Skip to content

Grace versus Holiness

October 6, 2011

On a Christian board, I ran across a couple of statements that I found somewhat alarming.

the main attribute of God is his Holiness, not his grace. He is concerned with HIS GLORY being made known. Grace is simply a bi-product of his Holiness. But then again I think 80% of people in churches are lost, and simply attempting behavior modification to make themselves feel better. (OOO i did not cuss this week…God is pleased)

Another responded:

I do think it is closer to 80% when you look at how the majority of claimed Christians live and the number that stands against any mention of keeping the commands after salvation or teach that people can be saved by accepting Jesus as Savior instead of Lord. Far too many today want a Savior, but not a Lord. They jump at the opportunity to be deceived with a false salvation if they are told that can live in the flesh and receive eternal life.
Repentance is a lost word in many churches or if it is preached at all it is watered down so much that it has become to mean to feel some sort of sorrow for making mistakes as it is called. No longer is it politically correct to demand repentance towards God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and what is being built is a false church. We are certainly in the falling away that is mentioned.
He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.

The problem stems from the fact that it seems like that modern church doesn’t know what to do with itself, as it attempts to redefine itself. The Church had been long known to be repressive and controlling, but around the ’60s, at the same time western culture was changing morally, and overthrowing the old society’s mix of moralism and hypocrisy, a segment of the Church also began changing and trying to modernize.

Those favoring the old ways began to react, of course, leading to “contemporary vs traditional” conflicts; the most well known being around music style, and “worship service” techniques such as making it more entertaining. Some churches go as far as stuff such as “moshing” or turning the whole service into some other form of entertainment performance.

So the contemporary “new evangelical” church has been getting badgered from all sides: from the old-line fundamentalists, for “compromise”; and from Reformed types as well, who are concerned they have slipped on classic doctrine, and of course, Calvinist theology.

A doctrine called “Lordship Salvation” is like a cross between both; only it goes as far as to declare up to 80% of professing Christians in the new-evangelical body (including even the fairly conservative Southern Baptist Church) are not really saved, because of the lack of  “fruits” in their lives. (Think all the “sin” and “scandal”; divorce, etc. we have heard Christians fall into).
The leading advocate of this doctrine is John MacArthur, and wellknown celebrity Kirk Cameron converted to this form of evangelicalism under a guy named Ray Comfort. Its most fervent preacher is another evangelist named Paul Washer.
They sort of hide their Calvinism, but eventually, it comes out.
So ultimately, if a person perseveres, it’s because they were “elected” to do so, and those who do not persevere are the “reprobates”, who could not repent or persevere, yet are “held responsible” for not doing so.

So with that in mind, if you’re going to say that 80% of Christians are not really saved (on top of the rest of the vast nonChristian world), then God really isn’t “electing” much of anybody!)
Very lethal mix; Calvinism and perfectionsm, I would say!

I believe one of the people quoted above is not a Calvinist, yet still, he is echoing the Lordship sentiment with the questioning of 80% of the Church. It does sound pretty good, at first, when one is concerned about the state of the modern Church.

If the contemporary Church has slipped so much in “holiness” and commitment, then it would seem that the antidote would be a focus on Law and works. This however, seems to go too far, into a total denial of grace, at times. If grace leads to laxity, then perhaps works were really better after all. Works being associated with “holiness”.


First of all, grace and holiness are not in some ranking order competing for “main attribute”. (Some Calvinistic types and  fundamentalists tend to do this, particularly in response to objectors to reprobation or Hell in general focusing on God’s “love”). Grace is needed precisely because of God’s holiness, and our inability to meet its standards. They are not at odds!

To split “grace” and “glory” like that and favor one over the other is by every means creating a different “gospel”. “Gospel” means “good news”. “God’s glory” is what we have fallen short of. That’s the bad news, not the good news. Grace, where He does not count our sins against us, is the Good News, and our only hope.

It’s so ironic that all of these people are said to be “lost” because they are just engaging in “behavior modification”, but in the same sentiment being expressed, their problem is not keeping commandments enough. i.e. they need more behavior modification, via “repentance”.

What you’re saying here is the same thing you are accusing them of. So they pride themselves for not “cussing”, and you simply avoid cussing, plus how many of these other commandments you say they are not keeping. Either way, it is works righteousness, and by the works of the Law shall NO flesh be justified.
You have the right idea, in a person not cussing does not justify them, when they have a whole bunch of other sins. But being a bit more obedient or “repentant” in other areas does not make you any better than them. It just makes you a slightly better behaved sinner.

If the church is being judged by the Law, then “Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.”(Gal 3:10)
It’s not a matter of they keep only one commandment while you try harder, and manage to keep nine. To break one is to break them all, and the legalists of Christ’s day thought they kept most of them pretty well. (e.g. “which one do I lack yet? I have kept all these since youth!”).

Hence, this is why GRACE is so important. There may be a lot of problems and confusion in the modern church, but to essentially revoke grace is not the answer. By trying to assess how many people are saved or not in the church is to really play God, and it distorts the Gospel when it becomes about works.

Ironically, Lordship doctrine is Calvinist, which is supposed to be the one which focuses on grace as opposed to our own efforts, yet this version of it (as preached by Comfort, Washer, etc) outdoes Pelagianism in its works-orientation. Nobody has lived up to the standard, to be declared righteous by their works.
Also, Calvin himself, in a similar vein to this doctrine, said that God gives “reprobates” a false faith, and then takes it away, so that they would “fall away” and be lost.
If that’s true, then this can happen to you. Nobody can know who will “persevere” in the end.

So this doctrine removes all good news, and tries to motivate people to works by fear. But trying to keep the Law out of fear is works-righteousness, and not faith.

People cite passages in James and 1 John: “Faith without works is dead”, and regarding “keeping the commandments”, and “not sinning” (often interpreted as “practicing sin”), and being “righteous”.
For one thing, the word “practice” is not in there. This was added, because people realized that nobody is without sin, so if you really take it that way, one would have to be literally perfect to be saved! Of course, the whole point of grace is that nobody could keep the Law perfectly.

But because it mentions being “born again”, people think this is the key to perfection afterward. All man needs is “the power” to be sinless.
But do you see anyone living sinlessly even then?

So we say, you can sin; just as long as you don’t practice it, and then we will add sin “willfully” from another scripture. What happens then, is it becomes about “trying” not to sin, and being remorseful, and then we look out at all of these Christians doing things we think are sinful, and it doesn’t look like they are trying, or are even remorseful, and thus, they are “practicing” sin, and can judge them as probably not saved.

But then, do we still never do things “willfully”, or do not try as hard as we can? Again, we end up just like the person who thinks because he didn’t curse, he’s doing fine; only we are going a little further than he is.

One argument we get is:

And lastly the commandments can be kept. We just refuse to do so. All sin is willfull. If you don’t believe that then I would ask you to name one sin in your life you have ever done that you had to do. Just one.

But it’s not about one single commandment. It’s about ALL. Keeping one at at a time means nothing, when it comes to judgment/justification. That’s the mistake the Israelites made. Like the rich young ruler asking “which one do I lack yet?” Christ then gives him something he never even thought of, and he walks away sorrowful (and apparently unrepentant of it).

So yes, if you EVER sin willfully, then 1 John could be used against you in that same way. What will end up happening, if consistent with that, is that you surmise that you must be going in and out of salvation in a daily basis. (There are some who seem to believe that. Notably the Catholic-leaning types, as well as sabbatarians and Campbellists).
“Sin” (hamartia) means “missing the mark“. The mark is the Law, of course (1 John 3:4). The flipside of this is “righteousness” (dikaiosynē), which is not something we can have in ourselves, but rather is “the condition acceptable to God; …the way in which man may attain a state approved of God”.

The person who trusts Christ, rather than in his own righteousness (with or without the Law) is therefore “reborn” (spirit, rather than his own fleshy nature, including his own efforts), and this will not miss the mark. Because Christ is the one who is always guaranteed to hit the mark!

  1. I find this on FB, not from the Biblical Debate group (where we often argue overt the Law), but rather through someone else who often posts “self-help” sort of stuff. The guy doesn’t seem much like a true conservative evangelical at all. He has a series of books on male-female relationships (one of which alludes to a vulgar term in the title), and prosperity. It seems to be a black counterpart to the “muscular [macho male] Christianity” I discussed regarding John Eldredge.
    But in any case, it sums up perfectly the assumptions of Law, Grace and the purpose of Christ’s death assumed by legalistic groups:

    American Christianity harps on God’s grace to the exclusion of the need to turn away from sin. We have a ‘God knows my heart’ gospel. Which effectively inoculates people from the whole truth that will set them free.
    I call it a feminine gospel because it’s mostly taught to and for women who’ve lived extremely messy lives. When you really get into God’s word deep enough, you’ll know that grace and mercy only benefit those who choose to turn away from their sins.

    For everyone else: they’re still under the curse of sin and in danger of God’s judgment.
    Of course you’ll slip up and sin anyway. God knows that. Which is what grace is for. But you shouldn’t be using grace as an excuse to keep on sinning.
    Grace is something like a AAA card; only to be used in emergency situations. You shouldn’t be using it all day everyday. That’s indicative of someone who hasn’t made a firm decision to live out their Christian faith in sincerity.

    Christ didn’t die to free folks from sin so they could continue living in it. That would make his death in vain. You can call that ‘religion’ or ‘legalism’ all you want. I call it biblical truth and basic Christian doctrine.

    This again totally misses the point of Christ’s death. It assumes Christ died solely to clean up man’s behavior. It totally ignores what the Fall is, and its effects. Here, it clearly advocates a “clean slate so that you can get it right this time” premise. It only benefits those who make the effort to try to keep the Law.
    Ignored is the fact that if this were the case, you wouldn’t have needed Christ’s death at all. Just keep sending more prophets reiterating the Law. Or keep adding more laws.

    He doesn’t even appeal to the “power” supposedly given after conversion, that would be the lynchpin to the “changed life” according to others!
    He criticizes “God knows my heart”, but then acknowledges “of course you’ll slip up and sin”, and that this is what “grace” is in fact for. But it’s all about the “trying” not to sin. But then where do we draw the line every time we sin, between a “slip up”, or the “willful” excused sin we could have avoided? This is precisely what would lead to a “God knows my heart” excuse! It’s promoted by the very teaching that eschews it!

    Grace is provided precisely because we do not obey as much as we hypothetically could (and the standard is actually perfection, not doing one’s best).

  2. With the Pope visit come and gone, we of course have people talking about how this is leading the the “end times one world religion” (especially now that he’s rather liberal in some areas).

    But in opposing the Pope or any other movement that focuses on “love” of leading toward the “end times apostasy”, they actually end up condemning “love” (I think of a Chick tract, where a nerdy looking young contemporary Christian is captioned as preaching a “love gospel” with “no repentance” to the “Hell’s Angel”-like character the story is about [“Bad Bob”, I believe], and who is totally unimpressed and scares the kid away, IIRC. Of course, the basis of “repentance” in that belief system is fear, which as the Bible says, is the opposite of “love”, so of course “love gospel” would be put down.)

    It’s hypothetically true that if Satan wants to sway “the world” to some final future showdown with God, he could use something that sounds nice to everyone, such as “love” (which is their whole premise). But what’s totally missed, is that in the Bible, the true role of Satan is an accuser, who opposes Christ’s work on the Cross, and the GRACE it brought, and he does this not by leading men to sinful “fun” or sentiments such as “love”, “peace”, etc. but by focusing on LAW. The total reverse of what mainstream “conservative” Christianity has preached.
    It’s through Law that man thinks he can get to Heaven on his own (this is what we see in the Bible from cover to cover: from Nimrod to the “Man of sin”; from Adam’s fig leaves to the “mark of the Beast” on the hand and forehead), and totally negates all Christ did and stood for; reducing it to some mere, shallow “help” in doing works that “prove”, if not procure salvation.

    Found this from searching something online:

    Jimmie Chapman, Contemporary Christianity p. 132
    “Not everyone who professes to be a Christian follows the paths or righteousness. Those Christians that do walk in the light and follow the paths of righteousness are wonderfully cleansed from their sin. Those who walk in the light and follow the paths of righteousness are undergoing a marvelous transformation, their souls are restored”. (Then quotes 1 John 1:5-9 and discusses remaining “connected to the vine” and “Abide in me”, and that if they don’t, they will be “cut off and cast into the fire and burned”. “This is a marvelous plan, and the beauty of it is that it really works”)

    p.104 “God knew that transformation was what the world needed and he gave his Son to make the change possible in man. Jesus called this being born again and said it was absolutely necessary if a man wants to see the Kingdom of God. Man’s greatest need is to get back to his created condition, and Christ has made it possible for us. Spiritual needs are the same in every age, and the remedy is the same in every age”.

    But what is failed to be realized is that “man’s created condition” was about knowledge, not simply behavior, and God’s revelation of man’s problem has changed, from giving the Law to show he couldn’t save himself, and then sending His Son to begin phasing out the system of Law (and what we call the “New Testament” was simply the transitional phase, so we see both Law and Grace). This was to end shortly, not be extended indefinitely, and in doing that, teachings like this have only rehashed the same old Law, under this premise of “the remedy” in “every age”. It does NOT work, for we end up with just as much sin and condemnation as under the Law (with a relative few forever “struggling” to stay on the “narrow path”, and then condemning each other as not on the narrow path, as we see here). We’ve only changed the sabbath and rituals.

    (I don’t know which denomination or movement Chapman is from. Could be Campbellist, though he seems to speak of “Christianity” as a whole in any denomination, and not “denominations” versus a single “true Church” organization [e.g. p22]. Maybe just a more radical “independent fundamental” type, though he seems to reject their mainstay of “eternal security”).

  3. Addressing some “traditional” arguments

    Much of the church seems to believe the purpose of life is human behavior reform, and thus the purpose of the Church is to oppose bad behavior and try to correct it in “the world”. “Grace” covers past sins, and then afterward, the purpose is keeping our lives clean (and most will say grace continues to cover sins afterward, but in practice, it still ends up being all about Law).

    Then, there’s the purpose of “doing good” for God (e.g. keeping your “heart”/“mind”/life clean).

    What really is “pleasing God”, and WHY is it “pleasing” (or not pleasing) to Him? The common answers will basically boil down the the Law, but as usual, not be seen in that term. Some of us say “love”, but then this still needs to de defined better. The common answer is “to preserve society”. But then this ends up extending to private actions between consenting people, with the Church accusing this of “destroying society”.

    A good guideline is simply what hurts other people, since they are the ones we affect. This is the sort of thing long criticized by conservative preaching as “relativism” or “the new morality”, but their attempts to add some direct “offense” of God that goes beyond man can only lead right back to the Law, and thus works-righteousness. It denies what divine grace is, and has Him as being more vulnerable and “thin skinned” than man.
    The evidence of this is Jesus’ citing of Hillel’s “Golden Rule” as “summing up the whole Law”.

    It should also be pointed out, that while this is accused of being “license” (which is an incorrect NIV term, and otherwise unbiblical), the Gospel’s “liberty” was such that it could easily be misconstrued and used against believers:

    Rom. 3:7 1Cor.8:9 Gal.2:14 5:13
    1Pet 2:16

    Again, most Christians believe this “liberty” was only from “Old Testament” commandments, or from a “bad attitude” toward the “discomfort” of the “hard walk”, but the Gospel is still all about rules and “order”. The true liberty is something to not be taken as an “occasion” for doing things that offend others’ sensibilities, but the point is, it is still freedom from the fear that hung over man, under the Law.

    People read of the rich young ruler, and how he “walks away sorrowful” for not wanting to “do” or “give up” something, and it seems to fit their idea that following Christ is all about “giving up” things, or “doing” difficult stuff.
    But they miss the point. He was already “doing”a lot more than most of us today!

    The ‘Gospel’ as salvation by man’s choice interpreted as supernatural ‘work’

    Of course, the focus on our efforts affects the whole question of life after this life in comparative religion. The “Christian” answer to this has been summed up as:

    “The soul will live forever in eternity, and the choices that we make here and now will determine our eternal destiny. If we choose to ignore God or reject God, or to ignore the separation [sin] problem, we will spend eternity separated from God, and that place is called hell. On the other hand, if we choose to solve the separation problem God’s way by receiving Jesus Christ into our lives, and allowing him to forgive our sins and bridge the gap, we will spend an eternity with God in heaven”.

    The ball has been placed squarely in man’s hand (despite all the limitations he faces, including the sin nature itself, and it’s not just “rejecting” God, but even “ignoring the sin problem”), and even God has to be “allowed” to “forgive our sins” and “bridge the gap”.

    Why does He do this, knowing most people are set to choose against Him (if from nothing more than circumstances, as an Arminian might say, if not our natures, as the Calvinists insist)?
    It seems only “right” to give us the “choice”, but really, no scriptural justification is given for this philosophy. The scriptures mentioning “choice” are just given, but as for a reason why, many will attempt to answer, but then the answers quickly deviate from any real scriptural support; it’s just a sort of “commonsense” thing.

    This is where Calvinism had a very strong point that was hard to answer. Of course, in their view, it becomes simple by saying that it’s really God who chooses who will be saved or not. Of course, the apparent “offer” He makes, then becomes just a charade, and the whole plan of salvation and evangelism a big “script”, being played out by people already predetermined to their “choice” which is not really theirs, but God’s.
    Not only does this eliminate any real “good news”, as most people are apparently determined to be lost, but then it really is not solving the problem of whether salvation is by God alone (monergistic) or with man’s cooperation (synergy). It’s still man’s cooperation, in the same synergistic transaction where he must give God something first, in order to get something (the salvation) back from Him. Only it has Him infusing or imparting the choice to the elect (Calvinism is supposed to be about imputing, but in practice, it’s really more of the other two justification options, held by the Catholics and Methodists, respectively. This is how the three views have to basically accept each other as “within the pale” of “historic orthodoxy”, even though some of their rhetoric implies the other views are “false gospels”, where anything outside of the common thread of “duty faith” is outright condemned as “beyond the pale”).

    Like I ran across one Catholic on FB saying:
    “If we read the Scriptures correctly, it actually becomes a form of prayer as the Word reverberates in our souls, and the roots dig deeper. Catholic priests and religious are required to pray from the psalms every single day, and yet they will never exhaust their depth and loftiness.”

    This probably refers to their concept of infusion (as through the sacraments), but conservative Protestant teaching is nearly identical.
    What does this “reverberation” really mean? It seems to be something just thrown out there as an “answer”, and it’s made to sound so “simple” or “easy”, so that there’s “no excuse” for the unconverted. In practice, it seems to be a mechanical process of effort and conditioning that anyone can do. Like if you read a scripture against lust, it will be harder to engage in lustful thoughts (at least, in the moment). So I guess, it’s if you so immerse yourself in such scriptures, then you’ll hypothetically always be conscientiously pushed away from lust and of course, actual sexual sin. The same with anger and any other problem. But the problem is, this is portrayed as a supernatural work of God that non-Christians are incapable of. Not only is it a general affect of conditioning, but even for believers, it doesn’t always work, as they may simply be repressing the sin, which can then erupt later on and all the more uncontrollable). This explains how big time preachers (and charismatic ones at that, who were always talking about the “power of the Holy Spirit”) could “fall” themselves.

    Where it’s been assumed that Satan is all about “fun”, which is at odds with “order”, which God represents; in actuality, from Babel, to Sodom, to Armageddon, Satan is about power, particularly man’s power in opposition to God. And this is done through what man calls “order”; basically controlling others.
    So he actually wields God’s holy Law (made to show man’s limitation), and then tries to convince man he’s not limited, and can do it, if he tries hard enough. So then, he even goes as far as to turn “God’s power” into some force we can “tap into” and basically manipulate (like a genie, basically, all at our “will”), in order to achieve the requirements of the Law.
    And as always, this also always ends up becoming the vehicle to compare, judge and then quarrel with others over who is doing more, or enough works. (Disunity in the professing religious world, and against “outsiders”).

    As for people having “no excuse”, because God supposedly made everything so “clear” through the following internal and external means of “communication:

    “General revelation” has too much conflicting external “evidence”
    “Conscience” has too many conflicting internal “voices”
    And there are too many loud, tough talking voices interpreting and manipulating both.

    Our real hope os “Grace”; that it’s no longer about or efforts or choices.

    The God of Pain

    Looking at the standard doctrines from another angle, when God is roasting people in the fires of Hell; why? What does He “get” out of it?
    They basically come up with this whole philosophy about “His holiness” requiring all this pain and suffering, somehow. Some preaching and tracts even put Christ’s suffering on the Cross as requiring it. He did “All this for thee”, so now you especially “OWE” Him (on top of your sins, or some even believe the sins were actually paid for, like the Fulfilled view teaches, so it’s just the act of not “giving your life” back to Him that requires such a harsh measure), so you BETTER give Him what He’s due!

    The scriptures mention “justice”, but does not go into a whole exposition of “pain”. They mention “destruction”, but then this final destruction has to be reinterpreted as a kind of life [conscious existence], but basically in an infinitude of pain.
    So they have to fill it in with a lot of supposition, and when mentioning His “Holiness”, you clam up; you can’t argue against that. It brings this natural fear. Yeah, He CAN’T possibly let anyone get away with “offending His Holiness“. So the question might generally be dropped. But what really does that even mean?

    Sin is defined in scripture as “transgression of the Law“. So then Paul points out how the Law is what brings death, and thus what we need to be freed from. But now, they changed it to “transgression of His holiness“. Of course, they can argue that His holiness is shown through the Law, but they don’t want to acknowledge the Law as the barrier for us, as Paul does, because the goal is to get us to turn to the Law (albeit with “God’s help” this time). So basically, this “holiness” is something that transcends the Law as defining sin, and why the Law must be maintained (despite what Paul says, and even what they themselves say, when groups preaching more of the Law than they do, confront them).

    Of course, to the Calvinists, it’s about His “glory”, which is the entire purpose of creating these “vessels of wrath” made only to be sent to Hell (according to their reading of Romans 9) in the first place. That’s another term, just like “His Holiness”, that supposedly trumps everything else, yet just stands on its own without any scriptural support as to what it really means, as they’re using it. How then is He glorified in pain? Many respected preachers even taught the purpose was to give the redeemed something to be thankful and “praise Him” for. (What He “saved” them from, unconditionally). So both God and the elect will be in some way gratified by the suffering of all the billions in Hell. There is no thought as to how this squares away with love, and even the scriptures they often give to the suffering on how everything bad in this world will be forgotten about in Heaven. Like when the disciples asked Jesus to rain fire down on an unresponsive city, and Jesus didn’t say “oh, don’t worry, I’ll get them after this life”; He told them they didn’t know “of what spirit they were”, for He came “not to destroy men’s lives but to save them”.
    Instead, all the stuff about “love” goes right out the window, because “holiness” and “glory” are competing divine attributes that override love.

    But notice, no actual scripture has been given on why physical pain. (In this hybrid “soul-body” that first goes straight to the fire without a body, and then, in general teaching, the physical body is at some point resurrected and put back together with it, to stand at the Great White Throne, only for the whole material-soul consist to be thrown back into the fire, which is then itself thrown into another fire, and the new body, never burning up —only “made to only feel pain forever”. Is it really me, or is something being missed here, with all this redundancy and things not adding up?

    Of course, the old-time Church handled this by silencing the questioner in one way or another. The modern Church doesn’t want to be that “hard”, but instead comes up with a lot of meaningless and unsupported lingo, that ultimately “silences” us by appealing to our fears in a more roundabout fashion.
    And the question actually extends even to temporal suffering, when they again claim God “uses” it to make people grow, (to “get our attention”, they often put it, or bring them to Him, etc).

    Similarly, when someone explains the real meanings of “Sheol”, “Hades” and “Gehenna”, they maintain their position, partially acknowledging the truth, saying something like “God ‘used’ those terms to illustrate the final place of the wicked”. Once again, no scriptural evidence of the interpretation of scripture. It just stands on its own as the “orthodox” presupposition. The only shot at a proof will be the Lazarus and the Rich Man story, but pointing out its symbolic nature will only bring on the scorn of “allegorical readings of scripture” (despite the contextual evidence of it being told in the midst of a bunch of parables).

    Basically, the concept (like many others) is based on all of these [rather weak on their own] evidences put together. When you refute one of them, it is presumed to stand on all of the others.

  4. This article criticizing Horton’s Beyond Culture Wars over Christians trying to legislate morality, even says

    The law and the Gospel go hand in hand and without the law there can be no conviction or revelation of sin. If society approves, institutionalizes, and endorses sin it makes the job of preaching the gospel even harder because no there is no public shame for sins otherwise universally seen as sinful! By observing the secularization of the European countries we can see the results of secularization and a rejection of moral law.

    The assumption is that this “public shame” is what leads to [true] repentance. Basically, the supposed verification of preachers such as Spurgeon and Edwards who used fear, which then seemed to lead to “revival”. What’s never asked, is that if this was really a valid means of spreading the Gospel, why was there always an even worse backlash generations later? Of course, the advocates of these methods will just blame the forces of godlessness and “secularization” anyway. Or “preachers who [just out of nowhere] began softening preaching on sin and Hell”.

    The irony is that this writer (as a “Reformed Anglican”) is a fellow Augustinian/Calvinist (like Horton), who believes that God has preordained who gets saved or not all along. So all he’s arguing with Horton over is what amounts to a huge script or charade. Horton is at least consistent in that since God determines individual salvation, it does no good to badger the sinners (while driving them away and marring the image of Christ with our often hostile behavior). The writer goes on to cite 1 Tim.1:8-11 on who the “Law” is good for, not recognizing that this passage is positional; and all of those sins listed are what all of us are, if not covered by Christ’s righteousness (not about necessarily literal behavior, as the Sermon on the Mount shows), and this aimed at those who were “desiring to be teachers of the Law (v. 7); NOT those desiring to do away with the Law!

    He accuses Horton of “liberalism” (and a “liberal political agenda”),* and even “Anabaptist” position of “surrendering to ungodly culture”. Horton was not really saying Christians should never be involved in politics, but his whole point, which is precisely what is missed here, is the failure of Christians (including “conservative” ones) to necessarily reflect God’s will in their politics. So Horton is cautioning them on a misguided zeal (i.e.“emulation”, Gal.5:20) that ignores one’s own sins and slanting of the message to a purely cultural ‘gospel’.
    In the article precursor to the book, which writer is answering ( mentioned “minorities” in addition to homosexuals and abortionists as those given no reason to listen to us. The church focused on those last two, but totally ignored the first, if not justifying oppression with the same Augustinian/Calvinist “providentialism” and “sovereignty” used in other issues. So as Horton pointed out, people ended up as proven bigots even when morality was not the issue.

    But no matter. The person denies advocating reconstructionism and (after a commenter cites Rushdoony to the affirmative, showing they are ultimately pretty much on the same page!) he condemns Rushdoony as a “heretic” (for confusing “the civil law with the moral law”, denying “general equity” which is the doctrine that God’s Law shapes “natural” morality, and “consequently promoted works righteousness through his neonomian legalism”). But from what I’m seeing, his view of the Christian’s approach to “culture” is basically the same, and he even owns the same “presuppositionalism” (one of the pillars of Reconstructionism) via a guy named Gordon H. Clark.

    Aside from this, following the rest of the Reformed tradition, the confessions are cited more than scripture, which is filtered through them. These mind you, are the folk upholding “Sola Scriptura” against Catholicism, which uses, what else, but Creeds and Confessions of their own (and some of the same ones from the earlier Church history). “Cults” are condemned for “using the Bible AND…” some other writing (whether the Book of Mormon, Watchtower material, Mary Baker Eddy’s, Ellen G. White’s writings, etc.), but these “high Protestant” groups are doing the same thing, condemning anyone who rejects them as having their own “private interpretation”.

    So the overall message I’m seeing here is that the old church was just right about everything.
    I would say he’s right that Horton has deviated from the full “Reformed” mindset, but then all that really was, was the same Dark Ages Catholic institutional (including state power) controlling, oppressive system, only re-infused with Augustinian electionism, on top of still maintaining the [in practice] Pelagian works-focused perfectionism the Roman church fell back into.

    (I see that this writer elsewhere denies perfectionism and that “the Gospel is about ‘transformation’ or ‘change'” (e.g.), which is “confuses sanctification with justification”, but the catch is using sanctification to determine justification, which is done by most, at least in practice. e.g. “Is sanctification optional? No. But neither is sanctification the foundation or basis for our justification or our salvation!” The argument is that it’s not the “foundation”; however, it is still required! In practice, there is no real difference, especially when it’s a process that God is selectively doing on certain people anyway.

    “Sanctification simply makes our witness before men credible. Our profession of faith is credible before men and the church because we are progressively being sanctified.” I would say, that is another reason why there still seems to be “Law” preached in the New Testament. Clearly, the focus was on their “witness” to those in the system of Law, which was judging and persecuting the Church. That, as I’ve been saying, is why Jesus would tell the woman “go and sin no more, lest a worse thing happen to you”, and Paul would have someone “delivered to Satan” to be punished for blasphemy, and in one case, go as far as to have someone circumsized to placate the institution, and discuss how the “liberty” he was teaching his readers would be misconstrued by this system, and that the believers should therefore not flaunt it. Once that system was gone, all of that would be over.
    But most people do not believe this; they believe God was the one judging with the Law in those cases, and that this extends to our time and beyond, so we have to “grow” in “sanctification” if we’re truly “justfied”, and “persevere” in this, to “the end”; either death, or a Second Coming, if they believe in that. Perseverance is in theory monergistic ⦅all God’s work⦆, but in practice, synergistic ⦅the “daily choices to ‘die to the old man’, as agreed on by everyone else⦆.

    Overall, this writer, actually defending Horton from others on some of these other blogs, is rather hard on other groups, such as appearing to scoff at the notion of Arminians going to Heaven! ⦅Since the Canons he cites say they are heretical⦆. You’re still denying justification, based on a belief, rather than behavior, but it’s still ultimtely the same thing. A wrong belief about God is just as much a violation of the Law as bad behavior).

    So it’s all Law, and God chooses to empower certain souls to believe and then keep the Law (the modified “traditional Christian” version, that is, and that’s what “general equity” is about). He otherwise is operating perpetually on Law and condemnation, hating not only homosexuality and homosexuals (and all other sins and sinners), but also even the elect, before they convert! (But then isn’t one of their main proof-texts for predestination that God “loved them from the foundation of the earth”?)
    There is clearly no real “good news”. (And recall, Calvin taught God goes as far as to make some people think they are elect, when they aren’t, and it makes no difference then how many “works” they do [the supposed “evidence” of election], if they don’t “persevere”).

    And he repeats the common error of both the Law and Gospel being “offensive” to “the lost sinner”, and being upheld by God side by side, perpetually. (And people like this are often a-millennial if not preterist, rather than futurist, so this paradigm is “it”, forever!) Based on this, the “sinners” can be trampled on as if they weren’t human. Regarding homosexuals, “They are wicked and unsaved. So what if the moral law offends them? Is it right to give in to sin just because sinners protest?” The same could be, and once was, said about the African or native American “barbarians”, regarding taking their land and freedom, to establish their new Christian “kingdom”. Only for centuries later, for the Church to have to admit it was wrong.
    He ignores where Horton cites Paul in saying “what business is it of mine to judge outsiders?” (1 Cor.5:12). Nobody is saying “give in to sin”, or to not have any kind of laws, like against murder and theft. An issue like homosexuality is ultimately the people’s own personal business, and why are you even “in their bed” (i.e. involved in what they’re doing) to begin with? So even in this “general equity” concept, it cannot be seen as a publically “moral” law, and would be in the same category as the other neighboring laws in Leviticus which they claim were abolished at the Cross. (Where Israel was a more closed community, so people were more in others’ business).

    Of course, one of the criteria often used in determining what carries over to post-Cross, is what was “repeated” in the New Testament. (I even had to fall back on this, in debating the sabbatarians as a futurist, and even appealed to “the seven Noahide laws” and Acts 15, which was basically my version of “general equity”). But even the parts of the “Law” repeated there were part of an overlap of covenants, where the Law that was “passing away” still had some power. Conversion was turning to Christ to receive the covering. Yet they had to persevere in good works to “the end” (in their lifetimes); else, to extend this “overlap” the the present (rather than ending SHORTLY), you end up with these endless “perseverance” (“once saved always saved”), “predestination vs prevenient grace [i.e. ‘foreseeing’ of free will]”, and “faith vs works” disputes, which (as is apparent) cannot be resolved with the different scriptures, under the commonly accepted theological lenses.

    So the Law is offensive (for good reason, as Paul explains), but the Gospel was only offensive to those holding onto the Law. (Who were “lost sinners”, but not quite the ones teachers like this are thinking of!) And that’s because it shows shows how far they actually fall short of the Law, in contrast to their own self-appraisal (think, rich young ruler). So when this guy says “…the law, without which there can be no Gospel!” and “Without the law there is no understanding of sin”, and that they go “hand in hand”, that’s true, but it’s not about what they seem to be advocating, of taking the law to control or terrorize people into obedience, and then the only good news is —IF they’re “elect”— they will be saved, and at that, only if they prove it by persevering in good works and/or right belief.
    The Law is the “bad news” (don’t think so; read all of Paul) that sets the need and purpose of the Gospel, as the “good news”. This teaching here does precisely what Horton says, in confounding Law and grace (and which he claims to agree with Horton for addressing in the Church). He’s not separating between bad news and good news; it’s all one big thing, that stands together in “offending” everyone —but the legalists, that is! (Who only battle amongst each other over who’s really keeping it right or thoroughly enough).

    One of Horton’s best points was that the reason for this, was that in order to come down so hard on others with the Law, they had to think they were keeping it enough themselves. (And the prime example he uses is the rich young ruler). And in order to do that, they had to scale it down from what it REALLY, fully requires. Even if they appear to be increasing its requirements (as the rabbis of Christ’s time had done), it really is scaled down in some way, to conform to their “cultural” customs or sensibilities.
    Hence, focusing only on certain sins (like sexual ones, which Horton even mentions are the only ones some seem to be concerned with). And then these also happen, ever so conveniently, to be the ones God passes [temporal] “judgments” (of both individuals and “nations”) over. So as he says [to paraphrase a bit], people end up confident that they “don’t smoke, drink or [scr]ew, or go out with girls who do” and “muse at how God does not hand out curses for gossiping and greed”. It also perpetuates the “us vs them” mentality he describes, which has plagued both religious and political conservativism.

    The twisted “God is sovereign, man is responsible” ideology then leads to “God hates them, and imprecates them through the Law they can’t keep, and so should we”. (In addition to taking over and dominating them, if possible. Even innocent children who get AIDS are suffering this “judgment” of the world’s sin. He criticizes Horton as too soft on abortion, but you wonder why that’s even wrong, then; or any other form of murder for that reason? ⦅It certainly wasn’t deemed wrong when brutalizing conquered peoples, using essentially this same theology!⦆
    In passing, Horton’s brand of Calvinism, if I understood it correctly, apparently doesn’t really hold man “responsible”, since he is just a helpless “vessel” of the “Potter”. But these other variations, including the Baptistic ones such as the “Lordship” movement, do put man into that double-bind, thinking it somehow “glorifies” God, and not recognizing that it eliminates any semblance of “good news”. They probably also hold the view that the redeemed will enjoy the suffering of the wicked in Hell).

    Overall, man is left in the exact same dilemma, nearly all lost under the Law, as before Christ. What has the Cross really accomplished? (Other than switching from “Jewish” rituals and sabbaths to these new “Christian” ones, which is how they understand “the Law” being “nailed to the Cross”).
    But when you look at Jesus in the Gospels, you just do not see this default hatred toward people, especially the “outsiders” to the faith (the so-called “sinners”). When the disciples demanded instant [temporal] judgment to be rained down on an unrepentant city, He scolded them, saying they did not know of what spirit they [the disciples] were of, and this, not simply because “it wasn’t time yet”, or “He had to rescue the ‘elect’ out of there first”, but rather for He did not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save. The Augustinian/Calvinist doctrine teaches that He did come to destroy, for that is what best “glorifies” God, and only a [relative] few “redeemed” are needed to be saved out of that, to witness this.

    On the other hand, the only people Jesus displayed such wrath towards were the religious institution, which was established by God, but had become corrupt, not recognizing their own sinfulness and learning the lesson the Law was designed to teach them, but instead, foolishly imagining they could improve upon the Law and then master it (and thus win God’s favor and “save” the nation and usher in the Kingdom of God), and then go on to oppress others with this. THIS was the bigger offense toward God, than the petty “sins” they tried to punish others over. This is what totally negated everything Christ came to fulfill, and led them to reject Him and have Him crucified.
    But the conservative Christian world (whether Calvinist or Arminian) has turned this on its ear, by directing all this anger toward the outsiders, and even sometimes the people sitting in the Church, or other, less zealous churches, while presuming God must be smiling down on the leadership thundering Law and judgment at the world (so long as they do their little nod regarding themselves being “lowly worms”, and most today don’t even do that, anymore!)

    He says Horton “seems to ignore the doctrine of total depravity”, but then people thinking that any group of men have the right to “presuppose” their beliefs as “just true”, (and then demand that the entire world just submit to them) denies total depravity by taking themselves out of the equation. Why should I believe them over a non-believer who insists he’s “good” enough to go to Heaven without Christ? Or a pagan emperor or totalitarian dictator or cult leader who says he’s a god, and should be worshipped? Or someone on the street saying he can sell me the Brooklyn Bridge? (And especially since their doctrine includes the clause that they could be not elect after all. In such case, they were wrong the whole time!)
    It all ties into the whole “life change” concept, which leads Christians to deny their sin (after filtering what they consider sin to begin with), which then leads to presuppositionalism (in practice, they cannot be wrong, even though they’re flesh and blood MEN like everyone else, since they are unconditionally “elect” and “regenerated”, and do not have to prove their positions, even with the Bible, since that would call into question that their interpretations of it are correct to begin with, and the confessions and their assumptions of scripture hold the final say anyway). They then demonize others, and vie to take over culture and legislate this skewed morality, under the premise of “restraining the wicked” and voilà, you have a system of oppression like those in colonial America or South Africa under Apartheid.

    Any “Christian kingdom” based on something like this will just be a repeat of the corrupt Israel and Temple system of Christ’s time, or ultimately, Nimrod’s kingdom (and will be full of oppression and hypocrisy, all “baptized” with various proof texts removed from their contexts). The people Jesus tangled with, such as those who wanted to stone the woman (but not the man she had to have been committing adultery with), and those adding all the sabbath restrictions, were right, then. For they were only trying to “save” the nation, and bring it back under God’s favor.

    In the Calvinist literature, you essentially hear more about “God” than Jesus, and of course, with the Trinity doctrine their founder burned someone at the stake over, Christ is supposed to be God. Still, to reflect back on the discussions with them, they spend very little time looking at the character of Jesus as revealed in His time on earth, but instead spend a lot of time dwelling on “God”, and His “decrees”, “glory”, “holiness”, “justice”, “unsearchable counsel” and how these things are as important or maybe even moreso, than “love” and “grace”. All of these things that (as they always admit as a last resort) are “above our comprehension”. Yet part of the whole point of Jesus’ descent to earth was to reveal the character of this “God” everyone talked about, but didn’t really know. One of the big proofs of His deity (the common divine essence) was the statement “He who has seen me has seen the Father“. There is no need to look at that, and continue to say “OK, that’s Jesus, He said that then, but ‘God’, over here, is really more like this [like, in his pure form], and it’s above our comprehension anyway, so just believe what we say”.

    What you saw when Jesus walked the earth (and recorded in the gospels), is the fullness of the divine revelation. If it looks different than that perpetually “angry God” in the Old Testament, or even His reprisal in Revelation and other New Testament prophetic passages, then apparently, God was working out different parts of a Plan, with different people. Man fell into trouble, and God held them up to their attempts at justifying themselves, but at the appointed time, switched to grace. (And again, the only ones that “wrath” afterward was reserved for, were those rejecting Him and persecuting His followers, ⦅ever so ironically in the name of the Law⦆ then, and this would end shortly. This rather than the opposite (common assumption), that Jesus only represented God trying to be “patient” with man for a bit, but soon, God would revert to His “real” nature, of perpetual wrath).

    At this point, people may try to bring up “God changes not” (Mal. 3:6, Heb.13:8). But neither passage is saying anything about which laws He commands (sabbatarians use this a lot to say sabbaths are still mandatory), or that He will always judge based on the Law. Most Christians believe in either a future Kingdom, or at least a Heaven, where God will no longer be sending lost sinners to Hell. Where the Fulfilled view teaches an “overlap” of covenants from AD33-70, the “commonly accepted message” simply extends this to the present. And still, if God once only maintained a “general equity”, and then added the entire Law to Israel, and now has gone back to general equity, then things did “change”. What obviously “changes not” is His character. Hence, the penalty God’s justice and holiness demanded being paid, and man set free.

    *Rather than being liberal, Horton seems more conservative in some ways, like taking care to affirm that capitalism is “better”, even when pointing out it cut from the same cloth as communism; and speaking of a “PC gestapo” defining racism, rather than “what everyone should regard as racism” being a poll asking whether they would mind having a black family live next door. While I don’t know what exactly Horton was referencing with that; “PC gestapo” is often a right wing deflection, to any belief they hold dear being accused of racism. Among many conservatives, having a black neighbor is a sort of “tokenism”, like “having black friends”, that diverts from the deeper heart of the issue. You might not mind a black friend or neighbor, as this is apparently a “good one”, yet still despise the rest of the “community” as they call stereotypical groups of members of the race, and blame them as a whole for the ills of society (and hence, the “good ones” being the exceptions to a bad race), and favor those who aren’t your friends being oppressed by the police and other parts of the system. Things like this being called out as racism are what has led to the protest against a “PC gestapo”. My belief is that Horton was not aware of the extent of racist sentiment beyond those who would openly reject black neighbors.

  5. Here’s an interesting article from last summer:

    One person comments:

    What bothers me a bit is that you quote the Apostle Paul extensively in proclaiming grace as the very core of the Good News, which is absolutely correct. But what about our response to that grace? Paul addresses that, too. According to your column, there needs be no response, just bask in the sun of life, don’t concern yourself with sin, and soak up the grace. It may not be your intent, but your article reminds me of a bumper sticker I saw: “Jesus paid for our sins…Let’s get our money’s worth”. How about Romans 6:1? If there is no accountability, no attempt to live a better life because of what Christ has done for us, then we have turned freedom from the law into license. I agree that the grace of God is so radical that we often find it offensive and we can never be righteous enough to earn our salvation. Still, Universalism is not bibical, not even New Testament biblical. Although I wish it were.

    (and then another person adds:

    There are some friends who seem to balk at all calls for repentance though (1) that was the core of John’s (the immerser) and Jesus’ message out of the gates of his early ministry and (2) this is what a grateful, grace-filled life results in (“Should we continue in sin so that grace may abound?” To which Paul responds “no way.”) and without which one cannot claim to have been touched by grace.

    Salvation from sin is by grace alone; without salvation from sin, there has been no grace bestowed.

    “Continuining in sin” there, means continuing under the Law, (according to the whole context) which is what judged sin, in the first place. Being “dead to sin” doesn’t mean cleaning up your behavior (which becomes stretched into this ongoing “growth process” in practice, that’s supposed to be an instant supernatural work; in common teaching). It means to not trust in your works as proving you’re justified, for all that will do, is lead right back to condemnation (hence, the endless “process”). Then, love will be your motivation to do good, not just doing what’s required, (to escape judgment).
    “License” is an NIV term, and not really a biblical concept. Others “turned grace into lasciviousness”, but these were likely those preaching the Law, who accused the Gospel’s liberty of being exactly what people accuse this of today.

    (Another takes the “Most of the really angry persons I know are not the evangelicals but the progressives” route [and adding politics into it] I have once addressed, and someone responds, because of conservatives trying to control what they believe).

    On FB, there was simultaneously a discussion stemming from a question on “What is exactly is the ‘sinful nature’?”

    Sin is defined as transgression of the Law. The Law was given as a result of man’s taking on the knowledge of good and evil. And man’s behavior, by nature (i.e. just following instincts which are to survive and reproduce, without regard for anything or anyone else, without any kind of moderation) falls short of this Law. (So nature itself is not bad, as Augustine and much of the church after him concluded, but it’s how we participate in it; without integrity, which is an ethic of care and justice).
    So in that sense, we have a “sinful nature”. As far as using this as a justification for religious fear tactics, the punishment for this (death) was handled at the Cross.

    When the discussion turns into whether we can stop sinning, while all would acknowledge we can never be perfect, one person goes into the old “indwelling” concept, and said the problem of not receiving “Christ’s life” to help us, is because of “self-focus”, and then alludes to concepts such as “growing”, and “not being there yet”, and “the POWER of Christ’s WORDS”, compared to a motivational speaker giving words of encouragement, and only a handful of people in the group will benefit, based on the FAITH of those few, who will act upon those motivational words. So, “In like manner, Christ’s power is manifested through his words, when we believe them and act upon them it gives us spiritual life (see John 6:63). The apostle Paul said he knows what is good, but how to perform it is where he has problem.”

    But making it all about our own struggle of “getting there” or “growing” is what keeps it “self-focused” ! It’s all about Christ and His righteousness imputed to us. What’s being described here is called “impartation”, and is basically a Wesleyan “Higher Life” concept, and as such, is semi-Pelagian (man, in his fallen state, has to pull himself out of it by his “choices”, and Christ only gives us some “help” in making it “possible”, through this imparted “power”, that still leaves it as a whole “process” of daily struggle).

    In John 6, He was clarifying that his words were spiritual, where people were taking them literally, and then getting totally shocked. (And of course, Catholics insist it is “literal”, leading to their transubstantiation doctrine, which they call a “mystery” of how a wafer and wine is “literally” flesh and blood, and then Calvinists believe the whole passage is referring to “No man can come to me, unless drawn”, which they use to support their doctrine of unconditional election, which to them is the “offense”-stirring “mystery”).

    So the real “mystery” is how we are in Christ and have His righteousness, apart from our performance or “acting on” anything (It’s about “BEing”, not “DOing”). And this is basically the point a lot of people stumble on.

    The person then quotes several Psalms saying the Law or “statutes” quicken us. That’s the opposite of what Paul says, and don’t forget, Psalms is Old Testament (still “under the Law”). It doesn’t address man’s inability to keep the Law (though this is sure seen in the prophets’ excoriation of the nation).
    Christ’s work is not simply taking that same Law, eliminating only certain details (sabbaths, rituals, etc), and then giving us more “motivation” to keep the rest (but it’s still an ongoing “struggle”). “Motivation” may have been the “quickening” David experienced, but Christ goes beyond that, for that still ends up as about “doing”, even if one makes “being” and “doing” one in the same (as the person implied, in sort of agreeing what what I said about “being”).

    The person then says the NT is just a “manifestation and fulfillment of the OT”. Fulfillment, yes, but I would say it’s better to think only of the OT in light of the NT, and not the other way around. (That is, in terms of the Gospel. When it comes to the definitions of certain concepts, especially prophecy, then the NT should be understood in light of the Old, but is often similarly reversed). The OT was a SHADOW of the NT. Precisely the problem, is people making what they call the NT or “the Gospel” just a rehash or even extension of the OT; simply modified by reducing the number and type of rules. But it still ends up all about “Law”, and “doing”, “struggling to grow”, etc. and the end result, condemnation (and dissension, as everyone becomes a “prophet” trying to preach everyone else into repentance, often one-upping others [“emulation”] and thus differing in what they think is a sin or “compromise” that needs to be “reproved”).

    Scripture elsewhere speaks of metaphors like “new wine in old wineskins”, and the Galatians “falling from grace”, where mixing the two destroys the whole thing.

    Someone had commented somewhere else:

    Sin nature is just a manifestation of the heart. The act is not the actual sin or the first sin. The first sin or root of the sin is starts within the heart. People sin when they have hardened their hearts and refuse to cast down the negative thought. Satan understood this in the garden of Eden. He understood that a person with a contrary heart will be less likely to cast down a contrary thought. The contrary thought is that thought that is only appeasing to the flesh and not the spirit. The contrary thought clearly does not line up with the thought or Word of God. The thought of God brings life. Creation was rooted in the thought of God. He told us in his Word that He knew us before He formed us in the womb. Our existence comes from the thought of God. Going back to the Garden of Eden, we see how Eve and Adam fell to sin. They didn’t cast down the negative thought, they fell to sin, and now them and their seed were able to speak and produce death as well as life.

    Which I saw as the opportunity to address this whole “heart” comment, which I hear a lot, being in a somewhat charismatic environment. It also seems to be held up as indirectly supporting condemnation, because God cannot just forgive anyone with such a bad, Fall-causing heart; it must be cleaned out first (by the person’s own “will” or “choices”).

    This seems to make the “heart” the origin of the NATURE. In the Garden, it was not the heart that was wrong, it started with the act of taking on the knowledge of good and evil. THEN, they “fell”, and took on a sin-“nature”, and the heart became darkened, from this.
    As for the appeal to 2 Cor. 10; that is a time when the fall has long occurred and taken hold, and the Plan of Salvation is progressing through the Church. And with the opposition they were facing (mainly from advocates of the Law, who rejected Christ, and were in the actual “stronghold”, in their position in the Law system), that is why they had to “cast down arguments”.
    Too many people (particularly in charismatic-influenced churches, and this has spread to much of popular evangelicalism) take passages like this (and the whole concept of “the heart” in general) and turn it into this “Christianeze” spirituality or “spiritual warfare” lingo, tossing around the terms often way out of context.

  6. 1 John 3:6-10

    Here’s a gross example of a new translation (NLT) completely confusing the message of the Gospel. It makes it look like we really are saved by our behavior! Then, John Bevere, who posted this on Facebook, notes “How do we determine if someone belongs to Jesus? It’s so clear! No commentary needed.”

    “Practice righteousness” becomes “do what is right”, with “it shows” thrown in there. “Sins” [v] becomes keeps on sinning” and “make a practice of sinning”.
    It’s not a matter of a commentary, it’s a mater of translators just changing it to common interpretations of what these terms mean. But here it is laid out all “clearly”.

    But that’s not all. From there, “Part 2”
    1 John 3:10-13
    “John shows the way to recognize someone who truly belongs to Jesus and someone who doesn’t. It’s not by what he or she says, rather it is by what he or she does. John makes it so clear, the person who makes a practice of sinning is of the world and doesn’t belong to God. It doesn’t matter how often they attend church or conferences, sing worship songs, and confess belonging to Jesus. They don’t belong to Him because if they did they wouldn’t habitually sin. ”

    Totally forgotten, in relying on a translation like this, is that “sin” means “missing the mark“. It’s a state of being, not just a bunch of “actions” that lead to that state. “Righteousness” in the Greek is defined as “equity (of character or act); specially (Christian) justification“. Again, it is ultimately a state, and not a bunch of actions.

    So then,

    Who is the ‘world’ he is referring to? He uses Cain as an example. Cain wasn’t indifferent to God, he wanted a relationship with God, for he brought the Lord a sacrifice. The ones who will hate with the greatest intensity are not those who are indifferent to God, those who don’t attend church, and don’t believe He exists; rather it is those who seek after a relationship with God, attend church and conferences but have not repented of their sins. These are the ones who attacked Jesus, Paul, Silas and the other disciples. We must remember what true love is, it’s truest definition is to keep the commandments of Jesus Christ. 1 John 5:2 states, “We know we love God’s children if we love God and OBEY HIS COMMANDMENTS.” The true grace and love of God not only forgives us, but empowers us to live a righteous and godly life. So be encouraged knowing that you have the character of Jesus Christ implanted in your heart to live selflessly as He did!

    So even “seeking after God” isn’t enough, it’s all about the behavior, and of course the good old concept of “impartation” is brought out; the “power” that somehow “helps” us to stop sinning.

    But as I’ve said regarding the Lordship teaching (which this sounds a lot like; didn’t know this about him), who really has stopped sinning? It becomes if you “try” to stop sinning, and then we get into the whole “daily struggle” concept and focus on “growth”. But none of that is what this passage says. John is writing to people who are still under the Law, many trusting in that for their justification, but not realizing that it can’t save; you had to be COVERED with CHRIST’S righteousness, and the “cover” is not something we do, or that he “empowers” (helps) us do. So the primary “commandments” was to get covered. Verse 23 says “And this is his commandment, That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment.” But of course, “believing” is often in practice defined by these works, and becomes a duty just as much as the works of the Law. With the “power” concept, we can go around questioning the salvation of those now behaving a certain way, because look, all you have to do is tap into the power, or “be willing” to do what the power allows you to do. But it’s easy to preach that when most people you’re teaching can’t see your day to day living, and most importantly, what’s in your heart or mind. The solution is generally the immediate absolution of beating yourself up for “slipping” or ‘falling into the flesh”, etc. But when does it become clear that this is not the “rest” or “peace” promised as part of salvation? (Most teachers like this hold “rest” and “peace” to be a changed attitude toward the difficulties of life, but “salvation” itself is in practice yet another daily “difficulty”, even with this “power” granted).

  7. On a board, someone posts a question of “How will God reconcile believers in heaven?”:
    “Many believers are divided against each other over secondary issues and many believers have been offended by others and so they do not speak with each other. So how will God reconcile believers in heaven? Will He wipe our bad memories? Or will we have them but just look at them differently? This is a tough question but as you know Christians are very divided against one another these days.”

    We get the usual “answers” regarding our afterlife perfect state, but one person’s response stood out:

    I think there are some issues with the question and assumption. First we are told this;
    Mat 6:14,15
    For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you:
    But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

    By that I am of the mind if we die in un-forgivness of another we are not forgiven.

    The second thing is I think there is not nearly as many Christians as many think.
    Mat 7:14
    Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and FEW there be that find it.
    Mat 7:21-23
    Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.

    Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?

    And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.

    What I can tell you with some certainty is that there is NOT going to be any division in heaven. The real problem is being very sure we are going.

    Now that being said I feel I need to explain how to get there.

    Contrary to what some claim we do not get saved by asking Jesus into our hearts, praying a so called prayer of faith, accepting Him as our personal Savior, being baptized or confirmed, confessing our sin, or belonging to a church as the bible never teaches those things for salvation. Nor do we get saved by cleaning up our lives as that is works. Yes any or all of those things may make the church roles fat and the preacher feel or look good when we come forward, but they can also cause us one day to hear, I never knew you.

    Salvation takes repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, Acts 20:21. Make no mistake. We cannot be a friend of Christ while remaining a rebel against God. The word repent, from the Greek word metanoia, means a change of mind or direction. It is not 50%, 75% or 99%. It is 100%. God is not interested in us almost repenting. It is like the command ‘about-face’ which is a 180 degree turn. When any person comes to the point in their life that they are broken over their sin to the point of being ready to get right with God no matter what it will cost them they are in a state/spirit of repentance toward God.

    We then take that heart that we have toward God and place it on the Lord Jesus Christ, for there is no other name under heaven by which men must be saved, and that becomes faith. At that point God’s grace through Christ is applied to us and we are saved, born again, and will never turn back into the practice of sinning. It is a repentance/faith that is lived daily and never turned from as we are kept in that state by the Spirit. Acts 20:21, 1John 2:19 and 1John 3:9,10.

    Repentance of sin is the result of our salvation (new birth), and will be part of the sanctification process in our new life with Christ Eph. 2:10. While we may sin from time to time after being saved no one continues in the practice of sinning or returns to it after salvation 1John 3:9,10

    Then, a link is provided, to a YouTube video called “It Will Cost You Everything”, by a page calling itself “I’ll Be Honest”, and following the website links I see it’s a ministry associated with Paul Washer. That explains it! Lordship salvation! (BTW, the first article on him I saw there was a report that he had just had a heart attack recently).

    Here we see in its full glory that Lordshippism is the worst of Pelagian legalism, wrapped up with Calvinistic electionism (which is usually minimized in the message) to form a deadly “perfectionism”. (And I just realized, they probably hide it to avoid the stereotypical use of Calvinism and eternal security as an “excuse” to “slack off” if not outright backslide).

    They command such high standards, which of course people can’t live up to. It is works-salvation to the hilt, but because of the unconditional election, it’s seen as “God’s work” and not man’s. That gets them around the “legalism” charge. So they can preach all this repentance at the world (and Church) as if free will were true, but in reality, only those whom God elects will be able to respond, and do all the “works” (forgive, etc).
    As the video “Let Go and Let God” (which is emphasizing that this “abiding in Christ” is “active, not passive”) says, it’s all about the “power”; the “same power that raised Christ from the dead”. This is apparently now focused solely on changing our behavior (“which is why we say radical things like this to people”; i.e. it’s nothing you “can’t” do; “no excuses”), and you don’t even “feel” it; it’s by “faith”. (This is the same power that raised Christ’s physical body from the grave; again, mind you; this is the way it manifests today!)

    So while this impossible regiment is all achieved by divine election, in actual experience, a person just wills himself purely by his own effort, to change his behavior. If he succeeds and “perseveres” to the end, he was “elect”; if not, then he was “reprobate” (but still “held accountable” for rejecting the preaching of the Gospel, or general revelation, conscience, etc).
    Of course, without this “power” it’s impossible. (Which means no non-Christian ever cleans up bad behavior; they just do everything they want that feels good, and if even if they did clean their behavior, then and only then do we tell them that doesn’t save; salvation is by “faith, not works”).
    So basically, they’re just imprecating everyone else (which Calvin even admitted).

    The one answer to this, whether conditional salvation, Fulfilled View, or anything else, is what is the GOOD NEWS [i.e. GOSPEL] in this then? Especially since Calvinism (and this doctrine following suit) allows that God gives reprobates a false faith that He then takes away. So even if you think you’re saved, and go as far as to be “bearing” all the “fruits” (for now, that is), you can still fall away (as scriptures seem to mention, and five-point Arminians and Pelagians will use to deny eternal security, and so then of course, the doctrine that works don’t save finally kicks in).
    And these people can say anything to you, and you most likely know nothing about their personal lives to see if they themselves are actually living up to it. (Rom. 2:21-4)

    So the good news then becomes that a relative handful of people will escape Hell and make it to Heaven, and we hope we are one of them, and work our hide off as much as we can to try to “prove ourselves elect”. This in practice is by now no different from Catholicism and most “cults” and many other religions (minus Christ). If it “COSTS us everything”, then it’s about OUR paying our own way into Heaven, and not about Christ paying anything; with “everything” required from us, there is nothing left for Him to have paid for!

    Doctrines like this (that its adherents love to cram down everyone’s throat as “the TRUTH”, and hardly anyone else questions) are why the Church is so divided, to answer the original question.

    On the charismatic (Methodist-derived; pure Arminian) front, we have John Burton (apparently associated with Charisma magazine and John Bevere, see comment above) with the video “Five Marks of False-Grace Movement”

    1) “Exemption theology”: “Not all part of the Bible are for us”.
    But isn’t that true? Does this person keep the whole Law of the Old Testament? (And Gal.3:10 says “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.”)
    It’s all to avoid “parts of the word of God that require response” [spoken all sternly]. We have to be “a people of response“. He even says they “overemphasize our sinful nature sin” and underemphasize, what else, but the “power”; the “power of the Cross”, which is all about behavior; “was it not sufficient to keep us from sin?” (And it’s ‘not about being sinless’; but the old cliché of “not having to sin”; which is not even a biblical statement, but rather likely derived from a common misunderstanding of “slaves of sin” (which in their view is merely ‘slaves’ of bad “habits” that are “sinful”).

    We’re not overemphasizing sin; we’re taking it seriously; apparently more seriously than those who think man just needs some more “motivating” (“you can do it” and “no excuses” talk along with the fear of Hell) and some nondescript “power” as “help”, and then he can put away sin, meaning keep the divine Law. They used to criticize those they thought were too liberal as “under-emphasizing” sin; but now we’ve done a complete flip, and teachers like this end up as the ones in practice minimizing or softening down the Law, so it can be in reach of man (especially with the “it’s not about sinlessness” line); with simply more motivating and divine “help”. (This, as much as they wield the fear of Hell and condemnation of sin).

    Of course, they don’t realize the positional and not behavioral nature of holiness (in the total fulfillment brought by the Cross). He derides this as “automatically holy; innocent by association“; taking a “commandment to be holy” (Peter) as “a great goal” or “principle”, or “great ideal”, but not a “command” or “imperative”.
    (Never mind the concept of holiness by “imputation“. What these teachers are advocating is a competing view called “impartation”, which stems from Wesleyan semi-Pelagian teaching more than anything else). It’s all about “obedience and [behavioral] holiness”.
    Meanwhile, if it’s really “not about sinlessness”, then “holiness” is then a “goal or principle or great ideal”, in practice after all, and then they will allow imputation (i.e. “by association”) to in effect “fill in” for the required holiness. But this is not what Peter is teaching, and it shows their soteriology is completely inconsistent!

    He then appeals to the Rich Young Ruler, which he compares “many Christians” to, but the Rich Young ruler is for one, before the Cross; it’s warning those people trusting in the Law, and thinking they were keeping it that they weren’t. (These were not people “slacking off”, or thinking themselves “exempt”; he even asked “what else do I lack yet”, striving for that much “obedience” and aiming to keep the whole Law perfectly).
    But of course, that can’t refer just to them back then, it must refer to us; we can’t possibly be “exempt”. (We wonder what the Cross was for, then. I guess it’s just the key to the “power”. It then has nothing to do with forgiveness of sins; it’s just giving us what the Israelites supposedly lacked in the ability to keep the Law, and I guess removing the more difficult aspects of the Law, like sacrifices, sabbaths, etc).

    The result; people who even want to follow Jesus, are still “turned away”, “because of attitudes of the heart“. He says “people give more power to sin than to the Cross”, but in reality, the “power of sin” IS the Law (1 Cor.15:56 i.e. the “commandments” that defined “obedience” and “holiness”!) The battle is not between The Cross and “sin” (meaning our behavior). That battle was finished instantly, on the Cross. The battle is between The Cross and our efforts (which then becomes the “sin” in that respect).
    The “power” of the Cross was the RIGHT to be called “sons of God” (John 1:12. This in opposition to those who thought only the Law and physical inheritance gave you that right). Never is it portrayed as some sort of psychic force (that we must “will” to “tap into”) that changes our behavior, with the behavior ultimately qualifying us for Heaven, or at least “making the difference”.

    What the Spirit does is bear witness with our spirit that we are children of God (Rom. 8:16). But according to these teachers, people can go as far as to be “fervent” and “on fire”, but still lost. Where is the assurance then? How can one ever know for sure they are saved? It seems to be only based upon our own efforts and behavior. (We must presume “I’ve been doing well, ‘growing’ and sinning less, developing the right ‘attitudes of the heart’, etc. so I guess now I must really be saved”. This not even taking into account the possibility of falling back into condemnation!)

    But what work, then, really? Like that rich young ruler, we can ask, “what good thing do I lack yet?”, and will the answer be this one act, like giving up all your possessions, that will then give you access to Heaven?
    By now, it sounds ludicrous, doesn’t it (and it would certainly be more than just one additional work); but this fails to take into account how we often decide for ourselves what is enough, especially if you say it’s not about actual perfection. Of course, we will look down on people not doing as well as we are, but those teaching this should consider that maybe their level of works isn’t good enough either, even if they feel confident that it is. The question is “what causeth thee to differ?” (1 Cor.4:7)
    This of course shows how this is a slippery slope to loss of any hope of salvation. But it sounds so good, because it’s “tough”.

    They can talk this stuff as toughly as they want, but that is really all empty assumptions read into the texts. It sounds so “right”, because of that part of us that feels guilt (which they are exploiting; 2Tim.3:6), so salvation must be “hard”. (Which is what all the old pagan religions operated on). This then becomes “the way that seems right unto man”, but the end result, (as they themselves testify), is death! (Prov.14:12) This is the work of “The Accuser“!

    2) “Sin is treated as temporarily troubling but eternally benign” (cites Heb.10, “sinning deliberately“).
    But if you’re in “the process of deliverance”, then that’s not what he’s talking about. This is what I refer to as “as long as you’re trying. (Which people might fiercely deny when put that way, but that’s clearly what is being implied here). So the effort of “trying” to overcome sin is what saves you from it; not actual “cleanness” from sin. If you’re trying, then whatever sins remain will be forgiven. (This is what I was led to believe when I first entered the world of Bible theology as a young unchurched convert, through Armstrongism and comparing others I was exposed to such as Campbellism, Catholicism and Russellism, which are all considered heretical. Yet you have these leaders, within so-called [Protestant] “orthodoxy” who sound just the same. They only differ in which commandments are necessary, and that they lip the protocol of “grace/faith alone”, which the others openly, but more consistently, reject).

    Then goes into “universalism”. He knocks “once saved always saved” in favor of “once saved rarely saved”. (Making up new unbiblical terms on the fly!) Again, what is the “Good News”?
    “Walking in the Spirit” is interpreted as our efforts at avoiding sin, trusting in our efforts at obedience; i.e. keeping the Law, rather than trusting Christ. (But then as with the Lordshippers, “trusting” or “abiding” is itself assumed to be “obeying”. “Trusting”, in actual Biblical use means that even though we do NOT have the required perfect obedience, we are still forgiven. The accuser, and all of these preachers are saying otherwise, and even our “conscience” seems to go along with it, but as far as escaping condemnation, we “trust” HIM, who actually died on the Cross as the Son of God, as opposed to trusting what the preachers say, or what we ourselves feel or do. But they have turned this on its ear, into basically “growing” toward this hypothetical perfection, and “trusting” then ends up apparently about the “difficulty” of this “process”).
    “Not under the Law” is interpreted as ceasing from doing the things condemned in the Law; just like the sabbatarians argue; otherwise “grace does not cover us”.

    So “grace” itself then must be this “power” to change our “attitude of heart” to embark on this long hard, narrow difficult “walk” of works. Again, is this a “gospel” at all? (And again it’s what those aforementioned “un-orthodox” groups teach).

    This “heart” teaching of theirs I have noticed is actually the whole doorway to severe judgment. No matter what you believe or do, or why, the “heart” is what they appeal to as condemning you, based on some scriptures mentioning the heart or conscience. So even among the Wesleyan/Arminian groups not as radically legalistic as Burton, they can begin to harshly judge, or question salvation, based on what they see as someone’s heart being “not right”. I’ve seen a quote “In the end, whether or not one is a Christian has almost nothing to do with persuasive intellectual argument: it has to do with whether one has experienced God; it has to do with the grace of God – a mystery.” (Barbara Grizzuti Harrison). This can be used to dismiss any Biblical critique of their teaching, though what they ignore is that they have simply built up their own “persuasive intellectual arguments” that are what’s being argued against in the first place, but when these run out of answers, then they have to set aside intellect in favor of “mystery” and presuppose some sort of “spiritual” subjective (esoteric) experience (granted by “the power”), the person arguing against them supposedly lacks. All of this is nothing more than the old appeal to “miracle, mystery and authority” which was the “historic Church”‘s old tactic of silencing questions or objection.

    So the “heart” premise can totally void grace, and this won’t be seen as turning it back to works, because the “work” of changing the heart is all “will” without physical action.
    But since it’s so “hard”, as they put it, then it is still a kind of “works”, especially when/if it determines salvation. (And the term “works”, ergon, includes in its definitions, “that which one undertakes to do, enterprise, undertaking, any product whatever, any thing accomplished by hand, art, industry, or mind“!)

    Also fails to understand that “walking in the flesh” means precisely what he’s preaching, and that’s trusting in our efforts at “overcoming” sin. This is what creates the endless “struggle” with all those sins mentioned, where you have to “strive” so hard to begin with. For that is what Paul is showing all our efforts lead to, even if we do appear to get the upper hand on some of them, and “grow”. Why would it be so “hard” otherwise”? They say because of our “old man”, but why would “the same power that resurrected Christ” then end up in such an endless tug of war with our old natures, and one where this power apparently loses most of the time? [i.e. in most people]. What is really stronger then? The Power, the “old nature”, or the “Will”. It seems the “power” is the weakest of the three, being totally helpless without the “will”! No one ever thinks about this; so they just use fear to quell all questions instead.
    Meanwhile, they don’t even try to address Romans 4:5 “But to him that works not, but believes on him that justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.” and Hebrews 4:10 “For anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his” (and in that one, the condemnation mentioned is those who refuse to enter the “rest”, which is the “disobedience” of v.11 and other places).

    (As a side note, sin as “temporarily troubling, but eternally benign” is the exact argument they use when trying to “comfort” someone suffering pain, or especially wrong by others. If so, then why wouldn’t our own commission of sins be the same? The argument generally is because sin “won’t be allowed” in Heaven, but then they believe no one has attained actual perfection, so then people going to Heaven are all instantly perfected upon death or rapture. If so, this has nothing to do with how much they were striving for it, or how far they advanced by the end of their life).

    3) “Repentance and confession of sins after salvation is not necessary.”
    This of course goes along with salvation constantly being in danger of being lost (and thus agrees with sects like Campbellism and even Catholicism), even by “little things” such as jealousy! Again, how could anyone call this “good news”? What really do we have that OT Israel didn’t; even if you say “the power” to help us; they had supernatural miracles and God’s tangible presence.

    4) “Biblical works message is renounced as ‘legalism'”.
    “Are you really serious that for me to obey is to put me in bondage to the Law?” Well, then, what are you “obeying”? If you have to worry that if you stop striving to obey beyond a certain point, then you will go to Hell, isn’t that “bondage”?

    The only point “obedience” is “legalism”, is “if we were to reject the Cross and resurrection of Christ and attempt to work our way into Heaven”.
    They always do this! Redefine “legalism” in a specific way tailored to exclude their teaching. “Legalism” means “Law“-ism! All they are doing is adding the Cross to Law and then that’s the only difference between the views. It’s once you “accept” the Cross and Resurrection, then working your way into Heaven, but since this is by the “power” given to us, they won’t ever admit it in those terms. But that’s exactly what he’s describing!
    (Then, gives more pre-Cross commands).

    Where preachers have long made much of the sins of the ‘secular’ (nonreligious) “world” as being what the Gospel condemns as “the old wine”, “the old Man”, the “old life”, etc.; in the original context, it’s really the Law, and those simply adding the Cross to the Law are the ones mixing the old with the new! (And no one is saying “obedience” itself is bondage or legalism, it’s when you place salvation on it, exactly as these teachers are doing. ⦅Or add non-biblical “rules” as points of “obedience to God” and denounce others over them, even if you don’t stake salvation on them; as other groups do⦆. They must always obfuscate what others are saying about their teaching.
    And it ties into the whole “without the fear of Hell, you have no reason to obey” belief. They say “out of love”, but the whole premise is founded upon fear, where the Gospel contrasts love and fear, saying one casts the other out—1 John 4:18).

    5) “Salvation is depicted as ‘easy’ and/or ‘permanent'”.
    “Jesus didn’t die on the Cross, to make it ‘easy’ to get saved; He died on the Cross to make it possible to get saved”. (Then goes into “the process of salvation”, which “people don’t understand”, and again, like the Campbellists and others, cites James 2:14 and says it’s only “works alone” that don’t save, but they otherwise “play a part” in salvation).

    The fact that you even talk about “easy” shows a total works-salvation focus.
    Salvation is by works, and God doesn’t make it “easy”; it’s “possible” by your own hard work, with the “help” of the “power”, which is not felt, but by “faith”, and so thus doesn’t even make it feel any easier.

    And of course, it’s narrow and few will be saved. Again, what do we have that OT Israel, following the flaming cloud, Moses on the mountaintop, or God in the Temple, didn’t have?
    “Another gospel, that is NO Gospel [good news]”! (Gal.1:6)

    They do not realize that they are denigrating the Cross with these redefinitions of theirs. (And this is actually what ties into the apostasy being described in Heb.10; not just any “willful sin”, but “counting the Blood of the Covenant, with which they were sanctified, an unholy thing“!) If Christ only made it “possible”, then He Himself didn’t really do anything. He only rehashed the Law and changed the method of “applying” its pardon. But this guy insists this whole fear basis and merit by “fruits as evidence” is “freedom“.

    The battle is not between The Cross and sinful behavior; it’s between The Cross and our efforts; the “power of sin” is the Law. The “power” of the Cross was the right to be called “sons of God”, not a force that fixes behavior. The Spirit bears witness that we are children of God.

    All of this is like spiritual “gaslighting”, as they say “grace, not works”, but then describe works; they say “faith, not sight”, but then say there’s absolute proof of God you will be judged by; and they say it’s “easy”, but then describe it as “hard”. You can’t readily prove or disprove it; they cite scriptures, you can cite scriptures to show otherwise, but each view calls the other unscriptural. So they play with your mind and your heart (conscience).

    The Accuser uses our guilt to condemn us and “convince” us (basically perverting our “conscience”; Titus 1:15, 1 Cor.8) this is true, so we either force ourselves to accept it, or we rebel against it (which “proves” to its adherents that this is “the offense of the Gospel”).
    More often than not, people do both; one after the other, and the very denominations that have taught things like this the most, in the beginning, usually become the biggest “liberal mainliners”, as the people eventually give up. If I’m going to do all that work and effort, and still might be “turned away” or not “persevere”, then what’s the use? They just hope for the best, like maybe before they die they’ll be able to get a grip and turn their lives around, but if not, then they were going to Hell anyway, so what’s the difference. (Hence, all the Catholics who make up much of “secular” Western society, and are trusting in “getting their last rites” to “make it to Heaven”. But many Protestant groups are just like this, minus the sacramental focus; especially the Methodists and related groups, from whom this whole “holiness” focus largely came from, as well as the conservatives among the “higher” churches holding to the monergism of Calvin and the other reformers, but still mixed with a strong pietistic focus).
    But again, the preachers rising up out of these groups, “calling them to repentance”, and looking down at all the “sin” around them, will only take this as support of their view (plugged into scriptures on “falling away”, which were described as occurring in NT times, not centuries later).

    This, is the work and plot of the Devil, as much as he has been portrayed as the one leading all the sinners away from Law with the promise of pleasure.
    Grace is God, in Christ “not counting our sins against us” (2 Cor. 5:19); ; NOT “giving us the power to sin less” or “making it possible” for our sins to be pardoned if we’re trying to stop sinning, or gain the right attitude. Either grace is free, or it is no more grace (Rom.11:6, 4:4).

    So now, basically, we can identify three strains that are heavily legalistic.
    Old line fundamentalists“, most embodied in “Independent fundamental Baptists” (IFBs).
    Hyper-Wesleyanism“, such as Burton, who appear to be a more conservative form of charismaticism, which stemmed from Weslayan “Holiness” but then emphasized “spiritual gifts”. Whether a teacher upholds the gifts or not, the misconstrued “holiness” focus is what marks this group.
    Lordship salvation“, which is centered around John MaCarthur, and most popularly promoted by Ray Comfort and Paul Washer, and has a strong presence among Southern Baptists, and adds Calvinistic “election” to a “holiness” premise.

    The first two are Arminian, but the second two (represented in this comment) are more alike in questioning salvation. The first group may be “legalistic” in their concept of “separation”, and avoiding modernity, where they can denounce both of the others as sliding on. They have a lot of ridiculous rules, but they usually do not question people’s salvation on them (some would even question instead the salvation of the other two groups for teaching a “false gospel” of works!) What the first and last have in common is simply connection to the Baptist denomination, which is basically divided between Calvinism and Arminianism, and between stricter and more modernistic expressions.

    Apologetics has been busy going after the “feel good” message of Osteen and others, while totally ignoring this practically open rejection of the Gospel right under their own noses, because again, it sounds ‘good’ because it’s “tough”, and also “traditional” (with the likes of Spurgeon and Edwards long seen as the model of good preaching we wish the modern church never turned from).
    In other words, Osteen is seen as softening the Gospel into nothingness, but lordship’s denial of Grace in favor of works is “closer” to “historic orthodoxy”, though the apologists, like the Lordshippers themselves, will still pledge belief in “grace alone”. Only the teachers redefine grace in terms of works, and the apologists ignore this, seeing it not as bad as the “feel good” messages, and instead, perhaps the antidote to them.
    But this makes it no less worldly, as secular “self-help” is full of “tough talk” coaching; the only difference is that it’s not Hell after you die they are motivating with.

    Where I’ve spent a lot of time talking about IFB’s, with all their rules, they in a sense are not as bad as these other two groups, for at least they are less likely to deny salvation of Christians they see as compromising.

    For all of these groups, just imagine, a person coming out of the Old Covenant, where they had to do all the commandments, including the ritual system that represented atonement. This didn’t promise absolute certainty, but as long as they kept at it, they could hope for redemption.
    So now, they enter the New Covenant, which promises to be the fulfillment of the old system, and thus bills itself as “Good News”. But in the end, the Cross only gives you this “power” you can’t even feel, you just believe in by “faith”, and which doesn’t make anything easier, but only “possible”, and instead actually becomes a new burden for you to “receive” and “respond” to right, that you are judged on (and then the special revelation you had before is completely removed, and so all you have is your own choice to believe something, guided by fallible and often contradictory men and ambiguous “conscience” and “general revelation”), and it’s still about how much you “obey” the commands; only some of them have been changed (especially the physically bloody ones). In fact, it’s even been stepped up several fold, as it’s now revealed that even under all that Law before, God was actually “winking” at sin the whole time, but now, is really demanding repentance! And for far mere. Now, it’s not even just literal stuff like adultery, but “spiritual” counterparts like “lust”. Again, the only mitigation is this unfelt “power” to try to keep all this as much as possible. Then and only then does this Cross actually grant you pardon from your sins.

    What really is the benefit there?

    You wonder with all of this judgment they preach, where Jesus really fits in. The Jesus we see in the Gospels who was patient with average people (including those who were obviously “sinners”. This may be a bit of a cliché among skeptics challenging Christianity; that “Jesus befriended the sinners, the prostitutes, etc”. But then this shows they have a better handle on Christ than those who claim to believe in Him, but then preach as if Christ never came, and man is standing before God with Law without Mediator, and who is just looking for reasons to condemn. They can’t say “Well if man rejects Christ, he’s not covered by His mercy”, because now you have people who believe in Him and can even be “on fire” for Him being “turned away”. (So salvation can’t be simply being “covered with the blood”).

    Is this really the Jesus we see in the Gospels? They might appeal to Jesus calling people vipers and driving out the money changers, but these weren’t people who simply had the wrong attitude of heart or weren’t diligent enough in “holiness”; they were the religious establishment; the guardians of the Law! So it’s clear that with, again, all the “tough talk”, it’s not Jesus being looked to, but rather man’s attempt (in His name), to prepare other men to come directly before the Father (hence, all the “holiness” focus, where it’s impossible to pass) on his own, with the “help” of the Spirit, instead of the covering of the Son. They’re all supposed to work together, with the Son covering, and the Spirit bearing witness to this. But teachers like this have changed the Gospel to something else entirely, with a “Jesus” who died essentially to seal the fate of most people (because that’s what most “glorifies” Him)* through another impossible system of works; and at the same time smiles down upon tough-talking leaders who promote this; but insist that it’s other people who are coming under condemnation, over works.

    *(Lordshippers say “God desires to exercise ALL of His attributes: Justice and Mercy; Wrath and Grace; Judgment and Love”, citing a meme of a saying of James White: “God’s wrath is part of God’s glory. Because if you look at the Cross and don’t see the wrath of God against SIN, you are not seeing the love of God there either”). Of course, this is all philosophy extracted from various scriptural teachings, rather than any actual scriptural teaching. It’s only true in the sense that wrath against sin (Justice/Judgment) is what necessitated the love of the Cross (Mercy/Grace). The Gospel (Good News) teaches that Love is what fulfilled all (1 Cor.13, Rom.13:10), as Christ bore the wrath/judgment. These teachers are trying to use this to justify so much deliberate and ongoing or future “wrath/justice/judgment”, on the “non-elect” (including this vast majority of professing Christians) when they die, in contrast to the love/grace/mercy bestowed on the “elect”. But the wrath/justice/judgment was borne on the Cross, and only fell on those back then, “shortly” (Rev.1:1), in the same generation that saw the Cross (Matt. 16:28, 24:34), but many rejected it in favor of the world of the Law. After that, God’s “cup” of wrath was “complete” (Rev.15:1).

  8. Making the above comment, and then editing the OP of the “Legalism of Running the Race” thread, and seeing where Cloud praised the “First Great Awakening” (which was basically sparked off by Edwards, and carried over to England by Whitefield); this got me thinking of the outline of their in practice beliefs.

    1) God got mad at man for disobeying a commandment in the garden

    2) From then on, man deserves pain (starting with the temporal pain of the “cursed” ground, and culminating with eternal fire after death)

    3) God gave the Law to try to fix man’s behavior, but since he had also taken on a fallen nature, he couldn’t keep it, so God sent Christ to die to forgive man’s sins, (creating a “blank slate”, initially).

    4) But since God’s ultimate goal was behavioral order (called “holiness”), He still had to fix that problem, so He then also sent the Spirit to “impart” an ability to keep the Law better.

    5) Since man still deserves pain, God did not make this easy. This power cannot be felt, only “believed” in, while the pull of our “old nature” is left fully in place, and so you still have to will yourself to better behavior through the motivation of preaching, Bible study and the conscience (but only as it agrees with the agreed upon morality). The power then gradually makes you not want to sin as much, but you still have to struggle “uphill”.

    6) Though some laws were changed or dropped, the overall standards have become higher, creating a “hard walk” on a “narrow path” most won’t make. At the same time, all special revelation has been withdrawn, and so “faith” must be “pre-supposed”, against any evidence that may seem to go against it (unless you’re following a group that claims science really proves the pre-supposed doctrine), making it all the more harder. Yet God will still judge us harshly as He “showed” us the truth, even though the only thing shown is conscience or “general revelation” (ambiguous evidence from nature).

    7) Those who manage to convert and live right and persist and “grow” then have their sins removed (both forgiven, and virtually ceased), with the “nature” greatly diminished in character. They thus do not deserve pain in the way other sinners do, (though God still gives them some through “tests” of faith via some general difficulties in life). Any person or political system that offends them is therefore wrong, and an attack of the Devil.

    8) Because of this, God calls preachers among them to shake up the sinners of the world by preaching at their sin, threatening Hell, and also guarding against other Christians softening the message or having too much ‘fun’ themselves. These preachers are to reflect God’s utter hatred of man and his sins, and uphold the “righteousness” of the past, when God raised their forefathers after centuries of church/empire corruption to create an “exceptional” Anglo-American civilization. Only those who conform are to be shown God’s love.

    9) They are called to rule over it, and “take it back” if they lose power.
    Many “sinners” oppose many things about that paradigm. Just this opposition constitutes “persecution” against “God’s people”. But since the sinners deserve pain, their concerns are to be disregarded, as “whining” in an attempt to gain “comfort” “ease” or “entitlements” they should not have. Even stuff like slavery and other oppression can be ultimately justified, and the victims should be “thankful”, because they really deserve worse! (And their “sins” probably brought some of it on them anyway!) The “rugged” godly men’s complaints, on the other hand, are different; it’s the “truth”, and demanding their God-given “rights”.

    10) Naturally, relatively few will convert and then remain committed to the faith. Basically (to be really honest), it’s set up for most men to fail. This can only be explained by some “secret counsel”, where God is more “glorified” by men burning in Hell (whether via Calvinistic “sovereignty of God in reprobation/preterition” or Arminian “sovereignty of man’s free will”).

    The First Great Awakening is looked up to by all evangelical Protestants, and the more stricter ones such as Lordshippers and IFB’s place an even greater emphasis on the preaching with the whole “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” model and its supposed affect on revivals. (Moderates still respect it, even while softening down some of its methods, and this seems to be why they have not defended themselves against the less moderate more).

    From Wikipedia:

    The Great Awakening or First Great Awakening was an evangelical and revitalization movement that swept Protestant Europe and British America, especially the American colonies, in the 1730s and 1740s, leaving a permanent impact on American Protestantism. It resulted from powerful preaching that gave listeners a sense of deep personal revelation of their need of salvation by Jesus Christ. The Great Awakening pulled away from ritual, ceremony, sacramentalism, and hierarchy, and made Christianity intensely personal to the average person by fostering a deep sense of spiritual conviction and redemption, and by encouraging introspection and a commitment to a new standard of personal morality.

    The movement was an important social event in New England, which challenged established authority and incited rancor and division between traditionalist Protestants, who insisted on the continuing importance of ritual and doctrine, and the revivalists, who encouraged emotional involvement. It had an impact in reshaping the Congregational church, the Presbyterian church, the Dutch Reformed Church, and the German Reformed denominations, and strengthened the small Baptist and Methodist denominations. It had little impact on most Anglicans, Lutherans, Quakers, and non-Protestants. Throughout the colonies, especially in the south, the revivalist movement increased the number of African slaves and free blacks who were exposed to and subsequently converted to Christianity.

    The Second Great Awakening began about 1800 and reached out to the unchurched, whereas the First Great Awakening focused on people who were already church members. 18th-century American Christians added an emphasis on “outpourings of the Holy Spirit” to the evangelical imperatives of Reformation Protestantism. Revivals encapsulated those hallmarks and spread the newly created evangelicalism in the early republic. Evangelical preachers “sought to include every person in conversion, regardless of gender, race, and status.

    (Spurgeon, the other preacher held up alongside Edwards, was actually mid 1800’s; a full century after Edwards, and while this was the time of the Second Great Awakening, he doesn’t seem to be considered apart of that.
    The Second Great Awakening is what brought many of our current sects and doctrines, including dispensationalism on one hand, and Millerism, spawning sabbatarianism, and more distantly, Russelism and Campbellism. Some Reformed, like Horton, while praising the First Great Awakening, see the Second as where a lot of problems came in; especially the increase in too much emphasis on “free will” and anti-intellectual “emotionalism”.
    The “Third Great Awakening” was the last half of the 1800’s, and was where the Social Gospel and the Holiness movement, including charismaticism came in. There was also a “Fourth Great Awakening”, 1960–1980, where the Jesus Movement, modern evangelicalism and a Pentecostal resurgence arose and the older mainliners declined).

    So we see these “awakenings” can all be seen as a continuation of the Reformation, in the move against “Catholicism”, or the “high Church” (hence, “ritualism, formalism”, etc. which Sword of the Lord magazine, for an example has printed on its cover as what it stands against), which early Protestantism largely retained. The First awakening would establish the “low” church (wit: Baptists and Methodists). Those “high” churches are largely what would form the “mainline” that had gone liberal in modern times, and all the conservatives were preaching steadily against.

    But it seemed that these “awakenings” often went to the opposite extreme, back into de-facto legalism, in addition to fear-mongering and emotional manipulation, and the cycle would always start all over again, as people give up, and “soften” and “compromise” with modernity, firing up the dying old-breed in their denunciations.

    Here is an example of the principle behind “impartation”; that you ask God to do something, but then you do it yourself by your own will, and say it’s really Him doing it “through” you.

    See also:

  9. “... most Christians nowadays
simply don’t care about the
prevalence of false doctrine,

nor do they take seriously 
their duty to fight against 
apostasy. Instead, they want a
friendly atmosphere of open
acceptance for everyone,
tolerance of opposing ideas,
and charitable dialogue with
the apostates.”

    The Church in the past claimed to be so biblically/doctrinally “literate”, yet believed and practiced all sorts of evil things, and simply read them into scripture, usually by tearing OT passages out of their contexts, and applying them to us. “It’s in there; that’s what it says”; after all!
    This is what led more than anything else, to people turning away from doctrine, and most of the division, is not from the “dumbed down” masses following every wind of doctrine, but rather from tough-talking would-be apostles and prophets, aiming to correct them and each other with doctrine, yet all reading scripture differently, following doctrinal agendas.
    People like MacArthur, when you look at his full belief system, need to ask “is this Good News?” Or, is it really “tradition”, maintained for more ulterior goals, such as control?

    Doctrine is important, but given man’s sin problem (which is the first thing these teachers emphasize, but forget that includes them), it gets into being “well versed in the Law”, but people well versed in the Law are the ones who engineer it where it ends up allowing all sorts of sin and error (wit all that’s going on in politics today, and which side the evangelicals are on in it), and neglecting the weightier matters.

    Someone on FB then says MacArthur’s “divisive” (considering even Pentecostals as “apostate”. Another, in contrast, says “accepting people of different views from yourself does not mean getting into bed with them. We are to be accepting of the person, but not the false doctrine, which we are to rebuke and correct.”)

    Worse than that; he’s “Lordship salvation”, which says 2/3rds of professing evangelical Christians are not saved! Just from seeing his name as a familiar evangelical leader, you would never know it, as they almost hide their full teaching, but that’s what’s behind it.
    It’s the combination of the worst aspects of hyper-Arminanism (Pelagianism; works— and a lot of them, are necessary to be saved) and Calvinism (God is the one who elects people to salvation and enables them to do the works, and still holds the non-elect “responsible” for their reprobation) all in one lethal pot. Hence, by no stretch of the imagination, “Good News” (Gal.1:6:7. Just ran across this discussion, which explains this passage well

    What He meant was that to mix Israel’s valid, “but now” on hold “when I shall take away their sins” gospel, with our equally valid “having forgiven you all trespasses” Col. 2:13, is to mix Israel’s “righteousness which is of the Law,” Rom. 10:5; Luke 1:5,6, Acts 3: 19-23 with our “But now, the righteousness of God without the Law is made manifest,” Rom. 3:21, “even the righteousness which is of faith,” Rom. 9:30.

    That to mix those two – into one – is to arrive at “another gospel: which is not another.” One that is neither Israel’s future gospel under the Law, nor our present gospel under Grace.

    So don’t say “divisive”, for that only cues them to point to Jesus’ statement in Matt.10:34. What no one ever addresses in that passage, is WHO is causing the actual “division”. People assume it’s the followers of Christ, wielding the Law (i.e. “God’s standards/requirements/holiness”, etc.) against the “sinners”, who then react; but in this case, it’s the rejectors of Christ who are the ones upholding the Law, and then persecuting the convert for turning to Jesus. Jesus may have “brought” the “sword” just by teaching something opposed to what the people believed; but then it is they who wield it against His followers, and this is what leaders like MacArthur have “emulated” (Gal.5:20).
    So when one accuses others of “apostasy”, you have to make sure you’re not the apostate, and “tradition” (a large number of people before you who taught the same thing) is no indicator of truth.

  10. Looking up “Covenant Theology”, because I wanted to make sure I heard right, when I used to hear that the full view (at least as held by certain groups like the Puritans) includes the guarantee that the descendants of the saved are saved too; which is precisely what Paul spent so much energy in his epistles preaching against, as it was the widespread assumption of the carnal Israelites.

    Where Dispensationalism sees the Scriptures unfolding in a series of (typically) seven “dispensations” (a dispensation can be defined as the particular means God uses to deal with man and creation during a given period in redemptive history), Covenant Theology looks at the Scriptures through the grid of the covenant. Covenant Theology defines two overriding covenants: the covenant of works (CW) and the covenant of grace (CG). A third covenant is sometimes mentioned; namely, the covenant of redemption (CR).
    The important thing to keep in mind is that all of the various covenants described in Scripture (e.g., the covenants made with Noah, Abraham, Moses, David and the New Covenant) are outworkings of either the covenant of works or the covenant of grace.

    According to Covenant Theology, the CR is a covenant made among the three Persons of the Trinity to elect, atone for, and save a select group of individuals unto salvation and eternal life. As one popular pastor-theologian has said, in the covenant of redemption, “The Father chooses a bride for His Son.” While the CR is not explicitly stated in Scripture, Scripture does explicitly state the eternal nature of the plan of salvation (Ephesians 1:3-14; 3:11; 2 Thessalonians 2:13; 2 Timothy 1:9; James 2:5; 1 Peter 1:2).

    So we see here part of the argument for necessity of the eternal (pre-incarnate) “divine council” of three totally distinct “Who’s”, making up the one “What” of the Godhead. Nice parallel of the functions of the Three, but is way overformulated and overly mechanical.
    Also, we see the supralapsarian scheme, where the goal was “choosing a bride for the Son”; and thus, all of human history, including the billions not apart of this Bride, born to sin, die and go to Hell, for the sake of this “select” group (with many leaders even claiming Hell is to make the redeemed thankful for being saved from it).

    All of this, by admission, is not scriptural, but only “inferred” (by citing other scriptural facts that can be interpreted as going along with it). It explains why I’ve had to point out “What you saw when Jesus walked the earth (and recorded in the gospels), is the fullness of the divine revelation. If it looks different than that perpetually ‘angry God’ in the Old Testament, or even His reprisal in Revelation and other New Testament prophetic passages, then apparently, God was working out different parts of a Plan, with different people.” People see the Father as the “angry” God of “hate” (toward anything that “offends His holiness”, which is not even a biblical term) and the Son as the “loving” one. So even after the Son loves men and dies to free them from condemnation; the angry Father is still there, and must have subjects to exercise His “justice” on. So that’s why we have this ongoing confusion of grace and condemnation. We have Augustine of Hippo to thank for the rationalizations of both doctrines.

    From a redemptive historical perspective, the covenant of works is the first covenant we see in Scripture. When God created man, He placed him in the Garden of Eden and gave him one simple command: “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die” (Genesis 2:16-17). We can see the covenantal language implied in this command. God sets Adam in the Garden and promises eternal life to him and his posterity as long as he is obedient to God’s commands. Life is the reward for obedience, and death is the punishment for disobedience. This is covenant language.

    This of course reflects the common assumptions of the Fall, which gloss right over the “Knowledge of Good and Evil”, which then becomes some sort of footnote side effect we can forget about. It’s forgotten so much, that it is then picked up by the same theologians as what’s missing in a society “turning away from God” (i.e. their forbears had power in “Western Christian civilization”, where there was such “morality”, created by the widespread knowledge of “good and evil”; but have now lost it to “secularism” and other philosophies and “sinful” lifestyles)

    When Adam failed in keeping the covenant of works, God instituted the third covenant, called the covenant of grace. In the CG, God freely offers to sinners (those who fail to live up to the CW) eternal life and salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. Whereas the covenant of works is conditional and promises blessing for obedience and cursing for disobedience, the covenant of grace is unconditional and is given freely on the basis of God’s grace. One can argue that faith is a condition of the covenant of grace. There are many exhortations in the Bible for the recipients of God’s unconditional grace to remain faithful to the end, so, in a very real sense, maintaining faith is a condition of the CG. But the Bible clearly teaches that even saving faith is a gracious gift from God (Ephesians 2:8-9).
    The New Covenant is the final expression of the CG as God writes His law upon our hearts and completely forgives our sins.

    Typical Calvinist misreading of the passage, making “faith” the end in itself, as the “condition” that gets us salvation. From the basic structure of the verse, SALVATION itself is the gift, being the end in itself, of the Gospel!

    So here we get to the real issue:

    A question that sometimes arises regarding covenant theology is whether or not the CG supplants or supersedes the CW. In other words, is the CW obsolete since the Old Covenant is obsolete (Hebrews 8:13)? The Old (Mosaic) covenant, while an application of the CW, is not the CW. Again, the CW goes all the way back to Eden when God promised life for obedience and death for disobedience. The CW is further elaborated in the Ten Commandments, in which God again promises life and blessing for obedience and death and punishment for disobedience. The Old Covenant is more than just the moral law codified in the Ten Commandments. The Old Covenant includes the rules and regulations regarding the worship of God. It also includes the civil law that governed the nation of Israel during the theocracy and monarchy. With the coming of Jesus Christ, the promised Messiah of the OT, many aspects of the Old Covenant become obsolete because Jesus fulfilled the Old Covenant types and figures (again, see Hebrews 8–10). The Old Covenant represented the “types and shadows,” whereas Christ represents the “substance” (Colossians 2:17). Again, Christ came to fulfill the Law (Matthew 5:17). As Paul says, “For no matter how many promises God has made, they are ‘Yes’ in Christ. And so through him the ‘Amen’ is spoken by us to the glory of God” (2 Corinthians 1:20).

    However, this does not abrogate the covenant of works as codified in the moral law. God demanded holiness from His people in the OT (Leviticus 11:44) and still demands holiness from His people in the NT (1 Peter 1:16). So, we are still obligated to fulfill the stipulations of the CW. The good news is that Jesus Christ, the last Adam and our covenant Head, perfectly fulfilled the demands of the CW and that perfect righteousness is the reason why God can extend the CG to the elect. Romans 5:12-21 describes the situation between the two federal heads of the human race. Adam represented the human race in the Garden and failed to uphold the CW, thereby plunging him and his posterity into sin and death. Jesus Christ stood as man’s representative, from His temptation in the wilderness all the way to Calvary, and perfectly fulfilled the CW. That is why Paul can say, “As in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15:22).

    So the Covenant of Grace does not abrogate the covenant of Law. That explains everything! Why we all still default to a “lost” condition as condemned by the Law, and must “do” something to get “saved”. Now, he qualifies this with the “good news” that Christ fulfilled the demands of the CW. But he’s saying the CG does not abrogate the CW. But Christ fulfilling the demands of the CW is what abrogated it (or at least laid the basis for it, with the full removal of the system 40 years later being the final end).
    But then, mentioning the beginning of this “covenant” as going all the way back to Eden, insinuates we can pick out what are the “types and shadows” that have passed, and what are the “moral” and “spiritual” laws that are eternal, and God MUST always condemn and punish for. Of course, in “choosing a Bride” composed of specific individuals, this “good news” is not for everyone anyway.

    As for descendants, I don’t see anything in this article and others about it, yet I gather from the Wikipedia article, that for those who believed in it, it as from taking the “Abrahamic covenant”, where God of course promised this to him. If you see the Abrahamic covenant as part of CG, and thus one of the ones not abrogated by Christ, then you can see how people can rationalize believing in it under Christ. It still makes mincemeat of everything Paul taught, and which Christ pointed to in his parables.

  11. The Missing Heart of Our Gospel: Union with Christ
    Pastor and author Rankin Wilbourne explains why this biblical doctrine is so important for every Christian. (Reviewing book Union with Christ: The Way to Know and Enjoy God)

    In his foreword to your book, John Ortberg points out that in the New Testament, “the word Christian is found only three times. However, the New Testament letters associated with the apostle Paul use the phrase in Christ around 165 times.” Why so few books about being in Christ, then?

    There are not a lot of books on the subject because union with Christ is hard to talk about. The writers of Scripture, even Jesus himself, resort to word pictures, similes, and metaphors to capture the mystery of union with Christ. The fact that the language of poetry must be used tells us there is no way to get at this truth directly. “You’re in Christ, and Christ is in you”: Your imagination must be engaged for you to lay hold of that.

    Don’t take this the wrong way, but I didn’t expect someone trained in Reformed theology to call us to use our imagination.

    We have to rehabilitate this word imagination. It’s not imagination versus reality. Imagination is simply the God-given capacity to image what is real but is not visible. You use your imagination all of the time. For example, when Ephesians 2 says “you are seated with Christ in the heavenly realms”—to lay hold of what that could possibly mean, you have to use your imagination.

    All I’m doing is recovering the heart of what is best in the Reformed tradition. You can trace union with Christ from John Owen to John Calvin, to Bernard, Augustine, Paul. In the Protestant evangelical tradition, we have tended to focus on the work of Christ—even the mechanics of the work of Christ—apart from the person of Christ. But when the work of Christ gets abstracted from the person of Christ, there’s no wonder that we get a gap in our experience. Union with Christ is a better lens for looking at the gospel.

    So in a theology guided by union with Christ, what is the gospel?

    I am in Christ, and Christ is in me. That’s not simply an abstract concept; that’s a reality I abide in.

    What is that reality and how do we abide in it?

    I think in terms of metaphors. To be regenerate means that the Holy Spirit enters your life; you become a new entity. In fact, as Paul says, “you are not your own” (1 Cor. 6:19). You are in Christ. He is the Sun. From that vital connection flow light and heat, or, in biblical and theological terms, the double grace of justification and sanctification. Our understanding of the mechanics of how it all “works” is irrelevant to the efficacy of our union with Christ. What is primary is what Jesus has done, not our limited understanding of what he has done. Christ is always greater than our experience of Christ. Here’s another metaphor that might help: Union with Christ is the necklace, and there are jewels on the necklace like justification, sanctification, forgiveness, mercy, etc. But the thread that holds those jewels together is union with Christ. Our indivisible connection to him makes those things possible.

    So this union is more than simply an intimate association?

    Exactly, it’s an ontological union. There is a difference of being that happens when we are united with Jesus. It changes everything about who we are beyond simply our subjective experience. Union with Christ has both an objective and a subjective component to it. But, there’s a tendency for Christians today to make union with Christ to be purely experiential and to place it under the rubric of sanctification. This ignores the objective component of union with Christ. It is not a part of sanctification, rather union with Christ is the very basis upon which our sanctification, justification, and communion with God is even possible. Union with Christ is the fountainhead from which flows all the blessings of God. Therefore Paul’s words in Galatians 2:20 are not an abstract idea or subjective new viewpoint, they are an objective, ontological reality for Christians: “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

    What does abiding in this reality look like?

    The art of abiding in this reality is something like learning a musical instrument; it is something you must practice and rehearse. It is not simply remembering. It is also regular prayer, engaging in a worshipping community, sacrificing for the church. These are means that God has provided to practice abiding. It’s like sailing. When you are sailing, you are completely dependent on an external power—the wind. And even though that power is completely outside your control, it is still your responsibility as a sailor to catch the wind. And catching it is an art that requires dedication, cultivation, and practice. To use a word from Christian tradition, it is a discipline.

    If I read the Bible through this lens, what would I see?

    Union with Christ helps us navigate seeming contradictions, or false choices that we know are false choices. Suppose I read in Romans 4, “It’s not up to him who works…” and then I read in Matthew 7, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my father in heaven.” How do I put those two together? How do I unite extravagant grace with radical discipleship?

    We are tempted to de-emphasize one in favor of the other, so we read James through Galatians or the Sermon on the Mount through Romans. But union with Christ gives us a way to hear different biblical voices, each full volume.

    False choices have bedeviled the church…

    Your book claims that union with Christ solves major pastoral problems, what problems do you have in mind?

    Union with Christ holds together the grace of the gospel and the demands of discipleship in a way that enhances both and cancels neither.

    Both of the themes of “come and rest” and “come and die” are in the Bible, and the church has wrestled with how to hold these together. The church desperately needs to hear both of these themes and we can’t afford to diminish or privilege either one. Union with Christ allows us to hear both of these two themes at full volume. I am in Christ, I am accepted, Christ is for me, I can rest. But because we are in Christ, we also are obedient as he is, we die with him, and we are raised with him. Union with Christ is how you frame the gospel without falling into either a theology of cheap grace or of legalism.

    Notice, he’s not really answering the questions, directly. He’s piling on more metaphors and analogies. As an iNtuitive, I certainly can appreciate the value of these things, but having been drawn by different winds of doctrine over the years through this, I see where it can lead to confusion, and you need some more solid clarity.

    Especially when you’re mixing such abstraction with pronouncements of concrete reality. God and Christ are of course to be taken as concrete (literal) realities. In this teaching, you better be united with Christ and have Him “living in you”, or you will die “without Him” and go to Hell. That’s preached as concrete reality. “Black is black, and white is white; Hell is hot and sin ain’t right”.
    Yet whenever called to explain this process, we get a lot of pure abstraction, rather than a solid answer. THIS more than anything else is what has driven away the skeptical world, and especially science. People see right through it as a form of deflection.

    And we see, he’s using it here to try to harmonize the great “paradox” of “faith vs works”. Abstractly, Christ transforms you, and you do good works. But in the concrete world, how does this translate? Basically; work your butt off! Do not rest! (Yet that somehow is “rest”. Let’s not forget IFB/KJVO David Cloud’s “paddling upstream”). “Discipline”; compared, as usual, to earthy skill training. Meaning, in actual PRACTICE— WORKS!
    By weaving in and out of concrete and abstract communication, works can now be seen as not contradicting faith. It’s just as much about effort as what was in the Old Testament, and just as exclusive and benefiting the few (and in some respect even harder and more restrictive), but now because Christ’s name is slapped on the “process”, it becomes ‘supernatural’, and “grace”.
    (Meanwhile, ignored was who was Christ addressing in Matt.7? Are we in that same class, or even age, completely?)

    Also, the crux of the issue (as in many others) is the assumption that “die” refers to the difficulty” of the “discipline” and “obedience” of “denying the flesh” meaning avoiding behaviors we are drawn to presumably because of pleasure or convenience. (And also, “making ourselves the center of our lives” as he also discusses). It’s the same old mistake of making everything in God’s plan about “behavior”; of maintaining the “knowledge of good and evil” that marked the Fall itself, not the pristine state we fell from, or will be restored to.

    Everyone forgets who this is; who’s speaking about “dying to his old man”. It was not some ungodly, “secular”, pagan, heathen, idol worshiping adulterer. It was Paul, who was a “Pharisee of the Pharisees”, and more versed in the Law than just about anybody else (Acts 23:6, Phil.3:5). The “old man” of the “flesh” he was referring to was his “old life” of keeping the Law, not “rebelling” against it. THAT is what he had to “die” to.
    If you think that’s “easy”; that can’t be what “dying to the flesh” is; the flesh wants to break the Law, and the mandate to keep it is the “holiness” and “obedience” that makes it “hard” to the flesh; then look at what it took to bring Paul to change his tune. Look at all of the other people of that day who opposed Christ and the Church. They were holding on to the Law for their dear life. But it could not save them, but rather was what condemned them. As God was advancing His plan to past that system, it was going down: fast. They would either “die” TO it, or die WITH it. THAT was the “choice” they faced.

    By contrast, unconditional grace says that we are all “dead” to the Law now. Speaking of it this way should make it seem less like some “excuse” to “do as we please”. It’s not about behavior; it’s about the universal penalty for behavior. People think being “alive” to the Law equates to “dying” to bad behavior, and thus being “dead” to the Law is being “alive” to “the old nature”. This is totally reverse of what Paul taught.

    This focus on us and our choices (discipline, etc.) is still centered on US. (Even if you Calvinize it with unconditional election and regeneration and say it is really Christ “doing the work”. Concretely, it is purely us). A good sailor who knows how to navigate the wind can still brag about his skill. I’ve never heard of a sailor or those praising him crediting the wind, just for being more powerful than him! (We see here that these analogies doesn’t even fit, but all the more prove ultimately against what they are teaching, when followed consistently. At this point, they then tell you to stop analyzing too much, again).

    If these are some problems union with Christ solves, what problems does it create?

    Good spiritual teaching is provocative. I think the nature of the flesh is that we don’t like to be provoked. Union with Christ is an enchanted reality that displaces us from the center of our own lives. We’re inclined, especially in our hyper-utilitarian ethos, to define the gospel mainly in terms of the benefits it brings to us. Those benefits are inestimably precious, but let’s not neglect the necklace that holds all the jewels together. Every gift that Christ gives you is subordinate to that first and greatest gift—union with the Father through being united with his Son. So, union with Christ challenges some of our most cherished convictions.

    This is the typical assumption of the “old time religion”, including the old-line fundamentalists with concepts such as “instant preaching”. This author is probably more on the [more moderate] “new-evangelical” side, and on the Reformed wing of that movement. Still; similar philosophy, especially when it comes to the “hard pill” of Calvinism.

    This is precisely what justifies turning the “Good News” into bad news, because it’s only our “flesh” that wants what feels or sounds “good”, and we can’t have too much of that! When I say in my list of “in practice” Christian beliefs, that one of the points is that “man deserves pain”, we see here I wasn’t really exaggerating after all, as one might have thought! God wants to “provoke” us, and we can extend the whole theology to say this is to weed out the “tares” (who are “naturally” offended), and make it a “bitter pill” even for the “elect” to ensure their need to “die” to something to receive it, when he grants them the ability to respond to the provocation. (And remember, the “Union with Christ” is by election as well, and withheld from everyone else, but are still held “responsible”).

    This “provocative” concept is not even in scripture. It’s from seeing how the religious leaders reacted to Jesus, but the provocation came from their own stance (they were the ones opposing Him, and wielding the “sword” He ‘brought’, against Him, and others under their charge), and that, with the Law; not some general trait of human nature apart from law. I don’t know anything about this author, but this language in general reflects the “alpha-male”, Choleric-Melancholy ESTJ, “rugged” American “motivational speaking” philosophy (which is largely typological; i.e. it may be good for some types, who then think this is “The Way”, but it’s not for everyone), and why much of religious and political conservativism has become so “mean-spirited”, sneering at all the liberal and/or younger “snowflakes”, and the Church even looking up to a leader like Trump just for his outspokenness!
    However, they don’t think that way when the tables are turned, when they regard the least bit of “push-back” from those they are “provoking’, as full scale biblical-level “persecution”! (Even when reactions for greatly sinful things; even “moral” ones, Christians are coming under fire for). It’s like HOW DARE anyone ever “provoke” us!
    It’s all a matter of authority, and people who believe like this probably figure they went through their “provocation” already, by whoever led them to Christ, many years ago. So that person, as a Christian themselves, had the authority to provoke us, but that’s behind us. (Like the reversal of the hymn “No Turning Back”; “The Cross behind us, the world before us” [i.e. to go and provoke, which we claim is the Cross, but not for us anymore; we’re beyond that stage now]. We’re now in their position, as carrying the authority of God to provoke the world, with “bad news” redressed as the “Good News”.

    The “gift” itself is said to be this “union”, defined almost strictly by what we do for Him (and how we’re empowered to continue indefinitely in the discomfort of it. That means, the “jewels” of the necklace are the nice things we’re given, but the “necklace’ itself is what we have to give, in order for the whole item to be put together!) Again, the “official” view of the “Reformation” is that “Christ alone” is sufficient, but this clearly is not Christ alone.

    Because it’s about doing, it’s really not about actually trusting Christ, and so they had to come up with another concept of what this “union” is, which is totally “counter-intuitive”, which is something that on one hand is supposed to be a natural result of, and this a proof of, the teaching’s divine origin, yet is just too convenient as a tool for passing something really incoherent in beyond any intellectual scrutiny. It’s basically the old tactic of “miracle, mystery and authority”. These “union with Christ” arguments are the same as transubstantiation. It can’t be empirically verified; it just IS, “by faith”. But just as the “spiritual” component of Communion was representative (it was commemorating His death, not recreating it), then the equally “spiritual” followup tot hat; our “death” and rebirth” (through justification, sanctification, and thus the “unity” with God/Christ; the “atonement), is the same way. This concept (along with the rest to the “spiritual power” teaching) is basically a holdover from the Dark Ages concept of spirituality. (And notice, the common Calvinist “transmission” of “truth” from “Paul”, via Augustine, Calvin and Owen!) They ditched the more liturgical elements of Catholicism, but still hold on to some of the doctrines founded upon it (and the result, as in Catholicism, is a total loss of real “Grace”, in favor of de-facto “works“).

    They won’t accept the idea of the overlap of covenants ending in AD70 (with its strong evidence of the prophetic “time statements”); and that “union with Christ” and “Sanctification” is positional. Its conclusion of total Grace is considered “cheap”; because what Christ did for us only has meaning if we either give something back, or face being plunged back into paying our own debt through eternal death.
    But this will resolve the issue in a much more straightforward way than this hard to comprehend “mystical” approach.

    When he defines “union with Christ” as “discipline” (naming several activities), and says “It is not a part of sanctification, rather union with Christ is the very basis upon which our sanctification, justification, and communion with God is even possible. Union with Christ is the fountainhead from which flows all the blessings of God.”, he’s saying disciplines; i.e. our efforts are the basis of sanctification, justification, communion with God and the fountainhead of all blessings!

    This brings to mind something Philip Yancey discussed in Disappointment With God, called “looking at the beam instead of looking along the beam”. Basically, the supernatural often looks natural, if you’re looking “at” the beam of light, which basically means, trying to analyze it. But if you look “along” it, you see what it is illuminating. [When I mentioned type to him once, he revealed that he was an INTJ. This type has iNtroverted iNtuition and extraverted Thinking as its perspective; where you perceive abstract concepts internally, rather than from without, and then apply the logical steps dictated by external reality to achieve something. So this concept of spirituality goes right along with that. “looking at the beam” might be more my own introverted Thinking with extraverted iNtuition perspective. So I perceive concepts, like claims of supernatural activity and where such conceptual patterns are heading, externally, and then try to determine what’s true, internally. Total anathema to a “traditional Christianity” that wants total submission to “traditional” doctrine, which are seen as determining truth, which itself is to be perceived internally!

    This approach might make some sense sometimes, but again,] when you have something as important as eternity and the crucial issue of the role of grace or works, we do not need such a convoluted method of changing grace into works. Other scriptures refute this, such as the contrast between works and “rest”.
    Of course, “rest” is really the “peace” of the union of Christ, even in the midst of the rigorous efforts of the work of discipline. (Even though the passage clearly says “CEASE from his own WORKS!” (Heb.4:10). They’ll say this means “ceasing from doing the works in ‘your own power‘, and doing the works in ‘His power’ instead”, but the verse compares it to God, actually CEASING the literal ‘work’ of creation, on the seventh day, not continuing the work under some other name. Why does this now become something totally different, for us?

    Such mental gymnastics makes mincemeat of the simplicity of the Gospel, and leads people to just turn away in exasperation and give up even trying to deal with it. (But then this of course just comes in handy to prove they’re stubborn and having no legitimate cause except wanting to “cling on to their sin” too much!)

    Here we have yet another teacher claiming to have “found” that one crucial spiritual thing nearly everyone else in the Church has missed. The reason everyone misses it is because as long it’s about our behavior and our will and efforts to change (even with the Spirit convicting us), we are operating out of the old man! The same “old man” that produces sin, and hence, the endless “cycle” of striving, falling and getting back up, never getting there, seeking that one thing that will do the trick, and buying more and more messages claiming to offer it.

    A lot of people respect the ideals of teaching like this (as you can see in the Amazon reviews, with almost none critical of the teaching), but then have to hang their heads in “humble realization” of how far they fall from what the ideal says they [hypothetically, at least] should possess. (If so many believe like this, then you wonder why there is said to be such a problem in the Church regarding holiness and faithfulness in the first place. Where are all of these “super Christians”? I remember someone who believed praying and reading the Bible every day was our whole “relationship” with God, and it was ridiculous if people “don’t have that relationship, and they think they’re going to Heaven?!” Yet then then, you hear the same person frequently lamenting “Aw man; I’ve fallen off on my prayer these past two weeks!” Also, being “prayed up” to prevent a sinful reaction to something, but when “the flesh” still “slips through”, then what? More self-reprimand!)

    This is precisely the antithesis of the “rest” promised! This is what we need to “die” to!
    It’s obviously not preventing “the flesh” and “sin”. (The self-humiliation then, in practice becomes sort of a self-willed form of justification; basically a new “penance” like in the old Catholic church, that ironic proves we’re not “self-righteous”. Even among the Reformers, like Calvin and Luther calling themselves “lowly worms”, but when they see someone who they think is in error, including each other at times, then all that “self-humiliation” goes right out the window as they charge full blast at the other person in a highly, indignantly “righteous” pose!)

    Many simply expect to be given a standard that’s basically out of reach; and they all figure it’s just what they are “striving” for. The carrot has to continue to be held and moved forward, to “keep us on our toes”. (This is what some believe regarding the “Second Coming” and end of the world being said to be “soon” when it wasn’t).
    They don’t seem to take the eternal threats in the teachings seriously. I’m sometimes even accused of overreacting. (This is when people will bring out the “you’ll just be less useful to God” interpretation of the “judgment” preached or implied). But to have a bunch of tough sounding ideals that are not meant to be taken literally and fully seriously, cheapens whatever message you are trying to give, including the entire Gospel itself. This is precisely why there is such an “evangelical crisis” as many of these teachers describe! They buy this stuff, read through it, take the tough talk “with a grain of salt”, and keep going. (It is thus good for “selling”, and then perhaps controlling some of the people, however).

    He denies “legalism” (as they all do), but when you teach something like this, the natural result is the minute you see someone not behaving right, it automatically implies a question of whether he is “in Christ”; whether he has that [behavioral] “power” the union with Christ should produce, then what’s determining his state is “works”, which are of “the Law”.
    He quotes Phil.3:12 about “not attaining, but pressing on”, which is the “admission” that we’re “not perfect”, that is supposed to prove salvation is still by grace and not works, because “look; He’s accepting us without actual, literal perfection”. As I’ve said, then and only then does “imputation” fill in for us. “But as long as we’re trying“, as I’ve paraphrased it. We see that really is what they teach (again, no exaggeration), and it’s perfectly in line with Catholisism, Campbellism, and just about all of the “cults”; all of whom opposed to the “Reformation” principles.

    This teaching, like so many others, focuses on the individual, but what about the whole “body”? If “union with Christ”, “spiritual power”, etc. was really what these leaders are saying it is, then union with Christ would naturally unite them with each other. The Spirit would teach them all the same things. They’re united on certain “key doctrines” such as Christ, the Godhead, sexual morality, and this “spiritual power” concept. But for so much else, it’s total discord. (Including something as important as Calvinism vs Arminianism, and all the other disputes). But then, they are willing to settle on “we’ll agree to disagree”, or even talking about each other’s doctrines as denying the Gospel, in some way, but as long as they held to the “core essentials”, they have to see them as still “saved”. Or then, they appeal to “we’re not perfect yet”. But by this time, it should be clear that “union with Christ” is not about an unreachable ideal (denying its unreachability as they may).

    The “gift” is salvation, meaning passing from death to life. To be in Christ is to be “reconciled” to Him, in which He does “not imput[e our] trespasses unto [us]” (2 Cor.5:19). The previous chapters leading up to this go into the two “ministrations”, with one ending. This was what the judgment was referring to, back in their day. Hence, v9-11, which would be another of those “false choices” between apparently conflicting “voices”. But we see there is another way to resolve it, which leads to true “grace” (unmerited favor), and not changing an abstract “grace” into literal works.

  12. Here’s another one:

    Christ said something very different. “Repent and believe in the Gospel” (Mark 1:15). “Unless you repent, you will all perish” (Luke 13:3). Jesus doesn’t want us to “relax” in our sin. He wants us to make war upon it. He wants us to gouge out our eyes and chop off our hands if they are causing us to sin (Mark 9:43). He wants us to reach always for perfection and to never be satisfied with anything less (Matthew 5:48). Relax? No, there is no time for relaxation. In the Sermon on the Mount He tells us not to be anxious about Earthly and materialistic concerns (Matthew 6:25), but on the fate of our souls we should be obsessively focused, for it is a narrow and difficult road that leads to life (Matthew 7:13).

    The first step to the first step is to feel shame for our sin. It does no good to say we are sorry if we are not really sorry. We “store up wrath for the day of wrath” when we have an “impenitent heart” (Romans 2:5). That is why it is so unfortunate that the modern church has developed a deep aversion to shame but not an aversion to the sin that causes it. A Christian will continue on doing shameful things while pushing away the shame that follows. “Jesus doesn’t want me to be ashamed,” he says. No, Jesus doesn’t want you to sin. But if you do sin, He wants you to feel shame and feel it deeply. It is Satan who wants you to sin and feel no shame.

    If we have never felt shame and guilt, we have never repented. If we have never felt disgust at our sin, we have never repented. If we have never allowed ourselves to suffer for our sin and embraced our suffering the way the penitent thief on the cross embraced his, we have never repented. And if we have never resolved with all our hearts never to repeat the sin, we have never repented. If you’re like me, you have resolved a million times and yet sinned again anyway. Our flesh is weak, that much is obvious. But our spirit must still be willing, and a willing spirit means coming to God in total submission and saying, “I am devastated by my sin because I know that it offends You. I ask You to give me the grace to turn from this wickedness and never indulge in it again for as long as I live. I would rather die than continue along this path.”

    This is true repentance. A repentant heart is a radical heart because it is a heart that prefers death over sin. A repentant man realizes that sin is what brought death into the world, sin is what put the Son of God on the Cross, therefore sin is the most terrible thing in all existence. He sees that his sins are the thorns in the crown placed on Christ’s head, the whip that scourged Him, the nails that went through Him, the spear that pierced Him. He sees this and weeps over it. A Christian who can stand casually before the Cross, and feel nothing for the abuse he inflicted on his God, is in an extremely dangerous state. He is even more lost, and closer to Hell, than an atheist or a pagan who does not believe in Christ but at least has a proper sense of guilt for his wrongdoing.

    (And this, from some conservative POLITICAL site!)
    This guy, and countless other “old time religion” preachers fails to realize that “shame” was the automatic result and reaction to the Fall (the taking on of the “knowledge of good and evil”); not what saved them from it! They felt that shame and then hid themselves, and God had to move to begin the plan of fixing the problem. It was at that point not about “behavior”. It was about the knowledge and “shame”. Yet religion afterward has consistently made “shame” the solution, like we had better punish ourselves with it so that God won’t need to. What he’s describing is basically paying for your sin yourself (on a very minuscule level); “giving” God something as payment for offending Him.

    So he turns the Gospel on its ear in several places. Satan is the “accuser”, not the one trying to bring ease. He completely contradicts’s Christ’s statement about “rest” with the “no time to relax” statement. Of course, “rest” is usually redefined as some “attitude” we have in the “difficulties” of the “hard walk”, but he doesn’t even say that, here.

    “Death” again assumed to be the “difficulty” of either giving up sin or feeling the shame for it, rather than dying to the notion we can save ourselves.
    And a point I have not really addressed much: since sin is what caused God so much trouble, that is why it’s all about changing behavior. They might try to appeal to Heb.10:25, but again, the “willful sin” that “tramples underfoot the Blood of the Son of God” is specifically the act of “counting the Blood of the Covenant, with which they were sanctified, an unholy thing”! Teachings like this actually come close to that, when they claim the teaching of full grace brought by the blood “promotes unholiness”

    THIS is “[the] way that seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death”. (Pro 14:12). Not the “death” we are supposed to have, but the one we want to avoid.

    Satan is the “accuser” who denied Christ’s work and tells man “you can do it yourself” (or minimizes Father/Son/Spirit’s work down to mere “help” in doing it ourselves. Yes, the Spirit is the “Comforter” or “Helper”, but that help is not what conventional Christian teaching has turned it into). It’s what we saw with the Babel builders, though the later religion got smart and decided to disguise it as “submitting” to God rather than “rebelling” against Him. That made them look all the more “good”, and this could be something else they could hit all the “sinners” of the world with.

    There is no “good news”; it’s just a continuation of the toughest aspects of the Old testament, with only some of the laws changed (and it of course does not recognize that the “repent or face judgment” language that is still present in the NT, was what would be resolved by the “Blessed Hope”, as something that would occur shortly, not be extended forever).

    In the comments, someone mentions I think him being Catholic, and he does mention “priests”. That would make some sense, as the self-flagellation he advocates, as I mentioned in the last comment, in practice becomes sort of a new “penance”. It’s just that this guy made himself sound more like an old Protestant “fundamentalist” and omitted the sacraments.

    Another commenter added:

    To understand God’s “goodness”, we absolutely have to understand with shame our falling short of the glory of God.there is a reason David affirmed that “His mercies are new every day” because, daily we sin, daily we stumble and daily we need accountability. We are physical beings who are fallen and sin repeatedly. We grow in righteousness through obedience and accountability, it’s how we live out the Grace given to us

    This of course is the typical assumption that the Law (which is what we “fall short” of) is for the purpose of creating “order”, through “accountability. It’s obviously taken from human (secular) authority (job, etc.) and injected into the Gospel.

    I should also make a point, regarding my own fervency against these teachings, which legalists can use as the grand proof that their teaching is right, and I’m only resisting “conviction”.

    Every voice in our “consciences” is not the Spirit. There are many different “voices” saying many different things. I’ve elsewhere been talking about what are known as “inner objects”, which are the recollections or “images” of previous people and things you have encountered. This can include things like abusive authority figures. This is what can be triggered by “tough talking” teaching today.
    I had followed “conscience”/“conviction” into wrong areas (such as sabbatarianism, to begin with), and then found it was just out of self-righteousness. They say you need “relationship with God” to be able to tell which “voice” is Him, but a lot of people claiming this have been wrong (i.e. have done or taught bad things, insisting they were right. Anyone can claim this spiritual enlightenment)

    Even when I was, basically, a legalist (initially going as far as to be a ‘kosher’ sabbatarian), I still knew I wasn’t “perfect” (as these teachers admit), and would often do just what they said, and hit myself over the head with my sin. Yet, this did not “help” me cease sinning. I would then still react to teachings like this. Where others, as stated before, just do the “humble” bit, resolve to do better, “take it with a grain of salt” and figure just this attitude and the pattern of “trying” is what saves them from the judgment threatened; I took these teachings literally/seriously, as I believe they were intended. If what they’re saying is true, then my “trying” and even being remorseful is not enough. As commenters on this site say, most people just keep doing the same thing, and I knew I did. I was most likely not “growing” fast enough. What was the line between “willful” sin, and an “accident”?
    That shouldn’t matter; for God’s “power” will make us stop sinning, but only if we do everything “required” to access this “power”, and keep at it.

    Over time, this just makes people give up, figuring either they have no hope, or God must “understand”. (Hence, why so many historically legalistic denominations, from the Catholics on down, have become the much decried “liberal” churches). Or, to just go into denial, and not admit things they are doing are sin. Or, try to “suppress” it out of their minds, like an addiction, but then when an urge comes up again, to go from resisting, to “just a little”; etc. This of course is a cycle many find themselves in, and if the teaching is true, then these people (of course) aren’t saved, because they (“obviously”) “lack the power”. Just that “one thing” they’re not doing. Just like the rich young ruler asked about. If you ask where the “line” is between sin and salvation, you are accused of “trying to get away with the bare minimum rather than pleasing God”. That’s actually true, but it’s what they are teaching that implies this “line”. They just believe, apparently, not to think about the line, but just be too busy “striving” to worry about it, and then you’ll be saved. But no matter how much you strive, you always could have hypothetically done “better”. So you are right back to where you started.

    Where’s the “Good News”? The good news is only once you’ve successfully “done it”, and made it into Heaven. But that’s too late if you haven’t “made it”. Why are we even speaking of “making it” anyway, if salvation is supposed to be the work of Christ?
    The “good news” and the “comfort” (“help”) of the Spirit is to bear witness with our spirit that we are children of God, not based on our fallible efforts. The legalist is the one whose heart is geared to “getting away” with something, and so everything is seen through this motive, and it’s hidden behind the rigorous effort. This is from trusting the “old man” to beat itself, rather than actually “trusting” Christ.

  13. Ran across an excerpt of Johnathan Edwards The Treatise on Religious Affections on Amazon:

    Edwards speaks of loving God for His “excellency, but we’re talking about an invisible being believed only by this ideation we call “faith”. The Bible lays forth the descriptions of these attributes, but that too is apart of what’s believed on faith.
    Edwards is saying, essentially that loving Him for what He has done for us (which in itself is also by faith), is not enough. That’s the “mercenary affection” which the original Calvinism said was not a “saving faith”, and also what he derides as mere “self-love”. Even the common verse “we love Him because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19) is explained away (based on v.9-11 somehow).

    Of course, this is where the Calvinism really kicks in, as this impossible love motivation, which so many Christians have failed on, is only granted by God, through particular redemption (while everyone is still held “responsible” for their choice or lack thereof).

    It’s clearly a “gospel” of higher attributes shaping God’s interaction with man, including hating and trapping so many of them on a slate of destruction that is then blamed on them, not Him. It’s “right” just because He’s God. Like with God’s “Holiness”, “excellency” is this poorly defined concept used to override everything else, including “love”, grace and mercy.
    If it doesn’t sound like “goodness”, it’s “good” just because God does it, and our “human” senses of “goodness” are screwed up anyway. (But we are still judged by some primal sense of ‘goodness’ we have inside of us, but don’t obey of course, though! Then and only then, can something like conscience be relied on as conveying God’s infallible truth).

    If this is “who God is”, and His followers are to be made more like Him, then we can see how colonialism, genocide and slavery could be justified. They don’t look nice to “fallen sinful humans”, but God is holy and excellent, because of who He is, and He’s actually being merciful by not just sending all humans straight to Hell like they ‘deserve’ (which itself is premised on Him “ordaining” all their sin, but still blaming them for it, which is for a “higher purpose” of maintaining His all-important, and apparently higher-than-love attributes of “holiness” and “justice”; i.e. justice itself, like conversion, is a charade, with “sin” scripted in solely to give God a reason to condemn many people, and then “Grace” is just Him saving a relative few out of this, which is also believed by the likes of Edwards, to further “glorify” God by them observing all the tortured in Hell so they could be “thankful” they were saved from it). Since we wouldn’t question God’s “excellence”, then no one who teaches or adopts this ever thinks this through.

    Jesus said the Law was summed up by the Golden Rule, but by splitting off and elevating abstract attributes such as “holiness” and “excellence”. and using them to justify all sorts of heinous acts, we nullify Jesus’ statement.

    His preaching is what’s regarded by many as what’s sorely been lacking in the modern Church, causing our “evangelical crisis” and other problems. But the “toughness” is what leads people to either soften it down, if not give up and leave the faith altogether. (But of course, theses would be the “tares”, nicely weeded out by the “offense of the Gospel”).
    But lost in all of this is that “gospel” is GOOD news. It was only “bad news” to those trusting in their own righteousness through the Law. But now, in the name of “excellence”, Edwards and others have driven us right back to the Law, with all of its condemnation; and then the only “good news” becoming that a few select individuals will be spared this, through an ability to keep the Law better.

  14. “Truth bomb dropped on Osteen and followers”

    Good, up until the second speaker, operating on defining the Gospel in terms of fear (so the purpose of coming to God is through coercion, basically, to placate his “anger” by what we “do” for Him; i.e. believe and try to stop sinning). This basically extends the Law to the present, and doesn’t realize the overlap of covenants shown in the NT, where the “Blessed Hope” was coming SOON, and then God’s cup of wrath would be complete (Rev.15:1. Though very few recognize this) The Church simply extended this to the present and beyond, and many used it to control people.

    THIS is why people turned to “feel good” messages like Osteen and others to begin with.
    As for competing with Islam, that religion as well operates on fear and control over behavior (i.e. a modified moral/spiritual “Law”), and it’s trying to beat world religion at its own game (which the organized Church has always done in one way or another; whether pleasantly or unpleasantly) that has caused all of the problems these leaders complain of, from total abandonment and opposition without to “compromise” (and dissension) within. The Gospel is supposed to be different from all of that, but in truth, what these leaders are advocating really isn’t; it’s dressed up in scriptural language, such as Law and sin with the “responsibility” to reform behavior (and the “difficulty” of doing so and “lack of excuse” for not doing so), all based on fear. Why really should anyone believe that “bad news” over the parallel messages of the other religions?

  15. Someone on Facebook posts this question:

    “How do the Universalists, that believe that everyone (including Hitler) will attain salvation, explain this verse???

    “If the righteous is scarcely saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?”

    (19) Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.

    1 Peter 2:18-19 English Standard Version (ESV)”

    The question of Hitler is something I had long thought about.

    The NT scriptures were written in an overlap of covenants, where they were given an “earnest” of the redemption procured by the finished work on the Cross, but the “old age” of the Law was still going on, and bore some authority, but would be removed soon. The people then would have to choose one or the other, or perish under the Law. With God completely removing that system, then condemnation would be over.

    When people cite verses like those, believing they will be in effect until a future return of Christ, or perhaps forever, as a-milennialists and some others believe, then we are still basically partly under the Law, and salvation is forever in the balance. (Hence, even “the righteous scarcely be saved”). That is not the “Good News” (for this to go on forever, until each individual dies, and then it’s too late if they’ve believed or behaved wrongly; and this with all special revelation having ceased, and the Church going off into centuries of corruption, “reform”, fracturing, power-vying, etc. and no real guide to set it back on track).

    So I cannot answer about Hitler. But I’m not going to go back to the belief in ongoing judgment just to get him into Hell! For that will ultimately end up dragging me and just about everyone else there along with him, and we’re right back to square one, without any Grace. Because what that’s actually doing is looking at him, and seeing “he’s such an evil wicked sinner, and I haven’t done what he did, so my sins are forgivable due to not being as bad as his“. (And it’s not just Hitler, of course. Having recently seen “When They See Us”, I’m incensed at the idea of people smugly destroying several men’s lives, basically out of general anger at “black crime” and an apparent drive to make one group suffer for all, like as an “example” or scapegoat, whether they actually did it or not, and for them to go on with their lives, and yet now stand by their word, with the whole “sixth suspect” afterthought, even as the later evidence disproves it).

    Salvation then really is by works or relative “goodness” after all! (which we don’t allow when other sinners, like an unrepentant adulterer says “but at least I’ve never killed anyone”. This is the same exact thing! It’s basically what the Pharisee said in the parable with the publican. The irony is, even if condemnation were still in effect, then if standing before God and this is what we said as to why we should enter Heaven, we would fail and be cast into Hell, as that parable showed).

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Master Directory of Articles « erictb

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: