Paul's Passing Thoughts

Helping Tim Challies and Other Calvinists with Evangelism

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on September 29, 2016

Originally published January 29, 2015

ChalliesYesterday, I was sent the following article about Calvinist evangelism written by blogger Tim Challies: How To Offend a Room Full of Calvinists. Miffed by the suggestion that somebody knows better than me how to offend Calvinists, I immediately read the article.

Apparently, according to Challies, Calvinists get offended when people suggest that their soteriology hinders evangelism.  According to Challies, the argument goes like this:

Many people are firmly convinced that there is a deep-rooted flaw embedded within Reformed theology that undermines evangelistic fervor. Most blame it on predestination. After all, if God has already chosen who will be saved, it negates at least some of our personal responsibility in calling people to respond to the gospel. Or perhaps it’s just the theological-mindedness that ties us down in petty disputes and nuanced distinctions instead of freeing us to get up, get out, and get on mission.

Protestants en masse think Calvinism’s greatest sin is weak evangelism, and of course, that makes them very angry because it’s supposedly the last criticism standing. I could start with the fact that Calvinism is works salvation under the guise of faith alone, or progressive justification, or salvation by antinomianism. Pick one; any of the three will work. But I have a mountain of data on that subject already; let’s do something different. Yes, let’s use Challies’ own words in the post to refute his argument. Before we call on Challies to refute his own protest, we will address his take on church history.

We go to history to show that the great missionaries, great preachers, and great revivalists of days past were Calvinists, and that Reformed theology was what fueled their mission… There are only so many times I can point to Jonathan Edwards, George Whitefield and the Great Awakening, or William Carey and the great missionary movement of the nineteenth century, or Charles Spurgeon and the countless thousands saved under his ministry. Sooner or later I have to stop looking at my heroes and look to myself. I can’t claim their zeal as my own. I can’t claim their obedience as my own.

In the post, Challies argues that we know that a straight line can be found from Reformed theology to evangelistic zeal because of history. Supposedly, Calvinists throughout history were driven directly by this deterministic gospel to reach thousands. It is very interesting when you consider the examples given which will aid in making my point.

The Great Awakening had absolutely nothing to do with Reformed soteriology. We should know this as a matter of common sense to begin with because the Holy Spirit doesn’t colabor with a false gospel. The Great Awakening was fueled by the ideology of the American Revolution and was expressed to a great degree in churches, especially among African Americans. Fact is, guys like Edwards and Whitefield then got on their horses and rode around the countryside bloviating and taking credit for the freedom movement tagged with “The Great Awakening” nomenclature.

Fact is, the Great Awakening was a pushback against the Puritan church state driven by Reformed soteriology that came across the pond as a European blight on American history. I would liken Challies’ assessment to our present President taking credit for things he is against when the results are positive.

What about Spurgeon? That example is just too rich because it makes the last point for me. Spurgeon, who once said Calvinism was no mere nickname but the very gospel itself, was the poster boy for getting people to come to church in order to get them saved. That’s important, hold on to that because it’s our last point.

But before we get to the last point, let’s look at the major point: Challies argues against the idea that fatalism hinders evangelism, and then confesses that he doesn’t evangelize like all of the great Calvinists in history because of…fatalism. Calvinism doesn’t cause fatalism resulting in lame evangelism, but Challies doesn’t evangelize because of fatalism.

After all, if God has already chosen who will be saved, it negates at least some of our personal responsibility in calling people to respond to the gospel… We go to the pages of Scripture to show that God’s sovereignty and human responsibility are not incompatible, but that people truly are both free and bound, that God both chooses some while extending the free offer of the gospel to all.

So why does Challies not evangelize according to him? First, because he just doesn’t, but secondly, he is responsible:

It is my conviction—conviction rooted in close study of God’s Word—that Calvinism provides a soul-stirring motivation for evangelism, and that sharing the gospel freely and with great zeal is the most natural application of biblical truth. But it is my confession—confession rooted in the evidence of my own life—that my Calvinism too rarely stirs my soul to mission. The truths that have roared in the hearts and lives of so many others, somehow just whisper in me. The fault, I’m convinced, is not with God’s Word, or even with my understanding of God’s Word; the fault is with me.

He is responsible, but not often stirred. And what’s his solution? There isn’t one, it is what it is; he is responsible, but not called to evangelism. No corrective solution is offered in the post. Why not? Because, as he said, we are responsible, but unable. Responsibility and inability are not incompatible. So, Calvinism doesn’t hinder evangelism, but if you don’t evangelize, there is no solution. Others did it, and you don’t, the end.  Well, I suppose that approach doesn’t prevent evangelism either!

And funny he should cite Edwards. Susan is doing a session on Edwards for TANC 2015 and is studying his sermon Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God. She approached me and wanted to discuss something about the sermon that she was perplexed about. Edwards spent the better part of an hour addressing the total hopelessness of man and his likelihood of ending up in an eternal hell, but in the end offers no counsel on how to escape. Why? Because if God is going to do something, he is going to do it, and man is responsible either way.

This now brings us to the final point with a bonus; we are going to help Challies with his evangelism shortcomings. There is, in fact, a solution for Tim’s lack of evangelistic zeal. He doesn’t properly understand Calvinism and its history. This isn’t about saving Tim from the false gospel of Calvinism, this is about being a good evangelist in the context of Calvinism. If I can’t save a Calvinist, I can at least teach them how to be a better Calvinist. Really, it’s disheartening when Calvinists don’t properly understand Calvinism.

This is how we will help Tim Challies. We will bring him back to the historical significance of Spurgeon using some of his own observations. First, let’s get a lay of the land; how does true Calvinistic evangelism work? First, it is the “sovereign” gospel which means the subject must not be told that they have a choice. This is some fun you can have with Calvinists. Ask them if they tell the recipients of their gospel message that they have a choice. Most will avoid answering because they don’t want to admit the answer is, “no.” By their own definition, that would be a false gospel speaking to man’s ability to choose God.

Secondly, if God does do something, if “the wind blows,” that puts the subject in two categories according to Calvin: the called and those who persevere.  The called are those that God temporarily illumines, but later blinds resulting in a greater damnation. Those of the perseverance class are the truly elect. So, the “good news” is that you have a chance to make it. But, if you don’t make it according to God’s predetermined will, your damnation is greater than the non-elect. God has either chosen you for greater damnation or the jackpot, but I guess it’s worth a try if God so chooses.

But hold on, and this is huge: all of that can be bypassed by Calvin’s “power of the keys.” What’s that? If you are a formal member of a Reformed church, and the elders like you, whatever they bind on earth is bound in heaven and whatever they loose on earth is loosed in heaven.

Furthermore, according to Calvin, sins committed in the Christian life remove us from salvation, but membership in the local church and receiving the “impartations of grace” that can only be found in church membership supply a perpetual covering for sin. And here is the crux: one of those “graces” is sitting under “gospel preaching” of which Spurgeon was chief. In one way or the other, Spurgeon sold this wholesale and the results speak for themselves.

See, the solution for Challies is simple.  There is a solution for the disobedience he himself is responsible for: simply invite people to church in order to “get them under the gospel.” And that often looks like this…

Or perhaps it’s just the theological-mindedness that ties us down in petty disputes and nuanced distinctions instead of freeing us to get up, get out, and get on mission.

Problem solved. That’s how Calvinism is a straight line from its theology to evangelism—you are saved by being a formal member of a Reformed church, and your salvation is sustained by remaining a faithful member of that church and obeying everything the elders tell you to do and think. But let’s not call it intellectual rape, let’s call it “keeping ourselves in the love of Jesus.” Let’s call it “preaching the gospel to ourselves every day.” Let’s call it “being faithful to the church every time the doors are opened.” Let’s call it “putting ourselves under the authority of Godly men.” Let’s call it “trusting God with our finances.”

You’re welcome Tim, glad I could help.

paul

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

 

Anti-Catholic or Pro Gospel: A Review of Tim Challies’ Article – Part 4

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on May 12, 2016

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

We continue on in our review of an article written by Tim Challies in 2014 entitled, “Anti-Catholic or Pro Gospel”. It is not a direct polemic on Catholic orthodoxy. Rather, he has selected certain points to consider where Catholicism disagrees with Protestantism. It is a rather slick approach, because he provides no argument for either side, neither seeking to disprove why the Catholic rejection is wrong, nor seeking to prove why the Protestant belief is correct.   He simply declares that Catholics reject what he believes.

As we work our way through this series, we are beginning to see a recurring theme. It is the classic dispute between works vs. “faith alone”. But the more we examine these statements, the Protestant equivocation becomes more and more apparent. The authentic Protestant doctrine of “faith-alone” justification is not what most Protestant laity think it is, and those in “authority” within the walls of the institution are perfectly happy to let them continue to assume this misunderstanding.

Challies’ fourth point draws from Canon 24 of the Sixth Council of Trent of January 13, 1547 [i].

“If anyone says that the justice received is not preserved and also not increased before God through good works, but that those works are merely the fruits and signs of justification obtained, but not the cause of its increase, let him be anathema. (Canon 24)”

“I believe that good works—works that bring glory to God—are the fruit and proof of justification. I deny that they are in any way the cause of justification’s increase and preservation. (Gal 3:1-3, Gal 5:1-3)”

Stop right there! Challies has just given himself away! Read that last sentence again. “I deny that they [good works] are in any way the cause of justification’s increase and preservation.” In his own statement, Challies has not denied that justification is increased and preserved. Let me say that again. Challies has NOT denied that justification is increased and preserved. He denies that good works are the cause of it. The implication is clear that something causes the increase and preservation of justification, but it’s not good works.   That’s progressive justification.

When it comes right down to it, that was the only dispute regarding the Reformation. Calvin and Luther never denied that justification was an on-going process. They only disputed the means. For the Catholics, good works are what maintains one’s righteous standing. But for the Protestants, it is “faith alone” that increases and preserves justification. This is the only point of contention between Protestantism and Catholicism, not whether or not justification is progressive, only the means by which it is maintained.

eec5c9fa7c36e18aa5f7da878d739c1b

But to be clear, good works vs. “faith alone” is not the issue; it is a distraction. The truth is that justification is a FINISHED work. It needs no increasing or preservation, period; by good works, “faith-alone”, or anything else. A person’s new creaturehood that results from the new birth is the basis for one’s justification. The new creature is not under the jurisdiction of the law, therefore there is no sin. He is the righteous offspring of God his Father. He is free to perform good works without fear of condemnation, not to increase or preserve his justification, but rather as the means by which he demonstrates his love to God and to others. It is what he is called to do. And there are rewards in heaven that await him to the degree that he is faithful in performing those works.

“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” ~ Ephesians 2:10

“That the man of God may be perfect [mature, complete], throughly furnished unto all good works.” ~ 2 Timothy 3:17

“This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men.” ~ Titus 3:8

“And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works:” ~ Hebrews 10:24

“Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one: and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour.” ~ 1 Corinthians 3:8

“If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward.” ~ 1 Corinthians 3:14

“Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels, intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind,” ~
Colossians 2:18

“Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ.” ~ Colossians 3:24

“Look to yourselves, that we lose not those things which we have wrought, but that we receive a full reward.” ~ 2 John 1:8

Protestants are the last people on earth that should be talking about works. Good works, as defined by Challies, are “works that bring glory to God.” Sounds good, but he’s talking out of both sides of his mouth, because Protestantism doesn’t believe that any man can do any good works, even saved ones. Any good works we do are only experienced by us. It is Christ performing the good works through us. If at any moment we begin to think we actually did the work, we have denied Christ and put justification at risk. Luther stated in his Heidelberg Disputation that if anyone believed he could do a good work, it was an unpardonable sin. “Faith alone” means a continual recognition that we cannot do any good works, and it is this recognition that keeps us justified.

The doublespeak is clear in Challies’ reply to Canon 24. “I believe that good works—works that bring glory to God—are the fruit and proof of justification…” – Sure, because it is not us doing the works but us experiencing the works performed by Christ through us. “…I deny that they are in any way the cause of justification’s increase and preservation..” – Of course, since we cannot perform any good works, we must rely by “faith alone” on the works of Christ to be performed through us continually in order to increase and preserve our justification.

We could end here and not have to look at this article any further. Anything that Challies or any other Protestant/Reformed elitist says from this point forward is irrelevant. Their gospel is false! It is progressive justification regardless of what they say. Their own words have given them away, and here is the proof. Nevertheless, there are still two more points to consider, and we will look at point number five in the next article.

Andy


[i] https://www.catholicculture.org/culture/library/view.cfm?recnum=5392

 

Anti-Catholic or Pro Gospel: A Review of Tim Challies’ Article – Part 3

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on May 11, 2016

This is part three of a six part series.
Click here for Part One

Click here for Part Two
Click here for Part Four.
Click here for Part Five.
Click here for Part Six.

We continue on in our review of an article written by Tim Challies in 2014 entitled, “Anti-Catholic or Pro Gospel”. Challies states in his introduction, “What I have found is that the Roman Catholic Church understands my theology very well.” But by contrast, those of authentic reformed theology also understand Catholicism very well. This should really come as no surprise to us, since the reformation boiled down to nothing more than two packs of wolves vying for the mutton. The argument has always been about progressive justification and whether or not believers have anything to contribute to the mix.

In an interesting twist, Challies doesn’t argue against Catholicism directly. In fact, he offers very little in the way of support for his own views which he simply claims Catholics reject. This conveniently allows him to frame the argument any way he wishes without having to back it up. It is one thing to say “you reject what I believe,” but it is an entirely different matter to say, “here is why you reject what I believe.” Really, it serves as nothing more than a distraction, getting our attention off the real issue. While we are busy evaluating what Catholics say about Protestants, we are ignoring what Protestants are saying.

Challies cites select canons from the Council of Trent. To be specific, these citations come from the Sixth Council of Trent of January 13, 1547 [i]. The canons on justification are only one section of a larger body of work. The first section contains a lengthy affirmation of the Catholic doctrine on justification. The canons that follow are then the resulting refutations based on what is taught in section one. Challies cites the canons only while ignoring the specific doctrinal statements in section one.

So having said that, let’s continue our review by looking at Challies’ third point. Quoting from his article:

“If anyone says that man is absolved from his sins and justified because he firmly believes that he is absolved and justified, or that no one is truly justified except him who believes himself justified, and that by this faith alone absolution and justification are effected, let him be anathema. (Canon 14)”

“This may require some nuance, because I do not believe that I am absolved from sin because I believe I am absolved from sin; however, I do hold, as the Council says here, that faith in Christ alone does absolve sin and justify sinners. (Rom 5:1)”

So far this is one of the most confusing statements in this article! There is a reason his reply is “nuanced”, and I give him some credit here for at least being honest about that. Let’s parse this out. Challies says, “I do not believe that I am absolved from sin because I believe I am absolved from sin”. Said another way, simply believing that one is absolved from sin does not absolve from sin. In that sense, it would seem that Challies would find agreement with Rome, for that is what it appears that Canon 14 declares. And I seriously doubt that anyone in their right mind would say they are absolved from sin simply because they believe it. The must be some basis for absolution other than simply declaring it.

But look carefully at Canon 14. It states, “absolved from sins AND justified.” Both are related. The former is dependent upon the latter. Catholicism rejects the notion of justification by “faith alone” and that furthermore such a justification should be the means or the basis of absolving sin. But it goes even farther than that. The last part of Canon 14 states, “by this faith alone absolution and justification are effected.” Once again what we have is the idea of an ongoing absolution of “present sin” in the Christian life, and such absolution is only obtained by “faith alone”, which Catholicism rejects. Whereas in Catholicism such absolution, such maintaining of justification, would be obtained by the sacrament of confession (among others).

Challies’ “nuanced” first part of his reply only references absolution with regard to “faith alone” and conveniently leaves out a reference to justification. Therefore he feels he can honestly say, “no, I don’t believe I am absolved of sin simply because I believe I am.” At face value, it is a purposefully obtuse understanding of Canon 14, and Challies knows this, thus the need he feels to “nuance” his reply.

Yet he turns right around in the second part of his reply and says, “faith in Christ alone does absolve sin and justify sinners.” It would seem as if he has just contradicted what he said in the first part of his statement. Which is it Tim?   Are you absolved of sin because you “believe” you are or not? When one understands that with Protestants, “faith alone” is needed to maintain justification, it all become pretty clear. In the Protestant construct, “faith alone” does absolve sin because then the “active obedience of Christ” is applied to the believer’s account. If believers are still sinners, Christ’s work of keeping the law must be constantly imputed, and that only happens by “faith alone”. As that happens, justification is maintained.

This is yet one more example of just how both Catholics and Protestants believe in a progressive justification. What Challies calls “nuance”, not only in this example but in his entire article, is better referred to as “doublespeak.” It is language used to deceive usually through concealment or misrepresentation of truth. It is also a technique used by teachers of reformed theology whereby they allow the laity to assume that they mean something other than what they are really saying.   We will continue to dissect the doublespeak as we examine point number four in the next article.

Andy


[i] https://www.catholicculture.org/culture/library/view.cfm?recnum=5392

 

 

 

%d bloggers like this: