The Gospel Coalition’s Thin-Skinned Long Arm

I did not see Kevin DeYoung’s post at his Gospel Coalition blog about confessionalism and pietism — and for good reason. Between the time you opened the page and blinked it was gone. (And it promised to be the first of a three-part series.)

(UPDATE: For those old enough to remember the Tonight Show when Johnny Carson was the host, and Doc Severinson was the band leader, Doc was not always present, often playing other gigs. Johnny regularly said to Ed McMahon, “Doc is here? Doc is not here.” In that same vein, Kevin’s post was not here. It is now here.)

Why it vanished from the Gospel Coalition website is a mystery. At the risk of shameless self-promotion, the reason may have to do with DeYoung’s decision to interact with The Lost Soul of American Protestantism, a book written by this blogger. Seemingly, any attention given to the Old Life case for confessionalism is improper at the Gospel Coalition because that case has uncomfortable implications for the gospel Allies.

And at the risk of seeing the Gospel Coalition administrators purge DeYoung’s thoughtful comments altogether from the Internet (they are currently available at his Facebook page), I am preserving his piece here below. Unlike the Gospel Coalition, where disagreements about polity, the sacraments, and even the eternal decrees, are not permitted to surface for the sake of fighting the Axis powers of inauthentic Christianity, I regard a blog as simply a place to discuss and kvetch. (I imagine that several days worth of Prozac and Prilosec comes with the registration packet at the Gospel Coalition conference to keep the conferees in good humor and free from indigestion.)

Here is DeYoung’s post (reaction to follow):

Can Pietism and Confessionalism Be Friends? (Part 1 of 3)

by Kevin DeYoung on Friday, April 8, 2011 at 12:27pm

Those outside Presbyterian circles may not be aware (and may not care), but there has been a lot of discussion over the past few years about the dangers of pietism and how it differs radically from the older (read: better) model of confessionalism. Pietism, it is said, emphasizes dramatic conversions, tends toward individualism, pushes for unity based on shared experience, and pays little attention to careful doctrinal formulation. Confessionalism, on the other hand, is a more churchly tradition, with creeds and catechisms and liturgy. It emphasizes the ordinary means of word and sacrament and prizes church order and the offices. It is pro-ritual, pro-clergy, and pro-doctrine, where pietism, it is said, stands against all these things.

I am sympathetic with much of this critique of evangelical pietism. I agree with Darryl Hart’s contention in The Lost Soul of American Protestantism that American evangelicalism has tried too hard to be relevant, has largely ignored organic church growth by catechesis, has too often elevated experience at the expense of doctrine, has minimized the role of the institutional church, and has worn out a good number of Christians by assuming that every churchgoer is an activist and crusader more than a pilgrim. Confessionalism would be good tonic for much of what ails the evangelical world.

Concern for Confessionalism

And yet, I worry that confessionalism without a strong infusion of the pietism it means to correct, can be a cure just as bad as the disease. Is there a way to reject revivalism without discounting genuine revival in the Great Awakening? Can I like Machen and Whitefield? Is there a way to say, “Yes, the church has tried too hard to Christianize every area of life” while still believing that our private faith should translate into public action? Hart argues that after revivalism Christian devotion was no longer limited to “formal church activities on Sunday or other holy days,” but “being a believer now became a full-time duty, with faith making demands in all areas of life” (13). Given the thrust of the book, I think it’s safe to say Hart finds this troubling.

Further, Hart clearly sides with the Old Side in New England that opposed the Great Awakening, its emphasis on inner experience, and the insistence that ministers be able to give an account of God’s work in their hearts (32-42). While I agree wholeheartedly that experience does not a Christian make, I wish the strong confessional advocates would do more to warn against the real danger of dead orthodoxy. It is possible to grow up in a Christian home, get baptized as an infant, get catechized, join the church, take the Lord’s Supper, be a part of a church your whole life and not be a Christian. It is possible to grow up in an Old World model where you inherit a church tradition (often along ethnic lines), and stay in that church tradition, but be spiritually dead. There are plenty of students at Hope College and Calvin College (just to name two schools from my tradition) who are thoroughly confessional as a matter of form, but not converted.

I have no hesitation in commending confessionalism. My concern is that pietism–with its private Bible study, small group prayer, insistence on conversion, and the cultivation of “heart” religion–is frequently set against confessionalism. For example, Hart agues, “Confessional Protestantism invites another way of evaluating the making of believers. Its history demonstrates the importance of inheritance and the way that believers appropriate faith over a lifetime through the sustained ministry and counsel of pastors as opposed to the momentary crisis induced by the itinerant evangelist or the pressures of sitting around a fire at summer camp” (184). I like the first sentence, but why so negatively caricature the work of itinerant evangelists and the real conversions that may come at summer camp? I could be misreading Hart. Maybe he has no problem with any of these things. But when he says, “the central struggle throughout Protestantism’s history has been between confessionalism and pietism, not evangelicalism and liberalism” (183), I worry that committed Presbyterians will steer clear of anything that gets painted with a broad brush as “pietism.”

A Confessionalism with Deep Piety

We all feel and respond to different dangers (for example, see Ligon Duncan’s post and William Evans’ post, both of which I like). No doubt, revivalistic, hyper-experiential, adoctrinal, deeds-not-creeds, tell-me-the-exact-moment-you-were-born-again, go-conquer-the-world-for-Christ Christianity has a load of problems. If that’s pietism, then I want no part of it.

But I want a certain kind of confessionalism. I want a confessionalism that believes in Spirit-given revival, welcomes deep affections, affirms truth-driven experience, and understands that the best creeds should result in the best deeds. I want a confessionalism that believes in the institutional church and expects our Christian faith to impact what we do in the world and how we do it. I want a confessionalism that is not ashamed to speak of conversion—dramatic conversion for some, unnoticed conversion for many.

I want a confessionalism that preaches and practices deep piety. Whether this is labeled “pietism” or just part of our rich confessional tradition doesn’t matter to me. What matters is that we have ministers and parishioners who realize there is an external and internal dimension to the faith. I want Christians to know that going to church, hearing the word, reciting the creeds, singing the hymns, and partaking of the sacraments is not peripheral to the Christian life; it our lifeblood. And I also want Christians who do all those things every week to pray in “their closets,” look for opportunities to share the gospel with the lost, submit to Christ’s lordship in every area of life, and understand that true faith is not only a knowledge and conviction that everything God reveals in his Word is true; it is also a deep-rooted assurance” that not only others, but they too “have been made forever right with God, and have been granted salvation” (Heidelberg Catechism Q/A 21).

Okay, I can’t resist one quick comment. Why does piety have to be “deep”? I understand that deep piety is good, and better than shallow piety. But what company makes the piety meter to detect whether it is deep or shallow? And what about those days when my piety is shallow? Am I less elect or justified? In other words, the word “deep” encourages an interest in me, not the gospel or God’s saving work.

This is not a reason to say, let’s have more shallow piety. But it may be a reason to be careful about the words we use lest we fall prey to the pride of thinking our own piety is deep. You’d think that folks who desire God and his glory might see how their piety standards nurture desires less theocentric and glorious.

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138 Comments

  1. Posted April 11, 2011 at 10:55 pm | Permalink

    You’re my hero Lily- I agree wholeheartedly and I think most confessionalists would too. It seems they are just letting the pietists make their voices heard. I guess there is a piety that goes along with confessionalism but which is not like the pietism you have been posting about. BTW, do you know the Lutheran theologian who wrote the classic work on pietism. I think it was Franz Peiper- do you know what I am talking about? I think they were part of a lecture series or something like that. I would love to know how I can order that book or article. Any other suggestions on good pietism sources? You are well versed on the subject.

  2. Posted April 11, 2011 at 11:18 pm | Permalink

    Come to think of it, I did watch a good movie this weekend with Jeff Bridges (the Dude himself) his brother Beau, and Michelle Pfeifer- The Fabulous Baker Boys. Just a passing thought.

  3. Posted April 12, 2011 at 3:52 am | Permalink

    Terry, that’s only for my pastor and session to know. Plus, the point is that is is not about ME.

  4. Posted April 12, 2011 at 3:53 am | Permalink

    John, but you do need to watch the Big Lebowski again. It will make you laugh a lot more.

  5. Posted April 12, 2011 at 4:33 am | Permalink

    Scott and E

    It is a semantic issue not worth too much discussion, however, ungodliness in modern versions of Scripture is often translated as impiety in older translations and godliness as piety. Impiety/ungodliness being uniformly and exclusively used as descriptions of the unconverted. Believers, Scripture assumes, will not be impious or ungodly.

  6. Posted April 12, 2011 at 5:06 am | Permalink

    Darryl

    Any piety (godliness/fruit of Spirit/Christ-likeness/holiness) is good. But we want this piety to be in us and abound (2 Pet 1). By such piety we demonstrate our faith is no mere dead orthodoxy and make our calling and election sure. By such piety seen in our lives (unselfconsciously) men glorify our Father in heaven. It is the hallmark of any man of God (1 Tim 6:11). It is something we are to train ourselves in (1 Tim 3:16). Godliness (piety) with contentment is great gain (1 Tim 6:6). Piety deepens as we reflect on the humbled and exalted Christ (1 Tim 2:16). Indeed ‘truth’ that does not produce piety is not truth at all (1 Tim 6:3; Tit 1:1).

    Lily

    There surely is ‘dead orthodoxy’. Belief without works is dead orthodoxy (Jas 2) as I am sure you are well aware. Few would claim a quiet mundane life is in itself pious or impious. Piety is ‘my meat is to do the will of him that sent me…’ It is the desire ‘that I may know him…’. Normally this will involve making use of the given means of grace at our disposal that we may to grow in grace and the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. Life experiences will be different for us all, and we all have different gifts, capacities, personalities etc but we are all called according to the power of God which is within us to work out our salvation with fear and trembling; this is piety.

  7. Posted April 12, 2011 at 6:05 am | Permalink

    Greg’s post yesterday afternoon was spot on… the affliction that most “confessional” (in name) churches are struggling with is not dead orthodoxy. It is rather weak or unfocused dependence on the means of grace, and this in turn is driven by precisely the desire for “depth” that DeYoung expresses. What I have often found is a pietistic confessionalism, where the means of grace aren’t ultimately trusted.

    So, confessional preachers rarely content themselves in directing the sinner outside himself, pointing to Christ, applying law and gospel to sinful souls. In our very fear of dead orthodoxy, we don’t let orthodoxy thrive. We may celebrate the Lord’s Supper (however rarely), but we turn it into a moment of Zwinglian piety.

    This is the problem with buying into the “dead orthodoxy” label… orthodoxy doesn’t flourish as a result of our fleeing its death, but embracing its very life.

  8. Lily
    Posted April 12, 2011 at 6:31 am | Permalink

    Hi John,

    I’m glad we’re seeing the same kinds of things – trying to deal with pietism on it’s terms seems to always turn into the murky mess of getting sucked down the road of subjectivity, speculations, or relativism. The only way I know how to deal with it is with sound doctrine. I wish I could offer some good resources. Mostly, I learned in the school of hard knocks and rely on notes I have from some good teachers. I would guess that googling ‘Lutheran and pietism’ would turn up some good things? I’ve wanted to read Franz Peiper for a long time, but never seem to be able to get it in my que. Hermann Sasse’s work, The Lonely Way, is really good – I’m a sucker for anything with Sasse’s name on it.

  9. Lily
    Posted April 12, 2011 at 6:32 am | Permalink

    John T,

    There is also dead pietism. The true marks of the church by which its presence is known are the pure preaching of God’s Word and the unadulterated administration of the holy Sacraments. That is the criteria that marks a church not how many or how few it’s programs it has (fruit).

    The true mark of a Christian is a confession of Christ crucified for them. That is the criteria that marks him not much or how little fruit he has. When people start getting into fruit inspection they are forgetting the doctrine of fellowship.

  10. Nate Ostby
    Posted April 12, 2011 at 7:02 am | Permalink

    John Y.,

    I believe you can get some material on pietism here:

    http://www.ctsbookstore.com/p-3794-pietism-and-lutheranism-1998-pieper-lectures.aspx?SearchTerm=pietism

    I haven’t ordered it, so don’t hold me to this too strenuously. Rod Rosenbladt recommended these, so I imagine they are good.

  11. Posted April 12, 2011 at 7:02 am | Permalink

    No problem with your response there. Even to say it’s not about you is such a pious thing to say, especially in this crowd. I’d also guess that you think that “the ministry” ought to be converted too. That seems to be one of the hallmarks of PGFGA (or whatever we’re calling). I’ve never been to an OPC ordination exam that didn’t inquiry about whether or not the man was converted.

  12. Posted April 12, 2011 at 7:13 am | Permalink

    Thanks Nate-nice!!!

  13. Posted April 12, 2011 at 8:33 am | Permalink

    Lily

    You’re right there is a dead pietism. Works without faith is equally dead. Yet faith works. And the works of faith aree important. It is works of faith and labours of love that Paul sees in the Thessalonians that encourages Paul to believe that a real work of the Spirit has happened. They have turned to God form idols and are serving the living and true God.

    And Lily, it won’t do to say that fruit is unimportant. John 15 gives the lie to that. Branches that do not bear fruit are cut off and thrown into the fire to be burned. It is the fruits(kingdom living or its absence) that true and false teachers are distinguished (Matt 7). Fruit is nothing to do with church programmes.

    It is a mistake to put creed and deed in competition or to separate them. If the truth we believe does not produce obedience and love then we are not believing the truth however orthodox may be the creed we confess. John’s epistles could not be clearer on this.

    ‘The true marks of the church by which its presence is known are the pure preaching of God’s Word and the unadulterated administration of the holy Sacraments. ‘

    I think both preaching and sacraments are important, however, it is possible to have both – even pure and unadulterated – and to have a congregation of unconverted people. Such a congregation is not a church in any NT sense of the word. I know I am spitting into the wind making such a comment here. The marks of a true church include discipline and that means creeds and deeds.

  14. Posted April 12, 2011 at 8:35 am | Permalink

    I honestly do not understand all of the fascination with marks that will show us who is and who isn’t saved. Would you please explain this? These kinds of speculations can cause great harm to the flickering wicks and bruised reeds and cause others to doubt their salvation. It’s no wonder that there is an anxious bench in your church history if this is typical of Reformed thinking. I honestly do not understand why everyone wants to be fruit inspectors. There is no difference between the Gospel Coalition and the Old School if this is true and if it is true, then the argument between the camps seems to boil down to how to grow and inspect fruit not doctrine. Last time I checked, it was the Holy Spirit’s work to give us growth and fruit – not ours and the fruit we were to inspect was doctrine.

    Lily, my point isn’t about inspecting fruit. I am with you on the futility of that project. My point is that there necessarily has to be a way to express and embody internal faith. And confessionalism says it’s a creedal expression. Pietism says it’s testimonial. The former looks outside the self, the latter within the self. Both agree that a disconnect between heart and mouth is bad, but pietism thinks it’s got that problem beat by making the form of expression experiential instead of historical; it mistakenly assumes that there is something inherently able in a testimonial expression that can circumvent any disconnect between heart and mouth. Confessionalism always runs the danger of thinking it can beat the disconnect by the creedal system. But memorizing and reciting the Creed isn’t any more magical than hearing and parroting a testimony. But the former is the way confessionalism defines the embodiment of orthodoxy and it loathes the testimonial system as much as pietism loathes the creedal system.

  15. Posted April 12, 2011 at 8:43 am | Permalink

    Yet faith works.

    John T., why do I get the sense that you also say things like, “Live the gospel”? But, look, nobody is pitting faith against works. Works are inevitable to faith. The problem arises when it is said that faith does something when all it really does is receive. So what you give with one hand about the marks of the church seems taken away with the other when you suggest that faith is active. No it isn’t.

  16. Posted April 12, 2011 at 8:44 am | Permalink

    Lily

    A further thought… fellowship (both with God and each other) involves walking in the light (1 John 1). God is light and in him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him and walk in darkness we lie and the truth is not in us.

    What does it mean to walk in light? It means to walk in truth. It means to walk in love. It means to be obedient. It means when we sin to confess and forsake it. Our fellowship is a fellowship of life – the life of God in the soul of man – and that means truth, love and obedience in a rich and integrated tapestry.

    1John 2:9-11 (ESV)
    Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling. But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.

    (And John includes here non-confessional, evangelical and pietistic brothers).

    1John 2:3-6 (ESV)
    And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.

    A confession without obedience to commandments is dead orthodoxy.

  17. Posted April 12, 2011 at 8:54 am | Permalink

    A confession without obedience to commandments is dead orthodoxy.

    What’s wrong with just calling it unbelief or even hypocrisy? Why confuse matters by invoking the oxymoronic phrase that seems to suggest that it is possible for truth to be dead? Huh? I mean, I get what unbelief and hypocrisy are. But what in thee heck is dead truth?

  18. Lily
    Posted April 12, 2011 at 9:13 am | Permalink

    John T,

    I never said fruit is unimportant. I’m trying to point out that becoming fruit inspectors is one of the bad fruits of individualistic, moralistic, subjectivistic pietism. You are not qualified to judge my fruit nor am I qualified to judge yours. Doctrine is the fruit we judge and the church deals with amoral lives.

    Too many people major in James and minor in Christ. If Christ is the vine sinners are sent to, the branch will bear fruit and it is up to Christ to prune what, when, where, how, and why he chooses so a person may bear even more fruit. Faith is trusting that God’s promises are true and depending upon him to give us growth and fruit as his good pleasure sees fit.

    Creed and deed are not in competition. It is a matter of recognizing what is primary. Major is the majors and minor in the minors. Let’s not make the 2nd table of the law primary and the 1st table of the law secondary. What is growth in Christ but a steadfast confidence in him? If Christ is the vine, there will be fruit. ‘O ye of little faith.

    If a church bears the true marks of the church, God will give faith to whom he pleases and as he sees fit. If you are so worried about it – increase your prayers for God’s mercy upon all. True churches are filled with true believers with messy lives.

    Paul determined to see only Christ crucified in the Corinthians and dealt with actual problems in the church – he did not get into fruit inspection trying to separate the tares from the wheat.

    We are taught to devote ourselves to sound teaching, the reception of the Lord’s Supper, to pray for one another, to patiently bear one another, to help bear one another’s burdens, to ignore minor sin, to address major sin, to forgive one another, to mind our own business, to encourage on another, and so forth

    We are warned against meddling, gossiping, or causing another to stumble in their faith (remember millstones tied around our necks?), and to take care the weak brethren among us. I fear you are majoring in the minors. The answer to all sin is teaching sound doctrine not fruit inspectors sniffing around looking for someone who might not measure up to subjective standards or making speculations about who might be unconverted.

  19. Posted April 12, 2011 at 9:17 am | Permalink

    Zrim

    I want to affirm both. I want to affirm that faith receives and faith rests and faith trusts. But I want to affirm that faith works too. Hebrews 11 is all about faith working. The Thessalonians were marked by an ongoing work of faith.

    1Thess 1:3 (ESV)
    remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.

    Faith is expressed in faithfulness. Faith and works are in symbiotic relationship. We are saved by faith alone but the faith that saves is never alone. And of course there is a sense in which we ‘live the gospel’. The gospel is a story of a dead and resurrected Christ and our participation in that death and resurrection. As we live as dead and resurrected people we ‘live the gospel’. I’m equally happy of course to say we produce in our lives the fruit of the gospel. Or that I live but not me but Christ lives in me.

    Yes of course the gospel is in a very important sense something accomplished outside of me. It is good news of salvation accomplished in Christ. But as a believer I participate in that salvation. I live in it. That is all that many mean by ‘living the gospel’. It is all I mean. Thus it expresses a biblical truth.

    Zrim, unless ‘live the gospel’ has come to mean something in your context that denies the objective truth of the gospel it seems to me quite wrongheaded to deny its validity as a means of expressing the subjective reality of the gospel message in the lives of God’s people. The language is simply a form of metonymy. It is a straining at gnats to sneer at it.

  20. Ryan Davidson
    Posted April 12, 2011 at 9:25 am | Permalink

    A confession without obedience to commandments is dead orthodoxy.

    No, it isn’t. It’s unorthodoxy.

  21. Posted April 12, 2011 at 9:27 am | Permalink

    Watch out Zrim, John T may be Pauly Walnuts in disguise- he wears a Panda suit in his spare time. He’s picking on Lily though. I do have to concur with him about 1John- that book always gives me the willies and puts the fear of God in me. There is something about his tone though that makes me wonder if he ever has had a serious struggle or fall into sin and how he handled it. Heck, even the most seemingly sanctified of saints in the scriptures had serious falls and warts in their characters and walk with God. Maybe he does not have a good grip on how to distinguish the Law and the Gospel. Come on John T set us straight. Are you going to beat me up for being a smart aleck? You remind me of some of the strong-armed charismatic pastors and shephards I ran into a lot during my 19 years of attending charismatic and non-denominational churches. I used to hob-knob with the Derek Prince, Bob Mumford, Charles Simpson, Ern Baxter and Don Basham crowd. Some turned out to be quite the tyrants. I guess that is what attracted me to the reconstructionists and Rushdoony crowd too. Thank God I am over that too.

  22. Kate
    Posted April 12, 2011 at 9:36 am | Permalink

    DeYoung’s post is back up on TGC as of 5:27 this morning.

  23. Posted April 12, 2011 at 9:48 am | Permalink

    John T., one man’s metonymy is another’s confusion. How can working and resting go together? They are as at odds as law and gospel. But if you want to hold onto “living the gospel” I’ll just as tenaciously hold onto “living in light of the gospel.” Maybe you think that’s strain-y and sneer-ish, but the Protestant Reformation was fought over prepositions and conjunctions. What always confounds me is how Trent understands Protestantism better than many of its modern adherents. And its anathemas feel more affirming.

  24. Jared
    Posted April 12, 2011 at 10:02 am | Permalink

    John Yeazel and Nate O:

    A few notable fathers of Pietism were Arndt and Spener.

    I have read (and re-read repeatedly) the 1998 Pieper lectures entitled “Pietism and Lutheranism.” Yeah, these are the ones recommended by Dr. Rosenbladt in the link you provided Nate. For what it’s worth, I would highly recommend them (who am I, I know!). But seriously, this book has been such an eye opener to the “roots and fruits” of pietism. It was (and continues to be) a real balm to my soul. Some of the lectures are quite “thick,” but that’s not a bad thing. I ordered the volume from the “Logia” website.

    Happy Reading!

    Jared.

  25. Lily
    Posted April 12, 2011 at 10:11 am | Permalink

    John T,

    Re: A further thought…

    There is the danger of straining gnats and swallowing camels here. Where is Christ? If you detach these verses from Christ and major in them, they cannot be understood properly. Major in Christ and understanding the law will follow. Christ is the Light. Learn of Christ – faith and good works will follow.

    Since you are so worried about dead orthodoxy – recognize one of it’s signs: fruit inspectors. Pax.

  26. Lily
    Posted April 12, 2011 at 10:20 am | Permalink

    Gracias, Zrim, for your gracious explanation and patience with me. My eyes were crossing with confusion last night. I am greatly appreciative of the clarification.

    Re: Confessionalism always runs the danger of thinking it can beat the disconnect by the creedal system.

    I would ask if this is a problem with seeing it as the source rather than the guardian of orthodoxy? The creeds and ordered worship keep us safely within a guarded sheep pen – which – protects us from false teaching. The only answer I have for pietism is to nail pietism to the cross with sound doctrine and ya’ll certainly have your hands full.

  27. Posted April 12, 2011 at 10:26 am | Permalink

    Have to go to work so I won’t be able to respond to any posts directed at me until after midnight tonight (central time).

  28. Nate Ostby
    Posted April 12, 2011 at 10:29 am | Permalink

    Thanks Jared!

  29. Posted April 12, 2011 at 10:34 am | Permalink

    Zrim: How can working and resting go together?

    Just out of curiosity, how do you read John 6: “This is the work God requires: to believe in the one he sent”? I know there are several different options; I just wondered which one you take.

  30. Steve
    Posted April 12, 2011 at 10:35 am | Permalink

    Thanks for this, Prof. Hart! I too have fallen victim (in the much smaller comment arena) of TGC’s vicious administrative editors, notably for a gently worded criticism of Samaritan’s Purse and Operation Christmas Child. Though I am not a strict confessionalist, I am decidedly concerned about where TGC seems to be going (not to mention how they are getting there).

  31. Posted April 12, 2011 at 10:37 am | Permalink

    In the meantime, it will do no good to throw your pearl’s amidst this swine John T (I am speaking in the singular and mean myself; so, I am not included the regular swine that frequent this site; they may think differently).

  32. Posted April 12, 2011 at 10:37 am | Permalink

    I meant including not included!!!

  33. Posted April 12, 2011 at 11:40 am | Permalink

    John Y

    I would love to simply be sanctimonious and say ‘I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness’. I guess here I am if I try to defend keeping the gospel and its obligations intact. Of course I have problems with disobedience and I thank God that the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses from all sin. Yet I remember, and increasingly so, that the Bible has little tolerance for wilful disobedience. Wilful disobedience is in principle apostasy. In the OT there was no sacrifice for it. I remember that Paul kept his body under lest he be disqualified. That many run in a race but only one receives the prize. That out of all who left Egypt only two entered the Promised Land. That since we have such gospel promises we should cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God. That narrow is the gate and hard the road that leads to life…

    That ‘ if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.’ I learn that it is my responsibility to ‘keep myself in the love of God… hating even the garment stained by the flesh’. And so on.

    In other words while I find my assurance in the glorious certainty that he who began a good work in me will continue it until the day of Jesus Christ yet I will not be presumptuous and arrogant but keep myself from idols and heed Paul’s instruction to ‘ keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.

    Zrim

    I am of course happy with living in the light of the gospel but what makes this ‘living’ gospel and not ‘law’ is that it is Spirit-enabled; it is Christ living in me.

    Lily

    Of course its wrong to extract them from Christ. But that is precisely the problem – you are extracting them from Christ. The same gospel that tells me Christ died for me in justification tells me Christ lives in me in sanctification. You are dividing what God does not want pulled asunder. To ‘learn of Christ’ is to take his easy yoke upon us. To ‘learn of Christ’ is to live Christ and bear his image.

    Eph 4:17-24 (ESV)
    Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. But that is not the way you learned Christ!- assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

    regards to all

  34. Posted April 12, 2011 at 11:41 am | Permalink

    Lily, re source and guardian, I think you’re right. More precisely, we might say that the source of orthodoxy is the Word and Spirit and the guardian is rightly ordered doctrine and worship. But I’d reiterate my point that sin still abides and must contend with all of it.

  35. Posted April 12, 2011 at 11:42 am | Permalink

    Whatever John 6 means I don’t think it means that faith works. People work, faith receives and rests. I think we can say that people with faith work, but I don’t see how we can say faith works, which is what John T. said: “I want to affirm that faith receives and faith rests and faith trusts. But I want to affirm that faith works too.”

  36. Lily
    Posted April 12, 2011 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

    John T,

    Re: ‘I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness’

    Sorry, but it does not look like the shepherd entering by the door, but more like a thief or a bandit trying to climb into the sheep pen some other way.

    You are speaking out of both sides of your mouth and fail to discern law from gospel. What you give with the right hand you take away with the left hand. I stand my ground. Until you place Christ as primary and central in your theology, you will never properly understand scripture or the lived Christian life. You are majoring in the minors not Christ.

  37. Paul (UK)
    Posted April 12, 2011 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

    Maybe I am missing or not appreciating the finer points of the exchanges between folks in this post, but could anyone please also look at the influential guy, Kevin DeYoung, and how his slant on confessions squares up with his practise and those he works so much with ie. the YRR movement? HIs commentary on the Heidelberg Confession was a good populist move, but when I hear him speak or check the website for the church he leads then I don’t see much Reformed practise.

    Kevin seems to want to hold the middle ground so much and this leads to a bundle of theological contradictions. For example, he works closely with charismatics and upholds their practise – just listen to the admiring comments about each other between Kevin and his pentecostal co-workers. And this flys in the face of what Reformed confessions like the Heidelberg stood for. I often wonder if Kevin wants to be a lead figure for the Reformed, but with subtle and not so subtle modifications to this term which lets most other groups he works with go unchecked on their way. Is this good practise? I don’t think so.

    Rather than shape and nourish a clear and distinctive Presbyterian outlook, Kevin gives the impression of wanting to push all the Reformed buttons, but keep his wide circle of friends and their non Reformed ways. This may be a simplistic viewpoint, but I think there is more than a grain of truth in it. Finally, I note with interest Kevin’s comments about DG on the GC website today – not helpful and provocative. Behind his comments on confessions and piety I suspect, as I have done in the past, that his main aim is primarily is trying to counter someone and an older, richer Presbyterian thinking and practise.

  38. Posted April 12, 2011 at 1:18 pm | Permalink

    Lily

    Lots of soundbites I afraid but not a word of Scripture to back your contention. You are simply not facing the weight of evidence against you in God’s word, some of which I have quoted.

    Anyway, I hope we both come to increasing knowledge of the truth.

    John

  39. Lily
    Posted April 12, 2011 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

    John T,

    Nope – no soundbites used. Truth was spoken pointing out what was being done. Failure to hear instruction reflects on the hearer not the speaker. The supposed evidence you were standing upon is without context and as such gives flimsy support to anything other than a pietistic mentality. Kyrie eleison.

  40. Lily
    Posted April 12, 2011 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

    Hi Zrim,

    Re: More precisely, we might say that the source of orthodoxy is the Word and Spirit and the guardian is rightly ordered doctrine and worship.

    Yes. This is roughly our hierarchy: Scripture is the Judge of our Book of Concord, the Book of Concord judges the teaching (which includes Luther’s work). The Book of Concord rules the church’s orthodoxy and orthopraxy. Shepherds stay within the boundaries of orthodoxy and orthopraxy in their teaching and practices and thus guard the flock from wolves. Does that make sense?

    Re: I’d reiterate my point that sin still abides and must contend with all of it.

    May I answer yes to the former and no to the latter in order to give you a different angle to view it from?

    Yes – as I see it, Christians will agree with the fact that sin abides, but they still think they are pretty decent folk. We all have a need to begin to truly understand how dire our situation is and how deep our sin is even though we are regenerated (ya’ll think you put the T in total depravity – we defined it!) When we start understanding how completely bankrupt we are, how hopeless our situation is, we begin to realize how completely dependent we are upon Christ alone – it never negates contending with personal sin for that is the Christian life. This is the daily life of repentance. Part of being cured from pietism/moralism/experiential is beginning to see how desperately we need a Savior and that we don’t need to be improved but to die to self.

    No – do not let a pietist/pietistic thinking draw you into arguing the law. It’s obedience to all of the law or we flunked. Call a thing what it is. It’s not our works with Jesus making up the difference. The full force of the law is what kills the pietist in all of us. Christ alone and the full sweetness of the gospel needs to be heard. What pietists need is Christ alone. Contend for a clear gospel. Pietists are allergic to grace, Christian liberty, and want to wallpaper the gospel with the law. They have a tendency to sound like goats with but, But, BUT! As I see it, most people tend to think the gospel is too good to be true even though they are Christians. — when contending for the truth, the gospel is the power of salvation, so don’t let it get drowned out by the law. I hope this makes sense?

  41. Posted April 12, 2011 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

    John, the gospel is Jesus Christ died for sins and was raised on the third day. How do I do that?

    And how do you distinguish “Christ living in you” from Roman Catholic understandings of cooperating with grace. I know it is biblical language. But we did have a Reformation to make distinctions about such matters.

  42. Posted April 12, 2011 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

    Lily, it all makes sense to me. But I’m wondering what relation it has to my own point, which is simply that even the right mode of orthodoxy (creed over testimony) doesn’t guarantee anything. As in, sure, the right way to maintain good grades is to study as opposed to osmosis, but studying doesn’t guarantee intelligence because there is still a human being standing between the mode and the desired result. (Yes, I am suggesting that pietism is to religious devotion what osmosis is to learning.) I think you actually agree with this, so I’m not sure why you’re advising to “not let a pietist/pietistic thinking draw you into arguing the law.” I guess you sort of lose me there.

  43. Posted April 12, 2011 at 2:32 pm | Permalink

    Paul UK,

    why don’t you go over Kevin’s site and ask?

  44. Lily
    Posted April 12, 2011 at 9:43 pm | Permalink

    Sorry, Zrim, I plead guilty to a mind that doesn’t stay on track as it should. I needed to go back to reread your previous comment and included some things from there. I’m not sure I’m quite understanding, so if you will bear with me and let me try to walk through it – will you correct me where I’m missing the point? Sorry to be so dense, but this is long. I’m head scratching.

    Re: My point is that there necessarily has to be a way to express and embody internal faith…. Both agree that a disconnect between heart and mouth is bad

    I really scratched my head on this and all I think is why? The more I think about it, the less I agree. Why do I have to agree that there is a disconnect between heart and mouth? Is there a disconnect when I tell my child I love them and don’t feel warm fuzzies? I would answer with a resounding no! Does an abiding love not count? The same may be said of many other things like delighting in my child. Do I lack delight in my child unless my emotions are revved up? Again, I would say no! I may just be a dumb Lutheran here, but the more I think about it the more I wonder about it. Are we aware of the abiding love for a child 24/7? Does an abiding love, joy, delight, reverence, and so forth matter or not meet the commands? All I know is that if I had a boyfriend displaying affections like the Hedonism cult towards me, I’d want a restraining order.

    Perhaps, the pietists need to be put in the hot seat. Connecting with emotional experiences may mean no more than I just feel good in a group of energized people. Isn’t it the same at a big party where everyone’s celebrating New Year’s and everyone arrives primed by expectations of enjoying themselves? For all these people know they are having fellowship with their own juiced-up feelings that are the result of careful orchestration by the worship team. Can they prove it’s really God and not the orchestrated atmosphere? Shouldn’t they defend their narcism?

    Re: even the right mode of orthodoxy (creed over testimony) doesn’t guarantee anything. (from earlier comment: But memorizing and reciting the Creed isn’t any more magical than hearing and parroting a testimony.)

    I look at it from this angle: when I memorized the multiplication tables, I ceased having to consciously think about them. The answer automatically came to me. Or think about how the U.S. Mint teaches employees to study real money in order to spot a counterfeit. Reciting the creeds works in a similar fashion. They equip us to spot errors almost automatically. Thus I see them as a guardian as well as teacher and bearer of the gospel. The more we interact with them, the more we cherish them for what they are – especially if we are taught their meaning, beauty, and purpose. I honestly think they serve us well against false teaching and unexpectedly bring fresh insights into other things at times. I guess I have an organic view of what happens – it becomes a part of us?

    Do I have to consciously enjoy them every time I repeat them? They are like old friends whom I’m comfortable with. Why should I expect to be twitter-pated by trustworthy old friends? Do I have to prove that God works through theologically sound creeds for our good? It seems self-evident…

    Re: As in, sure, the right way to maintain good grades is to study as opposed to osmosis, but studying doesn’t guarantee intelligence because there is still a human being standing between the mode and the desired result. (Yes, I am suggesting that pietism is to religious devotion what osmosis is to learning.)

    Not sure I’m following – Adults with Down’s Syndrome can be surprisingly sharp absorbing our creeds/practices and raise a fuss if they are changed and challenge things if they think something is not right, so in a similar way there is some osmosis in our practices? Is there a reason there shouldn’t be? Do we have to be intelligent for God to save us and teach us? One main difference between pietism and confessionalism is the teaching. I see confessional churches as being wells of life-giving water, whereas the pietists… well it’s tempting to use expletives to describe what they are being fed. Wouldn’t the problem be a food safety issue?

    Still lost – “there is still a human being standing between the mode and the desired result.” – would you please explain? Aren’t we supposed to do things God’s way and trust the results to God?

    I’m sorry for being so long-winded in this post, but I keep thinking the tables need to be turned on the pietists and have a sneaking suspicion that may possibly be valid – not that I know how mind you. What do you think?

    Re: I’m not sure why you’re advising to “not let a pietist/pietistic thinking draw you into arguing the law.” I guess you sort of lose me there.

    I apologize. For better or worse, I keep finding myself trying to offer tips to you – in this case, some lessons I learned the hard way. My best guess about why I keep trying to offer the little I know from my tradition is because I’d like to offer it to you in case it might be helpful in your tradition. Ya’ll have a thankless job trying to make people aware of pietism and I appreciate all of your efforts. May God richly bless you in all.

  45. Lily
    Posted April 12, 2011 at 10:01 pm | Permalink

    Dr. Hart,

    Hat tip back at’cha from the Lutherans branch of the family – may God increase your tribe!

  46. Posted April 12, 2011 at 10:53 pm | Permalink

    John T,

    The Gospel has no obligations, the Law has obligations. The Gospel is an indicative, the Law is an imperative. “Distinguishing law and gospel is sometimes as simple as determining the mood of the verb in the passage you are studying. Is the verb in the imperative or indicative mood? Is it commanding or making a request, such as “Do this and live”? Or is the passage stating a fact, as in “Christ has set you free”?

    The majority of 1John is the Apostle exhorting believers with the Law so that they may turn to the Gospel, be set free and live. Loving God with our whole heart, soul, mind and strength and loving our neighbor as ourselves is pure Law which none of us perform as we are obligated by God to do so. From the passages you quoted and from the tone you use it seems that you think you are really pulling it off and you want to exhort everyone else to “live the Gospel.” Sorry John T but you don’t come close. Your sanctimoniousness oozes from your comments. This is the main thing which evangelicals, emergents, Word/Faith and others, etc. etc., fail to see. It is much better news to keep the Law and the Gospel separate and distinct.

    In regards to wilful disobedience we all do it everyday when we do not love God with our whole heart, mind, soul and strength and love our neighbor as ourselves. We can get pretty good at convincing ourselves that we are pulling it off though. Or, we fall in despair knowing that we don’t and then let ourselves go and not struggle with our sin, ie., turn to the Gospel as our only remedy.

    To try to make the point fuller let me borrow some quotes from some pietists who focus on inward transformation rather than the Gospel as the means of justification and sanctification: Dallas Willard says this: “It is not so much through the Gospel that the Spirit transforms as it is through our own determination and effort: ‘What transforms us is the will to obey Jesus Christ from a life that is one with his resurrected reality day by day, learning obedience through inward transformation.’ ‘Jesus is actually looking for people he can trust with his power.’

    Richard Foster has complained that an emphasis on God’s grace has paralyzed the pursuit of inner transformation. “Where scripture teaches that the most important, most real, and most lasting work is Christ’s objective work in history for our salvation, Foster writes, “The most important, most real, most lasting work is accomplished in the depths of our heart. This work is solitary and interior….It is the work of heart purity, of soul conversion, of inward transformation, of life formation….Much intense formation work is necessary before we can stand the fires of heaven. Much training is necessary before we are the kind of person who can safely and easily reign with God.”

    I spent 19 years listening to nonsense like Willard and Foster in my attempts to try to do the Gospel. I separated justification and sanctification and thought I could sanctify myself through my attempts at obedience to the Law. I could never do it and the despair got worser and worser. The objective, indicative Gospel is good news indeed!!!

    If you want to go back to the Mosaic Covenant and live under its burdens of perfect obedience be my guest but you are not gonna drag me with you. Best regards to you too.

  47. Paul (UK)
    Posted April 13, 2011 at 12:47 am | Permalink

    Dr. Hart,

    To go over to Kevin’s site and ask him questions about his close working with and affirming of many non Reformed groups, networks, influential characters, and para church set ups is a bit daunting, but it would hopefully get some straight answers and could be illuminating. I need to get some pluck and courage to do this, but it is an excellent idea. BTW, I mentioned some provocative comments on Kevin’s GC web page which I thought he had written about you; they had in fact being put by some anonymous person. Sorry for any confusion I may have caused.

  48. Posted April 13, 2011 at 2:23 am | Permalink

    John Y

    I get the gospel/law distinction though I disagree with it. Gospel obligations are just that, gospel obligations. They are not Law. Law is/was a covenant that demanded life by obedience (this do and live) gospel gives life and that life obeys. But that is another discussion one we are probably both familiar with.

    ‘The majority of 1John is the Apostle exhorting believers with the Law so that they may turn to the Gospel, be set free and live.’. John Y… this is just silly and shows where the law/gospel divide can end up leading you. John is speaking of the nature of the new life in Christ. He says so specifically in the opening chapter. The rest of the book is a description of this life: it is a life of believing the truth not lies, obedience not disobedience, loving not hating.

    Willard and Foster are reacting to confessionalism and confessionalism is reacting to an extreme pietism. Both use caricatures of the other. Truth lies in both confession and creed.

    Darryl

    There is a sense in which I agree with your definition of the gospel. I want to emphasize too the objective accomplishment of Christ. But the gospel existentially is my participation in this. It is my participation in this salvation otherwise it is not good news to me. It is sins forgiven and the law written on the heart. It is Romans 1-8 and not simply Roms 1-4.

    I understand the danger of an RC salvation by works emphasis creeping in. However, the answer is not to deny the importance of works/fruit/godliness/piety in the new life but to keep insisting that this is not the basis of the new life but its evidence and fruit. Yes we must encourage all God’s people to look (as Lily says) to Christ and Christ alone. Despite her criticisms I would be the first to stress this, and especially if I were among folks I thought veered in the direction of ‘trusting’ their works. I say that all growth in holiness flows from ‘beholding the glory of God in the face of jesus Christ’. But I also say ‘put off the old’ and ‘put on the new’. I say ‘make every effort to add to your faith’ I say ‘work out your own salvation with fear and trembling’, that is ‘will and do’ and I ‘put off’ and ‘put on’, I ‘make every effort’, I ‘will and do’ in the conscious faith and assurance that it is really God who is at work within me ‘putting off and on… making every effort… willing and doing’. This is the life of faith, the life of the gospel.

    Lily

    Given that you have not produced one text to prove your contention nor made any effort to refute a good number of texts would you like to tell me/us how you interpret the following ? How do you place the ‘action’ elements of these within your framework?

    Heb 12:14 (ESV)
    Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.

    2Pet 1:3-11 (ESV)
    His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

    1Cor 9:24-27 (ESV)
    Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.

  49. Posted April 13, 2011 at 2:28 am | Permalink

    Oops

    ‘Truth lies in both confession and creed’. I hear your amens. A (freudian!) slip. I meant to say truth lies in both confession and piety or better, belief and behaviour. Both define the life of faith.

  50. Posted April 13, 2011 at 5:09 am | Permalink

    John, the way we “participate” in Christ’s dying for sins is to believe that he died for my sins. That is the gospel and faith. Works are not the gospel. Why do you want to bring works so close to faith that you wind up blurring them. Have you not heard of Norman Shepherd?

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