born again.” This is clearly a doctrine that redefines the new birth by defining the “believer” as unchanged and yet under law. Along with that is an unavoidable conclusion that this also includes a fruits unto death existence that is part and parcel with being under law.

This will, and does make sin and condemnation the focus and theme of church while the Bible emphasizes ADDING virtue to our faith in contrast to a continual re-visitation of our supposed depravity.

1Peter 4:8 – Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.

2Peter 1:3 – His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence,  4 by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. 5 For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, 6 and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, 7 and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. 8 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins.

Romans 15:14 – I myself am satisfied about you, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able to instruct one another.

Hebrews 10:24 – And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works.

In the past, Protestants were confused enough about their own soteriological traditions that the fruits unto death were minimal, but during this Neo-Reformed resurgence that we are witnessing presently, such is not the case; the institutional church is a blatant culture of death. And those who would expose their children to it are woefully undiscerning. Ask yourself this simple question: do I leave church better equipped to see something that the Bible states isn’t there or better equipped to love God and others? Am I better at seeing my own depravity, or have I learned new ways to love which covers a multitude of sins anyway?

The remedy for this malady is a return to where the gathering of believers belongs: in home fellowships where believers are equipped to love God and others as a lifestyle, NOT a “lifestyle of repentance.” The institutional church was first called “church” when it was founded in the 4th century, and it was founded on the same idea that believers remain under law. Therefore, an authoritative institution was created that supplied official re-salvation for those under law. The institutional church goes hand in glove with the idea that it supplies a place for re-salvation, i.e., those qualified to receive it by being “under grace.”

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

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

Come out from among them and be separate.

Calvinism and the Problem with Perfection

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on May 8, 2017

PPT HandleOriginally published November 7, 2013

Augustine, Luther, and Calvin were first and foremost Platonists. They integrated the Bible with Platonism. Plato’s theory of forms posits the idea of two worlds; the mutable material world of illusion where reality can only be partially known, and another world where the immutable objective true forms exist. This material world is a shadow world; everything is shadows of the true forms. Therefore, man can only interpret and experience this world subjectively. The tendency is to interpret reality by observing the shadows. To the degree that mankind thinks the material world is reality according to the five senses, subjectivity and chaos will abound.

Therefore, Plato’s ethic was to improve the subjective experience of this life by accessing the true forms through ideas and mathematics—things that transcend the five senses (he believed math was an unchangeable rule and therefore not part of the shadow world). He believed that those who have the capability and willingness to bring more understanding of the objective into the subjective to be an elite minority. These were Plato’s philosopher kings whom he thought should rule society in order to decrease chaos as much as possible. Without philosopher kings, the world would be awash in a sea of subjectivity, everyone living by their own subjective presuppositions based on the shadows of this world. Hence, the arch enemy of the Platonic ideal is individualism.

Plato’s world of true objective forms was his trinity of the true, good, and beautiful. Experiencing the pure form of goodness in this world is impossible—only a shadow of good can be experienced subjectively. Plato’s social engineering has a doctrine, and to the degree that doctrine is applied, a higher quality of subjective existence occurs.

The Reformers put a slightly different twist on this construct. There is no doctrine to apply, only an orthodoxy that focuses on seeing and experiencing. Their version of Plato’s philosopher kings are pastors who possess the power of the keys. Orthodoxy is mediated truth determined by “Divines,” and passed down to the masses for the purpose of experiencing the objective power of the gospel subjectively. The Reformers made the true forms “the gospel,” and reality itself the gospel, ie., the work and personhood of Jesus Christ in particular.

Therefore, in the same way Plato envisioned a society that experiences the power of the true forms subjectively through ideas and immutable disciplines like mathematics, the Reformers sought a heightened subjective experience through a deeper and deeper knowledge of their own true, good, and beautiful—the gospel. And more specifically, instead of the gateway of understanding being reason, ideas, and immutable disciplines, they made the gospel itself the interpretive prism. So: life, history, the Bible, ie., everything, is a tool for experiencing true reality (the gospel) in a higher quality subjectivity. The Bible and all life events are a gospel hermeneutic. Salvation itself is the interpretive prism. All of reality is about redemption. Salvation itself is the universal hermeneutic.

But both constructs have this in common: Pure goodness and perfection cannot exist objectively in the material world. This is where Calvinism and Platonism kiss. The Bible only agrees with this if it is a “gospel narrative.” But if it is God’s full orbed philosophical statement to all men to be interpreted grammatically and exegetically, contradictions abound. To wit, if man possesses goodness and the ability to interpret reality objectively, Platonism and its Reformed children are found wanting. If Reformation orthodoxy is not evaluated biblically with the very theses of its own orthodoxy as a hermeneutic, even more wantonness is found.

The Apostles rejected Platonism because they believed goodness and perfection could indeed be found in this material world. There is no question of the quality of goodness inside of man that enables mankind to interpret reality objectively, the quantity of goodness notwithstanding.  In contrast, a dominate theme in the Calvin Institutes is the idea that no person lost or saved can perform a good work. Like Plato’s geometric hermeneutics, the Reformers believed the Law lends understanding to man’s inability to do good because eternal perfection is the standard. The best of man’s works are tainted with sin to some degree, and therefore imperfect. Even if man could perform one perfect work, one sin makes mankind a violator of the whole law. The Reformers were adamant that no person could do any good work whether saved or lost.

Why all the fuss over this point? Why was Calvin dogmatic about this idea to the point of annoyance? Because he was first and foremost a Platonist. The idea that a pure form of good could be found within mankind was metaphysical heresy. Because such contradicts every page of the Bible, the Reformers’ Platonist theology was made the hermeneutic as well. Instead of the interpretation method producing the theology, they made the theology the method of interpretation. If all of reality is redemptive, it must be interpreted the same way.

For the Platonist, the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh poses a huge problem. He is the truth. He came to the material world in a material body. Platonism  became Gnosticism and wreaked havoc on the 1st century church. Notice how the first sentences of 1John are a direct pushback against the Gnosticism of that day:

1John 1:1 – That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— 2 the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— 3 that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. 4 And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.

Christ is the true, good, and beautiful, and He was touched, felt, seen, heard, and understood. Game over. This is the paramount melding of Plato’s two worlds resulting in a plenary decimation of his philosophy. Nevertheless, Calvin et al got around that by keeping mankind in a subjective realm while making the material world a gospel hermeneutic. Reality still cannot be understood unless it is interpreted by the gospel—everything else is shadows.

Martin Luther took Plato’s two worlds and made them two stories: our own subjective story, a self  “glory story” that leads to a labyrinth of subjectivism, or the “cross story” which is the objective gospel. Luther made Plato’s two worlds two stories, but still, they are two realms: one objective and one subjective. In the final analysis mankind is still incompetent, and void of any good whether saved or lost.

Whether the Reformed gospel or Platonism, the infusion of objective goodness is the heresy. Man cannot have any righteousness in and of himself, whether lost or saved. The pushback against this idea can be seen throughout the New Testament. A few examples follow:

1John 2:4 – Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, 5 but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected.

1John 2:20 – But you have been anointed by the Holy One, and you all have knowledge.21 I write to you, not because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and because no lie is of the truth.

1John 2:26 – I write these things to you about those who are trying to deceive you. 27 But the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie—just as it has taught you, abide in him.

1John 2:29 – If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him.

1John 3:2 – Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears[a] we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. 3 And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure. 4 Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. 5 You know that he appeared in order to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. 6 No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. 7 Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous.

Romans 15:14 – I myself am satisfied about you, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able to instruct one another.

Christians can know goodness, and perform righteousness objectively. This speaks to the quality of the righteousness when it is performed—it is perfect and acceptable to God. We are not limited to a mere subjective experience in regard to righteousness. When we are resurrected, the quantity thereafter will be 100%, but our present righteousness is acceptable to God when it is performed by us. If it is accepted by God, it is perfect.

Even the unregenerate know good, and can perform it. The works of the law are written on their hearts, and their consciences either accuse or excuse them (Romans 2:12-15). Though enslaved to unrighteousness, they are free to perform righteousness (Romans 6:20). The very goodness of God can be understood from observing creation as well (Romans 1:20).

The only way the Reformers can make all goodness outside of man is to make the Bible a salvation hermeneutic. It is the only way they could integrate the Bible with their Platonist philosophy.

paul

Escaping Church and its Culture of Death

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on August 5, 2016

Originally published August 19, 2015

HF Potters House (2)

Week in, and week out, and days in-between, professing Christians meet at a local institutional church to further indoctrinate their families in the Protestant culture of death. It doesn’t seem like death as families cheerfully socialize together and lift up their hands as the hipster praise bands make a joyful noise to the Lord. In addition, charismatic orators speak of things that are clearly in the Bible.

But let’s talk about good old fashioned theological math found in the Bible. The Bible addresses the only two people groups that exist in the world: the lost and the saved. As professing Christians, we want to be biblically defined as saved people, no? Can a case be made in this post that present-day evangelicals define themselves according to what the Bible defines as “lost.” Yes. All in all I am sure you will agree; any religion that defines itself as unregenerate is a really bad idea.

Here is how the Bible defines the two people groups:

Romans 6:14 – For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.

Every person living in the world is under law or under grace; lost or saved. Protestants define themselves as under law with under grace as a covering. Romans 6:14 is defined this way:

We are under grace because the righteousness of Christ continually saves us from being under law.

So, with Protestantism, it’s both. Under grace means we are still under law but progressively saved by grace. Under law is who we are, while we “experience” grace. Under law is what we do, under grace is what we experience. Supposedly, when Paul stated that we are “not” under law, what he really meant to say is under law is the absence of grace. The lost are only under law, but the saved are under both.

Hence, we are still under the “righteous demands of the law,” but if we are under grace, Jesus keeps the law for us. This is achieved by focusing on our sinfulness against the law, and returning to the same gospel that originally saved us out of gratitude. Objections to this idea are met with accusations of indifference to Christ’s sacrifice. Therefore, the “Christian” must live a “lifestyle of repentance” and constantly seek a “greater revelation of self” which is inherently sinful. The goal is to plunge the depths of our supposed total depravity. And if you are paying attention, our sin and the original gospel that saved us are the constant drumbeats we hear in the institutional church week in and week out.

Consequently, our goal is to see more and more of our reality of being under law resulting in an increased joy regarding our original salvation. Mainline evangelical Paul Washer states it this way:

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

This not only turns the Bible completely upside down, but leaves the Christian in a lifestyle of death while rejoicing in it. This is a true celebration of death, and church is the culture thereof. Romans 6 is clear about what it means to remain under law:

3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

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. 9 We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

Obviously, if we believe our formal sinful self has been “brought to nothing,” Paul Washer’s sanctification construct is impossible, and his statement speaks to the authentic soteriology of the Protestant Reformation. How do you achieve a greater revelation of your sinful self when your former sinful self has been “brought to nothing”?

You don’t, which leaves the “believer” yet under law and in need of salvation. The “believer” needs to continually return to the same gospel that saved him/her in order to remain saved. Instead of the new birth being a onetime event that brings the former sinner to “nothing,” the new birth is defined as a joy experience resulting from revisiting the gospel afresh for forgiveness of sin that still condemns us.

This cycle simply repeats itself throughout the Christian life. As the years pass, the Christian sees more of God and more of self, resulting in a greater and deeper brokenness. Yet, all the while, the Christian’s joy grows in equal measure because he is privy to greater and greater revelations of the love, grace, and mercy of God in the person and work of Christ (Ibid).

We are asking the question, How does the gospel save believers?, not: How does the gospel get people to be believers?… 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 (John Piper: Part 2 of a series titled, “How Does the Gospel Save Believers”).

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

…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).

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

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

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

Therefore, “under grace” is defined as a mere qualification to return to the same gospel that saved us; in other words, “We must preach the gospel to ourselves every day” in order to keep ourselves saved. How prevalent is this idea in the contemporary church? Consider this laundry list from Peter Lumpkins .com:

“As Pastors we must first preach the gospel to ourselves before we proclaim to the world the necessity of a Savior” Scott Thomas, President of Acts 29 Network.

“Yet even when we understand that our acceptance with God is based on Christ’s work, we still naturally tend to drift back into a performance mindset. Consequently, we must continually return to the gospel. To use an expression of the late Jack Miller, we must “preach the gospel to ourselves every day” Jerry Bridges, Reformed author.

“We must preach the Gospel to ourselves and one another every day” Ashland Avenue Baptist Church Distinctives, Lexington, KY

“The Gospel must be central to our lives and central to our message. Strive to keep the Gospel in the center of your worship ministry. Jerry Bridges tell us that we must preach the Gospel to ourselves everyday. It has been said that we never move on from the Cross, only to a more profound understanding of the Cross”

Dr. Greg Brewton, Associate Dean for Music and Worship Leadership at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

“We must preach the Gospel to ourselves” Francis Chan, Passion 2011

“Yesterday was a powerful moment in the Word of God as we studied Romans 8:1-4. I challenged those present to learn to preach the gospel to ourselves daily. Why? If we do not preach the gospel to ourselves daily, we will return to sin, bondage, guilt, the Law, and legalism…You see, this is why we must preach the gospel to ourselves daily” Ronnie Floyd, former Chairman of the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force

“I’ve been re-reading Jerry Bridges’ excellent book The Discipline of Grace…Bridges reminded me of just how important it is to “preach the gospel to ourselves everyday” if we are going to be transformed into the likeness of Christ” Tullian Tchividjian, Senior Pastor, Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church

“…I once assumed…that the gospel was simply what non-Christians must believe in order to be saved… But I’ve come to realize that once God rescues sinners, his plan isn’t to steer them beyond the gospel, but to move them more deeply into it. The gospel, in other words, isn’t just the power of God to save you, it’s the power of God to grow you once you’re saved… . This idea that the gospel is just as much for Christians as it is for non-Christians may seem like a new idea to many but, in fact, it is really a very old idea” Tullian Tchividjian, Senior Pastor, Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church

“We must preach the gospel to ourselves everyday… . As we preach the gospel to ourselves, we should be both encouraged and overwhelmed with gratitude, and both should give us a desire to deal with the sin in our lives” Casey Lewis, student, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary

“A Prayer for Preaching the Gospel to Ourselves… . …Most gracious Lord Jesus, even as Paul was eager to preach the gospel to believers in Rome, so I’m eager to preach it to my own heart today…” Scotty Smith, Guest blogger at Justin Taylor’s The Gospel Coalition site and Pastor, Christ Community Church, Franklin, TN

“We must constantly be preaching the gospel to ourselves, filling our hearts with your beauty and bounty, Lord Jesus… . Dear heavenly Father, it’s not about “mind over matter,” or the power of positive thinking, or the pragmatic good of cognitive therapy. It’s all about preaching the gospel to ourselves every opportunity we get…” Scotty Smith, Pastor, Christ Community Church, Franklin, TN (here and here, respectively)

“We must constantly be preaching the gospel to ourselves, filling our hearts with your beauty and bounty, Lord Jesus… . Dear heavenly Father, it’s not about “mind over matter,” or the power of positive thinking, or the pragmatic good of cognitive therapy. It’s all about preaching the gospel to ourselves every opportunity we get…” Scotty Smith, Pastor, Christ Community Church, Franklin, TN (here and here, respectively)

“How can we not shift from the hope of the Gospel? By preaching the Gospel to ourselves daily… . “Preaching the Gospel to yourself” is a phrase I first ran across in The Discipline of Grace by Jerry Bridges, and have observed for years in the life of my good friend, C.J. Mahaney. C.J. has written persuasively, biblically, and practically on this topic in his new book, Living the Cross Centered Life… . Don’t take a day off from preaching the Gospel to yourself” Bob Kaulfin, Director of Worship Development for Sovereign Grace Ministries and worship leader at Covenant Life Church led by Josh Harris.

“Far too many Christians are passive in their fight for joy…. What can I do?’ Well, God does not mean for us to be passive. He means for us to fight the fight of faith t he fight for joy. And the central strategy is to preach the gospel to yourself… . John Piper, When I Don’t Desire God, p.81, as quoted by Bob Kauflin

I am thoroughly engrossed with Joe Thorn’s personal mediations on preaching the gospel to oneself” Tom J. Nettles, Professor of Historical Theology, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, promoting Joe Thorn’s book, Note to Self: the Discipline of Preaching to Oneself

“In the few months prior to Verge God was really working on me. I’ve been doing a lot of repenting of the idols in my heart. I’ve been preaching the gospel to myself” Steve McCoy, SBC Pastor

“This may sound really selfish, but faithfully preaching the gospel to myself is actually what enables me to share it faithfully to others” Timmy Brister, SBC Associate Pastor.

“I chose not to include the response to the gospel…but just tried to focus on what the gospel actually is. I edit it regularly as I try to grasp and preach the gospel to myself” Ed Stetzer, LifeWay

This isn’t a technique for boosting our spiritual growth; this is a means of re-salvation because we are still technically lost and under law. “Under grace” merely qualifies us for perpetual re-salvation. That’s Protestantism…period!

And the culture that will result is defined in the Bible:

Romans 6:15 – What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! 16 Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves,[c] you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, 18 and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. 19 I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification.

20 For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 21 But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. 22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Christ said, “You must be born again.” This is clearly a doctrine that redefines the new birth by defining the “believer” as unchanged and yet under law. Along with that is an unavoidable conclusion that this also includes a fruits unto death existence that is part and parcel with being under law.

This will, and does make sin and condemnation the focus and theme of church while the Bible emphasizes ADDING virtue to our faith in contrast to a continual re-visitation of our supposed depravity.

1Peter 4:8 – Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.

2Peter 1:3 – His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence,  4 by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. 5 For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, 6 and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, 7 and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. 8 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins.

Romans 15:14 – I myself am satisfied about you, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able to instruct one another.

Hebrews 10:24 – And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works.

In the past, Protestants were confused enough about their own soteriological traditions that the fruits unto death were minimal, but during this Neo-Reformed resurgence that we are witnessing presently, such is not the case; the institutional church is a blatant culture of death. And those who would expose their children to it are woefully undiscerning. Ask yourself this simple question: do I leave church better equipped to see something that the Bible states isn’t there or better equipped to love God and others? Am I better at seeing my own depravity, or have I learned new ways to love which covers a multitude of sins anyway?

The remedy for this malady is a return to where the gathering of believers belongs: in home fellowships where believers are equipped to love God and others as a lifestyle, NOT a “lifestyle of repentance.” The institutional church was first called “church” when it was founded in the 4th century, and it was founded on the same idea that believers remain under law. Therefore, an authoritative institution was created that supplied official re-salvation for those under law. The institutional church goes hand in glove with the idea that it supplies a place for re-salvation, i.e., those qualified to receive it by being “under grace.”

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

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

Come out from among them and be separate.

Anti-Catholic or Pro Gospel: A Review of Tim Challies’ Article – Part 6

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on May 19, 2016

This is the sixth and final part of a six part series.
Click here for Part One.
Click here for Part Two.
Click here for Part Three.
Click here for Part Four.
Click here for Part Five.

We are coming to the end of our review of the Tim Challies article, “Anti-Catholic or Pro Gospel”. There is one more point to examine, but before we get to that I want to disclose something I discovered in my research for this series. The very same canons from the Sixth Council of Trent that Challies uses for his evaluation in his article are the same ones found evaluated in this article. Since I could not find any publication date on it, I cannot determine who wrote their article first. I’ll let you compare them for yourself and come to your own conclusion on that, but it certainly does make one scratch their head. At any rate, it does serve to reinforce the notion that Reformed talking points run far and wide.

The Protestant Reformation is probably the biggest farce that has ever been perpetrated on Christianity. That farce lives on with help from the likes of Tim Challies and writings such as the one under evaluation here. Whether or not his misrepresentation is purposeful or he is simply just confused himself, it doesn’t excuse him from being complicit in the deception of the thousands of laity who look to him daily for their interpretation of reality. Elders are to be above reproach, and there is certainly much in his own writing that can be cause for reproach.

So then let’s get on with our examination of point number six. Once again, I have included the quote from the canons of the Sixth Council of Trent so that we may consider them alongside Challies’ own rejection of Catholic doctrine.

“If anyone says that the Catholic doctrine of justification as set forth by the holy council in the present decree, derogates in some respect from the glory of God or the merits of our Lord Jesus Christ, and does not rather illustrate the truth of our faith and no less the glory of God and of Christ Jesus, let him be anathema. (Canon 33)”

“This is the heart of the issue, isn’t it? The Roman Catholic doctrine of justification, as laid out by the Council of Trent, and as systematized in the canons, does that very thing—it diminishes the glory of God and the merits of Jesus Christ. It adds to Christ’s work. To add anything to Christ’s work is to destroy it altogether.”

This is Martin Luther’s “Theology of the Cross” plain and simple. It is the “cross story” vs. the “glory story”. Challies might have just as well quoted from Luther directly.

Thesis 22: That wisdom which sees the invisible things of God in works as perceived by man is completely puffed up, blinded, and hardened.

…This has already been said. Because men do not know the cross and hate it, they necessarily love the opposite, namely, wisdom, glory, power, and so on. Therefore they become increasingly blinded and hardened by such love, for desire cannot be satisfied by the acquisition of those things which it desires. Just as the love of money grows in proportion to the increase of the money itself, so the dropsy of the soul becomes thirstier the more it drinks, as the poet says: »The more water they drink, the more they thirst for it.« The same thought is expressed in Eccles. 1:8: »The eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing.« This holds true of all desires.

Thesis 24: 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.

In the above-cited Heidelberg Disputation, Luther contended that man’s desire to do works only feeds “the glory story,” or the story of man. In Luther’s construct, ALL reality is interpreted through two stories: the glory story (the story of man), and the cross story (the story of redemption). Giving any credence to the works or the belief that man can perform good works only contributes to the story of man and his glory. This includes believers! When Challies claims that the Catholic doctrine of justification diminishes the glory of God and the merits of Jesus Christ and adds to Christ’s work, that’s Luther’s “glory story” and not the “cross story”.

And he is exactly right; that is the heart of the issue. It was what the reformation was all about. It was a battle over “infused grace” vs. the obedience of Christ in our place. But the dirty little secret is that it was an argument over those things with regard to progressive justification, which the reformers never denied and actually upheld. The dispute was simply over the means. Authentic Protestantism saw no difference between justification and sanctification. It saw sanctification as the means by which justification was preserved, not the means in which we bring glory to our Father through good works.

This is what is meant when reformed teachers uses phrases like, “sanctification is the growing part of salvation,” or, “the same gospel that saves you sanctifies you.” It reveals their belief that justification is a process. But unlike Catholicism, that process is maintained by “faith alone”. It is why they view works in such a derogatory manner, because works diminish the “cross story”. They diminish the “work” that Christ does in maintaining the believer’s declared righteousness. “Christ’s work” is not simply His “work” on the cross. “Work” in their construct is a collective term that encompasses all of the tasks that Christ performs, including an active obedience to the law continually imputed to the believer, so that when God looks at you, all He sees is Christ. But if at any time you believe that any work you did originated with you, you rob Christ of His glory and make it your own, “destroying it altogether.”

What this all boils down to is that the whole argument over works vs. “faith alone” is a distraction from the real issue. We are lead to believe that it is an argument over justification. We are left to assume that Protestant’s believe that justification is a one-time event. But the real debate of the Reformation was an argument over the means of maintaining justification.

No wonder so many Christians are confused. I myself could not understand why obedience in the Christian life was looked upon so negatively by my reformed pastor and elders, when all of scripture clearly stated that believers are to obey. I had no problem understanding and making the distinction that it had nothing to do with me trying to stay justified. I wanted to obey because I loved my Father. But now that I understand the way authentic Protestantism regards works as well as their take on progressive justification, it all makes so much more sense now. And what I find is that with practice, the duplicity and doublespeak become so much easier to spot.

Andy

“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness.” ~ 2 Timothy 2:15-16

 

Anti-Catholic or Pro Gospel: A Review of Tim Challies’ Article – Part 5

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on May 16, 2016

This is part five of a six part series.
Click here for Part One.
Click here for Part Two.
Click here for Part Three.
Click here for Part Four.
Click here for Part Six.

We continue on in our examination of the Tim Challies article, “Anti-Catholic or Pro Gospel”. The strategy I am using in these articles is to evaluate both sides of the argument, Catholic and Protestant. I think the best way that we can uncover the duplicity employed by Challies is to examine the argument in context alongside Catholicism. Therefore it is necessary to make sure we have an accurate understanding of Catholicism.

I think it is disingenuous of Challies to circumvent such an evaluation. I don’t believe one can effectively argue against what one group claims they reject about one’s beliefs unless one fully understands what the other’s beliefs are. This is precisely what he is attempting, not to refute Catholicism on its face, but to refute Catholicism’s rejection of his own beliefs. I think it speaks volumes about the fact that Challies knows that there is no real practical difference between Catholicism and Protestantism.  Yet, it provides an effective cover for any serious consideration of what his beliefs are on at least two levels. One, the reader is left to assume that his assessment of Challies’ beliefs are in line with his own. Two, Challies shelters his beliefs from any serious scrutiny since the focus is on Catholicism and not Protestantism.  But as you should well know by now, we don’t play that game here at Paul’s Passing Thoughts!

So having said all of that as an introduction, let’s take a look at point number five from the article.

“If anyone says that after the reception of the grace of justification the guilt is so remitted and the debt of eternal punishment so blotted out to every repentant sinner, that no debt of temporal punishment remains to be discharged either in this world or in purgatory before the gates of heaven can be opened, let him be anathema. (Canon 30)”

”I believe this precious truth and will fight to the death for it! I believe that at the moment of justification the sinner’s guilt and punishment are removed to such an extent that no debt remains to be discharged in this world or in purgatory before he can enter into heaven. (Rom 5:1, Col 2:13-14)”

The context of this point appears to be an argument over the doctrine of purgatory. Look closely at the word “purgatory”, and you should see the root word “purge”. That is the purpose of purgatory; to purge any remaining sins. A more detailed explanation of purgatory is found on the Catholic Answers website:

“The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines purgatory as a ‘purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven,’ which is experienced by those ‘who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified’ (CCC 1030). It notes that ‘this final purification of the elect . . . is entirely different from the punishment of the damned’ (CCC 1031).

“The purification is necessary because, as Scripture teaches, nothing unclean will enter the presence of God in heaven (Rev. 21:27) and, while we may die with our mortal sins forgiven, there can still be many impurities in us, specifically venial sins and the temporal punishment due to sins already forgiven.”[i]

Challies would have us believe that the dispute is over this doctrine of purgatory, but this again only serves as a distraction from the real issue. But an examination of the Catholic view as set against a true Biblical view is necessary to understand Challies’ position.

According to Catholicism, purgatory is needed to “purge” any last remaining vestiges of sin and unrighteousness. In this sense, the “sin debt” is not fully paid. As we saw in part two of this series, Catholics believe in the new birth as a change in the state of being, but if remaining unrighteous must be purged in purgatory, then obviously the implication is that even though believers are born again, they are still sinners.

Reference is made particularly with regard to “venial sins” vs. “mortal sins”. Martin Luther also spoke of “venial” and “mortal sins” in his Heidleberg Disputation. According to Luther, if we believe that we did any good work, that’s works salvation and a “mortal sin.” But, if we attend our good works (as Christians) with fear that it could be us who did it and not God, that’s “venial sin” and not “mortal sin.” Hence, part of the Protestant daily repentance regiment is asking forgiveness for good works[ii] that we have done[iii] just in case it was us who did them[iv]. Catholicism allows for the possibility that there could be venial sins of which the believer is not consciously aware, and it is these venial sins that must be purged in purgatory. Nevertheless, the point is that both Catholics and Protestants agree on a continual need for dealing with present sin, either in this life or the next.

Herein is the basis of the dispute. Reformation theology, as Challies follows it, would deny the need for purgatory on that basis that there is no dealing with sin in the next life other than the final judgment. In this life, venial sins are forgiven in this daily returning to the same gospel that saved you. In living by “faith alone” you acknowledge that you did no good works and you demonstrate your continual need for the righteousness of Christ to be imputed to your account. So while Challies is right in rejecting the doctrine of purgatory, he is still in error regarding the idea of believers still being sinners in need of daily salvation through “faith alone”.

Both Catholicism and Protestantism are in error on the same point. The assumption is a remaining need for forgiveness of “present sin”. In contrast, the Bible says that the born again believer IS truly righteous as a state of being because of his new creaturehood as the righteous offspring of God the Father. This righteous offspring is righteous because there is no law under which he can be condemned. The law was ended for him when he was born again, because the old man died. And where there is no law, there is no sin. This is why the apostle John wrote in 1 John 3:9 that he who is born of God CANNOT sin! If he cannot sin, then there is no need for forgiveness, there is no need for any re-justification by the active obedience of Christ, there is no need for Christ’s righteousness to be imputed to one’s account in order to maintain a righteous standing, and there is no need for any purging of remaining sin before one may enter the Kingdom.

Here we have another example of Challies allowing his readers to assume that they agree with his belief and that their definition of terms is the same as his own. But neither Challies nor any reformed Protestant leader believes that a saved person is truly righteous. That is the real issue at stake.   While he says in his statement, “I believe that at the moment of justification the sinner’s guilt and punishment are removed,” the fact remains that this authentic Protestant doctrine of “faith alone” must be lived out continually so that the work of Christ is constantly done in the life of the believer. Guilt and punishment are removed, so long as one returns to the same gospel that saved him.

We have one last point to examine, and we will evaluate that point in part six.

Andy


[i] http://www.catholic.com/tracts/purgatory

[ii] https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/repenting-of-our-good-works

[iii] http://www.reformationtheology.com/2006/08/repenting_of_our_good_works.php

[iv] http://www.monergism.com/repentworks.html

 

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