Paul's Passing Thoughts

John Piper’s Vine and Branches Conference: A Synopsis of its Heresy

Posted in Uncategorized by pptmoderator on January 27, 2016

Originally posted December 14, 2013

“Take note that Calvin is also confirming the Reformed belief that sins in the Christian life separate us from salvation. Therefore, the same repentance and faith that was needed originally continues to be needed as a way to keep ourselves saved. However, according to Calvin, the same gospel that originally saved us must be continually administered by Reformed pastors.”

John Piper states in the promotional video for his Vine and Branch conference that the union with Christ doctrine could be the most important doctrine that you have never heard of. The blogger Alex Guggenheim responded to that notion this way:

Okay, so here we have Neo-Calvinists who have, for the last 15-20 years and certainly the last 10 years, overwhelming their people and those being assimilated, being offered a conference on “the most important doctrine you’ve never heard of.”

Hmmm…so Neo-Calvinists, what have you been doing all this time if this doctrine is central to all things as your promo says? Suddenly you now offer the most important doctrine. I suggest theological and ecclesiastical malfeasance with such an admission.

If it was and is so important, and it is, why haven’t you made it the centrality of your teaching and articulations all this time or…is this just another gimmick to incite spiritual anxiety in people who now believe they have been missing something and cannot miss this?

Good grief.

The Calvin Institutes of the Christian religion is their playbook, and it is a very thick linguistic droning. This is their bible, and they are continually mining it for new ideas. Sometimes these ideas take a while to find in the book of Calvin. However, I believe it is the same document that will hang them because people are starting to read the document for themselves. Piper begins the promotion for the conference with a statement by Calvin, so let’s start with Calvin.

John Calvin

The crux of the Reformation false gospel is the idea that justification is not a finished work. Therefore, they make the separate work of sanctification the growing, or progression of justification. The saint becomes a colaborer in the finishing of justification rather than a colaborer for the kingdom as an ambassador. The saint is not working towards a reward from his Master, he is working towards the final prize of salvation.

Therefore, the saint must obtain that final prize the same way he received it, by FAITH ALONE. So, he must run the race of salvation by faith alone. This is made possible by the “vital union with Christ.” Our “union with Christ” sanctifies our participation in justification. Let me repeat that:

Our “union with Christ” sanctifies our participation in justification.

It makes running the race by faith alone possible. It enables us to gobble up more and more grace in order to keep ourselves saved—by faith alone of course. James addressed the problem of this very notion in James 2:14-26. It hearkens back to the problem of justification and sanctification not being completely separate; one being a finished work and the other being a progressive work. This is the Achilles’ heel of every false gospel that has ever come down the pike.

So, how do we supposedly run the race by faith alone? The same way we started, by faith alone which entails “living by the gospel.” We live to get more grace. If we keep filling up our gas tank at the salvation filling station, we will be able to “stand in the judgment” that we are driving to. In fact, this is exactly how Reformed theologians frame the issue:

We repeat, Justification is not a thing that we pass and get behind us. As Barth rightly said, it is not like a filling station that we pass but once. As we hold to its eschatological implications, justification by faith can never become static but must remain the dynamic center of Christian existence, the continuous present. We are always sinners in our eyes, but we are always standing on God’s justification and, perhaps more importantly, moving toward it. To be justified is a present-continuous miracle to the man who present-continuously believes, knowing that he who believes possesses all things, and he who does not believe possesses nothing. Such a life is only possible where the gospel of justification is continually heard and where God’s verdict of acquittal is like those mercies which Jeremiah declared were new every morning—”great is Thy faithfulness” (Lam. 3:22-23).[1]

Also…

Rather than obsessing through a checklist of necessary Christian behavior, he argued that it is important to get back to the heart of Christianity. Faith, he says, shouldn’t be based on “our performance” but, instead, it should be predicated upon “God’s performance for us in Jesus.”[2]

But there is no “performance” for us by Jesus in the Christian life that maintains justification. That work is done. In regard to justification, “It is finished” and Christ has sat down at the right hand of the Father. We work together with Christ in our sanctification. Again, at issue is the fusion of a finished work with a progressive work. But since the Reformation sees justification/salvation as progressive, we must continually fill our gas tanks with the same grace that saved us. That is the essence of union with Christ; it enables us to receive perpetual fillings of salvation. There are two primary ways that we “keep ourselves in the love of God”[3] or in union with Christ.

1. Mortification and vivification. According to Calvin, mortification and vivification is obtained through the union with Christ.[4] It is a lifestyle of “constant confession and repentance” that avoids the pursuit of a godly life and embraces a life that is “literally Christ himself.”[5] Simply stated, it is perpetual resalvation through the same repentance and sorrow for sin, and belief in the works of Christ only that saved us. By focusing on our depravity (“deep repentance”), a new need for grace is realized and when embraced results in a refreshing of the soul (vivification); viz, a joy experience.

This is the perpetual reliving of our baptism—a “daily dying and rising.”[6] It also results in EXPERIENCING the works of Christ in our life “subjectively,” but it is not really us doing the work—it is a manifestation of Christ’s work that we only experience [7]. This is otherwise known as “new obedience” in Reformed circles. It can be compared to standing in the rain; you experience it, but you are not participating in the work of it or producing it. This enables us to live our Christian lives by the same gospel that saved us, and resulting in being able to “stand in the judgment.”

2. The Sacraments. We get more saving gospel through the Sacraments. Said Calvin:

It is irrational to contend that sacraments are not manifestations of divine grace toward us… We conclude, therefore, that the sacraments are truly termed evidences of divine grace, and, as it were, seals of the good-will which he entertains toward us. They, by sealing it to us, sustain, nourish, confirm, and increase our faith.[8]

God gathers his people together in a covenantal event to judge and to justify, to kill and to make alive. The emphasis is on God’s work for us – the Father’s gracious plan, the Son’s saving life, death, and resurrection, and the Spirit’s work of bringing life to the valley of dry bones through the proclamation of Christ. The preaching focuses on God’s work in the history of redemption from Genesis through Revelation, and sinners are swept into this unfolding drama. Trained and ordained to mine the riches of Scripture for the benefit of God’s people, ministers try to push their own agendas, opinions, and personalities to the background so that God’s Word will be clearly proclaimed. In this preaching the people once again are simply receivers – recipients of grace. Similarly, in baptism, they do not baptize themselves; they are baptized. In the Lord’s Supper, they do not prepare and cook the meal; they do not contribute to the fare; but they are guests who simply enjoy the bread of heaven.[9]

3. Absolution through church membership.

According to Calvin:

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. Wherefore, as during our whole lives we carry about with us the remains of sin, we could not continue in the Church one single moment were we not sustained by the uninterrupted grace of God in forgiving our sins. On the other hand, the Lord has called his people to eternal salvation, and therefore they ought to consider that pardon for their sins is always ready. Hence let us surely hold that if we are admitted and ingrafted into the body of the Church, the forgiveness of sins has been bestowed, and is daily bestowed on us, in divine liberality, through the intervention of Christ’s merits, and the sanctification of the Spirit.

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;531 but, moreover, that they should perpetually perform this office among believers. This Paul teaches, when he says that the embassy of reconciliation has been committed to the ministers of the Church, that they may ever and anon in the name of Christ exhort the people to be reconciled to God (2 Cor. 5:20). Therefore, in the communion of saints our sins are constantly forgiven by the ministry of the Church, when presbyters or bishops, to whom the office has been committed, confirm pious consciences, in the hope of pardon and forgiveness by the promises of the gospel, and that as well in public as in private, as the case requires. For there are many who, from their infirmity, stand in need of special pacification, and Paul declares that he testified of the grace of Christ not only in the public assembly, but from house to house, reminding each individually of the doctrine of salvation (Acts 20:20, 21). Three things are here to be observed. First, whatever be the holiness which the children of God possess, it is always under the condition, that so long as they dwell in a mortal body, they cannot stand before God without forgiveness of sins. 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.[10]

…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. [11]

Take note that Calvin is also confirming the Reformed belief that sins in the Christian life separate us from salvation. Therefore, the same repentance and faith that was needed originally continues to be needed as a way to keep ourselves saved. However, according to Calvin, the same gospel that originally saved us must be continually administered by Reformed pastors.

John Piper

John Piper is the guru of Christian joy. Most Christians find it strange that he puts so much emphasis on Christian joy, that is, until you understand mortification and vivification. If vivification is not taking place, viz, the upside of mortification and vivification, then you are not in union with Christ. This totally explains the following outrageous statements by him:

“Unless a man be born again into a Christian Hedonist he cannot see the kingdom of God” (Desiring God  page 55).

“Could it be that today the most straightforward biblical command for conversion is not, ‘Believe in the Lord,’ but, ‘Delight yourself in the Lord’?” (Desiring God page 55).

“The pursuit of joy in God is not optional. It is not an ‘extra’ that a person might grow into after he comes to faith. Until your heart has hit upon this pursuit, your ‘faith’ cannot please God. It is not saving faith” (Desiring God page 69).

“Not everybody is saved from God’s wrath just because Christ died for sinners. There is a condition we must meet in order to be saved. I want to try to show that the condition…is nothing less than the creation of a Christian Hedonist” (Desiring God page 61).

“We are converted when Christ becomes for us a Treasure Chest of holy joy” (Desiring God page 66).

 “Something has happened in our hearts before the act of faith. It implies that beneath and behind the act of faith which pleases God, a new taste has been created. A taste for the glory of God and the beauty of Christ. Behold, a joy has been born!” (Desiring God page 67).

“Before the decision comes delight. Before trust comes the discovery of treasure” (Desiring God, page 68).

Michael Horton

The following statement by Michael Horton is a good summation of the Reformation’s false gospel:

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.[12]

Paul David Tripp

Lastly, out of necessity, Calvin’s doctrine must depend on an allegorical interpretation of Scripture. As Rick Holland has stated, “bad grammar makes good theology.”[13] That’s because this doctrine cannot survive a grammatical examination. Tripp, one of the more viral forms of Calvinism, concedes on page 27 of How People Change (2006) that a literal interpretation of Scripture does call us to “change the way we think” (one of the more passive forms of obedience), but that this approach “omits the person and work of Christ as Savior.” In other words, a literal interpretation that circumvents use of the Bible as a tool for returning to the same gospel that saved us cuts off the progressive justification process.

paul

Endnotes  

1. “We” are the authors of the theological journal published by the Australian Forum project that launched the present-day Calvinist resurgence: Graeme Goldsworthy, Robert Brinsmead, Geoffrey Paxton, and Jon Zens. Citation from Present Truth Magazine volume 35—article 3, Righteousness by Faith part 4, chapter 8.

2. The Blaze interview with Tullian Tchividjian: Oct. 15, 2013 9:01am  | Billy Hallowell.

3. CJ Mahaney has used this theme many times and prescribes “preaching the gospel to ourselves” as the prescription. In reality, this is a means of keeping ourselves saved according to Reformed theology.

4. The Calvin Institutes 3.3.9, first sentence.

5. Paul David Tripp: How People Change Punch Press 2006, p.6

6. Michael Horton’s Systematic Theology for Pilgrims on the Way: p.661

7. Ibid p.661, Ibid note 5, p. 215

8. The Calvin Institutes 4.14.7

9. Michael Horton: Christless Christianity; pp.189-191

10. The Calvin Institutes 4.1.21,22

11. John Calvin: Commentaries on the Catholic Epistles; The Calvin Translation Society 1855. Editor: John Owen, p. 165 ¶4

12. Michael Horton: Christless Christianity; p. 62

13. Rick Holland: Uneclipsing the Son; p. 39

Revised Vital Union Chart

JCPJ 2

Linear Gospel 1

parallel gospel 1

The Good News About God

Posted in Uncategorized by pptmoderator on September 20, 2015

TANC LOGOGod is good news. This is perhaps the simplest distinction between Biblicism and Protestantism; Biblicists believe that the gospel, or the good news about God is good news to everyone. It believes that the offer of salvation is a valid offer. It believes that the gift is offered to everyone. This speaks to the pejorative claim that Biblicists are unreasonable wooden literalists; indeed, we believe that words mean things. We believe that “news” informs someone of something that they didn’t know previously, and that God is a good reporter tending towards full disclosure; it isn’t good news to some and bad news to others. How is predetermined eternal suffering for the glory of God good news? How can a promise be a promise to you if you have no way of knowing if the promise is actually for you or not? Biblicists assume different word choices from a God that is not a God of confusion. Biblicists believe words mean things; Protestants don’t, and even say so in no uncertain terms! (Note Rick Holland’s heading on page 39 of Uneclipsing The Son: “When Bad Grammar Makes Good Theology”).

In these sessions, the term “Protestant” refers to the authentic doctrine of the Protestant Reformation. The fact that many have strayed from the original article is noted, but what Protestant gives a waiver to a Buddhist that doesn’t believe everything Buddha believed? It’s still Buddhism.

Consider an apple tree. Apple trees do not produce peaches. However, nor are the branches or the fruit exactly the same. The branches differ, and the apples vary in size and color, but it is still an apple tree. Biblicism is an altogether different tree.

Before we examine the Biblicist gospel, let me take you to the book of Genesis to illustrate the aforementioned elements of Biblicism.

Genesis 1:1 – In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. 2 The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.

3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. 4 And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.

All kinds of hay is made with these opening statements from God’s word; if this creation account is really about the gospel, or symbolic of it, then outrageous presuppositions can be assimilated into the thinking of people without plainly stating the thesis. If you believe that the creation account is about the gospel, you also concede that God preordained the fall of man, created evil (darkness), and goodness, (light). And in fact, as I think will be ascertained from Susan’s sessions, this very belief, that God created evil and preordained the fall of man for his own glory, is very much a part of Protestant tradition.

There is no doubt that many of the biblical authors used the creation account for metaphors, but that does not speak to the primary purpose or point of the passage. The idea that this creation account is about the gospel is an assumption, and Biblicism chooses conclusions that are plainly stated over assumption in all cases. This is an account of the “first day” of creation and how God brought that about. The rightness of this epistemology can also be seen in the same passage:

God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night.

Hence, from the very beginning, we see that reality is defined by what it is called through using words. If the meaning and science of words are not concrete, reality cannot be known. If this is a metaphysical statement concerning the gospel and good and evil, why wouldn’t God simply state that accordingly?

As far as words interpreting reality, God involved Adam in the process:

Genesis 2:19 – Now out of the ground the Lord God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name.

Don’t misunderstand, things don’t cease to exist because they are not named, but there is no way to define existence without words, at least not in our reality, and therefore, the unnamed thing has no meaning. Remember also that people can be manipulated into doing absolutely anything if they are convinced by others that certain words mean certain things.

The definitions of words define reality in the minds of people. Those who control the definitions control what and how people think, and thus control their actions as well. Some call this “propaganda.”

Symbolism is the most often-used communication technique to convince people that certain words mean things they don’t mean. This is very subtle and effective; if creation represents the gospel, then obviously God anticipated the fall of man because it was part of His intended will for mankind.

But mankind did fall, and the recorded account in Genesis gives us insight into the nature of God, the nature of man, the nature of Sin, the gospel, evangelism, and the Caste religion.

This shouldn’t surprise us, but the serpent approached Eve with a religion. Well, really, THE religion. If this approach worked, and it did, why would there be a deviation from the original article? Sure, applications will differ, but the basic principles remain the same; it’s a tree of kind. What is it?

Genesis 3:1 – Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made.

He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” 2 And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, 3 but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” 4 But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. 5 For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” 6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. 7 Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.

Let’s focus on the obvious here. The Religion has four basic principles, and the second point is less obvious, but valid: for the most part, ALL religious and political ideologies flow from this religion. Mankind was absolutely hell-bent on functioning by this premise until the Enlightenment Era. Here are the four basic principles of the Caste religion:

1. There is spiritual knowledge that is separate from material knowledge; the knowledge of good and evil.

2. Mankind is unable to comprehend the spiritual; he is enslaved to the material world.

3. Mediators are needed between God and man to understand the spiritual knowledge and apply it to the material realm for the overall well-being of mankind.

4. These mediators are divinely gifted by God and preordained.

The first three points can clearly be seen in Genesis 3:1ff. “Hey Eve, there is a whole body of wisdom that God is keeping from you, and you need me to mediate that wisdom between you and God because I am superior to you and therefore qualified to do so.”

Notice the communication techniques used by the serpent to deceive Eve: he changed the definition of words; “No, no, Eve, you misunderstand what God said, he didn’t mean that you will literally die.” And she ate, and guess what? She didn’t drop dead. The serpent changed the definition of the word, “death” as God meant it in that context, and nothing has ever changed accordingly. When we allow mediators between ourselves and God, we are trusting them to define words for us because we supposedly can’t understand God. Take note: when men speak of “subordinate truth,” this is set against the superior truth that only they and God understand, and we call that “orthodoxy.” When Biblicists are criticized for thinking we do not need creeds and confessions, that ought to make cold chills run up our spine. Creeds, confessions, and counsels are nothing more than mediators penning bedtime stories for the great unwashed who are childlike in their ability to understand realty. Consider this illustration once again:

eec5c9fa7c36e18aa5f7da878d739c1b

What is this? Right, the knowledge of good and evil. Right? Let me show you something else:

Our wisdom, insofar as it ought to be deemed true and solid wisdom, consists almost entirely of two parts: the knowledge of God and ourselves.

That’s the very first sentence of the Calvin Institutes. If only God is good, and mankind is totally depraved, how is this not the knowledge of good and evil as the premiere epistemology of all metaphysics? It’s the knowledge of good and evil mediated by those preordained by God for the well-being of society at large. This religion brought death in the garden, and created elitist caste systems that dictate life from the family unit to offices of governors and kings.

We saw it in high school, and we even see it in the Republican primary. The elitist party hacks are beside themselves that the great unwashed are being duped by Donald Trump, but instead of asking “why?” and looking in the mirror, it is chalked up to the total depravity of the masses. Therefore, the party elitists must neutralize Trump in order to save the great unwashed masses from themselves. Though Trump continues to lead the pack in the polls by double digits, he is summarily dismissed by political pundits. One cannot by any means separate this from an elitist mentality that dismisses the discernment of the voters.

SIN: THE BIBLICAL DEFINITION

Something else can be learned here about the nature of sin. What is the biblical definition of sin? It is defined as a master, or slave master. Sin is defined as a separate entity that seeks to enslave.

Genesis 4:5 – So Cain was very angry, and his face fell. 6 The Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? 7 If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.”

In what can be considered the first detailed account of a gospel presentation and that by God Himself, sin is identified as something that has desire, and that desire is to rule over others. God tells Cain that he must instead rule over sin. We also find that sin makes its appeal through desire:

Genesis 3:6 – So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.

James 1:13 – Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. 14 But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. 15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.

This is a fundamental definition of sin that is an important building block for additional understanding: it is a slave master that desires to rule over others and makes its appeal through desires, or “sinful desires.” The results of sin are types of death experienced throughout life leading to ultimate death. Sin is also empowered by its ability to condemn:

1Corinthians 15:56 – The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

When we get into the subject of law/gospel in part 3 of this session, the correlation between law and condemnation will be explained, but for now, the main point is that sin is empowered by its ability to condemn. It’s a master who desires to rule over people and bring many faceted deaths into their lives, and makes its appeal through the desires of others. It is empowered by the condemnation that results. In one way, sin rules over people by paralyzing them with guilt and fear.

SIN 1

We see this in the garden. After Adam and Eve sin, they hide from God because they are afraid of God’s condemnation.

Genesis 3:9 – But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” 10 And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” 11 He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?”

Sin and fear of condemnation go together. This also speaks to evangelism and free will. Protestants love to make much of “No man seeks after God” (Rom 3:11). But this is not because man is totally depraved and has no inkling towards God whatever. Man does not seek God because he fears condemnation. Obviously, when Adam and Eve sinned, they did not immediately seek out God for a solution. Instead, they hid from God because they were afraid of His condemnation. This is why man does not seek God, he is afraid—not because he is totally depraved.

In addition, we see the essence of evangelism from the very beginning: God seeks out man with the remedy for sin. Just because God is the one who is proactive does not mean man has no ability to make a choice when confronted by God. Adam and Eve had no ability to come up with a plan that would fix the fall. Obviously, God is the only one who could remedy the problem. Man’s inability is in regard to proposing a plan of reconciliation with God, not an inability to accept the gift of salvation through a plan devised by God when offered.

Blog TalkRadio Podcast, Session 2: Challenging Doctrinal Presuppositions of Orthodoxy

The Magnum Opus of the Reformation: Martin Luther’s Heidelberg Disputation; Part 4

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on June 22, 2015

Blog Radio LogoListen to Show or download audio file. 

Welcome truth lovers to Blog Talk radio .com/False Reformation, this is your host Paul M. Dohse Sr. Tonight, part 4 of “The Magnum Opus of the Reformation: Martin Luther’s Heidelberg Disputation.”

Greetings from the Potter’s House and TANC ministries where we are always eager to serve all of your heterodox needs. Our teaching catalog can be found at tancpublishing.com.

If you would like to add to our lesson or ask a question, call (347) 855-8317. Remember to turn your PC volume down to prevent feedback.

Per the usual, we will check in with Susan towards the end of the show and listen to her perspective.

Remember, you may remain anonymous. When I say, “This is your host; you are on the air, what’s your comment or question”—just start talking.

If you would like to comment on our subject tonight, you can also email me at paul@ttanc.com. That’s Tom, Tony, Alice, Nancy, cat, paul@ttanc.com. I have my email monitor right here and can add your thoughts to the lesson without need for you to call in. You can post a question as well.

Ok, so last week we only covered thesis 7, and as discussed, sometimes these Reformed guys are as clear as mud. Where the confusion comes in regards Luther’s position on mortal versus venial sin. Per Susan’s contribution last week, we know that Luther and Calvin never left the Catholic Church, and Susan assessed the Catholic position on mortal and venial sin. With that said, what was Luther’s position?

Look, here is the same advice I gave Susan in regard to her research on Jonathan Edwards: sometimes, there is just no way of knowing what these guys are trying to say, so you have to look for the places that can be defined and draw conclusions accordingly. The way Luther goes about thesis 7 could be debated until the second coming. So what’s he saying definitively? Well, let’s go to thesis 12:

In the sight of God sins are then truly venial when they are feared by men to be mortal.

This becomes sufficiently clear from what has been said. For as much as we accuse ourselves, so much God pardons us, according to the verse, »Confess your misdeed so that you will be justified« (cf. Isa. 43:26), and according to another (Ps. 141:4), »Incline not my heart to any evil, to busy myself with wicked deeds«.

Bingo. That’s pretty clear. For all practical purposes, according to Luther, the deeds of the saved and unsaved alike are all mortal sins. Even if Luther makes room for sins being authentically venial in the subjective Christian life, it makes no difference because mankind cannot do a good deed or any work that would be meritorious before God. In order to be saved, an individual must disavow the possibility of good works and assume every act is a mortal sin.

Susan is in the midst of some very heavy research, and has been sharing some of it with me. At times she will read excerpts from Edwards and there is no way in hades to know what the guy is saying. But, according to the subject, you can draw from what the guy has said in other places and draw your conclusions. And that’s what we are doing here.

While we are on thesis 12, let’s note this:

For as much as we accuse ourselves, so much God pardons us, according to the verse, »Confess your misdeed so that you will be justified« (cf. Isa. 43:26).

Bingo—that’s the Reformation gospel in a nutshell. You are still a wretched unregenerate sinner, and a perpetual return to the same repentance that saved you keeps you justified. The saving death of Christ is continually reapplied to your life along with His imputed obedience as well. This is what Paul David Trip et al call “A lifestyle of repentance” echo, echo, echo, echo.

And by the way, if you have any complaint at all about the way your church is run, this is what you will probably hear: “Who are you to judge? You should be busy accusing yourself rather than others lest you fall from grace.” And I don’t have a problem with that and nether should you. Why? Well at least they know what Protestantism is about. They are just being good Protestants, it is what it is.

And here’s another thing; I claim a liberty for myself that I think is biblical. I refuse to pass judgement on who is going to hell and who isn’t. Not only is hell a terrible place of eternal torment that I would not literally wish on anybody, but I choose to leave that assessment where it belongs; in the hands of God. Do you know why people want me to draw the hell conclusion from my assessment of true gospel versus false gospel? Here’s why: they want to use that to shut down discussion and subsequent discovery. See, when TANC ministries comes up, they want to say, “Ya, Dohse believes that Martin Luther and John Calvin are burning in hell.” See, that shuts down discussion. But if they tell the truth and say, “Dohse believes the Reformation gospel is progressive justification,” well, now that induces curiosity and discovery.

Listen, who am I to be going around saying that this guy is going to hell and that guy is going to hell? That’s not my place, but the bigger point is that such behavior becomes the topic and not the substantive discussion of true gospel versus false gospel. The former utilizes a jump from presuppositions to conclusion so that the substantive is circumvented. Don’t fall for that garbage.

Let’s now proceed to thesis eight:

Thesis 8: By so much more are the works of man mortal sins when they are done without fear and in unadulterated, evil self-security.

The inevitable deduction from the preceding thesis is clear. For where there is no fear there is no humility. Where there is no humility there is pride, and where there is pride there are the wrath and judgment of God, »for God opposes the haughty. Indeed, if pride would cease there would be no sin anywhere.

This thesis supplies a couple of major hallmarks of the Reformation. But I better pause here to head off a danger at the pass. Don’t be tempted to think that this point by point assessment of the FIRST Reformation doctrinal statement is redundant. It’s not. In all of this, I am becoming more and more appreciative of Luther’s genius. Throughout this document, Luther is not only putting forth a foundational doctrinal statement, he is teaching people how to think and what to think about the finer points of life. Luther isn’t saying the same things in a different way, he is redefining the elements of collective thinking that are possible exits out of the foundational premise. At the end of this study, one could put together a counter disputation, and maybe I will.

Here, he defines “pride.” What is that according to Luther, and frankly every Reformer after him? Pride, according to Luther, is the heart of sin: “Indeed, if pride would cease there would be no sin anywhere.” Here we see two major epistemologies or metaphysical hermeneutics of the Reformation: First, the common man cannot only do anything that would find favor with God, the common man cannot know reality. Second, every truth has a counter truth. Said another way, opposites define each other. In Plato’s theory of forms, reality descends from the immutable objective to the mutable and shadowy subjective. Ascent to the objective begins by finding those things that are immutable in the subjective shadow world.

plato-forms

For Plato, that was math among other things, but along this same line of epistemology is dualism, or what’s called “co-eternal binary opposition, a meaning that is preserved in metaphysical and philosophical duality discourse but has been more generalized in other usages to indicate a system which contains two essential parts.” Do you see this in thesis 8? It’s pride and humility. We also refer to this as the either/or hermeneutic. There is no in-between, it’s either/or. There is no taking pride in what you do without being prideful. There is no taking of satisfaction from a job well done; you are either humble or prideful.

And, this is also key, what is humbleness’ key attribute? Right, fear; specifically fear of condemnation…”For where there is no fear there is no humility. Where there is no humility there is pride, and where there is pride there are the wrath and judgment of God.”

Your only chance of getting into heaven in the end is doubts that you will. Luther and Calvin both equated eternal security with damning pride. Tullian Tchividjian once joked that Presbyterians differ from Baptists because Presbyterians don’t call each other “brothers” because no one knows for certain whether that’s the case or not. The joke bought the house down, but as the saying goes, the truth in a joke is what often makes it funny.

Once again, this is also right out of the Calvin Institutes:

Let us, therefore, embrace Christ, who is kindly offered to us, and comes forth to meet us: he will number us among his flock, and keep us within his fold. But anxiety arises as to our future state. For as Paul teaches, that those are called who were previously elected, so our Savior shows that many are called, but few chosen (Mt. 22:14). Nay, even Paul himself dissuades us from security, when he says, “Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall,” (1 Cor. 10:12). And again, “Well, because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not high-minded, but fear: for if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee,” (Rom. 11:20, 21). In fine, we are sufficiently taught by experience itself, that calling and faith are of little value without perseverance, which, however, is not the gift of all (CI 3.24.6).

As we have discussed before, Calvin’s election construct has three categories: the non-elect, the temporary elect, and those who persevere. No one knows whether they make it or not until they are revealed as such in the final judgement. This is known as “final justification when the sons of God are made manifest.” Apparently, they are made manifest by their “accompanied good works” which were really performed by Jesus and not them. This aversion to eternal security is also demonstrated by the likes of John Piper:

There is danger on the way to salvation in heaven. We need ongoing protection after our conversion. Our security does not mean we are home free. There is a battle to be fought (John Piper: Bethlehem Baptist Church Minneapolis, Minnesota; The Elect Are Kept by the Power of God October 17, 1993).

Of course, the apostle John’s stated purpose for writing the book of 1John directly contradicts this idea. Let’s move on to thesis 9:

Thesis 9: To say that works without Christ are dead, but not mortal, appears to constitute a perilous surrender of the fear of God.

For in this way men become certain and therefore haughty, which is perilous. For in such a way God is constantly deprived of the glory which is due him and which is transferred to other things, since one should strive with all diligence to give him the glory-the sooner the better. For this reason the Bible advises us, »Do not delay being converted to the Lord.« For if that person offends him who withdraws glory from him, how much more does that person offend him who continues to withdraw glory from him and does this boldly! But whoever is not in Christ or who withdraws from him withdraws glory from him, as is well known.

Luther here has a problem with the idea that good works can be performed by the unbelieving or believing and such works do not condemn, but are merely dead works that cannot earn merits for justification. This now brings us to what the Reformers believe is the sole purpose for all existence: God’s glory. Any concession that man can do anything good robs God of glory.

Man can indeed do good works, but in regard to the unsaved, it is true that in the end that only results in less condemnation, but Luther isn’t even willing to conceded that. If people can do good works resulting in less condemnation—that robs God of glory. Furthermore, it removes fear of condemnation from some works which also robs God of glory.

This is why Luther’s disputation is said to be the cross story versus the glory story: any glory not given to God is claimed by man; hence, the glory story, or the story of man. It can’t be a story about God and man, All glory must be granted to God. You are either living in the cross metaphysical narrative or the glory of man metaphysical narrative.

Thesis 10: Indeed, it is very difficult to see how a work can be dead and at the same time not a harmful and mortal sin.

This I prove in the following way: Scripture does not speak of dead things in such a manner, stating that something is not mortal which is nevertheless dead. Indeed, neither does grammar, which says that »dead« is a stronger term than »mortal«. For the grammarians call a mortal work one which kills, a »dead« work not one that has been killed, but one that is not alive. But God despises what is not alive, as is written in Prov. 15:8, »The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord.«

Second, the will must do something with respect to such a dead work, namely, either love or hate it. The will cannot hate a dead work since the will is evil. Consequently the will loves a dead work, and therefore it loves something dead. In that act itself it thus induces an evil work of the will against God whom it should love and honor in this and in every deed.

This thesis makes another argument against the idea that good works can be performed by mankind, but they are dead works in regard to justification. If mankind can perform a good deed, if mankind is competent, if mankind has some sort of ability, then why would that not include the ability to choose? This speaks to the Reformed doctrine of total inability. The Reformed continually claim this doctrine as uniquely Reformed and contrary to all other religions throughout history. This is not true; in fact, the total depravity of mankind coupled with determinism of some sort has been the overwhelming norm from the beginning of time. We delved into this historical fact in our Romans series (lessons 55-64).

What I would like to focus on in this thesis is Luther’s mention of grammar and the “grammarians.” What is a grammarian? A grammarian is someone who studies world linguistics. A grammarian also studies the connections between linguistics and the interpretation of reality. By and large, a grammarian is going to take a literal approach to interpreting reality; ie., things are as they appear. Another way of stating it: reality can be understood empirically. Hence, man can reason and understand reality.

This is going to be my subject at this year’s conference. The Reformers did not hold to a literal interpretation of realty. Obviously, St. Augustine was heavily steeped in allegory. This is what most Christians don’t understand: the Reformation was about the interpretation of reality itself, and how the Bible should be used for that purpose.

The Reformers didn’t reject biblical grammarianism, but made it secondary to the redemptive view of reality, or the idea that all of reality should be interpreted by “the gospel.” If the use of grammar leads to a redemptive outcome, wonderful. If it doesn’t, you use allegory to insure a redemptive outcome. The Reformed therefore often claim to be grammarians which is blatantly disingenuous. And look, the Reformed camp is not the least bit shy about all of this. We can see in this thesis how Luther was willing to use the grammar for the outcome he desired. In essence, he is saying: look, if the simpleton grammarians even think that something dead cannot contribute anything to life, how much more should we believe it as well?  

And look, the Reformed camp is not the least bit shy about all of this. In his book, “Uneclipsing The Son,” by John MacArthur confidant and rumored heir apparent Rick Holland, he states that “bad grammar makes good theology” (page 39). The who’s who of American evangelicalism endorsed the book, and John MacArthur wrote the forward. As should be surmised by the title, the book is an in-your-face Gnostic treatise. The whole eclipsing the sun motif is a well-traveled illustration in Neo-Platonist/Gnostic circles. In the forward, MacArthur makes shocking statements that include the following idea: the subordination of God the Father and the Spirit to the Son.

If one does not interpret the Bible as a grammarian, all bets are off. While the Catholics made printing the Bible illegal, the Protestants merely took away individual interpretation and made biblical knowledge “the Gnosis.” Also, here is an aside: why did Christ emphasize the new birth to Nicodemus? The guy was “the” teacher in Israel and had never even heard of the new birth. Why? because Judaism was saturated with Gnostic philosophy and the infusion of divinity into a mortal being was unthinkable. The guy’s very name even reflects the Gnostic politic: nico; victory; demus; people; or, victory over the people. The most prominent Gnostic sect of the day was the Nicolaitans which means “victory over the laity.”

Now, next week, we are going to use theses 11 and 12 as an introduction to thesis 13 and following where Luther gets into the foundational position of free will according to the Reformation. We have heard lots of discussion about freewill for many years; next week, we will define the issue.

Calvinism’s Denial of Scripture, the New Birth, and the Trinity

Posted in Uncategorized by pptmoderator on March 4, 2015

PPT HandleOriginally published April 19, 2013

Part and parcel with being a cultist is the ability to communicate your false doctrine in a truthful sounding way. Martin Luther and John Calvin were perhaps the best there has ever been at that.

Volume one of The Truth About New Calvinism sought to primarily do one thing: document the contemporary history of New Calvinism and address some of its doctrinal quirks. New Calvinists claim to have rediscovered the authentic Reformation gospel; I didn’t address that question in volume one because much additional research was required to answer that question. Volume two answers that question, and the answer is “yes.” New Calvinists have the authentic Reformed doctrine down pat, and if not for them, we probably would have never known what the Reformers really believed. I believe John MacArthur has adopted New Calvinism because he was rightfully convinced by John Piper and others that this is what the Reformers believed. In other words, MacArthur’s enamoration with the Reformation motif has led him astray.

What makes Calvinism, the articulation of Lutheranism, so deceptive is the emphasis on two metaphysical realities and the interpretation of all reality through that dualism: our sinfulness and God’s holiness. Much can be written and agreed upon in regard to these two points. So, Sunday after Sunday we hear sermons based on these two biblical concepts only, and probably without much complaint and in many cases much praise.

But this isn’t the full counsel of God, and the overemphasis on these two points and the exclusion of all else eventually leads to the unenviable results. The apostle Paul equated teaching the fullness of God from house to house, night and day with not having the blood of men on his hands.

This brings us to the Emphasis hermeneutic. This is THE Reformation epistemology. This is their key to putting the Bible into use. Luther laid the framework in his Heidelberg Disputation to the Augustine Order and Calvin articulated it in the Institutes of the Christian Religion. In the first sentence of chapter one, Calvin introduces Luther’s dualism, and the rest of the Institutes flow from this concept. All of the Institutes build on the very first sentence that states wisdom is known by knowing us and knowing God more and more. For all practical purposes, the knowledge of good and evil. This is Luther’s Theology of the Cross in his disputation which was written six months after the 95 Theses. The latter was the moral protest; the former is the foundation of Reformation theology. Almost everything that the New Calvinists teach can be found in Luther’s Disputation including John Piper’s Christian Hedonism.

Luther believed that all reality was to be interpreted through the cross story. And by the way, as an aside, this is the first tenet of New Covenant Theology. Luther’s construct was strictly dualist: God’s story, or our story—the cross story or the glory story. A matter of emphasis. Certainly, Luther concurred that many things other than the cross story are TRUE, and to some extent VALUABLE for lesser concerns apart from the Christian faith, but in Luther’s view, any religious matter that distracted from the cross work of Christ diminished God’s glory and in most cases emphasized us instead; i.e., the glory story—our glory, not God’s.

The Emphasis hermeneutic is a Gnostic concept. This shouldn’t surprise us as Augustine’s penchant for Gnosticism is well known and Luther/Calvin were his mentorees. Calvin cites Augustine, on average, every 2.5 pages in the Institutes. Earthly things are a shadow of reality and the “true and the good.” Through education and knowledge one can obtain understanding of the true and the good. In Luther’s construct, Christ was the full representation of the true and the good. Christ is the true and the good; as New Calvinists state it, He is “THE gospel.” The gospel is the true and the good. He is the SUN (Son). The sun/shadows interpretive illustration is key to understanding this Gnostic/Platonist concept.

This interpretive method enables Calvinists to deem many things true, but to the extent that we allow these things to take away from a laser focus on the source of all wisdom and life, THE SUN, sanctification is diminished. Let me repeat that, because it is the crux:

This interpretive method enables Calvinists to deem many things true, but to the extent that we allow these things to take away from a laser focus on the source of all wisdom and life, THE SUN, sanctification is diminished.

The diminishing of sanctification: to the extent that we focus on anything else but Christ and the reason for the cross—our wickedness. The focus must be Christ’s crosswork. EVERYTHING points to Christ and interprets Christ. Anything that is true but doesn’t lead to more understanding of Christ casts a SHADOW on reality and wisdom. It is focusing on the shadow caused by whatever is blocking the Sun/Son. Anything that is not seen in a Chrsitocentric reality “ECLIPSES THE SON/SUN.”

Hence, seeing biblical commands in the Scripture as something we should see and do is the what? The glory story. It’s about “what we do, not what Christ has done”, a favorite New Calvinist truism. Therefore, biblical imperatives are to be seen in their “gospel context” as a standard that Christ kept for us and imputed to our sanctification. The cross story is then lifted up because it shows Christ’s holiness as set against our inability to uphold the law in sanctification.

To do otherwise is to “eclipse the Son.” Once you know how to look for this, you can see it everywhere in the American church. John MacArthur wrote the Forward to the Rick Holland book, “Uneclipsing the Son” in which this Gnostic paradigm is the very theses. In the Forward, MacArthur states in no uncertain terms that to emphasize “ANYTHING” or “ANYONE” other than Christ is to diminish sanctification. “Pastor”  Steve Lawson, in an address at the 2012 Resolved Conference implored young pastors to “come out from the shadows.” Pseudo biblical counselor Michael Emlet framed it as “CrossTalk” in his book that bears that same title. It is a cute play on words that frames any talk other than Christ’s crosswork as crosstalk, a technical communications term that refers to interference from multiple telephone lines transmitting over each other resulting in many jumbled conversations being heard.  In this case, shadows and confusion are the same.

Also, another way that this is framed is in regard to our fruits, or good works. By emphasizing anything we do, we are “making a good thing the best thing” or “making the fruit the root.” In other words, to emphasize fruit obscures the root that gives the tree life: Christ. We should focus on Christ only which results in “transformation.” But “transformation” isn’t personal transformation. If we are transformed, that is the what? Right, the glory story. Here, the Calvinistic lingo is very subtle; instead of us changing via the new creaturehood of the new birth, we are transformed “into the image of Christ.” We don’t change, we experience MANIFESTATIONS.

In the recent 2013 Shepherds’ Conference, MacArthur used John 3:3 to make a case that our good works are like “the wind blowing.” We feel its effects, we see its effects, but of course, we have no control over the wind. Like Luther, and according to authentic Reformed doctrine, MacArthur believes that these experiences of the wind are rebirths experienced by joy. That’s the Reformed definition of the new birth: a joyful experience of the wind accompanied by joy. This is why MacArthur made the absurd statement in the book “Slave” that obedience is never bittersweet, but always sweet. Right, apparently, Abraham was singing praises while on the way to drive a knife through his son.

This doctrine utterly dismisses any and all work, even by Christ, occurring inside the believer. “Faith” is in us, but according to Reformation doctrine, is not a work. Therefore, anything spoken of as being IN US, is actually, BY FAITH. Which is not a work. FAITH is therefore the conduit that makes ALL works taking place outside of us  possible. This is why the doctrine is referred to as “The Centrality of the Objective Gospel Outside of Us.” Anything inside of us is subjective,  or shadowy, because it involves the glory story.

Moreover, the work that we see outside of us is also subjective because it deals with wind-like occurrences. And because we are a “reflector” of the image, it will be difficult to know whether the occurrences are through our “own efforts” or the wind. This is why Luther stated in his Disputation that Christians should not be concerned with works or their manifestations. Even when it is the wind and not us, we “see through a glass dimly” and the wind is using a “dull instrument.” New Calvinists call this, “the subjective power of an objective gospel.” We focus on the objective through gospel contemplationism, and leave the manifestations to Christ. This is why John MacArthur has stated that it is his job to explain the biblical text, and then leave the results to the Spirit.

But even in regard to the Holy Spirit and God the Father, they are seen as members of the Trinity that better define Christ. To do otherwise would be to “eclipse the Son.” Remember, MacArthur said, “anything” or “ANYBODY.” It means just that, and is indicative of a large body of Reformed thought.

This undermines and denies the full counsel of God, the new birth, and the Trinity.

paul

NOTES

Forward to Uneclipsing  the Son by John MacArthur:

As Christians we have one message to declare: “Jesus Christ, and Him  crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2). “For we do not preach ourselves but  Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’ sake” (2 Corinthians 4:5; cf. 1 Corinthians 2:2; Galatians 6:14).

Rick Holland understands that truth. This book is an insightful, convicting reminder that no one and nothing other than Christ deserves to be the central theme of the tidings we as Christians proclaim—not only to one another and to the world, but also in the private meditations of our own hearts.

Christ is the perfect image of God (Hebrews 1); the theme of Scripture (Luke 24); the author of salvation (Hebrews 12:2); the one proper  object of saving faith (Romans 10:9-10); and the goal of our sanctification (Romans 8:2). No wonder Scripture describes the amazing growth-strategy of the early church in these terms: “They ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ” (Acts 5:42). That is the only blueprint for church ministry that has any sanction from Scripture.

The pastor who makes anything or anyone other than Christ the focus of his message is actually hindering the sanctification of the flock. Second Corinthians 3:18 describes in simple terms how God conforms us to the image of His Son: “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another” (emphasis added). We don’t “see” Christ literally and physically, of course (1 Peter 1:8). But His glory is on full display in the Word of God, and it is every minister’s duty to make that glory known above all other subjects.

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

After more than four decades of pastoral ministry, I am still constantly amazed at the power of Christ-centered preaching. It’s the reason I love preaching in the gospels. But I discovered long ago that the glory of Christ dominates Romans, Galatians, Colossians, Hebrews, Revelation—and the rest of Scripture as well. Focusing on that theme has led my own soul and our congregation to a fuller, richer knowledge of Christ—loving Him, worshipping Him, serving Him and yearning for the day when we shall be like Him, having seen Him in His glory (1 John 3:2).

Our prayer is that of Paul: “that I may know Him!” (Philippians 3:10). The apostle knew Him well as Savior and Lord (having been privileged to be the last person ever to see the resurrected Christ face to face, according to 1 Corinthians 15:8)—but never could Paul plumb the rich, sweet depths of the glories of Christ, the inexhaustible, infinite Treasure. Far from allowing Christ to be eclipsed—even partially—by any other object or affection, every believer should pursue with relentless zeal the “full knowledge of the glory of God” provided by a fervent concentration “on the face of Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6).

The Christian life is Christ—knowing Him in the height and breadth of His revelation, loving Him for the greatness of His grace, obeying Him for the blessing of His promises, worshipping Him for the majesty of His glory, and preaching Him for the honor of His Name: “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen” (2 Peter 3:18).

No greater subject exists than Jesus Christ—no greater gift can be given than uplifting His glory for another soul to see it and be changed by it. This book will be a wonderful help to anyone who senses the need to orient one’s life and message properly with a Christ-centered focus. It is full of fresh, practical, and memorable spiritual insight that will show you how to remove whatever obstacle is blocking your vision of the Son and allow His light to blind you with joy.

—John MacArthur

Pastor-Teacher, Grace Community Church, Sun Valley, California

April, 2011

John Piper: Don’t Waste Your Life (pp. 58-59).

The sunbeams of blessing in our lives are bright in and of themselves.  They also give light to the ground where we walk.  But there is a higher purpose for these blessings.  God means for us to do more than stand outside them and admire them for what they are.  Even more, he means for us to walk into them and see the sun from which they come.  If the beams are beautiful, the sun is even more beautiful. God’s aim is not that we merely admire his gifts, but, even more, his glory.

Now the point is that the glory of Christ, manifest especially in his death and resurrection, is the glory above and behind every blessing we enjoy.  He purchased everything that is good for us. His glory is where the quest of our affections must end.  Everything else is a pointer – a parable of this beauty.  When our hearts run back up along the beam of blessing to the source in the blazing glory of the cross, then the worldliness of the blessing is dead, and Christ crucified is everything.

This is no different than the goal of magnifying the glory of God that we saw in Chapter 2. Christ is the glory of God.  His blood-soaked cross is the blazing center of that glory.  By it he bought for us every blessing – temporal an eternal.  And we don’t deserve any.  He bought them all.  Because of Christ’s cross, the wrath of God is taken away.  Because of his cross all guilt is removed, and sins are forgiven, and perfect righteousness is imputed to us, and the love of God is poured out in our hearts by the Spirit, and we are being conformed to the image of Christ.

Therefore every enjoyment in this life and the next that is not idolatry is a tribute to the infinite value of the cross of Christ – the burning center of the glory of God.  And thus a cross-centered, cross-exalting, cross-saturated life is a God-glorifying life – the only God-glorifying life. All others are wasted.

Ground Zero for Understanding the Biblical Counseling Movement

Posted in Uncategorized by pptmoderator on February 2, 2015

CWW 4

Originally published September 18, 2013

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

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

 In the Beginning, Plato, and then Augustine.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Reformation’s Historical Cycle of Social Death and Resurgence

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ground Zero: The 1970 Resurgence

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

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

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

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

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

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

Show Me the Money

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

Meanwhile, NANC Happens

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

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

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

paul

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