Faking It

A few more thoughts on the Duncan, Nevin, Helm, Edwards discussion.

The proponents of Edwards and the First Pretty Good Awakening (hereafter FPGA) are worried about nominal Christianity – that is, people who go through the motions of worship or Christian practice. Although this is an understandable concern – who would ever commend hypocrisy unless you are a vice paying tribute to a virtue – it is also an impossible concern. How does anyone know if another person is faking anything? Only God knows the heart. So the effort to eradicate going through the motions is a lot like a quest to be God (and wasn’t that what got our first parents into trouble?).

At the same time, why is it that insincerity only goes in one direction? Why is it only possible for Christian profession and practice to betray unbelief? Why can’t unholy actions betray a believing heart? Of course, I’m not trying to justify sin or worldliness. But if the heart is as fickle as pietists believe it is, why isn’t it possible for the duplicity to go both ways? Why can’t a believer’s impious actions actually betray real belief? What if someone is faking unbelief but really believes? If you think this seems preposterous, consider Peter’s thrice denying his Lord. And he became Pope!

Those skeptical about Edwards put less emphasis on the first word of “faking it” and worry more about the it. That is, they (okay, I) worry that the words or actions in question are actually fitting or biblical – fitting within the Reformed tradition or having a warrant from Scripture. Since we can’t know the human heart, at least we can take precaution that the things we do as believers and the things we say actually conform to what Scripture teaches. Let the Spirit take care of the heart, along with pastoral counsel in the privacy of one’s home.

So, for instance, when churches have Thanksgiving Day services where people stand to give testimonies, the Edwards proponents might be very much moved by the woman who stands to give thanks that she recently found a job afer a year of unemployment. And if the woman cries, the Edwardsean might be especially inclined to think this testimony spiritual and genuine. After all, the pro-FPGA saw lots of tears (and more) as evidence of the work of the Spirit. Never mind that sometimes people cry when speaking in public because they are nervous. If affections appear, then hallelujah, we have piety.

Edwards skeptics may also be moved by the emotion, but will also be sitting there going postal internally because of the impropriety of letting people, even saints, stand up and say things without any sort of screening by the pastor and elders. In other words, whether or not someone fakes a testimony, the issue in this case is that testimonies are wrong. The noun (“it”) matters more than the gerund (“faking”).

But Edwards rooters are rarely as worried about the “it” as Edwards skeptics and the reasons are that those who are interested in holy affections often take liberties with the “it” of Christian piety. That is, in order to cultivate and give expression to those genuine affections, pietistically inclined establish new practices, sometimes not having biblical warrant or foreign to the Reformed tradition, in order to fan real spirituality into aflame. The best example of this is the phenomenon of hymns. Prior to the FPGA, Presbyterians all sang psalms (or other biblical songs). But these songs were not as conducive to the revivals of Whitefield, Wesley, and Edwards as were the hymns being written expressly for revivalistic purposes by the likes of Watts and Wesley (Charles, that is).

Now maybe you are a hymn-singing kind of Presbyterian. I myself enjoy a good hymn now and then. But the historical record is remarkably undeniable that hymn singing prevailed among a group of believers previously committed to psalm-singing because those biblical songs weren’t cutting it in the effort to create believers who did not fake singing psalms but really sang hymns.

And now to bring it full circle, hymn-singing Presbyterians in the 1980s were besieged by praise-song singing Presbyterians because the old hymns weren’t up to speed with Jesus people piety.

So once you start down the road of the quest for genuine piety, it’s hard to get off before it turns into the charismatic highway.

I seem to recall Scott Clark writing a book about this.


175 thoughts on “Faking It

  1. I found this list from a beloved pastor when I cleaning my files today:

    You might be a pietist if…

    …you have charts keeping track of your progress in good works

    …you have a journal that measures your progress in overcoming sin

    …you find yourself repeatedly saying in prayer: Jesus, I just wanna…

    …you’ve read Rick Warren and think it’s not all about you

    …you have both a 30 second and a 60 minute version of your testimony

    …you think the 10 commandments should be in the courtrooms, but you don’t know what all of them are

    …you’ve referred to other Christians as cold, lukewarm, nominal, or the frozen chosen

    …you think Christianity is about subjective experiences rather than what God has done

    …you have WWJD bracelets in 8 different colors to match you outfits

    …your facebook status says, “Lord make me more like you today.”

    …you want people to notice that you are a Christian so you have bumper stickers, carry a big bible, and are sappy nice

    …you have a notch in you bible for every person you have led to Christ

    …you spend most of your time trying to figure out how to not sin


  2. There are plenty of good points here, mainly that the exuberance displayed by someone that might gain them a pat on the back and a “Praise the Lord!” could be from sinful motives, or worse, be faked! But, it seems to me that the idea that someone spends their life faithfully attending church, but always lacking at least some measure of joy or excitement for their savior, just doesn’t square with what I see in scripture.

    1 Peter 1:8
    Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory,

    I’ll take the type of Christianity where excitement is derived from Jesus and his finished work over the other any day of the week.


  3. DJ,

    I think what you see in Scripture (i.e.inexpressible joy) is exactly what DGH is advocating. Excitement derived from Jesus and his finished work doesn’t express itself the same way as excitement derived from a concert or sporting event. Sounds like for Peter (of all people!) that it can’t be expressed. Wouldn’t that then mean that all this expressing of it is fake?


  4. Wouldn’t it mean more like “I just can’t put into words the joy that God gives me”? Kinda like “peace that passes all understanding”? I don’t think it means, “that’s great. So great I don’t have any joy to express”.


  5. Jason, it doesn’t mean that the joy is “fake”, just that words can’t describe it.

    The choice is not between doctrine/liturgy and joy. The point is that there needs to be joy, etc, in the use of doctrine and liturgy.

    Nobody is saying that the answer to nominalism or formalism is to eradicate the forms. The answer to nominalism is for the forms to have content.

    See the doctrine in Peter’s two epistles (objective as you like, revealed by inspiration in the more sure word of prophecy) – and see the churchly contours of the strangers’ life of faith (being built up as living stones in the body of Christ and getting fed by the elders) — well, these very same people are supposed to have a living hope, 1:3, and rejoice greatly, 1:6, and find Christ’s blood precious, 1:19, and desire the sincere milk of the Word, 2.2, having tasted that the Lord is gracious, 2:3, and so on.

    It’s *both* doctrine and liturgy *and* joy which is inexpressible and filled with glory.


  6. Some of us are not naturally “enthusiastic.” Outward expressions do not come naturally, at least in worship. But, our “hearts may be strangely warmed” by the word that is read and spoken or the hymn or anthem that is sung (I like singing the psalms and I like hymns and even some praise songs that have a sound theology). We might even raise our hands because it is mentioned in the Psalms.


  7. Baus, an outburst to affirm comportment? Can I get a bingo with a period?

    Cath, so if “joy” is needed in the use of liturgy then what happens when “joy” wanes in the midst of liturgy? Again, what there seems little accounting for is being human, which is to say sinful, in the presence of the divine.


  8. Zrim – yes, we remain sinful. I guess that excuses us from pursuing any sanctification since our righteousness are filthy rags? I guess the imperatives in Scripture are meaningless? I would rejoice in the Lord – but wait, I’m sinful so I better just rest in Christ having done that?


  9. zrim – I admit that I probably overstated and misrepresented you… I’m sorry. it’s just that’s what I *hear* when I read what you said to Cath.


  10. Zrim,

    keep following along with the liturgy? if your use of the ordained means doesn’t achieve its intended end, what else can you do but keep on using the ordained means?

    Do you accept that it is ever appropriate to experience joy in the use of the ordained means? Or substitute sorrow if that makes it easier …


  11. DJ, yes, it does seem overstated to suggest that my question means the imperatives in Scripture are meaningless. (My own understanding is that the law is the structure of our sanctification and the Spirit the power, so I don’t know how imperatives become meaningless in such an arrangement.)

    Cath, first, my understanding of the intended end of the liturgy is God’s praise, not our joy. This certainly isn’t to say that our joy (or sorrow) is somehow inappropriate, nor that the worshippers don’t receive something. But it is to say that God’s worship is just that, God’s worship. What worries me about suggesting that the intended end of the ordained means is our affect is that I don’t know how that doesn’t lead to religious consumerism. And usually the way proponents of affectationism try to distinguish the two just ends up sounding arbitrary and a little narcissistic, as in: “Theirs is bad because they’re them, but ours is good because we’re us.” Huh? Wouldn’t it be better to distinguish revival from Reformation instead of revival from revivalism? In one case there is a principled difference, while in the other there seems to be a distinction without much differerence.

    But my other point was about being at once sinner and saint. And your answer seems to be, “Use the ordained means until you become more saint than sinner.” I get that we’re supposed to mortify the flesh, but if even the holiest amongst us make but only the slightest gain in this life then it seems to me we, the larger balance, are always going to be more sinner than saint. And for me that is miles more reassuring than these tactics that seem to be a sustained effort to morr or less deny our sinful reality. And if it’s all about being reassured through the ordained means of grace maybe joy isn’t the right category in the first place?


  12. Oy vey, DJ!

    You know better than to think the imperatives can ever be ignored. But, you better believe you need rest in Christ for everything you do or do not do in this life! By no means will you EVER have a perfect lived Christian life no matter how hard you try. It’s not a matter of not obeying, it’s a matter of resting in Christ at the same time.


  13. I agree with Hart, but I think he fails to read Duncan in context. Duncan, with Terry Johnson in Savanna, are very vocal advocates of common means of grace ministry and traditional formal Presbyterian worship and piety, including the re-introduction of psalms in congregational singing in the PCA.
    So, I’m posting not to disagree with Hart, but to defend Duncan from being classed with a certain group of people simply because he is vocal about a real pastoral issue for Jackson, Mississippi (which is more anti-nomian than nominal, but each physician is responsible for his own diagnosis).


  14. Oops, DJ,

    I mucked up that last sentence. I was trying to say it’s not an either/or proposition. It’s a both/and situation. We both obey and rest in Christ at the same time. I hope that makes sense. Pax.


  15. Lily,

    I agree totally with you, and I realized what I had written could be interpreted precisely as you did. I just didn’t take the time to correct. What I was trying to get at was that, at times, it seem that some Reformed only “rest” and don’t seem to care much for the indicatives. And, to be fair, more often the case is that most evangelicals don’t seem to know anything about Christ being their objective sanctification! I Cor 1, John 17


  16. DGH; You said “If affections appear, then hallelujah, we have piety.” I think that is particularly interesting. Because, if affections=piety, how does one account for differences in personality (i.e. one’s more stoic, one’s more outgoing). It would seem that would then have to be factored in. It’s almost like the measure of external piety itself becomes subjective. I don’t see how this doesn’t contribute to pride (“why doesn’t so-and-so have any heart for Christ?”). It seems a slippery slope indeed. These kind of issues don’t happen when focusing our attention on the objective Gospel. And how is this at-times smarmy and dripping piety seem to those we’re trying to reach with the Gospel? food for some thought, I reckon.


  17. K. Pierce above linked to Dr. Sean Lucas’ post at Ref. 21 clarifying, contra Dr. Paul Helm, what Edwards meant and didn’t mean by “affections.” Affections do not equal emotions. That they do is a common misunderstanding of Edwards that should be noted before blasting at straw men.


  18. DJ,

    Too funny! It’s so easy to be misunderstood via comments. I’m very guilty of muddy comments even when I’m trying hard to be clear (Zrim, why aren’t you giving me a hard time on them anymore?). I often wish we could all sit in a coffee shop somewhere. Can you imagine what a hoot that would be?

    To be honest, I don’t tend towards being concerned by people’s appearances. I can be a royal pain in the tush about the gospel being clearly preached and my intolerance of pietism because I am convinced that pietism is to the gospel what algae is like when it suffocates the life out of a pond.


  19. Zrim,

    I’m not really saying that the end of the ordained means is our affect. I’m looking at WCF 21.5, on Religious Worship. Here I see it’s true to say that preaching, sacraments, prayer, etc are the forms which God has prescribed as the right ways for us to worship him acceptably. The end of the means is God’s glory, most avowedly and undoubtedly.

    But (1) the Confession expects more than the outward form alone – not just reading the scriptures, but reading the scriptures with godly fear. Not just hearing the Word preached, but the conscionable hearing with understanding, faith, and reverence. Not just receiving the sacraments, but the worthy receiving of the sacraments.
    Ie: the qualifiers are necessary: being appropriately affected is part of our worship. Otherwise, according to what we’re supposed to be confessing, it doesn’t count as acceptable worship.

    And (2) the forms by which we worship God are also instituted for believers to receive from Christ the benefits of his mediation. What are the outward means whereby Christ communicates to us the benefits of his mediation? His ordinances, especially the Word, sacraments, and prayer. LC 153-154. What are the benefits of Christ’s mediation? In this life, we can expect justification, adoption, sanctification, assurance of God’s love, peace of conscience, joy in the Holy Ghost, increase of grace, and perseverance therein to the end. SC 32-36.
    Ie: things like peace of conscience are part of the package provided for us in the gospel, are worth having, and are legitimate to aspire to – always bearing in mind that they aren’t to be sought for their own sake, and they aren’t to be expected outside of the ordained means of grace.

    Always more sinner than saint. Always. But brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended, but this one thing I do: forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark.

    I know. It’s exhausting. We are such sinners and the ideal is so remote. But when there is a Father pitying and an Advocate interceding and a Comforter sanctifying, are there not gospel motivations to press on. Faint yet pursuing. Work out your own salvation, for it is God who works it in you.


  20. Samuel, but isn’t the real question not what Edwards meant by affections but what the Bible says about them? I mean, should Edwards really be the standard by which we judge his own counsel?


  21. Cath, but whatever happened to the idea that Jesus Paid It All? I know we are in a battle, we’re running a race, and all but is there no rest for weary souls in the restful activity or resting and receiving Christ and his merits? Again, if it’s about my race and how I’m doing, even if I have an advocate and a pitying father, how different is my piety from a Roman Catholic? At least they have more saints advocating their battle and race.

    In other words, are the means of grace food for weary souls who need to go out and do more good works or food for a faith that needs to be strengthened to take hold of Christ?


  22. No, I believe the real question is what did Edwards mean by “affections.” Before one can critique a speaker from the 18th century by biblical standards, one first has to enter sympathetically into what the speaker said and meant by his words.

    “Affections” was for Edwards a technical term, a term of art, in the discipline of philosophy of his day. It would be a linguistic error to assume that some 21st century version of the Bible that has the word “affections” translates a Greek or Hebrew term that has the same lexical meaning as the word Edwards used. The scriptures don’t use the term “affections” as Edwards used it, or indeed any philosophical terms, as you know. I think we should, therefore, begin by being sure we understand what Edwards wrote and meant before criticizing his writings on this point.


  23. Cath and DJ,

    Why is the focus so much on your personal sanctification rather than the forgetfulness of self with a focus on the needs of your neighbors around you? Are you really interpreting the text about working out your own salvation in the best context? Look at the surrounding text. Focus on Christ’s depth of humility to become incarnate and be our Savior preceding the verse and the following text that addresses curbing our sin natures. Is this talking about God working sanctification in us or how we are to serve our neighbors? I think it’s the latter.


  24. Surely it’s both, or am I misunderstanding your question? I can’t do good works except to the extent that my faith is taking hold of the person and work of Christ. The believer is lukewarm, his/her Saviour was consumed by zeal. The believer is prayerless, but Christ continued all night in prayer to God. The believer is sluggish in obedience, but Christ delighted to do the will of the Father. All this and more – he is our peace, he is our wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption – when the law comes asking for obedience, believers can point to the Substitute in their law place. But none of this excuses lukewarmness, prayerlessness, disobedience on the part of the believer. For sure, diligence, prayerfulness, obedience are only possible to the extent that the Holy Spirit enables, but it’s not the Spirit who obeys, it’s the disobedient believer who obeys. That’s the battle, which we fight while resting. That’s the rest, which we battle through. I don’t know what else to say.

    I have some very dear, very pious Roman Catholic friends. But the doctrine that shapes Reformed piety is different from the doctrine that shapes Roman Catholic piety. This is why your emphasis on the Confession and the Ordained Means of Grace is so necessary and so beneficial. Religious experience divorced from the truth, and/or religious experience outside of the means – I hesitate to say it’s absolutely worthless, but it’s something to be very, very cautious about. Religious experience is the, er, heart and soul of salvation, but not just any old experience – it has to be experience springing from the truth understood and believed and assimilated, the truth lived out following the footsteps of the flock in praying and praising and hearing the Word and receiving the sacraments.


  25. …the qualifiers are necessary: being appropriately affected is part of our worship. Otherwise, according to what we’re supposed to be confessing, it doesn’t count as acceptable worship.

    Cath, I don’t have any problem with being appropriately affected. I worry, though, when acceptable worship is said to depend on it. I’d rather say that God’s worship is made acceptable the same way we are made right with God, by faith alone. I mean, isn’t faith really the material category for confessional Protestants? Maybe Rome wants faith plus works and the Radical Reformation wants faith plus affect, but it sure seems to me that Protestants are all about faith alone. So even when works or affect wane we always have faith.


  26. Sorry, my last was in reply to Darryl.

    Lily, why make it either/or? Our neighbours are best served when we are most sanctified.


  27. Re: Sean Lucas response

    Quote used by Lucas to sum up what Edwards is saying: “As Thomas Chalmers put it, it is the power of a new affection that drives out sin and motivates obedience.”

    Good grief. If that isn’t contrary to scripture, I don’t know what to say.


  28. Zrim,

    It’s faith alone for justification, but the faith which alone justifies is never alone. I wish I could say I thought of that myself.

    I mean, it’s not me that just made up my own idea of what acceptable worship consists in. I don’t think I’m saying any different from what the Reformed Church has been confessing since the year dot, or anyway 1646. Larger Catechism 104 and 105 say the same again.


  29. The Chalmers thing more specifically is just a phrase, “the expulsive power of a new affection,” which was a trendy buzzword in the very orthodox, very churchly, very Reformed circles of the 19th century Church of Scotland.

    I think it’s quite compatible with, say, “Perfect love casteth out fear,” 1 John 4:18, or “faith, which worketh by love,” Galatians 5:6.

    Lily, it’s getting late here, but hopefully I’ll see your response tomorrow.


  30. Cath,

    I think Zrim answered you well.

    Re: “Our neighbours are best served when we are most sanctified.”

    If that proposition is true, why do non-believers often outshine us when it comes to serving our neighbors? It can’t be because of sanctification.

    If it is true, will someone more sanctified pray better than someone less sanctified? Is there a danger of creating a hierarchy of who is and isn’t increasing in their sanctification levels?

    I honesty don’t think it’s wise to focus on sanctification – especially since the evidence of sanctification is incredibly subjective. It seems best to attend to God’s means of grace and serve our neighbors knowing that God will do what he has promised to do and enjoy the freedom and joy of forgetting ourselves and paying attention to others.

    Re: “The Chalmers thing more specifically is just a phrase … I think it is compatible…”

    Words matter and ideas have consequences for good or ill – especially in the body of Christ. When you quote scripture: “faith works by love” and “perfect love casts out fear” there are numerous other scriptures to consider as well to test the book’s soundness. Whether Edwards’ Affections falls into the category of philosophy, psychology, speculation, or pietism, it seems wise to judge it as such, and read it critically like any other book. Pax.


  31. “It is not Christ who dies and rises daily, putting to death indwelling sins, but believers.”

    Quoting Jane Strohl: “For Calvin the transformation of the believer is measurably advanced and manifest”.

    Any takers on where this comes from?


  32. Also, from the same source, in balancing things out: “We are confident that we are holy and are being made holy in Jesus Christ simply on the basis of his promise, not because of what we see variably in ourselves of each other.”

    (OK, this and the previous come from Horton’s systematic theology)

    This all seems to echo Scripture. We work out our own salvation. We are to grow in holiness, even though Christ is our holiness. The already and not yet are both there. I just tend to hear an emphasis on the already and a underemphasis on the not yet round these parts.

    It was refreshing to hear Horton clearly affirm both.


  33. Nothing wrong with officers, Joseph, looking for a credible profession of faith. It is a different enterprise from an author writing for a general audience, people he doesn’t know, and causing them to doubt whether their faith is authentic.


  34. Samuel, but if someone is going to recommend Edwards as the answer, then he needs to make sure Edwards is following Scripture. What started all this was the recommendation of pietism at the expense of Nevin (and I’m not sure the same method you advocate has been applied to Nevin).


  35. Cath, “none of this excuses lukewarmness, prayerlessness, disobedience”? Not even Christ’s righteousness imputed to me? Do you really want to phrase it this way? Are you putting yourself in a box of allowing some prayerlessness but not a lot? Isn’t all prayerlessness forbidden? Who prays sufficiently? Isn’t that the point of forgiveness? My answers are No, yes, yes, no one, and yes.


  36. Darryl,

    If Edwards were the answer and if the praise-song singing Presbyterians get to the point where they need more affect to keep up to speed with Jesus people piety, then what’s next?


  37. Cath, the thing about WLC 104 and 105 is that they are describing the Christian life of obedience as structured by the Decalogue. And all of that is immediately followed by 149: “Is any man able perfectly to keep the commandments of God? Answer: No man is able, either of himself, or by any grace received in this life, perfectly to keep the commandments of God; but does daily break them in thought, word, and deed.” (The HC 94-114 mirrors this same pattern.) So is acceptable worship to be always enjoined with proper affect? Per 104, yes. But per 149 it would seem that isn’t always the case. So when proper affect is absent is our worship still acceptable? It would seem to me that it is because of faith. When we don’t live up to any of the demands of the law do we still belong to God? It would seem we do for the same reason.

    So the sola fide point is to answer the question about what we do when we fall short or how we can say we are still accepted by God. So far, I have to say, I really don’t see how you’ve answered this question. And since the greater balance of life is to fall short I don’t see how telling us to do better is very assuring or comforting.


  38. Darryl,

    You said: “Let the Spirit take care of the heart, along with pastoral counsel in the privacy of one’s home.”

    Since my PCA church doesn’t have elder visitation, I have to think that you meant: “in the privacy of one’s home group.”


  39. Zrim,

    May I ask about something that doesn’t make sense?

    Here it is said: “No man is able, either of himself, or by any grace received in this life, perfectly to keep the commandments of God; but does daily break them in thought, word, and deed.”

    Here it is said: “And since the greater balance of life is to fall short…”

    Those two statements seem to contradict each other and I don’t see how we can have it both ways – I’m wondering if this was a blip in your writing? When we talk about putting the Old Adam to death, I can think of nothing better to kill him than with the fact that we are completely unable to keep the law perfectly, our best works always fall short, our best works are still but filthy rags, and we are completely dependent upon Another for our salvation from A to Z. I think the following quote is helpful in explaining the concept of the lived Christian life from my neck of the woods:

    “Christianity is not the move from vice to virtue, but rather the move from virtue to grace.” – Gerhard Forde

    I like this quote because so many people think Christianity is only about giving up vices and developing virtues, but it is really about giving up on yourself completely, even your virtues, and trusting fully in grace alone. Does that make sense?


  40. Lily,

    That comment wasn’t a comparison between believers and non-believers, but between a more sanctified believer and a less sanctified believer.

    It is a fact that there are degrees of sanctification. If some people choose to abuse that fact by setting up hierarchies between belivers and comparing themselves among themselves, that’s wrong of them. It doesn’t detract from the fact itself though.

    Thomas Chalmers didn’t write a book on this, that I’m aware. It was just a popular catchphrase at the time, and I don’t think he even made it up, just that it became famous when such a famous minister used it. Himself and his orthodoxy and churchmanship are entirely unimpeachable though. In terms of his leadership in the major crises of the church in his time, he was effectively Scottish presbyterianism’s C19th answer to John Knox.


    Yes, I’m happy with that phrasing. Christ’s righteousness imputed to me in no way excuses my failings, shortcomings, or sin. Prayerlessness is always inexcusable. Prayerlessness is nevertheless a reality. Nobody prays sufficiently. Prayer(fulness) is nevertheless our duty. Belivers are forgiven in Christ for their prayerlessness. Still, they must pray. Why are you asking me this?


    Ok, I see. When proper affect is absent, it’s not faith that makes worship acceptable so much as Christ’s righteousness received by faith. Otherwise, you make faith the work, or meritorious. Faith itself can be strong or weak, and we’re not saved, or safe, because of the degree of faith. For Christ’s sake we still belong to God when we fail and when we sin – ‘accepted in the Beloved’. I don’t know if the need for sanctification is particularly meant to be very comforting even to believers – more, surely, to ‘humble them in the sense of their sin and misery, and thereby help them to a clearer sight of the need they have of Christ, and the perfection of his obedience,’ as well as to provoke them to greater care to conform themselves to the moral law as the rule of their obedience, LC 95-97.
    Sanctification doesn’t come about by finding yourself to be doing better, I suppose it might not be superfluous to say, so much as by fixing on Christ and walking obediently – ie, increasingly clearer views of justification for Christ’s sake is much more sanctifying than fussing over duties and doings and feelings – but God who objectively speaking sees no iniquity in his covenant people still insists that subjectively speaking they should be as holy as he is holy. John ‘Rabbi’ Duncan, a colleague of Chalmers, spoke about the sinner finding themselves pressed in from both sides as if trapped in a vice: ‘I must, but I cannot, but I must, but I cannot.’ The way of escape is to look to Christ, but the obligation is every bit as real as the inability.

    In other news,

    Recovering Mother Kirk arrived in the mail today. So I think I’ll take the opportunity to bow out of here for a while and do some reading.


  41. Cath, I am asking because you suggest that we cannot be forgiven. If prayerlessness is inexcusable, then it can’t be forgiven. And if it can’t be forgiven, then how can any sin be forgiven?

    Your phrasing strikes me as a classic instance of budding neo-nomianism. If we say something is inexcusable, then we have leverage for being good. And if we say that something is forgivable, then we lose the motive to be good. This is why Rome always accused the Reformers of antinomianism. They removed the incentive for good works. But they offered a different motive — gratitude in response to forgiveness.

    I’d encourage you to rephrase.


  42. Hi Cath,

    I hope you thoroughly enjoy Mother Kirk!

    Re: it “wasn’t a comparison between believers and non-believers”

    Nevertheless, the comparison stands and it has to stand if we are to properly understand sanctification. Can we see a difference in good works based upon the sanctification of a believer when compared to the non-sanctification of the unbeliever?

    Re: it was a comparison “between a more sanctified believer and a less sanctified believer”

    Again, I have to ask – can we see a difference in good works based upon the degree of sanctification in a believer?

    Re: “If some people choose to abuse that fact by setting up hierarchies between belivers and comparing themselves among themselves, that’s wrong of them. It doesn’t detract from the fact itself though.”

    I would say the abuse and hierarchy is present in the statement: “Our neighbours are best served when we are most sanctified.” and not only is it an abuse, but the statement is false. The fact that all believers are fully sanctified in Christ is true and the fact that we are given partial sanctification in this temporal life is true. The problem is that we cannot see it so that it can be measured. Look at the Stoics, the virtuous Deists, and other sorts who display superb civil righteousness and are capable of great acts of compassion and self-sacrifice. What is the difference? Is sanctification a gift or earned by our good works?

    Re: Edwards and Chalmers

    It may be best for us to agree to disagree.


  43. Lily, I guess I’m not sure how the two statements are contradictory. They seem complimentary. The first says we are daily lawbreakers and the second is like unto it: the greater balance of life is to fall short.

    And the larger point to Cath, who seems to agree that we are always more sinner than saint, is how to have assurance in the face of that reality. To my mind, it’s Christ mediated through faith alone. I’m sure she’d agree, but it seems like assurance for the Edwardsian also comes in the form of affect, and what is given with one hand can be taken away with the other. And so it seems like where justification is for some faith plus works, for others assurance is faith plus affect. Both worry when either addition to faith is in relative flux in relation to its larger category (justification or assurance). And so Darryl’s point about budding neo-nomianism rings true. Sola fide is the Protestant category not only for justification but also for assurance.


  44. Again, great discussions; this sanctification issue is a sticky wicket. It is hard to wrap your understanding around it; kind of like the natural law and light of nature issue. It is easy to get misguided on these topics and you have to really force yourself to try to think clearly and precisely. To make sure you are really understanding what is being said. Some of the arguments are biblically true and others will cause us to carry around false ideas in our heads. So, how do we get assurance that false ideas are not running around in our heads? To the scriptures and our confessions? Various confessions are in disagreement with each other. The following statement is one Lily wrote which I think is true but how can I be assured? Do the scriptures explicitly state this or is it implied in various scriptural texts? Are there some confessional statements that would back this up?

    “Christianity is not the move from vice to virtue, but rather the move from virtue to grace.” – Gerhard Forde

    “I like this quote because so many people think Christianity is only about giving up vices and developing virtues, but it is really about giving up on yourself completely, even your virtues, and trusting fully in grace alone. Does that make sense?”

    The verse where Christ tells those whom he is talking to to deny themselves, take up their cross and follow him and in order to find life you must lose your own are a couple that come to mind. I think that may be more implied than explicit.


  45. John, yes, a very good quote. And the thing I find remarkable among my fellow Reformed interlocutors is the discomfort they seem to have with Lutheran formulations. If depravity is as deep and total as Reformed think — and we are the ones to put T in Total — then why not acknowledge the ongoing nature of sin in the believer’s life, and the ongoing need for forgiveness and to have one’s faith in Christ strengthened. But what seems to have happened is that Reformed Protestants end up getting the victory over sin almost as thoroughly as the Wesleyans. I guess that comes from having all those hymns by Wesley in our hymnals.


  46. Dr. Hart and Zrim,

    Thank you for your attention. It’s taken me awhile to reply because you gave me a lot to think about not to mention trying to articulate a reponse. I’m not sure I understand the things that you are seeing. It’s a big yikes on the neo-nomianism and the idea that I’m suggesting we cannot be forgiven. I don’t think I’m seeing the gospel as the new law, but it’s very possible that I am blind to it as well as many other things. Would you please bear with me and correct any problems in my understanding? I hope I can succeed in not mangling things further and not get too wordy as I struggle to place things on the table.

    In my previous comment to Zrim, I should have said reliance on grace alone not trust, because the solas are meaningless if Christ is left out. We trust in Christ alone, so it is better to say we rely on grace alone and our faith (trust) is in Christ alone. Does that make sense?

    I should not have tried to use Forde’s quote, and surely explained it worse than poorly, but I’ll try to explain my understanding. The move from vice to virtue is moralism. The move from virtue to grace is relying on grace alone (sufficiency of grace). I should not rely on any virtue/improvement I think I might see in myself as I might be tempted to trust in the gift rather than the Giver. I like the way Zrim explained adding affections or good works to faith. In a similar vein, I thought I was trying to explain not adding the subjective signs of sanctification to faith and I flunked. I do appreciate your patience and your addressing my careless sloppiness.

    When talking about justification, Lutherans seem to tend to assume that we are all on the same page that obedience is not an option and good works are the fruit of faith that we direct towards our neighbor. We are sinners who receive forgiveness because of Christ’s shed blood. Our salvation is not based on our faithfulness but Christ’s. Faith is the empty hand that receives. Where am I missing the neo-varmint? [I still need to chew on Zrim’s reply and/or need more explanation]

    When Lutheran pastors expound justification (grace alone, faith alone, Christ alone) – we do believe the response should be an ever increasing love and gratitude to our Triune God. The solas of justification can be hit with full force when expounding their sufficiency and it can be disconcerting to some. The emphasis is supposed to be that Christ alone really is enough to save even me, the Christian who continually fails to keep the law in thought, word, and deed. God really does mean that I am saved by grace alone, through faith alone, for the sake of Christ alone. I can add or subtract nothing to what Christ has done. Similarly, I cannot add or subtract from faith alone or grace alone.

    Grace alone seems to drive pietists nuts and the charges of antinomianism start to fly! [I have never before heard the neo-nomianism charge, so I need help seeing if that one is true] From our perspective, we are born pietists: pietism is our natural religion and the law is our native language. We understand the law because the law is written upon our hearts – it’s grace that is foreign to us for it is grace that is revealed from above. I know of no better way to kill the Old Adam (the pietist who wants to add or rely on affections and good works) than to confront him with grace alone. Unfortunately, the Old Adam never wants to stay dead in any of us, so he has to be slain again and again (eg: the law kills)

    It is the law that slays the Old Adam’s self-reliance (among other things), it is the gospel that gives us life: faith in Christ alone, dependence upon grace alone, and obedience because of who he is and what he has done for us (love and gratitude are gifts received via faith). The Old Adam always thinks he can somehow earn and get credit for the free gifts he receives – he does not “get” grace. Basically, he’s always looking for fig leaves to hide behind.

    I may be all wet, but at this point in time, I’m wondering that the doctrine of grace alone can at least partially explain/correct why transformationalism (and other such mindsets) that think moral improvement is the answer to all of our social ills is on the wrong track. In a similar vein, why they may struggle with the two kingdom doctrine. What’cha thank? Am I wandering off into neo-nomianism La-La land?


  47. Dr. Hart and Zrim,

    I’m still trying to track down that neo-varmint. So I’m trying to understand this part of our exchange:

    Zrims’s two propositions look contrary to me and Zrim replies that we really are more sinner than saint.

    After posting my previous comment, I saw Dr. Hart comment about the Reformed putting the T in total depravity and that Lutherans formulate things differently.

    I’m still thinking that our best works don’t merit perfection and coming from the perspective that our hearts are desperately wicked, we cannot plumb them, and we are clueless to what sin might cling to our best works, not mention the temptations of pride, self-righteousness and other such ilk if we think they are worth sainthood. Honestly, I cannot see any saintliness apart from Christ’s work for me: it’s his righteousness and his sanctification that have been given to me.

    Is this the neo-varmint and where I’m suggesting there is no forgiveness?


  48. Darryl,

    No, sorry, inexcusable isn’t a synonym for unforgiveable. There is never an excuse for sin or shortcoming. (The woman whom thou gavest me, she gave me, and I did eat. Won’t wash.) But scarlet and crimson sins can be forgiven. The motive for obedience is forgiving grace – there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared.

    Does this sound familiar? “There is required an actual influence of the same Holy Spirit, to work in them to will and to do of his good pleasure; yet are they not hereupon to grow negligent, as if they were not bound to perform any duty, … but they ought to be diligent in stirring up the grace of God that is in them.”


    Comparisons – if we must. Something only qualifies as a ‘good work’ if it is done out of a principle of love to God and obedience to God’s commands, as the fruit of faith, which works by love. That is, only a regenerate soul can do good works, worthy of the name The unregenerate can do deeds which as to their form are consistent with the moral law, yet they don’t qualify as good works because they don’t proceed from that principle of love to God known and believed.
    Among the regenerate, there are degrees of sanctification. This should not be controversial. Older Christians are generally more sanctified than newer Christians: more settled and grounded in the truth, more closely attached to the bible, more kind and patient. Etc. Neither should it be controversial to say that someone who loves the Lord more than they used to will be able to love their neighbour more than they used to as well.

    Re seeing the difference – Sometimes, I suppose, it’s obvious – like when militant atheists donate to charity deliberately to prove they don’t need to be religious to be good – that’s never going to be confused with the widow’s two mites. Other times, it’s not going to be particularly obvious. But the non-obviousness does not make it any less true, or any more “abusive”, a charge I find somewhat melodramatic.


    I do agree. As for assurance – it’s not Edwardsian so much as Westminster Confessional, to say that assurance (infallible assurance at that) is grounded partly on the divine truth of the promises of salvation, partly on the inward evidences of the graces to which these promise are made, and partly the witness of the Spirit witnessing with our spirits that we are the children of God. But this just brings us back to where we started, sigh.

    Faith itself can be in flux. Justification is for Christ’s sake, not for faith’s sake. For me, neonomianism is putting faith in the place of works, and much as it’s preferable not to fling about accusations of error too freely, it’s possibly yourself who is more in danger of that particular error than me.


  49. Lily, re neonomianism, chill. It was to me, I think. (Not that I’m particularly cool with it either, but never mind.)


  50. I certainly share the author’s concern for the ‘it’ over the ‘faking’. Get the ‘it’ right, then make sure you’re not faking it, as far as you’re able to do so.

    “Let the Spirit take care of the heart, along with pastoral counsel in the privacy of one’s home.”

    Couldn’t a book–like the *Religious Affections*–help one to guard his heart against hypocrisy, say, in the privacy of his own home?

    Strictly speaking, you use the crying testimony example to address some really pro-Edwards folks and their tendency to equate outward expression with inner ‘spiritual’ reality. Some evangelicals obviously do this. But, just to be clear, if they do understand Edwards this way, they must not have read the book. One of Edwards’s main purposes in the *Religious Affections* is to say that such crying tells you nothing whatever about the holiness/genuineness of the speaker’s affections. Edwards actually agrees spot-on with your analysis of the crying testimony. I’m confused, then, what your purpose was in giving it. In what sense would your opponents here be Edwardsians if JE actually agrees with you?


  51. Ooh, good idea! I’m also loving the sound of these Christocentric ceramics classes I’ve been reading about this afternoon!


  52. Christocentric ceramics classes?

    Now, you’ve really gone and done it! I think the men prefer the Christocentric plumbing. 🙂


  53. Hi Cath,

    Re: Older Christians are generally more sanctified than newer Christians: more settled and grounded in the truth, more closely attached to the bible, more kind and patient.

    Can you measure your sanctification? How do you know if you are most sanctified or not? I don’t think it wise to use generalities as support for things that are invisible and indistinguishable from virtuous non-believers in judging someone’s level of sanctification. I’ve seen New-Agers who seem “sanctified” by their peaceful countenances, kind, patient, consideration for those around them, self-sacrificing love for elderly parents, convinced they love God, get warm fuzzies during their meditation time, and other such things. As for attachment to bibles and knowledge of them, I’m not impressed (eg: Rob Bell, and other such people – some wander from orthodoxy and never return). Appearances can be deceiving.

    Re: … to say that someone who loves the Lord more than they used to will be able to love their neighbour more than they used to as well.

    I don’t think this is provable by comparing outward appearances or inward experiences either.

    Re: But the non-obviousness does not make it any less true, or any more “abusive”, a charge I find somewhat melodramatic.

    I was using your term, so please don’t charge me with melodrama – shall we drop the a-word and go on? Please reread the statement in question and show me why I’m wrong about it being hierarchical and false. Yes, sanctification is true, we know this by faith not by sight. You cannot prove to me that you are sanctified, but I will believe that you are sanctified by a confession of faith in Christ. You can’t prove to me how much you are sanctified or that you serve your neighbor best when you are most sanctified. Am I more sanctified when I take care of my cranky neighbor with warm fuzzies (patient, kind, tender) one day and less sanctified the next day when I go through the motions (feeling irritable, in a hurry, not spending as much time with them) the next day?

    I do not believe that there is concrete evidence that can prove a visible difference between the good works of believer and a non-believer. The same can be said about evidence of sanctification difference between believers. I think we are on dangerous ground if we try to pull back the curtain and see the hidden work of God. Much more so if we try to measure and quantify it.


  54. Hi John,

    I read your comment and not sure what to say, except always test it. Hope you’re doing well today.


  55. Cath, I see your distinction. But we do have an excuse for prayerlessness and all the other ‘nesses you listed: it is innate sin. Whenever we pray at our best it still manifests prayerlessness — you know, good works as filthy rags?


  56. Josh, but how does Edwards agree with me if I would not have tried to wring the entire encyclopedia of holy affections out of one small verse in 1 Peter. Yes, I know Edwards was a moderate. But in his arguments the work of the Spirit begins to wobble away from the ordinances and means of grace.


  57. Lily, looks like some confusion was cleared up, though I’m still a little perplexed as to how the two propositions look contrary.

    Even so, while it may belong in a 2k thread, I do think you’re onto something with regard to the doctrine of sola gratia versus glorified moral-social improvement dogmas amongst the transformers and culture warriors. Those are two different programs altogether in a “Christianity and Liberalism” sort of way. Not to get too revealing, but when I brought the Reformed doctrines of grace to my religious righty pastor years ago his response was, “Of grace I say: give them an inch and they’ll take a mile.” That explained all the glorified moralism doing its five-and-dime impersonation of Christianity. It also explained why all the pietistic God-talk and Bible-babble was a thinly veiled cover for having not the foggiest what Christianity was all about. I know that is sort of sharp, but it’s why I worry when I hear fellow Reformed and Presbyterian speaking more like Baptists than Lutherans with all this speculative affectionism and inward-lifery: in my experience, pietism always coincides with a program that is alien to Reformation Christianity.


  58. Lily,

    To be honest I am really struggling with lots of family issues (among other things) but I do feel at home when I read all the insightful comments on this site. It is one of my favorite places to go. That may be a rather pathetic testimony to the condition of my psyche these days. To quote a Coen Brothers movie- I just checked in to see what condition my condition was in. I think that was from a rather surreal scene in The Big Lebowski. Keep up the good conversation- it is helping to bring this poor soul out from under the rubble.


  59. Lily,

    I mistakenly directed a comment to you about neo-nomianism that I had intended for Cath. I don’t think you are wondering into the neo-nomian reservation.


  60. John, “I Just Dropped In To See What Condition My Condition Was In” was the First Edition song the Coens used for the dream sequence that the Dude experiences after Johnny Treehorn spikes his drink. No wonder you like Old Life. It’s a Coenphilic place.


  61. Zrim,

    I think some of my problems come from the differences in our two traditions. We sometimes use language differently, approach things differently, or I think I understand one of your tradition’s terms and then realize I didn’t (neo-nomianism!). Just the normal mess of Lutherans trying to understand Calvinists (ya’ll have too many categories and dissect them ad infinitum!). ; )

    Re: though I’m still a little perplexed as to how the two propositions look contrary.

    See above. I tend to see things more whole cloth in some areas, too. The problem is that I see it as being both sinner and saint at the same time. I do not quantify it – both are 100% true. So… saying I’m mostly sinner and partly saint is foreign to me. To think that my good works ever qualify as sinless is also foreign.

    Re: may belong in a 2k thread

    I don’t think you are being harsh. It’s an honest appraisement with valid concerns. I appreciate your insight into the situation especially because I don’t know all of the players and situations going on. Like you already know, if you spot a theology of glory, you know there is trouble, and will find a messed up theology of justification (grace, faith, Christ) that uses formats of law/law instead of law/gospel. Another variation is the LAW/gospel/LAW format that drowns out what little gospel there is. All in all, they are dying little by little by being whipped by the law to make themselves holy (or the culture or their fellow parishioners), but they are deluded in thinking the law gives life and that moralism is the answer. The relief offered is not in receiving Christ in the gospel, but emotional experiences and activism. Ever notice how the emphasis is not only on emotional experiences, but activism (doing rather than receiving)? They look like control freaks who cannot depend upon God to do things his way and in his timing. God is much too slow for them.

    Re: all this speculative affectionism and inward-lifery

    We’re both on the same page with pietism. It is alien and it can be very difficult to help people see it because the churches are saturated by it. The mystical quality is more subdued than the charismatics, but they share the same characteristic of purposely seeking to experience God in their church services and quiet time. They learn to look inward and depend upon their emotional experiences instead of the Word and become experience junkies. No experience = God didn’t show up or do anything.

    It’s been awhile since I read about how music is designed. Praise songs are crafted in a way that is disturbingly manipulative. The words create images that bypass the mind (mystical) and they are incredibly repetitive (mind-numbing). The words and music are designed to evoke certain emotional responses. The words are so vague about Christ that people can use the word images almost anyway they want and create a mental imagery of any Jesus that suits their tastes and off they go into emotional rhapsody (mystical). It’s difficult to not state the obvious… do they test the spirits? Are they merely communing with themselves and their manipulated emotions?

    If I remember correctly, the hymns prior to 1750 were clearly law/gospel, objective, and engaged the mind. After 1750, the hymns became more and more subjective. Solid theological hymns and psalms are so important in teaching us our faith and in hearing the gospel. After singing great hymns corporately, have you ever heard people gushing after the service about how emotionally great it was and how they experienced God? Truly, it’s a different spirit.


  62. Dr. Hart,

    I find the incident quite funny at this point and have to laugh at my perpetual stupidity. In driving myself nuts trying to discover the varmint, I learned a few things so… as always, God isn’t shy about using my stupidity for my good. Sorry about being so dense.


  63. Hi John,

    Whew, those kinds of difficulties can sap the sense of well-being right out of a person. It’s definitely not a pathetic testimony, but an unpretentious one. I love the Coen quote. I enjoy the interactions on this blog, too. The learning curve for me in trying to understand these Calvinist rascals can be steep sometimes! Another thing that may cheer your spirit is listening to a Rod Rosenbaldt lecture or sermon. You can google his name to see what’s available for free or go to New Reformation Press where there are a couple of freebies and some that can be purchased for a nominal fee. Anywho, Rod’s full blast gospel helps me when I have the Blues as well as private confession and absolution. I need to hear, you’re sins are forgiven and I am your faithful Savior, coming from outside of me – especially more so when the Blues hit. May you be strengthened and comforted in the days ahead.


  64. Let’s define neo-nomianism; Wikepedia claims Richard Baxter as one of its advocates. It strikes me as kind of a faithfulness and obedience light. We get in by the Gospel but stay in by our light faithfulness and obedience. This is a much less stringent and demanding Law than the Old Testament Law or Sermon on the Mount. It probably is less stringent and demanding than the Federal Visionists or N.T. Wrights form of faithfulness too. Isn’t this all rather comical. Come on Johnny Treehorn spike my drink too- I could go for a surreal dream sequence after contemplating those alternatives. I like my Gospel straight up, cut with nothing- the pure Gospel 100%.


  65. Lily,

    An individual is not the best judge of their own sanctification. Mainly because people have highest estimations of their sanctification when they are objectively least sanctified, and lowest estimations of their sanctification when they are objectively growing in grace. Nevertheless it is one of the benefits of Christ’s mediation received by faith that a believer dies more and more to sin and lives more and more to righteousness.

    Something that looks like sanctification has (a) no right to be called sanctification if it is located in a context where the gospel truth is not known and believed, and (b) very little hope of really being sanctification in a context of remoteness from the due use of the ordained means of grace.

    It’s simply a fact of life that some regenerated people are more sanctified than others. This isn’t some fearful hierarchy, as if the Holy Spirit’s working gives one believer grounds to be proud or another believer grounds to be jealous. It’s just a fact. Sanctification is “neither equal in all, nor in this life perfect in any, but growing up to perfection,” LC 77.

    Why do you call patience and kindness warm fuzzies when they are just ordinary expectations of the Christian life according to the scriptural evidence? Why so dismissive of the graces the Holy Spirit is gradually building up a believer in?

    Taking care of your neighbour doesn’t *make* you sanctified, it is an *outcome* of your sanctification. It is better to do good deeds with kindness than with irritation – surely, there’s nothing controversial about that.

    If someone imagines that this doctrine is a licence to go round judging one believer against another, or judging others against yourself, that is a mistake. Anyone can put the truth to a bad use, but if that really happens, then the solution is to correct the bad application, not abandon the true doctrine.


  66. Zrim,

    “in my experience, pietism always coincides with a program that is alien to Reformation Christianity.”

    Is it even hypothetically possible for you to accept that an entire congregation, denomination, nay nation-wide church, could not only quia-confess the Westminster Confession, have a robust presbyterian ecclesiology, and rigidly adhere to the regulative principle – but also be serious about the inward experience of grace?

    Because the Church in Scotland, 1560 to at least The 1960 Death Of Christian Britain, might just fit the bill.

    The sheer imbalance of your position is this. You call for the Reformed Church to take the Reformed Confession(s) seriously. Ok, tick that. You call for the Reformed Church to take Reformed worship seriously. Ok, tick that. Then someone mentions Reformed piety, the very Reformed piety that features so prominently in the Reformed Confessions and which is meant to exercise itself in Reformed church practice – and you run shrieking for the hills, crying, ‘Introspection! Introspection! They’re all introspecting me!’

    You rightly reject the accusation of nominalism when you call for a return to the Reformed form of worship. But then you start having the vapours when someone else calls for a return to Reformed piety – regeneration, conversion, sanctification, and assurance – even though your concern is at its very best a slippery slope argument.

    Reformed piety is not a stepping stone to praise bands, public testimonies, unordained congregants leading public prayer, altar calls, home groups, or the raft of other frills and frivolities of the contemporary sub-Reformed church – and scriptural, confessional, and historical data bears this out. Come on, Reformed guys, time to man up and start being confessional about piety.


  67. DGH,

    JE agrees with you in that you both evaluate the crying testimony woman the same way. Her crying tells you nothing necessarily about what’s going on in her heart.

    And I think he uses a lot more Scripture to support his main argument–let alone more minor ones–than one verse in Peter, regardless of what verse is attached to the front of the work.

    Perhaps it would be clarifying for you to articulate how important you think what’s going on in someone’s heart is. Another point you and JE agree on is that one can’t really know what’s going on in someone else’s heart (though there are tests/signs such as those sessions use to admit members). But that doesn’t really address the question of how important it is in fact, regardless of whether it’s knowable from outside. He seems to think that what actually is going on there is the essence of religion, while you bypass the question and go straight to the external. Surely there’s a way to have both: exhort people to orderly (regulated) worship done out of true piety and truly holy affections. It seems to be a major thrust of Jesus’ ministry that things like tithing mint and cumin are commendable… and they must be done in Spirit and in truth.


  68. Ever notice how the emphasis is not only on emotional experiences, but activism (doing rather than receiving)?

    Bingo, Lily. And I have always found it intriguing that culture warriorism coincides with religious activism. It would seem that both political and religious activism stem from the same theology of glory. Confessionalists who eschew religious activism but maintain affinities for political activism knit my brow.

    Re your remarks on music, I believe it was Robert Godfrey who sagely said that music has become the new sacrament. Our URC has the Revivalist Hymnbook my old IFCA used to have right next to the Psalter Hymnal, which I find symbolic of the abiding revivalism even in otherwise ostensible confessional environs. In the old IFCA the hymnbook filled with show tunes, love songs and lullabies of the 19thC has seamlessly morphed into an overhead projector filled with love songs and lullabies of the 21st, which is the natural progression of revivalism. Meanwhile the URC pats itself on the back for keeping all the show tunes, love songs and lullabies in a book instead of on an overhead. Bravo. Talk about form-content confusion.


  69. Thanks Lily,

    I think I am over my current struggles- it’s all been won for us anyways. It’s the waiting and the continual barrage of Anfechtungen that drives me (and us) nuts here in this life. I guess this is nothing compared to the glory that will be revealed to us one day. That gets me out of bed in the morning in order to put up with all the trials and tribulations (even the self-inflicted ones) from my flesh, the world and the devil. Pax!!


  70. So Cath, how could the Christian ever show the joy that Edwards advocates as part of godly affections. If sin is always there, how could a believer be happy, content, or at peace?


  71. Josh, one way of assessing importance is to look at Edwards writings. He does seem to devote a lot more to the internal than the external — Religious Affections and Distinguishing Marks, compared to no real treatise on word and sacrament or polity for that matter. I would not write about the heart. Edwards did. Does that indicate importance?

    I agree that Spirit and form must go together. But as I’ve said before, the revivalists thought at times at least the Spirit was enough to justify neglecting or avoiding forms. I don’t see why Edwards’ defenders don’t see this. It was the Old Side that was trying to keep Spirit and forms together, and it was the New Side that disregarded forms (especially polity and synodical authority, and even questioned subscription). From the moderate perspective of the Old Side, the New Side was immoderate.

    BTW, Brainerd was one of those immoderate New Siders who challenged Yale’s authorities for not having the right kind of devotion. And Edwards decided to write a biography of Brainerd.

    I’m weeping.


  72. From about that time, I began to have a new kind of apprehensions and ideas of Christ. and the work of redemption, and the glorious way of salvation by him. An inward, sweet sense of these things, at times, came into my heart; and my soul was led away in pleasant views and contemplations of them. And my mind was greatly engaged to spend my time in reading and meditating on Christ, on the beauty and excellency of his person, and the lovely way of salvation by free grace in him. I found no books so delightful to me, as those that treated of these subjects. Those words Cant. 2:1, used to be abundantly with me, I am the Rose of Sharon, and the Lilly of the valleys. The words seemed to me, sweetly to represent the loveliness and beauty of Jesus Christ. The whole book of Canticles used to be pleasant to me, and I used to be much in reading it, about that time; and found, from time to time, an inward sweetness, that would carry me away, in my contemplations. This I know not how to express otherwise, than by a calm, sweet abstraction of soul from all the concerns of this world; and sometimes a kind of vision, or fixed ideas and imaginations, of being alone in the mountains, or some solitary wilderness, far from all mankind, sweetly conversing with Christ, and wrapt and swallowed up in God. The sense I had of divine things, would often of a sudden kindle up, as it were, a sweet burning in my heart; an ardor of soul, that I know not how to express.

    Not long after I first began to experience these things, I gave an account to my father of some things that had passed in my mind. I was pretty much affected by the discourse we had together; and when the discourse was ended, I walked abroad alone, in a solitary place in my father’s pasture, for contemplation. And as I was walking there, and looking up on the sky and clouds, there came into my mind so sweet a sense of the glorious majesty and grace of God, that I know not how to express. I seemed to see them both in a sweet conjunction; majesty and meekness joined together; it was a sweet, and gentle, and holy majesty; and also a majestic meekness; an awful sweetness; a high, and great, and holy gentleness.

    After this my sense of divine things gradually increased, and became more and more lively, and had more of that inward sweetness. The appearance of every thing was altered; there seemed to be, as it were, a calm sweet cast, or appearance of divine glory, in almost every thing. God’s excellency, his wisdom, his purity and love, seemed to appear in every thing; in the sun, moon, and stars; in the clouds, and blue sky; in the grass, flowers, trees; in the water, and all nature; which used greatly to fix my mind. I often used to sit and view the moon for continuance; and in the day, spent much time in viewing the clouds and sky, to behold the sweet glory of God in these things; in the mean time, singing forth, with a low voice my contemplations of the Creator and Redeemer. And scarce any thing, among all the works of nature, was so sweet to me as thunder and lightning; formerly, nothing had been so terrible to me. Before, I used to be uncommonly terrified with thunder, and to be struck with terror when I saw a thunder storm rising; but now, on the contrary, it rejoiced me. I felt God, so to speak, at the first appearance of a thunder storm; and used to take the opportunity, at such times, to fix myself in order to view the clouds, and see the lightnings play, and hear the majestic and awful voice of God’s thunder, which oftentimes was exceedingly entertaining, leading me to sweet contemplations of my great and glorious God. While thus engaged, it always seemed natural to me to sing, or chant for my mediations; or, to speak my thoughts in soliloquies with a singing voice.

    I felt then great satisfaction, as to my good state; but that did not content me. I had vehement longings of soul after God and Christ, and after more holiness, wherewith my heart seemed to be full, and ready to break; which often brought to my mind the words of the Psalmist, Psal. 119:28. My soul breaketh for the longing it hath. I often felt a mourning and lamenting in my heart, that I had not turned to God sooner, that I might have had more time to grow in grace. My mind was greatly fixed on divine things; almost perpetually in the contemplation of them. I spent most of my time in thinking of divine things, year after year; often walking alone in the woods, and solitary places, for meditation, soliloquy, and prayer, and converse with God; and it was always my manner, at such times, to sing forth my contemplations. I was almost constantly in ejaculatory prayer, wherever I was. Prayer seemed to be natural to me, as the breath by which the inward burnings of my heart had vent. The delights which I now felt in the things of religion, were of an exceeding different kind from those before mentioned, that I had when a boy; and what I then had no more notion of, than one born blind has of pleasant and beautiful colors. They were of a more inward, pure, soul animating and refreshing nature. Those former delights never reached the heart; and did not arise from any sight of the divine excellency of the things of God; or any taste of the soul satisfying and life; giving good there is in them.

    –Jonathon Edwards

    Cath, I just don’t see how this sort of introspection is really Reformed and Protestant or how it mirrors the piety which “features so prominently in the Reformed Confessions.” It seems to have more in common with the piety of the Radical Reformation. I will admit that, from the very little I know of it, British Reformed evangelicalism is different from the American made Reformed evangelicalism. But in the end it seems like another distinction without much difference. I know you guys like to distinguish between revival and revivalism, but like I’ve already said that has never made one whit of sense to me. The categories are Reformation and revival, as in the Protestant Reformation and the Radical Reformation.


  73. Zrim,

    I wonder that learning to understand to understand Lutherans is as challenging for you as it can be for us to understand ya’ll. Lutherans are supposed to refuse to go beyond certain points for we see the hidden things as belonging to God. Sanctification in this temporal life is an example of a hidden work that cannot be measured or quantified by human standards. Hence, it is seeing Christ crucified in our fellow Christians and not judging things by outward appearances and inward experienced, but judging the doctrines held (eg: Rob Bell getting his theology judged). Delving into the hidden things of God is often expresses itself as a theology of glory. I’m definitely not saying that Lutherans do what we should perfectly and I hope this makes sense?


  74. Darryl,

    ‘May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing,’ to pluck one example. How they can be happy is in believing. That they can be happy is equally clear.

    (My first reaction was Romans 7:24-25, but maybe that’s a bit too old school even for here.)


  75. Zrim,

    but why not? it’s maybe a bit over the top, but that’s just an aesthetic issue of personal taste. Strip away the oldy woldy rhetoric and you’re left with someone who, I dunno, enjoys meditating on the person and work of Christ, worshipping the Saviour, admiring God’s providence, and spending time in private prayer. What, seriously, is so wrong with any of that? How is any of that *not* warmly advocated in the Confession?


  76. Hi Cath,

    We are on different pages here. I hear what you are saying, but you cannot hear what I am saying. It can be incredibly difficult to understand Reformational orthodoxy when you are surrounded by pietistic and neo-nomian interpretations of scripture. Please understand that I am not judging you but the teachings I see being embraced. You are not confessing a traditional Reformational piety, but one being held hostage by pietism. Both the Lutheran and Reformed confessions can be misunderstood, twisted, and used to justify pietism and neo-nomianism. A large number of people heading in the wrong-direction seems to be the norm not the exception in all church denominations. I would beg you to turn away from where you are heading and seek Reformational orthodoxy. There are a number of solid pastors in the Reformed tradition who can be helpful. Pax.


  77. “The question is not whether we shall have a piety. Rather, the question is, which piety shall we have?” R Scott Clark, ‘Recovering the Reformed Confession,’ p110.

    In my experience, this question is the most effective conversation-stopper you could wish for, when there are, uh, what to call them, Reformed confessional liturgicalists in the room.


  78. Cath, I don’t see what keeps you from being able to say the same thing about any garden variety Pentecostalism (i.e. revivalism, that –ism Edwardsians think is so different from revival). I don’t see how you can do it without coming off arbitrary and jingoist. Though a bit over the top, can we just strip away all the shamalama rhetoric and be left with, I dunno, a guy who love enjoys meditating on the person and work of Christ, worshipping the Savior, admiring God’s providence, and spending time in private prayer? Why does Edwards get to introspect himself into almost constant ejaculatory prayer but Benny Hinn gets the shaft? Could it be that the more sophisticated the pedigree the more one can get away with swallowing the Holy Spirit feathers and all? Maybe that’s just the way of the world, but maybe that’s the point here.


  79. So what language would true-blue OldLifers recommend when we are describing “enjoying God”, which is half of our chief end?

    Are those the only two words we’re allowed to use? Perhaps we could have a whole dictionary of stock phrases that are acceptable:

    meditating on the person and work of Christ is in, but

    singing forth, with a low voice my contemplations of the Creator and Redeemer. is out.

    And so on. We could call our work the “Truly, Truly Reformed Guide to Piety that is Decent, In Order, and Clearly Not Latently Pentacostal.”


  80. Hi Zrim!

    Re: It would seem that both political and religious activism stem from the same theology of glory. Confessionalists who eschew religious activism but maintain affinities for political activism knit my brow.

    I see it that way too. I wish there was a clear distinction made between activism and civic participation.

    Re: I believe it was Robert Godfrey who sagely said that music has become the new sacrament.

    Ouch! That hurts even more than recognizing the mystical elements. The dangers in drinking from those wells and the dangers of not honoring the boundaries we have been given are being dismissed.

    The sacramental view of the music reminds me of another way of describing pietism. It is man trying to replace the Holy Spirit and do his work for him.

    Re: Revivalist Hymnbook… which I find symbolic of the abiding revivalism even in otherwise ostensible confessional environs … Talk about form-content confusion

    What a powerful reminder to keep you alert! I find that the insanity of form-content confusion can feel overwhelming at times. The LCMS has been fortunate in some ways. There is an ongoing effort to remove those types of things by Concordia House Publishing. Our last service book was revised in 2006 and they succeeded in removing many non-lutheran things. It’s not perfect by far, but it is worthy of commendation and I am grateful for their work. They have been producing some wonderful resources for us these last years.


  81. Lily,

    No, Amen to you sis- you’re doing most of the talk’in.

    This is how DGH described one of the differences between the Lutheran and Reformed over at the Front Porch Republic:

    “The subsequent discussion at the blog was revealing of the difficulty evangelical Protestants have with thinking about embodiment and formality. Because I had contrasted this video with one made by a Christian – actually Calvinist – rapper, the responses to my post showed little interest in the worst video but decided to defend rap and hip-hop as forms fitting for the expression of Christian devotion. (Some Front Porchers may actually wonder about the difference between rap and Calvinism. It goes like this. Calvinists use fewer expletives than rappers, but Lutherans use as many expletives as rappers but have enough sense not to rap.)

    This discussion reminded me of earlier debates in which I’ve also questioned the merits of Christian rock. I don’t know, but it seems relatively obvious that a form of music designed to celebrate the self, exalt youth, and promote drugs and sex is not the most fitting of cultural expressions to contemplate the mysteries of the holy Christian faith. That assessment, of course, does not prevent me from listening (and still doing so) to lots of uptempo music that my parents forbade. But I’d prefer to have worldliness straight, not cut with holy unction.”

    That, to me, is classic and vintage Hart! Whether his assessment of Lutherans is spot on is open to debate I guess. I think it does probably catch a basic thrust of the differences and emphasis in both our traditions. And a lively debate it continues to be.


  82. Zrim,

    Jonathan Edwards vs Benny Hinn. Admittedly, this is subtle. But I’m going to stick my neck out and venture: 1) Doctrine, and 2) Practice.

    Which piety?


  83. Jeff, why do we have to describe “enjoying God”? It seems to me the premise in your question is that nobody really (really!) knows what it means to enjoy something or someone, as the case may be. I enjoy my wife and kids. If someone asks me what that means my guess is that either he’s never experienced a woman or children or that glory-o-sity is afoot, as in unduly speculating on what a common sensibility is.

    Cath, yes, that is what my old staid Bible churchers used to say. It hasn’t taken very long for those conservative revivalists who looked down their noses at the local Pentecostals to adopt plenty of their practices. But if one has Reformed doctrine then why is he talking and acting like an Anabaptist? More form-content confusion.


  84. Jeff, thank you for your humorous and apt observations. I agree with your sentiments. It has long struck me that what really drives these discussions is more personality type than principled theology. We all tend to be attracted to theologies and pieties that are more comfortable to our personality — intellecutal, introverted, bookesh, non-emotional, staid personalities are uncomfortable with emotion outside of church so why would we be comfortable with it inside church? Extroverted, emotional, loud, non-readers are attracted to evangelical worship. We all have to be careful not to construct theologies of worship and pieties in our own image, whether evangelical or TR-Old Life. While I am more comfortable with TR piety, I have to come to grips WSC Q&A 1 (enjoyment of God) and the abundance of scriptural passages that stress love for God and a heart response.


  85. But Zrim, I thought we were talking about staid confessional churches, not staid conservative churches.

    I’m still not clear on what form-content harmony would look like.


  86. Sam, I’ve heard this before and have to say I always find it a wanting analysis; as a card-carrying introvert I get it, but it really doesn’t do to psychologize what really is a theological consideration. And it doesn’t bear reality. From my own experience, there are introverted personalities drawn to revivalism and extroverted temperaments to liturgicalism.

    And I don’t know why you suggest that a confessional piety (sorry, I find “TR” arrogant terminology) has no space for enjoyment and love. The only thing I can think is that the revivalism isn’t all shaken off. It sounds like someone saying, “I’ve come to understand my relationship to my wife in more adult terms than adolescent, but I have to also come to grips with what it means to love and enjoy her.” Huh?


  87. John,

    Re: It goes like this. Calvinists use fewer expletives than rappers, but Lutherans use as many expletives as rappers but have enough sense not to rap.

    Too funny! I love the dry wit. Hmm… do you suppose it’s because we enjoy our earthy Wittenberg beer more than they enjoy their pristine Genevan wine? Perhaps, we need to send them a crate of good German beer? ; )

    Re: form and content

    I hear you. I do feel badly for many of those who are engulfed by it. Kyrie eleison.


  88. Cath, my point is that simply appealing to a confessionallyy Reformed tradition isn’t nearly enough. It must be practiced it as well. If one confesses that “…to inquire with undue curiosity into what he does that surpasses human understanding and is beyond our ability to comprehend. But in all humility and reverence we adore the just judgments of God, which are hidden from us, being content to be Christ’s disciples, so as to learn only what he shows us in his Word, without going beyond those limits” (Belgic 13) then why would one do it?


  89. Zrim, that’s not the point. We don’t *have* to describe enjoying God. But some people seem to like to. And my point is, why judge them for it?

    The real test of their orthodoxy is not whether they describe their enjoyment of God. The real test of their orthodoxy is their doctrine. And on that score, Edwards lies far nearer the center than Hinn.


  90. And more particularly, IIRC, Edwards is quite clear in Religious Affections that his own experience of enjoyment is not the test of his piety. It’s been a while — probably dust it off soon — but I seem to recall the refrain, “It is neither proof nor disproof of genuineness that one experiences X”, where the set of X is quite large.


  91. Zrim,

    So how, how, how, does one practice a confessionally Reformed tradition? is the question.

    Belgic 13 is about providence. There is no shortage of revelation (i.e., Scripture) about what a godly inner life looks like, and a lot of it isn’t altogether that far remote from what Jonathan Edwards describes.


    Yes, exactly. Paul Helm himself made this same point in a previous post, at great length
    “They are signs, but not certain signs of grace. Spots are signs of measles, but it is possible to have spots but no measles, but not possible to have measles but no spots. So the possession of spots is not a certain sign of measles, but greater evidence than is the fact that one has a sore left foot, which is no sign at all.”


  92. “seem to recall the refrain, “It is neither proof nor disproof of genuineness that one experiences X”, where the set of X is quite large.”

    Yes – and yet there’s the claim alongside all of that that it is somehow possible to define a ‘real’ set of affections. Similiarly, all Zrim is doing is enlarging the set of X and Edwards on his own doesn’t really help with drawing the boundaries of X – there are considerations beyond that of church order that should rule against this sort of thing http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L-97Do5_a2E

    On the topic of enjoyment, There’s no better way to stop someone’s enjoyment than to command it.


  93. Jeff, given Edwards’ influence, I’m not so sure most think they don’t have to describe their enjoyment. And even more seem to think they have to experience Edwardsian description. So why dissent (which isn’t the same as judging, btw) when some want to describe their enjoyment for all the world to see? Well, because it tends to yoke others into being ashamed of simply enjoying God without much fanfare about it. Where’s the love in that? Or think of it this way: you and I go out and enjoy a steak dinner. I go on and on about my enjoyment while you “merely savor your meal.” No points for decorum. Or how about I describe my enjoyment of my wife? It seems to me the more intimate the relationship the more discreet and comported we should be. And since there is no more intimate relationship one has than with God perhaps that should be the most comported piety of all. What was that about confessionalists having no sense of subjectivity and warmth?

    Cath, my point is that we have a confession which suggests a piety that eschews undue spiritual curiosity and affirms human limitations. I don’t see why just because that is in a section about providence specifically it has nothing to do with piety generally.


  94. Cath, thanks. But tell it to Edwards and his admirers. You know, Brainerd was not exactly a chipper fellow. And yet Edwards thought his piety commendable.


  95. Zrim, Cath, Jeff, and Sam, I think Zrim is on to the heart of the difference. It is not a question temperament or personality but one of propriety. What Edwards does and many of his followers is talk about his personal experience in ways that make anyone with a sense of decorum uncomfortable. (Maybe he did not intend his personal experiences to be published widely, though his publication of Brainerd’s diary suggests that he was not reluctant to indulge the private side of things.) And it is this sense of the difference between my personal experience and what is fitting for a group of people, readers, worshipers, the body of Christ, that seems to be missing in the defenders of Edwards.

    Pardon the earthy illustration, but it is almost like telling other people about sex with your spouse and how much you enjoy it. Why would the intimacies of one’s experience of God be fit for public consumption? Is there no sense that somethings should remain private (not to mention that our intimate experiences are capable of fooling each of us)?

    I know it’s a cheap shot, but the Edwards-Piper hedonism seems like the Puritan equivalent of Oprah. Some of these thoughts and experiences are best reserved for those with whom we are intimately related.


  96. Darryl, but you are making my point. Your sense of what is decorous is culturally articulated and subject to personal preference. It appears that you are a reserved person and find public discussion of inner experience difficult. But surely you know that our American culture is awash in feelings, and public emoting is very much “in” in these parts. Most professing Christians today feel it to be quite appropriate to display the “intimacies of one’s exprience of God” and do so. I feel a bit sqeemish about it, and frankly find it sometimes over the top if not a little synthetic, but that’s me. I can’t say that my evangelical friends’ party chatter is “improper.” Accordingly, it seems that what is “proper” is subjective and personal, not principial or biblical.

    Zrim, I agree that if the Bible mandates a staid, reserved expression of the faith, than that settles it. But my plea is that we be honest. Let’s admit that sometimes we dress in theologial principles what is really personal preference. And I have never yet met a confessionally Reformed person or pastor who had the kind of loud, extrovert, bouyant, unfailingly cheerful, anti-intellectual, non-reader profile that is found in most evangelical churches. Nor have I met a mega-church evangeclial or pastor who is bookesh, intellecutal, reserved, quiet, introverted, staid, and conservative. Now maybe that’s just wild coincidence.


  97. Ach. Zrim talking about comportment was actually quite touching. It reminded me of myself wiggling out of one of those dear, pious Roman Catholics’ inquisition into my own spiritual state, and I was all set to drop it.

    But decorum isn’t really the issue. It’s not about putting intimacies on public display. Where I come from, the whole notion of even giving your testimony is quite mortifying – who in their right mind would trivialise and cheapen their religious experience by talking about it – to anyone other than their closest friends at most, and in very little detail at that.

    Raising such spectres again just implies that you’re avoiding even the Confession’s descriptions of religious experience simply out of a fear that it could go wrong. It leaves your position unbalanced in the same way that other people scrimp on the fullness of forgiveness for fear of licensing sin. It’s understandable, may I say forgiveable even, but it’s not very sensible pastorally and it doesn’t do justice to the scriptural revelation theologically or soteriologically.


  98. Sam, so was Paul expressing his personal preference when he told Titus (chap 2):

    1 You, however, must teach what is appropriate to sound doctrine. 2 Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance. 3 Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. 4 Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, 5 to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God. 6 Similarly, encourage the young men to be self-controlled. 7 In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness 8 and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us.

    I don’t think Oprah has been reading St. Paul. And if this means America needs to be more buttoned down, great.


  99. Darryl, which verse in Titus 2 says that Christians may not publicly express their feeling of joy in the Lord, and which verse holds that it is “improper” publicly to express one’s inner experience with God? You’d need to make a strong exegetical argument to support that position. In light of the greater weight of biblical testimony of believers exhuberantly pouring out their feelings to and about God, and of exhortations to make a joyful noise unto the Lord, I think that’s taking on too great a burden even for a fine scholar such as you. With resepct, you’re reading your own (and my own) temperament into the Titus 2 passage. 🙂


  100. Samuel, you made the observation that most of America is awash in feelings, and emotions. Would you characterize America as self-controlled and temperate?


  101. Samuel, I think it’s honest to say, as I conceded as a card carrying introvert, that temperament figures in. But I think it’s reaching and disingenuous to suggest, as you do in your initial statement that “what really drives these discussions is more personality type than principled theology.” And with all due respect to your odd experience, are you seriously suggesting that confessional churches are made up of you and me while evangelical churches are made up of extroverts? One of the most liturgically minded PCA pastors I know is brutally extroverted. Maybe you should meet Adam McHugh, the introverted PCUSA (read: evangelical) pastor who literally wrote the book on “Introverts in the Church.” I think you grossly oversimplify, which is actually kind of extrovert-y.



  102. Cath, I don’t think I’m avoiding confessional descriptions of religious experience. I’m saying I don’t know how Edwardsians squeeze all the affect they do from those same descriptions. How does saying the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever translate into the sort of thing I quoted earlier from Edwards? I just don’t get it. It’s like squeezing all manner of romantic feeling and impulse out of a conventional marriage vow. Yes, I get that the overwhelming consensus of our day is that romance and marriage are supposed to be coterminous, but I think that stems from the same impulse that thinks religious affectation and commitment are supposed to go together.


  103. Then what is the answer to Clark’s question, Which piety?

    I don’t want your testimony (really. Please don’t).

    I’m fairly clear from what you say on what piety is *not*, but what is it?


  104. DGH: Pardon the earthy illustration, but it is almost like telling other people about sex with your spouse and how much you enjoy it. Why would the intimacies of one’s experience of God be fit for public consumption?

    So … Song of Solomon shouldn’t be in Scripture?

    I mean, I understand your basic point. But you seem to brush too broadly here. Especially considering that Edwards was writing in a time when talking about religious experience was decorous.


  105. Cath, the one Clark proposes himself on the same page: “With its emphasis on the ordinary, the confessional Reformed theology did produce a vital personal and profound piety grounded in the objective saving work of God in Christ and empowered by the Christian’s union with the ascended Christ wrought by the Holy Spirit, is indicative of the confessional Reformed approach to piety.” I would only add that such piety is cultivated in the institutional church through such ordinary means as Word, sacrament, prayer, authority and polity. It’s the difference between an ecclesiastical piety and an experiential one.

    P.S. I don’t have a testimony to give anyway. I have a history.


  106. Zrim: So why dissent (which isn’t the same as judging, btw) when some want to describe their enjoyment for all the world to see? Well, because it tends to yoke others into being ashamed of simply enjoying God without much fanfare about it.

    And there’s the nub of it. It’s not Edward’s fault that *his* description of *his* experience causes you to feel like you have to be like him. That just doesn’t follow; any more than your avowed enthusiasm for U2 or DGH’s for baseball mean that I have to do the same (U2 — yes. Baseball? Only on radio. And I still haven’t read any Wendell Berry.).

    Or more theologically, that Bob’s gift of preaching means that Alice’s gift of service is less valuable.

    What’s missing in your analysis is the sense that people can be different in some ways — including personality and expression — without taking away from other people.


  107. Zrim,

    Would you think it fair to describe the difference between confessional and evangelical piety as being mainly in the teaching?

    Evangelical teaching emphasizes heartfelt religious devotion, ethical purity, and charitable activity rather than sacramental or dogmatic precision.

    The confessional emphasis is upon the gospel. Our dogmatics are normally directed to identifying what is true and correct – first and always concerned with the formation of understanding truth. Truth teaches that we are unable to keep the law and until we can obey Christ’s command to love others as he has loved us, we have nothing to boast about. Christ for us is given preeminence. Word and sacrament, the means of grace, are our food for life. A confession of faith in Christ is enough proof that one belongs to Christ. The focus is upon the sufficiency of Christ to save us.

    The evangelical emphasis is upon the law and religious activities. Their dogmatics are normally directed towards the formation of the will, identifying progress in personal sanctification, adding emotional experiences to Bible study/sermons as a means of knowing God and a means to union with God, and a production of good works that can be measured and quantified. A system is developed to identify who is nominal and who is a true disciple. There are various versions of Rick Warrens’ view: Yes, I trust Jesus for my salvation, but I want a good spot in heaven (so a list of various religious activities is added in order to earn that spot in heaven). The focus is upon man and subjective means to mark progress in the lived Christian life.

    I wonder that the sophistication of Edwards’ pietism is what makes it hard for some to spot. In Edwards’ Affections, like all good pietists, the emphasis is upon emotions or heartfelt religion. Our emotions must be tested by a criteria he sets up as twelve signs where true piety can be distinguished from false. He designates the fruits of the Holy Spirit as the only marks of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the Christian and the proof of true Christian faith. It is not the confession of faith in Christ that is proof of true Christian faith. Considering the fact that our regeneration is imperfect and we have been given a deposit of sanctification, it seems foolish to pit heartfelt emotion against faith alone and to use such subjective means to identify who is a true Christian and who is not.


  108. Jeff, you mean that Edwards was writing at a time when romantic poetry was emerging? John Wesley actually believed that some of his brother’s hymns, with notions of “heaving bosoms” was improper.

    As for the Song of Solomon, it is likely the exception that proves the rule, and that most parents hide as quickly as possible from male adolescents (right after banning Gen. 38 from the kiddies).


  109. It is what Lily described that keeps me going back to an institutional confessional Church to participate in the ordinary means. It is what the evangelicals and Edwardsians describe that would keep me in bed on Sunday mornings and out late on Saturday nights. It really is a no brainer to me anymore.


  110. Jeff, I’m thinking actually of my own wife who was raised in the church. I wasn’t. And evidently my conversion from unbelief to belief, which by its very nature stuck out like a sore thumb, was enough to make her coventantal nurture seem like chopped liver. But that’s the way of it in the revivalist system: extraordinary accounts of regeneration are esteemed, whereas ordinary accounts are ho-hum. To my mind, it should be the other way around.

    Lily, my hands are getting chapped from giving you golf claps. Yes, I think you’re quite right.


  111. Zrim,

    That’s a relief. It’s what I was hoping you might say. Clark’s answer p110ff was what rescued his whole position – not only technically orthodox but firmly affirming the need for “vital personal piety,” his words, p110.

    The only implication I think that’s missing is to say, if you have the doctrine and the institutions then let piety go as profound as it likes. Go and emote boldly.

    I don’t know what I’d do if I was asked for a testimony. “Like, I witnessed a crime? Duude!”


  112. Zrim,

    When I read your comment, I had a question: Should it be clarified that Word and sacrament are the means of grace whereas prayer, authority and polity are not considered means of grace? Just asking…


  113. Cath,

    Re: Like, I witnessed a crime?

    The answer is yes. An innocent man was crucified. We are to give witness to Christ: his suffering, death, and resurrection on our behalf. Our testimony is Christ not us.


  114. Cath, instead of unbridled emoting I’d rather think the implication of having the doctrine and institution implies communion “at least once a week,” to borrow from another ecclesiastical-not-given-to-emoting. As it is, such a suggestion in most of Reformeddom draws gasps. Edwardsianism hasn’t seemed to have done much for Word and (frequent) sacrament expression. Who needs the ordinary when you have all that extraordinary?

    My understanding is that Scottish highlanders commune but once a year after much introspection. Shudder.


  115. 🙂 Aye, but be careful what you wish for, Zrim! LC 171 and 174 – I really don’t think my closet would be big enough for all the journals I’d need to keep if it was every week.

    (No principled objection to weekly.)


  116. Lily, I very much appreciate the whole “objective” side of things. When people ask me, “Are-you-saved-and-how-do-you-know”, I respond with the Gospel.

    At the same time, I wonder what we do with Paul’s testimonies that mingle the subjective and objective: Gal 2 and Phil 3, for example.

    Clearly, Paul does not overwhelmingly favor the subjective — he’s pretty scathing in 2 Cor 12, for example.

    But he’s not utterly allergic to it either.

    So what shall we make of this fact?


  117. It’s Hebrews 6 and I John which cause me more problems than Gal. 2 or Phil. 3. The only way I know how to fight that is through the ordinary means and being diligent about it. Perhaps that is what Paul means by pressing on to the high calling of God. Paul does not really go into much detail into explaining what he means by that.


  118. Hi Jeff,

    In a quick nutshell:

    Re: Galatians 2

    I don’t see him being subjective. He is giving his resume of why he is qualified (by the apostles) to address the false teaching of the Judiazers and teach the truth about our liberty in Christ, and what he has done in the past to defend our liberty. He is in the midst of correcting the false teaching that was embraced by the Galatians.

    Re: Philippians 3

    Again, I do not see him being subjective. He is correcting the false teaching of the Judiazers (a pedigree as an observant Jew is nothing) and that justification (grace, faith, Christ) is everything. He encourages us to press on against our sinful natures and hold onto that which is true. He warns of the destruction of those who do not repent of their sin and seek refuge in Christ. He looks forward to what is true for us in heaven.

    I see no subjective means being used to measure or quantify our good works, emotional life, or other such ilk in our lived Christian lives. I’ve never known Paul to give them the time of day. Since scripture interprets scripture, 2 Cor 12 explains Paul’s views well in both references. Ya thank? 😉


  119. P.S. Jeff,

    Regarding my saying, “I’ve never known Paul to give them the time of day”

    I’m talking about using subjective means to measure or quantify.


  120. LC 171 and 174 – I really don’t think my closet would be big enough for all the journals I’d need to keep if it was every week.

    Cath, cute, but more seriously this comment reflects the abiding extraordinary piety that I think a confessional piety means to correct. It isn’t clear to me what part of self-examination implies the kind of contemplation that implies lots of journaling. I happen to think that frequency engenders an ordinary piety, infrequency extraordinary. Far be it from me to wrest anybody’s journal from their hands, but it could that what frequency means to convey is, “Quit looking inside. Open your eyes, open your hands and lift up your heart and receive.” IOW, the more time we spend looking outward the less time we have for gazing inward. And maybe all it takes to prepare to receive the visible gospel is to hear the gospel declared for an hour each week? Seems simple to me.


  121. Hi Lily,

    About Gal 2, here’s what I mean: I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!”

    As you say, this is certainly NOT using “subjective means” or an experience test to determine quality of one’s faith. I think we agree that this is out-of-court (and see further below).

    At the same time, Paul is speaking subjectively. He is not simply pointing out the facts of the Gospel, but also saying, “I have appropriated the work of Christ in my life.”

    Based on this, I would say that there *is* a place for subjective language, and the further question is then, What is that place?

    And in fact, even in 2 Cor 12 where he speaks scornfully of “experiences”, he also tells the Corinthians to examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith, to test whether Christ Jesus is in you (2 Cor 13.6). That command to test oneself (Gr.: dokimazo, used to refer to testing against a standard) is prompted by their outward sin, an objective measure; but it is subjective in its effect.

    I’m not a fan of all things Edwards, but I thought I should share some TMI. Well nigh on 15 years ago, I read Edwards’ On Religious Affections while coming out of a Baptist background. You know, the kind where you “rededicate your life” three times and hope it’ll take this time? Anyways, I was in the process of becoming Reformed and read Edwards.

    FAR from driving me towards emotionalism, his effect on me was to lead me by reason and Scripture away from emotionalism and towards a single test: Do these experiences and emotions cause an increase or decrease of the fruit of the Spirit in my life? Of my regard for and proper understanding of Scripture? It was objectivism, not subjectivism, that I took away from Edwards.

    So for that reason, I am not comfortable with DGH’s read of Edwards. Not that I doubt his scholarly ability, but because the Edwards he describes is 180 degrees away from the Edwards I remember. What I remember is an Edwards who is comfortable with emotions, but does not trust them to give him a true tale.

    Time to dust off the insanely small-print edition of Edwards.


  122. Hi Jeff,

    I’m not seeing it as subjective here either, but a statement of fact. It seems to me that – “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.” – is describing what God has done and – “The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!” – is describing what justification (grace, faith, Christ) means in our daily lives. We live by grace through faith in Christ. It is pure gospel and nails moralism to the wall.

    I would use the word “receive” rather than “appropriate” – I see it as: The gospel is true and it is God’s good pleasure to give me justification. I simply believe and receive with an empty hand.

    Re: in 2 Cor 12 & 13:6 – where he speaks scornfully of “experiences”, he also tells the Corinthians to examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith, to test whether Christ Jesus is in you.

    As I see it, Paul is in the midst of rebuking the Corinthians for trusting in the wrong things, warning about not mistreating one another, and pained by their wanting proof that Christ speaks through him. I see the main point as being – are you trusting in your “experiences” or Christ (examine yourselves)? We are always prone to wanting to trust in the wrong things: spiritual experiences, good works, afflictions, or other things we can see and feel – we forget God’s grace is sufficient for us; we are tempted to mistreat others when we do not remember that Christ died for them; we need to judge teachers by their dogma not their appearances.

    Re: Edwards

    Thanks for sharing why you appreciate him. I would not say that pietistic teachings have nothing good in them, but they will transmit a pietistic viewpoint of scripture and the lived Christian life if they are not read critically. Pietistic teachings will turn you inwardly to inspect every nook and cranny of your soul trying to dot every i and cross every t of the law. Not only are we incapable of doing that kind of examination, but we are curved inward on ourselves in an unhealthy way. Only God can search the heart and he gave us his Word. The law contained in scripture alone will keep you repenting for a lifetime – it’s unnecessary to add man-made rules and speculations about sin.


  123. Hi Jeff,

    Re: Do these experiences and emotions cause an increase or decrease of the fruit of the Spirit in my life? Of my regard for and proper understanding of Scripture?

    May I please point something out? That is an incredibly pietistic way of looking at things. Please bear with me:

    1. How can you possibly know if experiences or emotions increase or decrease fruit? Supercalifragilisticexpialidociously subjective. Anywho, are we in charge of this so that we can we use the Holy Spirit like a slot machine – we put in our good experiences and emotions, and we hit the jackpot with our 3 cherries? The Holy Spirit is at work in you and you have been, are being, and will yet be given fruit. Trust him to do what he has promised.

    2. How can you possibly know if your experiences and emotions are giving you a proper regard and understanding of scripture? Let the Holy Spirit work through good orthodox dogma and attend to the means of grace – you will bear fruit that pleases God. Promise.

    Pax, bro. 😉


  124. Zrim,

    Not really.
    I asked what piety looks like.
    You said the kind that’s expressed in the means of grace.
    I said good, unbridled emotion all round.
    You said no, just lots of means of grace.

    But lots of means of grace still doesn’t address the question of what the piety *in* the means of grace looks like.

    There are two kinds of preparation for the sacrament – one is being regenerate, a preparation which all believers have at all times. The other is specific and to be repeated in view of the sacrament ever time it is received. That is mandated in 1 Cor 11:28. Self-examination is as necessary for the right administration/receiving of the sacrament as any of the outward actions.

    It’s perfectly true that weekly communion would give less time to fall so far into unpreparedness that enormous amounts of preparation are needed in view of a rarely administered sacrament.

    But surely all that that means is that we should be more habitually exercised in the graces which the sacrament is meant to stir up and strengthen. If I’m receiving the sacrament all the time, I need to be (i) remembering and (ii) self-examining all the time too. This can only be a good thing, right? This would be exactly the kind of piety that should be shaped by and exercised in the ordinary routine means of grace. Is this what you’ve been saying all along?


  125. Lily,

    Thanks for the thoughts. I wonder whether we’re using “subjective” in the same way. The “subjectiveness” I see in Gal 2 is not a hidden or mystical experience, but just the fact that Paul refers the objective truths of the Gospel to himself. That is, he is the subject of the verbs “have been crucified”, “live”, etc.

    I agree, BTW, that Paul here nails moralism to the wall.

    So likewise in 2 Cor 13. Ch. 10 – 13 develop a broadside against “false apostles” who boast of experiences. Paul rebuts this partly on the level of the false apostles by appealing to his own authority (ch 10), sufferings (ch 11), and experiences (ch 12). But his main polemical thrust is to subvert their addiction to boasting and glory, by drawing attention to his own foolishness in having to boast. Even while appealing to his own authority, sufferings, and experiences, he downplays their importance in the hopes that the Corinthians will change their mindset.

    Agreed so far?

    Then, having made his case, Paul turns the tables on the Corinthians. Whereas they had been inspecting him, comparing him to the “superapostles”; now, he tells them to inspect themselves.

    THERE is the subjective element. Not “subjective” in the sense of looking for a particular feeling or experience, but in the sense that each one is to test himself — each individual is the subject of the test.

    Lily: I would not say that pietistic teachings have nothing good in them, but they will transmit a pietistic viewpoint of scripture and the lived Christian life if they are not read critically.

    Fair enough. But I would offer up a slightly different way of thinking about it, one that I think is more true to the doctrine of depravity.

    And that is this: no man is free from theological error. Because of this, it is impossible to draw a bright line between “pietistic” and “non-pietistic” teachings. (Compare: How many hairs can a bald man have and still be bald?). And trying to rid the church of all pietism will only lead to sorrow, because no man is free from the taint of it.

    Instead of the bright line, there is a scale or spectrum. On the one end might be Benny Hinn. Perhaps on the other is Zrim? But others fall in between.

    And for that reason, we need to read not only “pietistic teachings” critically, but indeed everything that we read. We should never become uncritically accepting of human teachings — not Calvin, not the Confessions, nor DGH nor John Frame. “Fanboyism” does not belong in the church.

    To my mind, that is the take-home message of 2nd Corinthians: Do not attach yourself to teachers, but to what is taught; if indeed it is consonant with Scripture and the Gospel (2 Cor 11.2-3).

    So I’m comfortable simultaneously saying that there is some good in Edwards, while also saying that he should be dinged for his errors.


  126. Jeff,

    re away from emotionalism – exactly. For some of us, JE is the go-to person for critiques of sensationalist excesses. How he has ended up as this bogeyman is a complete mystery to me.


  127. Lily: 1. How can you possibly know if experiences or emotions increase or decrease fruit? Supercalifragilisticexpialidociously subjective.

    I don’t want to dispute your remedy to pietism, which is to lean on God’s promises alone. Amen, amen, amen.

    But I think you’ve perhaps made *any* introspection whatsoever into a kind of pietism. Which means that Paul would be *wrong* to tell the Corinthians to examine themselves; or that John is wrong to tell his audience to guard themselves from idols; or the Jesus is wrong to tell the disciples to be on guard against all kinds of greed.

    That seems a little too far. It seems to make repentance impossible, or always sinful.

    2. How can you possibly know if your experiences and emotions are giving you a proper regard and understanding of scripture? Let the Holy Spirit work through good orthodox dogma and attend to the means of grace

    These are two sides of the same coin. On the one hand, we attend to the Scripture; on the other, we repent of our wrong doctrine. There is objective, there is subjective (in the sense of belief in the word of God).

    Scripture commends both.


  128. Lily, I apologize in advance for the data dump. I ask you to chew on these and consider what I said about repentance and introspection. The first two are from Calvin; the second pair are from the Confession.

    Can true repentance exist without faith? By no means. But although they cannot be separated, they ought to be distinguished. As there is no faith without hope, and yet faith and hope are different, so repentance and faith, though constantly linked together, are only to be united, not confounded … But before proceeding farther, it will be proper to give a clearer exposition of the definition which we have adopted. There are three things, then, principally to be considered in it. First, in the conversion of the life to God, we require a transformation not only in external works, but in the soul itself, which is able only after it has put off its old habits to bring forth fruits conformable to its renovation. The prophet, intending to express this, enjoins those whom he calls to repentance to make them “a new heart and a new spirit,” (Ezek. 38: 31.) Hence Moses, on several occasions, when he would show how the Israelites were to repent and turn to the Lord, tells them that it must be done with the whole heart, and the whole soul, (a mode of expression of frequent recurrence in the prophets,) and by terming it the circumcision of the heart, points to the internal affections. — Calv Inst 3.3.5-6.

    The Apostle, in his description of repentance, (2 Cor. 7: 2,) enumerates seven causes, effects, or parts belonging to it, and that on the best grounds. These are carefulness, excuse, indignation fear, desire, zeal, revenge [i.e., revenge upon the sin nature — JRC]. It should not excite surprise that I venture not to determine whether they ought to be regarded as causes or effects: both views may be maintained. They may also be called affections conjoined with repentance; but as Paul’s meaning may be ascertained without entering into any of these questions, we shall be contented with a simple exposition. He says then that godly sorrow produces carefulness. He who is really dissatisfied with himself for sinning against his God, is, at the same time, stimulated to care and attention, that he may completely disentangle himself from the chains of the devil, and keep a better guard against his snares, so as not afterwards to lose the guidance of the Holy Spirit, or be overcome by security…We can now understand what are the fruits of repentance; viz., offices of piety towards God, and love towards men, general holiness and purity of life. In short, the more a man studies to conform his life to the standard of the divine law, the surer signs he gives of his repentance. Accordingly, the Spirit, in exhorting us to repentance, brings before us at one time each separate precept of the law; at another the duties of the second table; although there are also passages in which, after condemning impurity in its fountain in the heart, he afterwards descends to external marks, by which repentance is proved to be sincere. — Calv Inst 3.3.15, 16.

    I trust that we can agree that Calvin was on the “non-pietist” end of the spectrum! And yet he is unabashed to speak of “religious affections” or to enjoin proper introspection based on the objective standard of the Law of God.

    Likewise the Confession:

    1. Repentance unto life is an evangelical grace, the doctrine whereof is to be preached by every minister of the Gospel, as well as that of faith in Christ.

    2. By it, a sinner, out of the sight and sense not only of the danger, but also of the filthiness and odiousness of his sins, as contrary to the holy nature, and righteous law of God; and upon the apprehension of His mercy in Christ to such as are penitent, so grieves for, and hates his sins, as to turn from them all unto God, purposing and endeavouring to walk with Him in all the ways of His commandments.

    3. Although repentance be not to be rested in, as any satisfaction for sin, or any cause of the pardon thereof, which is the act of God’s free grace in Christ; yet it is of such necessity to all sinners, that none may expect pardon without it.

    4. As there is no sin so small, but it deserves damnation; so there is no sin so great, that it can bring damnation upon those who truly repent.

    5. Men ought not to content themselves with a general repentance, but it is every man’s duty to endeavour to repent of his particular sins, particularly. — WCoF 15.1-5

    1. Although hypocrites and other unregenerate men may vainly deceive themselves with false hopes and carnal presumptions of being in the favour of God, and estate of salvation (which hope of theirs shall perish): yet such as truly believe in the Lord Jesus, and love Him in sincerity, endeavouring to walk in all good conscience before Him, may, in this life, be certainly assured that they are in the state of grace, and may rejoice in the hope of the glory of God, which hope shall never make them ashamed.

    2. This certainty is not a bare conjectural and probable persuasion grounded upon a fallible hope; but an infallible assurance of faith founded upon the divine truth of the promises of salvation, the inward evidence of those graces unto which these promises are made, the testimony of the Spirit of adoption witnessing with our spirits that we are the children of God, which Spirit is the earnest of our inheritance, whereby we are sealed to the day of redemption. WCoF 18.1-2.

    The Confession appears to connect *some* kind of introspection to proper repentance on the one hand, and to assurance of salvation on the other. That introspection is centered on the promises of God (objective!), but includes subjective elements: Identification of particular sins; a recognition of our own filthiness; the “inward evidence” of the graces promised; and the testimony of the Spirit.

    Asking me to walk away from these would be asking me to … become Lutheran? 🙂


  129. Hi Jeff,

    Thanks for bearing with me. I don’t think we’re understanding subjective (based on or influenced by personal feelings, tastes, or opinions) and objective (fact) the same way. May I try again?

    Re: Paul’s description of himself

    Is justification objectively true or subjectively true? I believe justification is objectively true of all believers along with all of it’s benefits. If Paul is describing justification then it is also true of you – it’s not unique to Paul. Everything he describes in that verse is true for you as well. You don’t have to appropriate it like a tool – it’s yours. It’s a gift.

    Re: 2 Cor 13. Ch. 10 – 13

    I don’t think it wise to keep expanding the scope of scripture here and don’t think it good to try to do a bible study. Paul is addressing a lot of things. I was trying to bring out the way the Corinthians were being impressed by false apostles and trusting what these men said and did (eg: Benny Hinn and his antics). The charge to examine yourself was a corrective to where they were placing their faith. I believe Paul’s satirical boasting was to make the point to not trust in the things boasted about by the false apostles. Sooo… I’m seeing a directed search to examine ourselves specifically for any misplaced faith. Will it be a subjective search? Maybe – I hope I would listen and repent of believing false teachers and return to Christ.

    Re: no man is free from theological error. Because of this, it is impossible to draw a bright line between “pietistic” and “non-pietistic” teachings.

    True – no one is free of error. False – it is impossible to draw a bright line between the teachings. It’s not impossible. Some pietistic teachings are easy to spot and call them what they are. Others are more subtle and difficult to expose. It’s not a matter of trying to rid the church of all pietism, but addressing it when and where it rears it’s head.

    Re: we need to read not only “pietistic teachings” critically, but indeed everything that we read. We should never become uncritically accepting of human teachings — not Calvin, not the Confessions, nor DGH nor John Frame. “Fanboyism” does not belong in the church.

    Absolutely, but nevertheless, there are teachers who’s dogma doesn’t require as much filtering as others.

    Re: So I’m comfortable simultaneously saying that there is some good in Edwards, while also saying that he should be dinged for his errors.

    IMO, it’s best to leave him be and choose better resource. I prefer cleaner wells. 🙂


  130. Jeff,

    Sigh… you and your data dumps, but I’ll look at it later on. 😉

    Re: Examination

    I’m glad we can agree on keeping Christ and God’s promises supreme. It seems that when an adjustment is offered, we always tend to swing to the other end of the pendulum. I am by no means saying no examination. The thing is that it is scripture that examines us -not- us using Edwards’ method and his criteria trying to dig around and sift our own hearts. God uses his Word his way and in his timing. God’s way and timing is trustworthy. Edwards’ methods and criteria are not.

    Re: …to tell the Corinthians to examine themselves; or that John is wrong to tell his audience to guard themselves from idols; or the Jesus is wrong to tell the disciples to be on guard against all kinds of greed.

    Please read the passages and/or the whole book to see the context and if they are addressing something specifically (eg: Corinthians Benny Hinn superapostles). It’s not wise to go digging around and sifting our own hearts – desperately wicked and impossible for a man to know his own heart and all that jazz.

    Re: There is objective, there is subjective (in the sense of belief in the word of God)

    Not following you here. We all struggle with unbelief at one time or another and to one degree or another. It’s part of being a fallen human and why we seek refuge in Christ in all.

    Re: data dump

    We are not in disagreement about examining ourselves. It is useless to offer me Calvin and your confessions since I do not adhere to them and have no interest in critiquing them or getting into any of the areas of our traditions distinctives. I may fail miserably at times, but that is what I try to do. I am by no means saying examination is bad, but I am warning you to not go about it pietistically. Ya’ll have a long history of pietists in your tradition just as we have in ours and pietism needs to be recognized for what it is. How we go about examination is important and if you have a pietist mindset because of pietistic teachings, it will cause problems – you will read your bible and your confessions in that manner. I’m trying to save you some grief not make you Lutheran – I’m not into sheep stealing! (I do understand you were making a joke) So… I’m trying to offer what I can to help see the differences between orthodoxy and pietism. Pax.


  131. Cath, so you have no problem with Edwards’ description of Brainerd, or his approval of Brainerd’s introspective piety? Some of wonder why he continues to be the go-to guy. Don’t people notice the warts, and all of them?


  132. Cath, I’m familiar enough with the Dutch Reformed idea of self-examination and preparation that attends infrequency. If every week is supposed to be marked and weighed down by inward reflection, self-loathing, and keeping a tally of one’s evil deeds and good works then no that’s actually not good thing. I doubt that was Paul’s intent in 1 Cor. 11. If however it is simply to be fed at the Lord’s table and partake of Christ and all his benefits every week, and thus be moved constantly to “a fervent love of God and our neighbor,” then that is a good thing. And it seems to me that this is what the piety I’m talking about looks like. With all due respect, I just don’t see what closets and journals have to do with a fervent love for God and neighbor.


  133. Zrim, ok. If we exclude self-loathing and journals from the concept of self-examination, then maybe we might have reached some sort of common ground. (Yay. Break out the pictures of fluffy kittens.)

    I agree that there are dangers with infrequent communion, although at the same time, frequent Bible-reading and frequent sermon-hearing are indisputably mandated, and they too require preparation. The Word of God is to be read with meditation, application, self-denial, and prayer. Hearing the Word preached requires diligence, preparation, and prayer. LC157, 160. So (hopefully this is unobjectionable: I’m not saying this with the intention of provoking more disagreement), the best way to avoid being unprepared for any of the means of grace is to be in a constant state of preparation. By objective union with Christ fundamentally, but by subjective exercise of internal graces (whether sorrow or love or joy) habitually. It isn’t extraordinary for special occasions, it’s just a lifelong way of being godly.

    Being moved constantly to a fervent love of God and neighbour sounds absolutely fine to me.


  134. Hi Jeff,

    I woke up this morning with a thought. I wondered that you might really enjoy reading about law/gospel distinctions? Our tradition has a wonderful resource in C.F. Walther’s book, The Proper Distinction between Law and Gospel. There is a section that specifically deals with pietism. I do not know the good resources that your tradition has for the proper distinctions, but I am sure there are others here who do know.


  135. Lily,

    I’d be happy to read Walther. I must warn you, though, that my queue is rather full, so it may be a while …

    My favorite Lutheran author is Walter Wangerin. I don’t know where he is theologically in relationship to you, but Book of the Dun Cow is a remarkable work.

    I’m glad that we can agree that the corrective is to look at Christ and his promises. If I were to explain the picture in full, it would be this:

    * In Scripture, we are commanded to repent: measuring ourselves against the Word. Unless we’re deceiving ourselves, we will agree with Paul that we are the chiefest and greatest of sinners.

    * Having seen this, we must flee to Jesus in faith, trusting Him not only that He *has* justified us, but also that He *is* sanctifying us by His Spirit.

    Whether rightly or wrongly, I see that as a proper mixture of subjective and objective.

    There is a reason, BTW, that I resist “pure” objectivity.

    There is a doctrine out there called “Eternal Justification.” It teaches, in short, that the elect are justified from eternity past and not at the moment of faith. For EJers, the moment of faith is when we realize our justification.

    The argument in favor of this view is that if our faith is the instrument of justification, then we have contributed to our justification, and God’s glory is diminished. Arminianism has its nose under the tent. In their view, WCoF 11.2 would be a “soft Arminian” statement.

    Here’s Kuyper (no less!) in favor of EJ.

    Here’s Berkhof against.

    In my view, EJ confuses the atonement with justification proper. There is a distinction between the work of Christ and our reception of that work. Else, the Scriptural teaching that we are justified by faith is turned on its head. Eph 2 is a particular problem for EJers.

    But even more telling is the pedigree of EJ: it has been attractive to hyperCalvinists and antinomians.

    And those are two groups well-known for taking “grace alone” as license to overturn the rest of Scripture. And well-known for calling everyone else “legalists” and “neo-nomians” and such like.

    I don’t think you’re anywhere close to this view, but I just wanted to caution you that pure objectivism is not the royal road to sound doctrine. Scripture requires us, sound doctrine doctrine requires us, to make room to say NOT ONLY, “Christ died for sinners”, BUT ALSO, “Christ died for me.”



  136. Hi Jeff,

    I hear you! Too many books so little time. I didn’t mean to imply that you had to read Walther – I mentioned his book because it is the best one I know of and am clueless what ya’ll have. I’ve never read any of Walter Wangerin books – I’ll have to look into him since you recommended him.

    Re:Whether rightly or wrongly, I see that as a proper mixture of subjective and objective.

    And I’m definitely not going to disagree with you!

    Re: Eternal Justification

    That is one weird teaching! But isn’t that normally the case when people don’t stop where scripture stops and they try to pull back the curtain to see the hidden work of God? There is sooo much bizarre stuff out there – it seems like it’s never ending.

    Re: taking “grace alone” as license to overturn the rest of Scripture

    As Paul would say: “May it never be!” Makes one wonder if they read the Bible, but since the Episcopalians and so many others have managed to totally mangle the law – I give up. The last bizarre thing I read was a news article with PETA pressuring Zondervan to update the NIV to suits their animal rights agenda. At this point the NIV is a lost cause, so I thought, “Why not as long as they name it the New Idiot’s Version.”

    Re:“pure” objectivity

    I appreciate the heads up. One thing that may help in understanding the direction I am coming from will be the law/gospel distinctions. It’s definitely not objectivism. Anywho, Lutherans are used to Reformed folk wondering if we’re closet antinomians. Pax. 😉


  137. Joseph, the short answer is yes. The extended answer is that introversion is often mistaken for shyness. But there is an important difference. In the same way, I think there is a difference between introspective piety and contemplative piety. The former is self-oriented and tends to be concerned for the interior life, the latter self-denying and more concerned with the outward life. Thus, the former usually accompanies a more activistic religious life, the latter an active one (there is a difference between activism and being active—for a secular example think of the difference between voting and protesting). That’s a long way of saying that I think there are two different kinds of secret prayer, and I’m for the one that goes with contemplative piety which also has a take on public prayer: it abhors personal and informal expressions of faith but affirms public and formal expressions.


  138. Interestingly, a piece by Kevin DeYoung appeared on the gospel coalition website that interacted with this series of posts – it was supposed to be part 1 of 3 – however it appears to have been pulled from the site though still available in google.


  139. Did the Reformed drop the Canticles used by Anglicans, such as The Song of Moses and The Magnificat? I miss singing chapters from Isaiah as well. Likewise, what do you think about the use of Hymns in the Lutheran church? I heard that Luther’s Hymnal was first the Psalter, and then additional hymns. He translated the Psalms 6 times, if I can recall correctly.

    The only thing that holds me back from Lutheranism is the emphasis on justification, the Real Presence, and Baptismal Regeneration. I attended an LCMS this year for Ash Wednesday, and always, loved it!


  140. good hymnody is like pornography, it’s hard to define, but I know it when I see it. As for faking it, it’s my observation that occasional emotionalism seems to contribute very little if anything to the crediblity of a profession of faith.


  141. Dr. Hart,

    I have been reading through the blog archives and have found your concerns about pietism very interesting. Besides your books, are there any other resources you recommend that take a critical look at pietism and its effects on American Christianity?


  142. Mark N., I’d say the best bet is to look through the references in Lost Soul of American Protestantism. Those are the best sources I know. One book published since then is Scott Clark’s Recovering the Reformed Confession. He has a critical eye as well.

    I now realize, having completed a history of Calvinism, that pietism may have come naturally to a wing of Reformed Protestants — namely, English practical divinity which became popular among the Dutch as well. Calvinist pietism may have actually predated German pietism. Oy.


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