Clearword Church Coming to Bloomington!

And it is going to build at the corner of South Endwright and West Gifford Roads, just down the street from where Tim Bayly struts his stuff as a godly, manly promoter of praise bands.

Actually, this is a fabrication, but I do wonder what Tim, who wonders where the Escondido men are — here’s one answer — would think of a rival church right down the road from his congregation. Tim recently tried again to tarnish the reputation of two-kingdom folks by asserting that someone like me would oppose Archbishop of Nigeria’s recent decision to form a diocese in Indianapolis.

Anglican bishops from Africa are violating parish boundaries here in these United States, planting orthodox Christian parishes where the presiding Anglican/Episcopal authorities have betrayed the faith. Is this good or bad?

Ask Darryl Hart and his fellow Escondidoites and it’s bad… Right? After all, this is the sort of thing that was done by Anglicans like Whitefield during the Great Awakening, and Darryl and his fellow Orthodox and Old Light Presbyterians oppose such violations of proper ecclesiastical boundaries. . . .

For myself, though, I’m not holding my breath waiting for Old Presbyterians to mount a campaign against men like Nigeria’s Anglican Archbishop Nicholas Okah for trampling on the proper local Anglican authorities here in Indianapolis.

Unlike Tim, I believe that the United States is and should be a free country. Unlike Tim, I don’t pine for the days of Calvin’s Geneva when civil magistrates would have run out of town priests and pastors who had come ministering without an invitation. Unlike Tim, I know what my response would be to this situation — which is, what happens in the Anglican church stays in the Anglican church.

And unlike Tim, I know that the Old Siders he disparages actually reacted the way that Tim Bayly would if a new church started right down the road, and if the new pastor said that members at Clearnote Fellowship should leave their congregation to worship at Clearword Church because Tim Bayly was an unregenerate hypocrite (which is what Gilbert Tennent said about Old Siders). I don’t know for sure, but I suspect Tim would exhibit some of his manliness and not sit by while a fellow minister called him names or took away his flock.

Funny how if you look at something you thought you understood, you end up identifying with the people whom you denigrate.

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963 thoughts on “Clearword Church Coming to Bloomington!

  1. Thanks for the link. I like the ring also. Available at the bookstore, ding ding.

    I just noticed that Darryl’s bio at Amazon says that he is working on a book on the global history of Calvinism. Will it include Calvinism in Latin America and Spain? I’m guessing Brazil might have more history connected to Calvinism.

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  2. He does realize you’re a Machen specialist, right? Isn’t Machen the guy who formed the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions and a whole new denomination when the Mainline Presbyterians went liberal? What in the world is Bayly talking about?

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  3. But don’t forget the manly promotion of baptismal latitude from Clearnote of Bloomington (something Calvin’s Geneva wouldn’t have tolerated).

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  4. D. G. Hart: And unlike Tim, I know that the Old Siders he disparages actually reacted the way that Tim Bayly would if a new church started right down the road, and if the new pastor said that members at Clearnote Fellowship should leave their congregation to worship at Clearword Church because Tim Bayly was an unregenerate hypocrite (which is what Gilbert Tennent said about Old Siders).

    RS: But then again, there was some disparagment coming toward the Tennents from the other side. Who knows, maybe some of those men were unregenerate. Remember what Jesus (New Sider) said to the Old Siders of His time. “Woe to you hypocrites.” Just because something is old does not make it true or false as well as just because something is new and exciting does not make it true or false.

    I just read Tennent’s sermon on the Danger of an Unconverted Ministry. I read it quickly, but could not find where he specifically mentioned the Old Side or Old Lights. He spoke of Pharisee minsters and unconverted ministers, but a specific application to a particular group I did not find. Again, I read it quickly. But could it be that the Old Siders or Old Lights were just too sensitive in all this? Jesus told us that we would be mocked and made fun of, not to mention that we would be hated.

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  5. Richard Smith wrote: “Remember what Jesus (New Sider) said to the Old Siders of His time. “Woe to you hypocrites.””

    GW: So, let me get this straight. Jesus is to be compared to men like Tennent (the “New Sider” and promoter of parachuch revival), who slandered sound, orthodox “Old Side” ministers of the Word by uncharitably judging them to be unregenerate (a judgment which even he later recognized to be uncharitable and, to his credit, thankfully apologized for); whereas the hypocritical Pharisees are to be compared to the orthodox Old Side Ministers who were simply defending their sheep from the pastoral encroachments of revivalists and revival-promoters like Tennent. (Yea, slander and lack of charity toward the brethren, those are real fruits of regeneration, eh? And defending the flock against potential wolves? That must be a real sign of hypocrisy.) I would suggest that you have this in reverse. Maybe you should have said: “Remember what Jesus (Old Sider) said to the New Siders of His time: “Woe to you, hypocrites.””

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  6. Geoff Willour: GW: So, let me get this straight. Jesus is to be compared to men like Tennent (the “New Sider” and promoter of parachuch revival),

    RS: I would not say that Jesus is to be compared to anyone as that is not the point. Jesus did call many hypocrites and as such it is not necessarily wrong in all cases to call people that.

    GW: who slandered sound, orthodox “Old Side” ministers of the Word by uncharitably judging them to be unregenerate (a judgment which even he later recognized to be uncharitable and, to his credit, thankfully apologized for);

    RS: Why do you think that he slandered them? Why do you think that all the “Old Side” ministers were unorthodox? Could it be that he is being slandered to some degree in this?

    GW: whereas the hypocritical Pharisees are to be compared to the orthodox Old Side Ministers

    RS: So you do think that the Pharisees were hypocritical. Was Nicodemus hypocritical? Could it be that Tennent was correct about some and just not all? In his famous sermon on the subject, did he really call all the Old Side hypocrites?

    GW: who were simply defending their sheep from the pastoral encroachments of revivalists and revival-promoters like Tennent.

    RS: I suppose that would be putting a real positive spin on the situation. Wouldn’t the Pharisees (from their view) have thought of Jesus and the apostles as encroaching on their territory? Biblically speaking, what is pastoral encroachment? Is preaching the Gospel within ten miles of a church encroachment?

    GW: (Yea, slander and lack of charity toward the brethren, those are real fruits of regeneration, eh? And defending the flock against potential wolves? That must be a real sign of hypocrisy.)

    RS: Did Tennent really slander people? Are you so sure he had lack of charity? Were all the men really defending the flock against potential wolves or could it be that some of them, under the guise of orthodoxy, simply didn’t want the true Gospel preached in the area? Perhaps Tennent’s sermon was unwise in a few regards, but there just may be more to the story.

    I would suggest that you have this in reverse. Maybe you should have said: “Remember what Jesus (Old Sider) said to the New Siders of His time: “Woe to you, hypocrites.””

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  7. Richard: Remember what Jesus (New Sider) said to the Old Siders of His time.

    Erik: This is where you went too far, and Geoff called you on it.

    It’s as if I said: Remember what Jesus (Osteen) said to the Old Siders (Richard) of His time.

    I would be careful associating Jesus with any movement or cause. He had away of pointing out everyone’s unrighteousness.

    I’m sure Bryan Cross would have some fancy name for what you did.

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  8. Richard Smith wrote: “Did Tennent really slander people? Are you so sure he had lack of charity? Were all the men really defending the flock against potential wolves or could it be that some of them, under the guise of orthodoxy, simply didn’t want the true Gospel preached in the area? Perhaps Tennent’s sermon was unwise in a few regards, but there just may be more to the story.”

    GW: Brother Richard, my response to your questions will involve quotes from D.G. Hart and John Muether’s book “Seeking a Better Country: 300 Years of American Presbyterianism” (P & R Publishing) (which I highly recommend you read if you have not already done so).

    “In effect, Whitefield threatened Presbyterian propriety. His methods also contravened Presbyterian decorum and order. Whitefield’s preaching could be highly emotional and theatrical. To some it looked manipulative…The popularity and fanfare of the Great Awakening, consequently, shifted the ongoing debate within the American church over ministerial qualifications from subscription and formal education to religious experience…the controversy over the awakening among Presbyterians was pivotal for upsetting an already fragile harmony. Indicative of the increasing antagonism was Gilbert Tennent’s abusive sermon, “The Danger of an Unconverted Ministry,” preached on March 8, 1740, close to the peak of Whitefield’s popularity in the middle colonies and the nadir of intransigence within the Synod of Philadelphia…In this sermon Tennent argued sensibly that unregenerate ministers should not be tolerated. Less plausible, however, was his identification of the revivals’ opponents as unregenerate ministers. In fact, Tennent followed the highly partisan tactic of conceiving of his own position as the only legitimate expression of Presbyterian faith and practice. That position included a new conception of conversion as a deep and abiding experience that transformed believers, a requirement that ministers demonstrate having experienced such a conversion, and a suspicion of ecclesiastical rules and policies that might become a barrier to the spiritual influences rippling out of the awakening…With some understatement, Charles Hodge commented on the “unhappy violence” of this sermon as “one of the principal causes of that entire alienation of feeling, which soon resulted in an open rupture.”” (pp. 60-61)

    Of course, old siders would not have denied the need for repentance uno life and saving faith (conversion), since the confessional standards they adhered to (and which were based upon the teachings of Holy Scripture) taught the necessity of these saving graces. As I understand it, what they objected to were the experiential/experimental excesses advocated by pro-revivalists like Tennent, his advocacy of a crisis conversion experience being added as a qualification of ministerial ordination in addition to a credible profession of faith, good standing in church membership and sufficiency of learning.

    How did the old siders react to Tennent’s abusive sermon and elitist stance? Did they respond in kind by heaping abuse and derision upon him? No. On the contrary, according to Hart & Muether: “Despite Tennent’s inflammatory sermon, the opponents of revival, who had a clear majority, sought a compromise to which both sides might agree. Tennent and his party refused such a conciliatory effort because he argued that compromise was impossible.” (p. 61) And, “…Synod demonstrated remarkable patience with the advocates of revival by passing a resolution that called on its members to contemplate the seriousness of Tennent’s and Blair’s charges “as they will answer it at the great day of Christ” and for presbyteries to make sure their members were acting appropriately with regard to the awakening. Webster observed that “it is difficult to conceive” why Tennent and Blair “were not rebuked or suspended for their representations” since the ministers against whom the revivalists inveighed were not only present but “respectable for their number, age, long-tried fidelity, and admitted ability.”” (p. 62)

    If the above historical accounting is accurate, it sounds to me like Tennent and his ilk were sowing seeds of discord among his brethren. His stance on the revival question, while no doubt well intentioned and sincerely held, was (in effect at least) elitist, divisive, immature and deeply uncharitable — the opposite of the fruit of the Holy Spirit; whereas, ironically, the patience and longsuffering of his old side brethren (whom he had in effect abusively accused of being unregenerate) seems to me to have manifested much for fully the signs of true regeneration — namely the fruit of the Spirit (“love…peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, self control…”).

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  9. a newly minted Roman Catholic sets us straight on Pharisees:

    “Sproul’s argument assumes that believing the Catholic doctrine regarding infusion entails the
    error of the Pharisee in the parable. Of course a Catholic could, like the Pharisee, fall into the sin of pride. So could a Christian of any tradition, including those in the Reformed tradition. But because the sin of pride is not entailed by the Catholic doctrine of infusion, therefore the conclusion of Sproul’s argument does not follow.

    The person who has received righteousness by infusion knows that he still possesses concupiscence (see the section “V. Errors Regarding the Removal of Sin Through Baptism” in “Aquinas and Trent: Part 7.”), that in comparison to the saints and angels (and God Himself) he is an unrighteous, unworthy sinner, and that he has a long, long way to go in growing in sanctification. He knows that he sins venially at least seven times a day. In the lives of the saints we find that the greater the saint, the more clearly he sees his remaining sinfulness.

    That’s the paradox. And yet, that does not entail the Lutheran or Reformed notion of simul iustus et peccator, precisely because of the Catholic distinction between mortal and venial sin (see comment #58 in the “St. Augustine on Faith without Love” thread for an explanation and defense of that distinction).

    In the Reformed picture, all sin (both mortal and venial) is compatible with having received extra nos imputation. Hence a person can be simultaneously justified and in mortal sin. But the Catholic
    distinction between mortal and venial sin explains why mortal sin is incompatible with being in a state of grace and righteousness, while venial sin is compatible with being in a state of grace and
    righteousness. And so the person who has received Christ’s righteousness by infusion is, at the same time, truly righteous (because he has agape in his soul — see Romans 5:5), and yet still in
    continual need of conversion and repentance in turning away from venial sin, and asking daily for the forgiveness of such sins. (See “Reformed Imputation and the Lord’s Prayer.”) He has no ground for the pride exhibited by the Pharisee; he has every reason like the Publican to beat his chest in contrition and humility, asking the Lord to have mercy on him.

    The difficulty, from the Reformed point of view, is understanding how a person can be truly righteous internally, while still having concupiscence and venial sin. In baptism, the sanctifying grace and
    agape merited for us by Christ on the cross are infused into our souls; we have the spirit of the law in our hearts, even while concupiscence remains in our lower passions and appetites, and even
    when we commit venial sins. Agape is the fulfillment of the law (Rom. 13:8, 10, Gal. 5:14, James 2:8), because agape is the standard of the law. And agape is in the will. Therefore righteousness in its essence is in the will, while concupiscence is not in the will, but in the lower appetites. Just because a person has disorder in his lower appetites, it does not follow that he is not righteous before God, because as long as he has agape in the will (i.e. he loves God with the supernatural love by which God loves Himself), he is truly a friend of God, even if he has disordered lower appetites which he resists with his will, because of his love for God. That is why if we have agape in our soul, we are truly righteous, even though we still have concupiscence. We grow in agape not by moving from some percentage of agape (and hence from unrighteousness or enmity with
    God) to a higher percentage of agape, but by growing in our participation in agape, from a state of friendship with God, to a state of deeper friendship with God.

    So, in short, the mistake in Sproul’s argument is assuming that the difference between the Pharisee and the Publican is that the Pharisee believes that God’s grace has “made him whole” while the Publican knows that he is an unrighteous sinner. According to the Church Fathers, the difference between the Pharisee and the Publican is not fundamentally a doctrinal or difference, but that the
    former had the sin of pride, while the latter possessed the virtue of humility. And for that reason, Sproul’s conclusion that believing the Catholic doctrine of infusion grants one an eternal destiny of weeping and gnashing of teeth along with the Pharisee, does not follow. However, Catholics can agree with Sproul that we all should put on the humility Christ reveals in the parable, beating our breasts and crying out, “Lord, be merciful to me, a sinner.”

    mcmark: got it. It’s not something we know about a “doctrinal difference”. Would it make me a Pharisee if I were to say that I am not buying how this Roman Catholic Pharisee explains Pharisees?

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  10. I read the post over at the BaylyBlog and felt like he is comparing apples and oranges. Whitfield was not starting a denomination, planting churches, or under the oversight of any particular ecclesiastical body. He was free-lancing. This African bishop is in this country under the oversight of his sending body from Africa, to start a new denomination (new to this country) and start new churches. Whitfield was drawing from viable, faithful churches: This bishop is here to call straying Episcopalians (Anglicans) back to their historic beliefs. Unless I’m mistaken Bayly’s analogy fails at this point.

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  11. Erik Charter: Richard: Remember what Jesus (New Sider) said to the Old Siders of His time.

    Erik: This is where you went too far, and Geoff called you on it.

    It’s as if I said: Remember what Jesus (Osteen) said to the Old Siders (Richard) of His time.

    I would be careful associating Jesus with any movement or cause. He had away of pointing out everyone’s unrighteousness.

    RS: I was not associating Jesus with any movement or cause. I am simply saying that just because there is a group that has been around for a longer period of time and just because they call themselves orthodox does not mean that they are right. Jesus called that group hypocrites so it is not necessarily wrong to call a group of people hypocrites. I cannot see how it is going too far to point to the words of Christ in a certain situation.

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  12. Richard, sure, Jesus and the apostles were encroaching. But the encroached were supposed to be looking for the Messiah, right? Were Old Side ministers supposed to be looking for the Second Coming? Sure. Were Whitefield or Tennent Jesus? Doubtful.

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  13. GW: Brother Richard, my response to your questions will involve quotes from D.G. Hart and John Muether’s book “Seeking a Better Country: 300 Years of American Presbyterianism” (P & R Publishing) (which I highly recommend you read if you have not already done so).

    RS: First, then, you call forth a hostile witness. What I mean by that is not a slam but simply pointing out that the authors of the book (though highly esteemed and very intelligent men) do have a viewpoint that they are coming from (as all do).

    GW: Quoting Hart and Meuther: “In effect, Whitefield threatened Presbyterian propriety. His methods also contravened Presbyterian decorum and order.

    RS: What is Presbyterian propriety? Whitefield was not Presbyterian and did not believe that Presbyterianism was the biblical way of church government. I might add for something to chew on, Whitefield came from a country that basically had the Presbyterians trying to take over things at one point. They wrote a great confession and then within a century Presbyterianism had all but disappeared. Whitefield was around the time of almost a century after the WCF was published.

    Not all see the council of Jerusalem as constituting a synod. There were elders who were also apostles from Jerusalem and then those from Antioch. Some would see the authority of that council as being from the apostles rather than from a Presbyterian view of it. But even if the Presbyterian view of the Church is correct, how is it a violation to go into the surrounding areas to preach the Gospel? I don’t view the Great Commission as commanding us to preach the Gospel to all people groups as long as they are not in the area of a Presbyterian church.

    Quoting from Hart and Muether continued: Whitefield’s preaching could be highly emotional and theatrical. To some it looked manipulative…

    RS: Yes, that is what one man wrote about Whitefield’s preaching. But others thought of the man as being a powerful preacher filled with the Spirit of God (in a non-charismatic way). Some think that writing books is nothing but a ploy to gain money, but that does not make it so in Muether’s case.

    Quoting from Hart and Muether continued: The popularity and fanfare of the Great Awakening, consequently, shifted the ongoing debate within the American church over ministerial qualifications from subscription and formal education to religious experience…

    RS: I simply don’t think that is 100% accurate. It is true that there was a debate on ministerial qualifications, but some of that had to do with Tennent’s father and his Log College. I am not sure that we can recreate what they thought of the liberal influence going on in the colleges at the time, but after starting the colleges and seeing them all go liberal, Tennent’s father started his own ministerial training location. Indeed some looked down on that. But that is hardly moving to replacing formal education to religious experience.

    Quoting from Hart and Muether continued : the controversy over the awakening among Presbyterians was pivotal for upsetting an already fragile harmony. Indicative of the increasing antagonism was Gilbert Tennent’s abusive sermon, “The Danger of an Unconverted Ministry,” preached on March 8, 1740, close to the peak of Whitefield’s popularity in the middle colonies and the nadir of intransigence within the Synod of Philadelphia

    RS: I would protest the calling of this an abusive sermon. Most of what he says in this sermon is absolutely true. It is wrong to have unconverted men in the ministry. In it he said that the Pharisess were ignorant of the new birth. By the way, Whitefield preached a lot about how men must be born again. That is precisely what Jesus told Nicodemus who was a ranking man among the Pharisees.

    Quoting from Hart and Muether continued: …In this sermon Tennent argued sensibly that unregenerate ministers should not be tolerated. Less plausible, however, was his identification of the revivals’ opponents as unregenerate ministers.

    RS: But did he say that all those who opposed revival in all ways were unregenerate ministers?

    Quoting from Hart and Muether continued: In fact, Tennent followed the highly partisan tactic of conceiving of his own position as the only legitimate expression of Presbyterian faith and practice. That position included a new conception of conversion as a deep and abiding experience that transformed believers, a requirement that ministers demonstrate having experienced such a conversion, and a suspicion of ecclesiastical rules and policies that might become a barrier to the spiritual influences rippling out of the awakening

    RS: Highly partisan tactic? He did think that all should be born again. I was not aware that this was new or that it was a new belief that conversion was something that transformed or at least led to a transformation of those who were born again. If one thinks of the Great Awakening in terms of what an Awakening was thought of, perhaps this whole situation could be seen a little differently. A sinner was awakened when s/he saw his or her lost condition and that s/he was in the hands of God in that lost condition. A truly awakened sinner knew that s/he must be born again. As people were awakened like this in a larger area, they needed to hear about the need to be born again. But this is not a new teaching at all, no more than Luther’s justification was a new teaching. But it was an unsettling teaching to those who wanted people to act calmly at all times. But we must remember that the jailer in Phillip was not exactly calm. When spiritual realities come home to the soul calmness is not always the most rational response. The battle in that time period, then, as Tennent points out or at least alludes to in his sermon, over the new birth. A soul that is under conviction of sin wants to hear someone preaching about the new birth. When a minister will not deal with souls under conviction, the people wanted to hear someone who would preach about the real and true Physician.

    GW: Of course, old siders would not have denied the need for repentance uno life and saving faith (conversion), since the confessional standards they adhered to (and which were based upon the teachings of Holy Scripture) taught the necessity of these saving graces. As I understand it, what they objected to were the experiential/experimental excesses advocated by pro-revivalists like Tennent, his advocacy of a crisis conversion experience being added as a qualification of ministerial ordination in addition to a credible profession of faith, good standing in church membership and sufficiency of learning.

    RS: Yes, but understand that while all are required to subscribe to the 39 Articles in England in our day only about 1% really believe them. Could it have been the same during the Great Awakening?

    GW: How did the old siders react to Tennent’s abusive sermon and elitist stance? Did they respond in kind by heaping abuse and derision upon him? No. On the contrary, according to Hart & Muether:

    RS: Abusive sermon? It is hard for me to think of that as an abusive sermon. But again, maybe there is more to the story. This sermon is a result of a longer battle that had to do with other things as well. They certainly thought that others heaped abuse on them.

    Quoting from Hart and Muether continued “Despite Tennent’s inflammatory sermon, the opponents of revival, who had a clear majority, sought a compromise to which both sides might agree. Tennent and his party refused such a conciliatory effort because he argued that compromise was impossible.” (p. 61) And, “…Synod demonstrated remarkable patience with the advocates of revival by passing a resolution that called on its members to contemplate the seriousness of Tennent’s and Blair’s charges “as they will answer it at the great day of Christ” and for presbyteries to make sure their members were acting appropriately with regard to the awakening. Webster observed that “it is difficult to conceive” why Tennent and Blair “were not rebuked or suspended for their representations” since the ministers against whom the revivalists inveighed were not only present but “respectable for their number, age, long-tried fidelity, and admitted ability.”” (p. 62)

    RS: Again, a very favorable presentation of one side.

    GW: If the above historical accounting is accurate, it sounds to me like Tennent and his ilk were sowing seeds of discord among his brethren.

    RS: Some might consider the historical accounting as rather one-sided. Jesus was thought of as sowing seeds of discord as well.

    GW: His stance on the revival question, while no doubt well intentioned and sincerely held, was (in effect at least) elitist, divisive, immature and deeply uncharitable —

    RS: But again, if you look at it from one side, perhaps so. All Christians are thought of as elitist if they stand for Christ alone. All true doctrine divides. All Christians will be thought of a uncharitable if they stand for the exclusivity of Christ.

    GW: the opposite of the fruit of the Holy Spirit; whereas, ironically, the patience and longsuffering of his old side brethren (whom he had in effect abusively accused of being unregenerate) seems to me to have manifested much for fully the signs of true regeneration — namely the fruit of the Spirit (“love…peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, self control…”).

    RS: I am certainly not so sure that all on the old side were united and that all were so filled with the fruit of the Spirit. As with most issues, not all one one side are right and not all on one side are wrong. Perhaps Tennent was speaking to one part of the old side and all were offended. Perhaps there is no reconciliation with those who have reconciled with those who were bitterly opposed to the teaching of the new birth even though not all in the group are. Again, there may be more to the story.

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  14. D. G. Hart: Richard, sure, Jesus and the apostles were encroaching. But the encroached were supposed to be looking for the Messiah, right? Were Old Side ministers supposed to be looking for the Second Coming? Sure. Were Whitefield or Tennent Jesus? Doubtful.

    RS: Which is not exactly to the point. Why do you think that Whitefield and Tennent were encroaching? Did the men of that day have a Divine right over a certain area? I live in a town where there are a few Presbyterian churches. They are quite liberal. One in particular thinks of Christ alone as an archaic doctrine. Does that minister have a Divine right of some sort over the whole town? Yes, he has the Westminster Confession of Faith as his standard (in theory). He wrote a letter to the editor of the local newspaper talking about how he had counseled a man who was in prison for murder. The man said he was a Christian when he murdered the person and the “minister” thought that was true. The Bible says that no murderer has eternal life in him. So are those who attend that church with the WCF as their standards off limites in terms of hearing the Gospel from me?

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  15. RS: Remember what Jesus (New Sider)

    Jesus was a New Wine guy, and a New Covenant guy, but He wasn’t a New Side guy.

    There’s a lot of baggage there that Jesus would have had no part of. For example: New Side-rs required evidence not merely of faith (confession) and sanctified life, but of a definite dramatic conversion experience.

    Jesus did not require this. He said rather “If anyone believes in Me, he shall live even though he dies.”

    Jesus — and the Old Siders — made faith central. The New Siders made conversion central, and demanded evidence of that conversion.

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  16. Richard, a guy like Tennent was in the same communion with Old Siders. This is not divine right. It’s simple civility and courtesy. If you want to add the fruit of the Spirit, it’s not very loving either.

    Why is it born-againers can be so oblivious to simple ways of relating?

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  17. Jeff Cagle quoting RS: Remember what Jesus (New Sider)

    Jeff Cagle: Jesus was a New Wine guy, and a New Covenant guy, but He wasn’t a New Side guy.

    RS: Which is exactly the point (New Wine and New Covenant) I had in mind when I said that he was a New Side. The point is simply that the old standard is not always correct.

    Jeff Cagle: There’s a lot of baggage there that Jesus would have had no part of. For example: New Side-rs required evidence not merely of faith (confession) and sanctified life, but of a definite dramatic conversion experience.

    RS: Why do you think a confession is evidence of faith? They required evidence of a conversion experience, but I am not sure that “dramatic” is part of the requirement.

    Jeff Cagle: Jesus did not require this. He said rather “If anyone believes in Me, he shall live even though he dies.”

    RS: Yes, but let us also not forget many other things that He taught. He taught the new birth. He taught that one must be turned and become like a little child in order to enter the kingdom. Jesus teaches us through James that faith without works is dead. Jesus teaches us through James that true religion watching after orphans and widows in their distress. Jesus teaches us through James that a mere profession of faith is not a sign of real faith.

    Jeff Cagle: Jesus — and the Old Siders — made faith central. The New Siders made conversion central, and demanded evidence of that conversion.

    RS: There is no faith apart from a new heart and there is no true faith apart from works. That sounds like more than a mere profession. There are many things that Jesus taught that did not sound like those who simply took a profession as faith.

    Jesus also taught this:
    Matthew 7:13 “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. 14 “For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.

    and this:
    Mat 7:21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. 22 “Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ 23 “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.’

    Paul taught us that wolves would come from our number (speaking to the elders from Ephesus) and would arise and mislead many. A mere profession of faith is not enough to determine if a person is saved and being a minister is not enough to say that the sheep or even the goats should follow that person to the exclusion of those who preach the Gospel.

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  18. Richard,

    Have you ever given thought to your own blog. You could call it; ‘Yea, but what about revival……..’ and you could link to each new post of Darryl’s and offer your ‘Yea, but what about revival………’ at your site. And you could make illusions to old-siders being pharisees and judaizers and just base heretics and such without getting so much blow-back and mischaracterization of your opposing view.

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  19. D. G. Hart: Richard, a guy like Tennent was in the same communion with Old Siders. This is not divine right. It’s simple civility and courtesy. If you want to add the fruit of the Spirit, it’s not very loving either.

    Why is it born-againers can be so oblivious to simple ways of relating?

    RS: Jesus taught that a person must be born again and He said a few things that were not civil or according to simple courtesy. Being civil and courteous can at times hide the truth from sinners and that is certainly not love for their souls. A few thoughts from Jesus (given below) who at the time could not have followed our rules of civility and courtesy. However, He was love incarnate ao He said this in accordance with perfect love. Was Jesus also guilty of being oblivious to simple ways of relating?

    Mat 23:13 “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you shut off the kingdom of heaven from people; for you do not enter in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in.
    14 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense you make long prayers; therefore you will receive greater condemnation.
    15 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you travel around on sea and land to make one proselyte; and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves.
    16 “Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘Whoever swears by the temple, that is nothing; but whoever swears by the gold of the temple is obligated.’
    17 “You fools and blind men! Which is more important, the gold or the temple that sanctified the gold?
    18 “And, ‘Whoever swears by the altar, that is nothing, but whoever swears by the offering on it, he is obligated.’
    19 “You blind men, which is more important, the offering, or the altar that sanctifies the offering?
    20 “Therefore, whoever swears by the altar, swears both by the altar and by everything on it.
    21 “And whoever swears by the temple, swears both by the temple and by Him who dwells within it.
    22 “And whoever swears by heaven, swears both by the throne of God and by Him who sits upon it.
    23 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others.
    24 “You blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!
    25 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside they are full of robbery and self-indulgence.
    26 “You blind Pharisee, first clean the inside of the cup and of the dish, so that the outside of it may become clean also.

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  20. sean: Richard, Have you ever given thought to your own blog. You could call it; ‘Yea, but what about revival……..’ and you could link to each new post of Darryl’s and offer your ‘Yea, but what about revival………’ at your site. And you could make illusions to old-siders being pharisees and judaizers and just base heretics and such without getting so much blow-back and mischaracterization of your opposing view.

    RS: But why would I say that all old-siders were Pharsiees and base heretics and so on when I don’t believe that? Remember, the Presbyterians in the old country (England) were basically gone by that time and many had become Unitarians. As Jeff pointed out, that was happening here as well. But not all of them.

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  21. Dave, bingo. But keep in mind that the purpose of the Bayly post was to portray confessionalist 2kers as giving cover to Protestant liberalism, so certain details don’t really matter.

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  22. Richard, I always wonder what makes you think Scripture doesn’t apply to semi-revivalism. And you may not believe that all old-siders were Pharsiees and base heretics, but you’re still on record as saying that those who esteem and privilege the categories of faith, creed, institution, decorum and order, and the means of grace are given to laze and disobedience. That seems like a soft version of unregenerate.

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  23. RS: But why would I say that all old-siders were Pharsiees and base heretics and so on when I don’t believe that?

    RS: Remember what Jesus (New Sider) said to the Old Siders of His time(Pharisees). “Woe to you hypocrites.”

    Sean; That’s a good question Richard. I’m probably being too sensitive. Another good reason to have your own blog where you wouldn’t have to endure the continuous mischaracterization.

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  24. RS, I don’t feel that you really heard me here. I was talking about conversion narratives and you responded with good works. Apples and oranges.

    So again:

    JRC: the New Siders demanded evidence not merely of faith (confession) and sanctified life, but of a definite dramatic conversion experience. (emph add)

    A conversion experience is not a good work.

    The New Siders weren’t content with the very criteria you laid out above, good works as evidence of faith. They wanted something even more.

    While you’re thinking along these lines, reflect on this also: if you really believe that no-one can come to faith apart from being regenerated, then a confession of faith is evidence of having been born again.

    Ah, you say, talk is cheap. Sure. But talk about a conversion experience is just as cheap as talk about what one believes. And actually, it’s cheaper. If you confess what you believe, I can ask questions to find out whether you understand what you confess. If you talk about a conversion experience, you are in the mushy world of subjective experiences.

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  25. mikelmann: Is it not the height of censoriousness to declare an orthodox minister to be unregenerate?

    RS: What do you mean by orthodox? One that says he upholds the WCF? Is orthodoxy the standard that Jesus and the apostles used to determine what a Christian really was? Have you ever known of a conservative and orthodox minister who later left the faith?

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  26. Zrim: Richard, I always wonder what makes you think Scripture doesn’t apply to semi-revivalism.

    RS: Of course it applies.

    Zrim: And you may not believe that all old-siders were Pharsiees and base heretics, but you’re still on record as saying that those who esteem and privilege the categories of faith, creed, institution, decorum and order, and the means of grace are given to laze and disobedience. That seems like a soft version of unregenerate.

    RS: However you want to use and use again that statement, there was a context to it. I also did not say anything quite like what you just said I was on record as saying.

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  27. Jeff Cagle: RS, I don’t feel that you really heard me here.

    RS: I know the feeling, but I am surprised that you are talking about feeling. I thought I was the one that was supposed to do that.

    Jeff Cagle: I was talking about conversion narratives and you responded with good works. Apples and oranges.

    RS: Not really, from my vantage point, but I can see how you would think so. I was responding to the idea of a profession of faith and how it has to be more than that.

    Jeff Cagle: So again:

    JRC: the New Siders demanded evidence not merely of faith (confession) and sanctified life, but of a definite dramatic conversion experience. (emph add)

    A conversion experience is not a good work.

    RS: Allow me to say something which is not what you are meaning, but it does have something to do with the discussion. A conversion is a good work but it is the good work of God. A soul that is converted experiences (it actually happens to that person) the good work of God.

    Where do we see them demanding evidence of something dramatic? I have read Edwards warn that while some people have “dramatic” conversions others don’t. He did not demand a dramatic experience.

    Jeff Cagle: The New Siders weren’t content with the very criteria you laid out above, good works as evidence of faith. They wanted something even more.

    While you’re thinking along these lines, reflect on this also: if you really believe that no-one can come to faith apart from being regenerated, then a confession of faith is evidence of having been born again.

    RS: I would argue that true faith is evidence, but that a profession of faith is not sufficient evidence. As in the parable of the sower or of the soil, there is much joy with some at first but then they fall away.

    Jeff Cagle: Ah, you say, talk is cheap. Sure. But talk about a conversion experience is just as cheap as talk about what one believes. And actually, it’s cheaper. If you confess what you believe, I can ask questions to find out whether you understand what you confess. If you talk about a conversion experience, you are in the mushy world of subjective experiences.

    RS: I would argue that your concept of conversion experience (focus on the experience part) is quite a bit different than that of those in the Great Awakening. The word “experience” is not a nasty word that is limited to the world of charismania. It can refer to practical knowledge such as one that gains knowledge by practice. That is how you get experienced mechanics. When God acts on a soul, that soul experiences what God is doing versus not experiencing it. It is something that happens to the soul. When I say that I experience pain, I am speaking of something that is really happening to me. What God does to the soul is not in the ” mushy world of subjective experiences.” It is God working and it is objective truth.

    If I go to court and testify before a jury that person X (most likely an old lifer) used a bat to break my leg, I am testifying to an objective fact and what actually happened. It can be spoken of as an experience, but it is still an objective fact. When God wounds a soul and humbles it, the person experiences that but it is an objective work of God as well. So when Jesus taught us that we must be converted/turned and become like little children to enter the kingdom, a person must really and truly become like a little child to enter the kingdom. If it did not happen to the person, then they did not really experience it and it is not an objective fact. The work of the Spirit is joy (just one mentioined here). Is the joy of the human soul an experience (happened to them) of the soul and an objective work of what God has done in them? I say yes. One cannot have one without the other.

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  28. Richard, I’ve known revivalists who left the faith.

    BTW, you keep assuming that the Old Side was flawed. Why? Because they didn’t care for another pastor telling their church members to find another church? You know, Tennent did eventually apologize. Jesus didn’t.

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  29. D. G. Hart: Richard, I’ve known revivalists who left the faith.

    RS: Thanks for more evidence that a mere profession is not enough.

    D.G. Hart: BTW, you keep assuming that the Old Side was flawed. Why?

    RS: Because anything with “old” in the name has got to be wrong? I guess I have read more from the other side. Some wanted all men to be trained in their schools even though they were considered liberal. Some of them resisted the Awakening to a great degree.

    D.G. Hart: Because they didn’t care for another pastor telling their church members to find another church?

    RS: But if Tennent was right in the sermon, some of the men in the pastorates were unconverted. Would you have a problem telling a person going to a church with an unconverted minister to go to a church with a converted minister?

    D.G. Hart: You know, Tennent did eventually apologize. Jesus didn’t.

    RS: I have heard that he did, but I have not found a record of it. There are apologies that are limited to portions of what was said, there are general apologies, there are specfic apologies, and then there are apologies for everything. I would be interested in reading the actual apology. So if Tennent apologized and Jesus didn’t apologize for what Tennent did, I guess that means Tennent was right in the sermon and wrong in the apology.

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  30. But, Richard, I cannot think of an ordinary context in which a confessionalist would suggest impiety on the part of a semi-revivalist. Misguidance, imprudence, immaturity, to be sure, but short of actually demonstrating it, not disobedience and unregeneracy. And if Scripture applies critically to semi-revivalism, I wonder how.

    You also tell Jeff that true faith is evidence, but that a profession of faith is not sufficient evidence. This is puzzling. When I publicly made vows to my wife, it was sufficient evidence for her of inward reality. And the sound marriage that has ensued seems to only confirm that the previous profession was indeed sufficient at the time. But the semi-revivalist demand for extra evidences beyond profession and good works seems like the wife who is not content with vows followed by faithfulness and wants some adolescent put-ons along the way. Confessionalism seems like the adult form of faith, semi-revivalism the juvenile form. Doesn’t the Bible call for a mature faith, as opposed to immature?

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  31. Zrim: But, Richard, I cannot think of an ordinary context in which a confessionalist would suggest impiety on the part of a semi-revivalist. Misguidance, imprudence, immaturity, to be sure, but short of actually demonstrating it, not disobedience and unregeneracy. And if Scripture applies critically to semi-revivalism, I wonder how.

    RS: It has been suggested over and over again that revivalism in any form was nothing more than experience oriented and quite foreign to true Christianity.

    Zrim: You also tell Jeff that true faith is evidence, but that a profession of faith is not sufficient evidence. This is puzzling.

    RS: Allow me to put a few of the pieces together. A profession is nothing more than words and can come from a heart that is or is not regenerate. True faith is more than words.

    Zrim: When I publicly made vows to my wife, it was sufficient evidence for her of inward reality.

    RS: Yes, and how high is the divorce rate these days? Simply saying that the words themselves are not enough. But then if person A kept telling your wife that he loved her and then continued to run around on her and beat her (as is rather common I hear), what does that say about the profession?

    Zrim: And the sound marriage that has ensued seems to only confirm that the previous profession was indeed sufficient at the time.

    RS: But the sound marriage is evidence of something that the words were not.

    Zrim: But the semi-revivalist demand for extra evidences beyond profession and good works seems like the wife who is not content with vows followed by faithfulness and wants some adolescent put-ons along the way.

    RS: Then Jesus and Paul wanted some adolescent put-ons. They certainly wanted far more than mere words. Again, on that day there will be many who call out to Him saying “Lord, Lord.” There is a profession and there is correct theology. But the will be told to depart.

    Zrim: Confessionalism seems like the adult form of faith, semi-revivalism the juvenile form. Doesn’t the Bible call for a mature faith, as opposed to immature?

    RS: Sorry, but I think you have it backwards yet again. I suppose I should not say too much on this because you will misquote me again and again. The Bible does indeed call for a mature faith, but it does not give us confessionalism as what a mature form is.

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  32. Richard,

    You seem to assume that an appeal to ‘formalism(confessionalism as championed at this blog)necessarily and/or potentially entails a denial or obfuscation of ‘spiritual’, ‘invisible'(The spirit blows where it wills…) work. Confessionalists deny any such necessary or even secondarily considered, dichotomy between the two. The general principle at play is that we’re compelled by scripture to seek God through his ‘ordinary’ means(word preached, sacraments rightly administered). God Himself is FREE to work and do as He wishes. We, Church visible and militant, are NOT FREE to seek Him outside of the ordinary means listed prior. Think RPW. The argument really is nothing more than this. So, although one may hide behind his confession to the damnation of his soul (tare), scripture does not then offer an alternative to avoid such a conclusion, considered ecclesially(new word). Still, the mandate goes out to make disciples, baptizing them in the name of the triune God and elevates the preaching of the word as the preeminent means for doing so. And then enjoins converts/faithful to submit themselves to the polity of the faith community(elders and deacons given for their building up) and see to their rightly partaking of the Lord’s supper. Does God work outside these means? Yes. In such a way as to constitute a prescriptive counsel to pursue Him outside those means? No. Did the revivalism of the first and second great awakening often seek pursuit of God outside of these God-ordained polities and means? Undeniably so. The second more aggregious than the first.

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  33. RS: Where do we see them demanding evidence of something dramatic? I have read Edwards warn that while some people have “dramatic” conversions others don’t.

    Edwards is not your best example. Religious Affections is written to warn people *off* of the idea that dramatic conversions are necessary for genuine religious affection, while carving out space for legitimate affections of various sorts.

    Edwards was to the old side of the New Side.

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  34. Jeff Cagle quoting RS: Where do we see them demanding evidence of something dramatic? I have read Edwards warn that while some people have “dramatic” conversions others don’t.

    Edwards is not your best example. Religious Affections is written to warn people *off* of the idea that dramatic conversions are necessary for genuine religious affection, while carving out space for legitimate affections of various sorts.

    Edwards was to the old side of the New Side.

    RS: But many consider him as the main figure of the Great Awakening. He also trained several men in his home.

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  35. Richard, it’s one thing to say revivalism is indeed foreign to Christianity, quite another to suggest its champions are unregenerate. And that was my point. Can semi-revivalists simultaneously bring their criticisms to bear on confessionalism and show enough restraint not to poison wells? It seems to be a challenge.

    But in the marriage analogy you speak the way romanticists do—aren’t we supposed to be counter-cultural? It’s good for selling sentimentality in novels and movies, but it’s still not clear how it fosters either healthy expectations of marriage or maturity in faith. I didn’t say rote vows were sufficient. I said public vows are sufficient to indicate inward realities and that good works serve to affirm said words. How does the mistreatment of wives on the part of some diminish the sufficiency of vows and good works from others? And yes, goats and sheep will be separated, and some goats will include those who claim orthodoxy, but don’t you think they will also include those with orthoaffections?

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  36. sean: Richard, You seem to assume that an appeal to ‘formalism (confessionalism as championed at this blog) necessarily and/or potentially entails a denial or obfuscation of ‘spiritual’, ‘invisible’ (The spirit blows where it wills…) work. Confessionalists deny any such necessary or even secondarily considered, dichotomy between the two.

    RS: I can only say that Confessionalism as such does nott seem to speak with a unified voice. Perhaps we could say that some do and some don’t.

    Sean: The general principle at play is that we’re compelled by scripture to seek God through his ‘ordinary’ means (word preached, sacraments rightly administered). God Himself is FREE to work and do as He wishes. We, Church visible and militant, are NOT FREE to seek Him outside of the ordinary means listed prior. Think RPW. The argument really is nothing more than this.

    RS: But there are other means and I think you would agree. Prayer, repentance, fasting, and things like that are means of seeking God. In seeking a true revival people pray and fast and seek God to do what only He can do. It is true that they may call for special seasons of pray and of preaching, but in the older times this was all done through the local church.

    Sean: So, although one may hide behind his confession to the damnation of his soul (tare), scripture does not then offer an alternative to avoid such a conclusion, considered ecclesially (new word).

    RS: But the Scripture never gives us a confession to hide behind in the first place. What it does is give us places like II Cor 13:5 and the book of I John (and others) to help us in developing biblical conclusions.

    Sean: Still, the mandate goes out to make disciples, baptizing them in the name of the triune God and elevates the preaching of the word as the preeminent means for doing so.

    RS: Without getting into the baptism issue, still what we have is a command to baptize disciples. Surely the New Testament gives us some things to help determine who those disciples are.

    Sean: And then enjoins converts/faithful to submit themselves to the polity of the faith community(elders and deacons given for their building up) and see to their rightly partaking of the Lord’s supper. Does God work outside these means? Yes. In such a way as to constitute a prescriptive counsel to pursue Him outside those means? No. Did the revivalism of the first and second great awakening often seek pursuit of God outside of these God-ordained polities and means? Undeniably so. The second more aggregious than the first.

    RS: The first Great Awakening had men who were solid and those who were not. I simply cannot see hardly anything wrong with the way they carried out what they did. Sure enough some went too far, but that is not to say that they went far out of the boundaries. The second GA was a mixture with men like Asahel Nettleton strongly opposing Finney and those on his side. At the risk of some calling me judgmental, I don’t consider Finney to have been a Christian. He was a clear Pelagian in denying original sin and thinking that he could convince men to be converted. The difference between Edwards and Finny is the difference between night and day. Might I add that had people examined Finney more closely perhaps he would not have been ordained so quickly. They accepted his profession of believing the WCF without asking any real questions to determine that.

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  37. RS, that’s fine, but you’re shifting ground. The issue on the table is the New Side, and Edwards is not a good representative of the New Side.

    The specific thing that was objectionable about the New Side, and revivalists in general, is that they tried to use conversion narratives to make judgments about the genuineness of professions of faith.

    Edwards had to write Religious Affections in part to push back against that practice.

    Sorry, but I still think you aren’t listening carefully here. You seem to be reading me and Zrim as saying “A confession of faith is enough.”

    That’s not what we’re saying.

    We’re saying, “A confession of faith, followed by evidence of a sanctified life, is enough.”

    A conversion account adds nothing to those things.

    As an example of the “not listening”, take a look at this exchange again:

    Zrim: But the semi-revivalist demand for extra evidences beyond profession and good works seems like the wife who is not content with vows followed by faithfulness and wants some adolescent put-ons along the way.

    RS: Then Jesus and Paul wanted some adolescent put-ons. They certainly wanted far more than mere words. Again, on that day there will be many who call out to Him saying “Lord, Lord.” There is a profession and there is correct theology. But the will be told to depart.

    What did Zrim say? words + deeds. vow + faithfulness. What did you translate him as saying? mere words.

    Attention is to be paid.

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  38. Zrim: Richard, it’s one thing to say revivalism is indeed foreign to Christianity, quite another to suggest its champions are unregenerate.

    RS: If a person is foreign to Christianity, then a person is foreign to Christ. All those who are foreign to Christ are unregenerate.

    Zrim: And that was my point. Can semi-revivalists simultaneously bring their criticisms to bear on confessionalism and show enough restraint not to poison wells? It seems to be a challenge.

    RS: If the wells are already poisoned…

    Zrim: But in the marriage analogy you speak the way romanticists do—aren’t we supposed to be counter-cultural? It’s good for selling sentimentality in novels and movies, but it’s still not clear how it fosters either healthy expectations of marriage or maturity in faith. I didn’t say rote vows were sufficient. I said public vows are sufficient to indicate inward realities and that good works serve to affirm said words. How does the mistreatment of wives on the part of some diminish the sufficiency of vows and good works from others?

    RS: Simply put, they took the vows and perhaps meant them at the time. But something changed. The same thing is true of those making professions of faith as the parable of the sower clearly shows us.

    Zrim: And yes, goats and sheep will be separated, and some goats will include those who claim orthodoxy, but don’t you think they will also include those with orthoaffections?

    RS: No. All with orthoaffections are truly converted. If the affections that person A has are orthodox affections, then they are the work of the Holy Spirit who will only work orthoaffections in the regenerate.. Since all who have true love are converted and regenerate (I John 4:7-8) and there is true affection in true love, all who have orthoaffections are regenerate.

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  39. Jeff Cagle: What did Zrim say? words + deeds. vow + faithfulness. What did you translate him as saying? mere words.

    Attention is to be paid.

    RS: I have to “run”, but for the moment a short answer. A mere profession followed by good works is not necessarily evidence of conversion. There must be good works, but the Pharisees did good works as well. A profession of faith is simply words. Good works can be a person working away trying to be good enough. What that can lead to is a person saying that he believes a creed and then doing good works to prove it. That is not what true conversion is about.

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  40. RS: Might I add that had people examined Finney more closely perhaps he would not have been ordained so quickly. They accepted his profession of believing the WCF without asking any real questions to determine that.

    So in other words, if the presbyters of St. Lawrence Presbytery had actually considered the confession to be standards, rather than just one more voice among many, then they might have kept the church from Finney’s harm?

    I agree. Confessions are a good thing.

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  41. @Jeff

    I should say, though, that the Old Siders had their issues, too. What’s up with tolerating Unitarianism while rejecting revivalism?!

    Unitarians were old money, revivalists were poor?

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  42. Richard, conversion for some of the “old” men was not the dramatic, instantaneous kind that Whitefield and Tennent advocated. Remember, conversion is synonymous with sanctification. If someone grew up thinking about conversion as a life-long process and disagreed with Tennent’s novel definition, it’s a little rich for Tennent to tell him he is unregenerate.

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  43. Richard, so true doctrine is vulnerable but true affections are unassailable? How are these true affections demonstrated and measured?

    You also seem to think that to be a Pharisee was to be unregenerate, thus even when they demonstrated good works it had to be out of hypocrisy. But have you considered the possibility that some weren’t hypocrites? If that’s true then Jesus’ point isn’t so much that confession and works are insufficient to indicate inward realities as it is to up the ante and say that all are natural hypocrites—some whitewash with doctrine, some with affections (think long and showy public prayers). Cover ups are always bad, but that doesn’t mean conventional religious structures and expressions are fundamentally flawed and need to be replaced by subjective religious experience. It means convention has to be accompanied with authenticity.

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  44. Jeff, my guess is that Richard means Finney needed to be examined for orthodox affections. At least, that’s what his words imply here about the superiority and unassailability of affections to doctrine.

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  45. RS:I have to “run”, but for the moment a short answer. A mere profession followed by good works is not necessarily evidence of conversion. There must be good works, but the Pharisees did good works as well. A profession of faith is simply words. Good works can be a person working away trying to be good enough. What that can lead to is a person saying that he believes a creed and then doing good works to prove it. That is not what true conversion is about.

    MM: When you are done running, tell us, then, what we need beyond profession and good works. A dramatic conversion story? X-ray glasses? You speak of orthoaffections, but what makes an account of those any more reliable than a profession? You want to see the unseen, and that endeavor is one cause of censoriousness,among other horribles.

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  46. Jeff Cagle wrote: “So Richard, what other evidence would you point to? We have profession of faith and the evidence of life lived. Those aren’t enough, so…?”

    GW: Good questions Jeff. It seems to me that our pro-revival brother Richard just does not seem to grasp that no consistent confessionalist believes that profession of orthodox faith accompanied by a life of good works is, in itself, infallible proof that one is regenerate. (Either he doesn’t grasp it or he seems unwilling to take us at our word on this matter.) In terms of infallible proof of regeneration, credible profession of faith and good works are not sufficient. (For all I know the most outwardly godly servant of Christ I can think of with a track record of extraordinary good works and highly useful service to Christ’s gospel and church may in fact be an unregenerate hypocrite at heart, whose hypocrisy may not be exposed until the judgment day.) But then again, no man or church is equipped to make such infallible judgments about the souls of others, since the only ones who can know with infallible assurance that a person is regenerate is God and that person. Simon the Magician comes to mind in this connection. He was judged by the apostolic church to have made a credible, “sufficient” profession of faith and was thus welcomed into the church by baptism; but he soon showed his true colors as one who was still “in the gall of bitterness and bond of iniquity.” Were the apostles wrong in initially accepting his profession of faith? Did they baptize him too soon? Should they have applied more rigorous tests in an attempt to infallibly judge the state of his soul? I think not (though our brother Richard may disagree).

    I can examine myself scripturally and prayerfully and thus (with the aid of Word and Spirit) judge of the state of my own soul (as per 2 Cor. 13:5; 2 Pet. 1:10; 1 Jn; etc.). But when it comes to others I am limited as both a creature and an imperfectly sanctified saint to judging the externals (i.e., a credible profession of faith and a life consistent with said Christian profession). Since I do not possess the attribute of omniscience, nor do I possess some special revivalist gift of spiritual ESP which enables me to read the minds and souls of others, I can only look at the outward fruit as a looking glass into the inward root. And even when looking at the fruits/evidences, I believe Scripture expects me to do so with the “judgment of charity” (i.e., believing the best about the one professing faith unless and until there are good, observable reasons to doubt that profession). After all, wasn’t that how the apostolic church dealt with the likes of Simon?

    Requring extra-scriptural tests of regeneration (as promoters of revival and hyper-subjectivist puritan types do), such as intense experiences of conviction of sin, the discerning of lively religious affections, a crisis conversion experience, etc., has had (in my opinion) the effect of ministering doubt (rather than faith) to otherwise believing and obedient covenant children; of driving “bruised reeds” prone to a hyper-sensitive conscience into depression (and even to the brink of despair); of leading earnest believers to spiritual burnout; and in general of wreaking great havoc in the visible church. (Not that my own “experience” is the measure of truth, but I speak as a “recovering revivalist” who has himself had much personal experience maneuvering through the endless labyrinth of doubts and unsettling fears brought on by the subjectivist excesses of “experimental Calvinism” and hyper-introspective puritanism. My only hope is found in the objective biblical-historical Christ revealed in the gospel Word and symbols, and embraced by an “extraspective” faith alone; not in my introspective assesment of my own religious affections.)

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  47. This discussion makes me anxious to receive Hart & Muether’s 300 year history of Presbyterianism in the mail. That thing is really holding it’s value online. I paid over $20 including shipping for a used copy. Sorry, D.G.

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  48. D. G. Hart: Richard, conversion for some of the “old” men was not the dramatic, instantaneous kind that Whitefield and Tennent advocated. Remember, conversion is synonymous with sanctification.

    RS: If conversion at that time was thought of as synonymous with sanctification, then it had changed since the Puritans. For example, Baxter’s Treatise on Conversion.

    D. G. Hart: If someone grew up thinking about conversion as a life-long process and disagreed with Tennent’s novel definition, it’s a little rich for Tennent to tell him he is unregenerate.

    RS: Are you so sure that Tennent’s definition was novel? If I read things correctly, there were men who were on Whitefield and Tennent for teaching the new birth at all. Do you consider Charles Chauncey and Old Light guy?

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  49. Jeff Cagle
    Posted September 12, 2012 at 3:33 pm | Permalink
    RS: Might I add that had people examined Finney more closely perhaps he would not have been ordained so quickly. They accepted his profession of believing the WCF without asking any real questions to determine that.

    So in other words, if the presbyters of St. Lawrence Presbytery had actually considered the confession to be standards, rather than just one more voice among many, then they might have kept the church from Finney’s harm?

    I agree. Confessions are a good thing.

    RS: Touche.

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  50. Zrim: Richard, so true doctrine is vulnerable but true affections are unassailable? How are these true affections demonstrated and measured?

    RS: No, true affections are not unassailable in the sense you are using them. I am not sure affections can be measured, but one can generally know when they are high and when they are low. But again, if true affections are the work of the Holy Spirit, then they are the work of God in the soul of man and are not the same thing as mushy feelings.

    Zrim: You also seem to think that to be a Pharisee was to be unregenerate, thus even when they demonstrated good works it had to be out of hypocrisy. But have you considered the possibility that some weren’t hypocrites?

    RS: I am not aware of any pointed out in the NT other than Nicodemus and then Paul. These men prayed, gave alms, and fasted all the while doing it for the wrong motives and reasons. Jesus blasted them like no other and referred to them as hypocrites. I tend to think that His opinion should be the standard.

    Zrim: If that’s true then Jesus’ point isn’t so much that confession and works are insufficient to indicate inward realities as it is to up the ante and say that all are natural hypocrites—some whitewash with doctrine, some with affections (think long and showy public prayers). Cover ups are always bad, but that doesn’t mean conventional religious structures and expressions are fundamentally flawed and need to be replaced by subjective religious experience. It means convention has to be accompanied with authenticity.

    RS: If religious experience (something that happens to the person that is from the hand of God) is truly from the hand of God, then it is not just subjective but is an objective work of God. How is that substantially different from a person saying that s/he believes a creed or confession? They are having a rather subjective experience of reading and then the impression from reading the document.

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  51. Zrim: Jeff, my guess is that Richard means Finney needed to be examined for orthodox affections. At least, that’s what his words imply here about the superiority and unassailability of affections to doctrine.

    RS: You guessed wrong for the most part. But again, please read what I wrote on that issue. I did not imply that affections are superior to doctrine and are unassailable.

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  52. mikelmann: When you are done running, tell us, then, what we need beyond profession and good works.

    RS: Could it be true that a person could make a profession of faith and do many good things and not be converted? Beyond a profession one must have Christ and must have the imputed righteousness of Christ. Good works never saved anyone and a mere profession never saved anyone. A person must have Christ. The question, then, has to do whether a person has Christ or not. The focus is on Christ and not my profession or my good works.

    MM: A dramatic conversion story? X-ray glasses?

    RS: X-ray glasses are a must for determining true conversion. If one does not have those, then they are lost.

    MM: You speak of orthoaffections, but what makes an account of those any more reliable than a profession? You want to see the unseen, and that endeavor is one cause of censoriousness,among other horribles.

    RS: I believe that was Zrim who brought that one up. A profession can be nothing more than mere words, but true love for God (which has some affection) is something a person cannot have apart from the work of God in the soul. While the love itself is unseen to the physical eye, that it is totally guesswork. Believers are to walk by faith rather than sight. One aspect of faith is that it is the eye of the soul. Notice the language or word choices in the verses below. “Looking” and “seeing” are attributed to faith.

    Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

    Heb 11:24 By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, 25 choosing rather to endure ill-treatment with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, 26 considering the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; for he was looking to the reward. 27 By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured, as seeing Him who is unseen.

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  53. Geoff Willour: Jeff Cagle wrote: “So Richard, what other evidence would you point to? We have profession of faith and the evidence of life lived. Those aren’t enough, so…?”

    GW: Good questions Jeff. It seems to me that our pro-revival brother Richard just does not seem to grasp that no consistent confessionalist believes that profession of orthodox faith accompanied by a life of good works is, in itself, infallible proof that one is regenerate. (Either he doesn’t grasp it or he seems unwilling to take us at our word on this matter.)

    RS: This is all I am being presented with so far. I am told that a profession is enough, but then that good works must be there as well. So far those are the the things that have been presented.

    GW: Since I do not possess the attribute of omniscience, nor do I possess some special revivalist gift of spiritual ESP which enables me to read the minds and souls of others, I can only look at the outward fruit as a looking glass into the inward root. And even when looking at the fruits/evidences, I believe Scripture expects me to do so with the “judgment of charity” (i.e., believing the best about the one professing faith unless and until there are good, observable reasons to doubt that profession). After all, wasn’t that how the apostolic church dealt with the likes of Simon?

    RS: GW, let me ask you a question in order to give you something to think about. In John 13:35 Jesus said that all men will know you are my disciples if you have love for one another (from memory, so maybe not exact wording). Is it possible for unbelievers to know the disciples of Christ apart from a profession and good works? Is is possible for believers to know others are believers apart from a profession and good works?

    I John 4: 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has seen God at any time; if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us.
    13 By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit.

    RS: In the passage just above, how did people know that they and others were believers?

    1 John 5:1 Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and whoever loves the Father loves the child born of Him.
    2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and observe His commandments.
    3 For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome.

    RS: In the passage just above, how can we know that we are true children of God? Is it by a profession of faith and good works?

    1 John 5:13 These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.

    RS: In the passage just above it gives us at least one main reason that John wrote this book. It is so that people could know that they have eternal life. Notice the use of the phrase “eternal life” and the way it is used in this book. In 5:20 eternal life is identified as Jesus Christ. This is not a mere profession and it is not just good works.

    1 John 3:10 By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother.

    RS: Could it be true that is is rather obvious who the children of God are if we know what to look for? Isn’t that what the text says? If that is not what it means, then what does it mean? I am not claiming it is obvious to me, but I am saying that the text is clear.

    GW: My only hope is found in the objective biblical-historical Christ revealed in the gospel Word and symbols, and embraced by an “extraspective” faith alone; not in my introspective assesment of my own religious affections.)

    RS: Fine, but realize what the verses in I John says above. Eternal life is something that dwells in you and is not just something out there. The love of God dwells in people and abides in them. It is not just something out there. What God works in the soul is not just something out there and is not just something subjective, but instead is an objective work that He does. A true religious affection is the work of God in the soul and is not just some subjective thing.

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  54. Jeff Cagle: RS, I hope I’m not being too aggressive here.

    RS: Listen, I am not easily offended (which just means responding in anger). I have found that I learn from people in discussions like these. Discussions, even heated to some degree, are great ways of learning. You are not too agressive at all. Thanks for taking the time to be engaged in this discussion and ask provocative (in a good way) questions.

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  55. Erik Charter: This discussion makes me anxious to receive Hart & Muether’s 300 year history of Presbyterianism in the mail. That thing is really holding it’s value online. I paid over $20 including shipping for a used copy. Sorry, D.G.

    RS: You confessionalists are always in violation of Scripture.
    Philippians 4:6 Be anxious for nothing,

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  56. RS: GW, let me ask you a question in order to give you something to think about. In John 13:35 Jesus said that all men will know you are my disciples if you have love for one another (from memory, so maybe not exact wording). Is it possible for unbelievers to know the disciples of Christ apart from a profession and good works? Is is possible for believers to know others are believers apart from a profession and good works?

    GW: Yes, love among professed disciples of Christ is how the world can “know” that we are His disciples. His point is that love of brethren is a sign of our discipleship before the world. I don’t think He is saying that we can infallibly “know” the heart condition of others. (After all, those in the flesh can manufacture what seems on the surface to be genuine Christian love; and tares can look a lot like wheat.)

    Now let me ask you a question: What about my questions with respect to Simon the Magician? Was the apostolic church wrong in admitting him to the privilege of baptism?

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  57. Jeff Cagle: Sorry, but I still think you aren’t listening carefully here. You seem to be reading me and Zrim as saying “A confession of faith is enough.”

    RS: You sound like my wife.

    Jeff Cagle: That’s not what we’re saying. We’re saying, “A confession of faith, followed by evidence of a sanctified life, is enough.” A conversion account adds nothing to those things.

    RS: Okay, I see what you are saying. I will see if I can be more clear, but it takes more typing to do so. Sigh. I have heard repeatedly here that if a person professes faith (in line with the confession) then a person is thought to be converted. If a person keeps coming to church and professing the confession, that person will be thought to be converted. Hence the thought that as long as they come to church they are converted. I am arguing that this is nothing more than words.

    Now if we bring in good works, how do we know that the other person is doing good works? Zrim has argued that the Sunday meetings of the church are enough and nothing else needs to be done. In other words, we ask them about their good works and they say they have them. That is again nothing but words. But even if they did some works, does that really prove anything? Hence my use of the Pharisees as an example. They did a lot of works and certainly had a profession of faith, but they were unconverted men (for the most part).

    I am not arguing that a person must have a dramatic conversion with all kinds of affectional highs, though I would argue that those can happen. I do argue that the Bible tells us that we must have Christ dwelling in us and that we must have eternal life in us. It tells us that we are to look for those things and not simply give a profession and not simply do a few (or many) good works that will buttress our profession. We are told that Christians share in the divine life (II Peter 1:3-4), are partakers of the Spirit (Phil 1:7), and we share His holiness (Heb 12:10). Surely this has something to do with eternal life and it is the life of God in the soul of man (Henry Scougal).

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  58. Geoff Willour: Now let me ask you a question: What about my questions with respect to Simon the Magician? Was the apostolic church wrong in admitting him to the privilege of baptism?

    RS: I don’t know if they were wrong to immerse him or not, but he was a magician. The text says almost nothing about it so I am a bit reticent to go too far. It is clear that he believed the historical facts about Jesus and Phillip baptized him. I would assume that in such a context of that with a man being so well-known about his magic and all that some sign of repentance would have been immediate. I can only say that they were mistaken.

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  59. RS, it just now occurs to me that I look at this discussion as answering the question “What should/may a church look for in a candidate for membership?” As far as that goes, I can’t look beyond profession and observable conduct. But I’m less sure that is your quest(ion) here. Are you talking about what, in the abstract, a Christian is, regardless of whether an outsider can see it? I hope you have different answers to these two questions.

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  60. RS; If a person keeps coming to church and professing the confession, that person will be thought to be converted. Hence the thought that as long as they come to church they are converted. I am arguing that this is nothing more than words.

    Sean: I see here an inherent discounting from you of an evangelical obedience of; not forsaking the gathering together of believer, an ordinary means, in favor of a more pietistic(in your scheme) affectation. You portray such behavior as rote and particularly given to fraudulence whereas as a passage such as Matt 7:21-23

    22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’

    points to the more dramatic, and sensational as more susceptible to fraud than the ordinary.

    BTW, for what it’s worth, this seems confirmed in my experiences as an officer in the church in dealing with marginal or false confessors. Generally, the first thing to falter is regular attendance or sincere appreciation for or valuing of ‘rote’ means.

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  61. Richard, I have not said “that the Sunday meetings of the church are enough and nothing else needs to be done.” What I have said is that worship is the principle good work of all believers (which means there are other necessary good works, even if they are secondary), and so a regular practicing of that work should actually count more toward evidence of true faith than to be cast as evidence of laze and disobedience. This casting plays well to an age that prizes affections and experience over faith and obedience, but the Bible actually does the reverse.

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  62. mikelmann: RS, it just now occurs to me that I look at this discussion as answering the question “What should/may a church look for in a candidate for membership?” As far as that goes, I can’t look beyond profession and observable conduct. But I’m less sure that is your quest(ion) here. Are you talking about what, in the abstract, a Christian is, regardless of whether an outsider can see it? I hope you have different answers to these two questions.

    RS: It started off with my responding to one part of Dr. Hart’s post. I will give that just below.

    D. G. Hart: And unlike Tim, I know that the Old Siders he disparages actually reacted the way that Tim Bayly would if a new church started right down the road, and if the new pastor said that members at Clearnote Fellowship should leave their congregation to worship at Clearword Church because Tim Bayly was an unregenerate hypocrite (which is what Gilbert Tennent said about Old Siders).

    RS (original post): But then again, there was some disparagment coming toward the Tennents from the other side. Who knows, maybe some of those men were unregenerate. Remember what Jesus (New Sider) said to the Old Siders of His time. “Woe to you hypocrites.” Just because something is old does not make it true or false as well as just because something is new and exciting does not make it true or false.

    I just read Tennent’s sermon on the Danger of an Unconverted Ministry. I read it quickly, but could not find where he specifically mentioned the Old Side or Old Lights. He spoke of Pharisee minsters and unconverted ministers, but a specific application to a particular group I did not find. Again, I read it quickly. But could it be that the Old Siders or Old Lights were just too sensitive in all this? Jesus told us that we would be mocked and made fun of, not to mention that we would be hated.

    RS: That was the start of things. So it began with how can you call a professing believer a hypocrite or unregenerate and then went to how can you do that to an orthodox minster. But now it appears to be on how can one call anyone an unbeliever as long as they are attending church and confess the confession.

    But as to your choice (mikelmann) of two possible questions:
    Possibility 1: What should/may a church look for in a candidate for membership?” As far as that goes, I can’t look beyond profession and observable conduct.
    Possibility 2: Are you talking about what, in the abstract, a Christian is, regardless of whether an outsider can see it? I hope you have different answers to these two questions.

    RS: Depending on the person, it appears that it may be both. I would disagree, however, with your answer to P. 1. I would think that the leadership of the church would help the candidate examine his or her heart in the matter. Sure the person must have a profession, but that must be a credible profession and requires more than some simple answers to simple questions. The issues of the heart should be addressed rather than left unaddressed. I would think that the leadership would want to help the person in these things. If they don’t, then who will?

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  63. Zrim: Richard, I have not said “that the Sunday meetings of the church are enough and nothing else needs to be done.”

    RS: But remember my question (so long ago) was is making a profession, going to church on Sunday, and taking the sacrament enough? Your answer provoked my statement that you have twisted (I am not saying on purpose) and brought back to me a few different times. What I said was that if all a person did was confess the Confession, came to church on Sunday, and take the sacrament that person was spiritually lazy. That brought a reaction that continued. Now when I say that your position is ” that the Sunday meetings of the church are enough and nothing else needs to be done”, you react a bit. The only thing I left out from the original discussion was the confessing and the sacrament. I have noticed that you did not mention those below.

    Zrim: What I have said is that worship is the principle good work of all believers (which means there are other necessary good works, even if they are secondary), and so a regular practicing of that work should actually count more toward evidence of true faith than to be cast as evidence of laze and disobedience. This casting plays well to an age that prizes affections and experience over faith and obedience, but the Bible actually does the reverse.

    RS: But there is no true obedience apart from love and there is an affection that goes along with love. The Greatest Commandment is to love God with all of your heart, mind, soul, and strength. There is no obedience apart from that. So the Bible does not actually do the reverse, but instead never teaches us that we can be obedient apart from the Greatest Commandment. I am still puzzled why you continue to view experience as a bad thing. When God works regeneration in the soul, the soul experiences regeneration. If the soul does not experience regeneration, God has not worked it. To denigrate experience and the affections as much as you do sure seems to be an effort to prop up a form of rationalism and moralism. I know you don’t want to do that, but I am not sure what is left.

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  64. sean quoting RS; If a person keeps coming to church and professing the confession, that person will be thought to be converted. Hence the thought that as long as they come to church they are converted. I am arguing that this is nothing more than words.

    Sean: I see here an inherent discounting from you of an evangelical obedience of; not forsaking the gathering together of believer, an ordinary means, in favor of a more pietistic(in your scheme) affectation. You portray such behavior as rote and particularly given to fraudulence whereas as a passage such as Matt 7:21-23

    RS: But you see wrongly, then. I am arguing for a greater evangelical obedience. It means don’t for sake the gathering together of your bodies, but also bring your attention and your heart. Behavior apart from the heart is rote, but the actions need to be there as well.

    22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’

    Sean: points to the more dramatic, and sensational as more susceptible to fraud than the ordinary.

    RS: No, not so. Both are susceptible to the deceiving wiles of the evil one. Some are given more to impressions while some are given more to rationalism. I am trying to argue that both are necessary.

    SEan: BTW, for what it’s worth, this seems confirmed in my experiences as an officer in the church in dealing with marginal or false confessors. Generally, the first thing to falter is regular attendance or sincere appreciation for or valuing of ‘rote’ means.

    RS: I would argue that the heart was probably gone before the body stopped attending. You know, as Jesus said that where your treasure is that is where the heart is. But where the heart is, the body will follow. People get tired of rote attendance if their heart is not in it.

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  65. Richard, you know about Heidelberg on conversion, right? It’s mortification and vivification. Westminster doesn’t even mention conversion in the ordo. And Charles Chauncey was not and Old Side Presbyterian.

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  66. Richard and Erik, on be anxious for nothing, except if your an evangelist and trying to scare people into heaven, you know, as in the anxious bench or the terrors of the law.

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  67. Richard, you have used the phrase “mere words” several times in response to confessionalism. Why doesn’t mere words also apply to you? The point is that neither Whitefield nor John Thomson (an Old Sider) could see the heart. We are all only dealing with words and observations. Yet, you seem to think you have more insight into who is saved than anyone else.

    I am not saying this about you, but I find this notion to be incredibly naive and have seen it breed amazing self-righteousness. Those aren’t fruit of the Spirit.

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  68. D. G. Hart: Richard, you know about Heidelberg on conversion, right? It’s mortification and vivification. Westminster doesn’t even mention conversion in the ordo. And Charles Chauncey was not and Old Side Presbyterian.

    RS: Nevertheless, the Puritans used the term conversion to speak of the turning from sin to Christ.

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  69. D. G. Hart: Richard, you have used the phrase “mere words” several times in response to confessionalism. Why doesn’t mere words also apply to you?

    RS: It could, which is why people need to go deeper than just words. A profession can be mere words in the sense that the person saying them can be self-deceived. In the 1700’s Jacob Helffenstein wrote a book on Self-Deception. In it he quoted a few people (one being Jonathan Edwards) as saying that once a person became assured of salvation and was not truly converted, it was incredibly rare if it ever did happen for a person like that to ever be recovered from their deception. True love for the souls of others (which is a fruit of the Spirit) would seem to want us to be aware of these things and strive to help others.

    D.G. Hart: The point is that neither Whitefield nor John Thomson (an Old Sider) could see the heart. We are all only dealing with words and observations. Yet, you seem to think you have more insight into who is saved than anyone else.

    RS: No, just that the Bible has more to say on this than we are willing to allow for the most part.

    D.G. Hart: I am not saying this about you, but I find this notion to be incredibly naive and have seen it breed amazing self-righteousness. Those aren’t fruit of the Spirit.

    RS: I John was breathed forth by the Spirit. It tells us more than just let someone make a profession and do good works. True enough this type of thing could breed an amazing self-righteousness, but so can the doctrines of election and definite atonement. My argument is, once again, that the Bible tells us to go beyond those things.

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  70. RS: The difference between Edwards and Finny is the difference between night and day.

    Sean: That may be true theologically, but methodologically it is simply the case that much of the 2nd great awakenings new measures, in terms of modality and measuring progress of the newly ‘awakened’ sinner is directly tied to Edward’s formal developments of marking conversion, including measures such as the anxious bench, which have direct ties to the puritan’s doctrine and practice of preparationism.

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  71. sean
    Posted September 13, 2012 at 8:46 am | Permalink
    RS: The difference between Edwards and Finny is the difference between night and day.

    Sean: That may be true theologically, but methodologically it is simply the case that much of the 2nd great awakenings new measures, in terms of modality and measuring progress of the newly ‘awakened’ sinner is directly tied to Edward’s formal developments of marking conversion, including measures such as the anxious bench, which have direct ties to the puritan’s doctrine and practice of preparationism.

    RS: Edwards did not use the anxious bench. The practice of preparationism (as the Puritans and Edwards practiced it) would not allow for an anxious bench. I am not sure that they had a method of measuring progress. The practice of preparationism is not that the sinner can prepare himself for salvation, but that it is God working in the soul to strip the soul of all that it is trusting in. It was really a way that the soul could be broken and stripped of all that it held to that would keep the soul from resting in Christ. It was a way of using the means of grace which included prayer asking God to save the soul. But it would never allow for something like an anxious bench. Finney was a man with a completely different theology and so he had a different practice.

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  72. RS: I John was breathed forth by the Spirit. It tells us more than just let someone make a profession and do good works.

    Where exactly does 1 John say this? I wonder what you have in mind by “good works”?

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  73. Richard, what you seem to be doing all the way through this conversation is set pure hearts against empty words, which is fine since confessionalism has no qualms whatsoever with having to be born from above. But that’s the point, born from above. I can’t help but think that you are reading Jesus’ words about being born again with something of an ought-implies-can hermeneutic. But when Jesus is telling us we must be born again he’s doing the same thing he’s doing when he summarizes the law—raising the bar to show how impossibly unable we are, not to spurn us to even higher levels of piety (which is what all your “go above and beyond” rhetoric implies).

    Confessionalism agrees with you that sinners must be born again, but only by the power of the Spirit. It also diverges from semi-revivalism in how this is evidenced. Confessionalism says by an outward profession and obedience. You effectively say by having a pure heart. But how can inward reality evidence inward reality?

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  74. Richard,

    I’m aware of what preparationism is, but you’re misinformed in your attempts to disassociate various methodologies of the 2nd great awakening from Edward’s more formal attempts at detailing out the process and progress of conversions. Nettleton, Porter, Bradley and others relied on Edwards’ conversion narratives in both counseling and modeling their own evangelistic efforts.

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  75. Richard, Edwards may not have used the bench but he did scare the bejeebers out of people with Sinners in the Hand of an Angry God.

    What you don’t seem to recognize — Edwards aside — is that your relentless pursuit of authenticity makes people anxious. What do you say to someone who sins and claims to be a believer? Do you encourage them to question their faith, since how could they ever fall if they were in hot pursuit of holiness?

    What Finney’s bench did, your high bar does. It gives me the willies.

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  76. Richard, I don’t know how you do it. You’re either an extremely fast thinker with lightning fast fingers on the keypad, or you live behind your computer screen. On this (and many other) threads your comments tend to be numerous and lengthy (and you always seem to want to get in the last word). No offense, brother, but as one who himself can sometimes be guilty of spending too much time lurking on old life (got to get the log out of my own eye before I address the speck in yours!), may I suggest that you may want to consider whether your voluminous interactions on old life are really good stewardship of your time. After all, hasn’t it become clear to you that you’re not going to convince us confessionalists to adopt your (semi) revivalist views (just as it does not seem likely that we will convince you to adopt our position)? Why then spend (waste?) so much time, energy and space here on old life? (Of course, I’m not saying old life is a waste of time; far from it. But it is possible to spend too much time even on a good thing, no?)

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  77. Hear the gospel and believe it. Rely on Christ for righteousness. Attend church and witness/receive the sacraments. The Holy Spirit will work to sanctify you. No morbid introspection or great enthusiasm needed. Just keep plodding along until the day you die.

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  78. Geoff & Richard, I think Richard is an excellent foil. (Foils for Christ?)

    RS: “In it he quoted a few people (one being Jonathan Edwards) as saying that once a person became assured of salvation and was not truly converted, it was incredibly rare if it ever did happen for a person like that to ever be recovered from their deception. True love for the souls of others (which is a fruit of the Spirit) would seem to want us to be aware of these things and strive to help others.”

    So then, I guess the minister’s job is to make his audience doubt their salvation lest there might be a false convert among them. And I suppose the Table should be guarded with crocodiles in a moat. Have you already answered anyone bringing up the wheat and the tares, as in, not trying to pull out every tare lest you pull up wheat? Or Jesus’ reluctance to break a bruised reed?

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  79. Jeff Cagle quoting RS: I John was breathed forth by the Spirit. It tells us more than just let someone make a profession and do good works.

    Where exactly does 1 John say this? I wonder what you have in mind by “good works”?

    RS: I tried to explain this a couple of times, but I know that all people don’t read all the posts. However, I have also read what Geoff Willour says about this not being the best use of my time. So I will try to keep this short.

    I John was written with a few different purposes, but one of them was so that people could know that they have eternal life (5:13). I John starts off with words about the Word of life, that is, Christ and speaks of fellowship with the Father and His Son. I John ends with telling us that Christ Himself is eternal life. All though the book, then, one of the main teachings is on how to know if one is in fellowship with God and if a person has eternal life or not. So it is not a matter of a profession and it is not just a matter of works (even if good) that follow. Anyone can make a profession of faith and anyone can claim that they believe a confession of faith and it may be true that they think that they do. Anyone can do works that are outwardly good. However, I John was written so that people may know if they have “eternal life.”

    As to good works, it is a rather broad term. Many use it to simply refer to the works of a person that have some good that is done in the work. Yet I Cor 13 tells us that there is nothing we can do apart from love (I would add, true love as opposed to what Americans call love today) is of no benefit. So I would want to distinguish all outwardly good works with good works done out of true love for God and then for others.

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  80. Zrim: Richard, what you seem to be doing all the way through this conversation is set pure hearts against empty words, which is fine since confessionalism has no qualms whatsoever with having to be born from above. But that’s the point, born from above. I can’t help but think that you are reading Jesus’ words about being born again with something of an ought-implies-can hermeneutic. But when Jesus is telling us we must be born again he’s doing the same thing he’s doing when he summarizes the law—raising the bar to show how impossibly unable we are, not to spurn us to even higher levels of piety (which is what all your “go above and beyond” rhetoric implies).

    RS: Indeed, the new birth is impossible with men. However, that does not mean that it should not be preached clearly and pressed on people. Call it rhetoric if you want, but you have set the foundation for what is needed in your words above. A soul that has been born from above also lives a life that is from above as well. Eternal life is something that people have now because people have Christ now. A person with King Jesus in the soul is going to be different inside and out.

    Zrim: Confessionalism agrees with you that sinners must be born again, but only by the power of the Spirit. It also diverges from semi-revivalism in how this is evidenced. Confessionalism says by an outward profession and obedience. You effectively say by having a pure heart. But how can inward reality evidence inward reality?

    RS: Again you are misreading. I am simply saying what I John says (along with other places) and that is that a person must have eternal life (Christ is life) and that the book is written to show us that we can know if we have it. The standards in I John are more than an outward profession and an outward obedience. You can say that I am setting a high standard, but the standard is set by Scripture. When you set the standards lower than Scripture, that is, by saying it is only an outward profession and an obedient life, then you have lowered the standards by dropping them far below what Scripture sets out. But again, Scripture sets them out and I am not making them up.

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  81. Philip Cary, Good News for Anxious Christians, 2010,p 80: “The new evangelical theology gets us worried about our own motivations, gets us asking about whether we’re being unselfish or loving or spiritual enough. Instead of learning to tell good from bad in the real world of God’s creation – where we and our neighbors live – we are supposed to figure out what to do by sorting out good
    from bad in the shadowy inner world of our own motivations, where it’s often very hard to tell what’s real.”

    p83: “To love your neighbors means to seek their good. So it would be perverse to wonder whether you had the wrong motivation for seeking their good. If what you’re trying to accomplish really is
    good for your neighbor, then that’s good enough. For Christian love is about the good of your neighbor, not how good your heart is. ”

    mcmark: I like a lot of Cary’s book, but the irony is that he sometimes seems so anxious about us not thinking about our motives that he….makes us think even more about our motives.

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  82. sean: Richard, I’m aware of what preparationism is,

    RS: Perhaps, but I don’t know that. I also understand that just because you use a word and you understand it does not mean that all those who read it do.

    Sean: but you’re misinformed in your attempts to disassociate various methodologies of the 2nd great awakening from Edward’s more formal attempts at detailing out the process and progress of conversions. Nettleton, Porter, Bradley and others relied on Edwards’ conversion narratives in both counseling and modeling their own evangelistic efforts.

    RS: But Nettleton and those did not use the methodologies of Finney and in fact strongly opposed him. The 2nd Great Awakening was not a unified movement. It had Finney the heretic and then Nettleton, Porter, and so on who were strongly Reformed. On this list (OldLife) most people have seemed to think of Finney and the 2nd Great Awakening as synomymous. The methods of Finney were diametrically opposed to both the theology and practice of Edwards and those like Nettleton.

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  83. Philip Cary’s chapter on “why you don’t always have to experience joy” is good commentary on liberal patience with RS, even though Cary focuses mostly on the Job’s patience with his friends.

    Cary, p84–“There is nothing more self-centered than the project of being unselfish. Why would genuinely unselfish people bother trying to be unselfish? Love is not about itself. We need to love our neighbors, not our motivations. Often people who try to do everything out of love are driven by guilt, not love, guilt that they are not properly motivated by love when they do stuff for neighbors”.

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  84. D. G. Hart: Richard, Edwards may not have used the bench but he did scare the bejeebers out of people with Sinners in the Hand of an Angry God.

    RS: But as Edwards said, he couldn’t possibly set out hell worse than it was. Perhaps he did scare the people, but Jesus did that as well. You cannot scare a person into heaven and really cannot scare hell out of a person, but you can yell fire, fire so that they will seek the Lord who alone can grant them life.

    D.G. Hart: What you don’t seem to recognize — Edwards aside — is that your relentless pursuit of authenticity makes people anxious.

    RS: So do you criticize those who are in a relentless pursuit to comfort people in their sin? Is it so bad to echo Paul when he says that people need to examine themselves to see if they are in the faith? Is it so bad to take the words of Scripture seriously that our hearts are deceptive beyond what we can understand and that the devil is the deceiver?

    D.G. Hart: What do you say to someone who sins and claims to be a believer? Do you encourage them to question their faith, since how could they ever fall if they were in hot pursuit of holiness?

    RS: The question, again, is if they have eternal life in them. All people sin and all sin to some degree all of the time.

    D.G. Hart: What Finney’s bench did, your high bar does. It gives me the willies.

    RS: But if the bar that I am speaking of, which I don’t set, is at more or less the same level Scripture sets it, then your willies are not of my making. Finney, on the other hand, is a far different story.

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  85. Good News for Anxious Christians, by Philip Cary, Brazos, 2010

    p48–“do you normally have to make things real in order for them to be real?”

    p 50 –“you’re supposed to make this unreal God real in your life.On the one hand, you’re supposed to make it look like God’s doing it all, but on the other hand it’s all up to you, because God can’t do anything unless you let him…So it seems there’s this special way of doing things–not using your own strength. It’s a weird game.”

    p54–“there is an old strand of mysticism–the basic idea was that if you silenced your own being and doing, quieted yourself down inwardly, then there’d be nothing left in your heart but God, so then would do everything instead of you.”

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  86. Richard, and the confessions seek to tell us what Scripture says. You claim that “good works must be done out of true love for God and other.” You make it sound like our works must be perfect. But HC 62 seems to indicate that “our best works in this life are all imperfect and defiled with sin.” And 114 indicates that those who are truly converted cannot keep the law perfectly, that even the holiest amongst us have only a small beginning of obedience (let the reader understand how staggering these words are for the perfection-inclined).

    It seems to me that the confessions make plenty of room for the abiding reality of our human frailty and imperfections, whereas your prescriptions don’t seem to take any of that into account.

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  87. Geoff Willour: Richard, I don’t know how you do it. You’re either an extremely fast thinker with lightning fast fingers on the keypad, or you live behind your computer screen.

    RS: Well, not all think I am a fast thinker, but I don’t live behind this screen. I do type rather fast, or so I am told.

    GW: On this (and many other) threads your comments tend to be numerous and lengthy (and you always seem to want to get in the last word). No offense, brother, but as one who himself can sometimes be guilty of spending too much time lurking on old life (got to get the log out of my own eye before I address the speck in yours!), may I suggest that you may want to consider whether your voluminous interactions on old life are really good stewardship of your time.

    RS: No offense taken at all. But there is more to the story, though I will take your words to heart. I won’t simply profess to believe them and do good works, I will take them to heart.

    GW: After all, hasn’t it become clear to you that you’re not going to convince us confessionalists to adopt your (semi) revivalist views (just as it does not seem likely that we will convince you to adopt our position)? Why then spend (waste?) so much time, energy and space here on old life? (Of course, I’m not saying old life is a waste of time; far from it. But it is possible to spend too much time even on a good thing, no?)

    RS: It is possible to spend too much time on a good thing. However, there are a few things to bring up here. The Word of God can convince a person at any moment if the Spirit pleases. It is also the case that a lot more people read (I am assuming) this site than post. But it is also good just to discuss these things. With some it might drive them to the confession and hopefully while there they will read the Bible references. But with me it drives me to the Bible and the confessions. So there are positive things. Another positive thing is that it keeps me from wasting more money on the books of Dr. Hart, though I just recently obtained one. Actually, don’t tell my wife but it was actually two. Anyway, I can just read him on here for free.

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  88. Erik Charter: Hear the gospel and believe it. Rely on Christ for righteousness. Attend church and witness/receive the sacraments. The Holy Spirit will work to sanctify you. No morbid introspection or great enthusiasm needed. Just keep plodding along until the day you die.

    RS: It is not quite that simple. Remember from Ephesians 6 that we are in a spiritual battle, that is to say, we are in a war. The devil wars against our soul and desires and works to deceive us. We are not to be sleeping at the wheel thinking that we don’t need some degree of introspection or great enthusiasm. If the devil desires to deceive a soul, then that soul needs to be aware of that and seek the Lord heartily.

    Mat 7:21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.
    22 “Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’
    23 “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.’

    Jeremiah 17:9 “The heart is more deceitful than all else And is desperately sick; Who can understand it?

    Ephesians 4:14 As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming;

    1 Timothy 4:1 But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons,

    Hebrews 3:13 But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called “Today,” so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.

    1 Corinthians 3:18 Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you thinks that he is wise in this age, he must become foolish, so that he may become wise.

    Revelation 20:3 and he threw him into the abyss, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he would not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were completed; after these things he must be released for a short time.

    1 Corinthians 6:9 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals,

    2 Corinthians 11:3 But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ.

    James 1:16 Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren.

    James 1:26 If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man’s religion is worthless.

    1 John 3:7 Little children, make sure no one deceives you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous; 8 the one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil.

    Revelation 12:9 And the great dragon was thrown down, the serpent of old who is called the devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.

    2 Thessalonians 2:10 and with all the deception of wickedness for those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved.

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  89. MikelMann: Geoff & Richard, I think Richard is an excellent foil. (Foils for Christ?)

    MM Quoting RS: “In it he quoted a few people (one being Jonathan Edwards) as saying that once a person became assured of salvation and was not truly converted, it was incredibly rare if it ever did happen for a person like that to ever be recovered from their deception. True love for the souls of others (which is a fruit of the Spirit) would seem to want us to be aware of these things and strive to help others.”

    MM: So then, I guess the minister’s job is to make his audience doubt their salvation lest there might be a false convert among them.

    RS: Perhaps the job would include seeking to undeceive those who are deceived and in doing so make sure there is a proper foundation for true believers.

    MM: And I suppose the Table should be guarded with crocodiles in a moat.

    RS: Not a bad idea. After all, when people partake in an unworthy manner they are eating and drinking sickness and death to themselves. Maybe we should be more careful.

    MM: Have you already answered anyone bringing up the wheat and the tares, as in, not trying to pull out every tare lest you pull up wheat? Or Jesus’ reluctance to break a bruised reed?

    RS: Regarding the wheat and tares, you might want to read that whole (whole as in whole) context again. When the disciples asked Jesus what that meant, He said that the the field was the world. He did not say that the field was the church or Church. If we interpret that parable as meaning the church, then that would be the end of church discipline except in the most obvious and even extraordinary cases.

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  90. mark mcculley: Philip Cary’s chapter on “why you don’t always have to experience joy” is good commentary on liberal patience with RS, even though Cary focuses mostly on the Job’s patience with his friends.

    Cary, p84–”There is nothing more self-centered than the project of being unselfish. Why would genuinely unselfish people bother trying to be unselfish? Love is not about itself. We need to love our neighbors, not our motivations. Often people who try to do everything out of love are driven by guilt, not love, guilt that they are not properly motivated by love when they do stuff for neighbors”.

    RS: Perhaps, yet even the Pharisees would give alms. Since the 2nd Greatest Commandment flows out of the Greatest Commandment, it might be a good thing to check our hearts to see our motivation. “There is nothing more self-centered than the project of being unselfish.” The previous statement by Carey is absurd on one level. The project of being unselfish can be pursued in a selfish way, but if you see that Jesus commands us to deny ourselves (deny self) in order to follow Him, then it begins to be seen in a different light. Humility is the emptying of self. We are to humble ourselves so how is it self-centered to cry out for God to deliver us from selfishness which is sin?

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  91. Richard,

    Ok. I dropped the Finney bit and went with those you more closely align yourself, so as to provide a better platform to show the extended use of preparationism and Edward’s ongoing contribution to even the 2nd awakening. But since you brought him back in, Finney’s anxious bench amounts to little more than a condensed version of preparationism squeezed into the confines and time constraints of a ‘tent revival’. Quite frankly, if I have to choose between extended, Haldol symptomatic, navel-gazing(preparation) or shock treatment(anxious bench), I’ll take that third option and go straight to the ‘ordinary’.

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  92. Richard, thanks for showing how semi-revivalism has given us infrequency of the visible gospel. But I wonder if it helps you to know that pro-frequency confessionalists also tend to be credo-communionists for the very reason you give. Frequency doesn’t mean the deconstruction of fencing.

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  93. mark mcculley: Philip Cary, Good News for Anxious Christians, 2010,p 80: “The new evangelical theology gets us worried about our own motivations, gets us asking about whether we’re being unselfish or loving or spiritual enough. Instead of learning to tell good from bad in the real world of God’s creation – where we and our neighbors live – we are supposed to figure out what to do by sorting out good from bad in the shadowy inner world of our own motivations, where it’s often very hard to tell what’s real.”

    RS: Actually, it is simply the Bible that tells us to examine our hearts. But since it is very hard to sort out what is real, maybe the devil is the deceiver and does not want us to see what is real. Maybe that should drive us to prayer as David did and ask God to examine his heart and show him his hurtful ways.

    McMark: p83: “To love your neighbors means to seek their good. So it would be perverse to wonder whether you had the wrong motivation for seeking their good. If what you’re trying to accomplish really is good for your neighbor, then that’s good enough. For Christian love is about the good of your neighbor, not how good your heart is. ”

    RS: Nonsense (Carey’s statement): Atheists seek the external good of their neighbor and do it for nothing but selfish reasons though they say they are altruistic. If we don’t love God in our hearts, then we don’t love our neighbor and we are not seeking their truest and highest good. We must know our hearts to some degree if we are to do our neighbor real good.

    mcmark: I like a lot of Cary’s book, but the irony is that he sometimes seems so anxious about us not thinking about our motives that he….makes us think even more about our motives.

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  94. mark mcculley: Good News for Anxious Christians, by Philip Cary, Brazos, 2010

    p48–”do you normally have to make things real in order for them to be real?”

    RS: No, what is real and lasting is eternal things and God alone can show them to souls through faith.

    p 50 –”you’re supposed to make this unreal God real in your life.On the one hand, you’re supposed to make it look like God’s doing it all, but on the other hand it’s all up to you, because God can’t do anything unless you let him…So it seems there’s this special way of doing things–not using your own strength. It’s a weird game.”

    RS: But it is not a game at all. It is part of the Greatest Commandment to do all for His glory in reality and not just pretend.

    p54–”there is an old strand of mysticism–the basic idea was that if you silenced your own being and doing, quieted yourself down inwardly, then there’d be nothing left in your heart but God, so then would do everything instead of you.”

    RS: It is actually biblical though not in that exact strain of thought. We are to die to self so that Christ would be our life. We are to deny self so that we can pursue Christ. We are to be emptied of self (humility) so that we would be filled with the Spirit (not in the charismatic way) so that like Paul we would labor more than all and yet not with our own strength but striving according to His power which mightily worked in him.

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  95. Zrim: Richard, and the confessions seek to tell us what Scripture says. You claim that “good works must be done out of true love for God and other.” You make it sound like our works must be perfect. But HC 62 seems to indicate that “our best works in this life are all imperfect and defiled with sin.” And 114 indicates that those who are truly converted cannot keep the law perfectly, that even the holiest amongst us have only a small beginning of obedience (let the reader understand how staggering these words are for the perfection-inclined).

    It seems to me that the confessions make plenty of room for the abiding reality of our human frailty and imperfections, whereas your prescriptions don’t seem to take any of that into account.

    RS: I am not arguing against our abiding sin and the fact that we are pitiful and miserable creatures. What I am arguing against (in this context) is doing what the Pharisees did in lowering the standard of the law. We must not lower the perfect standard in order to make us feel better. Christ alone is able to take away the guilt and power of sin. When we lower the standard we diminish the work of Christ. On the one hand John writes so that we will not sin, yet when we do sin He points to the propitiation of Christ.

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  96. sean: Richard, Ok. I dropped the Finney bit and went with those you more closely align yourself, so as to provide a better platform to show the extended use of preparationism and Edward’s ongoing contribution to even the 2nd awakening. But since you brought him back in, Finney’s anxious bench amounts to little more than a condensed version of preparationism squeezed into the confines and time constraints of a ‘tent revival’.

    RS: Sean, words cannot express how mistaken your view as expressed here is. Finney was a Pelagian who thought he could pressure people into making a decision. Edwards and the preparationists were Calvinists who told people that God must grant them live as He pleased and when He pleased by grace alone.

    Sean: Quite frankly, if I have to choose between extended, Haldol symptomatic, navel-gazing(preparation) or shock treatment(anxious bench), I’ll take that third option and go straight to the ‘ordinary’.

    RS: I hope you are just mistaken on what you think the Puritan method of evanglism was and is. If not, then you have just chosen Pelagianism over Calvinism. God will be gracious to whom He will be gracious. It does not depend on the man who wills or runs, but on God who has mercy. The doctrine of election has many ramifications that our spiritually shallow age has cast to the side. One of them is that God saves as He pleases and when He pleases. Another thing that has been cast to the side is total inability. Man cannot save himself and must wait on God to save him. If a person sees his inability and knows that God is sovereign, what is he to do? He should seek the Lord and flee from sin because sin hardens the heart. He is to go and hear the Word of God because that is a means that God uses to save. Sure Finney’s bench was quicker and easier for the moment, but it was not the Gospel and deceived people to hell. The Gospel of grace alone does not tell me that I can believe when I please, but that the grace that saves will do as it pleases.

    Below is a selection of Q & A’s from the WSC. It was written by men who believed in this preparation or seeking type of evangelism. Note that in Q. 26 part of the office of Christ as King is to subdue us to Himself. Part of that is to subdue our hearts, but the heart He starts with is a heart that hates Him and is proud and self-sufficient.

    Q. 26. How doth Christ execute the office of a king?
    A. Christ executeth the office of a king, in subduing us to himself, in ruling and defending us,[71] and in restraining and conquering all his and our enemies.[72]

    Q. 29. How are we made partakers of the redemption purchased by Christ?
    A. We are made partakers of the redemption purchased by Christ, by the effectual application of it to us by his Holy Spirit.[83]

    Q. 30. How doth the Spirit apply to us the redemption purchased by Christ?
    A. The Spirit applieth to us the redemption purchased by Christ, by working faith in us,[84] and thereby uniting us to Christ in our effectual calling.[85]

    Q. 31. What is effectual calling?
    A. Effectual calling is the work of God’s Spirit, whereby, convincing us of our sin and misery, enlightening our minds in the knowledge of Christ,[86] and renewing our wills,[87] he doth persuade and enable us to embrace Jesus Christ,[88] freely offered to us in the gospel.[89]

    Q. 87. What is repentance unto life?
    A. Repentance unto life is a saving grace,[180] whereby a sinner, out of a true sense of his sin, and apprehension of the mercy of God in Christ,[181] doth, with grief and hatred of his sin, turn from it unto God,[182] with full purpose of, and endeavor after, new obedience.[183]

    Q. 88. What are the outward and ordinary means whereby Christ communicateth to us the benefits of redemption?
    A. The outward and ordinary means whereby Christ communicateth to us the benefits of redemption are, his ordinances, especially the Word, sacraments, and prayer; all which are made effectual to the elect for salvation.[184]

    Q. 89. How is the Word made effectual to salvation?
    A. The Spirit of God maketh the reading, but especially the preaching, of the Word, an effectual means of convincing and converting sinners, and of building them up in holiness and comfort, through faith, unto salvation.[185]

    Q. 90. How is the Word to be read and heard, that it may become effectual to salvation?
    A. That the Word may become effectual to salvation, we must attend thereunto with diligence, preparation, and prayer;[186] receive it with faith and love, lay it up in our hearts, and practice it in our lives.[187]

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  97. Zrim: Richard, thanks for showing how semi-revivalism has given us infrequency of the visible gospel. But I wonder if it helps you to know that pro-frequency confessionalists also tend to be credo-communionists for the very reason you give. Frequency doesn’t mean the deconstruction of fencing.

    RS: Semi-revivalism does not give you inrequency of the Gospel, but gives you the true Gospel. It preaches a sovereign God who saves as He pleases. Fencing the table is for the good of people and also proclaims a sovereign grace which is the only kind of grace at all.

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  98. Richard,

    That ‘third option’ was actually my bypass of both extended neurosis(preparationism) and temporary hysterical neurosis(anxious bench)

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  99. If not for the unity of style, I would guess that there are three or four people contributing as “Richard Smith” to explain the speed and volume of his responses. Or maybe Richard has an app for that. Wow. But I do wonder, Richard, how much you are pondering when you answer questions like they are flash cards.

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  100. Richard, how is limiting the evidence of true faith to outward profession and obedience lowering standards? It may be accommodating to the reality of how people actually work. An dit may be that semi-revivalism confuses high standards with impossibilities.

    I didn’t say semi-revivalism gives us the infrequency of the gospel but infrequency of the visible gospel. My point is that with all the introspection semi-revivalism demands it is little wonder most P&R don’t celebrate weekly—who could keep that up every week (frailty point again)?

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  101. Luther, #19, the Heidelberg Disputations: “That person does not deserve to be called a theologian who looks upon the invisible things of God as though they were clearly perceptible in those things which have actually happened. (1 Cor 1:21-24),

    http://bookofconcord.org/heidelberg.php

    I Corinthians 1: 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. 22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.

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  102. Clair Davis ,from his essay “Systematics, Spirituality and the Christian Life”, in the volume The
    Pattern of Sound Doctrine.

    p276–”Reformed Christians had agreed that SOMETHING had to precede faith in Christ. But what did regeneration before faith mean? Did it intend to say that there was a chronological, temporal sequence through which people coming to Christ ordinarily passed?

    Did they intend to say that people could be regenerate unbelievers, in the sense that they became regenerate years before becoming believers? It sounded that way.But when the theologians had discussed the order of salvation, they were thinking of a logical sequence, not an experiential one. Since one is truly dead in sin, of course he must first be brought to life before anything else can happen.But that definitely was not intending to send the message that before you even
    begin thinking about trusting Christ, you need to first determine that you are able to.The order,which in its original form in Romans 8 was intended to provide encouragement during persecution and suffering, had been turned on its head, twisted, and had become a threatening word: don’t you dare try to trust Christ until you’re sure you have a transformed heart.

    Davis, p284–”The Keswick approach to experience spoke of ‘letting him do the trusting for you’. Either you could try again and again to get the right kind of faith that would really give you the victory over sin. Or you could decide that you could not do anything anyway except wait for the Lord to do for you what you could not do for yourself. In this way, trying to get the right kind of experience turned out to be a replay of trying to get the right kind of faith. Preparationist trauma
    resurfaced all over again—will we ever get it right?.”

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  103. more Clair Davis: p 270–”Just what is the connection between forgiveness and change? Roman Catholicism had suggested that being forgiven depended on your heart attitude. Grace was a divine fudge-factor, the giving of more credit for a little change than it deserved.”

    p278, What should the sinner do? Should he come in faith to Christ? Or is it better to tell him to pray for a new heart? Can faith be both passive and lively? Not if ordinary definitions are used. Properly understood, faith expresses such a radical heart transformation that it no longer looks to itself at all, but only and always to Christ.”

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  104. sean: Richard, That ‘third option’ was actually my bypass of both extended neurosis(preparationism) and temporary hysterical neurosis(anxious bench)

    RS:
    Colossians 2:8 See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ.

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  105. MikelMann: If not for the unity of style, I would guess that there are three or four people contributing as “Richard Smith” to explain the speed and volume of his responses. Or maybe Richard has an app for that. Wow. But I do wonder, Richard, how much you are pondering when you answer questions like they are flash cards.

    RS: I have answered many of the same type of questions in the past. Sometimes I read the plurality of posts and then answer. Gotta go, things to answer…….

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  106. Zrim: Richard, how is limiting the evidence of true faith to outward profession and obedience lowering standards?

    RS: Because it is not taking into account the other things the Bible gives. For example, I John thought that is not the only one. But it is one.

    Zrim: It may be accommodating to the reality of how people actually work. An dit may be that semi-revivalism confuses high standards with impossibilities.

    RS: No, all the commands of God are impossible in our own strength. As Warfield stated, we are not commanded what to do because we can do it, but in order to know the One we are to go to in order to keep it.

    Zrim: I didn’t say semi-revivalism gives us the infrequency of the gospel but infrequency of the visible gospel. My point is that with all the introspection semi-revivalism demands it is little wonder most P&R don’t celebrate weekly—who could keep that up every week (frailty point again)?

    RS: Which, I suppose, is the same thing as saying who would want to examine their heart once a week in order to repent once a week?

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  107. mark mcculley: Luther, #19, the Heidelberg Disputations: “That person does not deserve to be called a theologian who looks upon the invisible things of God as though they were clearly perceptible in those things which have actually happened. (1 Cor 1:21-24),

    RS: Which is most likely dealing with things like the providence of God. On the other hand, there are a few things in other areas to speak of.

    2 Corinthians 5:7 for we walk by faith, not by sight–

    2 Corinthians 4:18 while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.

    Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

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  108. Mark Mcculley:

    Davis, p284–”The Keswick approach to experience spoke of ‘letting him do the trusting for you’. Either you could try again and again to get the right kind of faith that would really give you the victory over sin. Or you could decide that you could not do anything anyway except wait for the Lord to do for you what you could not do for yourself. In this way, trying to get the right kind of experience turned out to be a replay of trying to get the right kind of faith. Preparationist trauma
    resurfaced all over again—will we ever get it right?.”

    RS: Call it preparationist trauma if you please, nevertheless the Lord teaches that He only gives grace to the humble and opposes the proud. Perhaps, then, the Lord humbles people before He grants them grace. Perhaps, then, it is a traumatic thing to be brought to an end of ourselves and our own strength and have pride ripped from our hearts by trials and hard things.

    Rom 9:15 For He says to Moses, “I WILL HAVE MERCY ON WHOM I HAVE MERCY, AND I WILL HAVE COMPASSION ON WHOM I HAVE COMPASSION.” 16 So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy.

    Hebrews 12:17 For you know that even afterwards, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought for it with tears.

    II Tim 3: 25 with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth,
    26 and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.

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  109. RS: Jeff Cagle quoting RS: I John was breathed forth by the Spirit. It tells us more than just let someone make a profession and do good works.

    JRC: Where exactly does 1 John say this? I wonder what you have in mind by “good works”?

    RS: I John was written with a few different purposes, but one of them was so that people could know that they have eternal life (5:13).

    Ah. Now I see the issue. You’ve committed a reference frame splinching error.

    Think about what you said at first: “[I John] tells us more than just let someone make a profession and do good works.”

    Who is doing what here? In this sentence, the church is examining someone, either for membership or discipline purposes, and your claim is that they need more than a profession and good works.

    Then you say,

    “[A purpose of I John] was so that people could know that they have eternal life.”

    Who is doing what here? A person is examining himself so as to know whether he has eternal life.

    You switched reference frames from the church to the individual, and tried to carry over the particulars from one frame to another.

    The church has no alternative than to accept a profession and evidence of fruit of the Spirit. The individual is the only one who has any sense of the genuineness of his faith — and that, only dimly. We call that individual sense, “assurance of salvation”, and it is purely internal and invisible.

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  110. Richard, Jesus may have scared people, but he wouldn’t have Phebe Bartlett. “Let the children come unto me” is not going to send a 5-year old into spiritual spasms.

    I don’t see many folks in conservative circles trying to comfort people in their sins (except for not keeping the Lord’s Day holy). I do see it in liberal churches and I think I am on record against Protestant liberalism. You know me, I am a moderate, right down the middle between the neo-nomians (pietists) and antinomians (rationalists). If only the world were like (all about) me.

    As for Willies, Luther also seems to capture the teaching of Scripture and he doesn’t traffic in Willies.

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  111. mark mcculley: more Clair Davis: p 270–”Just what is the connection between forgiveness and change? Roman Catholicism had suggested that being forgiven depended on your heart attitude. Grace was a divine fudge-factor, the giving of more credit for a little change than it deserved.”

    RS: Perhaps forgiveness itself is part of what produces change. One is not forgiven because they have changed. Or could it be that the Lord changes the heart at His good pleasure in order that it would be an instrument of His good pleasure?

    p278, What should the sinner do? Should he come in faith to Christ? Or is it better to tell him to pray for a new heart? Can faith be both passive and lively? Not if ordinary definitions are used. Properly understood, faith expresses such a radical heart transformation that it no longer looks to itself at all, but only and always to Christ.”

    RS: But if one does not have faith, can one work it up? Of course not. So if a new heart is needed in order to have faith, what is one to do? What if one could see his own heart and saw that it was full of pride (pride is a faith killer that God opposes) and that he was full of believe and love for self? What is that person to do? He cannot believe while he is full of pride, self, self-reliance, and self-love. Should he ask the Lord to take those from him or not? Should he ask to be delivered from that horrible bondage of evil and be given a new heart or not? If God is sovereign and man is dead in sin, what is so hard about believing that God saves as He pleases and when He pleases? Does God grant that a person will become like a little child in five minutes or less and as the person pleases or is that something God has to work in the heart?

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  112. D. G. Hart: Richard, Jesus may have scared people, but he wouldn’t have Phebe Bartlett. “Let the children come unto me” is not going to send a 5-year old into spiritual spasms.

    RS: But did He mean let the children come to me and be saved? How do you know that He wouldn’t have scared anyone?

    D.G. Hart: I don’t see many folks in conservative circles trying to comfort people in their sins (except for not keeping the Lord’s Day holy). I do see it in liberal churches and I think I am on record against Protestant liberalism. You know me, I am a moderate, right down the middle between the neo-nomians (pietists) and antinomians (rationalists). If only the world were like (all about) me.

    RS: I guess we differ. I see folks all over the place trying to comfort people in their sins.

    D.G. Hart: As for Willies, Luther also seems to capture the teaching of Scripture and he doesn’t traffic in Willies.

    RS: So when He says that a person must deny themselves including deny their free will to be saved, that doesn’t give you the willies?

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  113. Jeff Cagle: The church has no alternative than to accept a profession and evidence of fruit of the Spirit. The individual is the only one who has any sense of the genuineness of his faith — and that, only dimly. We call that individual sense, “assurance of salvation”, and it is purely internal and invisible.

    RS: Note, I am not arguing that elders can tell for sure on all people. I am arguing, however, that they should go much deeper using the book of I John and other places. They should help people examine their own hearts and I John enables them to do that. I also will assert, but only because I John and John 13:35 does, that there are other was that are not just invisible to others. Notice in the verses below the plural pronouns and how they are applied. For example, verse 16: ” We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.” We (plural) have come to know and have believed that love which God has for (literally “in”) us. In other words, there is something about this true love (in context) that shows one person that God abides in other people. It seems to me that is what the text says.

    So, first I am not arguing that we have an infallible way of looking at all people. However, I John sure seems to be telling us that we can know with some people. Second, I would think that elders could help people examine themselves. If they are going to do it anyway, then perhaps some guidance would be helpful.

    I John 4:7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.
    8 The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.
    9 By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him.
    10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
    11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
    12 No one has seen God at any time; if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us.
    13 By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit.
    14 We have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son to be the Savior of the world.
    15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.
    16 We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.
    17 By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world.

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  114. Richard, no, wondering who can keep up with semi-revivalism’s introspection weekly isn’t to negate regular personal repentance. It’s to suggest the difference between diving into the self and looking outward to Christ. The former is exhausting, the latter liberating—you know, easy yoke and all that. Besides, what’s to find out when looking inward except that, yep, still more sinful than holy. Does that really take a whole week? If so, that’s one good indicator that you’re looking for more than God requireth.

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  115. If Richard would just agree to switch to Sanka a lot of this could be solved.

    If you have a church, Richard, I fear you are leading your parishioners on a lot of unnecessary tail-chasing.

    One thing I love about my pastor is that whenever he does a family visit he always asks us where our faith lies. My wife always thinks it’s some kind of trick question, but all he is looking for is that we are looking to Christ. “Jesus” is always a pretty good answer to give him if you are stumped.

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  116. RS: Note, I am not arguing that elders can tell for sure on all people … I am not arguing that we have an infallible way of looking at all people.

    Good. We can agree to this. But infallibility wasn’t really my issue here. Rather, it was “what can we look to other than words or deeds that can tell us about the spiritual condition of an individual?” I’m content to grant you fallibility just so long as you are clear on what metrics you’re using.

    You aren’t happy with a confession of faith and deeds of righteousness. And you aren’t happy with those things because they could be faked.

    OK, so I want to know, specifically,

    (a) What things other than a confession of faith and deeds of righteousness do you have in mind?

    So far, you’ve been motioning vigorously but vaguely towards 1 John — but he’s talking about love, which certainly falls under the category of the fruit of the Spirit leading to deeds of righteousness.

    So I still don’t understand what else you have in mind.

    (b) How is it that these other things, whatever they may be, could not also be faked?

    RS: I am arguing, however, that they should go much deeper using the book of I John and other places. They should help people examine their own hearts and I John enables them to do that.

    No argument on the “helping people examine their own hearts.” But what are they looking for? And what will they do with that information once they have it?

    RS: I also will assert, but only because I John and John 13:35 does, that there are other was that are not just invisible to others. Notice in the verses below the plural pronouns and how they are applied. For example, verse 16: ” We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.” We (plural) have come to know and have believed that love which God has for (literally “in”) us. In other words, there is something about this true love (in context) that shows one person that God abides in other people. It seems to me that is what the text says.

    True love acts. The way that we know that the Good Sam in the parable (whomever he may represent) actually loved his neighbor is that he took concrete actions to help his neighbor.

    Unless you have a love-o-meter that is patent-pending, you are still limited to deeds (and possibly words) as a way of measuring love. And if you do have such a love-o-meter, I hope you have calibrated it properly.

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  117. My approach as an elder (inactive elder now) is to take people’s profession of faith at face value unless they give me a reason to do otherwise. I don’t go looking for reasons. If those reasons arise then you go through the Biblical steps up to and including church discipline. It’s not our job to try to peer into people’s hearts.

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  118. Zrim: Richard, no, wondering who can keep up with semi-revivalism’s introspection weekly isn’t to negate regular personal repentance. It’s to suggest the difference between diving into the self and looking outward to Christ. The former is exhausting, the latter liberating—you know, easy yoke and all that. Besides, what’s to find out when looking inward except that, yep, still more sinful than holy. Does that really take a whole week? If so, that’s one good indicator that you’re looking for more than God requireth.

    RS: Or perhaps others are looking for less than God requires. If one hates sin, one wants a pure heart and will pray for that and seek it.

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  119. Erik Charter: If Richard would just agree to switch to Sanka a lot of this could be solved.

    RS: I am not a switch-hitter and I don’t drink that coffee junk. I am part Mormon in that regard.

    Erik Charter: If you have a church, Richard, I fear you are leading your parishioners on a lot of unnecessary tail-chasing.

    RS: No chasing of tails, but of Christ who died in order to purify His people.
    Titus 2:14 who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.

    Eric Charter: One thing I love about my pastor is that whenever he does a family visit he always asks us where our faith lies. My wife always thinks it’s some kind of trick question, but all he is looking for is that we are looking to Christ. “Jesus” is always a pretty good answer to give him if you are stumped.

    RS: So you (or another) knows the right words to say and says that and he is satisfied and goes on. If you are satisfied with that, then you are satisfied. But Jesus tended to ask questions that went to the heart.

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  120. Erik Charter: My approach as an elder (inactive elder now) is to take people’s profession of faith at face value unless they give me a reason to do otherwise. I don’t go looking for reasons. If those reasons arise then you go through the Biblical steps up to and including church discipline. It’s not our job to try to peer into people’s hearts.

    RS: So why have elders if all they do is take what people say at face value? Is there need for the elders to be men of wisdom and spiritual insight?

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  121. You’re great Richard. If we didn’t have you here we would have to invent you. We are currently having to invent a new Bryan Cross. We are hoping that you don’t depart us for PietisticReformedNewSchoolPresbyterianBaptist.com.

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  122. Jeff Cagle: You aren’t happy with a confession of faith and deeds of righteousness. And you aren’t happy with those things because they could be faked.

    RS: Not just a simple fake, but anyone can make a confession and anyone can actually do an outwardly good deed.

    Jeff Cagle: OK, so I want to know, specifically,

    (a) What things other than a confession of faith and deeds of righteousness do you have in mind?

    RS: Basically the one thing that the devil cannot fake or mimic in the ways that He does other things is true love. The world and the Church can have pseudo love and they can do things that are externally good, but they cannnot have true love for God and true love for others, and even more specifically they cannot have love for true believers.

    Jeff Cagle: So far, you’ve been motioning vigorously but vaguely towards 1 John — but he’s talking about love, which certainly falls under the category of the fruit of the Spirit leading to deeds of righteousness.

    RS: But love is not the same thing as deeds of righteousness and the deeds of righteousness can be copied quite easily. Atheists can do the copies of the deeds of righteousness without any change of heart.

    Jeff Cagle: So I still don’t understand what else you have in mind.

    (b) How is it that these other things, whatever they may be, could not also be faked?

    RS: True love, since only the God who is love, can work this in the soul cannot be truly mimicked. True love, which is the heart of eternal life in the soul, is something that the devil does not have and cannot truly mimic. This is one reason why experienced men should help people examine themselves. Person A can help a little old lady across the street and do it with a desire to get a merit badge. Person B can help a little old lady across the street because he wants a tip. Person C can help a little old lady across the street in order to feel good about himself and his own righteousness. Person D can help the little old lady across the street because he wants to make God look good but down deep he is doing this out of self-righteousness. Person E, however, out of love for God (which God has to put there) and His glory helps the little old lady across the street and wants her to see the glory of God to the good of her soul. The love in the soul is the key issue and is in every regenerate heart and yet is not found at all in any unregenerate act. I Cor 13 tells us with clarity that apart from that love nothing we do is of any benefit. If nothing we do is of any benefit, and that includes acts of righteousness (as the Pharisees) and our confessions and professions, it would behoove us to be able to guide people into ways to examine themselves in this.

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  123. Jeff Cagle quoting RS: I also will assert, but only because I John and John 13:35 does, that there are other was that are not just invisible to others. Notice in the verses below the plural pronouns and how they are applied. For example, verse 16: ” We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.” We (plural) have come to know and have believed that love which God has for (literally “in”) us. In other words, there is something about this true love (in context) that shows one person that God abides in other people. It seems to me that is what the text says.

    Jeff Cagle: True love acts. The way that we know that the Good Sam in the parable (whomever he may represent) actually loved his neighbor is that he took concrete actions to help his neighbor.

    RS: So anyone can do what is known as altruistic acts and those concrete actions are love? Jesus said through Paul that we can sell all we have and give to the poor and yet do that without love. Jesus said through Paul that we could give our bodies to be burned and yet do that without love.

    Jeff Cagle: Unless you have a love-o-meter that is patent-pending, you are still limited to deeds (and possibly words) as a way of measuring love. And if you do have such a love-o-meter, I hope you have calibrated it properly.

    RS: I would argue that the Holy Spirit is in true believers and He does help them in this regard. I argue this because of I John (easiest to point out). True love is a supernatural thing, but the same acts can be done.

    I John 3:23 This is His commandment, that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as He commanded us.
    24 The one who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. We know by this that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us.

    I John 4: 5 They are from the world; therefore they speak as from the world, and the world listens to them.
    6 We are from God; he who knows God listens to us; he who is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.
    7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.
    8 The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.

    I John 4:10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
    11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
    12 No one has seen God at any time; if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us.
    13 By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit.

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  124. Erik Charter: And good luck with those x-ray soul specs!

    RS: Luck is the secular man’s way of trying to describe the sovereignty and providence of God. As for x-ray specs, the regenerate man does “see” things in a much different way (Heb 11). Allow me to give you the same verses I just gave Jeff Cagle. Notice how people can know these things from the verses listed below.

    I John 3:23 This is His commandment, that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as He commanded us.
    24 The one who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. We know by this that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us.

    RS: Notice the commands here. It is not to make a profession and do good deeds, though you might argue that they are implied. But we are actually commanded to believe (more than a simple belief in a few propositions) in Christ and to love one another (believers). We can know that He abides in us by the Spirit whom He has given.

    I John 4: 5 They are from the world; therefore they speak as from the world, and the world listens to them.
    6 We are from God; he who knows God listens to us; he who is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.
    7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.
    8 The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.

    RS: Believers love one another because love is from God. Everyone who loves (true love) is born of God and knows God. Remember from John 17:3 that eternal life is to know God, which is a different thing than just knowing about Him. The one who does not know God does not love. This is also to say, though it says more, that the one that does not have true love does not have eternal life.

    I John 4:10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
    11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
    12 No one has seen God at any time; if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us.
    13 By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit.

    RS: While it is true that no one has seen God, if we love one another God abides in us. On the other hand, we can know that we abide in Him and He is us because He has given us of His Spirit. So no one has seen God, yet if two believers have true love they can know that they (notice the plural) abide in Him and He in us. They know this because of the nature of love and because He has given His people the Spirit. By the way, the fruit of the Spirit is love.

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  125. I think we’ve come to the nub. In your view, the additional thing that we have besides confession and deeds of righteousness is love. And we can, by the aid of the Holy Spirit, distinguish true love in the hearts of others.

    Let’s deal with that, but first we should clear some brush.

    RS: RS: So anyone can do what is known as altruistic acts and those concrete actions are love?

    You have the logic backwards. The Spirit creates love, which leads us to do good works. But not all outwardly good works are motivated by love.

    So good works as a metric is quite fallible. I hope you’ll grant that this is OK!

    Now, about true love. Just a simple question: Is our love for God and neighbor ever pure?

    And another: How do we “see” love in someone else?

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  126. Jeff Cagle: You have the logic backwards. The Spirit creates love, which leads us to do good works. But not all outwardly good works are motivated by love.

    RS: I am not sure why you think my logic is backwards at that point. Here is what I said: “So anyone can do what is known as altruistic acts and those concrete actions are love?” Notice the question mark at the end. Any person, believer or not, can do what appears to be an altruistic action and claim that it is love. A concrete action is not necessarily love.

    The Spirit does not create love since the love in God is not created. Notice the text in Galatians. It tells us that the fruit of the Spirit is love. In other words, it is not that the Spirit has to create love, but instead the triune God lives in perfect love and the Spirit shares this love in and with us. It is the indwelling God who works in us to be like Himself and shares His love for Himelf with us that moves us to do what is truly good for others. It is not that we have to do good works as such, but the Spirit in us moves us to do them out of true love which is love for God and to manifest His glory.

    Jeff Cagle: So good works as a metric is quite fallible. I hope you’ll grant that this is OK!

    RS: Yes, I have been arguing that for a bit.

    Jeff Cagle: Now, about true love. Just a simple question: Is our love for God and neighbor ever pure?

    RS: Yes, but not totally pure. As the smallest seed of faith is true faith, so a small amount of love is true love. Even our best of love and our best of works need Christ as their source and yet Christ as our Priest as well.

    Jeff Cagle: And another: How do we “see” love in someone else?

    RS: At the risk of being the object of heaps of ridicule, I will go back to I John. Going back to those passages it says that we can, but it does not say how we can. It simply says by the Spirit and that we can know. I would argue that those who have the love of God in them by the Spirit (the only way) also have discernment by that same Spirit. They are able to recognize true love in others to a degree, though they are not infallible in this. Though people can use the same words and do the same work, not all is from the same source of love. Yet I John tells us quite clearly that we can know God and we can know that the love of God dwells in us and that He dwells in another. I don’t think that this can be tested in an empirical way any more than we can test the divine light. As God is self-evident in many ways, so the love of God is self-evident as well.

    I John 4:5 They are from the world; therefore they speak as from the world, and the world listens to them.
    6 We are from God; he who knows God listens to us; he who is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.
    7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.
    8 The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.
    9 By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him.
    10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
    11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
    12 No one has seen God at any time; if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us.
    13 By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit.

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  127. Richard’s insistence that people not only believe in Christ’s work, but BELIEVE in Christ’s work reminds me of Dean Wormer putting Delta House on double secret probation:

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  128. I would point back to the recent case of Patrick Edouard. Did the men who ordained him KNOW he was sincere when they ordained him? Did the believers at Covenant Reformed in Pella KNOW he was sincere when they called him? What does it say about everyone’s knowledge when he revealed himself to be a total cad? I guess we can say we have “knowledge” of other people’s spiritual condition, but when they do something unexpected that surprises us it reveals our knowledge to be pretty flimsy.

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  129. Erik Charter: Richard’s insistence that people not only believe in Christ’s work, but BELIEVE in Christ’s work reminds me of Dean Wormer putting Delta House on double secret probation:

    RS: But Erik, you must remember that in John 2 many believed in Jesus when they saw Him doing miracles. But Jesus did not entrust Himself to them. Why? They did not savingly believe. Many believed in Jesus in John 5 and John 6, but vitually all of them left Him by the end of chapter 6. The same thing is true all the way through the Gospel of John. If you care to take the time to trace through to find out what John says about those that THE BIBLE tells us believed you will see that they were not converted. So I will stick with the Bible over a movie.

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  130. Erik Charter: I would point back to the recent case of Patrick Edouard. Did the men who ordained him KNOW he was sincere when they ordained him? Did the believers at Covenant Reformed in Pella KNOW he was sincere when they called him? What does it say about everyone’s knowledge when he revealed himself to be a total cad? I guess we can say we have “knowledge” of other people’s spiritual condition, but when they do something unexpected that surprises us it reveals our knowledge to be pretty flimsy.

    RS: Without knowing much about the issue, that case can just as easily demonstrate my position as yours. Should they have asked him more about his spiritual condition and tried to examine him on the issues of the heart more? Maybe it is the case that they simply asked him about what he professed and some “good works” instead of trying to get to the deeper issues. Maybe people are guilty of laying hands on him too quickly (see I Tim 5: below). Note also the passage from I John below. How do we know that we know Him? Knowing Him is not the same thing as knowing about Him. Generally speaking our questions to others is about what they know about Him.

    I Tim 5:21 I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus and of His chosen angels, to maintain these principles without bias, doing nothing in a spirit of partiality.
    22 Do not lay hands upon anyone too hastily and thereby share responsibility for the sins of others; keep yourself free from sin.

    I John 2:3 By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments.
    4 The one who says, “I have come to know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him;
    5 but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him:
    6 the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked.

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  131. Richard, I take it you mean to say person E is our protagonist in the good works scenario. Maybe for the Edwardsian. But for the Calvinist there is person F who helps his neighbor, not out of some hifalutin notion of God’s glory, but simply because our neighbor needs us and serving her is what those saved by God and grateful for it do. Which seems like a plain reading of the first and second greatest commandments, as well as the basic structure of the HC (guilt-grace-gratitude).

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  132. RS, This is an area where confessions could really be valuable to sharpen thinking.

    The difficulty here is that you are putting forward a view, grounded in a certain exegesis of the passage, that runs against the grain of the Confession. So, we have the following possibilities:

    (1) The differences between your view and the Confession are apparent rather than real.

    (2) You are correct, and the Confession should be revised,

    (3) The Confession is correct, and you need to re-think something.

    Considering these options is a healthy part of the theological process. And in this case, I would suggest that option (3) is where we are.

    Here’s what John says: The one who says, “I have come to know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him: the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked.

    You’ve posited that we can know whether or not someone loves by a mystical “Holy Spirit” sense. But John actually tells people to look at deeds. The test that you put forward is (1) inferred by you, not directly taught, and (2) fails to take John’s direct words into account.

    This doesn’t mean that deeds are the infallible test. But it does mean that God tells us to use this test, and not some other, to measure love.

    I would suggest that the writers of the Confession wrestled with this question already and have some wisdom about which metrics to use, and which not to use.

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  133. Zrim: Richard, I take it you mean to say person E is our protagonist in the good works scenario. Maybe for the Edwardsian. But for the Calvinist there is person F who helps his neighbor, not out of some hifalutin notion of God’s glory, but simply because our neighbor needs us and serving her is what those saved by God and grateful for it do.

    RS: Then your view is that the atheist and the Christian can do the same thing with the same motive. If a person does not do it to the glory of God, then that person is not in line with the Greatest Commandment.

    1 Corinthians 10:31 Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

    Zrim: Which seems like a plain reading of the first and second greatest commandments, as well as the basic structure of the HC (guilt-grace-gratitude).

    RS: No, your view is not in line with a plain reading of the two Greatest Commands. Remember the little phrase “between” the 1st and the 2nd. Mat 22: 38 “This is the great and foremost commandment. 39 “The second is like it, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’
    The little pharse “the second is like it” or “like unto it” is very important. Remember the Greatest Commandment is to love God with all of our being and that means nothing is left. This leaves us with the clear idea that we cannot love our neighbor apart from a love for God and a love that flows to God first and foremost. The atheist can do externally good things to and for his neighbor while hating God.

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  134. RS: Going back to those passages it says that we can, but it does not say how we can. It simply says by the Spirit and that we can know. I would argue that those who have the love of God in them by the Spirit (the only way) also have discernment by that same Spirit. They are able to recognize true love in others to a degree, though they are not infallible in this. Though people can use the same words and do the same work, not all is from the same source of love. Yet I John tells us quite clearly that we can know God and we can know that the love of God dwells in us and that He dwells in another. I don’t think that this can be tested in an empirical way any more than we can test the divine light. As God is self-evident in many ways, so the love of God is self-evident as well.

    Sean: Richard I was ready to give you some benefit of the doubt on this whole discussion, along the lines of, if I was interrogating some guy and he’s saying all the right things but I know he’s lying,….kind of experiential knowledge. I don’t discount experience, wisdom, and even a ‘sense’ of things which is quite frankly little more than a multitude of prior experiences coming to bear on a particular interview or evaluation. But, you’re beginning to sound like Pat Robertson when he gets a ‘word of knowledge’ or divines a previously unknown, to him, situation or circumstance.

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  135. Jeff Cagle: RS, This is an area where confessions could really be valuable to sharpen thinking.

    The difficulty here is that you are putting forward a view, grounded in a certain exegesis of the passage, that runs against the grain of the Confession.

    RS: You have not demonstrated where my position runs against the grain of the Confession. You may want to argue that it is not explicitly taught in the Confession, but that is a different argument.

    Jeff Cagle: Here’s what John says: The one who says, “I have come to know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him: the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked.

    RS: For the record, I have given several more verses than those.

    Jeff Cagle: You’ve posited that we can know whether or not someone loves by a mystical “Holy Spirit” sense. But John actually tells people to look at deeds. The test that you put forward is (1) inferred by you, not directly taught, and (2) fails to take John’s direct words into account.

    1 John 3:24 The one who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. We know by this that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us.

    1 John 4:13 By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit.

    RS: I cannot see how you think that the two verses above are anything but directly taught. Call it mystical or whatever, neverthless John does not say in all places that we are to look at deeds. He says we can know because we have been given the Holy Spirit. But back to the mystical part. Christianity is not tied to empiricism or rationalism with a knot that cannot be untied except by the sword of Cromwell. There is a realm that is spiritual and a person must be born again to even see (interpret or behold) that kingdom. If you want to call that realm mystical, then so be it. But if you want all evidence to be empirical evidene, then remember the words of Paul: 2 Corinthians 4:18 “while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.”

    2 Corinthians 3:18 But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.

    How do people behold the glory of the Lord? Is it by empirical means? The unbeliever can look at the things of Scripture and see nothing good, but the believer can behold the glory of God in them.

    II Cor 3:2 You are our letter, written in our hearts, known and read by all men;
    3 being manifested that you are a letter of Christ, cared for by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.

    RS: How were people manifested as letters of Christ? How were these things writtin on tablets of human hearts by the Spirit of the living God? How did Paul know that these were true believers and how did he know that the Spirit had written on their hearts?

    Jeff Cagle: This doesn’t mean that deeds are the infallible test. But it does mean that God tells us to use this test, and not some other, to measure love.

    RS: Yes, the deeds are there. But if you are trying to measure love, how much love did Ted Turner have for God when he donated a billion dollars to hunger relief? The deed is not a measure of love, though indeed if there is love there must be deeds. The Pharisees gave alms, but they had no love. It is possible to sell all we have and give to the poor and yet not have love.

    Jeff Cagle: I would suggest that the writers of the Confession wrestled with this question already and have some wisdom about which metrics to use, and which not to use.

    RS: Okay, that is fine, but where did they do so in a way that denies what I John is clearly saying? What am I saying that goes against the grain of the Confession (see below) especially (read slowly) section II and then the WLC Q& A 80?

    WCF: Chapter XVIII Of Assurance of Grace and Salvation
    I. Although hypocrites and other unregenerate men may vainly deceive themselves with false hopes and carnal presumptions of being in the favor of God, and estate of salvation[1] (which hope of theirs shall perish):[2] 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,[3] and may rejoice in the hope of the glory of God, which hope shall never make them ashamed.[4]

    II. This certainty is not a bare conjectural and probable persuasion grounded upon a fallible hope;[5] but an infallible assurance of faith founded upon the divine truth of the promises of salvation,[6] the inward evidence of those graces unto which these promises are made,[7] the testimony of the Spirit of adoption witnessing with our spirits that we are the children of God,[8] which Spirit is the earnest of our inheritance, whereby we are sealed to the day of redemption.[9]

    III. This infallible assurance does not so belong to the essence of faith, but that a true believer may wait long, and conflict with many difficulties, before he be partaker of it:[10] yet, being enabled by the Spirit to know the things which are freely given him of God, he may, without extraordinary revelation in the right use of ordinary means, attain thereunto.[11] And therefore it is the duty of every one to give all diligence to make his calling and election sure,[12] that thereby his heart may be enlarged in peace and joy in the Holy Ghost, in love and thankfulness to God, and in strength and cheerfulness in the duties of obedience,[13] the proper fruits of this assurance; so far is it from inclining men to looseness.[14]

    IV. True believers may have the assurance of their salvation divers ways shaken, diminished, and intermitted; as, by negligence in preserving of it, by falling into some special sin which wounds the conscience and grieves the Spirit; by some sudden or vehement temptation, by God’s withdrawing the light of His countenance, and suffering even such as fear Him to walk in darkness and to have no light:[15] yet are they never so utterly destitute of that seed of God, and life of faith, that love of Christ and the brethren, that sincerity of heart, and conscience of duty, out of which, by the operation of the Spirit, this assurance may, in due time, be revived;[16] and by the which, in the mean time, they are supported from utter despair.[17]

    WLC: Q. 80. Can true believers be infallibly assured that they are in the estate of grace, and that they shall persevere therein unto salvation?

    A. Such as truly believe in Christ, and endeavour to walk in all good conscience before him,[349] may, without extraordinary revelation, by faith grounded upon the truth of God’s promises, and by the Spirit enabling them to discern in themselves those graces to which the promises of life are made,[350] and bearing witness with their spirits that they are the children of God,[351] be infallibly assured that they are in the estate of grace, and shall persevere therein unto salvation.[352]

    Q. 81. Are all true believers at all times assured of their present being in the estate of grace, and that they shall be saved?

    A. Assurance of grace and salvation not being of the essence of faith,[353] true believers may wait long before they obtain it;[354] and, after the enjoyment thereof, may have it weakened and intermitted, through manifold distempers, sins, temptations, and desertions;[355] yet they are never left without such a presence and support of the Spirit of God as keeps them from sinking into utter despair.[356]

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  136. Sean: Richard I was ready to give you some benefit of the doubt on this whole discussion, along the lines of, if I was interrogating some guy and he’s saying all the right things but I know he’s lying,….kind of experiential knowledge. I don’t discount experience, wisdom, and even a ‘sense’ of things which is quite frankly little more than a multitude of prior experiences coming to bear on a particular interview or evaluation. But, you’re beginning to sound like Pat Robertson when he gets a ‘word of knowledge’ or divines a previously unknown, to him, situation or circumstance.

    RS: Ouch and double ouch. If you keep this up you will be punished by a plane flying into your house. Okay, but do you think that the WCF 18:2 and WLC 80 also sound like Pat the dingbat?

    WCF: Chapter XVIII Of Assurance of Grace and Salvation

    II. This certainty is not a bare conjectural and probable persuasion grounded upon a fallible hope;[5] but an infallible assurance of faith founded upon the divine truth of the promises of salvation,[6] the inward evidence of those graces unto which these promises are made,[7] the testimony of the Spirit of adoption witnessing with our spirits that we are the children of God,[8] which Spirit is the earnest of our inheritance, whereby we are sealed to the day of redemption.[9]

    WLC: Q. 80. Can true believers be infallibly assured that they are in the estate of grace, and that they shall persevere therein unto salvation?

    A. Such as truly believe in Christ, and endeavour to walk in all good conscience before him,[349] may, without extraordinary revelation, by faith grounded upon the truth of God’s promises, and by the Spirit enabling them to discern in themselves those graces to which the promises of life are made,[350] and bearing witness with their spirits that they are the children of God,[351] be infallibly assured that they are in the estate of grace, and shall persevere therein unto salvation.[352]

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  137. RS, the particular sections you cite from WLC have to do with assurance of salvation, not with elders “seeing” love in the hearts of others.

    As to the Scriptures:

    1 John 3:24 The one who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. We know by this that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us.

    1 John 4:13 By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit.

    What is directly taught here is that the individual may know that he abides in Him.

    There is nothing, grammatically speaking, that teaches that A may know that B abides in Him.

    There’s nothing that you’ve put forward so far that teaches, either directly or by implication, that A can ‘know’ B’s love apart from the works that he does.

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  138. Richard,

    It’s one thing to evaluate your own soul and ‘by faith grounded upon the truth of God’s promises’ see exhibition of the fruits of the spirit, however imperfectly, and have the assurance of faith supplemented by it. It’s a whole ‘nother animal to discern that same internal witness in another. The confession doesn’t support or give credence to such an ability. You know this and your reaching with trying to cite the confession or catechism in your defense on this issue. Turn off the 700 club, it’s seeping in.

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  139. Richard, I wonder if it would help if we got as specific as possible. I’m going to show the questions my church would ask a new member to affirm. What question(s) would you add? (I’m hoping you haven’t answered this one before so you can’t quickly cut ‘n paste. We have a bet going on – the first one to make you take a half hour to respond wins twenty bucks.)

    1.Do you believe the Bible, consisting of the Old and New Testaments, to be the Word of God, and its doctrine of salvation to be the perfect and only true doctrine of salvation?
    2.Do you believe in one living and true God, in whom eternally there are three distinct persons – God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit – who are the same in being and equal in power and glory, and that Jesus Christ is God the Son, come in the flesh?
    3.Do you confess that because of your sinfulness you abhor and humble yourself before God, that you repent of your sin, and that you trust for salvation not in yourself but in Jesus Christ alone?
    4.Do you acknowledge Jesus Christ as your sovereign Lord, and do you promise that, in reliance on the grace of God, you will serve him with all that is in you, forsake the world, resist the devil, put to death your sinful deeds and desires, and lead a godly life?
    5.Do you promise to participate faithfully in this church’s worship and service, to submit in the Lord to its government, and to heed its discipline, even in case you should be found delinquent in doctrine or life?

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  140. Richard, what I said was that the believer serves his neighbor out of gratitude for what God has done on the believer’s behalf. First, how do you get from that that the believer and the unbeliever have the same motives? They don’t, since the unbeliever by definition denies the cross. Second, if we’re talking motives then we see how the Edwardsian is different from the Heidelberger—the former speaks in terms of God’s glory, the latter in terms of gratitude. It’s not that the Heidelberger is unconcerned for God’s glorification, rather that gratitude is a more natural response to grace. God’s glory is the inevitable result instead of the necessary motivation.

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  141. Erik Charter: There’s a scene in Shawshank where Andy accuses the Warden of being obtuse. Perhaps it has gotten to that point with Richard?

    RS: Obtuse? So I give passages of Scripture and I give passages from the WSC and the WLC. That makes me obtuse? Deal with the Scriptures and the Confession. After all, people say they profess it.

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  142. Jeff Cagle: RS, the particular sections you cite from WLC have to do with assurance of salvation, not with elders “seeing” love in the hearts of others. As to the Scriptures:

    1 John 3:24 The one who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. We know by this that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us.

    1 John 4:13 By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit.

    What is directly taught here is that the individual may know that he abides in Him.

    There is nothing, grammatically speaking, that teaches that A may know that B abides in Him.

    RS: So the plural pronouns mean nothing? What about the mutual fellowship that John speaks of in I John 1:5-7? What about the other verses that have been mentioned in this discussion?

    1 John 3:10 By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother.

    Jeff Cagle: There’s nothing that you’ve put forward so far that teaches, either directly or by implication, that A can ‘know’ B’s love apart from the works that he does.

    RS: But remember I have never claimed that we can know the heart of another infallibly. What I have been saying is that we have to go beyond a mere profession and external morality. As for elders, what I have asserted is that they should go beyond asking what people believe about certain doctrines and get to issues of the heart. In doing so the elders may learn things and they may also help people examine their own hearts. If John tells us how we can know how we have eternal life, and it is not by profession or by external morality exlusively, then that should tell us how we should be faithful to the sheep. They need to know how to examine their hearts. After all, that is what John did for the people he wrote to.

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  143. sean: Richard, It’s one thing to evaluate your own soul and ‘by faith grounded upon the truth of God’s promises’ see exhibition of the fruits of the spirit, however imperfectly, and have the assurance of faith supplemented by it. It’s a whole ‘nother animal to discern that same internal witness in another. The confession doesn’t support or give credence to such an ability.

    RS: It appears that you have not read the whole thread, but that is not an accusation. What I have been arguing for is that for men to be faithful elders over the sheep is that they must help the sheep examine their own hearts. I have specifically said on multiple occasions that a person cannot infallibly speak to the hearts of others. However, if you look at the practices of those who wrote the WCF they examined people along the line I am speaking of.

    Sean: You know this and your reaching with trying to cite the confession or catechism in your defense on this issue. Turn off the 700 club, it’s seeping in.

    RS: Read the whole thread before making accusations. If the WCF says (and it is bibilcally correct) that a person can have assurance of salvation in the way of X, then the elders should help that person in that way. The WCF does not teach that people can have assurance if all the elders do is to get them to make a profession and do some external good works. It speaks of the work of the Holy Spirit in the soul. So the elders should help them in that regard. 700 club? I didn’t know that Pat followed the WCF. But the Bible does say that elders are to keep watch over the souls of the people.

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  144. Erik: The sky is blue.

    Richard: No, it’s often grey and sometimes at night it can even appear to be black. The Lord Himself warns us that sometimes the sky is red – “red sky in the morning means foul weather all day.’ You know how to interpret the weather signs in the sky, but you don’t know how to interpret the signs of the times!” (Matthew 16.3)

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  145. Zrim: Richard, what I said was that the believer serves his neighbor out of gratitude for what God has done on the believer’s behalf.

    RS: Which could be nothing more than the men in John 6:26 could have done. They were nothing more than mercenary followers of Christ.

    Zrim: First, how do you get from that that the believer and the unbeliever have the same motives? They don’t, since the unbeliever by definition denies the cross.

    RS: Which is not the point you were getting at in your original post. If indeed a person does not help his neighbor for the glory of God, which is precisely what a person is saved for, but instead just helps a person because he thinks he is grateful, then there is no difference between a true believer and a true unbeliever in your scheme. Atheists are grateful if they think you did something for them.
    Zrim’s Original Post on this: ” But for the Calvinist there is person F who helps his neighbor, not out of some hifalutin notion of God’s glory, but simply because our neighbor needs us and serving her is what those saved by God and grateful for it do.”

    Zrim: Second, if we’re talking motives then we see how the Edwardsian is different from the Heidelberger—the former speaks in terms of God’s glory, the latter in terms of gratitude. It’s not that the Heidelberger is unconcerned for God’s glorification, rather that gratitude is a more natural response to grace. God’s glory is the inevitable result instead of the necessary motivation.

    RS: Without going into details, the Bible is very specific when it says that whatever we do we are to do it to the glory of God. All grace is intended for the glory of God and so if there is true gratitude it will always seek the glory of God. The glory of God is our necessary motivation if we love God.

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  146. MikelMann: Richard, I wonder if it would help if we got as specific as possible. I’m going to show the questions my church would ask a new member to affirm. What question(s) would you add? (I’m hoping you haven’t answered this one before so you can’t quickly cut ‘n paste. We have a bet going on – the first one to make you take a half hour to respond wins twenty bucks.)

    1.Do you believe the Bible, consisting of the Old and New Testaments, to be the Word of God, and its doctrine of salvation to be the perfect and only true doctrine of salvation?

    RS: Why do you believe the Bible is the Word of God? What is salvation? What does it mean to be saved? What is justification by grace alone? Do you know what the imputed righteousness of Christ is? Do you know what a soul needs to be saved from?

    2.Do you believe in one living and true God, in whom eternally there are three distinct persons – God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit – who are the same in being and equal in power and glory, and that Jesus Christ is God the Son, come in the flesh?

    RS: In terms of the Gospel, why is the Trinity important? What does it mean to love God since He is triune and that is the Greatest Commandment? What is the source and original of all true love in the soul? Where does that love come from and how is it worked in the soul? Why do you think you love God? What is love for God?

    3.Do you confess that because of your sinfulness you abhor and humble yourself before God, that you repent of your sin, and that you trust for salvation not in yourself but in Jesus Christ alone?

    RS: What is humility? Are you humble? What does it mean to be humble of soul? What are the three kinds of humility spoken of in the Bible? What is the difference between being humbled by the Law and humbled by grace? What is the difference between true repentance and false repentance? Why do you think you have truly repented? Have you repented of your self-love? Have you repented of your self-sufficiency? What is regeneration? Why do you think you are regenerate? Why do you think that you are a child of God? What is salvation? Why did Christ die? What did Christ die for? So if Christ died for those things, what does your heart say? What are the things you love in your heart? Do you covet things or people? If so, are you saved from the power of sin?

    4.Do you acknowledge Jesus Christ as your sovereign Lord, and do you promise that, in reliance on the grace of God, you will serve him with all that is in you, forsake the world, resist the devil, put to death your sinful deeds and desires, and lead a godly life?

    RS: Who is Jesus Christ? What does it mean for Him to be sovereign Lord? Is He just Lord of the outward things or is He Lord of your hearts as well? Do you know what it means when He hardens your heart? Do you know what it means for Him to soften your heart? What does He teach you when He hardens your heart? What does it mean to forsake the world? What is the devil and how does he work to deceive your heart? How will your sinful desires be put to death? What is a sinful desire? Is Jesus sovereign over your desires? What is a godly life? What does it mean to be godly? Can you be godly without a godly heart? Do you have a godly heart? What is the difference between a godliness by grace and one worked up by the flesh?

    5.Do you promise to participate faithfully in this church’s worship and service, to submit in the Lord to its government, and to heed its discipline, even in case you should be found delinquent in doctrine or life?

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  147. RS: Eric Charter’s position: The sky is blue though no one else can know that I think the sky is blue and no one else knows what I think blue is. Not only that, no elder can help me know whether the sky is blue or figure out what blue is. I will simply affirm that the sky is blue and hope that my blueness is true.

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  148. mikelmann: Richard, that’s not a membership interview. That’s a gauntlet.

    RS: Didn’t say that all those questions would be asked. Just examples. However, when one interviews a person for church membership, the definition of a church according to the Bible is to be a member of Christ. A lot of people are out there trusting in the fact that they have been interviewed by elders and that when the elders grant their membership request they think that they are Christians for sure. That may not be the intent, but that is the reality. I would think that elders would want to be careful in this regard and lead people in something more like John says is the way to know if one has eternal life or not.

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  149. Erik Charter: Is Richard Smith your real name?

    RS: What is real to you? I cannot tell what is in you and how you interpret reality. Real, what is real? What is in a name after all. What is real to me may not be real to you, and we know that people here don’t want to question deeper than mere professions of what is real rather than getting to reality itself.

    Eric Charter: Would you swear to that?

    RS: Let your yes by your yes and your no be your no. Would you like to see my birth certificate from Hawaii? Oh, that is not so good. How about one of my driver’s licenses? Oh, wait, they might not be real either. I could pretend to swear but not really mean what I am saying and then simply act like I am someone and that should convince you. But wait, you are questioning me as if a mere profession of a name and acting morally is not enough in this case. What does that say?

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  150. Erik Charter: Richard – Are you a member of a visible church that you actually worship at regularly?

    RS: Are you asking if I go through the motions or do I really worship? Wait, you are not supposed to ask that. Are you asking if other people really worship? Wait, I am not supposed to ask that either. I suppose we could say that people worship when their eyes are closed and they are snoring slightly since we cannot know what is in their hearts.

    Visible church? What in the world is that? Oh, one where no one knows the hearts of others so people can pretend as they please?

    Eric Charter: Are you under the authority of elders at that visible church?

    RS: Elders? Are those the guys that refuse to ask questions about the hearts of people so they can help people to know if they have eternal life or not? In that case, I guess all that can be known about these people is visible. However, 2 Corinthians 4:18 says that ” while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” So what authority does an elder have over the things which are eternal? I guess it is nothing since they can only go by professions and external morality.

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  151. Richard – Are you a member of a visible church that you actually worship at regularly? Are you under the authority of elders at that visible church?

    Is Richard Smith your real name? Would you swear to that?

    Heidelberg 101 allows for lawful oaths. If I’m going to keep interacting with you I want to know if you are for real. If you’re just some guy with a lot of ideas who isn’t a member of a biblical church I really don’t want to waste my time. I have plenty of other things to do.

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  152. Now you’re kind of just embarassing yourself. A “visible church” is an actual church that meets in a building regularly for worship with a pastor and elders. Gospel preaching, two sacraments, church discipline (Belgic 29).

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  153. Erik Charter: Now you’re kind of just embarassing yourself. A “visible church” is an actual church that meets in a building regularly for worship with a pastor and elders. Gospel preaching, two sacraments, church discipline (Belgic 29).

    RS: If you would take the time to think just a bit, try to take what has been said here to your questions. You take Belgic 29 as stated and as a definition of what a visible church is. Yet when I give you the WCF of what assurance is and then state that surely elders would want to help their people to that assurance, you won’t have any of that. Let us run with that just a moment.

    Is a visible church just just one that professes to preach the Gospel? Is a visible church one that professes to be biblical in the sacraments? Yet the Bible says that if one takes it in an unworthy manner that person is eating and drinking judgment to himself. If you look at the text below, it tells you that before taking the supper a man should examine himself. Is he to examine himself as to whether he has made a profession or not? Should he examine himself as to whether he has done good deeds or not? If the elders have not helped this person examine himself by examining him, then is not examining a person’s heart and teaching the person how to examine his heart helping him eat and drink judgment to himself?

    A true church is one that preaches the true Gospel and a true church is one that administers the sacraments rightly. How can one administer the sacraments rightly if they are not helping the people examine themselves and so enabling the people so that when they take the supper they are eating and drinking judgment to themselves? The text (below) tells us that a man “must” examine himself. Embarassing myself? Maybe, but still shocked that a profession is thought to be enough among the professing Reformed.

    I Corinthians 11:27 Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord.
    28 But a man must examine himself, and in so doing he is to eat of the bread and drink of the cup.
    29 For he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself if he does not judge the body rightly.
    30 For this reason many among you are weak and sick, and a number sleep.
    31 But if we judged ourselves rightly, we would not be judged.

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  154. Richard – Since you can’t answer my two simple questions I am not going to interact with you any more. I have encountered lots of people in my 42 years of life who knew a lot about the Bible and had a lot of ideas about Christianity (many of them good), but their lives were kind of a mess because they were out of balance. They didn’t have a healthy marriage, they didn’t relate well with others, they couldn’t find a church to join, they didn’t want any accountability from other people. They were basically just kind of messed up and toxic. The only thing to do was to kind of avoid those people and hope they eventually came around to the point they could interact in a functional way with society and, more importantly, the church. If you are not a chuch member and are using a fake name here I don’t want to waste my time with you. I disagree with Ted on a lot of things but I know he’s a real guy. “Zrim” and “Sean” don’t use their full names but I can either click through to another website to learn more about them or I know they are members of real churches. Anyway, farewell until you can answer those two questions.

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  155. Erik Charter: Richard – Since you can’t answer my two simple questions I am not going to interact with you any more. I have encountered lots of people in my 42 years of life who knew a lot about the Bible and had a lot of ideas about Christianity (many of them good), but their lives were kind of a mess because they were out of balance. They didn’t have a healthy marriage, they didn’t relate well with others, they couldn’t find a church to join, they didn’t want any accountability from other people. They were basically just kind of messed up and toxic. The only thing to do was to kind of avoid those people and hope they eventually came around to the point they could interact in a functional way with society and, more importantly, the church. If you are not a chuch member and are using a fake name here I don’t want to waste my time with you. I disagree with Ted on a lot of things but I know he’s a real guy. “Zrim” and “Sean” don’t use their full names but I can either click through to another website to learn more about them or I know they are members of real churches. Anyway, farewell until you can answer those two questions.

    RS: Then it is farewell. I don’t think I could convince you about the reality of those things anyway. But remember, the points I tried to press home are vitally important for people to come to a real understanding of the Gospel and of assurance. They are important to the understanding of proper administration of the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. Because of those things, they are important on what is to be considered a church. While I may be a bit goofy (more than a bit in places and at times) and I may not approach things the way you prefer, the issues are absolutely vital. I tried to show you how that would function in everyday life (you thought it was stupid). But if one cannot do those things in everyday life, then why should they be practiced in places where the people can be eating and drinking judgment to themselves? If people are not taught to examine their own hearts as the Scriptures command them to do before they take the Supper, then I am not sure there is anything else left to say other than collapse in dismay at the present state of the visible church.

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  156. RS,

    Erik is correct; if you cannot even answer a simple question on whether you attend a church or not, you really shouldn’t be on the Internet debating theology with believers. On a related note, I wonder if we Reformed have missed the boat by emphasizing the importance of theology when there is now a much better method for getting people back to church

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  157. Richard, I think you need to dial down the discern-o-meter. If it’s not helping you understand my original point then I’m not sure how you can go around peering into hearts. I hate to be repetitive, but unbelievers by definition are not grateful to God for their salvation. Believers by definition are, and the natural result is to behave the way the one to whom they are indebted demands. So in terms of motivation for good works, how does the Heidelberger scheme result in no difference between the un/believer?

    And not to aggravate, but to add to the point: the believer who elects not to help the little old lady is still glorifying God, because he glorifies God the same way God saves him—by faith alone, apart from works. The unbeliever who elects to help her isn’t glorifying God. He’s just doing a good work, apart from faith. The point is that faith is the instrument.

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  158. RS: So the plural pronouns mean nothing?

    Not what you think. The problem is that “we (verb)” has two possible meanings. One is collective, as in,

    We are going to the store.

    The other is distributive, as in

    We think of our loved ones every day.

    In the first, the entire group acts as one. In the second, the verb applies to each person individually.

    The only way to tell one use from the other is by context, according to the type of action. It seems clear that in 1.8 – 10, 3.19 – 24, 4.13 – 21, as well as John’s frequent use of “if anyone”, “whoever”, etc., that John is speaking distributively and not collectively.

    In short, you are misreading the plural.

    Now, I could be wrong. But to convince me, you would need to produce a passage of Scripture that teaches, somehow, that we can directly see the love of others without resorting to looking at the evidence of their deeds.

    So far, you keep producing verses that talk about the evidence of deeds. For example: 1 John 3:10 By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother.

    That’s looking at external morality.

    RS: What I have been saying is that we have to go beyond a mere profession and external morality.

    Stop for a moment and think about who has been using the word “mere.” Have I? Has Zrim? Erik? No.

    Doesn’t that suggest that you are distorting the position?

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  159. todd: RS, Erik is correct; if you cannot even answer a simple question on whether you attend a church or not, you really shouldn’t be on the Internet debating theology with believers.

    RS: But that was not his question. The real point I was trying to get across, though apparently rather badly, is why is it not thought to be important to get beyond a simple profession for a person joining a church (and thus declared, in the minds of most people, a Christian) and yet want me to swear as to whether this (Richard Smith) is my true name or not? It seems like such a minor thing as to whether a name on a site such as this is a real name or not but there are eternal consequences involved in whether a person is declared a member of a church or not. Then, if that person becomes a member they are allowed to the Lord’s Table where they are commanded to examine themselves. The only examination that they might have been exposed to, however, is whether they profess the faith and are externally moral. Yet if they have not examined themselves in an appropriate manner they may be eating and drinking damnation to themselves. So, again, my point was in trying to show the inconsistency it is to want a person to swear to something that is inconsequential and yet basically give people a free pass into things that are eternal.

    A second point, however, is why do you assume that all here are believers? Why would you assume that because people like to discuss things on this board that would mean that they are believers? Why would you assume that I don’t attend church virtually every Sunday (not to mention Bible studies I lead and attend during the week)? But even if I did not attend church on a regular basis, does that automatically make me an unbeliever? There are people who have physical difficulties that keep them out of church but could type away on the internet. Men like Lorraine Boettner and A.W. Pink did not attend church in their latter years. I just thought the assumptions you made were interesting.

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  160. Zrim: Richard, I think you need to dial down the discern-o-meter. If it’s not helping you understand my original point then I’m not sure how you can go around peering into hearts.

    RS: I don’t claim to be able to peer into hearts.

    Zrim: I hate to be repetitive, but unbelievers by definition are not grateful to God for their salvation.

    RS: True, but those deceived about their salvation and think they are saved can be grateful to God for what they think is their salvation.

    Zrim: Believers by definition are, and the natural result is to behave the way the one to whom they are indebted demands. So in terms of motivation for good works, how does the Heidelberger scheme result in no difference between the un/believer?

    And not to aggravate, but to add to the point: the believer who elects not to help the little old lady is still glorifying God, because he glorifies God the same way God saves him—by faith alone, apart from works. The unbeliever who elects to help her isn’t glorifying God. He’s just doing a good work, apart from faith. The point is that faith is the instrument.

    RS: A person that sins also glorifies God because all that is done glorifies God in a different way. I think you think of glorifying God as one thing versus this happening in differing ways. The unbeliever that helps the little old lady is glorifying God though against his (the unbeliever) desire and purpose. The believer who helps the old lady across the street glorifies God (manifests the glory of God) because it is God in the person manfiesting Himself through them.

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  161. Jeff Cagle quoting RS: So the plural pronouns mean nothing?

    Jeff Cagle: Not what you think. The problem is that “we (verb)” has two possible meanings. One is collective, as in, We are going to the store.

    The other is distributive, as in We think of our loved ones every day.

    In the first, the entire group acts as one. In the second, the verb applies to each person individually.

    The only way to tell one use from the other is by context, according to the type of action. It seems clear that in 1.8 – 10, 3.19 – 24, 4.13 – 21, as well as John’s frequent use of “if anyone”, “whoever”, etc., that John is speaking distributively and not collectively.

    In short, you are misreading the plural.

    Now, I could be wrong. But to convince me, you would need to produce a passage of Scripture that teaches, somehow, that we can directly see the love of others without resorting to looking at the evidence of their deeds.

    RS: True enough there is the collective and the distributive. However, let me go in a different direction on this. How do you know that God loves you? Rom 5:5 says that the love of God is poured out in our hearts.

    I John 4:12 No one has seen God at any time; if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us.

    RS: How do we know if we are loving other believers and that they are loving us apart from knowing that God abides in them? A professing believer can love another professing believer in a sense, yet if they are not believers God is not abiding in them and His love is not perfected in them. Yet if they are doing the same acts as a true believer, and those acts are the only standard, wouldn’t that be a deceptive thing to them?

    13 By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit.
    14 We have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son to be the Savior of the world.
    15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.
    16 We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.

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  162. Jeff Cagle: So far, you keep producing verses that talk about the evidence of deeds. For example: 1 John 3:10 By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother.

    That’s looking at external morality.

    RS: I do believe you are assuming that those things are limited to external morality. There is no greater command than to love God with all of our being, yet while that includes outward behavior I Cor 13 says that without love the greatest of those works are of no benefit.

    Jeff Cagle quoting RS: What I have been saying is that we have to go beyond a mere profession and external morality.

    Stop for a moment and think about who has been using the word “mere.” Have I? Has Zrim? Erik? No.

    Doesn’t that suggest that you are distorting the position?

    RS: Well, I hope not and don’t think so. If you (and they) are arguing that all we have to go by is a profession and external morality and nothing more (so far that is all that has been presented), then “mere” is not a bad choice of words. Since you are arguing against my position that we are able to see something of true love (Spirit in us) through others, though not infallibly, it would seem that your position is based on profession and external morality, that is, mere. I have been trying to argue (give reasons for) that we should help people look in their own hearts as opposed to just letting them in the church based on a profession and external morality. Others, including yourself, have wanted to argue that based on charity and all that is all we have. So perhaps you have not used that word, but in arguing for what you are for and what you are against, I don’t think I am distorting your position but am simply setting it out with a little more clarity in contrast to mine.

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  163. RS: But that was not his question. The real point I was trying to get across, though apparently rather badly, is why is it not thought to be important to get beyond a simple profession for a person joining a church (and thus declared, in the minds of most people, a Christian) and yet want me to swear as to whether this (Richard Smith) is my true name or not?

    TB: I didn’t ask about your true name.

    RS: A second point, however, is why do you assume that all here are believers?

    TB: I didn’t assume everyone was, but most are.

    RS: Why would you assume that I don’t attend church virtually every Sunday

    TB: Why not just say so when asked? It’s not a difficult question

    RS: But even if I did not attend church on a regular basis, does that automatically make me an unbeliever?

    TB: It is an issue of credibility. A man arguing for a proper relationship between faith and works, and commenting on the many who deceive themselves in this area, loses credibility when he refuses to obey one of the most basic commands in the NT, to be part of a local body of believers.

    RS: There are people who have physical difficulties that keep them out of church but could type away on the internet.

    TB: If that is you just say so. If not, what’s the point, it doesn’t apply to you.

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  164. A person that sins also glorifies God because all that is done glorifies God in a different way. I think you think of glorifying God as one thing versus this happening in differing ways. The unbeliever that helps the little old lady is glorifying God though against his (the unbeliever) desire and purpose. The believer who helps the old lady across the street glorifies God (manifests the glory of God) because it is God in the person manfiesting Himself through them.

    But, Richard, now you seem to be doing what you accuse my scheme of: making no distinction between the believer and unbeliever. You do this by making good works the instrument of glorifying God instead of faith. The Heidelberger scheme does the opposite (surprise) by drawing on the antithesis between belief and unbelief. And you don’t account for the believer who doesn’t do a certain good work. Believers don’t do good works 24/7/365. What does the Edwardsian say of the believer who is sitting in the outdoor café imbibing while the unbeliever is shuttling little old ladies across the street? The Heidelberger says glorifying God.

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  165. RS, you seem really wrapped around an axle here.

    Take a moment to distinguish between two reference frames. First, the reference frame of the individual believer, or non-believer. Call her Alice.

    What can she say about herself? She can examine her own heart. She can say, to the best of her examination, whether her deeds proceed from love or from some other motive. She can say whether she is resting in Christ or in something else. All of this subject to the (severe) qualification that the heart is desperately wicked and cannot be fully known.

    We as shepherds would encourage her to consider these things and repent as the Spirit makes sin known to her.

    That’s the internal stuff that John is talking about in 1 John, and Paul is talking about in 1 Cor 13.

    Now consider the reference frame of Elder Bob, speaking with Alice.

    What evidences can he look to in order to “read” the state of her heart? He only has three options: He can listen to her words; he can try to read her body language; and he can examine her actions.

    The first two, essentially, fall under the category of words. The third is in the category of deeds.

    There is nothing else. The Bible never speaks of a special sense that lets us read the hearts of others.

    You’ve taken verses that talk about the internal state of the believer, known only to that believer and God, and tried to turn them into an Aristotelian theory of “knowing the heart” — “I just ask penetrating questions, and voila, I just know.” The raw truth comes in through the window of the eyes, so to speak.

    No. What you’re really doing is reading words and deeds and forming a judgment based on them.

    Ask all the questions you want of a prospective member, but you will never get anything more than words out of him or her. And those words can be faked, no matter how much you make them squirm. You say that the devil cannot fake true love, but Peter did (Matt 16.23).

    And here’s the real concern: the more “penetrating” you try to make the questions, the more self-deception you will encourage. Just look at some of your questions:

    RS: Are you humble? … Have you repented of your self-love? Have you repented of your self-sufficiency? … What are the things you love in your heart? Do you covet things or people? If so, are you saved from the power of sin?

    If I were being interviewed like this, I would tell you, “I want to be found in Christ, not having a righteousness of my own, but that which comes through faith in him.”

    And if that were not enough for you, then I would find another church. Because frankly, your questions sound like you believe in Osianderism: That God justifies us on the basis of a change that He makes in us.

    Of course I am proud, and I covet, and I am self-sufficient. Why do you think we need a Savior?!

    Your questions will only encourage people to (a) look to themselves instead of the Savior, and (b) deceive themselves, or you, or both, about the true state of their hearts.

    This is dangerous nonsense, brother. You should be assuming that people’s hearts are hard and full of many layers of sin, and that their justification rests on looking to Christ alone and not on the transformation of their hearts.

    Does God sanctify? Most certainly.

    Does He sanctify the whole man? Definitely.

    Does He sanctify such that we can ever, in this life, affirm our sinlessness in some area or another? Not.A.Chance.

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  166. todd: RS: But that was not his question. The real point I was trying to get across, though apparently rather badly, is why is it not thought to be important to get beyond a simple profession for a person joining a church (and thus declared, in the minds of most people, a Christian) and yet want me to swear as to whether this (Richard Smith) is my true name or not?

    TB: I didn’t ask about your true name.

    RS: Erik did and it was part of the whole issue that I was amazed about. That is where you stepped in.

    Old post RS: A second point, however, is why do you assume that all here are believers?

    TB: I didn’t assume everyone was, but most are.

    RS: But again, why do you assume that most are?

    Old Post RS: Why would you assume that I don’t attend church virtually every Sunday

    TB: Why not just say so when asked? It’s not a difficult question

    RS: But again, the context it is asked in and all that is going on. If all that is required of a person is a profession of faith and a moral life, then one has to ask how that relates to the definition of a church. Sure I come from a different view on that, but it does not sound much different than the average SBC where you are let in on the profession of your faith.

    Old Post RS: But even if I did not attend church on a regular basis, does that automatically make me an unbeliever?

    TB: It is an issue of credibility. A man arguing for a proper relationship between faith and works, and commenting on the many who deceive themselves in this area, loses credibility when he refuses to obey one of the most basic commands in the NT, to be part of a local body of believers.

    RS: Ah, but there the issue resurfaces. Is there a difference between a local organization that calls itself a church and being part of a local body of believers? This is where his question, in my opinion, was rather ironic. If you define a church as a local body of believers, then you are asking me to make a judgment of their hearts on the one hand when in fact you tell me that I cannot do that on the other. Again, it was so ironic in my way of viewing things.

    Old RS: There are people who have physical difficulties that keep them out of church but could type away on the internet.

    TB: If that is you just say so. If not, what’s the point, it doesn’t apply to you.

    RS: Todd, here is your old post:
    Erik is correct; if you cannot even answer a simple question on whether you attend a church or not, you really shouldn’t be on the Internet debating theology with believers.

    RS: Look at what is implied. There are most likely many people reading this BLOG who never post here. It is likely that some of those people cannot attend church. Whether something applies to me directly or not does not make it unimportant to others.

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  167. Zrim: But, Richard, now you seem to be doing what you accuse my scheme of: making no distinction between the believer and unbeliever.

    RS: No, there is a huge distinction. I am not sure how you arrived at your conclusion from my words.

    Zrim: You do this by making good works the instrument of glorifying God instead of faith.

    RS: Somehow you have misread my words again. Let me try to be more clear. The human being him or herself is the instrument of the glory of God. God manfiests His glory through the human being. As Jesus told Martha, “Did I not say to you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” Those with faith are those that God uses to manifest His glory through. But it is also true that those with faith behold His glory and those without faith do not.

    Zrim: The Heidelberger scheme does the opposite (surprise) by drawing on the antithesis between belief and unbelief. And you don’t account for the believer who doesn’t do a certain good work.

    RS: But James says that without good works faith is dead.

    Zrim: Believers don’t do good works 24/7/365. What does the Edwardsian say of the believer who is sitting in the outdoor café imbibing while the unbeliever is shuttling little old ladies across the street? The Heidelberger says glorifying God.

    RS: I don’t think tht the Heidelberger says that.

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  168. Jeff Cagle: RS, you seem really wrapped around an axle here.

    RS: I have a few axle bars that I lift on occasion.

    JC: Take a moment to distinguish between two reference frames. First, the reference frame of the individual believer, or non-believer. Call her Alice. What can she say about herself? She can examine her own heart. She can say, to the best of her examination, whether her deeds proceed from love or from some other motive. She can say whether she is resting in Christ or in something else. All of this subject to the (severe) qualification that the heart is desperately wicked and cannot be fully known.

    We as shepherds would encourage her to consider these things and repent as the Spirit makes sin known to her. That’s the internal stuff that John is talking about in 1 John, and Paul is talking about in 1 Cor 13. Now consider the reference frame of Elder Bob, speaking with Alice.

    What evidences can he look to in order to “read” the state of her heart? He only has three options: He can listen to her words; he can try to read her body language; and he can examine her actions.
    The first two, essentially, fall under the category of words. The third is in the category of deeds.
    There is nothing else. The Bible never speaks of a special sense that lets us read the hearts of others.

    RS: At the risk of opening another can of worms here, cannot a person with faith see the glory of Christ in a way that unbelievers cannot? Wouldn’t the love of God dwelling in a person be God dwelling in that person and wouldn’t that glory be able to be seen by one with faith? Once a person begins to wrestle with the whole concept of love, things change. When love is seen in the light of I John 4:7-8, then love is not just some feeling in the heart, but it is the work of God in the heart. Can the person of faith see the work and glory of God in the heart or not? What is that thing we call love that God pours out in our hearts if we cannot know it? Again, how can a person tell if God loves them?

    Romans 5:5 and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

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  169. Jeff Cagle: You’ve taken verses that talk about the internal state of the believer, known only to that believer and God, and tried to turn them into an Aristotelian theory of “knowing the heart” — “I just ask penetrating questions, and voila, I just know.” The raw truth comes in through the window of the eyes, so to speak.

    RS: Perhaps you have arrived at that position as your judgment, but that is not the case.

    Jeff Cagle: No. What you’re really doing is reading words and deeds and forming a judgment based on them.

    RS: Not so.

    Jeff Cagle: Ask all the questions you want of a prospective member, but you will never get anything more than words out of him or her. And those words can be faked, no matter how much you make them squirm. You say that the devil cannot fake true love, but Peter did (Matt 16.23).

    RS: The devil did not fake true love and Peter did not either. Peter had a wrong idea of love, but what he demonstrated was not true love. True love cannot be faked because true love has God alone as its origin and source. There are all kinds of false loves and imitations, but true love cannot actually be faked.

    Jeff Cagle: And here’s the real concern: the more “penetrating” you try to make the questions, the more self-deception you will encourage. Just look at some of your questions:

    Jeff Quoting RS: Are you humble? … Have you repented of your self-love? Have you repented of your self-sufficiency? … What are the things you love in your heart? Do you covet things or people? If so, are you saved from the power of sin?

    If I were being interviewed like this, I would tell you, “I want to be found in Christ, not having a righteousness of my own, but that which comes through faith in him.”

    RS: And I would answer you that if you want Christ and faith alone then you need to be concerned about humility because pride can deceive a person a lot.

    Jeff Cagle: And if that were not enough for you, then I would find another church. Because frankly, your questions sound like you believe in Osianderism: That God justifies us on the basis of a change that He makes in us.

    RS: No, the issue is whether a person has real faith, the true Christ, and therefore eternal life. God does not justify on the basis of a change in us, but the justified person is changed because of the new life in him or her.

    Jeff Cagle: Of course I am proud, and I covet, and I am self-sufficient. Why do you think we need a Savior?!

    RS: But is He as Savior from hell only or a Savior who saves His people from sin?
    Titus 2:11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men,
    12 instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, 13 looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, 14 who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.

    RS: Read those verses carefully. Grace instructs us to deny ungodliness and worldy desires. Grace instructs us to deny the desires and not just the actions. But notice also that Christ died to redeem His people from every lawless deed and to purify for Himself a people. Again, Christ died in order to redeem people and to purify people.

    Jeff Cagle: Your questions will only encourage people to (a) look to themselves instead of the Savior, and (b) deceive themselves, or you, or both, about the true state of their hearts.

    RS: No, it will encourage them to quit looking to themselves for assurance from a profession and a moral life. It will drive them to Christ if He is pleased to do so because it is applying the Law in a spiritual way and sense. The Law has spiritual applications that reach the soul. Apart from reachign the inner person with the spiritual nature of the Law, we have left their hearts untouched.

    Jeff Cagle: This is dangerous nonsense, brother. You should be assuming that people’s hearts are hard and full of many layers of sin, and that their justification rests on looking to Christ alone and not on the transformation of their hearts.

    RS: It is far from nonsense and it is dangerous not to do so. It is dangerous not to apply the spiritual nature of the Law to people and leave it to govern their behavior. It does what the Law is supposed to do which is to strip them of all righteousness and hope in themselves so that they can look to Christ alone. What was it that got Paul? It was when he realized what it really meant to covet. See Rom 7:7ff.

    Jeff Cagle: Does God sanctify? Most certainly. Does He sanctify the whole man? Definitely.
    Does He sanctify such that we can ever, in this life, affirm our sinlessness in some area or another? Not.A.Chance.

    RS: Where have I ever even come close to even intimating such a thing?

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  170. RS: But again, the context it is asked in and all that is going on. If all that is required of a person is a profession of faith and a moral life, then one has to ask how that relates to the definition of a church. Sure I come from a different view on that, but it does not sound much different than the average SBC where you are let in on the profession of your faith.

    So why not just answer the question?

    RS: Ah, but there the issue resurfaces. Is there a difference between a local organization that calls itself a church and being part of a local body of believers? This is where his question, in my opinion, was rather ironic. If you define a church as a local body of believers, then you are asking me to make a judgment of their hearts on the one hand when in fact you tell me that I cannot do that on the other. Again, it was so ironic in my way of viewing things.

    TB: If a man is speaking to a woman about marriage, and the woman asks the man if he is married, and he talks about philosophies of marriage, etc… and she asks him again, “but are you married?” and he still refuses to answer, she should run; a man doesn’t avoid a simple question like that without reason, and it is rarely a noble one.

    RS: Look at what is implied. There are most likely many people reading this BLOG who never post here. It is likely that some of those people cannot attend church. Whether something applies to me directly or not does not make it unimportant to others.

    TB: It think everyone knows there are special circumstances; that doesn’t negate the general point.

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  171. todd quoting RS: But again, the context it is asked in and all that is going on. If all that is required of a person is a profession of faith and a moral life, then one has to ask how that relates to the definition of a church. Sure I come from a different view on that, but it does not sound much different than the average SBC where you are let in on the profession of your faith.

    Todd: So why not just answer the question?

    RS: Context, context, context. Again, why are the standards for speaking to a person on this forum higher than it is for joining a church?

    Old post RS: Ah, but there the issue resurfaces. Is there a difference between a local organization that calls itself a church and being part of a local body of believers? This is where his question, in my opinion, was rather ironic. If you define a church as a local body of believers, then you are asking me to make a judgment of their hearts on the one hand when in fact you tell me that I cannot do that on the other. Again, it was so ironic in my way of viewing things.

    TB: If a man is speaking to a woman about marriage, and the woman asks the man if he is married, and he talks about philosophies of marriage, etc… and she asks him again, “but are you married?” and he still refuses to answer, she should run; a man doesn’t avoid a simple question like that without reason, and it is rarely a noble one.

    RS: Sorry, but your analogy is flawed. The woman should have asked him if he was married when they first met. There is also the context of the question. They things do not happen in a vacuum.

    Old Post RS: Look at what is implied. There are most likely many people reading this BLOG who never post here. It is likely that some of those people cannot attend church. Whether something applies to me directly or not does not make it unimportant to others.

    TB: It think everyone knows there are special circumstances; that doesn’t negate the general point.

    RS: Perhaps, but there are also several other things going on here. What does it mean to attend a church on a regular basis? Let us suppose a man had an aging mother in another state and tried to go there as often as possible to help take care of her. We can also imagine that the same man fills the pulpits of a few different churches on an irregular basis. So perhaps he is not a regular attender at the local church. Does that mean a forum should assume that the man is unfaithful to a church and therefore not a believer?

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  172. JRC: Does God sanctify? Most certainly. Does He sanctify the whole man? Definitely.
    Does He sanctify such that we can ever, in this life, affirm our sinlessness in some area or another? Not.A.Chance.

    RS: Where have I ever even come close to even intimating such a thing?

    Your membership questions intimate that exact thing. Perhaps it’s a matter of context, but you said that you ask

    RS to member: Are you humble?

    What is the correct answer that you are looking for? It certainly sounds like you are looking for the person to say “Yes”, when in fact the only Biblically correct answer is “No.”

    So perhaps you should explain what you are looking for in the answers to your questions.

    But before you reply: Why ask the questions at all? If you have some kind of “love sense” as you seem to claim to have, then you shouldn’t have to resort to mere words!

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  173. RS,

    You are certainly within your rights not to answer a basic question that any believer should be able to answer. When people refuse to answer simple questions they usually have something to hide.
    So we are certainly within our rights not think theological dialogue with you is worthwhile. If others want to continue that is up to them, but I am done.

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  174. Richard,

    Re: this exchange:

    Jeff Cagle: Does God sanctify? Most certainly. Does He sanctify the whole man? Definitely.
    Does He sanctify such that we can ever, in this life, affirm our sinlessness in some area or another? Not.A.Chance.

    RS: Where have I ever even come close to even intimating such a thing?

    You may not think you ever said such a thing, as in affirming sinlessness in some area. But your construction of Christian devotion leads people to think that you are affirming this. The reason is that you don’t seem to have a place for sin in your understanding of the true Christian life. Granted, sin is not desirable. But sin seems to blow your entire experimental paradigm (sorry Bryan Cross), such that you make people wonder what you will do when you discover sin in their lives. The implication seems to be that sin upends a believer’s assurance, sanctification, and evidence of true faith.

    If you came around more to the importance of the forensic, as opposed to the renovative, people might not think you are implicitly arguing for perfection.

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  175. todd: RS, You are certainly within your rights not to answer a basic question that any believer should be able to answer.

    RS: Which was not the point. The issue was over why are there more stringent requirements to be on this board (for some) that it is to join a church? That was the issue. You may see it as refusing to answer, but I see it far differently.

    Todd: When people refuse to answer simple questions they usually have something to hide.

    RS: Or, at least in this case, they have something to demonstrate. I don’t think I have that much to hide. Again, I was asked to swear that this is my real name. Yes, I was asked (demanded?) to swear to it. In all honesty, I don’t think it is moral to swear to that in this situation. Yes, it if fine to take an oath if one is being sworn in to testify or to an office. However, the major point was why is it that for someone to talk to me I must swear that my name is real whereas to join a local church you wouldn’t have to do that.

    Todd: So we are certainly within our rights not think theological dialogue with you is worthwhile. If others want to continue that is up to them, but I am done.

    RS: So, Todd, do you swear that Todd is your real name? I know, you are done. But maybe, just maybe you just might get a small flicker of what that is like.

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  176. Jeff Cagle: JRC: Does God sanctify? Most certainly. Does He sanctify the whole man? Definitely.
    Does He sanctify such that we can ever, in this life, affirm our sinlessness in some area or another? Not.A.Chance.

    RS: Where have I ever even come close to even intimating such a thing?

    Jeff Cagle: Your membership questions intimate that exact thing. Perhaps it’s a matter of context, but you said that you ask

    RS: I was asked to provide some questions I would ask. I gave a list of question, yes. But there is not one single question about sinlessness.

    JRC quoting RS to member: Are you humble?

    JRC: What is the correct answer that you are looking for? It certainly sounds like you are looking for the person to say “Yes”, when in fact the only Biblically correct answer is “No.”

    RS: But why do you think I would be looking for a yes answer? If you simply judged by my words, then would you come up with that “feeling” or sense? The biblical answer, which of course could be faked, would not be a “yes” or “no”. It would be that one is more humble than they used to be (one has to have some humility in order for the person to have grace) but they are still full of pride and self.

    JRC: But before you reply: Why ask the questions at all? If you have some kind of “love sense” as you seem to claim to have, then you shouldn’t have to resort to mere words!

    RS: I don’t claim to have a love sense and never have. I am wondering, however, why you are not answering my questions. 1. How do you know that God loves you or how can a person know if God loves them? I am asking you to use the criteria you have been using for me to answer that question. 2. What is so bad about pressing the spiritual nature of the Law home to people when in fact it reaches the heart? After all, that is the practice of Jesus in Matthew six. 3. Can a believer see the glory of Christ or not? 4. Can a believer who has the Holy Spirit not have some discernment of the glory of Christ and the love of God in other people? Is it really all just empricial observation? 5. Is it just empirical observation we have in interpreting Scripture or can the Spirit enlighten our eyes to see things that unbelievers cannot see in them?

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  177. D.G. Hart quoting RS: Where have I ever even come close to even intimating such a thing? [perfection]

    D.G. Hart: You may not think you ever said such a thing, as in affirming sinlessness in some area. But your construction of Christian devotion leads people to think that you are affirming this. The reason is that you don’t seem to have a place for sin in your understanding of the true Christian life.

    RS: Interesting. You say that I don’t have a place for sin in my understanding and others seem to accuse me of the opposite when I want to get to the sin of the heart by asking questions.

    D.G. Hart: Granted, sin is not desirable. But sin seems to blow your entire experimental paradigm (sorry Bryan Cross), such that you make people wonder what you will do when you discover sin in their lives. The implication seems to be that sin upends a believer’s assurance, sanctification, and evidence of true faith.

    RS: Sin does not blow any paradigm I have. The question is helping people see the hidden sin of their hearts so that they can know if they are converted and then if they are growing in holiness. We are in a spiritual war and one command we have is to be holy as He is holy. We are not saved in order that we may relax in our battle of sin, but Christ died in order to do away with sin. This does not make people perfect, but it means that they must get in the battle.

    D.G. Hart: If you came around more to the importance of the forensic, as opposed to the renovative, people might not think you are implicitly arguing for perfection.

    RS: So how is a forensic righteousness opposite or contradictory to a pursuit of holiness in the heart? A person is declared righteous on the basis of the righteousness of Christ, yes, but that frees them from self-righteousness in their pursuit of a true holiness out of love for God. A person should not desire holiness in order to obtain righteousness to be saved by, that is quite foreign to the whole issue. However, if Christ dwells in a soul, then Christ will be the same Christ He was on earth. He loves holiness and He will work that in His people. His people should want to be holy and they should love holiness and desire to be like Christ. But that is far from some sort of perfectionism, though indeed we are commanded to pursue maturity. We cannot pursue maturity if we are satisfied with an external morality.

    Matthew 5: 27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY’;
    28 but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
    29 “If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.
    30 “If your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to go into hell.

    Was Jesus teaching perfectionism here or what? Was He satisfied with an external form of morality? Did He teach anything contrary to forensic righteousness though He did not mention it and clearly went after sin in the heart?

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  178. Richard, but the Heidelberger just said the believer by faith glorifies God 24/7/365, even as his good works wax and wane. But the question was how the Edwardsian understands the believer who is outpaced in good works by the unbeliever, which happens quite a bit. If, as you say, “faith without good works is dead,” does that mean that when the believer refrains from shuttling old ladies he’s sinning? My point is that your scheme just doesn’t seem to make any room for being human. It looks a lot like super-apostleship.

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  179. Zrim: Richard, but the Heidelberger just said the believer by faith glorifies God 24/7/365, even as his good works wax and wane.

    RS: I think the Heidelberger is dealing with one form of how believers glorify God, but not all forms.

    Zrim: But the question was how the Edwardsian understands the believer who is outpaced in good works by the unbeliever, which happens quite a bit. If, as you say, “faith without good works is dead,” does that mean that when the believer refrains from shuttling old ladies he’s sinning? My point is that your scheme just doesn’t seem to make any room for being human. It looks a lot like super-apostleship.

    RS: Jesus Christ was perfectly holy and righteous and also had a human nature. So you must be speaking of a fallen human. The command stands whether we can keep it or not. We are commanded to love God with all of our being and we are commanded to glorify God in all we do. The fact that we are sinful does not lower the commandments. Jesus had to teach the Pharisees and those that had been taught by them the real standard of the law and of the commandments. It is only when the real standard is set forth, that we see the true degree of our sin and therefore our true need of grace. When we lower the commandments to a level we can keep, we also lower grace. But once again, Dr. Hart, this is not against forensic righteousness at all. Those who love God, and the only way we can love God is if we have been freed from our burden to obtain righteousness by ourselves, will keep His commands (including the ones that specifically reach the inner man, though indeed they cannot do that even close to perfectly). These are the ones who prize the free and gracious giving of an imputed righteousness. These are the ones that are poor in spirit because they see that they have no righteousness of their own and now way to obtain it on their own.

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  180. RS: I don’t claim to have a love sense and NEVER have.

    RS: I also will assert, but only because I John and John 13:35 does, that there are other was that are not just invisible to others. Notice in the verses below the plural pronouns and how they are applied. For example, verse 16: ” We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.” We (plural) have come to know and have believed that love which God has for (literally “in”) us. In other words, there is something about this true love (in context) THAT SHOWS ONE PERSON THAT GOD ABIDES IN OTHER PEOPLE. It seems to me that is what the text says.”

    RS:Call it mystical or whatever, neverthless John does not say in all places that we are to look at deeds. He says we can KNOW because we have been given the Holy Spirit.

    C.H. Mackintosh(Plymouth Brethren);

    “We must be exclusively taught and exclusively governed by the Word of the living God. Nothing else will keep us straight, or give solidity and consistency to our character and course as Christians. There is a strong tendency within and around us to be ruled by the thoughts and opinions of men – by those great standards of doctrine which men have set up.”

    “Those standards and opinions may have a large amount of truth in them – they may be all true so far as they go; that is not the point in question now. What we want to impress upon the Christian reader is, that he is not to be governed by the thoughts of his fellow-man, but simply and solely by the Word of God. It is of no value to hold a truth from man; I must hold it directly from God Himself. God may use a man to communicate His truth; but unless I hold it as from God, it has no divine power over my heart and conscience; it does not bring me into living contact with God, but actually hinders that contact by bringing in something between my soul and His holy authority.”

    ” The more closely we examine the elements that are abroad in the professing Church, the more we shall be convinced of our personal need of this entire subjection to divine authority, which is only another name for “the fear of the Lord”, or, “a single eye”.”

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  181. sean: RS: I don’t claim to have a love sense and NEVER have.

    Sean quoting RS: I also will assert, but only because I John and John 13:35 does, that there are other was that are not just invisible to others. Notice in the verses below the plural pronouns and how they are applied. For example, verse 16: ” We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.” We (plural) have come to know and have believed that love which God has for (literally “in”) us. In other words, there is something about this true love (in context) THAT SHOWS ONE PERSON THAT GOD ABIDES IN OTHER PEOPLE. It seems to me that is what the text says.”

    RS: So is that a love sense? No, that is not a love sense.

    Sean quoting RS: Call it mystical or whatever, neverthless John does not say in all places that we are to look at deeds. He says we can KNOW because we have been given the Holy Spirit.

    RS: But the fact that we know because we have been given the Spirit is not a love sense.

    C.H. Mackintosh(Plymouth Brethren);

    “We must be exclusively taught and exclusively governed by the Word of the living God. Nothing else will keep us straight, or give solidity and consistency to our character and course as Christians. There is a strong tendency within and around us to be ruled by the thoughts and opinions of men – by those great standards of doctrine which men have set up.”

    “Those standards and opinions may have a large amount of truth in them – they may be all true so far as they go; that is not the point in question now. What we want to impress upon the Christian reader is, that he is not to be governed by the thoughts of his fellow-man, but simply and solely by the Word of God. It is of no value to hold a truth from man; I must hold it directly from God Himself. God may use a man to communicate His truth; but unless I hold it as from God, it has no divine power over my heart and conscience; it does not bring me into living contact with God, but actually hinders that contact by bringing in something between my soul and His holy authority.”

    ” The more closely we examine the elements that are abroad in the professing Church, the more we shall be convinced of our personal need of this entire subjection to divine authority, which is only another name for “the fear of the Lord”, or, “a single eye”.”

    Holy Scripture:
    John 6:44 “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day. 45 “It is written in the prophets, ‘AND THEY SHALL ALL BE TAUGHT OF GOD.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father, comes to Me. 63 “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life.

    I Cor 2:6 Yet we do speak wisdom among those who are mature; a wisdom, however, not of this age nor of the rulers of this age, who are passing away;
    7 but we speak God’s wisdom in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God predestined before the ages to our glory;
    8 the wisdom which none of the rulers of this age has understood; for if they had understood it they would not have crucified the Lord of glory;
    9 but just as it is written, “THINGS WHICH EYE HAS NOT SEEN AND EAR HAS NOT HEARD, AND which HAVE NOT ENTERED THE HEART OF MAN, ALL THAT GOD HAS PREPARED FOR THOSE WHO LOVE HIM.”
    10 For to us God revealed them through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God.
    11 For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God.
    12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God,
    13 which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words.
    14 But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.
    15 But he who is spiritual appraises all things, yet he himself is appraised by no one.
    16 For WHO HAS KNOWN THE MIND OF THE LORD, THAT HE WILL INSTRUCT HIM? But we have the mind of Christ.

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  182. Sean – I am teaching a Sunday school class on American church history. Today we were talking about the Reformation and Catholics and somehow I thought it was relevant to talk about how you had been a Catholic seminarian and now you are a Presbyterian. I can’t remember what the context was, but you have now been mentioned to at least some of the reformed folk in Des Moines. If you die, at least you’ve got that going for you…

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  183. Speaking of Reformed folk in Des Moines – The OPC pastor here is town announced today that he is taking a call from a church in Virginia. He is a good man and will be missed. If you know any candidates let me know. My parents go there. It is a great town to raise a family in. My pastor moved from Southern California to pastor our URC church in Des Moines and I think he likes it. His wife is able to stay home with their three kids on his salary.

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  184. Will do. I remember what the context was. We were talking about how the Reformers stressed preaching and how preaching was not a big emphasis for Rome. I remembered how you always say that Rome is all about the mass. It’s helpful to have interaction with a guy like you.

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  185. RS: 1. How do you know that God loves you or how can a person know if God loves them?

    His promises contained in the Scripture; the incarnation, life, death, and resurrection of the living Word. These are the grounds, and the Spirit causes us to believe in them.

    RS: 2. What is so bad about pressing the spiritual nature of the Law home to people when in fact it reaches the heart?

    Nothing at all. Asking people about the state of their hearts does not accomplish that goal. Teaching the Law in its first use sense accomplishes the goal of pressing the spiritual nature of the Law home.

    RS: 3. Can a believer see the glory of Christ?

    Only by faith at this time. Sight is in the world to come.

    RS: 4. Can a believer who has the Holy Spirit not have some discernment of the glory of Christ and the love of God in other people?

    Jesus was able to read hearts; all others must rely on what people say and do, and then only dimly. The hidden things belong to the Lord.

    RS: Is it really all just empricial observation?

    I see a lot in Scripture that teaches precisely that. Root and fruit (Matt 7, Jude); Rom 10.10; the various passages in I John; etc.

    And, I see nothing in Scripture that teaches otherwise.

    5. Is it just empirical observation we have in interpreting Scripture or can the Spirit enlighten our eyes to see things that unbelievers cannot see in them?

    You’re comparing apples and oranges.

    The Spirit can certainly open our eyes, just as Jesus opened the eyes of the disciples in Jerusalem (Luke 24.44 – 45). But His enlightenment is not a different sense category from observation and reason. What the disciples learned from Jesus was still based on looking at the OT and noticing what they had not noticed before: that it was chock-full of types pointing to Jesus’ death and resurrection.

    Think about how the Confession talks about interpretation. On the one hand, the Spirit gives faith to believe what is written:

    yet notwithstanding, our full persuasion and assurance of the infallible truth and divine authority thereof, is from the inward work of the Holy Spirit bearing witness by and with the Word in our hearts.

    On the other, sound doctrine is always in accord with good and necessary inference:

    The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for His own glory, man’s salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit or traditions of men.

    Chew on that ‘new revelations of the Spirit’ for a bit. It entails that the Spirit does not add understanding of the Scripture that goes beyond “good and necessary inference.” He may well enlighten the mind to understanding; and He most certainly enlightens the mind to believe. But He doesn’t create a supra-reasoning revelation to do it.

    So what about 1 Cor 2?

    Well, Paul is clearly not saying that people with the mind of Christ are now supernaturally smarter than unbelievers. Else we’d put you up against Stephen Hawking.

    The key is the first para of 1 Cor 3. The problem with the Corinthians is not their intelligence, but their lack of wisdom. Their fleshly attitudes prevent them from understanding because they will not believe and receive the solid food (of sound doctrine, as I take it).

    The solid food is certainly intelligible, but it seems foolish to them rather than wise because they themselves have embraced foolishness rather than wisdom.

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  186. RS: The biblical answer, which of course could be faked, would not be a “yes” or “no”. It would be that one is more humble than they used to be (one has to have some humility in order for the person to have grace) but they are still full of pride and self.

    I’m glad to hear that this is your desired answer. It is much better than what first seem to present, that you were requiring an affirmative in order to become a member.

    But it’s still not entirely satisfactory (sorry). What would you do with Paul, the “chief of sinners”? What would you do if he said, for example,

    “I know that I am commanded to be humble, but I count any humility I have as rubbish in view of the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord…”

    Paul might very well be troublesome, for he doesn’t seem to traffic much in “how Jesus made me a better person.” He wants to look to Christ and not to himself.

    Richard, I think what we’re looking at is a divergence between models of sanctification.

    On the one hand is the confessional model: Means of grace are used by the Spirit to stir up our faith, leading to resting in Christ, leading to the fruit of the Spirit.

    On the other hand is a different model: The Law tells me what to do, and the Spirit helps me to do it, and I become a holier person thereby.

    Is that a fair assessment?

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  187. Jeff Cagle quoitng RS: The biblical answer, which of course could be faked, would not be a “yes” or “no”. It would be that one is more humble than they used to be (one has to have some humility in order for the person to have grace) but they are still full of pride and self.

    Jeff Cagle: I’m glad to hear that this is your desired answer. It is much better than what first seem to present, that you were requiring an affirmative in order to become a member.

    RS: No, they are just questions designed to help a person examine their heart and help those who are talking with them understand where the person is.

    Jeff Cagle: But it’s still not entirely satisfactory (sorry). What would you do with Paul, the “chief of sinners”? What would you do if he said, for example, “I know that I am commanded to be humble, but I count any humility I have as rubbish in view of the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord…”

    RS: That would actually be a great partial answer since humility is never earned and it can never earn anything and we never get beyond our own rubbish. However, Jesus was perfectly humble and He never sinned. All I am saying but that is that perfect humility was possible for Jesus as perfect so not all types of humility are necessarily an aspect of knowing how sinful we are. But still, any type of humility that a fallen creature has will always be consistent with the answer of Paul above.

    Jeff Cagle: Paul might very well be troublesome, for he doesn’t seem to traffic much in “how Jesus made me a better person.” He wants to look to Christ and not to himself.

    RS: Yes, but he also wants people to look at Christ in them (Col 1:27 & Gal 2:20).

    Jeff Cagle: Richard, I think what we’re looking at is a divergence between models of sanctification.
    On the one hand is the confessional model: Means of grace are used by the Spirit to stir up our faith, leading to resting in Christ, leading to the fruit of the Spirit. On the other hand is a different model: The Law tells me what to do, and the Spirit helps me to do it, and I become a holier person thereby. Is that a fair assessment?

    RS: It is perhaps fair, but not really accurate. I am also not sure that it is the model put forth in the WCF. For example, going back to Paul, he worked harder than all the other apostles, yet it was not him. 1 Corinthians 15:10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me.”

    The command for human beings to be holy as He is holy is still there. For some reason you seem to think that I think that the Spirit helps a person to be holy and then the person in keeping the Law is holier and that of course leads to pride of that holiness as if s/he did it. The Law shows us our sin and so a holier person is one that sees much more sin than an unbeliever does. It is not that people grow more holy in their own eyes, at least that is the ideal. They will become more and more sinful in their own eyes as they gain more and more knowledge of their own heart. However, surely you would not deny that a believer is to repent and be a continual repenter off of his days. While no one will attain some form of perfect holiness in this life, that does not mean that they will not sin less and will not have sorrow for sin as against God (see David in Psalm 51). If we love God and we see our sin as against Him, there will be a desire to repent and a crying out to Him for strength and power against sin.

    But that should not drive us to see all of this as from self, it should drive us to a deeper humility (emptiness of self) and a deeper understanding of our own weakness and inability. This should drive us to live by grace which is how faith operates. It should drive us to a focus on Christ in new and deeper ways. I am not sure why the fruit of the Spirit (your model above in the assessment) would lead a person to focus on self. It should lead them to Christ as that is what the Spirit does in reality. So we must grow in holiness (2 Corinthians 7:1 Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God) as the fruit of the Spirit is the fruit of the HOLY Spirit. All that He works in His people is from holiness and is conducive to holiness. But that should not lead us to focus on self as true holiness leads to greater sight of our sin, our helplessness and inability, and of grace.

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  188. Jeff Cagle quoting RS: 1. How do you know that God loves you or how can a person know if God loves them?

    Jeff Cagle: His promises contained in the Scripture; the incarnation, life, death, and resurrection of the living Word. These are the grounds, and the Spirit causes us to believe in them.

    RS: Does that really correspond to Romans 5:5? So He gives us historical facts and the Spirit works so you believe that those facts are true? Where does the fellowship (spoken of in I John 1:3ff) with God come in? How does that correspond to Jesus’s prayer of love dwelling in His people and of His dwelling in them in John 17:26? Does that correspond to what eternal life is which is to know God and His Son? Can Christianity really be boiled down to a better philosophical system of true facts that we believe in?

    Jeff Cagle quoting RS: 2. What is so bad about pressing the spiritual nature of the Law home to people when in fact it reaches the heart?

    Jeff Cagle: Nothing at all. Asking people about the state of their hearts does not accomplish that goal. Teaching the Law in its first use sense accomplishes the goal of pressing the spiritual nature of the Law home.

    RS: While it is true that we are not Jesus, the NT presents Jesus as asking the people a lot of questions. I would not want to say that He necessarily uses the socratic method, but He still asked people questions and even answered their questions with questions at times.

    Jeff Cagle quoting RS: 3. Can a believer see the glory of Christ?

    Jeff Cagle: Only by faith at this time. Sight is in the world to come.

    RS: Of course it is by faith, but still believers are given the ability to see the glory of Christ in a way that unbelievers do not. But do you think that faith is something more than the empirical data?

    1 Corinthians 2:9 but just as it is written, “THINGS WHICH EYE HAS NOT SEEN AND EAR HAS NOT HEARD, AND which HAVE NOT ENTERED THE HEART OF MAN, ALL THAT GOD HAS PREPARED FOR THOSE WHO LOVE HIM.”

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  189. How can we give priority to the forensic over the experimental if our churches don’t make profession of the five points of Calvinism a requirement for membership, even while we do insist that parents agree with having their infants “baptized” if they are to be members?

    In many reformed congregations, one can affirm all five points of Arminianism (which seem to be regarded as “close enough” to having a grasp on the forensic nature of the atonement, not a “full grasp or all the riches of the gospel we smart people know” of course) but if you won’t do what we say should be practiced, then your experience is cause for excluding you (even if you happen to be smart like us and agree with the five points).

    I agree that I have put this question out in a very unfocused way. I can’t seem to help putting in some asides about gospel and antithesis. Despite the skewed way I have put the question, let me assure you that I am in no way arguing that Reformed churches should accept into their visible membership those who don’t assent to what their confessions say about “sacrament”.

    What I am asking is why profession of the forensic gospel is not also demanded of those who would be members of visible churches. You are not a cult. You are not saying that anybody outside your churches is not a Christian. That being so, why is it not good and right to expect agreement with the Confession about the forensic gospel (and not only about infant baptism)?

    Sure I understand that many of you think that saying that Christ died for every sinner is not in antithesis to the gospel. It’s not a contradiction–it’s merely an immature and inadequate understanding of the gospel and none of us are perfect and all of us have been effectually called but some of us are smart and serious enough to have read good reformed books, which if other people had read them most likely they too would agree (but you never know, they might reject, so you gotta be careful….)

    So all you are saying is that –while you can be justified with limited knowledge, or even with knowledge that contradicts what the Bible and the confessions say, but all this forensic stuff is all besides the point when it comes to doing what should be done. Get your babies done….

    To focus. Without questioning their effectual call, you can keep out those who don’t agree with you about baptism. So why not do the same with the five points? Is it that the five points are only a “gnostic internal concern” with confessional correctness about systematic and logical coherence and not about external practice?

    Does God save Arminians and then leave them in Arminianism? Does God save credobaptists and then leave them in credobaptism?

    Nobody is claiming that credobaptists are going against what they know in their own conscience to be true. But that doesn’t excuse sinful practice….

    Of course there are many who claim that Arminians know in their hearts what Arminians seem to be too dumb to say with their mouths.

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  190. Mark – Why would an arminian want to go to a (conservative) Reformed Church? I’m not encountering any of those personally.

    It seems like “Richard” would be at home in the CREC. From what I know about them they practice both infant and believers baptism. Their ministers who are leading the charge on the Federal Vision like to talk about “faithfulness” rather than “faith”. That’s where all of this introspection ultimately leads — either there or to Rome. Rome provides a great system for people who want to work steps to justify and sanctify themselves.

    “Richard” is also attacking a straw man (I feel like Bryan Cross). In my Reformed Church the law is always read before sins are proclaimed forgiven because of the gospel. Preparatory statements are always read before communion is taken. People aren’t taking what Christ has done for granted. No one is advocating empty belief alone.

    Heidelberg Question 21. What is true faith?

    Answer. True faith is not only a certain knowledge, [c] whereby I hold for truth all that God has revealed to us in his word, but also an assured [d] confidence, which the Holy [e] Ghost works by the gospel, [f] in my heart; that not only to others, but to me also, [g] remission of sin, everlasting righteousness [h] and salvation, are freely given by God, [i] merely of grace, only for the sake of Christ’s merits.

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  191. Mark, the first membership vow in a Reformed church is: “Do you believe the Bible, consisting of the Old and New Testaments, to be the inerrant and infallible Word of God, and its doctrine, summarized in the confessions of this Church, to be the perfect and only true doctrine of salvation?” One of those confessions is the Canons of Dordt, which as you know, is all about the five points. Another is the Belgic, which detests the error of the Anabaptists.

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  192. Erik,

    Richard already told us that his first name is really Richard so the John Frame theory holds no weight. Unless of course Richard was lying, but Richard claims he loves others and obeys the commandments most all of the time so I am taking him at his word and assuming he was not lying about his real first name. That he loves and obeys most of the time is a passing grade for assurance I guess. I don’t want to misrepresent and caricature his position though. I may be commiting the slippery slope fallacy of an argument.

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  193. Old Post RS: 4. Can a believer who has the Holy Spirit not have some discernment of the glory of Christ and the love of God in other people?

    Jeff Cagle: Jesus was able to read hearts; all others must rely on what people say and do, and then only dimly. The hidden things belong to the Lord.

    RS: But believers do have the Holy Spirit and He is able to give then insight into things which is more than just their words and actions. Even in our secular law courts they judge intent in the crimes.

    1 Corinthians 2:9 but just as it is written, “THINGS WHICH EYE HAS NOT SEEN AND EAR HAS NOT HEARD, AND which HAVE NOT ENTERED THE HEART OF MAN, ALL THAT GOD HAS PREPARED FOR THOSE WHO LOVE HIM.”

    Old Post RS: Is it really all just empricial observation?

    Jeff Cagle: see a lot in Scripture that teaches precisely that. Root and fruit (Matt 7, Jude); Rom 10.10; the various passages in I John; etc. And, I see nothing in Scripture that teaches otherwise.

    RS: So we have no way of knowing or discerning the difference between the fruit of the Spirit and those who do the same things in a self-centered way? Is there really no difference in the way believers and unbelievers to deed A?

    Old Post RS: 5. Is it just empirical observation we have in interpreting Scripture or can the Spirit enlighten our eyes to see things that unbelievers cannot see in them?

    Jeff Cagle: You’re comparing apples and oranges.

    RS: You keep speaking of literal fruit, but I am speaking of spiritual fruit.

    Jeff Cagle: The Spirit can certainly open our eyes, just as Jesus opened the eyes of the disciples in Jerusalem (Luke 24.44 – 45). But His enlightenment is not a different sense category from observation and reason. What the disciples learned from Jesus was still based on looking at the OT and noticing what they had not noticed before: that it was chock-full of types pointing to Jesus’ death and resurrection.

    RS: So the spiritual wisdom and understanding that Scritpure speaks of is simply the Spirit giving us a little more observation and reasoning skills? What is it about the new birth that allows us to see the kingdom of God?

    Jeff Cagle: Think about how the Confession talks about interpretation. On the one hand, the Spirit gives faith to believe what is written: yet notwithstanding, our full persuasion and assurance of the infallible truth and divine authority thereof, is from the inward work of the Holy Spirit bearing witness by and with the Word in our hearts.

    On the other, sound doctrine is always in accord with good and necessary inference:
    The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for His own glory, man’s salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit or traditions of men.

    Chew on that ‘new revelations of the Spirit’ for a bit. It entails that the Spirit does not add understanding of the Scripture that goes beyond “good and necessary inference.” He may well enlighten the mind to understanding; and He most certainly enlightens the mind to believe. But He doesn’t create a supra-reasoning revelation to do it.

    RS: I have been chewing for a bit. It appears that you are saying that the Spirit basically gives you an extra insight into good and necessary inference. I have a hard time seeing how that fits with Colossians 1:9 (see just below).

    Colossians 1:9 “For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding.”

    Old post RS: So what about 1 Cor 2?

    Well, Paul is clearly not saying that people with the mind of Christ are now supernaturally smarter than unbelievers. Else we’d put you up against Stephen Hawking. The key is the first para of 1 Cor 3. The problem with the Corinthians is not their intelligence, but their lack of wisdom. Their fleshly attitudes prevent them from understanding because they will not believe and receive the solid food (of sound doctrine, as I take it). The solid food is certainly intelligible, but it seems foolish to them rather than wise because they themselves have embraced foolishness rather than wisdom.

    1 Corinthians 2:1 And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God.
    2 For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.
    3 I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling,
    4 and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power,
    5 so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God.

    RS: But the way to preach Christ and Him crucified is to preach in a way that the Spirit and His power are demonstrated. How can we do that if we are limited to empirical ways of doing things and people cannot understand anything but by the causal reasoning of good and necessary inference?

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  194. Erik Charter: My personal theory is that “Richard” is really John Frame and he’s messing with everybody here.

    RS: I wasn’t aware that anyone would find me out so quickly.

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  195. Erik Charter: It seems like “Richard” would be at home in the CREC. From what I know about them they practice both infant and believers baptism. Their ministers who are leading the charge on the Federal Vision like to talk about “faithfulness” rather than “faith”. That’s where all of this introspection ultimately leads — either there or to Rome. Rome provides a great system for people who want to work steps to justify and sanctify themselves.

    RJFS: The problem with that view, however, is that it is not that I am advocating a position for those who want to justify and sanctify themselves, but instead am advocating a view that is thoroughly Reformed and is rooted in history. Yes, of the Puritans. As the Word of God is a means of grace and it is used by the Spirit to bring life to sinners, so the Word of God is a means of grace to sanctify His people in their hearts. The Word is the sword of the Spirit and part of His work is to convict people of sin (see John 16). As He uses the preaching of the Word to people, so He can also use the teaching of the Word to people. Yes, it is uncomfortable to see the wickedness of our own hearts in reality and not just make a profession of it, but it is needed if people are going to have a true understanding of grace.

    Eric Charter: “Richard” is also attacking a straw man (I feel like Bryan Cross). In my Reformed Church the law is always read before sins are proclaimed forgiven because of the gospel. Preparatory statements are always read before communion is taken. People aren’t taking what Christ has done for granted. No one is advocating empty belief alone.

    RJFS: Yes, they read them. But are there a lot of other sins that are not read and then proclaimed to be forgiven? Are the people taken to behold the glory of Christ and His cross and then His imputed righteousness? Just reading those things is not contradictory to an empty belief alone.

    Eric Charter: Heidelberg Question 21. What is true faith?
    Answer. True faith is not only a certain knowledge, [c] whereby I hold for truth all that God has revealed to us in his word, but also an assured [d] confidence, which the Holy [e] Ghost works by the gospel, [f] in my heart; that not only to others, but to me also, [g] remission of sin, everlasting righteousness [h] and salvation, are freely given by God, [i] merely of grace, only for the sake of Christ’s merits.

    RJFS: What is true faith?

    Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
    3 By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible. 24 By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter,
    25 choosing rather to endure ill-treatment with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin,
    26 considering the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; for he was looking to the reward.
    27 By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured, as seeing Him who is unseen.

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  196. John Yeazel: Richard already told us that his first name is really Richard so the John Frame theory holds no weight.

    RS: Of course John could be a middle name or Richard could be a nickname or… Just remember, John Smith is also a great name to hide under as well. But if you frame it in the right way, you never know what one could come up with.

    John Yeazel: Unless of course Richard was lying, but Richard claims he loves others and obeys the commandments most all of the time so I am taking him at his word and assuming he was not lying about his real first name.

    RJFS: I would like to make a clarification here. By keeping the commandments does not mean that I claim to keep the commandments 100% or 90% or anything like that. However, if a mustard seed of faith can move mountains, that is, is true faith, then the love that flows from such a small faith is also a small love. So a person that has true love as a mustard seed can be spoken of as keeping the commandments, though far, far from perfection. A person can grow a lot in keeping the commandments, but that person can still be far below 30% of a full and perfect obedience. The percentages are simply to make a point and are not intended to be exact. So a person can be increasing in holiness his or her whole life and still be very, very far from perfection. But the growth is by the life of Christ in the person and the work of the Holy Spirit.

    John Yeazel: That he loves and obeys most of the time is a passing grade for assurance I guess. I don’t want to misrepresent and caricature his position though. I may be commiting the slippery slope fallacy of an argument.

    RJFS: Assurance can only come on the basis of the work of the Spirit in the soul which is based on the work of Christ on the cross and the imputed righteousness of Christ. There is no passing grade as such, but the question is if there is real grace in the soul or not.

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  197. The Puritans were Anglicans (England) who wanted to purify the Anglican church. They weren’t Reformed (Continental Europe) or Presbyterian (Scotland & Northern Ireland). I think “Richard” is on the wrong site. You really can’t trace our (most of the guys here) churches back to the Puritans. It’s as if I started preaching Reformed doctrine on a site for Methodists or Quakers.

    Some of the Puritans hung out in The Netherlands for awhile but apparently their Dutch wasn’t good enough to learn the right lessons. Oh, and don’t get me started on burning witches.

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  198. This reminds me of an interview I once heard with Ted Haggard. The interviewer (a Reformed guy) was talking about how a realistic understanding of what sin is makes it really difficult to say that we don’t sin all the time. Haggard responded that he had not sinned in several days. Later we found out that sin was quite a regular occurrence for him.

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  199. Erik Charter: This reminds me of an interview I once heard with Ted Haggard. The interviewer (a Reformed guy) was talking about how a realistic understanding of what sin is makes it really difficult to say that we don’t sin all the time. Haggard responded that he had not sinned in several days. Later we found out that sin was quite a regular occurrence for him.

    The Puritans were Anglicans (England) who wanted to purify the Anglican church. They weren’t Reformed (Continental Europe) or Presbyterian (Scotland & Northern Ireland). I think “Richard” is on the wrong site. You really can’t trace our (most of the guys here) churches back to the Puritans. It’s as if I started preaching Reformed doctrine on a site for Methodists or Quakers.

    RS: A lot of the Puritans were Presbyterians and many were Independents. The WCF, which was written by many Puritans, is Presbyterian. However, you might want to read the Heidelberg. I sounds just like what the Puritans would have said. Some also speak of the Dutch Puritans as well, so be careful.

    Heidelberg:
    Question 113. What does the tenth commandment require of us?

    Answer: That even the smallest inclination or thought, contrary to any of God’s commandments, never rise in our hearts; but that at all times we hate all sin with our whole heart, and delight in all righteousness.

    Question 114. But can those who are converted to God perfectly keep these commandments?

    Answer: No: but even the holiest men, while in this life, have only a small beginning of this obedience; yet so, that with a sincere resolution they begin to live, not only according to some, but all the commandments of God.

    (a) 1 John 1:8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. Rom.7:14 For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin. Rom.7:15 For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. Eccl.7:20 For there is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not. 1 Cor.13:9 For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. (b) Rom.7:22 For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: Ps.1:2 But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night. James 2:10 For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.

    Question 115. Why will God then have the ten commandments so strictly preached, since no man in this life can keep them?

    Answer: First, that all our lifetime we may learn more and more to know (a) our sinful nature, and thus become the more earnest in seeking the remission of sin, and righteousness in Christ; (b) likewise, that we constantly endeavour and pray to God for the grace of the Holy Spirit, that we may become more and more conformable to the image of God, till we arrive at the perfection proposed to us, in a life to come. (c)

    (a) Rom.3:20 Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin. 1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Ps.32:5 I acknowledged my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the LORD; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin. Selah. (b) Matt.5:6 Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled. Rom.7:24 O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? Rom.7:25 I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin. (c) 1 Cor.9:24 Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. Philip.3:11 If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. Philip.3:12 Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. Philip.3:13 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, Philip.3:14 I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

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  200. I subscribe to the Three Forms so have no problem with what you have quoted.

    The issue is, if I say I’m really, really sorry for my sins you will reply, “well, you need to be really, really, really sorry.”

    If I say I’m really, really, really sorry you’ll tell me I need to add another really. At some point you just like to hear yourself talk (see yourself type).

    Doggone it, John Frame, I’ve let you sucker me again.

    Spoke to someone who knows Stellman personally. He said that coming out of Penecostalism he was always very, very concerned about sanctification and how it worked. Now he’s with Rome. That’s where a morbid obession with this leads. You need to focus more on Christ’s work than on yourself. Note the Heidelberg questions you cited are in the “gratitude” section, not the “grace” section.

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  201. Erik,

    I don’t mind Stellman or Richard being concerned for sanctification, the problem is both have underestimated the perfection of the law required and thus the glory of Jesus Christ in what He has accomplished as the 2nd Adam. Stellman has done it formally in repudiating the protestant insistence upon the perfect requirement of the law being charged against the creation made Imago Dei, and Richard does it pastorally in trying to ferret out ‘the almost believer'(puritan speak) and defends it as both being sanctioned by 1 john, ability given via the testimony of the Holy Spirit, and concern for the souls of others. I can deal better with Stellman because he’s not holding out that his position is protestant or confessional. Richard’s is more dubious and points to the need for the reformed to move away from much of New England puritanism and locate itself within the continental reformed or somebody like Stuart Robinson in the american scene. It’s why I prefer the 3 forms of unity to the WCF, still Richard can’t be allowed to get away with an equating of the english reformation particularly with the scottish influence, the WCF, with the congregational puritanism of the New Englanders. IOW, we’re presbyterians not puritans, and the theology, to say nothing of the emphasis, differs, sometimes greatly.

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  202. Sean – Re. Stuart Robinson – https://oldlife.org/2011/02/introducing-the-old-school-presbyterians-stuart-robinson/

    I regret missing out on the 2K debate. It seems to have died down (for now). I’m finishing up Van Drunen’s shorter book. I like it a lot. He contrasts the covenant with Noah and the covenant with Abraham effectively (also Israel in the promised land vs. Israel in Babylon). It provides a good framework for thinking through 2K issues.

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  203. Zirm, thanks for your answer. I guess “conservative” is a relative term. I haven’t encountered too many reformed congregations who actually ask prospects to agree with what the confession teaches about gospel doctrine. Of course the congregations I Know also wouldn’t enforce boundaries about sacramental praxis. So am I dealing with a hypothetical, a congregation which would refuse credobaptists (because they disobey in practical experience) but would NOT also refuse Arminians (to paying membership, not only to the eldership)?

    Of course there are many reasons credobaptist Arminians would want to join with my local pca church.
    1. The pastor of that church is himself an Arminian. He promises folks that Christ will die for them too if only they will believe on HIm.
    2. This church is conservative, which means it cares more about same-sex marriage and the exceptional nature of the usa than it does for picky debates about the fine points of refuting Arminian mistakes about the gospel.
    3. This church doesn’t use Fanny Crosby music or any other contemporary “throw up” (on the wall) music.

    Why shouldn’t an Arminian escape Fanny Crosby if he can? Especially if he can go on being Arminian and convervative at the same time?

    He believes in the virgin birth and the bodily resurrection and he wants to hear your preacher preach. Just how much more do you want?

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  204. Erik,

    It’ll kick back up again. If you haven’t already, grab hold of Kline’s Kingdom Prologue, DVD leans on him, his insights anyway, pretty heavily in diagnosing the different modern theological strains. I taught through DVD’s NL2K, and aside from the 10 or so I put to sleep every sunday school, it gave myself and the few who would tolerate it, a pretty good grounding in the historical developments.

    http://bookstore.wscal.edu/collections/vandrunen-david-m/products/2592

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  205. sean: I don’t mind Stellman or Richard being concerned for sanctification, the problem is both have underestimated the perfection of the law required and thus the glory of Jesus Christ in what He has accomplished as the 2nd Adam.

    RS: Which of course is absolutely incorrect. God requires perfection in each and every act. However, that does not mean that in Christ and Christ in the soul that a believer cannot and must grow in Christ. It is His glory in live and at the cross, but it is also the glory of Christ in the believer and it is His glory that shines through the believer. True holiness is Christ shining in and through the believer.

    SEan: Stellman has done it formally in repudiating the protestant insistence upon the perfect requirement of the law being charged against the creation made Imago Dei, and Richard does it pastorally in trying to ferret out ‘the almost believer’(puritan speak) and defends it as both being sanctioned by 1 john, ability given via the testimony of the Holy Spirit, and concern for the souls of others.

    RS: But of course the NT speaks frequently about the need not to be deceived. A pastor should be concerned about souls being decieved since the soul deceives itself, is deceived by sin, is deceived by the deceiver, and is so greatly deceived by self-love.

    Sean: I can deal better with Stellman because he’s not holding out that his position is protestant or confessional. Richard’s is more dubious and points to the need for the reformed to move away from much of New England puritanism and locate itself within the continental reformed or somebody like Stuart Robinson in the american scene.

    RS: Perhaps the real need is for all people to be more biblical.

    Sean: It’s why I prefer the 3 forms of unity to the WCF, still Richard can’t be allowed to get away with an equating of the english reformation particularly with the scottish influence, the WCF, with the congregational puritanism of the New Englanders.

    RS: Allow Richard to get away with that? Are you saying that the WCF was not Presbyterian? Are you saing that the English Puritans did not come to the US and that the congregational puritanism was not from some of the best from England?

    SEan: IOW, we’re presbyterians not puritans, and the theology, to say nothing of the emphasis, differs, sometimes greatly.

    RS: The Scottish presbyterians sure wanted Jonathan Edwards to come over and join them, so at the least that shows their theology did not differ that much. However, it may be correct that the continental reformed does have a different view of things than the Puritans. However, Wilhelmus a Brakel was Dutch and he was very experimental much like the Puritans. He refers to the different kinds of faith as well (historical, temporal, miraculous, and then saving faith). In other words, there are all kinds of believing that a person can do and still not have saving faith. It might also be helpful to note that just because a person believes certain things does not mean that a person has faith. A Brakel spends many pages in his works on the distinguishing marks of saving faith.

    “Faith is the soul of Christianity, whoever is in error here, errs unto his damnation. Many, having a false notion concerning this, perish with a false peace; others spend their days in sorrow, being fearful that they do not possess true faith, whereas, being true believers, they have reason to go on their way rejoicing. It is therefore necessary to distinguish in the clearest possible manner between true and temporal faith. May the Lord grant me the grace and ability to do so.”

    He (a Brakel) goes on to talk about The Necessity of Self-Examination. Why? Not those who are baptized, and not all who attend church and partake of the Lord’s Supper are true believers. Yes, only a few, and by far the smallest number of them are true believers on the way to eternal felicity”…”Thirdly, it is most detrimental to neglect self-examination and the searching of one’s heart. Such neglect holds man captive in the sleep of carelessness…It hold him captive to the world and to sin; yes, it is the key whereby he closes heaven and opens hell for himself.” He goes on some later, “Many thousands will go to hell who imagine that they will enter heaven.”

    He goes on to talk about the various forms of self-deceit. A few pages later he speaks of how temporal and true believers are distinguished in their practice of holiness. “He who does not manfiest holiness is not a true believer”, though he does recognize and write about a counterfeit holiness that the unbeliever can have and assure himself with. If that is continental theology, then that is good stuff. Stellman denies the Gospel and of what good works truly are. But the continental guys like a Brakel did not. You might also want to think about why Joel Beeke who loves the Puritans publishes so many of the Dutch guys.

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  206. Erik,

    Kline’s KP, is downloadable in PDF form(free) if you don’t already have it. Rube I’m sure has it linked over at C.O.

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  207. Zrim: Mark, the first membership vow in a Reformed church is: “Do you believe the Bible, consisting of the Old and New Testaments, to be the inerrant and infallible Word of God, and its doctrine, summarized in the confessions of this Church, to be the perfect and only true doctrine of salvation?” One of those confessions is the Canons of Dordt, which as you know, is all about the five points.

    RS: There is a difference in reading them and understanding them. There is a difference between saying that you believe them and really understanding them. How many people in history have taken a vow to the WCF without really believing it? Finney did that. I have found elders in conservative Presbyterian churches who did not know the five points of Calvinism. So despite people taking the vows, without being carefully taught those things I remain doubtful that they really believe them.

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  208. I imagine we’ll get around to teaching Van Drunen in Sunday School as well. We have a good core of younger guys who are tracking with him on this stuff. Not sure about some of the older folks. It would certainly be an interesting class.

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  209. Erik Charter: The issue is, if I say I’m really, really sorry for my sins you will reply, “well, you need to be really, really, really sorry.” If I say I’m really, really, really sorry you’ll tell me I need to add another really. At some point you just like to hear yourself talk (see yourself type).

    R-JF-S: First. I don’t reallly watch myself type. Second, in the words of Thomas Shepherd, the degree of sorrow needed is to the point where the soul is humiliated (emptied of self) before God. In other words, the point of sorrow is to (in the words or Thomas Watson) have sin become bitter so that Christ will be sweet.

    Eric Charter: Doggone it, John Frame, I’ve let you sucker me again.

    Spoke to someone who knows Stellman personally. He said that coming out of Penecostalism he was always very, very concerned about sanctification and how it worked. Now he’s with Rome. That’s where a morbid obession with this leads. You need to focus more on Christ’s work than on yourself. Note the Heidelberg questions you cited are in the “gratitude” section, not the “grace” section.

    RS: But sanctifiction is the work of Christ and it is not a focus on self. Christ died to make His people holy in both position and practice. There is a reason that the Spirit is the Holy Spirit and so the fruits of the Spirit are holy. While many profess Christ as King and as Lord, they refuse Him as King and Lord in their hearts and lives. They will give Him just enough time to make them feel good, but that is not submission to Christ as King. Those who are saved are in the KINGDOM of Christ and Christ reigns in His Kingdom. In one sense holiness is the human soul being set apart from all else to be an instrument by which King Jesus may manifest Himself through. As a holy King, the manifestations of Himself are holy. Holiness, then, is not a preoccupation with self, it is to be focused on Christ as our King and our Life. When He lives in His people by His Spirit, it is His Holy Spirit who only works holiness in them.

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  210. RS: Allow Richard to get away with that? Are you saying that the WCF was not Presbyterian?

    Sean; No I said just the opposite(scottish influence) but I was trying to be evenhanded about the english puritan involvement in it’s drafting. As for the dutch, besides the fact that I’m not Dutch which is already a knock against me undoubtedly, I share many of the same misgivings about some of their theological developments that others here voice at different times.(i.e. transformationalism). Though this is mainly related to those post-Kuyper. As far as the continental reformed, I’m thinking more of the idea of assurance being part of saving faith, and the nature of the spirituality being centered on churchly or ecclesial forms(Luther and Calvin fighting over the nature of the body and blood) vs. conversionist New England emphasis(preparationism)-how do you know if you’re really saved, have you spent engough time analyzing your navel.

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  211. Sean’s navel comment is funny. We have had social-activist CRC types visit our URC church and accuse us of being navel-gazers because of the emphases on preaching, two services, etc. as opposed to getting out in the community, feeding the hungry, etc. Richard says we don’t navel-gaze enough. We get it from all sides.

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  212. Sean: As far as the continental reformed, I’m thinking more of the idea of assurance being part of saving faith, and the nature of the spirituality being centered on churchly or ecclesial forms(Luther and Calvin fighting over the nature of the body and blood) vs. conversionist New England emphasis(preparationism)-how do you know if you’re really saved, have you spent engough time analyzing your navel.

    RS: Do you ever see an ecclesial form church in the New Testament? Preparationism does not teach that we should analyze our navel, but examine our hearts to see if Christ is in the heart. That is much like a Brakel taught in the quotes above. At least some of the Dutch, a vast number of the English Puritans, and then a vast majority of the New England preachers believed that Preparationism was the biblical form of evangelism. It was essentially the application of the new birth and election to evangelism as opposed to baptism for salvation.

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  213. On my blog I can see search engine terms people used to hit on my blog. Today someone hit with the search “why is the reformed presbyterian church so weird?”. That’s classic.

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  214. I have not read DVD’s book, but some reviews and critique I have heard has to do with a separation of some of the OT Covenants from the Covenant of Grace. In particular, the Mosaic Covenant reiterated at Mt. Sinai, is argued to be a reiteration of the Cov. of Works. Is this an accurate portrayal of DVD? Thank you.

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  215. Great Richard, we’re now going to have an activist application of the new birth of a supernatural and miraculous movement of the Holy Spirit. Is there little wonder the pentecostals like to ground themselves in Edwardsian/puritan conversion narratives. Whereas, we’ve got specific indicative directives for how to administer the Lord’s supper, the holy status of the children of believers, and a handbook of the particular offices in the local body, complete with job descriptions and qualifications. So, yeah we’ve got an ecclesial form NT prescriptive. But you’d rather major in detailing out the labyrinth of movements(supernatural and otherwise) of the new birth, ferreting out pure and false motives, when, where and how it occurred, of an supernatural act narrated in scripture as the “wind blowing but no one knows from whence it comes or where it goes.” I’ll take my biblical emphasis over yours.

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  216. But of course for you and Edward’s it’s not so much a mystery of ‘from whence it comes or where it goes” You’ve got it all charted out. So much for what Jesus knows.

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  217. I’m in over my head a bit here, but the basic impression I get is that Kline & DVD take the view that the Sinai covenant was primarily about Israel’s possession of the land. Obey and stay, disobey and get kicked out. They disobeyed and were kicked out. Many of the laws given to Israel governed how they were to govern themselves in the land. Once they were out of the land they were to govern themselves differently. This notion ties into 2K thinking a lot. Israel related to the Babylonians way differently when they were in Babylon vs. how they related to the inhabitants of the promised land when they took it over. This has implications about how we relate to society as we live as aliens and strangers ourselves as Christians.

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  218. Erik,

    That’s fair as far as it goes. Paritcularly the idea of using jewish behavior in Babylon or the ancient church before Israel as template for our current behavior in the public square.

    B,

    Kline’s gonna argue for a multi-strata scheme with the mosaic being typical and the abrahamic, being before, the point of COG continuity with the NC(galatians argument). Yes, the mosaic is also republication in typical form of the edenic covenant so as to create the context for the 2nd Adam, Jesus Christ who fulfills the demands of the Law successfully in contrast to the 1st Adam. The Mosaic as ‘working principle’ is Lev 18:5. Which is why Paul can say that the Law is not of faith.

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  219. There is a difference in reading them and understanding them. There is a difference between saying that you believe them and really understanding them. How many people in history have taken a vow to the WCF without really believing it? Finney did that. I have found elders in conservative Presbyterian churches who did not know the five points of Calvinism. So despite people taking the vows, without being carefully taught those things I remain doubtful that they really believe them.

    Richard, at this point you’ve pretty well established your semi-revivalist opposition to confessional theology and practice, so it’s no surprise that you are continuing to make a distinction between (mere, as in dubious) confessing and (deep, as in hyper-spiritual) understanding. But not only does it think of understanding in ordinary spiritual terms, confessionalism esteems obedience before understanding. Which means confessionalism doesn’t mind if sometimes understanding follows confession instead of preceding it. At the same time, confessionalism does think understanding should ordinarily precede obedience, which is why we catechize our baptized youth before making a profession or faith and being welcomed to the table.

    And that profession of faith isn’t (or at least shouldn’t be, though I will admit the Reformed can be vulnerable to) either over-intellectualized or hyper-spiritualized. We’re looking neither for erudite theologians nor super apostles. We’re looking for disciples who show themselves by simple and credible professions and godly lives, both of which may be marked with imperfections. I know, that’s just not spiritual enough for you. But that’s the difference between Reformed confessionalism and one for or another of pietism.

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  220. sean: Great Richard, we’re now going to have an activist application of the new birth of a supernatural and miraculous movement of the Holy Spirit. Is there little wonder the pentecostals like to ground themselves in Edwardsian/puritan conversion narratives. Whereas, we’ve got specific indicative directives for how to administer the Lord’s supper,

    RS: Yes, there are a few specifics on that, but then you get all mystical in the application of the Lord’s Supper.

    Sean: the holy status of the children of believers,

    RS: But you only get that from a misinterpretation of I Cor 7:14

    Sean: and a handbook of the particular offices in the local body, complete with job descriptions and qualifications. So, yeah we’ve got an ecclesial form NT prescriptive.

    RS: What you have is basic information, but not with all the specifics and certainly not a Synod and all the authority stacked in the denominations or in the local church.

    Sean: But you’d rather major in detailing out the labyrinth of movements(supernatural and otherwise) of the new birth, ferreting out pure and false motives, when, where and how it occurred, of an supernatural act narrated in scripture as the “wind blowing but no one knows from whence it comes or where it goes.”

    RS: But of course the heart does have a labyrinth of things that it takes more than a profession to work through. The point of John 3:8 is that no human being is in control since the wind blows as it pleases or wishes. But the winds does give us a lot of evidence as to what it does.

    Sean: I’ll take my biblical emphasis over yours.

    RS: I would love to see your biblical emphasis.

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  221. sean: But of course for you and Edward’s it’s not so much a mystery of ‘from whence it comes or where it goes” You’ve got it all charted out. So much for what Jesus knows.

    RS: No, it not completely charted out. However, the Bible does give us a lot of evidence of what the Spirit does between the time He comes and the time He goes. Part of His “job” is to convict of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment to come. Part of His “work” is the washing of regeneration and renewing. Part of His work is involved in the love of God in the souls of His people. Part of His work is to work His fruit in His people. So it is not as if what He does is completely unknown, though it is ifnored quite frequently. One would think that some are more binitarian than trinitarian.

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  222. Zrim: Richard, at this point you’ve pretty well established your semi-revivalist opposition to confessional theology and practice,

    RS: I am not sure that I would put it that way since I have a deep appreciation for the confessions. But perhaps as you hold to them, then perhaps so.

    Zrim: so it’s no surprise that you are continuing to make a distinction between (mere, as in dubious) confessing and (deep, as in hyper-spiritual) understanding.

    RS: No, not hyper-spiritual. But simply making the point that there is a spiritual understanding and a spirtual wisdom that Paul talks about as opposed to someone saying that s/he believes a confession.

    Zrim: But not only does it think of understanding in ordinary spiritual terms, confessionalism esteems obedience before understanding.

    RS: But the Bible (see below) says that it is only when we understand (would argue because of the context that this is not a simple letter definition of grace) grace that the Gospel bears fruit and increases.

    Colossians 1: 5 because of the hope laid up for you in heaven, of which you previously heard in the word of truth, the gospel 6 which has come to you, just as in all the world also it is constantly bearing fruit and increasing, even as it has been doing in you also since the day you heard of it and understood the grace of God in truth;

    Zrim: Which means confessionalism doesn’t mind if sometimes understanding follows confession instead of preceding it. At the same time, confessionalism does think understanding should ordinarily precede obedience, which is why we catechize our baptized youth before making a profession or faith and being welcomed to the table.

    And that profession of faith isn’t (or at least shouldn’t be, though I will admit the Reformed can be vulnerable to) either over-intellectualized or hyper-spiritualized. We’re looking neither for erudite theologians nor super apostles. We’re looking for disciples who show themselves by simple and credible professions and godly lives, both of which may be marked with imperfections. I know, that’s just not spiritual enough for you. But that’s the difference between Reformed confessionalism and one for or another of pietism.

    RS: I suppose if you want to put it in such stark contrasts, then you are free to do so. But the way you put it is certainly beyond the tag of accurate. I am not sure how you can read that what I have been contending for as looking for erudite theologians or super apostles. I am also not sure why you keep bringing up the idea of perfection. The Bible is quite clear that eternal life is to know God and His Son and that is the issue. Paul said we should examine ourselves to see if Christ is in us. I John tells us that the book was written so we could know if we had eternal life. Not one of those mention the idea that a person should trust that s/he is saved if they have a credible profession. A person has eternal life only if they have Christ which means that His life, sufferings and death, imputed righteousness, and His resurrected life are theirs.

    I posted this earlier about some words o Wilhelmus a Brakel was Dutch. “He refers to the different kinds of faith as well (historical, temporal, miraculous, and then saving faith). In other words, there are all kinds of believing that a person can do and still not have saving faith. It might also be helpful to note that just because a person believes certain things does not mean that a person has faith. A Brakel spends many pages in his works on the distinguishing marks of saving faith.”

    A person can have a historical faith and have a credible profession. A person can have a temporal faith and have a credible profession. A person can have a miraculous faith and have a credible profession. He goes on to speak of The Necessity of Self-Examination. Why? “Not those who are baptized, and not all who attend church and partake of the Lord’s Supper are true believers. Yes, only a few, and by far the smallest number of them are true believers on the way to eternal felicity.”
    A credible profession and a moral life can be an enouragement to deceived souls that they are just fine when they are not.

    Jeremiah 6:14 “They have healed the brokenness of My people superficially, Saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ But there is no peace.”

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  223. So “Richard”, in the real world of the 21st century have you found anyone to follow you in your interpretations? Are you pastoring a church with either elders (or a congregation if you don’t favor the concept of elders) that is behind you? I’ve known several men who were churches of one and those were not good situations. Do you have a wife you is on board with you? If you were as persistent with her as you have been with us I would bet she took off around a decade ago. I hope that’s not the case, though.

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  224. Now I’m with Erik on this one. Richard, if you don’t want to give your name then fine. But I would like to know what church, if any, puts up with this approach of yours. Do you have to submit to anyone in the church? If you are a pastor, do you have any elders with backbones? Or maybe none of the churches are good enough for you so you aren’t a member anywhere. Which is the case?

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  225. People who herald their own righteousness are the ones who really cause most of the problems in the church but they get away with it all the time. For example, Norman Shepherd, Gary North, R.J Rushdoony, John Kinnaird, Doug Wilson, Peter Leithart, Jason Stellman, Greg Bahnsen, N.T Wright, Richard Gaffin, Steven Schlissel, James Jordon, John Armstrong, Daniel Fuller- need I go on. They preach a distorted Gospel and then get really tricky and subtle with how they twist the scriptures to make their gospel the “real” gospel. And it takes commitees up to four years to figure out they really have distorted the gospel. And then they get a slap on the wrist and go preach at another denomination. That’s not what happens to those who are having marital, financial and other obvious moral problems. They get kicked out and then forgotten about. It is those who herald their own godliness, obedience and covenant faithfulness whom the church has trouble dealing with. And they suppress and distort the gospel so that those who really need to hear it don’t get to hear it because the Pastors and elders in the churches are more concerned about godliness, obedience and covenant faithfulness than getting the gospel right and proclaiming it clearly week in and week out to the sinners who really need it and long to hear about it. Doesn’t that cause anyone some kind of concern?

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  226. John – Those are good observations. We need men who preach the true gospel AND live upright lives. Thankfully we have a lot of those men, but most people haven’t heard of them because they are not doing anything “new” or “novel”. They are just faithfully serving their congregations year after year.

    Somehow the Reformed world got by without the CREC for 500 years.

    There are two histories just waiting to be written, although enough time has probably not passed. One is the history of the CRC becoming liberal which gave rise to the URC. Another is the rise of the CREC and the backgrounds within Reformed theology of the men who started it. A third might be on Theonomy, Rushdoony, Bahnsen, etc.

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  227. Richard, I keep bringing up perfection because perfectionism is the implication of your contentions. You are not content simply with doctrine and life. You press to go “deeper and beyond,” the language of the super-apostles. You may have reams of pages from a Brakel, but Jesus was quite satisfied with Peter’s simple confession, even going so far as to build his church upon it. And he had the powers of omniscient perception neither you nor I have. Think about it.

    But on a Brakel, a confessionalist wouldn’t disagree that hypocrites co-mingle with believers or that one can believe all kinds of things but not have saving faith. The Reformed construe faith in the three-fold manner of knowledge, assent, and trust. You speak as if confessionalism is all about bare knowledge and Christianity is about more than faith. Doctrine and life may encourage hypocrisy, but so can pietism. The question that remains is which template is biblical, the creedal or the experiential? I know your answer and you know mine. But mine also isn’t concerned with driving hypocrisy out on a rail because it takes abiding human sin seriously, whereas pietism pushes the play button on abiding human sin but never seems to get it.

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  228. John Yeazel: People who herald their own righteousness are the ones who really cause most of the problems in the church but they get away with it all the time. For example, Norman Shepherd, Gary North, R.J Rushdoony, John Kinnaird, Doug Wilson, Peter Leithart, Jason Stellman, Greg Bahnsen, N.T Wright, Richard Gaffin, Steven Schlissel, James Jordon, John Armstrong, Daniel Fuller- need I go on. They preach a distorted Gospel and then get really tricky and subtle with how they twist the scriptures to make their gospel the “real” gospel. And it takes commitees up to four years to figure out they really have distorted the gospel. And then they get a slap on the wrist and go preach at another denomination. That’s not what happens to those who are having marital, financial and other obvious moral problems. They get kicked out and then forgotten about. It is those who herald their own godliness, obedience and covenant faithfulness whom the church has trouble dealing with. And they suppress and distort the gospel so that those who really need to hear it don’t get to hear it because the Pastors and elders in the churches are more concerned about godliness, obedience and covenant faithfulness than getting the gospel right and proclaiming it clearly week in and week out to the sinners who really need it and long to hear about it. Doesn’t that cause anyone some kind of concern?

    R-JF-S: John, antimoniamism has caused a lot of problems in the church, so don’t forget the other side. It has been a constant plague in the Church as has attacks on the Gospel of grace alone. As I have said repeatedly and in many ways, I am not trumpeting my righteousness as I have none. I am not adding to the justification of sinners by what I am saying as there is no way to add to what Christ has already done. However, try to get it through whatever blocks that in the eyes of men, the way that holiness is not earning righteousness for salvation. Christ delivers His people from sin as a gift and they are delivered from sin (to whatever degree He does so) by grace. Holiness is not a great burden and holiness is not a system of works, but holiness is the grace of God bringing sinners from the slavery of sin and the bondage of the devil to living by grace which leads to holiness. Holiness is a gift and it is part of eternal life. We are not commanded to be holy as He is holy because it is a burden, but because it is good and delightful. It is truly sad when people think that holiness is some form of self-righteousness or some bondage they have to enter and poor them that they have to leave their sin. No, no, and a thousand times no. Christ sets His children free from that bondage and they no longer have to sin at all times and in all moments. Holiness is a gift of God and it is Him sharing His holiness with His people (Hebrews 12:10 For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness).

    Let me repeat. There is nothing about holiness and desiring holiness in the heart that adds one iota to the imputed righteousness of Christ. Sinners are declared just by grace alone through faith alone. Sinners are declared just because of who God is and not because of who they are. Sinners are declared just because of what Christ has done and not because of what they have done. No one is ever perfect and no one ever does one perfect work. We are constantly under the absolute need of and in absolute dependence on the grace of God. Holiness is the result of grace rather than the result of self-righteousness. We are no more holy than we are loving and we have no more love than we have holiness. So if we don’t desire holiness, we don’t desire love and nothing we do is of any benefit (I Cor 13).

    The Scriptures are so clear that if we love God we will keep His commands. His commands are spiritual because the Law is spiritual and it reaches the depths of the heart. If we love God we will want His commands to reach the depths of our hearts so we can repent from sin out of love for Him. Is that a work that adds to the imputed righteousness of Christ? No, but the work of Christ frees us so that we can seek Him out of love for Him. Sin is the judgment for sin and and sin brings some separation from us and God in the fellowship sense. So if we love God why wouldn’t we want to flee sin and seek Him?

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  229. Erik, it might be better to say the CRC is on a trajectory toward broad evangelicalism, not liberalism (even if it has some liberal pockets). But while the URC is much more doctrinal in comparison to the culturalist CRC, it’s also retained much of the neo-Calvinism that animates the culturally Reformed. Some days it just seems like the-CRC-that-doesn’t-ordain-women.

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  230. I didn’t realize the CREC changed their name.

    A Message to the World
    Regarding the CREC Name Change
    Rev. Jack E. Phelps
    Presiding Minister of Council
    On October 6, 2011, the CREC Church Council voted to change the name of the CREC
    from the Confederation of Reformed Evangelical Churches to the Communion of
    Reformed Evangelical Churches. This change was the result of a three year deliberative
    process within the confederation, driven by a concern that in some parts of the United
    States our name was frequently misconstrued to imply certain cultural connotations that
    were never intended by our founders or by our churches.

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  231. Zrim: Richard, I keep bringing up perfection because perfectionism is the implication of your contentions.

    RS: No, they are not implications in the slightest. A desire for God and His glory does not lead to perfectionism.

    Zrim: You are not content simply with doctrine and life. You press to go “deeper and beyond,” the language of the super-apostles. You may have reams of pages from a Brakel, but Jesus was quite satisfied with Peter’s simple confession, even going so far as to build his church upon it. And he had the powers of omniscient perception neither you nor I have. Think about it.

    RS: Yes, but Peter also gave us a lot more about Jesus in the Gospel of Mark and in his two epistles. In it he gives us the biblical command us to be holy as He is holy. Since Jesus knows we don’t have omniscient perception, He gave us many other things and the Holy Spirit.

    Zrim: But on a Brakel, a confessionalist wouldn’t disagree that hypocrites co-mingle with believers or that one can believe all kinds of things but not have saving faith. The Reformed construe faith in the three-fold manner of knowledge, assent, and trust. You speak as if confessionalism is all about bare knowledge and Christianity is about more than faith. Doctrine and life may encourage hypocrisy, but so can pietism. The question that remains is which template is biblical, the creedal or the experiential? I know your answer and you know mine. But mine also isn’t concerned with driving hypocrisy out on a rail because it takes abiding human sin seriously, whereas pietism pushes the play button on abiding human sin but never seems to get it.

    RS: You seriously, seriously misunderstand my position and that of Edwards. It takes sin so seriously that it knows that Christ hates it and wars against it in the soul He dwells in. Christ hates sin so much that He died in order to free those whom His Father gave Him from that sin. Since a true profession and confession comes from the heart, the heart must be dealt with at length. As Jesus told Peter that His Father had shown Him that, so Jesus tells us in John six that we must be taught of God as well. God teaches the heart because in the New Covenant that is where He writes His laws. If we don’t deal with the heart we are only dealing with people at a very superficial level. By the way, Turretin wrote about the seven aspects of faith. There are ways the three ways can be looked at in an easy way and leaving the heart untouched, but there is also a way those three ways can be looked at as getting to the depths of the soul.

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  232. Zrim – You can also see a lot of differences between the CRC & URC if you look at the business of their Synods. CRC looks awfully mainline at that level as opposed to evangelical.

    “Richard” – The biggest problem of your formulation is that it is unworkable in practice. Thus you are avoiding questions about your church affiliation both as a member and as a minister. It is pie in the sky as there is no way for churches or elders to actually put it into practice in a nuts-and-bolts way. As Mikelmann commented last week “It’s a gauntlet”.

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  233. Erik Charter: So “Richard”, in the real world of the 21st century have you found anyone to follow you in your interpretations? Are you pastoring a church with either elders (or a congregation if you don’t favor the concept of elders) that is behind you? I’ve known several men who were churches of one and those were not good situations. Do you have a wife you is on board with you? If you were as persistent with her as you have been with us I would bet she took off around a decade ago. I hope that’s not the case, though.

    mikelmann: Now I’m with Erik on this one. Richard, if you don’t want to give your name then fine. But I would like to know what church, if any, puts up with this approach of yours. Do you have to submit to anyone in the church? If you are a pastor, do you have any elders with backbones? Or maybe none of the churches are good enough for you so you aren’t a member anywhere. Which is the case?

    RS: Gentlemen, let me speak bluntly. These things are basically none of your business and there is no way I want to get into this on a public forum and I will not. Yes, it does irritate me that my wife has been brought into this twice now. Okay, my wife has a medical condition that has made the ministry impossible for me for a few years now and has a lot to do with my church situation at the moment. If that is not good enough for you, then so be it. But in the interest of the privacy of my wife, a few others, as well as things I should not say on a public forum, there is nothing else I am free to say on this. So have it and judge as you will. But I will say this, this approach of mine is not new at all. It may not go across very well in this century, but it is also the case that the Church in our time is in a spiritual famine. What was once considered the meat of the Word is now considered as something beneath the feet of enlightened men who sneer at the grace of holiness.

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  234. “Richard” – You also commented in the past along the lines of “a church wouldn’t have you” or “wouldn’t abide sound teaching” or something along those lines. That’s a different matter than your wife having a medical condition. If the medical condition is truly the case, then certainly I have sympathy for that.

    If what you are advocating was present in past centuries but is no longer present in any existing churches today, what happened to those churches? Wouldn’t God preserve this aspect of the faith in some place if it is sound and valid?

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  235. And my question about your wife was to ascertain if you (still) have one. You do, and you are to be commended for that. If we are talking about holiness and criteria for a healthy ministry I think it’s a valid question (and a Scriptural one). It sounds like you pass.

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  236. Also “Richard” no one knows who the heck you are so I wouldn’t think privacy should be a big concern. I guess the Reformed world can be kind of small so maybe someone could figure it out.

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  237. Richard, you wrote:”It may not go across very well in this century, but it is also the case that the Church in our time is in a spiritual famine. What was once considered the meat of the Word is now considered as something beneath the feet of enlightened men who sneer at the grace of holiness.”

    This is horse hockey. I am part of a very good congregation where the word is preached faithfully, elders oversee the congregation, members pray for each other, children are catechized. It doesn’t seem all that fetching of you to sneer at faithfulness in our time. But that is what perfectionists do. It’s not half-empty. We’re basically running on fumes.

    Sorry to hear about your wife.

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  238. Richard, I am sorry that your wife is ill.

    Regarding your comment “I will say this, this approach of mine is not new at all. It may not go across very well in this century, but it is also the case that the Church in our time is in a spiritual famine. What was once considered the meat of the Word is now considered as something beneath the feet of enlightened men who sneer at the grace of holiness.”

    …I deduce that there is no church with your point of view, and you are pretty much out there by yourself. That happens to prophets, but you aren’t a prophet. You have disconnected from accountability and gone off on a tangent. You ponder alone, and reach extreme conclusions alone. You really need a church to bring you back in, Richard.

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  239. I’ll echo D.G. & Mikelmann (I actually thought of this while I was showering before I saw what they wrote) – My experience is that I attend worship on Sunday (would like to go twice but am failing at that of late for various reasons. I catch the second sermon online). I hear the law and the gospel and interact with other Christian people. During the week I try to listen to sermons, lectures, etc. I go through the catechism and read the Bible with my kids and my wife. We pray together. I go to work, watch movies, drink a beer a few times a week, walk with my wife, try to watch what I eat — basically just try to live a healthy Christian life. Sometimes I see something in those movies or stray onto something online that I shouldn’t. I don’t feel right about it. I’m not at peace. I see this as evidence that the Holy Spirit is working in me. At Church on Sunday I seek forgiveness and feel that I am forgiven. I plan to try to do better. All of this kind of happens naturally as a result of being in a good church. It’s not the people in good churches I am worried about, it’s the people who are not in churches or are in bad churches. They are the sheep without a shepherd. No one is hammering on me to be holy or constantly examine myself. I just hear the law and the gospel and believe it.

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  240. D. G. Hart quoting Richard, you wrote:”It may not go across very well in this century, but it is also the case that the Church in our time is in a spiritual famine. What was once considered the meat of the Word is now considered as something beneath the feet of enlightened men who sneer at the grace of holiness.”

    D.G. Hart: This is horse hockey. I am part of a very good congregation where the word is preached faithfully, elders oversee the congregation, members pray for each other, children are catechized. It doesn’t seem all that fetching of you to sneer at faithfulness in our time. But that is what perfectionists do. It’s not half-empty. We’re basically running on fumes.

    RS: Dr. Hart, when one says that we are in a spiritual famine, that does not mean that there are no faithful churches. No need to take that as a personal attack on where you attend. For what it is worth, and for something close to a million times, I am not a perfectionists in any way and not even close to it. Once again, there is nothing that I do that is perfect and I doubt that it is close to 20% on a 100% scale. However, God’s standard of perfection does not change and will never change. In heaven His people will not sin but they will not earn one bit of righteousness by it. Their holiness will be by grace then and whatever holiness a person has now is by grace as well.

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  241. mikelmann: …I deduce that there is no church with your point of view, and you are pretty much out there by yourself. That happens to prophets, but you aren’t a prophet. You have disconnected from accountability and gone off on a tangent. You ponder alone, and reach extreme conclusions alone. You really need a church to bring you back in, Richard.

    RS: Wrong deductions. There are churches from my point of view and I am not out here by myself. True, I am not a prophet. I am not disconnected from accountability and I am not off on a tangent. I do ponder alone a lot, but so far no extreme conclusions. That is what happens when a person spends a fair amount of time with one elder (pastor) each week discussing these things.

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  242. D. G. Hart: Richard, you wrote:”It may not go across very well in this century, but it is also the case that the Church in our time is in a spiritual famine. What was once considered the meat of the Word is now considered as something beneath the feet of enlightened men who sneer at the grace of holiness.”

    D.G. Hart: This is horse hockey. I am part of a very good congregation where the word is preached faithfully, elders oversee the congregation, members pray for each other, children are catechized. It doesn’t seem all that fetching of you to sneer at faithfulness in our time. But that is what perfectionists do. It’s not half-empty. We’re basically running on fumes

    RS: I couldn’t let this one go with just one short answer (my previous one). I am not sure how anyone, especially one with a smattering of history or greater than a smattering like yourself, could not look at the proliferation of mega-churches, charismania, Pelagianism, and the increase of the JW’s, Mormons, Muslims and all of that and think that we are not in a famine in the land. No, I have not forgotten Arminianism and Luther thought it was worse than Pelagianism. Legalism and antiomianism both abound in various forms. People no longer care for what is true but simply what works or makes them feel good at the moment. The worship of God has been taken over by the worship of self in that all things must be because I like it rather than because it is pleasing to God. We now have Christian celebrities and on and on. This is not a sign of famine? When Rob Bell, Jol Olsteen, and T.J. Jakes are wildly popular and they sell millions and millions of dollars of material across the land, that is not a sign of a famine? When Benny Hinn can fill stadiums and fly in his personal jet or jets, that is not a sign of a famine in the land? When people are enthralled by prophecy conferences and could care less about the imputed righteousness of Christ, that is not a sign of famine in the land?

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  243. Richard, Welcome to the anti-evangelical bandwagon. I’ve been on it for years. But the problem I have is that you are here at a blog where a number of confessionalists hang, and you are hitting us with the same charge that you level against T.D. Jakes et al. This could mean that confessionalists are superior to evangelicals but that would be a smug conclusion. It does mean that your standard of judgment lacks nuance. I get it. So does God’s. But as you would surely agree, you’re not God. So perhaps the standard for Christians is not perfection. It it were our churches would not be famished. They’d be empty.

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  244. RS: “There are churches from my point of view and I am not out here by myself. True, I am not a prophet. I am not disconnected from accountability and I am not off on a tangent. I do ponder alone a lot, but so far no extreme conclusions. That is what happens when a person spends a fair amount of time with one elder (pastor) each week discussing these things.”

    Agreeing with one other guy is hardly evidence that you haven’t gone off on a tangent. But, not having a confession, how would you even know if that were the case? And if your elder/pastor is not accountable to other presbyters, he could stray a long way himself.

    So, Richard, you have this wonderful and deep biblical message that is superior to that of the big evangelical churches and superior to that of confessional churches. But then you won’t even tell us of one church that is Richard-Smith-approved. I’m not even asking you to give identifying information about your church. A church. Any church that meets with your approval.

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  245. D. G. Hart: Richard, Welcome to the anti-evangelical bandwagon. I’ve been on it for years. But the problem I have is that you are here at a blog where a number of confessionalists hang, and you are hitting us with the same charge that you level against T.D. Jakes et al.

    RS: I wasn’t aware that I was charging confessionalists with being anti-trinitarian who teach the health and wealth non-gospel. But it appears that I have been doing a lot of things that I have not been aware of.

    D.G. Hart: This could mean that confessionalists are superior to evangelicals but that would be a smug conclusion.

    RS: Why is it a smug conclusion to see that group A is much closer to the Bible than group B?

    D.G. Hart: It does mean that your standard of judgment lacks nuance. I get it. So does God’s. But as you would surely agree, you’re not God. So perhaps the standard for Christians is not perfection. It it were our churches would not be famished. They’d be empty.

    RS: It would seem that at times people read into things implications of things that are not there. Indeed I am not God. As long as God is immutable, His standards cannot change. The Greatest Commandment says to love Him with all of our being, and it does not give us an out at any point on it. We are to be holy as He is holy. But by the propitiatory work of Christ and His imputed righteousness He makes us holy and blameless (Eph 1:6) before Him in Christ. The position of the believer, then, tells us that the standard of God has not been dropped. But that perfect standard is fulfilled by Christ since He kept the Law without sin and loved God with all of His being at all times in His earthly sojourn. That perfect righteousness is imputed to His people and so they are perfect in His sight because of Christ. It seems that if the standard is dropped that reflects on the work of Christ.

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  246. RS: RS: It would seem that at times people read into things implications of things that are not there.

    Quite true, and it cuts both ways. I suspect that if you laid out your theology from the top, you might not be so perfectionist as it seems. Welcome to the Old-Life buzz-saw.

    Likewise, I suspect that if you gave (some of? all of? at minimum, Zrim and me) a little space, you might see that we aren’t looking for “mere profession”, but “genuine profession”, as in Romans 10.10. And not “outward works”, but “works that come from faith.”

    Those are the only things that matter.

    At the same time, we are operating from what one might call a “chastened epistemology”, one that recognizes that there is no “love sense” or perception faculty other than what we see and hear. That’s our creaturely limitation.

    You say that you do not believe you have a “love sense”, and I believe you. Now pursue that line of thought. If you don’t have an extra sense, then doesn’t it follow that you are using the same ones we all do?

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  247. mikelmann: Agreeing with one other guy is hardly evidence that you haven’t gone off on a tangent. But, not having a confession, how would you even know if that were the case? And if your elder/pastor is not accountable to other presbyters, he could stray a long way himself.

    RS: But it is evidence that I am not just a lone person on the top of the mountain somewhere which is what your words appear to imply. But I do have a confession. I adhere to the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith. My elder/pastor is in a presbytery.

    mikelmann: So, Richard, you have this wonderful and deep biblical message that is superior to that of the big evangelical churches and superior to that of confessional churches. But then you won’t even tell us of one church that is Richard-Smith-approved. I’m not even asking you to give identifying information about your church. A church. Any church that meets with your approval.

    RS: Any church that truly followed the WCF or the 1689 Baptist Confession (which used the WCF) would be solid churches. They would differ on some areas, but they would be solid churches. The question, however, is whether people really follow those confessions. But since you are asking me personally, I love the Belgic Confession except in the area of infant baptism as it is stronger in that area than the WCF. But again, do people really believe those confessions after studying them? For example, I don’t think my view of sanctification differs from that Belgic in Article 24.

    Article 24: The Sanctification of Sinners
    We believe that this true faith, produced in man by the hearing of God’s Word and by the work of the Holy Spirit, regenerates him and makes him a “new man,”^57 causing him to live the “new life”^58 and freeing him from the slavery of sin.
    Therefore, far from making people cold toward living in a pious and holy way, this justifying faith, quite to the contrary, so works within them that apart from it they will never do a thing out of love for God but only out of love for themselves and fear of being condemned.

    So then, it is impossible for this holy faith to be unfruitful in a human being, seeing that we do not speak of an empty faith but of what Scripture calls “faith working through love,”^59 which leads a man to do by himself the works that God has commanded in his Word.

    These works, proceeding from the good root of faith, are good and acceptable to God, since they are all sanctified by his grace. Yet they do not count toward our justification– for by faith in Christ we are justified, even before we do good works. Otherwise they could not be good, any more than the fruit of a tree could be good if the tree is not good in the first place.

    So then, we do good works, but nor for merit– for what would we merit? Rather, we are indebted to God for the good works we do, and not he to us, since it is he who “works in us both to will and do according to his good pleasure” ^60– thus keeping in mind what is written: “When you have done all that is commanded you, then you shall say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have done what it was our duty to do.’ “^61

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  248. “Richard Smith” wrote: “When Rob Bell, Jol Olsteen, and T.J. Jakes are wildly popular and they sell millions and millions of dollars of material across the land, that is not a sign of a famine? When Benny Hinn can fill stadiums and fly in his personal jet or jets, that is not a sign of a famine in the land? When people are enthralled by prophecy conferences and could care less about the imputed righteousness of Christ, that is not a sign of famine in the land?”

    GW: I agree with this diagnosis of the spiritual situation in America today. But I think a few of the factors that have paved the way for the popularity of such false teachers are precisely the experientialism and sensationalism fostered by revivalism, combined with the weakening of historically confessional churches. (I think one major factor contributing to this weakening has been the loss of covenant children raised in confessional churches to the excesses of revivalism due in large part to poor catechesis and a lack of covenant nurture in home and church.) IMO, the solution is not an older, more venerable (i.e., pre-Finney, pro-Edwardsian) form of experientialism, but the renewal of historically confessional churches and the vigorous planting of old school, confessionally Presbyterian & Reformed churches. The increased presence of historically confessional churches (especially, IMO, of the old school Presbyterian and classically Reformed variety) in our communities could have a stabilizing effect in a “Christian” culture addicted to the “new” and “innovative,” and prone to being tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine (Eph. 4:14). So I guess one could say I am “pro-renewal” (as in church renewal of confessional churches), not “pro-revival.” (Yes, I know our friend “Richard” will say we can’t have church renewal without “revival,” but I am looking at this from a confessional “paradigm” rather than an experiential/mystical one.)

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  249. Richard, I know you think I seriously-seriously misunderstand, but my point about the semi-revivalist’s grasp on the nature of sin is further illustrated in your comments about “famine in the land.” You point to religious phenomenon as if it is altogether surprising. But, surprise!—ever since man was sent packing east of Eden there has always been all manner of false religion, from Arians to Docetists to Pelagians to Osteens. It all comes with the semi-eschatological territory. Your tone is constantly one that seems perplexed (even verklempt) that sin actually runs it course and has real-world effects, both personally and socially.

    Confessionalism doesn’t disagree that we fight against the world, the devil, and our own flesh. It just isn’t as surprised as semi-revivalism that we do because it takes sin seriously, as opposed to sentimentally. That makes the struggling look very different between the confessionalist and the semi-revivalist, and evidently tempts the semi-revivalist to suggest impiety on the confessionalist’s part.

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  250. I am not convinced by the arguments here. Our holiness is like filthy rags. We need to hear the gospel week in and week out. Why center in on our personal holiness at all when it is always lacking? Center in on the holiness of God and the righteousness of Christ all you want but to focus in on a sinners personal holiness is insanity and nonsense. Those who taut and herald their own righteousness, holiness, faithfulness, obedience, etc., etc. are scripturally heading down a road where the elder brother resides. The story of the elect is the story of prodigal and the rescuing God.

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  251. “Richard” – You cite the Belgic but you then seem to advocate practices of “enforcement” or “application” that don’t seem to exist (and perhaps have never existed) in Continental Reformed churches. Is it right to pick and choose between confessions? How does this make you any different from what the CTC guys do in their cherry-picking of Catholicism? Or Doug Wilson wanting to put together a “Book of Confessions”? If you join a Reformed Church there is a process by which you can try to change confessional language. Why not work within the church rather than standing outside it throwing stones?

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  252. Jeff Cagle
    Old post RS: It would seem that at times people read into things implications of things that are not there.

    Jeff Cagle: Quite true, and it cuts both ways. I suspect that if you laid out your theology from the top, you might not be so perfectionist as it seems. Welcome to the Old-Life buzz-saw.

    RS: I am so far from being a perfectionst in the sense that one attains perfection in this life that one can hardly go any farther the other direction. I just think that the standards of God have not changed from perfection.

    Jeff Cagle: Likewise, I suspect that if you gave (some of? all of? at minimum, Zrim and me) a little space, you might see that we aren’t looking for “mere profession”, but “genuine profession”, as in Romans 10.10. And not “outward works”, but “works that come from faith.”

    RS: I might believe that about you, but Zrim? I would not argue that you in reality want more than mere profession and seek more than that, but for the sake of the argument, we can ask what the reality of it is in church membership standards.

    Jeff Cagle: Those are the only things that matter.

    At the same time, we are operating from what one might call a “chastened epistemology”, one that recognizes that there is no “love sense” or perception faculty other than what we see and hear. That’s our creaturely limitation.

    You say that you do not believe you have a “love sense”, and I believe you. Now pursue that line of thought. If you don’t have an extra sense, then doesn’t it follow that you are using the same ones we all do?

    RS: I would not argue that I am using different ones that you do, but I think something else is going on that you are not taking into account. If human beings are indeed the temple of the Holy Spirit and Christ lives in them, then something is very different about them than that of unbelievers. Scripture is quite clear that those who believe can see the glory of God. Now if God manifests Himself in and through His people (love, holiness, etc.), wouldn’t it be possible for believers to behold something of God in others without that being a love sense? Couldn’t that be a spiritual understanding? Couldn’t the Spirit who is in one person give a spiritual understanding regarding the Spirit who is in other believers? We don’t have to go down a mystical road too far to simply say that there are things other than the empirical we can observe. Not all that is spiritual is necessarily deeply mystical.

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  253. Zrim: Richard, I know you think I seriously-seriously misunderstand, but my point about the semi-revivalist’s grasp on the nature of sin is further illustrated in your comments about “famine in the land.” You point to religious phenomenon as if it is altogether surprising. But, surprise!—ever since man was sent packing east of Eden there has always been all manner of false religion, from Arians to Docetists to Pelagians to Osteens. It all comes with the semi-eschatological territory. Your tone is constantly one that seems perplexed (even verklempt) that sin actually runs it course and has real-world effects, both personally and socially.

    RS: I guess I cannot argue how my tone seems to others. I can only say that I am not surprised at the fact that there is so much false religion, but I was surprised at how the US was not seen as in a state of spiritual famine. God punishes sin by turning people over to more sin and punishes theological unfaithfulness by turning people over to greater and greater degrees of darkness which leads to more and more heresy.

    Zrim: Confessionalism doesn’t disagree that we fight against the world, the devil, and our own flesh. It just isn’t as surprised as semi-revivalism that we do because it takes sin seriously, as opposed to sentimentally. That makes the struggling look very different between the confessionalist and the semi-revivalist, and evidently tempts the semi-revivalist to suggest impiety on the confessionalist’s part.

    RS: Interesting concept, but perhaps some semi-revivalists don’t just look at sin in some sentimental way but sees it as the very enemy of the souls of men and as a direct attack on the living God.

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  254. Come on, Richard, you can’t fall back on the forensic when you sense that your views of sanctification are getting the better of you. All of what you said about the righteousness of Christ imputed to us and received by faith is indeed a vindication of God’s unchanging standard. But you are also saying something more. And that is that after faith we still need perfection — we need to love God with our whole being. Folks here are saying, yes, we should, but the Bible also teaches we can’t — that filthy rags business. But you aren’t content with filthy rags even if God is, and so you throw back at confessionalists all this dead orthodoxy jazz. Have you not heard, sanctification is not going to be complete in this life? Does that mean we go out and avoid sanctification? No. But threatening people with entire sanctification is not doing anyone any good.

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  255. Richard, I don’t detect a whiff of perfectionism in the Belgic. It does not condemn me. Various folks detect a latent perfectionism in the way you describe sanctification. And Edwards’ Religious Affections condemns me.

    Think about it.

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  256. Geoff Willour: I agree with this diagnosis of the spiritual situation in America today. But I think a few of the factors that have paved the way for the popularity of such false teachers are precisely the experientialism and sensationalism fostered by revivalism, combined with the weakening of historically confessional churches.

    RS: It is always easy to look to the other side for the problems. There may be reasons for the weakening of the historical confessional churches and it may not be quite as far from what has happened to false revivalism than one might think. Perhaps there are deep issues that are common to all.

    GW: (I think one major factor contributing to this weakening has been the loss of covenant children raised in confessional churches to the excesses of revivalism due in large part to poor catechesis and a lack of covenant nurture in home and church.) IMO, the solution is not an older, more venerable (i.e., pre-Finney, pro-Edwardsian) form of experientialism, but the renewal of historically confessional churches and the vigorous planting of old school, confessionally Presbyterian & Reformed churches.

    RS: You might find it interesting (not presuming that you don’t know this, but just in case) that in older Scotland they thought of catechizing as a way of preparing the people for true revival.

    GW: The increased presence of historically confessional churches (especially, IMO, of the old school Presbyterian and classically Reformed variety) in our communities could have a stabilizing effect in a “Christian” culture addicted to the “new” and “innovative,” and prone to being tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine (Eph. 4:14). So I guess one could say I am “pro-renewal” (as in church renewal of confessional churches), not “pro-revival.” (Yes, I know our friend “Richard” will say we can’t have church renewal without “revival,” but I am looking at this from a confessional “paradigm” rather than an experiential/mystical one.)

    RS: But I still argue that what is truly confessional is not necessarily opposed to experiential Christianity. There is a lot of polarizing going on that does not need to do so. There have been a lot of revival type of thinking in confessional churches in the old days. It could be that the real problem (in a general way as I am not claiming to have the one and only answer) is the absence of the presence of God. When God withdraws Himself from His people they try to fill that void with many things. When people began to seek revival types of things in man-centered ways apart from being in line with the old confessions they spun off in evangelicalism. On the other hand, it could be that when people focused on the confessions apart from other things that they lost some of the fire in their souls.

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  257. Richard, here you go again with applying a “love sense” without discrimination. Sanctification is not only incomplete in this life, but it is also more or less complete in different believers, which means that some may have more a love sense than other Christians. So where is the room in your verdict on other Christians that they may have 10 percent of the love sense of Jonathan Edwards? Is ten percent of a love sense better than nothing? Is it sufficient? Is it real love sense?

    I don’t see in your view room for accepting the flaws of Christians. You seem to think that if you do this you are lax, liberal, and tolerant of error. But it is where we are. It is where the saints in Scripture were. Why can’t you live in the real world?

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  258. Erik Charter: “Richard” – You cite the Belgic but you then seem to advocate practices of “enforcement” or “application” that don’t seem to exist (and perhaps have never existed) in Continental Reformed churches.

    R-JF-S: I suppose I cannot argue for sure that these things ever or never existed in the Continental Reformed churches. I would argue, however, that there is little use of a confession if it is not taught to the people so that they understand the meaning of it and how it applies to their whole soul. The Belgic speaks to the whole soul and so why teach it in a way that does not aim at the whole soul?

    Eric Charter: Is it right to pick and choose between confessions?

    RS: Of course it is or the Roman Catholic confession would be as valid as the Belgic or the WCF.

    Eric C: How does this make you any different from what the CTC guys do in their cherry-picking of Catholicism? Or Doug Wilson wanting to put together a “Book of Confessions”? If you join a Reformed Church there is a process by which you can try to change confessional language. Why not work within the church rather than standing outside it throwing stones?

    RS: I am not throwing stones at a church, or at least I don’t see that I am. I am simply arguing in line with the confessions that the Scripture is our real authority and that the confessions themselves must be judged on the basis of Scripture. I am also arguing that people must know that the confessions mean and how they apply to their own souls as there is no real point in having people affirm a confession that they don’t really understand.

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  259. Richard, what makes you think I make no distinction between mere and genuine confession or mere works and those that flow from faith? Just because I say that externalism can come in internalistic clothing?

    And on this business of a “love sense” in others, I’d rather just speak of having a natural intuition about another’s credibility. One advantage of that is it leaves a lot of room for indwelt sinners to be wrong about others. But when you talk about “a spiritual understanding regarding the Spirit who is in other believers,” it sure makes it sound like that possibility is radically narrowed, which opens things wide up for spiritual tyranny.

    God punishes sin by turning people over to more sin and punishes theological unfaithfulness by turning people over to greater and greater degrees of darkness which leads to more and more heresy.

    Yeow, if nothing else is heard, this should be a glaring red flag. God does not punish people, Richard, because it is already finished in the cross. He may chastise and discipline, but that is very different from punishment for the faithful which is utterly vanquished.

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  260. John Yeazel: I am not convinced by the arguments here. Our holiness is like filthy rags.

    RS: John, you are perhaps the most wicked man I have ever heard of. Your holiness is like a used menstrual cloth. There is nothing of self in you that is attractive in any way and you are nothing but open sores from head to toe. You have opened your legs under every tree and have given yourself like a prostitute to all sorts of idols. That is my argument. Are you convinced by it? I would also argue that I have just described every human being. However, righteousness of Christ imputed to us is not filthy rags and the holiness of God that He works in us is not filthy rags. In His sovereign pleasure He does not completely deliver us from the power of sin in this life, so indeed we all continue to sin. But by grace He delivers us from the bondage of sin and from all eternity has planned good works for us to do.

    John Y: We need to hear the gospel week in and week out. Why center in on our personal holiness at all when it is always lacking? Center in on the holiness of God and the righteousness of Christ all you want but to focus in on a sinners personal holiness is insanity and nonsense. Those who taut and herald their own righteousness, holiness, faithfulness, obedience, etc., etc. are scripturally heading down a road where the elder brother resides. The story of the elect is the story of prodigal and the rescuing God.

    RS: But the Gospel also has more to it than rescue from hell. It also has to do with God dwelling in His people and sharing His holiness with them. The Bible also teaches us (as does the Belgic Confession) that the soul that God justifies God also works in to make them holy. We are to glorify God in the lives we lead as a result of His justification of sinners.

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  261. D. G. Hart: Come on, Richard, you can’t fall back on the forensic when you sense that your views of sanctification are getting the better of you.

    RS: Maybe you were playing with your cats or smoking a ceegar at times, but I have spoken over and over on the forensic justification and the imputed righteousness of Christ.

    D. G. Hart: All of what you said about the righteousness of Christ imputed to us and received by faith is indeed a vindication of God’s unchanging standard.

    RS: Yes, in justification God is both just and the justifier (Rom 3:25-28).

    D.G. Hart: But you are also saying something more. And that is that after faith we still need perfection — we need to love God with our whole being.

    RS: I am saying that the standard has not dropped, not that we can do this. But this drives us to Christ for each moment. Perhaps you have more dispensational thinking in you than I thought. Has the Greatest Commandment every been nullified or modified?

    D.G. Hart: Folks here are saying, yes, we should, but the Bible also teaches we can’t — that filthy rags business. But you aren’t content with filthy rags even if God is, and so you throw back at confessionalists all this dead orthodoxy jazz. Have you not heard, sanctification is not going to be complete in this life? Does that mean we go out and avoid sanctification? No. But threatening people with entire sanctification is not doing anyone any good.

    RS: Who is threatening anyone with entire sanctification? Not me. I am simply saying what the standard of God is. God is not content with filthy rags, which is why Hebrews 12 speaks of His training His children so that they can share in His holiness. Generally speaking, if you aim at nothing you will hit it every time. If we lower the standard so we can keep it, then we are just like the Pharisees because that is what they did. Keeing the 7th command is not just keeping your pants on at the proper time, it is seeking a heart that does not desire to break the command. Then, to go a step more, we are not to be like the nation of Israel which was a spiritual prostitue. Our hearts and our bodies are to be faithful to God through Christ. By the way, jazz is not that great of a form of music.

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  262. RS: I would not argue that I am using different [senses than] you do, but I think something else is going on that you are not taking into account…

    If God manifests Himself in and through His people (love, holiness, etc.), wouldn’t it be possible for believers to behold something of God in others without that being a love sense?

    We don’t have to go down a mystical road too far to simply say that there are things other than the empirical we can observe.

    I think you probably need to reframe the way you talk about this. I’m not saying (yet) that your actual view is incoherent, but the way in which you express it is incoherent.

    Currently, you are saying that believers and non-believers use the same senses, but that believers can observe things other than the empirical.

    That’s like saying, “I can see colors other than the colors one can see.”

    Are you trying to say that believers can have greater | different insight into what they see, than unbelievers do? Or are you caught between believing that believers have a different mode of perception, but not wanting to call it a “love sense”?

    This unclarity is amplified because of your dismissal of words and deeds. If on the one hand you agree that we are using our senses to perceive, then words and deeds are all we have. And then, the question would be how to interpret, and at that point we could talk about additional insights.

    But you seem to disagree that words and deeds are all we have, which would logically force us to go to some other mode of perception, which would be a “love sense”, etc.

    I’m pushing you to become more clear here.

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  263. D. G. Hart: Richard, I don’t detect a whiff of perfectionism in the Belgic.

    RS: I thought you went by empirical observation, not now you are able to simply take a whiff of confessions and know that they teach. You are more mystical than I was aware of. Nevertheless, if your read Belgic 14 you will find plenty to condemn all in Adam. However, if you move on to Article 37 (The Last Judgment) you might find a few things that will not make you too happy. One might even argue that you might want to take another whiff.

    Belgic Article 37
    Then all human creatures will appear in person before the great judge– men, women, and children, who have lived from the beginning until the end of the world.

    They will be summoned there by the voice of the archangel and by the sound of the divine trumpet.^79

    For all those who died before that time will be raised from the earth, their spirits being joined and united with their own bodies in which they lived. And as for those who are still alive, they will not die like the others but will be changed “in the twinkling of an eye” from “corruptible to incorruptible.”^80

    Then “the books” (that is, the consciences) will be opened, and the dead will be judged according to the things they did in the world,^81 whether good or evil. Indeed, all people will give account of all the idle words they have spoken,^82 which the world regards as only playing games. And then the secrets and hypocrisies of men will be publicly uncovered in the sight of all.”

    RS: Notice the point about all idle words? The secrets and hypocrisies of men? It would almost make one think that men should examine their hearts for those secrets and hypocrisies before they enter eternity.

    D.G. Hart: It does not condemn me. Various folks detect a latent perfectionism in the way you describe sanctification. And Edwards’ Religious Affections condemns me.
    Think about it.

    RS: Fine, but they are using their perfection sense rather than a true standard. The question about the Religious Affections is not whether it makes us feel condemned or not, but whether it speaks truth or not. I still think that the Belgic Confession condemns each and every person of all history whether they feel it or not. But it also proclaims a justification found only in Christ.

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  264. Small defense of RS here, Zrim:

    RS: God punishes sin by turning people over to more sin and punishes theological unfaithfulness by turning people over to greater and greater degrees of darkness which leads to more and more heresy.

    In context, I think RS was speaking of unbelievers, those whose theological unfaithfulness is apostasy.

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  265. RS, on Belgic 37,

    There is long — LOONG — history of nailing down exactly in what way “good works” are “necessary for salvation.” I recommend reading Marrow of Modern Divinity, Appendix, Query 7.

    You seem to think that it’s enough to say “We will be judged by our works” without giving that severe qualification. The Marrowmen considered that to be of “dangerous consequence to the doctrine of justification.”

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  266. RS, I said “at minimum Zrim” because I have a long experience with his thought and have good confidence that I understand where he’s coming from. I also have confidence in the others here, but feel the most sure about Zrim.

    Empirical observations and inferences. 🙂

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  267. D. G. Hart: Richard, here you go again with applying a “love sense” without discrimination.

    RS: No, not so. Since I don’t believe in a love sense, I am not sure how I am applying it.

    D. G. Hart: Sanctification is not only incomplete in this life, but it is also more or less complete in different believers, which means that some may have more a love sense than other Christians. So where is the room in your verdict on other Christians that they may have 10 percent of the love sense of Jonathan Edwards? Is ten percent of a love sense better than nothing? Is it sufficient? Is it real love sense?

    RS: Of course sanctification is incomplete in this life. But since I don’t argue for a love sense, I am not sure I will be able to answer the rest of your questions. For all of those who have Christ in truth and reality they are acceptable to God in the Beloved and are viewed by His as holy and blameless only because of Christ. As the Belgic Confession says, it is the Holy Spirit in the person that causes the person to live a new life. But also (Article 24): ” Yet we do not wish to deny that God rewards good works– but it is by his grace that he crowns his gifts.

    “Moreover, although we do good works we do not base our salvation on them; for we cannot do any work that is not defiled by our flesh and also worthy of punishment. And even if we could point to one, memory of a single sin is enough for God to reject that work.”

    RS: The point about percentages is simply an effort to show how far from perfection we really are. But I don’t believe in what you are calling “a love sense.”

    D.G. Hart: I don’t see in your view room for accepting the flaws of Christians. You seem to think that if you do this you are lax, liberal, and tolerant of error. But it is where we are. It is where the saints in Scripture were. Why can’t you live in the real world?

    RS: I thought I lived in the real world, or at least it seems mighty real to me. I must admit that the use of the word “flaw” can sound sort of like Nixon’s “made a mistake”. One the one hand all who have Christ are accepted, but on the other the discipline/training of God works in them so that they can share in His holiness. Then we have the whole bit about Christians training other Christians. Out of true love we are to help people grow in faith and love so that they will sin less. If you knew of a person that had poisonous snakes in his house, wouldn’t you want someone to examine with care the house to find those snakes and get them out? Should physicians just allow diseases to grow or go after all of it? The WCF teaches us that sin brings misery and death. It sure seems that true love would help people to flee from sin.

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  268. Jeff, I took the context to suggest believers. Still, even if it’s unbelievers the point remains that God has already poured out punishment for sin. Even apostates aren’t punished in the semi-eschatological age, but disciplined. And the difference is vital.

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  269. RS: John, you are perhaps the most wicked man I have ever heard of. Your holiness is like a used menstrual cloth. There is nothing of self in you that is attractive in any way and you are nothing but open sores from head to toe. You have opened your legs under every tree and have given yourself like a prostitute to all sorts of idols. That is my argument. Are you convinced by it? I would also argue that I have just described every human being. However, righteousness of Christ imputed to us is not filthy rags and the holiness of God that He works in us is not filthy rags. In His sovereign pleasure He does not completely deliver us from the power of sin in this life, so indeed we all continue to sin. But by grace He delivers us from the bondage of sin and from all eternity has planned good works for us to do.

    John Y: You got that right Richard- now we are getting somewhere. I love it when all the crap is finally discarded and we get to the place where we finally repent of our idols, self-righteousness, pettiness, anger, and see ourselves in all our nakedness and guilt. It is then that God can rescue us and cleanse us by the Words he speaks to us (the Gospel). Talk all you want of the holiness of God, the righteousness of Christ and covenant faithfulness of the Holy Spirit who does not give up on his elect. Elders brothers give up on you the Gospel always calls the elect back home.

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  270. Old Post RS: God punishes sin by turning people over to more sin and punishes theological unfaithfulness by turning people over to greater and greater degrees of darkness which leads to more and more heresy.

    Zrim’s Scream: Yeow, if nothing else is heard, this should be a glaring red flag. God does not punish people, Richard, because it is already finished in the cross. He may chastise and discipline, but that is very different from punishment for the faithful which is utterly vanquished.

    Jeff Cagle: Small defense of RS here, Zrim.
    In context I think RS was speaking of unbelievers, those who theological unfaithfulness is apostasy.

    RS aka JF: A small thank you for a small defense. Yes, that is correct. As in Romans 1:18-32, God turns people over to hard hearts and their practice and theology gets worse and worse.

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  271. D. G. Hart: Richard, the threat comes when you begin to interview someone for church membership.

    RS: But again, though you don’t like my “mere words” or “mere profession” language, if you don’t actually examine people, then how can it be anything but mere words or a mere profession? I would think that elders who were truly interested in the Church and in the souls of people would be able to ask these types of questions in a non-mean way. I suppose this method could threaten to expose cold hearts, but it could also reveal warm ones. The idea is not always just to keep out unbelievers, but also to help people find a real basis for assurance. If people have a false basis for assurance, and they certainly will if they are under constant exposure to evangelicalism, then examining them is a great thing for them.

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  272. I have a real elder brother sibling kind of like you Richard. So, nothing that anyone says about my character or holiness or righteousness or whatever else you want to call it phases me anymore. I have it heard it all thrown my way. He even took my means of livelihood away from me. He has thrown punishment at everyone in the family because he is in a position of legal authority and financial dominance at this point. He really believes that he was put in this position because he is inherently more righteous, responsible and “holy” than every one else in our family. Everyone else knows he is not though and the tables will turn one day. He is confused theologically but has no clue. I don’t care how inherently righteous, holy or godly anyone thinks they are anymore. It goes to their heads quick and they then become self-righteous tyrants who breath burdens on others and dole out punishments on the wicked if they can get away with it. The higher they rise the more damage they do. You’re just a poor sinner, beggar and tax collector Richard. Help to set others free by the Gospel. That is our calling in this life.

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  273. Old Post RS: I would not argue that I am using different [senses than] you do, but I think something else is going on that you are not taking into account… If God manifests Himself in and through His people (love, holiness, etc.), wouldn’t it be possible for believers to behold something of God in others without that being a love sense? We don’t have to go down a mystical road too far to simply say that there are things other than the empirical we can observe.

    Jeff Cagle: I think you probably need to reframe the way you talk about this. I’m not saying (yet) that your actual view is incoherent, but the way in which you express it is incoherent. Currently, you are saying that believers and non-believers use the same senses, but that believers can observe things other than the empirical. That’s like saying, “I can see colors other than the colors one can see.”

    RS: It is something like trying to describe the color of red with words and not have ostensive definitions available. Sort of like trying to describe red to a blind person or even to one who was color blind.

    Jeff Cagle: Are you trying to say that believers can have greater | different insight into what they see, than unbelievers do? Or are you caught between believing that believers have a different mode of perception, but not wanting to call it a “love sense”?

    RS: I am trying to say (much along the lines of trying to describe red) that the Holy Spirit in people gives understanding and insight in ways that cannot be described as “a love sense”. The Spirit is able to give people a spiritual sight of the glory of God and a spiritual sight of things that our desire to be empirical cannot explain. Faith, in this sense, corresponds to our five senses. But no, that is not the same thing as saying we have a love sense. The soul is said to see by faith, to hear by faith, to taste by faith, and so on. What is it that a soul sees by faith? What is it that a soul hears by faith? How is it that the soul is able to taste of the Lord? Clearly, it seems to me, that believers do know things by faith that unbelievers do not and cannot know. It has to do with the realm and activity of the spiritual realm.

    Jeff Cagle: This unclarity is amplified because of your dismissal of words and deeds. If on the one hand you agree that we are using our senses to perceive, then words and deeds are all we have. And then, the question would be how to interpret, and at that point we could talk about additional insights.

    RS: But I don’t dismiss words and deeds, I am just saying that there has to be more than that. I Cor 13 is quite clear on that. We are also told that apart from Christ we can do nothing, so clearly words and deeds are not the total picture.

    Jeff Cagle: But you seem to disagree that words and deeds are all we have, which would logically force us to go to some other mode of perception, which would be a “love sense”, etc. I’m pushing you to become more clear here.

    RS: Keep pushing, but so far I have found it hard to describe spiritual realities with words. You do remember Paul (no, no attempt at comparison) having seen things that he could not describe? By analogy, once again, what does a person mean when he says after a struggle to understand, “ah, now I see”? What does a poet mean when s/he speaks of words tasting a certain way? Well, the natural man does not understand the things of God, yet those born of God do. Unbelievers do not have a capacity for true love and yet believers do. Believers are able to see the glory of God and those without faith cannot see the glory of God. The Holy Spirit illumines the minds and understanding of His people in ways that He does not do for unbelievers. God teaches His people in their inner persons and yet does not do that for unbelievers. The life in the believer is not the same life as the unbeliever. The believer has fellowship with God and the unbeliever does not. I am saying that words and deeds are not adequate to describe what goes on there, but yet people can know that those things mean. Is it a love sense? No. But it is something beyond words and deeds.

    One more point. Can you describe and define love apart from deeds? Clearly I Cor 13 tells us that people can do all sorts of amazing things and not have love. A person cannot be a Christian without having love in that person.

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  274. John Yeazel: You’re just a poor sinner, beggar and tax collector Richard. Help to set others free by the Gospel. That is our calling in this life.

    RS: John, thanks for the compliments. But I am far worse than just a poor sinner, beggar and tax collector. I am a cosmic criminal who has sinned against the living God in every thought, intent of thoughts, desire, word, and deed. No one can possibly say anything about me that even approaches how bad I really am in myself since I have sinned against an infinite God. Yes, the Gospel is what we are to proclaim, but Christ in us is our hope of glory is part of that. I will also say that in heaven we will not have sin and will love Christ perfectly, so if we desire heaven (where there is no sin) then why shouldn’t we strive to be done with sin by grace and to love Christ?

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  275. Richard, whatever Romans 1 is talking about it’s not punishment. And so this is my worry with you. A deficient grasp of sin seems connected to a deficient grasp of the cross and what punishment is. And out pops stuff about “love sense” and “deeper and beyond” and the vain attempt at describing a color to the color blind. As with Catholics, I truly wonder what you think it means when Jesus said it is finished.

    MM played the Pat Robertson parallel card at one point, and it fits, as in when he likes to suggest that terrorist attacks are God’s punishment on unbelieving nations. Yours is the personal version (mirror error). God does not punish nations or persons, Richard. The categories are providence and discipline, neither of which can be discerned or fathomed as to their specific causes or purposes. But one thing we can know without any doubt because God has plainly revealed it is that his wrath has been satisfied and punishment is no longer in play.

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  276. RS: “The idea is not always just to keep out unbelievers, but also to help people find a real basis for assurance. If people have a false basis for assurance, and they certainly will if they are under constant exposure to evangelicalism, then examining them is a great thing for them.”

    Sean: Having been in the PCA for roughly 18 years, and watching as we drift toward broader evangellyfish and as a result filling up our pews with those same sorts, I would have to say that the evangelical doesn’t suffer from an unwillingness or lack of experience in looking inward. Now, I’m sure you would argue that they don’t know how to do it rightly or biblically, and that may be so, but the greater emphasis particularly as it regards assurance, is to teach them(myself as well) to look outward to Jesus Christ and what has been done for them, apart from them, in history. This is why RH preaching is so vital. We turn inward readily with little provocation, and we do law Rom. 2:15 innately, what we don’t have inwardly is gospel proclamation and absolution and thus assurance. Gospel is foreign and objectively and historically considered first; 1Cor. 15:7. Then we can move on to; ‘It was done for me’ and go to 2 Peter and do those things prescribed in making our calling and election sure. It’s not that there aren’t necessarily anti-nomians in our churches, but at least in the church bodies that I’m familiar with, that doesn’t seem to be the weakness. The weakness continues to be, and quite frankly it’s getting worse, a lack of accumulation or working knowledge of doctrine such that people both understand the nature of the law, it’s demands, and their failures, and the historical nature of redemption. This generally exhibits as neo-nomianism not anti-nomianism however. So we get neither law nor gospel. I haven’t seen the remedy however in turning inward, but instead getting ‘arms-length’ objective distance(doctrine, confession) and in realizing the greatness and goodness of God’s redemption for me and apart from me(what’s going on inside me). Then and quite frankly only then, do we start to see true repentance and turning from sin. It is after all the goodness of God that leads one to repentance Rom 2:4.

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  277. Zrim: Richard, whatever Romans 1 is talking about it’s not punishment. And so this is my worry with you. A deficient grasp of sin seems connected to a deficient grasp of the cross and what punishment is. And out pops stuff about “love sense” and “deeper and beyond” and the vain attempt at describing a color to the color blind. As with Catholics, I truly wonder what you think it means when Jesus said it is finished.

    RS: Zrim, I can only hope you are not meaning what you appear to be saying. Read Romans 1:18 to the end of that chapter. It is talking about wrath and punishment. Romans 1:18 “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness,” I am not sure how one can get around the fact that the wrath of God being revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness is anything but punishment.

    Romans 1:24 Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them. Romans 1:26 For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural,

    RS: The conclusion is virtually unavoidable. God punishes sin by hardening the hearts of people and turning them over to more sin. As Westminster says, sin brings misery and death.

    Zrim: MM played the Pat Robertson parallel card at one point, and it fits, as in when he likes to suggest that terrorist attacks are God’s punishment on unbelieving nations. Yours is the personal version (mirror error). God does not punish nations or persons, Richard. The categories are providence and discipline, neither of which can be discerned or fathomed as to their specific causes or purposes. But one thing we can know without any doubt because God has plainly revealed it is that his wrath has been satisfied and punishment is no longer in play.

    RS: God has satisfied His wrath for believers in Christ, but His wrath on those who are not in Christ will never be satisfied. Pat Robertson made the mistake of saying that the planes flying into towers were the punisment of God on the US for the sin of homosexuality. I would say in the language of Romans 1:26 and the context that the sin of homosexuality was punishment and is punishment. God does punish people because of sin and as a perfeclty just God He must punish sin. He poured out His wrath on Christ who suffered that wrath for His people, but for those without Christ that judgment must still be paid. God’s wrath has only been satisfied in the case of His elect. If His wrath is no longer in play, then are you saying that hell is no longer real?

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  278. Sean: The weakness continues to be, and quite frankly it’s getting worse, a lack of accumulation or working knowledge of doctrine such that people both understand the nature of the law, it’s demands, and their failures, and the historical nature of redemption.

    RS: When people have a weakness or lack of knowledge of the doctrines of God and of sin, they have lost a real sense of the spiritual nature of the Law and of its inward application. So I don’t think that what you say in the paragraph just above is necessarily in conflict with people needed to be guided to a knowledge of their own hearts.

    Sean: This generally exhibits as neo-nomianism not anti-nomianism however. So we get neither law nor gospel.

    RS: I guess I would argue that neo-nomianism is really a form of anti-nomianism or at least could be under the umbrella term. While the Pharisees tried to make a strict law that they could keep, in effect they had lowered the law. So all forms of trying to make laws we can keep is really against the law as it really is.

    Sean: I haven’t seen the remedy however in turning inward, but instead getting ‘arms-length’ objective distance(doctrine, confession) and in realizing the greatness and goodness of God’s redemption for me and apart from me(what’s going on inside me). Then and quite frankly only then, do we start to see true repentance and turning from sin. It is after all the goodness of God that leads one to repentance Rom 2:4.

    RS: While it is the goodness of God that leads one to repentance, I am not sure that people really understand the depths of that goodness until they see some of the depths of their own sin.

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  279. Richard, no, the point isn’t that God’s wrath is obsolete or that judgment isn’t to come or that hell is null and void. It’s that suggesting that God deals in punishment in the age of grace and in light of the cross is to gloss right over the import of it all. Yes, God’s eternal wrath rests upon unbelievers, but he doesn’t temporally deal with them that way. He still works through providence, not punishment.

    So Robertson wasn’t wrong about God punishing the nation, just wrong in terms of the manner of punishment? Terrorism isn’t the punishment for homosexuality, but homosexuality was and is the punishment for…what? Richard, your pastoral theology for the nation, which is devoid of any category for providence, is no more than a glorified moralistic superstition.

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  280. Zrim: Richard, no, the point isn’t that God’s wrath is obsolete or that judgment isn’t to come or that hell is null and void. It’s that suggesting that God deals in punishment in the age of grace and in light of the cross is to gloss right over the import of it all. Yes, God’s eternal wrath rests upon unbelievers, but he doesn’t temporally deal with them that way. He still works through providence, not punishment.

    RS: Sir, I have no idea what you are talking about, but I do know you are not talking in such a way that the Belgic or Westminster would recognize. More importantly, you are speaking in a way that is contrary to Romans 1:18-31. See especially section VI of Westminster ch. 5

    Belgic: Article 13: The Doctrine of God’s Providence
    We believe that this good God, after he created all things, did not abandon them to chance or fortune but leads and governs them according to his holy will, in such a way that nothing happens in this world without his orderly arrangement.

    Yet God is not the author of, nor can he be charged with, the sin that occurs. For his power and goodness are so great and incomprehensible that he arranges and does his work very well and justly even when the devils and wicked men act unjustly.

    We do not wish 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.

    This doctrine gives us unspeakable comfort since it teaches us that nothing can happen to us by chance but only by the arrangement of our gracious heavenly Father. He watches over us with fatherly care, keeping all creatures under his control, so that not one of the hairs on our heads (for they are all numbered) nor even a little bird can fall to the ground^20 without the will of our Father.

    In this thought we rest, knowing that he holds in check the devils and all our enemies, who cannot hurt us without his permission and will.

    For that reason we reject the damnable error of the Epicureans, who say that God involves himself in nothing and leaves everything to chance.

    WCF: Chapter V Of Providence
    I. God the great Creator of all things does uphold,[1] direct, dispose, and govern all creatures, actions, and things,[2] from the greatest even to the least,[3] by His most wise and holy providence,[4] according to His infallible foreknowledge,[5] and the free and immutable counsel of His own will,[6] to the praise of the glory of His wisdom, power, justice, goodness, and mercy.[7]

    II. Although, in relation to the foreknowledge and decree of God, the first Cause, all things come to pass immutably, and infallibly;[8] yet, by the same providence, He orders them to fall out, according to the nature of second causes, either necessarily, freely, or contingently.[9]

    III. God, in His ordinary providence, makes use of means,[10] yet is free to work without,[11] above,[12] and against them,[13] at His pleasure.

    IV. The almighty power, unsearchable wisdom, and infinite goodness of God so far manifest themselves in His providence, that it extends itself even to the first fall, and all other sins of angels and men;[14] and that not by a bare permission,[15] but such as has joined with it a most wise and powerful bounding,[16] and otherwise ordering, and governing of them, in a manifold dispensation, to His own holy ends;[17] yet so, as the sinfulness thereof proceeds only from the creature, and not from God, who, being most holy and righteous, neither is nor can be the author or approver of sin.[18]

    V. The most wise, righteous, and gracious God does oftentimes leave, for a season, His own children to manifold temptations, and the corruption of their own hearts, to chastise them for their former sins, or to discover unto them the hidden strength of corruption and deceitfulness of their hearts, that they may be humbled;[19] and, to raise them to a more close and constant dependence for their support upon Himself, and to make them more watchful against all future occasions of sin, and for sundry other just and holy ends.[20]

    VI. As for those wicked and ungodly men whom God, as a righteous Judge, for former sins, does blind and harden,[21] from them He not only withholds His grace whereby they might have been enlightened in their understandings, and wrought upon in their hearts;[22] but sometimes also withdraws the gifts which they had,[23] and exposes them to such objects as their corruption makes occasion of sin;[24] and, withal, gives them over to their own lusts, the temptations of the world, and the power of Satan,[25] whereby it comes to pass that they harden themselves, even under those means which God uses for the softening of others.[26]

    VII. As the providence of God does, in general, reach to all creatures; so, after a most special manner, it takes care of His Church, and disposes all things to the good thereof.[27]

    Zrim: So Robertson wasn’t wrong about God punishing the nation, just wrong in terms of the manner of punishment? Terrorism isn’t the punishment for homosexuality, but homosexuality was and is the punishment for…what? Richard, your pastoral theology for the nation, which is devoid of any category for providence, is no more than a glorified moralistic superstition.

    RS: You can call if whatever you wish, as I am sure you will, but after you read the Belgic and Westminster know that at least I am speaking in line with them. It is in God’s providence that He turns people over to sin. It may be the case that you are using the term “providence” in a different way than the confessions. Once again, though, going back the most important document (Holy Scripture) read Romans 1:26 For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural.” Then you might try on Romans 2:4-5 for a moment: 5 But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, 6 who WILL RENDER TO EACH PERSON ACCORDING TO HIS DEEDS.” I don’t think that I am guilty of a glorified moralistic superstition when I speak in accordance with Scripture and then the Belgic and Westminster confessions.

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  281. Richard, simply quoting the forms doesn’t do much to vindicate your idea that post-cross God still doles out punishment–in fact, the word isn’t used once in the confessional sections you cite. And you didn’t answer my question about what “the sin of homosexuality was punishment and is punishment” for. When we see homosexuality today, what is it supposed to be punishing? Or is it that, like blindness, it is not so much because somebody sinned (this man or his parents?) but part of the territory in the post-fall world?

    But careful, to answer the question about what homosexuality is punishing may be to do what the disciples did and what Belgic 13 is warning against: “We do not wish 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.”

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  282. Zrim: Richard, simply quoting the forms doesn’t do much to vindicate your idea that post-cross God still doles out punishment–in fact, the word isn’t used once in the confessional sections you cite.

    RS: I guess I am guilty of thinking that when God shows wrath He is punishing.

    Zrim: And you didn’t answer my question about what “the sin of homosexuality was punishment and is punishment” for. When we see homosexuality today, what is it supposed to be punishing? Or is it that, like blindness, it is not so much because somebody sinned (this man or his parents?) but part of the territory in the post-fall world?

    RS: If you read Romans 1:18-32, that is, the context of the veses I gave, it spells out the answers to those questions. God punishes sin with more sin and so sin is its own punishment. So we have Romans 1:18 telling us that “the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness.”
    19 because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them.
    20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.
    21 For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened.
    22 Professing to be wise, they became fools,
    23 and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures.
    24 Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them.
    25 For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.
    26 For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural,
    27 and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error.
    28 And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper,

    RS: In order to sin as they do people have to suppress the truth of God, but in doing that they are given over to more sin which suppresses the truth of God or the glory of God even more. We see in verses 21-23 that they exchanged the glory of God for other things. So verse 24 starts off with a “therefore.” In other words, because of their rejecting the truth of God and of His glory, God gave them over to degrading passions so that their bodies would be dishonored. Why? For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie. The next verse starts off with a “for this reason.” Again, Paul is using relentless logic to show the downward progression of sin as God hardens hearts and turns people over to sin because of their former sin.

    Zrim: But careful, to answer the question about what homosexuality is punishing may be to do what the disciples did and what Belgic 13 is warning against: “We do not wish 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.”

    RS: The text of Romans 1 is quite clear that God punishes people for their sin of rejecting Him by turning them over to degrading passions. It is not just that they are punished for sin, but they are also punished with and by their sin. I think the text is quite clear on that.

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  283. Richard says: “so if we desire heaven (where there is no sin) then why shouldn’t we strive to be done with sin by grace and to love Christ?”

    John Y: Our striving does no good against our sin (striving makes the sin take other forms- like neolegalism). We are to consider ourselves dead to sin because God has baptized us into Christ. Christ was the one who mastered sin and conquered it. Striving and considering are strongly opposed words. The grace is our being baptized into Christ and the Holy Spirit makes sure we stay in Christ. Your view that the Holy Spirit as the One that provides the power to strive against our sin is gravely mistaken. The Holy Spirit convicts us of our sin but the power over sin is the result of the work of Christ for the elect in that guilt and condemnation is removed in perpetuity. All the sins of the elect (past, present and future) have been removed and justly accounted for by the atoning death of Christ.

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  284. Zrim is saying some interesting things in ways I have not heard them said before. Providence vs. punishment. What has influenced your thinking on this? I can think of two passages in Scripture that deal with this issue. One if the tower falling and killing both “just” and “unjust” people. Another is God causing the rain to fall on the just and the unjust. When our towers fell on 9/11 was God punishing the evildoers inside and not the just people inside? We see bad things happen to “good” people everyday and good things happen to “bad” people everyday. Zrim’s interpretation seems to make more sense to me than mere mortals trying to say definitively who is being punished temporally for what. Very interesting stuff.

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  285. Richard – So when a homosexual gets AIDS and dies they are being justly punished? How about a baby who gets AIDS from her mother and dies? Is she being justly punished? They are both dying of the same disease.

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  286. Erik Charter: Richard – So when a homosexual gets AIDS and dies they are being justly punished? How about a baby who gets AIDS from her mother and dies? Is she being justly punished? They are both dying of the same disease.

    RS: I would not argue that the baby is being punished, yet the baby is by nature a child of wrath. The soul that sins shall die. The WCFCh VI sec III. “They being the root of all mankind, the guilt of this sin was imputed;[6] and the same death in sin, and corrupted nature, conveyed to all their posterity descending from them by ordinary generation.”

    Notice that the guilt of the sin of Adam was imputed to all that came from him and so the same death in sin and corrupted nature. If we want to have the imputation of the righteousness of Christ, then we have no argument about the imputation of the sin of Adam.

    You sure know how to get a firestorm going.

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  287. Erik Charter: Zrim is saying some interesting things in ways I have not heard them said before. Providence vs. punishment. What has influenced your thinking on this? I can think of two passages in Scripture that deal with this issue. One if the tower falling and killing both “just” and “unjust” people. Another is God causing the rain to fall on the just and the unjust. When our towers fell on 9/11 was God punishing the evildoers inside and not the just people inside? We see bad things happen to “good” people everyday and good things happen to “bad” people everyday. Zrim’s interpretation seems to make more sense to me than mere mortals trying to say definitively who is being punished temporally for what. Very interesting stuff.

    RS: But notice the point of Romans 1:18-32. God punishes people for their sin with more sin. Until His wrath can be explained as something that is not punishment, the verses in Romans require something more than providence. The tall of the towers fell and we don’t know all the reasons for that. However, we do know that all who were believers went into the presence of God and those who were not went to a place of torment.

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  288. John Yeazel: Richard says: “so if we desire heaven (where there is no sin) then why shouldn’t we strive to be done with sin by grace and to love Christ?”

    John Y: Our striving does no good against our sin (striving makes the sin take other forms- like neolegalism). We are to consider ourselves dead to sin because God has baptized us into Christ. Christ was the one who mastered sin and conquered it. Striving and considering are strongly opposed words. The grace is our being baptized into Christ and the Holy Spirit makes sure we stay in Christ. Your view that the Holy Spirit as the One that provides the power to strive against our sin is gravely mistaken. The Holy Spirit convicts us of our sin but the power over sin is the result of the work of Christ for the elect in that guilt and condemnation is removed in perpetuity. All the sins of the elect (past, present and future) have been removed and justly accounted for by the atoning death of Christ.

    RS: John, the Scripture says strive so we should strive. It tells us to be earnest, to labor, and to strive. But it also says that salvation is by grace alone. Both are true and they do not contradict each other.

    Luke 13:24 “Strive to enter through the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able.

    Matthew 11:12 “From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and violent men take it by force.

    1 Corinthians 9:24 Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. 25 Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. 26 Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; 27 but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.

    Phil 2:12 So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling;
    13 for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.

    RS: Notice that the text tells us to work out your salvation with fear and trembling. Why? Because it is God who is at work in you.

    Colossians 1:29 For this purpose also I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me

    Hebrews 4:11 Therefore let us be diligent to enter that rest, so that no one will fall, through following the same example of disobedience.

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  289. Erik, when I read Richard on God still in the business of punishment, coupled with this idea that somehow homosexuality is a way to dole it out, I can’t help but think of when Piper speculated that tornadoes in Minneapolis were God’s judgment for the ELCA’s affirmation of practicing homosexual clergy, which really isn’t any different from Robertson’s type of thing. Scott Clark had some intriguing insights:

    http://heidelblog.net/2009/08/interpreting-providence/

    But this seems to be the tick in semi-revivalism–not to have any mediatorial categories like wisdom, nature, or providence to explain provisional life. There is only sin and righteousness, belief or unbelief, reward or punishment. And one of the most disturbing implications is how the work of the cross becomes deficient. What else can one conclude when it is put forward that God still punishes? Richard says that when God shows wrath he is punishing. Quite true. But the cross is where we see it. It will only come again one more time upon Jesus’ return. Whatever else we see in the meantime can’t really compare to either, so it must be something other than divine judgment.

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  290. Zrim: Erik, when I read Richard on God still in the business of punishment, coupled with this idea that somehow homosexuality is a way to dole it out, I can’t help but think of when Piper speculated that tornadoes in Minneapolis were God’s judgment for the ELCA’s affirmation of practicing homosexual clergy, which really isn’t any different from Robertson’s type of thing. Scott Clark had some intriguing insights:

    RS: Despite what Piper and Robertson did or didn’t do, I am speaking of a particular passage of Scripture (Rom 1:18-32). It says without equivocation that the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness. It does not say that the wrath of God is only revealed at the cross, but that the wrath of God is revealed. The text goes on to show how this wrath is revealed. So Romans 1:18 says that the wrath of God is revealed and verses 19-32 show how that wrath is revealed.

    1 Thessalonians 2:16 ” hindering us from speaking to the Gentiles so that they may be saved; with the result that they always fill up the measure of their sins. But wrath has come upon them to the utmost.” In this text the wrath has come upon them to the utmost. It is not that the wrath will come, but that the wrath has come. Again, wrath brings punishment and is not intended as a mere training method.

    Zrim: But this seems to be the tick in semi-revivalism–not to have any mediatorial categories like wisdom, nature, or providence to explain provisional life. There is only sin and righteousness, belief or unbelief, reward or punishment.

    RS: Not to be rude, but it is not exactly the most conservative thing to try to explain wrath away. It is not the best way to do things to put providence and punishment on opposite ends. When you do so, it makes it appear that you can interpret providence and that it can never bring judgment or punishment. God always brings punishment in accordance with perfect wisdom and by His providence.

    Zrim: And one of the most disturbing implications is how the work of the cross becomes deficient. What else can one conclude when it is put forward that God still punishes?

    RS: Because Jesus Christ did not suffer the wrath of God in the place of all people, but instead only for His elect. It is your position (though you may not intend it) that actually denigrates the cross of Jesus Christ. Evidently your position has Christ suffering the whole wrath of God for all people at least until eternity, but not really satisfying the whole wrath of God. That also seems to leave salvation in their own hands, but that is an implication which I am drawing so I am not saying you believe that. I can only say that your position is not the one that the Reformed have held.

    Zrim: Richard says that when God shows wrath he is punishing. Quite true. But the cross is where we see it. It will only come again one more time upon Jesus’ return. Whatever else we see in the meantime can’t really compare to either, so it must be something other than divine judgment.

    RS: But Romans 1:18-32 quite clearly contradicts your position. Indeed we see the wrath of God at the cross of Christ, but the wrath of God that was suffered by Christ was fully propitiated for all eternity. Your position cannot stand with the teaching of Scripture and the confessions on the definite atonement. God shows wrath every day, but His full wrath will not be unleashed until the Day of Judgment. But punishment for sin is being carried out day by day.

    Heidelberg:
    Question 10. Will God suffer such disobedience and rebellion to go unpunished?

    Answer: By no means; but is terribly displeased (a) with our original as well as actual sins; and will punish them in his just judgment temporally and eternally, (b) as he has declared, “Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things, which are written in the book of the law, to do them.”

    WCF Ch VI Sec VI. Every sin, both original and actual, being a transgression of the righteous law of God, and contrary thereunto,[13] does in its own nature, bring guilt upon the sinner,[14] whereby he is bound over to the wrath of God,[15] and curse of the law,[16] and so made subject to death,[17] with all miseries spiritual,[18] temporal,[19] and eternal.[20]

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  291. Richard, what I am saying is that there are consequences to violating natural law and that those consequences aren’t the same as divine judgment. If someone steals bread and he goes to jail for it, his punishment is provisional, not eternal. The only way this is controversial is to be virtually bankrupt any categories for provisional life and having eternal categories rush in the fill the void.

    And I’m not saying the cross satisfies the wrath of God for all people. It is only for the elect. But in the inter-advental age of grace God deals with both un/believers through providence and natural law, while believers have the additional benefit of being dealt with through the cross. It isn’t clear to me how to conceive of punishment in the age of grace—chastisement, discipline, natural consequence, yes, but not punishment. To do so seems like a confusion of law and gospel.

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  292. JY & RS, & Zrim,

    Can “striving”, “running the race”, “working out with fear and trembling”, and “putting on the whole armour of God”, all be tied into Sanctification?

    WLC #75

    “Sanctification is a work of God’s grace, whereby they whom God has, before the foundation of the world, chosen to be holy, are in time, through the powerful operation of his Spirit applying the death and resurrection of Christ unto them, renewed in their whole man after the image of God; having the seeds of repentance unto life, and all other saving graces, put into their hearts, and those graces so stirred up, increased, and strengthened, as that they more and more die unto sin, and rise unto newness of life.”

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  293. Zrim: Richard, what I am saying is that there are consequences to violating natural law and that those consequences aren’t the same as divine judgment. If someone steals bread and he goes to jail for it, his punishment is provisional, not eternal. The only way this is controversial is to be virtually bankrupt any categories for provisional life and having eternal categories rush in the fill the void.

    RS: But Romans 13 does have a different view, or at least I think so.
    2 Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves.
    3 For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same;
    4 for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil.

    RS: It seems to me that this text teaches that even going to jail is the wrath of God.

    Zrim: And I’m not saying the cross satisfies the wrath of God for all people. It is only for the elect. But in the inter-advental age of grace God deals with both un/believers through providence and natural law, while believers have the additional benefit of being dealt with through the cross. It isn’t clear to me how to conceive of punishment in the age of grace—chastisement, discipline, natural consequence, yes, but not punishment. To do so seems like a confusion of law and gospel.

    RS: The punishment for sin is death. Every obituary you read about or every hearse you meet is a testimony that God’s judgment on sin is still being carried out. I have to admit that I am not quite clear on what you mean by natural consequence since God set those things up in Divine wisdom and all things are maintained by Him every moment and all those things happen according to Divine providence. So a person that breaks a natural law is doing an act decreed by God and suffers the consequence that has been decreed by God. God intends all things for good to those that love Him, but for those who hate Him it certainly appears that those things are punishment. A wise God can also bring good and punisment to different people in one act.

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  294. B
    Posted September 19, 2012 at 9:02 am | Permalink
    JY & RS, & Zrim,

    Can “striving”, “running the race”, “working out with fear and trembling”, and “putting on the whole armour of God”, all be tied into Sanctification?

    WLC #75

    “Sanctification is a work of God’s grace, whereby they whom God has, before the foundation of the world, chosen to be holy, are in time, through the powerful operation of his Spirit applying the death and resurrection of Christ unto them, renewed in their whole man after the image of God; having the seeds of repentance unto life, and all other saving graces, put into their hearts, and those graces so stirred up, increased, and strengthened, as that they more and more die unto sin, and rise unto newness of life.”

    RS: In my view they can, but we are also told to strive to enter through the narrow door since some will seek to enter and not be able. The word we translate as strive has the idea of agonizing struggle while the word we translate as seek has more of a deliberative, searching, and making some efforts to it. So the Luke 13:24 passage seems to indicate salvation while the others are indicative of sanctification. Luke 13:23 shows us that Jesus was answering a question about how many or how few would be saved.

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  295. So Richard, when something that you would interpret as “bad” happens, wouldn’t you have to go into your lengthy interview process with the person it happened to to determine whether it is punishment or not? If you determine the person is not a true believer it would be punishment. If you determine they are a believer would it then be something else? It would seem this would add yet another layer of difficulty to your pastoral approach.

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  296. Richard, I’m just not sure you’re hearing me. You don’t have to convince me of the veracity of Romans 13. 2kers are routinely maligned for pointing to it to prop up the virtues of civil obedience and the vices of disobedience, as well as ground for happily obeying (and even working for) godless tyrants. But you also have to keep in mind that 2kers work with the categories of provisional and eternal, such that when Paul speaks of the temporal magistrate as the minister of God it isn’t to say he administers eternal things—he’s no more an elder than an elder is a sheriff. He administers provisional things. If you want to say God is punishing our bread stealer when he goes to jail, I suppose in some sense that works as short hand. But I don’t think Paul wants to suggest so much that the sheriff is administering eternal wrath so much as to put the fear of God into believers in order to foster civil obedience.

    So your language just comes off as running roughshod over the categories I am using rather carefully (or trying). Yes, when someone dies it could feasibly be said to be judgment for sin. But it’s also a natural consequence of the order of things post-fall. The way you speak it’s as if every death can be traced back to some specific sin. The disciples’ inquiry about the blind man’s sin or his parent’s comes to mind here. I hear you asking that same question, and sorry, but it’s absurd.

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  297. Just a quick question, Zrim and Richard: would either or both of you consider God’s passing over the unelect and leaving them to their own hearts to be “punishment” or “discipline” or “neither”?

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  298. The ol’ “pot calling the kettle black,” eh Darryl? Or the ol’ “speck and log.”

    Anyway, as for this:

    “which is, what happens in the Anglican church stays in the Anglican church.”

    Well said, same goes for the post as a whole.

    Enjoying my reading of blogs these days,
    Andrew

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  299. Jeff Cagle: Richard, do you affirm or deny continuing revelation?

    RS: I was wondering when this would come up. By the way, it is not a bad thing that it has, but I have simply been wondering when it would come up. My answer to this is a clear denial of continuing revelation in the sense you mean, but that is not a denial that God can open the eyes as Paul prayed in Ephesians 1:15 For this reason I too, having heard of the faith in the Lord Jesus which exists among you and your love for all the saints, 16 do not cease giving thanks for you, while making mention of you in my prayers; 17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him.” The revelation spoken of in Ephesians 1:17 is not new revelation but is more of illumination or revealing insights into what has been revealed.

    On the other hand, there is the opening of the eyes to see in accordance with His Scriptures things like His providence and His hand in what is going on today. There is the opening of the eyes so that one can see His glory, for example, as in II Cor 3:18 and 4:6. But that is not new revelation as such, but is certainly opening the eyes to seeing new things.

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  300. Eric Charter: So Richard, when something that you would interpret as “bad” happens, wouldn’t you have to go into your lengthy interview process with the person it happened to to determine whether it is punishment or not?

    RS: No, nothing that is truly bad happens to the believer since God intends and works all for good. Yet, all that happens to the unbeliever is truly bad. God gives plenty of earthly things to those whom He hates.

    Eric Charter: If you determine the person is not a true believer it would be punishment. If you determine they are a believer would it then be something else? It would seem this would add yet another layer of difficulty to your pastoral approach.

    RS: I suppose it may appear to be that way to you, but the reality may differ from the appearance of it.

    Eric Charter: There’s no way Ted is taking this approach. He would be in counseling all day with parishioners and his golf game would go straight to hell.

    RS: The things that came from hell should be sent back there.

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  301. Jeff Cagle: Just a quick question, Zrim and Richard: would either or both of you consider God’s passing over the unelect and leaving them to their own hearts to be “punishment” or “discipline” or “neither”?

    RS: God’s passing over the non-elect is sovereignty. His judgment upon them is punishment. God only disciplines His children.

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  302. Zrim: Richard, I’m just not sure you’re hearing me. You don’t have to convince me of the veracity of Romans 13. 2kers are routinely maligned for pointing to it to prop up the virtues of civil obedience and the vices of disobedience, as well as ground for happily obeying (and even working for) godless tyrants. But you also have to keep in mind that 2kers work with the categories of provisional and eternal, such that when Paul speaks of the temporal magistrate as the minister of God it isn’t to say he administers eternal things—he’s no more an elder than an elder is a sheriff. He administers provisional things. If you want to say God is punishing our bread stealer when he goes to jail, I suppose in some sense that works as short hand. But I don’t think Paul wants to suggest so much that the sheriff is administering eternal wrath so much as to put the fear of God into believers in order to foster civil obedience.

    RS: I am not arguing that going to jail is an administration of eternal wrath, but it is a foretaste of what is to come. I am arguing that it is the punishment of God, however. At least that is what Rom 13 sure seems to say. I think of every act of all people and everything that happens as being part of the eternal decree of God and has His purposes in it (such as WCF ch III). All authority is from Him and as such it is His punishment on the doers of evil.

    Zrim: So your language just comes off as running roughshod over the categories I am using rather carefully (or trying).

    RS: Perhaps if you pointed out the categories rather than assume them it might help.

    Zrim: Yes, when someone dies it could feasibly be said to be judgment for sin. But it’s also a natural consequence of the order of things post-fall. The way you speak it’s as if every death can be traced back to some specific sin.

    RS: But death is not the natural consequence of some order. It is the specific judgment of God upon sinful humanity. While it may appear to be a natural consequence, that is only appearances. No one would die if they were not sinners or at least had sin imputed to them. I am not sure why you interpret me as tracing death back to a specific sin as I have not said that or implied that. I am simply saying that people die because they are sinners and because God has said that the soul that sins shall die.

    Zrim: The disciples’ inquiry about the blind man’s sin or his parent’s comes to mind here. I hear you asking that same question, and sorry, but it’s absurd.

    RS: But that is not my position. People are born spiritually dead because of original sin, so I am not asking why people are born dead in sin. I am also not asking anything as to what you are saying (why is someone born blind). I am just saying that the whole order of things that leads to death is because of sin and is a punishment for sin. I am also saying that God is absolutely sovereign over all things and that He has decreed each and every thing that comes to pass. Indeed there are temporal punishments and there are eternal punishments, but they are still punishments that God has decreed and sovereignly brings to pass.

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  303. Richard – Nice non-answers. Who are you, Bryan Cross?

    Eric Charter: So Richard, when something that you would interpret as “bad” happens, wouldn’t you have to go into your lengthy interview process with the person it happened to to determine whether it is punishment or not?

    RS: No, nothing that is truly bad happens to the believer since God intends and works all for good. Yet, all that happens to the unbeliever is truly bad. God gives plenty of earthly things to those whom He hates.

    Eric Charter: If you determine the person is not a true believer it would be punishment. If you determine they are a believer would it then be something else? It would seem this would add yet another layer of difficulty to your pastoral approach.

    RS: I suppose it may appear to be that way to you, but the reality may differ from the appearance of it.

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  304. Richard – I’ve known a lot of evangelical baptists and I’ve known a lot of confessional reformed guys. You are definitely way more the former than the latter. In temperment and in approach to theological questions.

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  305. At the same time you are sounding a bit like Herman Hoeksema and the Protestant Reformed in opposing common grace. Like them you also don’t go to movies! If we can get you to embrace infant baptism we may have found you a home!

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  306. Richard, a fellow from National Review yesterday on NPR described Mitt Romney’s 47% remark to be like taking a handful of true statements, putting them in a blender and pouring out a concoction that makes little sense. That’s how I feel here with you. And I’m not sure what else to say without being repetitive. Basically, I think it owes to having no provisional sense and an eternal one running at high octane to make up for it. That tends to explain why you are not satisfied with basic good sense and intuition to gauge the credibility of a simple profession of faith and well lived life and suggest that believers have some sort of spiritual sense (and duty) to discern hearts above and beyond what is warranted.

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  307. Erik Charter: Richard – Nice non-answers. Who are you, Bryan Cross?

    RS: Those were real answers, though it may take quite a bit of reflection on them.

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  308. Erik Charter: At the same time you are sounding a bit like Herman Hoeksema and the Protestant Reformed in opposing common grace.

    RS: I was not aware I had said anything that would lead you to that point.

    Eric Charter: Like them you also don’t go to movies!

    RS: That is true, but I just see them as just a waste of time and of money. There are much better things to do like read books and shoot holes in various things in the woods.

    Eric Charter: If we can get you to embrace infant baptism we may have found you a home!

    RS: But I do embrace infant baptism if you call a choke hold an embrace.

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  309. Zrim: Richard, a fellow from National Review yesterday on NPR described Mitt Romney’s 47% remark to be like taking a handful of true statements, putting them in a blender and pouring out a concoction that makes little sense. That’s how I feel here with you. And I’m not sure what else to say without being repetitive. Basically, I think it owes to having no provisional sense and an eternal one running at high octane to make up for it. That tends to explain why you are not satisfied with basic good sense and intuition to gauge the credibility of a simple profession of faith and well lived life and suggest that believers have some sort of spiritual sense (and duty) to discern hearts above and beyond what is warranted.

    RS: Well, I plead guilty to not being satisfied with basic good sense (whatever that means) and intuition (is that empirical enough for Jeff and isn’t that like the love sense you charged me with?). I much prefer, not to mention more biblical and confessional, to go by what the Bible says in these things. I also admit that I believe that the Bible teaches that we are to love God with all of our being at all times. I also admit that I believe the Bible teaches that we are to glorify God in all that we do at all times. By the way, that is also Westminster and Calvin. I do admit that I believe that God has decreed every single thing that happens and all things that human beings think, feel, and do have eternal consequences. So it is impossible to live in the temporal in a right way without living toward the eternal. But as to this eternal octane, Paul does tell us to fix our hearts on things above.

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  310. Richard,

    So if I claim, “God has revealed to me that you are a not a believer” (say, hypothetically — not making that claim here!!), then would that be ‘new revelation’ or ‘God’s opening my eyes to understand new things’?

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  311. Jeff Cagle: Richard, So if I claim, “God has revealed to me that you are a not a believer” (say, hypothetically — not making that claim here!!), then would that be ‘new revelation’ or ‘God’s opening my eyes to understand new things’?

    RS: Assuming that you are not given to all the things I am assuming you disagree with, and you had spoken with me and talked with me concerning issues of the heart, I would say that it would be the Spirit giving you discernment into the application of the Scriptures and to the lack of God in my heart. I wouldn’t see it as new revelation, but more of a spiritual understanding or interpretation or spiritual sight of things. It would be something like the resurrection of Lazarus in John 11. Many people saw the event, but only those who had true faith saw the glory of God in it. The others were left to their own self-centered view of things. By the way, despite the fact that I get the sense that I am on a runaway truck headed toward a cliff, I appreciate the questions.

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  312. OK, so let’s break the perception process down a bit.

    Is your claim that by asking these questions, you hear the words they say (and observe their body language, yadayada), and then are given insight as to what their words actually mean about the state of their souls?

    OR

    Is your claim that in the process of asking these questions, the Spirit gives you a kind of direct line that bypasses their words and lets you peer into their hearts?

    OR

    Something else?

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  313. Richard,

    Busy all day and away from my computer. None of those scripture verses had anything to do with striving against sin. They were about striving in our labors, not against our sin. You have a habit of throwing out imperative scripture verses that often are not relevant and then giving the impression that you are actually doing the imperatives 24/7/365. You don’t distinguish or you refuse to see the Law/Gospel antithesis as it applies to the individual believer. The Gospel motivates towards obedience not the Law. The Law just shows us how far short we fall. You constantly harp and pound the imperatives like the reconstructionists, the Shephardites, the neolegalists, etc. etc. Pounding the Law just makes people see their guilt more than they already do. You neolegalists think that is what you have to do. I and most at this site do not buy into your and Edwards methods. The Gospel makes believers more obedient than the Law does.

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  314. John Yeazel: Richard, Busy all day and away from my computer. None of those scripture verses had anything to do with striving against sin. They were about striving in our labors, not against our sin.

    RS: Well, actually sin would be included as part of striving.

    John Yeazel: You have a habit of throwing out imperative scripture verses that often are not relevant and then giving the impression that you are actually doing the imperatives 24/7/365.

    RS: I cannot help the impression part because I have said repeatedly that this is not possible for anyone. I am simply saying that the commands of God do not change because He does not change. The fact that you don’t see verses as relevant may not be the sole evidence that determines the case.

    John Yeazel: You don’t distinguish or you refuse to see the Law/Gospel antithesis as it applies to the individual believer.

    RS: Actually, I do, but I don’t see it the same way you do. I simply don’t think that the Law is done away with and that the commands still stand. However, the Gospel of Christ teaches us that no only does Christ pay the debt we could not pay, He purchases the Spirit for His people who works love in them so that they want to obey the Law.

    John Yeazel: The Gospel motivates towards obedience not the Law.

    RS: True enough that it is the Gospel that motivates us toward obedience, but it is also true that obedience is still keeping the Law our of love.

    John Yeazel: The Law just shows us how far short we fall.

    RS: It does that, but if we fall short of the Law does the Gospel move us to want to keep it out of love for God? As Paul says, the problem is not the Law, the problem is with us. So if we are changed, shouldn’t we love the Law as the old saints did? Shouldn’t we love the Law since it is a reflection of the holiness of God?

    John Yeazel: You constantly harp and pound the imperatives like the reconstructionists, the Shephardites, the neolegalists, etc. etc.

    RS: Actually, I play the trumpet and not the harp or the drum. Keeping the Law out of love is not exactly what I see the Shepardites focusing on, but who knows.

    John Yeazel: Pounding the Law just makes people see their guilt more than they already do.

    RS: But people feel guilty because they are guilty in most cases. It is a good thing to want to see the sins of my heart uncovered before God that He may grant me repentance from them and that I may know Him more in the glory of His grace.

    John Yeazel: You neolegalists think that is what you have to do.

    RS: While I don’t think I am a neolegalists, I will say that we are to preach the Law because it is a tutor that leads people to Christ. But no one is saved by keeping the Law himself. Instead of that, those who are saved want to keep the Law because they love God.

    John Yeazel: I and most at this site do not buy into your and Edwards methods.

    RS: Well, at least you are confessing your sin now.

    John Yeazel: The Gospel makes believers more obedient than the Law does.

    RS: Indeed, but what is the standard of obedience? Is it the Law? Could it be the life of Christ? But Christ kept the Law perfectly His whole life. So how can we be like Christ if we don’t strive to keep the Law out of love?

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  315. Jeff Cagle: OK, so let’s break the perception process down a bit.
    Is your claim that by asking these questions, 1. you hear the words they say (and observe their body language, yadayada), and then are given insight as to what their words actually mean about the state of their souls? 2. Is your claim that in the process of asking these questions, the Spirit gives you a kind of direct line that bypasses their words and lets you peer into their hearts? 3. Something else?

    RS: Just remember, the list of questions I gave is simply a list of possible questions. The issue is trying to get to the things of the heart. Let me first put it into a question. Is there a difference between believing that the doctrine of justification by grace alone through faith alone is true and a person actually being justified by grace alone through faith alone?

    If we take it as true that it is possible to believe the doctrine of justification without being justified, then there is something beyond professing the creed as a whole that we should do if we are to deal with the souls of people. No, it is not an infallible method, but it is a recognition that there is a spiritual wisdom and understanding that God gives His people.

    I would deny # 2 outright and not some aspects of # 1. What I am arguing is that believers have a spiritual nature and unbelievers don’t have that same spiritual nature. Believers have the Holy Spirit in them, unbelievers do not. Believers have love in them, unbelievers do not. Believers are the temple of the Holy Spirit and have Christ as their life, but unbelievers do not. Believers love true holiness, unbelievers do not. Believers love God for the proper reasons, unbelievers do not. Believers have eternal life in them, believers do not.

    So I am arguing that a person with all the things that a believer has (see list above) can ask questions with enough spiritual insight that he can tell in a lot of cases (if not most) if people have the living God dwelling in them or not. This is not an infallible judgment, but it is far better for spiritually mature elders to be gently and lovingly seeking to know about a person’s true state than a person who has no idea about a spiritual state and perhaps is greatly deceived.

    I would argue that a person can be given spiritual insight and behold the glory of Christ and the love of Spirit in other people. In other words, the glory of God is not invisible since we are said to be able to behold the glory of Christ. To those who know something of true love, they are able to understand the nature of true love more than those who don’t have true love. So I am arguing for the work of the Spirit in giving eyes to see and ears to hear if He is living in and dwelling in others. No, it is not new revelation and it is not deeply mystical as such. But it is something that the Spirit gives us that is not the same as rational deductions.

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  316. My definition of neolegalism is broader than most. Edwards had leanings towards a final justification of works. I call that neolegalism. And Tobias Crisp was accused of being an antinomian by Richard Baxter. Most who emphasize the Gospel and justification priority get accused of being antinomians. I’m all for obeying the Ten Commandments and the moral law. I just don’t think we do it the way the Law commands us to do it. And I don’t think we come close. So, what is the point of using words like striving, making progress, etc., etc. how do you measure it anyway? Through your own subjective judgments, by someone scrutinizing you on a regular basis, by your pastor keeping a log on your progress, by big brother watching you?

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  317. John Yeazel: My definition of neolegalism is broader than most. Edwards had leanings towards a final justification of works. I call that neolegalism.

    RS: But not in terms of the biblical Gospel of justification by grace alone through faith alone. If you read James carefully, you will see a double justification with Abraham. Indeed Abraham was declared just before God on the basis of grace alone through faith alone as he looked ahead to his coming seed, Christ. But according to James he was justified by works also. There are two justifications in mind here and the second is not the same as the first. In one sense the fact that Abraham said he believed is demonstrated to be true when he was ready to sacrifice his son. This was, so to speak, a justification of his justification, which is to say it demonstrated that he did in fact believe rather than just mouth the words. Edwards was very strong that a person was justified (as Abraham in the first sense) by grace alone through faith alone and that God justified the ungodly.

    John Yeazel: And Tobias Crisp was accused of being an antinomian by Richard Baxter. Most who emphasize the Gospel and justification priority get accused of being antinomians.

    RS: Crisp was certainly a man who focused a lot on Christ and grace in his works, but Baxter was not the only one who accused him of that. That does not mean that they were correct, however. It is also true that preaching grace alone may indeed lead to one being accused of antinomianism, but it can also be the case that one can be an antinomian.

    John Yeazel: I’m all for obeying the Ten Commandments and the moral law. I just don’t think we do it the way the Law commands us to do it. And I don’t think we come close. So, what is the point of using words like striving, making progress, etc., etc. how do you measure it anyway? Through your own subjective judgments, by someone scrutinizing you on a regular basis, by your pastor keeping a log on your progress, by big brother watching you?

    RS: Do we have to have an empirical method of judging spiritual things? As I have stated before, at least I think I stated this here, regarding our own eyes we actually get much worse when the Spirit opens our eyes to see more and more sin. So of course we don’t come close, but that does not excuse our sin and it does not excuse us from striving for holiness. But we can only strive for true holiness if we have true grace working in us. It is not the work of the flesh, but is the work of Christ in us.

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  318. Richard, you wrote: “Believers have the Holy Spirit in them, unbelievers do not. Believers have love in them, unbelievers do not. Believers are the temple of the Holy Spirit and have Christ as their life, but unbelievers do not. Believers love true holiness, unbelievers do not. Believers love God for the proper reasons, unbelievers do not. Believers have eternal life in them, believers do not.”

    If the differences are that great, why the need to ask penetrating questions? It is odd that you assert the antithesis but then undermine it by second-guessing whether a believer really is all that different. In the Old Life world, spiritual matters are more routine because God’s creation is. Believers and unbelievers share a lot in common though their motivations differ, and ferreting out those worthy of communion does not require a private eye.

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  319. D. G. Hart Richard, you wrote: “Believers have the Holy Spirit in them, unbelievers do not. Believers have love in them, unbelievers do not. Believers are the temple of the Holy Spirit and have Christ as their life, but unbelievers do not. Believers love true holiness, unbelievers do not. Believers love God for the proper reasons, unbelievers do not. Believers have eternal life in them, believers do not.”

    D. G. Hart: If the differences are that great, why the need to ask penetrating questions? It is odd that you assert the antithesis but then undermine it by second-guessing whether a believer really is all that different. In the Old Life world, spiritual matters are more routine because God’s creation is. Believers and unbelievers share a lot in common though their motivations differ, and ferreting out those worthy of communion does not require a private eye.

    RS: Because the deceiver works hard at deceiving people and their own hearts are quite deceptive as well. Then there is the deception of sin and the deceitfulness of riches. Combine that with a lot of remaining sin in people, there is the need for help in these things. As you know, the older Presbyterians and Congregationalists examined people before they gave them a token that would allow them to come to communion. So it is not like this is something new, but instead is something quite old. Perhaps the old timers understood that though creation is routine in a sense, even though atheists might upset that thought, spiritual matters are not part of the creation and the evil one loves to mimic in order to deceive.

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  320. Some of this interaction makes me think of what Dr. T. David Gordon says in his book “Why Johnny Can’t Preach: The Media Have Shaped the Messengers” (Phillipsburg, NJ: P & R Publishing, 2009) when he contrasts Christ-centered preaching with “Introspection” (by which he means introspective preaching). Forgive the length of the quotes, but it is good food for thought:

    “Some of the neo-Puritans have apparently determined that the purpose and essence of Christian preaching is to persuade people that they do not, in fact, believe. The subtitle of each of their sermons could accurately be: “I Know You Think You Are a Christian, but You Are Not.” This brand of preaching constantly suggests that if a person does not always love attending church, always look forward to reading the Bible, or family worship, or prayer, then the person is probably not a believer…”

    “The hearer falls into one of two categories: one category of listener assumes that the minister is talking about someone else, and he rejoices (as did the Pharisee over the tax collector) to hear “the other guy” getting straightened out. Another category of listener eventually capitulates and says: “Okay, I’m not a believer; have it your way. I’m just a horrible, terrible person who’s going to hell.” But since the sermon mentions Christ only in passing (if at all), the sermon says nothing about the adequacy of Christ as Redeemer, and therefore does nothing to nourish or build faith in him. So true unbelievers are given nothing that might make believers of them, and many true believers are persuaded that they are not believers, and the consolations of Christian faith are taken from them…”

    “It is painful to hear every passage of Scripture twisted to do what only several of them actually do (i.e., warn the complacent that not everyone who says, “Lord, Lord” will enter the kingdom of heaven). And it is absolutely debilitating to be told again and again that one does not have faith when one knows perfectly well that one does have faith, albeit weak and imperfect…”

    “So no one profits from this kind of preaching; indeed, both categories of hearer are harmed by it. But I don’t expect it will end anytime soon. The self-righteous like it too much; for them, religion makes them feel good about themselves, because it allows them to view themselves as the good guys and others as the bad guys – they love to hear the minister scold the bad guys each week. And sadly, the temperament of some ministers is simply officious. Scolding others is their life calling; they have the genetic disposition to be a Jewish mother.” (pp. 83-84)

    BTW, I highly recommend Gordon’s little book, both for preachers and laity. “Take up and read.”

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  321. I don’t think rs and the Protestant Reformed would be a good fit. David Engelsma, in The StandardBearer (1/15/1991) writes: “To the brash, presumptous question sometimes put to me by those of a revivalist, rather than covenantal, mentality, When were you converted?, I have answered in all seriousness, When was I not converted?”

    I am so glad that I don’t have to agree with the PRC, however, to disagree with the scolding done by RS. To the Mormons and Romanists I say– I know you got authentic love in your heart, but did you do enough today to prove it? Are you sure? How much did you need to do? Or was it enough that you really wanted to do it in your heart? You intended to do it? You didn’t deny you should have done it? You did it better than others you could name?

    great quotation from David Gordon!

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  322. Geoff (and TDG), bingo. That is precisely what we are getting in Richard’s semi-revivalism, a stoking of doubt instead of a building up of assurance.

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  323. Those puritans who advocated “the practical syllogism” read II Peter 1 as teaching that we must add virtues to our lives in order to maintain assurance. They don’t exegete it. They assume it says what they think it says and, if you question them about it, they switch over and do the same thing with I John.

    I agree with Walter Marshall (The Gospel Mystery of Sanctification) who points out that II Peter 1 teaches that we have to make our calling and election sure in order to even know if our added works and virtues are acceptable and pleasing to God.

    We need to think about what gospel it was by which we were called. Were we called by a gospel which conditioned our end on our having enough virtues? Or were we called by the true gospel which says that we must be accepted by God in Christ’s righteousness before we can do anything acceptable to God?

    Legalists of course are careful to say that their works are the evidence of Christ’s work in them. Nevertheless, legalists do not test their works by the gospel doctrine of righteousness. Most legalists think you can be wrong about the gospel doctrine, and nevertheless still show off your salvation by your life of piety. Preachers like Paul Washer raise doubts about those who don’t “make more effort to have a changed life”, but they don’t have these same doubts about “sincere and hard-working” Arminians and Roman Catholics and other “family-values” folks.

    Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ:

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