Why Calvinism Is More than Five Points and Why the Young and Co-Allies Need to Know

In my daily update from Google Alerts on Calvinism came a link to an Emergent dude (“minister” seems to be the wrong term) who comments on the recent further shenanigans at Mark Driscoll’s network (“church” seems to be the wrong term). I gather that another case of discipline has revealed another round of hip servant-leaders with a heavy hand and despotic disposition. The blogger, Tony Jones, believes that he detects a pattern.

I am posting it because I think it’s a cautionary tale. I think, as my headline indicates, that the particular theology that Mark Driscoll has embraced since he left the emergent posse (n.b., he was not a Calvinist when I met him in 1998) is untenable. John Piper excommunicates his son, C.J. Mahaney is removed from leadership because he is jerk to his colleagues, and now it turns out that Mark Driscoll has fired pastors and elders who had the gall to question his leadership.

Jones ends by hoping that these celebrity-servants will find a theology different from Calvinism, one that is “more open, loving, and progressive.” Yikes! Progressive!!?? Doesn’t Tony watch Glen Beck?

If only we lived in a world where discussions of Calvinism were not limited to the five-points (or even merely the one of God’s sovereignty). But that is not where we are. The Young and Restless Ones, with their Gospel Coalition enablers, have reduced “Reformed” to three or four points of theology and all the religious affections that Jonathan Edwards could fathom. What is missing is attention to the whole counsel of God, which includes teaching on the sacraments and church office, for starters. Chances are that if Driscoll, Mahaney, and Piper were in communions reformed according to the word where they received assessment and review from presbyters, they might not have the problems that Tony Jones notes. But if you have to go to classis or presbytery four times a year, you might not have time for the conferences, interviews, and books. Which suggests that the cure for celebrity pastors is Reformed Protestantism.

But as long as Calvinism is popular because of celebrity pastors and the politics that comes with it (just see the Larry Sanders Show), the branch of Protestantism associated with cities in Switzerland will be associated erroneously with the genuine errors of Baptists and charismatics.

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56 Comments

  1. mark mcculley
    Posted March 23, 2012 at 9:10 am | Permalink

    Of course I am sympathetic to your point, DGH, but I need to complain that your tag seems to grant that these folks are at least teaching the five points. They are not. Of course in your text you mention “three or four points”. That also would be generous.

    Mark Driscoll’s book Death By Love presents the common false gospel that the application of what took place at the cross depends on the sinner. Driscoll has no idea of an atonement in which the application of the atonement is secured by the atonement.

    To the question of why can’t God simply forgive sins without punishing Jesus for sins, he correctly answers that somebody has to pay for sin for God to be God and to be just. But then he undermines the justice and satisfaction of God by saying again and again that Jesus died for all sinners and even paid for all their sins. But then he assumes that this justice and satisfaction for sins will not be applied unless the sinner accepts it.

    Driscoll’s point is something different from saying that the application does not happen until the time of hearing and believing of the gospel. Certainly the elect are under the wrath of God until the time when the righteousness of the cross is imputed and applied to them (baptised into the death). But Driscoll is saying that many for whom Jesus died will perish in hell. He is saying that even though Jesus died to pay for the sins of Judas, that justice and satisfaction will not be effectual for Judas in hell. So contrary to Romans 8:32, God will not freely give all things along with Jesus to all those for whom He gave His Son.

    So Driscoll’s message is about what God will do if you do something. For example, on p 193, Driscoll writes, “it all comes down to you and Jesus”. But in fact his message comes down to only you, the sinner. Jesus according to him has paid the ransom from hell for every sinner, so it most certainly does not come down to Jesus. It depends on the sinner.

    Even though Driscoll writes about “efficacious” love (p240), the success all depends on “if you turn”. He has no desire to tell the sinner that turning to the true gospel is a result guaranteed for the elect by the cross. His is not a straightforward Arminianism. He does not say stupid stuff like: Jesus will die for you if you… But he does say: Jesus died for all of you. He is offended by the cross making the difference. How can the cross be the difference between saved and lost when you have a cross which is saying that God loves every sinner?

    I know that even some “confessionalists” also engage in double talk about Jesus dying for non-elect sinners to pay their sins. But at least in theory, these confessionalists submit to those in authority who will call them on their dialectics. If our sins are paid for by the blood of Christ, we will be saved. Part of that salvation will be knowing and believing the true gospel.

  2. Steve
    Posted March 23, 2012 at 9:19 am | Permalink

    This is exactly what I’ve come to think. Don’t know what else I might agree with you on, as I’ve never been here before, but this is also my conclusion. Calling yourself reformed because you believe in some way or other in God’s sovereignty doesn’t make it actually so. And now there’s fallout. Although I wouldn’t necessarily take my evidence from Tony Jones. But there are other sources who aren’t on a “anti-substitutionary atonement, egalitarian” witchhunt. There are all sorts of groups taking potshots at Driscoll right now, some rightly and some wrongly IMO. Too bad you don’t have a facebook button, as this is a comment I’d like to link to add, as it is spot on.

  3. sean
    Posted March 23, 2012 at 9:25 am | Permalink

    “But as long as Calvinism is popular because of celebrity pastors and the politics that comes with it (just see the Larry Sanders Show), the branch of Protestantism associated with cities in Switzerland will be associated erroneously with the genuine errors of Baptists and charismatics.”

    Yep, we just have to own this at this point. Even in our own WCF denominations, the fringe has so inculcated our church members, our talk of the gospel quickly melts down to politics, schools and the need for revival. I’d settle for some basic catechesis anymore.

  4. Jeremy Meeks
    Posted March 23, 2012 at 9:31 am | Permalink

    DGH – Right on. You almost persuade me to be a Presbyterian.

  5. Posted March 23, 2012 at 9:37 am | Permalink

    Your point about polity is well-taken, and as far as your overall point, I agree.

    However, I think it would be a mistake to assume that polity cures sin (e.g., pride, backbiting, lacking charity and love, etc.). Check it, yes. But it seems like even WCF 31:3 acknowledges that sometimes sinners can use good polity for bad purposes.

    Furthermore, I can think of confessionally Reformed counterparts to every example Tony Jones gives. I know a confessionally Reformed minister who led the charge in running his son out of the pastoral ministry in his denomination. Don’t we all know confessionally Reformed church officers who are jerks to their colleagues? I can think of more than one person who might describe their experiences with consistories or sessions as “cultic.”

    Still, as you point out, if Tony Jones is going to criticize Calvinism, it would be nice if he actually used real Calvinists to do so.

  6. Posted March 23, 2012 at 11:06 am | Permalink

    While I will continue to disagree with your incessant need to blame Jonathan Edwards and the 1GA for everything (how long do you think he would have let these guys (i.e.- Piper, Mahaney, and Driscoll) hang around his church?) I wholeheartedly agree with what you say here.

  7. Chris E
    Posted March 23, 2012 at 11:51 am | Permalink

    Actually – on the Edwards point – some of the stories that are coming out display a sort of constant introspection to actually find the ‘sin behind the sin’ (okay, there is the powerplay aspect of needing to keep one step ahead in the self-flagellation path too but one stems from the other).

    ITSM that there are reasons why some people have attached themselves to the specific teachings of Edwards that they have.

  8. mark mcculley
    Posted March 23, 2012 at 12:00 pm | Permalink

    I am trying to imagine DGH in Geneva, or in England before the revisions to the Westminster Confession. Would you take exception to what was revised, or would DGH be dismissed as an individualist who likes to take exceptions to the authorities?

    But I don’t need to imagine. I can read about Roger Williams, a five-pointer for sure but maybe not “confessional”, at least not in terms of the Confession back then.

    Also I can’t help wondering who was the most famous academic celebrity attending the two recent conferences where DGH spoke. And who is the most notorious person in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church? Is it Kinnaird or Arthur Kuschke? http://www.trinityfoundation.org/kinnaird.php

  9. Posted March 23, 2012 at 12:32 pm | Permalink

    “The Young and Restless Ones, with their Gospel Coalition enablers, have reduced “Reformed” to three or four points of theology and all the religious affections that Jonathan Edwards could fathom.”

    It’s easy to knock down your opponent when he’s a straw man.

    I’m confused – does Driscoll represent TGC? Or to ask another way, does Keller (or Frame, for that matter) represent the PCA?

  10. Posted March 23, 2012 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

    McMark, If what you say is true (and I am not disputing it), then why is Driscoll at all a factor in the Gospel Coalition other than for celebrity reasons?

  11. Posted March 23, 2012 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

    Jeremy, wahoo! Have I got some books on Presbyterian history for you to buy!

  12. Posted March 23, 2012 at 1:07 pm | Permalink

    Chris, of course, Reformed churches and their officers (not to mention their members) are far from perfect. But the instruments of discipline and oversight are firmly in place and without those instruments, church reform does not happen. Look at the Church of England. Pretty darned good confession. Lousy government and governors.

  13. Posted March 23, 2012 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

    Nate, I know people who go to Gospel Coalition Conferences and attend Southern Baptist Seminary. No straw to be found.

  14. David
    Posted March 23, 2012 at 1:27 pm | Permalink

    Well, this was a good post. I believe Driscoll is – and has been – “slipping”!

  15. mark mcculley
    Posted March 23, 2012 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

    I am too far out of the loop to tell you much about the g coaltion. I guess the leaders are Tim Keller, who I suppose has definite atonement as his shelf doctrine (WCF), even though he told that political gathering in New York that God loved them all, and DA Carson, who has a book called The Difficult Doctrine of Love in which he accuses anybody who won’t say “Jesus died for you” of being hyper-Calvinist. But of course Justin and Crossway follow the lead of John Piper. And this means that we will hear as much from them about definite atonement as we did from Crossway writer Francis Schaeffer.

    To put it simply, Piper avoids the antithesis. He both does and does not believe in definite atonement. In Taste and See (Multnomah,1999, p325), Piper explains, “Christ died for all sinners, so that IF you will repent and believe in Christ, then the death of Jesus will become effective in your case and will take away your sins. ‘Died for you,’ means that, if you believe, the death of Jesus will cover your sins. Now, as far as it goes, this is biblical teaching.”

    Piper then goes on to disagree with Arminians for not teaching that Christ died to purchase faith for the elect. But he does not disagree with Arminians about propitiation and substitution and punishment. Piper’s gospel does not teach that Christ was specifically punished for the elect alone. (Though you could maybe find two sermons in which he does teach something like that, but never as part of the gospel).

    Piper’s gospel still only has a punishment in general, to be limited later to those who believe. I have no interest in calling Piper an Arminian, since he does insist that Christ also died for the elect to give them something extra that He will not be giving the non-elect. But Piper has a gospel in common with his Arminian father. That messages fails to ever say that Christ was punished specifically for the elect, and thus it will be heard every time as saying that there was enough punishment done to Christ to save even people who will nevertheless end up perishing.

    Thus, even though it has punishment, this message is not about punishment that REPLACES punishment for ALL CHRIST INTENDED TO SAVE. We might call it “representative” punishment but we cannot rightly call it “substitutionary” punishment. We could call it “penal” justice but with the qualification that no specific person’s sins were ever legally transferred to Christ.

    The message denies that any specific guilt for ANYBODY was transferred to Christ. “Dead for you” means that now the Spirit has an open door, to cause the elect to do something with Christ’s death which will lead to their salvation. Provided of course that the Spirit keeps them doing it.

  16. Jeremy Meeks
    Posted March 23, 2012 at 4:22 pm | Permalink

    DGH – If you are referring to yours…I’ve read them. Good stuff. I’m still working through things. Keep at it.

  17. Chris E
    Posted March 23, 2012 at 7:16 pm | Permalink

    “What is missing is attention to the whole counsel of God, which includes teaching on the sacraments and church office, for starters. Chances are that if Driscoll, Mahaney, and Piper were in communions reformed according to the word where they received assessment and review from presbyters”

    Though others have missed this too, including a certain OPC Ruling Elder who was willing to give Mahaney’s ministry a clean bill of health; one would have thought that someone who respected presbyterian polity would have been wary of eldership being – in effect – outsourced from another christian group.

  18. Posted March 23, 2012 at 7:27 pm | Permalink

    Jeremy, discovered.

  19. Posted March 23, 2012 at 9:15 pm | Permalink

    I’m not taking crazy pills! This post is exactly what I have been thinking for a while now. These silly Baptist think they’re reformed but they submit to no one. Power without accountability ultimately equals a new Rome.

  20. DJ Cimino
    Posted March 24, 2012 at 1:17 am | Permalink

    Protestant Popes, Miguel, Protestant Popes.

  21. Stephen
    Posted March 24, 2012 at 5:22 am | Permalink

    I too would welcome an wider, more encompassing understanding of the nature of Calvinism – sacraments and ecclesiology and the rest. I would also welcome discussion on the history of the so-called “5 points”: how did they gain their importance in today’s Calvinist world and are they even a reliable indicator of Calvinist thought in their usual form. Richard Muller has written about this, and Kenneth Stewart’s recent book “10 myths” addresses it too (perhaps provocatively so).

  22. mark mcculley
    Posted March 24, 2012 at 7:50 am | Permalink

    Ten Myths About Calvinism: Recovering the Breadth of the Reformed Tradition , Kenneth J. Stewart, IVP, 2011

    Mr. Stewart’s book is more ideological than historical. He aims to promote conformity to his own notion of tolerance. In the process, he seeks to exclude those he refers to as “thoroughly reformed” (p15) as extremists. Even though they don’t call ourselves that, he will label them that and then blame their “primitivism” (back to the 16th century) for his label.

    For example, on p93, Stewart concludes that “TULIP cannot be allowed to function as a creed”. This dogmatism about what cannot be allowed follows a caricature of those who use the acronym “tulip” for Dordt’s response to the five points of Arminius. Stewart writes as if “conservative Calvinists” were more concerned about the acronym than about the specific doctrines. He does this, even though on pages 94-95, he lists various five-point books which use different acronyms.

    (I notice that Stewart has no reference to the book written by McGregor Wright, No Place for Sovereignty, even though it was published also by IVP. Perhaps Stewart has already dismissed Mr Wright to the margins. And the best way to do that is to ignore a person.)

    I notice also that Stewart, who teaches at Covenant College, makes no reference to the Systematic Theology of Robert Reymond, who taught for many years at Covenant Seminary. Perhaps all five point supra-lapsarians have been placed in some forgotten ghetto. Certainly the IVP book, written by two current Covenant Seminary professors (Why I Am Not An Arminian) was strident in its criticism of supra-lapsarians.

    Stewart accuses somebody with having a “Procrustean formula” (p84) and also with being “uncritical”. His criticism is itself an uncritical accusation (a formula) which seeks to be self-fulfilling. If you don’t join him in rejecting the idea of “limited atonement”, then you become guilty of defending the acronym.

    Since Stewart thinks some of us are on the margins, the purpose of his book is to either re-educate us (the assumption being that we just don’t know the past) or to put us in our place–on the margins where he claims we already are!

    If those who care about antithesis governmental notions of the atonement are simply “strident” (AW Pink, p280) and “contentious” (Nettleton, p87) and “belligerent” (p85) malcontents, why does Stewart think he needs to “blow the whistle on” them? (p12) The answer is that Stewart is a relativist, who thinks the five points are only “one form of Christianity”.

    To him, the five debates are not about the gospel, but at the most, only about finding out later how you came to believe (p16) the “gospel” that all “evangelicals” have in common. This is why Stewart’s book is endorsed by folks like Richard Mouw, who in his own book, Calvinism in the Las Vegas Airport, explains that “limited atonement” is for him only a “shelf doctrine” which has no practical import (except for validating his claim to still be a “card-carrying Calvinist”?)

    Those who want to dismiss TR’s want to bring forward into history the sufficient formula embraced by Dordt but leave behind limited atonement (intended for the elect alone) as “an index for gauging orthodoxy”. Aiming at “inclusion”, they must exclude those of us who won’t tolerate a propitiation that does not propitiate. Aiming at “accomodation”, they cannot accomodate those who deny that there is “generous room at the cross” for every sinner.

    Stewart can write all he wants about the “capaciousness” of an atonement to save the non-elect. But if the death of Christ does not save the non-elect, then it was not enough to save them. And since this is true, this is either because God never intended the death of Christ to save the non-elect or because the death by itself is not adequate to save anybody.

    But Stewart warns us (p89) that if we do not go along with his “sufficient for everybody” Procrustean formula, we will end up in a marginalized “self-imposed ghetto”. He demands that we learn to teach a gospel which “evangelicals” can approve.

    Stewart does not seem to notice that the “gospel” held in common by evangelicals is an Arminian antithesis, opposite to the TRUTH confessed by Dordt. To him, being Reformed has nothing to do with God’s effectual call, but is only a good thing if learned incrementally and with moderation. As a relativist with “breadth” and “diversity”, he thinks some of us “have too much of a good thing.” (p13)

    Stewart does manage to show that his kind of relativism is not new in Reformed history. He points us back to the fundamentalist/modernist controversy and wants us to embrace all super-naturalists (Arminians and Romanists included) as having something in common which is more basic than any confessional antithesis.

  23. Richard Smith
    Posted March 24, 2012 at 8:19 am | Permalink

    Stephen: I too would welcome an wider, more encompassing understanding of the nature of Calvinism – sacraments and ecclesiology and the rest. I would also welcome discussion on the history of the so-called “5 points”: how did they gain their importance in today’s Calvinist world and are they even a reliable indicator of Calvinist thought in their usual form. Richard Muller has written about this, and Kenneth Stewart’s recent book “10 myths” addresses it too (perhaps provocatively so).

    RS: B.B. Warfield defined a Calvinist (more or less at one point) as a man who has seen the glory of God. It is almost as difficult for people to agree on what a Calvinist is as it is to get people to agree on what a Christian is. Maybe Paul was on to something when he said this in I Corinthians ch 1:

    12 Now I mean this, that each one of you is saying, “I am of Paul,” and “I of Apollos,” and “I of Cephas,” and “I of Christ.”
    13 Has Christ been divided? Paul was not crucified for you, was he? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?
    14 I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius,
    15 so that no one would say you were baptized in my name.
    16 Now I did baptize also the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized any other.
    17 For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not in cleverness of speech, so that the cross of Christ would not be made void.
    18 For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

  24. mark mcculley
    Posted March 24, 2012 at 8:42 am | Permalink

    Roger Olson (poster boy for evangelical Arminianism)—“I’ve been reading Jonathan Edwards and John Piper on the atonement lately. Both (naturally because Piper emulates Edwards on most theological issues) highlight what has traditionally been called the “rectoral” dimension of the atonement. That is, the atonement was primarily about preserving and demonstrating God’s moral governance of the world.

    “The irony is that this view of the atonement is traditionally associated with Arminianism. (I have a chapter on that in my book Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities.) In relation to Arminianism it is known as the “governmental theory of the atonement.” Not all Arminians hold it. For example, Wesley did not.

    “The idea in moral governmental theory (going back to Hugo Grotius–one of the original Remonstrants in Holland) is that Christ suffered the equivalent punishment for sins. That is, he did not suffer your punishment or mine but a equivalent one to ours. The purpose was to vindicate God’s forgiveness of sinners as righteous. What I have not been able to find is where Edwards or Piper explicitly say that Christ suffered every individual elect person’s punishment (the traditional penal substitution theory. If you know of some place in their writings where they say that explicitly I would very much like to know it.

    “I think it would be interesting and ironic if Edwards and/or Piper emphasize the rectoral nature of the atonement without equally asserting the penal nature of the atonement. But, I’m not drawing any conclusions just yet. I would like to know if anyone knows some place in Edwards’ or Piper’s writings where one or both clearly and unequivocally affirm the penal substitution view of the atonement.”

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/rogereolson/2011/02/jonathan-edwards-and-john-piper-on-the-atonement/

  25. Richard Smith
    Posted March 24, 2012 at 8:48 am | Permalink

    D.G. Hart: If only we lived in a world where discussions of Calvinism were not limited to the five-points (or even merely the one of God’s sovereignty). But that is not where we are. The Young and Restless Ones, with their Gospel Coalition enablers, have reduced “Reformed” to three or four points of theology and all the religious affections that Jonathan Edwards could fathom.

    RS: It is quite unfair and inaccurate to link Edwards with the Young and Restless. Perhaps there are as many understandings of Edwards these days as there are of Calvin. As has been noticed in this very thread, there are many understandings of Calvinism and one man’s claim of Calvinism is not necessarily what Calvinism is and does not reflect ill on Calvin at all. We could guess that the understanding of Edwards that most people have is what they have heard or read of Piper. That may also be the problem with those who claim Calvinism. But then again, that may be one issue with many who claim to be Christian. They would rather read what people have said about the Bible than read the Bible prayerfully.

    D.G. Hart: What is missing is attention to the whole counsel of God, which includes teaching on the sacraments and church office, for starters.

    RS: So we need proper teaching on the five points, the sacraments, and the church office to be a Calvinist?

    D.G. Hart: Chances are that if Driscoll, Mahaney, and Piper were in communions reformed according to the word where they received assessment and review from presbyters, they might not have the problems that Tony Jones notes. But if you have to go to classis or presbytery four times a year, you might not have time for the conferences, interviews, and books. Which suggests that the cure for celebrity pastors is Reformed Protestantism.

    RS: But then someone would have to define and set out from the Bible what it means to be Reformed and Protestant. But that would mean that one would simply be trying to set out what it means to be biblical.

  26. Richard Smith
    Posted March 24, 2012 at 9:00 am | Permalink

    mark mcculley: Roger Olson (poster boy for evangelical Arminianism)—”I’ve been reading Jonathan Edwards and John Piper on the atonement lately. Both (naturally because Piper emulates Edwards on most theological issues) highlight what has traditionally been called the “rectoral” dimension of the atonement. That is, the atonement was primarily about preserving and demonstrating God’s moral governance of the world.

    RS: But in the comments that follow Olson’s post, there are many quotes given from both Edwards and Piper that demonstrate that they believed in the penal substitutionary view of the atonement.

  27. Dan
    Posted March 24, 2012 at 9:05 am | Permalink

    Whew! Glad DGH is around to war us of the greatest theological plague the church has seen since the Reformation. TGC is the pits. Seriously. And Driscoll doesn’t believe in anything else except 3-4 things…duh.

  28. mark mcculley
    Posted March 24, 2012 at 9:35 am | Permalink

    http://www.crossway.org/books/the-creedal-imperative-tpb/

    Coming from Crossway, a book by Carl Trueman on the Creedal Imperative.

    Another book worth buying from Crossway is Precious Blood: The Atoning Work of Christ, edited by Phillips and especially the chapter by Carl Trueman on “Post-Reformation Developments in the Doctrine of the Atonement.”, p196

    Socinius says if Trueman’s sin have been punished on the cross, it is not mercy for God to forgive Trueman but justice. But Grotius says, if the punishment on the cross is merey an equivalent of Trueman’s sins, then it is still possible to build mercy into the equation…If Trueman’s sins are not imputed to Christ, then it’s possible that Christ’s righteousness is not imputed to Trueman. That fits well with an Arminian view of justification, but I can assure you that Trueman has a problem with it.”

    I don’t propose to address the theology of Edwards and the New England theology or Andrew Fuller which claimed him as its father. But I was attempting to answer DGH’s question about why gospel coalition folks associate with Driscoll who denies definite atonement. And my answer is that John Piper teaches particular atonement, but that in claiming to believe everything Arminians believe about the atonement (and more-died to purchased extra for the elect), John Piper leaves room for a governmental view. It’s one thing to say that Jesus was punished for sins. It’s quite another to say that God imputed the sins (not simply punishment) of the elect to Christ. It’s very difficult to find that in Piper. After all, he’s an evangelical. Piper believes everything Billy Graham and Rick Warren believe. And More. No antithesis.

  29. mark mcculley
    Posted March 24, 2012 at 9:47 am | Permalink

    Waddington, from Reformation 21: Grotius agreed with the Reformers that satisfaction was
    necessary for God to justly exercise mercy. Against Socinus Grotius argued that God could not merely wave his hand and forgive sinners. However, Grotius agreed with Socinus that justice is not an inherent necessity of God’s nature, but that it is an effect of his will. In other words, God exercises justice for the good ordering of society.

    Grotius held that God is above his law and rules over it (he is ex lex rather than the law being a reflection of God’s own nature). Grotius also conceives of God as a sovereign ruler over the universe
    rather than a judge. As ruler he can set aside his law at his own discretion. As a judge he would have to enforce the law in the strictest terms.

    According to Grotius, man’s fall into sin constitutes a major reason for God to relax his law. If God did not relax his law, says Grotius, man’s reverential piety toward God would disappear altogether and so too would God’s wonderful benevolence towards man. It is in this context of a relaxed law that sin is punished. Grotius believed that all punishment presupposed the
    common good, the preservation of a moral order. It would be immoral for God as a judge to inflict punishment on anyone other than the one who committed sin, but as sovereign ruler God may overrule this expectation.

    Grotius tells us that Christ died to satisfy the necessities of a relaxed law. In other words, Christ’s death is not a matter of his suffering penalties that are the exact equivalent of what would fall
    to us. Since the law is relaxed this is not an insurmountable problem. If the law was completely abrogated its authority would be nullified and the forgiveness of sin would be regarded as a light
    affair. However, God cannot maintain the government of his universe if his law is not highly esteemed. Christ’s death, therefore, serves as a public notice or demonstration of how seriously God takes sin and that his law ought to be highly regarded.

    “If I may put it another way, Christ’s death occurs to maintain public order. In the end, Christ’s death satisfied the requirements of God’s relaxed law. In many ways, this is a modified form of the moral influence view of the atonement with the added feature of a concern for the government of
    the universe. It is this view of Hugo Grotius that becomes standard in Arminianism and especially within Methodism.”

  30. mark mcculley
    Posted March 24, 2012 at 9:53 am | Permalink

    Mark Driscoll and John Piper are fond of saying that they believe everything that “Jesus-loving Arminians” believe, and more! So they teach that the death of Jesus accomplished something for everybody, and then even more for the elect.

    I have a simple question. What did Christ’s death really accomplish for those who perish? Did it make it so God could condemn them? No, they were already condemned. Did Christ’s death purchase the non-elect for Christ’s possession so Christ could be their Lord? No, Christ was and is already the Judge and Lord.

    I have a simple answer to what is called the “both/and approach”. Christ’s death accomplished NOTHING for the non-elect. God never intended for Christ’s death to do anything for the non-elect.

    But those in “evangelical” coalitions ask this– If no payment has been made for the sins of the non-elect, then how can God have genuinely desired the salvation of all the non-elect?

    Here too I have a simple fundy answer. God does not and has not ever desired the salvation of the non-elect. God has commanded us not to sin, and yet God has ordained that we shall sin. You can call this “two wills” if you want to, but it does not in any way show that God has desired the salvation of the non-elect.

    Folks who follow Jonathan Edwards seem to think of the death of Christ as a door opened for the elect that then allows God to do some other (MORE and REAL) stuff for the elect.They seem to believe that any “imputation” by God is based on what God knows He will do (or has done) in the elect. They deny that “union” is by legal imputation and claim that “union” is something more basic which has priority over justification.

    Hebrews 10:10 “We have been set apart through the offering of the body of Christ once for all.”
    Hebrews 10:14 “By a single offering He has perfected for all TIME those who are being sanctified.”

    God justifies and sanctifies the elect on the basis of Christ’s bloody death for the elect. This is parallel to the direct imputation of Adam’s sin. Romans 5:18 tell us that “ one trespass led to condemnation”. Romans 5:18 does not mean “opened the door for corruption which leads to the possibility of condemnation” .

  31. Richard Smith
    Posted March 24, 2012 at 10:10 am | Permalink

    McMark: Folks who follow Jonathan Edwards seem to think of the death of Christ as a door opened for the elect that then allows God to do some other (MORE and REAL) stuff for the elect.They seem to believe that any “imputation” by God is based on what God knows He will do (or has done) in the elect. They deny that “union” is by legal imputation and claim that “union” is something more basic which has priority over justification.

    RS: I am not sure what folks you are speaking of who think that. However, this lover of the God that is set forth in the writings of Edwards would say that the death of Christ purchased and guaranteed the salvation of the elect and only the elect. The Gospel of Christ alone is about the glory of God through Christ and not primarily about sinners. Sinners cannot have a legal declaration that they are just unless that legal declaration is founded in fact and reality. That means that sinners are united to Christ and are declared just based on Christ. Those who are united to Christ are married to Christ and are seen as one with Him. As Colossians 3 says, “3 For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.”

    There can be no legal justification apart from a legal union with Christ, but there can be no legal union until there is a real union with Christ. Until the marriage was consumated, the couple was not married. Until Christ and His bride are one, the imputation of His righteousness to them is not legal. God declares His elect just in Christ. Sinners are granted redemption in Christ. Sinners are elect in Christ. Union is not a priority as such, but apart from union there is no justification.

    Ephesians 1:3 “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.”

    All spiritual blessings are in Christ. Is justification a spiritual blessing? Then it must happen in Christ. Can a person be in Christ apart from union with Christ? Can a person be in Christ without Christ being in that person? As is often said about regeneration and faith, the issue is not necessarily about a chronological order, but instead of a logical order. One does not believe in order to be regenerated, but one is regenerated in order to believe. In much the same way God does not justify sinners in order to unite them to Christ, but unites them to Christ in order to justify them.

  32. Stephen
    Posted March 24, 2012 at 1:56 pm | Permalink

    RS, I like your quote: “B.B. Warfield defined a Calvinist (more or less at one point) as a man who has seen the glory of God.”

    Mark McC, doesn’t the following speak of the atonement’s capaciousness? “This death of God’s Son is the only and entirely complete sacrifice and satisfaction for sins; it is of infinite value and worth, more than sufficient to atone for the sins of the whole world.” (Second head of doctrine, Canons of Dordt)

  33. mark mcculley
    Posted March 24, 2012 at 3:39 pm | Permalink

    I certainly agree that the death of Jesus Christ is the only and entirely complete judicial satisfaction for the sins of anyone. But this is satisfaction was was never intended to be enough for the sins of the non-elect. It’s not enough to talk about the guaranteed success of the atonement for the elect, because we need to talk about the justice of the atonement and to do that we need to talk about God’s imputation of the sins of the elect to Christ.

    It might sound rhetorically neat to say that Christ’s death is enough for the non-elect, but until somebody can tell me what Christ’s death did for the non-elect, all you have is deceptive language.

    I Peter 1:18 knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. 20 He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you 21 who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.

    The Bible uses “commercial” language to talk about the blood of Christ being precious. One death once for all time is the only death Christ had to die for those whose sins were imputed to Him. God’s justice demanded the death of Christ because certain specific sins had been charged to Him by God the Trinity. This is not to say that Christ would have had to die twice if there had been more elect.

    The old formula from Lombard was used in the political compromise of the Synod of Dordt, “sufficient for all, efficient for the elect”. In our day any who think themselves more prudent than God don’t want to talk about the word “elect” so instead they say— sufficient for all, efficient for the believer.

    What we really need to see is not only the extent of the atonement but its nature. You can’t understand the nature of the atonement without knowing about its extent. But you can know about the extent and still not know about the justice of the atonement. What do people mean by “sufficient for the elect”?

    If we don’t understand how Christ’s death is enough for the elect, denying that Christ’s death works for the non-elect will not explain the gospel. Why did Christ need to die for the elect?

    The regeneration of the elect does not satisfy God’s justice. Nor is it the Holy Spirit’s application of benefits from Christ’s death which appeases God’s wrath. God’s wrath has already been appeased or not, and justification is what happens when the elect are legally joined to that death. There is no “union” which is more “real” than this legal counting. The legal counting is based on the elect being eternally united by election and then by Christ’s real death for their sins alone.

    We need to talk about Christ being “made sin” (II Cor 5:21) by the imputation of all the sins of the elect, and not only about Christ being made a “sin-offering”. The atonement has commercial and legal merit, not only because Christ can and does do things by measure (healing some but not others) but also because the Bible speaks about being bought by blood from the accusations of the law..

    One good discussion in print on this is by Tom Nettles in By His Grace and For His glory and his chapter on “Christ Died for our Sins, According to the Scriptures.” Nettles questions the formula (sufficient/ efficient) used by Dordt while at the same time being honest about the history of its use. On one famous occasion, Calvin wrote: “it does not help”.

    Nettles quotes Andrew Fuller: “We could say that a certain number of Christ’s acts of obedience becomes ours as that certain number of sins becomes his. In the former case his one undivided obedience affords a ground of justification to any number of believers; in the latter, his one atonement is sufficient for the pardon of any number of sins or sinners.

    Nettles explains that Fuller “misconceives the biblical relation of imputation. Justification should not be considered as analogous to atonement but rather to the imputation of Adam’s sin”.

    I encourage you to read more of Nettles (even though he is a baptist).’ Error one: the tradition leading from Edwards to Andrew Fuller tends to identify regeneration and effectual calling as the “real union” and then it tends to identify this “application” with the atonement itself. What many Calvinists means by definite atonement is that the “real union” makes the atonement definite. Thus they make the Spirit’s work to be the real difference instead of Christ’s death. These same folks tend to question the traditional tulip. See for example the new book by Todd Billings on “union”

    Nettles: “A second error is subtle in nature and involves a shift in the understanding of the sacrificial death. Although Jesus’ death is spoken of as passive obedience–and though the concepts of reconciliation and propitiation are defined as activities accomplished in the Father’s setting forth God the Son–when the sufficiency of the death of Christ arises, the emphasis shifts from the Son’s passive obedience to what he actively accomplished by his infinite divine nature.”

    Nettles quotes John Dagg and Abraham Booth against the “sufficient” general view of the atonement. Booth’s Divine Justice Essential to the Divine Character, book 3:60

    “While cheerfully admitting the sufficiency of Immanuel’s death to have redeemed all mankind, had all the sins of the whole human species been equally imputed to Him, we cannot perceive any solid reason to conclude that his propitiatory sufferings are sufficient for the expiation of sins which he did not bear, or for the redemption of sinners whom he did not represent. For the substitution of Christ, and the imputation of sin to him, are essential to the scriptural doctrine of redemption by our adorable Jesus…

    And from Dagg’s Manual of Theology, p330: “Some have maintained that, if the atonement of Christ is not general, no sinner can be under obligation to believe in Christ, until he is assured that he is one of the elect. This implies that no sinner is bound to believe what God says, unless he knows that God designs to save him…

  34. Richard Smith
    Posted March 24, 2012 at 5:08 pm | Permalink

    McMark quoting the Baptist Abraham Booth: ““While cheerfully admitting the sufficiency of Immanuel’s death to have redeemed all mankind, had all the sins of the whole human species been equally imputed to Him, we cannot perceive any solid reason to conclude that his propitiatory sufferings are sufficient for the expiation of sins which he did not bear, or for the redemption of sinners whom he did not represent. For the substitution of Christ, and the imputation of sin to him, are essential to the scriptural doctrine of redemption by our adorable Jesus…

    RS: Nettles makes the point that Presbyterians focused on the value of the atonement and regarded it as infinited because of the worth of Christ which is the old formula “sufficient for all, but efficient for some.” Tthe old Baptists, on the other hand, focused the worth or value of the atonement at the point of propitiation. In other words, those for whom Christ bore the sins of and satisfied the wrath of God for are those who will be saved.

  35. Richard Smith
    Posted March 24, 2012 at 5:26 pm | Permalink

    McMark: The regeneration of the elect does not satisfy God’s justice. Nor is it the Holy Spirit’s application of benefits from Christ’s death which appeases God’s wrath.

    RS: As Galatians 3:13-14 teaches, it was Christ on the cross who suffered in order to purchase the Holy Spirit for His people. But the Holy Spirit does not apply the benefits of Christ and Christ Himself until the appointed time.

    McMark: God’s wrath has already been appeased or not, and justification is what happens when the elect are legally joined to that death.

    RS: But it does have to be applied to the sinner to take effect. If God’s wrath can be appeased without anything happening in and to the sinner, then there would be no need for the new birth and the washing of regeneration. God dwells in cleansed sinners and so they are His temple, but they have to be cleansed so that He will dwell in them.

    McMark: There is no “union” which is more “real” than this legal counting. The legal counting is based on the elect being eternally united by election and then by Christ’s real death for their sins alone.

    RS: God cannot legally justify a sinner apart from a legal oneness with Christ that looks to the real unity with Christ. God could save sinners in the OT based on what Christ was going to do. Let us also not forget that Christ lived a perfect life so that sinners could be declared righteous in His sight and that does not happen until they are united to Christ and are one with Him. If they are not really one with Him, then any declaration of justification would be a legal fiction. Union with Christ is the doctrine that teaches us in propitiation and the imputed righteousness of Christ God can be both just and justifier. He declares sinners just because all of their sins are gone in Christ and they have a perfect righteousness imputed to them. But both of those can only happen to sinners who are in Christ.

  36. mark mcculley
    Posted March 24, 2012 at 6:57 pm | Permalink

    The already justified Christ (history of salvation) gives the elect the Holy Spirit. It is not the Holy Spirit who gives the elect Christ. (logical order of application). It is not the Holy Spirit who makes Christ’s work effective. Some of those who want to make the “real union” to be the work of the Spirit claim that those of who teach substitution only for the elect should agree that the elect can go free before (and without) being converted and believing the gospel.

    They want to put those of us who teach penal atonement for the elect alone in that box, because they deny that the death of Christ is the difference between saved and lost. RS is not content with the idea that Christ indwells the justified sinner, or with the idea that the Holy Spirit indwells
    the justified sinner. Without any exegesis of any text, he keeps asserting that the Spirit unites sinners to Christ. It is one thing to say that the Spirit “applies the benefits of salvation”, but it needs to be shown from the Bible that it’s the Spirit who unites the elect to Christ.

    Galatians 4:5-6 –”to redeem those who were under the law, so that we would receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”

    This text indicates the priority not only of the atonement but of imputation and justification and legal adoption. Logically, because the elect have become sons, they are then given the Holy Spirit. But RS simply repeats that we are Sons because we have the Spirit.

    Imprecise “union” talk can be very dangerous. Christ’s death saves not only because of God’s sovereign will is effective but also because of God’s justice. Although God only imputed the sins of the elect to Christ, the elect were not all justified when Christ bore those sins. Romans 6 teaches that, until the elect are “placed into” Christ’s death, they remain under the wrath of God. But Romans 6 does NOT teach that it’s the Holy Spirit who places the elect into Christ’s death.

    To deny the priority of some “More and Real Union” is NOT to teach justification apart from faith. Faith in the gospel is NOT a mere recognition that we were already justified. Some of “union is not
    legal” folks locate the efficacy of the atonement not in Christ’s propitiation itself but only in the efficacy of regeneration and faith to unite people with that propitiation. Thus they open the way to
    teach everybody that “Christ is dead for you” without that meaning that Christ has died for your sins.

    I am not saying that RS is in this group, because he hasn’t told us if he tells everybody that Christ died for them. But he has told us repeatedly that it’s the Spirit who unites, and that “union” is not legal, and that this “not legal union” is the basis for the legal. And that this legal would not be legal if it were not based on that “More and Real Union”.

    I Cor 12:13 –”in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body.” The text does not say that the Holy Spirit is the baptizer. Jesus Christ is the one who baptizes His sons with the Spirit. It is a mistake to reference the “died with” of Romans 6 to a “faith-union” given by the Holy Spirit. The idea of Romans 6 is NOT that Christ died and as a result the Holy Spirit unites some to Christ

    I Corinthians 1:30–”God is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, whom God made our wisdom and our righteousness and sanctification and redemption.”

    Romans 8:10–”the Spirit is life because of righteousness”

    The Holy Spirit does not give us life so that we can get righteousness. God unites us to His righteousness so that we can have the Holy Spirit. We trust Him who justifies the ungodly. Romans 4:5.

  37. Posted March 24, 2012 at 7:01 pm | Permalink

    Richard, you at least need to figure out whether to baptize children or not. I don’t think the Bible speaks with a forked tongue. But church government is also important as Acts 29 and Sovereign Grace are learning.

  38. Posted March 24, 2012 at 7:04 pm | Permalink

    Dan, if you hadn’t hyperventilated when reading the post you may have noticed that I was talking about those who would be Reformed. But if you want to ask about one of the bigger threats, I’d say word and deed stuff is pretty threatening. Somehow the “Reformed” folks at the Coalition are not only silent about this, but aid and abet the threat.

    BTW, it is not a problem only at the Coalition. It’s been around a while. But for an organization that claims to be for and clear about the gospel, they really could do more to distinguish salvation from transformation.

  39. Richard Smith
    Posted March 24, 2012 at 9:03 pm | Permalink

    D. G. Hart: Richard, you at least need to figure out whether to baptize children or not. I don’t think the Bible speaks with a forked tongue. But church government is also important as Acts 29 and Sovereign Grace are learning.

    RS: That has been figured out. The New Testament does not have one command to baptize a child and there are not examples of children being baptized. The New Covenant is with the elect only. Christ is not the Mediator of anyone but His elect. If the Regulative Principle is followed in all things to do with the Church then we are to baptize only those that Scripture says are in the New Covenant.

    Romans 2:29 But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God.

    Galatians 3:29 And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise.

  40. Richard Smith
    Posted March 24, 2012 at 9:16 pm | Permalink

    mark mcculley: The already justified Christ (history of salvation) gives the elect the Holy Spirit. It is not the Holy Spirit who gives the elect Christ. (logical order of application). It is not the Holy Spirit who makes Christ’s work effective. Some of those who want to make the “real union” to be the work of the Spirit claim that those of who teach substitution only for the elect should agree that the elect can go free before (and without) being converted and believing the gospel.

    RS: Indeed Christ purchased the Spirit and the Spirit was sent, but that does not mean that it is not the Spirit who works Christ in the soul. The work of the Spirit is to convict of sin, to open the eyes to spiritual truth, and regenerate sinners which includes the washing of regeneration. The Spirit applies the work of Christ and effects the work of Christ. Each and every one of the elect will have the work of the Spirit in applying what Christ has purchased by the application of Christ.

    McMark: They want to put those of us who teach penal atonement for the elect alone in that box, because they deny that the death of Christ is the difference between saved and lost.

    RS: If you are referring to me, I deny that I believe what you have written above. However, it is only because of the death of Christ that the Spirit can be sent in order to apply what Christ has purchased for His people.

    McMark: RS is not content with the idea that Christ indwells the justified sinner, or with the idea that the Holy Spirit indwells the justified sinner. Without any exegesis of any text, he keeps asserting that the Spirit unites sinners to Christ. It is one thing to say that the Spirit “applies the benefits of salvation”, but it needs to be shown from the Bible that it’s the Spirit who unites the elect to Christ.

    RS: But of course you have not given one text to show that sinners can be justified while out of Christ which is what you must do if you want to say that sinners are justified apart from union with Christ.

    1 Corinthians 12:13 “For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.” The best translation of this verse is “by one Spirit” rather than “in one Spirit.” The preposition is followed by a dative and it fits better with the context.

    Eph 3:14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, 16 that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love,

    RS: I have given those verses previously (in a different thread), but notice that the inner man must be strenghtened with power through the Spirit. This must be done so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. But the Spirit has to do His strengthening work for that to happen.

  41. Richard Smith
    Posted March 24, 2012 at 9:29 pm | Permalink

    McMark: Galatians 4:5-6 –”to redeem those who were under the law, so that we would receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”

    This text indicates the priority not only of the atonement but of imputation and justification and legal adoption. Logically, because the elect have become sons, they are then given the Holy Spirit. But RS simply repeats that we are Sons because we have the Spirit.

    RS: But imputation and justifiction are not mentioned in the text you gave just above. One does not become a son of God before one is born by the seed of God. One becomes a child of God when one is born again. When the child is born then the child is adopted as a son of God.

    Galatians 3:16 Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He does not say, “And to seeds,” as referring to many, but rather to one, “And to your seed,” that is, Christ.

    1 Peter 1:23 for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God.

    1 John 3:9 No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.

    McMark: Imprecise “union” talk can be very dangerous. Christ’s death saves not only because of God’s sovereign will is effective but also because of God’s justice. Although God only imputed the sins of the elect to Christ, the elect were not all justified when Christ bore those sins. Romans 6 teaches that, until the elect are “placed into” Christ’s death, they remain under the wrath of God. But Romans 6 does NOT teach that it’s the Holy Spirit who places the elect into Christ’s death.

    RS: Rom 6:3 “Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? 4 Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.” There are two baptisms involved there. One is the work of the Spirit who baptizes the elect into Christ and the second is water baptism. Notice the “therefore” that verse 4 starts off with.

    McMark: To deny the priority of some “More and Real Union” is NOT to teach justification apart from faith. Faith in the gospel is NOT a mere recognition that we were already justified. Some of “union is not legal” folks locate the efficacy of the atonement not in Christ’s propitiation itself but only in the efficacy of regeneration and faith to unite people with that propitiation. Thus they open the way to teach everybody that “Christ is dead for you” without that meaning that Christ has died for your sins.

    I am not saying that RS is in this group, because he hasn’t told us if he tells everybody that Christ died for them. But he has told us repeatedly that it’s the Spirit who unites, and that “union” is not legal, and that this “not legal union” is the basis for the legal. And that this legal would not be legal if it were not based on that “More and Real Union”.

    RS: I am with John Owen who does not see in the NT that the atonement is held out in evangelism. I would agree with Edwards and Paul that sinners should be told to seek the Lord that perhaps He may grant them repentance. But yes, there must be an actual union for there to be an actual justification based on actual justice.

  42. Richard Smith
    Posted March 24, 2012 at 9:35 pm | Permalink

    I Cor 12:13 –”in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body.” The text does not say that the Holy Spirit is the baptizer. Jesus Christ is the one who baptizes His sons with the Spirit. It is a mistake to reference the “died with” of Romans 6 to a “faith-union” given by the Holy Spirit. The idea of Romans 6 is NOT that Christ died and as a result the Holy Spirit unites some to Christ

    RS: But the text is better translated “by one Spirit we were all baptized in one body.” In the Trinity it is not a contradiction for the Son to send the Spirit and then for the Spirit to unite (baptize) sinners into Christ.

    McMark: I Corinthians 1:30–”God is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, whom God made our wisdom and our righteousness and sanctification and redemption.”

    RS: Yes, but the Holy Spirit is God. Much like when Jesus told Peter upon his confession that it was his Father in heaven who taught him. But He taught Him by the Spirit.

    McMark: Romans 8:10–”the Spirit is life because of righteousness”

    The Holy Spirit does not give us life so that we can get righteousness. God unites us to His righteousness so that we can have the Holy Spirit. We trust Him who justifies the ungodly. Romans 4:5.

    RS: It is by the righteousness of God that sinners are declared righteous, but how can a righteous and just God declare sinners righteous until they are either really righteous or have on who they are united to that they can be declared righteous based on Him? You can’t. God will only declares sinners righteous when He can be just in doing so.

  43. Posted March 25, 2012 at 4:06 am | Permalink

    Richard, I disagree. The NT does show the baptism of children (i.e. families are baptized). But either way, if you’re right, then Tim Keller is wrong and the Gospel Coalition shouldn’t allow Presbyterians.

  44. mark mcculley
    Posted March 25, 2012 at 5:29 am | Permalink

    RS: I have given those verses previously (Eph 3:14), but notice that the inner man must be strenghtened with power through the Spirit. This must be done so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.

    mark: Trying to talk to you is like attempting a conversation with a block of wood. You repeat yourself. You ignore the distinction between “in Christ” and “Christ in you”. I say that “Christ in you” is a logical result of “in Christ” which is legal union. The new man (the new creation) of Romans 6 is imputed identity. I could be wrong, but there’s no way you could show me that until you begin to actually listen to what I am saying. Baptism into the death of Christ does not mean Christ’s baptism with the Spirit. Galatians 4: because you are sons, the gift/promise to Abraham…

  45. mark mcculley
    Posted March 25, 2012 at 5:37 am | Permalink

    rs: I am with John Owen who does not see in the NT that the atonement is held out in evangelism

    mcmark: What? No preaching the cross in the gospel? Where in the world did John Owen say such a thing? When you are talking to the lost, you forget what God did in Jesus Christ outside the sinner, and focus instead on what you think God might do in the sinner? I would not have thought to put such foolishness in your mouth.

    Ga 6:14–“Far be it from me to boast in anything except in the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ…for neither circumcision counts for anything nor uncircumcision, but a new creation. And as many as walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them..”.

    Notice what the “new creation” glories in—not what’s in them, but in Christ’s death and resurrection outside of them.

  46. mark mcculley
    Posted March 25, 2012 at 5:44 am | Permalink

    RS: It is by the righteousness of God that sinners are declared righteous, but how can a righteous and just God declare sinners righteous until they are either really righteous or have on who they are united to that they can be declared righteous based on Him? You can’t. God will only declares sinners righteous when He can be just in doing so

    mcmark: I notice again your attachment to the word “real”. I gather you think that legal imputation of sins is not real, and thus that it must be basis on something which is real. Your position sounds more like that of Osiander every day. I am trying to see what is Protestant about it. How could your doctrine of justification be different from Augustine or Acquinas?

    I am hoping that your problem is simply your continuing assumption that “union” is what’s inside the sinner and that “union” is not “reckoning” or “counting” (Romans 6). But you sound more and more like you think that justification is based on regeneration, both before and after (to be done) justification. I hope not. If we can be “really” accepted by God based on what the Spirit will do in us, what need could we even have for Christ crucified?

    I note, for dgh’s sake, that I like to ask this same question not only to RS but to various evangelicals associated with the gospel coalition. Too bad they are not in the OPC, where clergy who follow Norman Shepherd are set straight.

  47. mark mcculley
    Posted March 25, 2012 at 5:56 am | Permalink

    I quoted Galatians 4:6 which is about God sending the Spirit to people who are already legally sons. RS protested that the text was not about imputation and justification. (And presumably not about the atonement either, since that’s something he doesn’t think we need “to hold out in evangelism”.)
    I suggest we read the context.

    3 O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed AS CRUCIFIED. 2 Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? 3 Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? 4 Did you suffer so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain? 5 Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith— 6 just as Abraham “believed God, and it was COUNTED to him as righteousness”?

    mcmark: hearing what? hearing about hearing, or hearing about the cross as satisfaction of law?

    7 Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. 8 And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would JUSTIFY the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.” 9 So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith. 10 For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” 11 Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.” 12 But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.” 13 Christ REDEEMED us from the curse of the law by BECOMING A CURSE FOR US —for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is HANGED ON A TREE”— 14 SO THAT IN CHRIST Jesus the blessing of Abraham would come to the Gentiles, so that we would receive the promised Spirit through faith…

    …23 Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. 24 So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we would be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, 26 for IN CHRIST Jesus you ARE SONS of God, through faith. 27 For as many of you as were baptized INTO CHRIST have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise. 4 I mean that the heir, as long as he is a child, is no different from a slave though he is the owner of everything, 2 but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by his father. 3 In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world. 4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, BORN UNDER THE LAW TO REDEEM THOSE WHO WERE UNDER THE LAW so that we would receive adoption as sons. 6 And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”

  48. Richard Smith
    Posted March 25, 2012 at 7:09 am | Permalink

    D. G. Hart: Richard, I disagree. The NT does show the baptism of children (i.e. families are baptized). But either way, if you’re right, then Tim Keller is wrong and the Gospel Coalition shouldn’t allow Presbyterians.

    1 Corinthians 1:16 Now I did baptize also the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized any other.
    1 Corinthians 16:15 Now I urge you, brethren (you know the household of Stephanas, that they were the first fruits of Achaia, and that they have devoted themselves for ministry to the saints),

    RS: The household of Stephanas was baptized, but we also see that the household of Stephanas were the first fruits of Achaia and THEY devoted themselves for ministry to the saints. This text does not show infant baptism, but instead shows the term “household” being used in a way where all in it were old enough to devote themselves to ministry (not the ministry).

    Acts 16:14 A woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple fabrics, a worshiper of God, was listening; and the Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul.15 And when she and her household had been baptized, she urged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house and stay.” And she prevailed upon us.

    RS: We have no evidence at all that Lydia had children or a husband. Instead, it appears that she was in business. So her household would have consisted of employees as such. Again, no evidence of infants being baptized.

    Acts 16: 31 They said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.”
    32 And they spoke the word of the Lord to him together with all who were in his house.
    33 And he took them that very hour of the night and washed their wounds, and immediately he was baptized, he and all his household.
    34 And he brought them into his house and set food before them, and rejoiced greatly, having believed in God with his whole household.

    RS: Here (v. 34) we see that the man and his whole household believed. Again, no evidence of infants in the household and the text says clearly that the whole household had believed.

    Acts 18:8 Crispus, the leader of the synagogue, believed in the Lord with all his household, and many of the Corinthians when they heard were believing and being baptized.

    RS: Once again there is a household being baptized, but once again the whole household believed. Notice too that “when they heard they were believing.” So I still don’t see any NT evidence of infant baptism. Maybe Keller is right, but just a little backwards. Maybe Presbyterians (and Reformed Baptists) shouldn’t allow the present Gospel Coalition.

  49. Richard Smith
    Posted March 25, 2012 at 7:16 am | Permalink

    mark mcculley
    Posted March 25, 2012 at 5:29 am | Permalink
    RS: I have given those verses previously (Eph 3:14), but notice that the inner man must be strenghtened with power through the Spirit. This must be done so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.

    mark: Trying to talk to you is like attempting a conversation with a block of wood.

    RS: Yes, and in that teaching is the tree of life.

    Mark: You repeat yourself.

    RS: It seems that this is necessary as you are not quite getting it.

    Mark: You ignore the distinction between “in Christ” and “Christ in you”. I say that “Christ in you” is a logical result of “in Christ” which is legal union. The new man (the new creation) of Romans 6 is imputed identity.

    RS: I do not ignore the distinction between “in Christ” and “Christ in you”, but rather where there is one there is both. I am saying that this is a true reality (yes, I used that word again). I am saying that the omnipresent Christ dwells in His people in reality and they dwell in Him in reality. It is more than a legal union, but instead it is a legal and a real union. It is not legal unless it is real because God does not deal in fiction.

    Mark: I could be wrong,

    RS: Indeed

    Mark: but there’s no way you could show me that until you begin to actually listen to what I am saying. Baptism into the death of Christ does not mean Christ’s baptism with the Spirit. Galatians 4: because you are sons, the gift/promise to Abraham…

    RS: Perhaps if you explained what you mean.

  50. Richard Smith
    Posted March 25, 2012 at 11:46 am | Permalink

    mark mcculley: Quoting RS: I am with John Owen who does not see in the NT that the atonement is held out in evangelism

    mcmark: What? No preaching the cross in the gospel? Where in the world did John Owen say such a thing? When you are talking to the lost, you forget what God did in Jesus Christ outside the sinner, and focus instead on what you think God might do in the sinner? I would not have thought to put such foolishness in your mouth.

    RS: Oh, the foolishness is not in my mouth. Context, context, context. Here is what you said that brought my response: “I am not saying that RS is in this group, because he hasn’t told us if he tells everybody that Christ died for them.” In that context, then, my response should be read. Notice that I said that “the atonement held out.” In other words, we never see in the NT where people are told in evangelistic practices that Christ died for you (that is, the atonement held out) or that your sins have been satisfied or things like that. The cross is preached, but it is not held out as done for a particular individual. As far as where Owen said that, it was in Volume 10 of his works, The Death of Death in the Death of Christ.

    McMark: Ga 6:14–”Far be it from me to boast in anything except in the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ…for neither circumcision counts for anything nor uncircumcision, but a new creation. And as many as walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them..”.

    Notice what the “new creation” glories in—not what’s in them, but in Christ’s death and resurrection outside of them.

    RS: While it may just sound like more foolishness to you, is that new creation Paul spoke of outside of them or inside of them? Christ died for the elect and not for all. How do we know that Christ died for person A and not person B? How do we know that the resurrection of Christ has full meaning for person A and not for person B? It is the fact that it occured? Without denying that it happened, and instead asserting it strongly, the only way a person can know if it is for them is if it has been applied to them. The fact that Christ died on the cross and suffered for person A’s sins cannot be known by that person until the wrath of God has been removed from that person and that person is now a new creature in Christ.

  51. Richard Smith
    Posted March 25, 2012 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

    mark mcculley:
    Quoting RS: It is by the righteousness of God that sinners are declared righteous, but how can a righteous and just God declare sinners righteous until they are either really righteous or have on who they are united to that they can be declared righteous based on Him? You can’t. God will only declares sinners righteous when He can be just in doing so

    mcmark: I notice again your attachment to the word “real”. I gather you think that legal imputation of sins is not real, and thus that it must be basis on something which is real. Your position sounds more like that of Osiander every day. I am trying to see what is Protestant about it. How could your doctrine of justification be different from Augustine or Acquinas?

    RS: I think you are missing my point. I do think that the legal imputation of sins is real, but that is what I am trying to get at. It is real because one is united to Christ. God cannot in a just way simply declare someone just when they are not just. That leaves two options, but the first one is heresy and the second is the Gospel: 1) The person actually becomes righteous in and of himself. Again, that is heresy and is a denial of the Gospel of grace alone. 2) A person is declared just based on a legal union with another. This is the Gospel of grace alone. Roman Catholicism accused the Reformers of a legal fiction because they asserted imputed righteousness. Rome would have been right except for the fact that the forensic declaration of God was based on the believer being united to Christ. All are sinners in Adam but all who are in Christ are declared righteous because of Christ.

    McMark: I am hoping that your problem is simply your continuing assumption that “union” is what’s inside the sinner and that “union” is not “reckoning” or “counting” (Romans 6).

    RS: I am asserting that every ounce/gram/atom of righteousnss that a believer needs to walk into the gates of heaven (so to speak) is given the sinner by the imputed righteousness of Christ. I am also asserting that this legal union and being united to Christ are one and the same. It is only legal because it is actual and it is actual because it is legal. Sinners are legally declared righteous because of the righteousness of Christ imputed to them because the sinner is now the bride of Christ. They are one.

    McMark: But you sound more and more like you think that justification is based on regeneration, both before and after (to be done) justification. I hope not.

    RS: Regeneration precedes faith. One is declared just by grace alone and Christ alone when one has faith IN Christ. One cannot receive Christ Himself until one has faith, yet one cannot have faith until one is regenerated. The righteousness of Christ cannot be imputed apart from Christ Himself. One must not just have faith, one must have faith in Christ. Yet what does faith do? It receives Christ Himself. Since faith receives Christ Himself and is married to Christ and is of the body of Christ, that person has the righteousness of Christ imputed to him or her.

    McMark: If we can be “really” accepted by God based on what the Spirit will do in us, what need could we even have for Christ crucified?

    RS: So that He (Christ crucified) would earn, purchase, and procure the Spirit who would apply what needs to be applied. Sinners are only really accepted by God based on what Christ has done, but part of what Christ has done is to purchase the Spirit for His people (Gal 3:13-14) who will apply to sinners what must be done. As Jesus told Nicodemus, “You MUST be born again.” That is true of every person. But for a person to be born again, the wrath of God for that person’s sin must be satisfied, that person must have a new nature, and that person must be made a new creature. So Christ lived, suffered, died, rose again, ascended, and is now Mediator so that His elect would be born again and be new creatures united to Him.

    McMark: I note, for dgh’s sake, that I like to ask this same question not only to RS but to various evangelicals associated with the gospel coalition. Too bad they are not in the OPC, where clergy who follow Norman Shepherd are set straight.

    RS: I follow Christ.

  52. Richard Smith
    Posted March 25, 2012 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

    mark mcculley: I quoted Galatians 4:6 which is about God sending the Spirit to people who are already legally sons. RS protested that the text was not about imputation and justification. (And presumably not about the atonement either, since that’s something he doesn’t think we need “to hold out in evangelism”.) I suggest we read the context.

    RS: The context of a text of Scripture or another human being’s writings is always a good thing. So note that your comments about my comments about the atonement were taken out of context. They were in response to your question. Taken alone, sure enough they sound like heresy. But when they are read in light of your question, something different emerges.

    But I would argue that the context of what Paul was speaking about meant that his language in those words does not mean that the Spirit has no activity in the sinner before justification. The Spirit has work to do in sinners before they are justified (conviction as in John 16), in regenerating them, and then in working all blessings in them after they are justified. The fact that God sends the Spirit or pours out His Spirit on people does not in and of itself mean that the Spirit does not regenerate sinners before they are justified. God can and does pour out His Spirit on those who have been believers for years. The Spirit was poured out in Acts 2, but surely many of those people in the upper room were already believers.

    Gal 3:3 O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed AS CRUCIFIED. 2 Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? 3 Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? 4 Did you suffer so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain? 5 Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith— 6 just as Abraham “believed God, and it was COUNTED to him as righteousness”?

    mcmark: hearing what? hearing about hearing, or hearing about the cross as satisfaction of law?

    RS: So they began by the Spirit? Notice that faith is the gift of God which the Spirit works in His people. So if people have faith and then they are declared just, we have the work of the Spirit before there is justification.

    Gal 3:12 But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.” 13 Christ REDEEMED us from the curse of the law by BECOMING A CURSE FOR US —for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is HANGED ON A TREE”— 14 SO THAT IN CHRIST Jesus the blessing of Abraham would come to the Gentiles, so that we would receive the promised Spirit through faith…

    RS: Here are the verses I have stressed before. Christ became a curse for His people for what purpose? So that in Christ His people would receive the promised Spirit through faith. But again, who is it that works faith in the sinner? The Spirit.

    Gal 3:24 So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we would be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, 26 for IN CHRIST Jesus you ARE SONS of God, through faith. 27 For as many of you as were baptized INTO CHRIST have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.

    RS: So it is only when a person is in Christ that a person can know that s/he is an heir according to promise. Indeed only those who are in Christ are sons of God through faith. But again, faith is the work of the Spirit in regeneration.

    Gal 4:4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, BORN UNDER THE LAW TO REDEEM THOSE WHO WERE UNDER THE LAW so that we would receive adoption as sons.

    6 And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”

    RS: So are you saying that sinners become regenerate without the Spirit and come up with faith without the Spirit and are adopted without the Spirit and then God sends the Spirit into their hearts? I hope not. It is the Spirit who convicts of sin and it is the Spirit who regenerates sinners and gives them faith so that the elect can receive Christ Himself. The sons of God are indeed those with the Spirit in them crying out “Abba.” But this can be said for those who have been justified for years as well. For anyone to truly call God “Father”, whether newly converted or not, it takes the work of the Spirit to do that.

  53. Dan Elifson
    Posted March 25, 2012 at 4:21 pm | Permalink

    I could couldn’t agree more with Dr. Hart. Although I don’t think Jonathan Edwards is responsible for the present mess.

  54. Posted March 25, 2012 at 7:24 pm | Permalink

    Dan E., I wouldn’t blame Edwards either, but an undue esteem for Edwards is not helping.

  55. mark mcculley
    Posted March 29, 2012 at 4:22 pm | Permalink

    D A Carson seems to me very much like John Stott. I guess some folks thought Stott was a “Calvinist”

    Carl Trueman: “Stott’s answer at each step of his career seems to have been to declare ‘Be reasonable: do it my way. After all, I am John Stott. Remind me again: who on earth are you?’ That is how it went within Anglican evangelicalism; and most notoriously it is how it went with the Lausanne movement. He was not the first leader to handle criticism in such a way and he certainly was not the last. There are lessons here for our current parachurch religious culture in the USA which is arguably more enamoured today with the idea of the big celebrity
    leader than at any point in the recent past.”

  56. mark mcculley
    Posted September 26, 2012 at 8:18 am | Permalink

    Doctrinal aversion, radical individualism, unexamined subjectivism—these are only a few of the problems afflicting the evangelical church. In The Creedal Imperative, Carl Trueman wisely applies his vast historical knowledge to offer a remedy for such deficiencies. This book is especially important for so many believers whose Christian life, like mine, grew out of the soil of vibrant experience with insufficient doctrinal moorings. And beyond merely correcting errors, the lessons here have great potential for protecting the church, reinvigorating our cherished beliefs, and fostering greater unity in our worship. I’m grateful for Carl, and I’m grateful he wrote this book.”
    —C. J. Mahaney, Sovereign Grace Ministries

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