The Lens of Scripture

I continue to be befuddled by the neo-Calvinist claim that Scripture speaks to all of life (of course, in general terms, never in specifics). A discussion has ensued over at Matt Tuininga’s blog that is better than a previous one at Dr. K’s shop. Still, in both cases, some claim that it is natural and ordinary for Calvinists to claim that we view all of life and everything in the world through the lens of Scripture.

So to test this I turned to the Kuyper Reader that James Bratt edited around the time of the centennial celebration of the Stone Lectures. In an essay against uniformity (political, cultural, and religious), which I like very much and that resonates with a localist strain of American conservatism, Kuyper writes this:

. . . do I need to argue the point that all such striving for a false uniformity, the leveling principle of modern life, the demand for one people and one language, run counter to the ordinances of God? You well know the divine word, full of holy energy, that Scripture opposes to that striving: “Else nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them” [Gen. 11:6b]. That all life should multiply “after its kind,” after its own, unique, given character is the royal law of creation which applies to more than seed-bearing herbs. That everyone who has been born from above will someday receive from the Lord a white tablet on which will be written a new name that no one knows except the one who receive it [Rev. 2:17]: what else is this but a most forceful protest against all the conformity into which the world tends to pressure us? (“Uniformity: The Curse of Modern Life,” 34)

So there we have the Bible as the lens through which Kuyper regards the problem of cultural uniformity. Though it needs to be said that Kuyper’s writing is not rife with biblical citations, nor are his invocations of Scripture, like this one, the most compelling exegetically. So I am not sure that Kuyper exemplifies what Kuyperians claim — that Christians need to look at the world through the lens of Scripture. Self-consciousness, epistemologicial or psychological, might call for a Christian to be careful about attributing his opinions to the revealed words of God.

But then Kuyper goes on in a different part of this essay/speech to state some notions that surely most modern day neo-Calvinists (especially those without Dutch surnames) living in North American would not support (even though I again laud Kuyper’s Dutch chauvinism as a way of resisting globalism and universalism):

Hold the Dutch national character in honor. Drive out our national sins but still love our national ways. Be true to your nature as Hollanders, ladies and gentlemen! Remove from your midst the spineless tendency to bestow extravagant accolades on everything that comes from abroad, and in your appraisals give preference to the things that are made at home. Uphold Holland’s fame in learning foreign languages but let there be no language you would rather speak, and especially write, than that splendid, rich mother tongue in which alone Dutch people can express what a Dutch heart feels. Do no just feed your mind with what has been thought and sung abroad but drink of the vital stream of Holland’s life also from your own poets. Daughters of the Netherlands, do not make yourselves ridiculous by being old-fashioned but also have the good taste and modesty never to present yourselves in a foreign outfit conceived in the capital of France by Dutchmen who no longer understand the honor and dignity of being a Dutchman . . . .

May the illustrious history of your ancestors be more to you than a monument to the past; let it be for you the current of national life that you feel pulsating in your own veins. Yes, just let us be who we are: Hollanders! — in every circle and sector of life. Though our flag no longer dominates the seven seas, still we shall regain the rightful influence by which the legacy entrusted to our people may be made a blessing for all humanity. Let the Dutch people, standing on the blood-soaked soil of our fathers, rise again from its grave. . . .

Would that God gave us such a national will — but then a will anchored in his will. While every nation is subject to the deep truth that it strikes itself from the roster of nations by devaluing its piety, this applies all the more to the national existence of the Netherlands which owes its origin to a religious movement. . . . Without religion there can be no patriotism; where religion is most intense, there the love of country and people is most robust: so history teaches us on every page. (42-43)

Kuyper’s appeal to Dutch hearts, Dutch minds, and even Dutch fashions seems curious from a fellow known for putting the anti in antithesis. If Hollanders have a Dutch heart or mind simply by virtue of growing up on the “blood-soaked soil” of the Netherlands (sorry Dutch-North Americans of the 1.5 generation and beyond), then what happens to the idea that Christian Hollanders by virtue of regeneration share more in common with Protestant Canadians who hail from France? Where are Brazilian Calvinists supposed to go for dress fashions?

But aside from this hiccup in Kuyper’s mental digestion, where exactly is the method of viewing the world through the lens of Scripture? Sure, Kuyper was fallible and made mistakes (as we all do). But would not a biblical perspective on patriotism call for important qualifications to such nationalism? To be clear, what is wrong with this excerpt in (all about me) my estimate is not Kuyper’s reveling in Dutch culture and history — even exceptionalism. A person’s attachment to his people, country, and land is basic to being human — that is, part of the created order. It is not essential, however, to being redeemed. What is wrong, then, is thinking that such an argument is the product of a Christian w-w, in other words, the result of some form of epistemological self-consciousness. I could imagine any number of Dutch patriots, not members of a Reformed church, seconding Kuyper’s call for loyalty to Dutch traditions. I cannot imagine that Kuyper’s logic would appeal to someone who regarded the speaker not as a fellow-Dutchman but as a fellow believer.

649 thoughts on “The Lens of Scripture

  1. I had Bratt sign my copy of that book when he was at Iowa State 5 years ago or so. He gave me a strange look when I asked him.

    “Though it needs to be said that Kuyper’s writing is not rife with biblical citations, nor are his invocations of Scripture, like this one, the most compelling exegetically. So I am not sure that Kuyper exemplifies what Kuyperians claim — that Christians need to look at the world through the lens of Scripture.”

    The Kuperians I have encountered aren’t the most compelling exegetically either. They make up for that with enthusiasm (and disdain for 2K), though.

    Kuyper is lauding the Netherlands — meanwhile the ancestors of the Dutch people who make up the Neocalvinist tribe today had been leaving the Netherlands in droves since shortly after the Ascheiding in 1834 — not just for religious reasons but for economic reasons — high taxation which arose from a huge national debt & the potato blight that raised food prices. The CRC wouldn’t even exist if people hadn’t wanted to get the heck out of the (glorious) Netherlands.

    The lesson is that maybe it’s not wise to build an all-encompassing “Christian Worldview” on the foundation laid by a politician. A hundred years from now will Christians be building on the foundations of Jesse Helms, Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush, or Barack Obama. Politicians aren’t known for timeless, intellectually rigorous, thoroughly biblical thinking

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  2. Erik, not to be disagreeable (who me?), but I would reserve a special place for Kuyper as Christian politician. Yes, he may failed in various particulars, and his vision may no longer be road ready. But he was a remarkable figure. If George W. had started two newspapers, a university, a political party after having already trained for and served as a pastor, then he might bear greater future scrutiny. But until the rest can match Kuyper’s accomplishments, they are all pikers.

    In other words, if I can marvel at the skills of the non-Christian plumber, I can do the same with a Christian vocational polymath (who was also bright).

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  3. If 2K people have anything to offer to the wider Christian community it is the constant reminder that we offer that Jesus meant what he said about His kingdom not being of this world. We get a glimpse of His kingdom in the church — primarily by hearing the Word preached and participating in the Sacraments — but we still await his kingdom in the fullest sense.

    So many Christians look for the kingdom here and now. Liberal, social gospel types think they bring the kingdom through improving society through social welfare. Temperance advocates thought they could bring the kingdom by getting rid of alcohol. Machen’s opponents thought they could bring the kingdom by lowering their standards and just encouraging all Christians to get along. Evangelicals think they can bring the kingdom by making the gospel more accessible and appealing to the middle to upper-middle classes (with help from a cool praise band, an architecturally appealing megachurch, and an onsite coffee bar). Some evangelicals also throw in a political program that usually involves taking over the Republican Party. Postmillennialists await the kingdom coming visibly (albeit still not quite perfectly) in history. Neocalvinists & Kuyperians see the kingdom emerging as Christians embrace the Bible speaking to “all of life”. Add to these Christians multiple varieties of non-Christians who seek a secular kingdom through politics, community organizing, labor union membership, universal health care, abortion on demand, gay marriage, The United Nations, world peace, drug use, sexual freedom, or whatever else they can come up with to comfort themselves and give their lives meaning.

    To all these people we say – No – Look to Christ and hope not in this world or in this life, but in the life to come. Be faithful in your work but temper your hopes about what they will achieve.

    As a test, ask yourself how you make sense of the awful school shooting last week. Does your theology fully account for it? If not, you need to adjust your theology rather than thinking your theology will eventually fix this world in the current age.

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  4. Darryl,

    I’ve got a question for tu; “if neo-calvinism is so inherently tied to dutch ethnic elitism why do you not lay at the feet of Kuyperianism(if not Kuyper), at least foundationally/philosophically, much of the ethnic and social stratification that took/takes place in South AfriKa” ? I’ve interacted with Afrikaners and I think it’s warp and woof of Dutch South African culture.

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  5. This old guy has been silent @ OLT for a few weeks. Maybe no enthusiast there, with apparently much time on his hands, has noticed? Sneaked a peek at OLT just now. Had hopes that there might be somethinmg to help me with my new ministry here with other old folks at Alexian. Lots of Protestants here. Many concerned about our future and our descendants’ futures under the likes of Obamian leadership. Some here would put OLT to shame in their attempts to help others and be witnesses for Jesus. A few are very Reformed. I need help in changing minds in some of the understandable misconceptions some have. Like many @ OLT in this! My small sample of recent DGH posts makes me think that fighting Reformed Brothers is still the rage there. Please, there are issues which need our attention far more urgently than Abraham Kuyper, and many who find him and his followers helpful. So many evils out there in Jesus’s world for us to oppose. I would still like to see discussions of WALLS. We Christians are faced with many walls which separate various tensions between 2 opposing ideas. Some are high. Some are low, with varying levels. Church-State, 2K-Neo-Calv, Old Agers-Young Earth. How about Sola Scriptura-Inspiration of Holy Spirit? For various levels of low, how about a scale (0-10, 0=no wall. 10=wall between good and evil as defined by The Word? On and on). Seems to me that many @ OLT (and ACLU) give the wall between terms like “Christian” and “school” an 8 or 9! Like my friend Pete Lillback OB sees a “wall of Misconception” between Church and State (and same tensions known by other pairs of words). Unlike OLT majority, I would say a 2 or a 3. I know, I know, I have said all this before. But I never, well almost never, give up. The wall between Elaine and me is ZERO!🙂 Love, OB Alexian elder. BTW Alexian is not a hotbed of Roman Catholicism! Finally, my Brethren, “Be ye kind to one another, tenderhearted….”

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  6. Darryl,

    You say “A person’s attachment to his people, country, and land is basic to being human — that is, part of the created order. It is not essential, however, to being redeemed.”

    But the visible church is defined not only by its communion with God (i.e, the invisible dimension), but also, and equally by its engagement with the world. In other words, the visible church, though established by supernatural means, is very much a part of the created order, is it not?

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  7. Sean,

    I’m not sure that neo-Calvinism is tied to dutch ethno-centrism. Look at how it appeals to the likes of Chuck Colson and Nancy Pearcey. No Dutch soil or blood there. Historically, neo-Calvinsim arose with a strain of Dutch nationalism and that contributed to what happened in S. Africa. But if the two were bound up inextricably with each other, wouldn’t we expect Colson or Pearcey to be engaging in some form of American ethnocentrism?

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  8. Darryl,

    I’ll take your word for it on Colson and Pearcey. I’m not sure how it works in other countries, but everytime I encounter w-w, there’s a strong american nationalism tied to it, or at least western civilization exemplar.

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  9. D.G. – “If George W. had started two newspapers, a university, a political party after having already trained for and served as a pastor, then he might bear greater future scrutiny. But until the rest can match Kuyper’s accomplishments, they are all pikers.”

    Erik – I’ve read that Kuyper wrote something like 20,000 newspaper articles. My point is he probably said just about everything about everything and a lot of it probably contradicted (which is pretty common with politicians). Polymaths may not be the best folks to do theology. I will grant you he was a talented man (who I probably need to learn more about).

    If Obama can truly stop the oceans from rising I’ll put him up there with Kuyper. I suspect all we’ll remember him for in 50 years is the Rube Goldberg system of paying for health care that he put into place. That and a lot of debt.

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  10. Bob – “So many evils out there in Jesus’s world for us to oppose.”

    Erik – To what degree does the Christian life consist of us opposing evil (especially through politics) vs. entering into a sin-filled world right next to those who don’t know Christ and pointing them toward Christ? To what extent do we willingly share in tragedy vs. seeking to triumph?

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  11. Darryl, I have been talking about wallS of separation, not any particular wall of separation. Many walls out there. How about the one between WTS Escondito & WTS Philadelphia? OB says SHOULD be a 1 or 2. Still hoping, although I found much better ways to spend whatever time I have left on this unimportant (a la OLT) Planet. Love, O Alexian elder B.

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  12. Bob – You frequently mention Larry Arnn. What is your assessment of his predecessor, George Roche? How does Roche’s story, along with stories of men like Patrick Edouard, temper our expectations for both the conservative movement and the church?

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  13. Old Bob: “Some here would put OLT to shame in their attempts to help others and be witnesses for Jesus.”

    Does anybody know what OLT is?

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  14. D.G. Hart: I continue to be befuddled

    RS: On with the context…

    D.G. Hart: by the neo-Calvinist claim that Scripture speaks to all of life (of course, in general terms, never in specifics).

    RS: Some might see the verses below as something that would take the fuddled out of your befuddlement. This life and godliness has to do with all that the believer does. Every thought is rather specific.

    II Peter 1: 2 Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord;
    3 seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.

    2 Corinthians 10:5 We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ,

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  15. Richard, are you aware of every thought you think? You probably say yes. But I doubt it. People are thinking creatures the way that cats follow movement (when they are awake). In other words, just because we think doesn’t mean we are aware we are thinking. When you have to think about thinking, you are doing something different from instinctively thinking.

    I’m not sure what Paul meant by those verses ripped from their context – by you – but I don’t think the Bible is always calling Christians to be self-aware. In fact, my suspicion is that self-awareness is a pretty modern phenomenon.

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  16. Darryl,

    Relax — I don’t mean “engage” as in the neo-Calvinist sense. I simply mean that the visible church exists or has its being, and therefore is part of the created world. You don’t deny this, do you?

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  17. D. G. Hart: Richard, are you aware of every thought you think? You probably say yes. But I doubt it. People are thinking creatures the way that cats follow movement (when they are awake). In other words, just because we think doesn’t mean we are aware we are thinking. When you have to think about thinking, you are doing something different from instinctively thinking.

    RS: But either way, this verse seems to cover that. 2 Corinthians 10:5 “We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.” They were destroying speculations that were raised up against the knowledge of God and they were destroying every lofty think raised up against the knowledge of God. In the context of that, they were taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. Even if it is every conscious or awake thought, that would cover what a person was thinking about.

    D.G. Hart: I’m not sure what Paul meant by those verses ripped from their context – by you – but I don’t think the Bible is always calling Christians to be self-aware. In fact, my suspicion is that self-awareness is a pretty modern phenomenon.

    RS: I didn’t rip them out of their context, but instead am trying to save cyberspace. If one interprets a verse out of its appropriate context, then that is to yank them out of context. Your argument is that you cannot understand (okay, befuddled) how neo-Calvinist can think that the Bible speaks to all of life. The text mentioned gets at their every thought, not just at all of life. Surely if every thought, or even every conscious thought, then it has something to do with all of life. Then there is that II Peter 1:2-3 passage. Everything we need for life and godliness comes through the true knowledge of Him. I would think that you would want plumbers to be godly as the plumbed houses. Plumbers are commanded to do all that they do to the glory of God (I Cor 10:31) and to love God with all of their hearts, minds, souls and strength. Then they are to love their neighbors as themselves. Since we should consider in light of the teaching of Jesus that we are to love all other as ourselves, the plumber should consider the people he is working for as his neighbor in that sense. The plumber is never free from the command to love God with all of his being and he is never free from the command to glorify God in all he does.

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  18. Don, “engage” is an odd word to use to suggest existence. A man becoming engaged to a woman existed before engagement.

    I’m not really sure what you’re asking, or why you think I think the church does not exist now? The church is a spiritual communion that exists through spiritual means. That spiritual nature is not basic to the created order since the spirituality of the church comes not naturally but supernaturally. Does the church have people who are created beings? Yes. But saying the church is part of the created order sounds odd to me. What is gained by it?

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  19. Richard, your taking every thought captive is different from Paul doing so while defending his ministry as an apostle (you left out that context).

    As for the case of the plumber, fixing a leak is a thought different from thinking about glorifying God. You construe glorification and love of neighbor as if we have to be aware of these ends if we are going to accomplish them. My brain does not have windows. When I mow the grass, I am not thinking about glorifying God. I hope before and after that I have. But I can’t think about God while trimming around the flower beds.

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  20. D.G. – An urban dweller like you mows grass? Just what are they doing to you in Michigan? I try not to mow grass anymore. That’s what I have four kids for. I did shovel a lot of heavy snow yesterday, though.

    On another note, I suspect the Biblical absolutism of some here doesn’t look much different in practice from the rest of us. I’ll bet they put their pants on one leg at a time and say a bad word when they bang their thumb with a hammer, too. This “all of life” stuff sounds pious, but people who actually try to live that way end up as a bit of a caricature.

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  21. D. G. Hart: Richard, your taking every thought captive is different from Paul doing so while defending his ministry as an apostle (you left out that context).

    RS: I don’t think I am using this differently than Paul. As an apostle Paul said that part of his ministry was in “destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.” Another part of his ministry was to proclaim the Gospel. He defended his ministry by showing that this was part of it.
    A little more of the context of II Cor 10. 3 For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, 4 for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. 5 We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.”

    While Paul is defending himself and his ministry in the context, that does not mean that this is all he is doing and that the applications must be limited to that alone. Paul is teaching us the what it means to walk in the flesh (human body in this context) and yet use weapons that are not of the flesh. One of the examples of Paul was to destroy speculations and every loft thing that was raised up against the knowledge of God. As Paul said in Romans 1:18ff, all unbelievers suppress the knowledge of God in unrighteousness. It seems that he is teaching us something about everyday life. We are, after all, in a spiritual war (Eph 6).

    D.G. Hart: As for the case of the plumber, fixing a leak is a thought different from thinking about glorifying God. You construe glorification and love of neighbor as if we have to be aware of these ends if we are going to accomplish them. My brain does not have windows. When I mow the grass, I am not thinking about glorifying God. I hope before and after that I have. But I can’t think about God while trimming around the flower beds.

    RS: The commands to love God with all of our being will allow for no breaks to mow the yard or anything else. The command is there and it does not allow for any exceptions. Remember the post-fall declaration of God against the nature of sin. Not only the thoughts of hearts were sinful, but the intent of the thoughts of the heart.

    Genesis 6:5 Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.

    RS: We also know that the motives of our hearts will be revealed at a future time. The Word of God judges the thoughts and intentions of the heart as well. So perhaps the plumber and the one mowing the yard need to take heed to the motives in what they do and the intentions they are doing them. After all, Rom 3:23 says that sin is to fall short of the glory of God. In other words, whatever we do that is not to the glory of God (intent and motive) is sin. The command to love God tells us that whatever it is that we do is to be done out of love for God. But again, II Peter 1:3-4. Everything we need for life and godliness comes through the true knowledge of Him.

    1 Corinthians 4:5 Therefore do not go on passing judgment before the time, but wait until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men’s hearts; and then each man’s praise will come to him from God.

    Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

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  22. Erik Charter: On another note, I suspect the Biblical absolutism of some here doesn’t look much different in practice from the rest of us.

    RS: So those who don’t believe the absolute authority and governing power of God through His Word regarding the external and internal actions of the body and soul are what? Do you believe that God is sovereign over all things or not? Do you believe that God will bring the intentions and motives of your heart into judgment of not?

    Erik Charter: I’ll bet they put their pants on one leg at a time and say a bad word when they bang their thumb with a hammer, too.

    RS: There is a huge difference between putting your pants on one leg at a time and saying a “bad word” when one hits his thumb with a hammer. Not all say “bad words” when they hit their thumb with a hammer. But the fact that some if not most might do this does not change the standards of God.

    Erik Charter: This “all of life” stuff sounds pious, but people who actually try to live that way end up as a bit of a caricature.

    RS: And those who don’t try to live this way do what the Pharisees did in lowering the standards of God and then think that by keeping the lower standards others are too pious. So not only do they lower the standard of God, they end up speaking evil of the Scriptures and the standards of Scripture. I do not argue that anyone is able to keep the high standards of Scripture, though Jesus did, but that we are not to drop the standards nor are we to use the failures of others or self to keep the standards as excuses or reasons. Instead of that these things should drive us in utter dependance on Christ alone.

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  23. Richard – “And those who don’t try to live this way do what the Pharisees did in lowering the standards of God and then think that by keeping the lower standards others are too pious”

    Erik – What does this sentence mean?

    I think you fundamentally misunderstand the Pharisees, which I think leads to your fundamental misunderstanding of a lot of other things. You are Fundamentalist first and Reformed second, which colors your interactions here post after post. Those two don’t mix well together — rather they war against each other.

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  24. Darryl,

    Ok, I admit that “engaged” is a loaded word. As I said, I only used the word as a synonym for living in the created world. In that sense, the church engages with the created world in EVERY activity it undertakes, the sole exception being the activities of the soul which take place in the spiritual jurisdiction.

    You ask what is gained by saying the church is part of the created order? With Calvin, I would say everything he says in Book IV of the ICR which is appropriately titled “The External Means or Aids By Which God Invites Us Into the Society of Christ and Holds Us Therein.” In other words, it is the non-spiritual jurisdiction, i.e., the created world, the one you seem to be saying is irrelevant to redemption, which Calvin cites as the means by which God draws people to the gates of redemption.

    So, to equate the visible church with a spiritual communion is to deny it’s visible, external forum.

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  25. Erik Charter quoting Richard – “And those who don’t try to live this way do what the Pharisees did in lowering the standards of God and then think that by keeping the lower standards others are too pious”

    Erik – What does this sentence mean?

    RS: 1. The Pharisees thought that the spiritual nature of the law was too high and so they lowered the standards so that they could keep them. 2. They then thought they were righteous in some way because they kept the standards. 3. Those who lower the law as the Pharisees do look upon those who refuse to lower the law as too pious.

    Erik Charter: I think you fundamentally misunderstand the Pharisees, which I think leads to your fundamental misunderstanding of a lot of other things.

    RS: You have yet to show that. It is one thing to make an assertion, but it is quite another to demonstrate it according to Scripture or evident reason. In Matthew 5 we see Jesus correcting the interpretations of the Law that the Pharisees went by. “You have heard that it was said” followed a little later by “But I say to you.” The Pharisees wanted a law that could be kept by the external man, but Jesus said it went to the heart and intentions as well. The Pharisees thought by keeping your robe closed around other women (in terms of men breaing this commandment) you could keep from committing adultery. But Jesus said it included your intent in the way you looked at women and of the desires of the heart.

    Erik Charter: You are Fundamentalist first and Reformed second, which colors your interactions here post after post. Those two don’t mix well together — rather they war against each other.

    RS: I am a Christian first and one can argue what it means to being Reformed. As to being a fundie versus Reformed, a fundie I am not. I do, however, believe in the fundamentals of the faith. What does it mean to be Reformed? Warfield said it was a man that had seen the glory of God. I believe that was extrapolated on how one then lived. If he was correct, one could wonder the implications of that for you, Erik.

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  26. Erik Charter: Erik hammering his thumb: “S**t — sorry about that”

    RS: But you are not really sorry because you are here defending it as it is better than not doing it.

    Erik S: Richard hammering his thumb: “Praise the Lord”
    I’ll believe it when I see it.

    RS: How about this after hitting my thumb: “Lord, help me not to profane your name!”

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  27. Erik Charter: Richard, Cite a passage or passages where the Pharisees did what you accuse them of. I don’t remember them accusing others of being too pious.

    RS: I am not arguing that the Pharisees accused other of being too pious. I am saying that you are doing that. You are doing what the Pharisees did in lowering the demands of the Law. You then accuse others who do not want the demands lowered of being pious. Not wanting the demands of the Law lowered does not mean there is any thought that I keep them fully at all, nor is there the thought that I keep them even partially in my own strength. But the demands of the Law must not be lowered so that sinners will be driven to Christ for the grace of salvation and the grace to keep some little part of the law.

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  28. Erik Charter: Richard,
    Are you successful in keeping the law as Jesus explained lawkeeping in the Sermon on the Mount?

    RS: It depends on what you mean, but it seems that you are making the same mistake the Pharisees made by asking that question. The Law was not given in order for people to keep it as a way of salvation, but in order to teach them and drive them to Christ who is the only One who could or can keep the Law perfectly. That shows sinners their utter need of Christ and of His imputed righteousness as well as the fact that Christ is the only One who can remove the wrath of God from them. Can people who are truly converted and have Christ keep the Law perfectly? No, it does not. But that does not change the standard and that is no excuse to try to make a practical way of life that violates the Law just because we cannot keep it perfectly. What it does mean is that if we love Christ we should strive to keep the Royal Law by grace, knowing that we are utterly dependant on Him each moment.

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  29. Richard – “and the grace to keep some little part of the law.”

    Erik – I think this is the first time I have ever seen you say that we only keep a small part of the law. Very interesting.

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  30. What examples can you give of me and other like-minded people here putting down true piety? I think the argument is more about what true piety is and is not, not whether we should be pious.

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  31. Erik Charter quoting Richard – “and the grace to keep some little part of the law.”

    Erik – I think this is the first time I have ever seen you say that we only keep a small part of the law. Very interesting.

    RS: Just to be clear, we are to strive to keep the Law out of love for God and by His grace. But we must grow in love and grace by grace. We only keep the Law internally according to love, but according to the wisdom of God we are far, far short of perfection. So the more one grows in grace the more one grows in understanding how sinful he really is, but that is no excuse for watering the Law down or for not striving to love God with all of our being. The standard does not change and we are not to stop striving as Paul said he strove. But in reality, it may be the case the the holiest person on earth has not loved God with more than 10% of his whole being. Nevertheless, the standard does not change and .000001% thru 10% of real love is still by real grace. A person is only declared righteous on the basis of His perfect righteousness, so the person is not working for salvation anyway. It is only when a person is freed from working for salvation by the righteousness of Christ that a person can be freed to love Him rather than self.

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  32. For example, I have known very religious people who were very angry people and not very forgiving, generous, or gracious toward others. These people would consider themselves to be “pious”. The sterotype is that the Sunday eat out after church crowd are the worst tippers, for instance.

    I have known other people who might be labeled as “impious” who did not wear their religion on their sleeve, yet were very forgiving, generous, and gracious.

    The pharisees appeared pious, but were not. A lot of the guys here don’t always speak in a traditionally pious way, but I would entrust a lot to them without even knowing them first hand.

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  33. Erik Charter: What examples can you give of me and other like-minded people here putting down true piety? I think the argument is more about what true piety is and is not, not whether we should be pious.

    RS: While it may be true that the argument is about what true piety is and is not, I would argue that the standard is loving God with all of our being and doing all for His glory. When I say things like that, it has been stated several times by various people that this is being too pious. In arguing or stating that people should flee from sin, that has also been said to be too pious. Instead of seeing how close we can get to sin and not cross the line, I would argue that we should see how far we can flee from sin so that we can pursue closeness with God.

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  34. Richard,

    I can only speak for myself, but I don’t think what you (and Neocalvinists — who are kind of your cousins in this regard — although you are coming at things from a bit of a different angle) are not “too pious”, but are a bit utopian, idealistic, not particularly helpful, and extraconfessional in this “all of life” stuff.

    Let me give you an example. When my wife was in high school she held several different jobs at the local mall. One of them was at a shoe store. One of the emphases at the shoe store was to meet their quota each day. One day the manager asked my wife and her co-worker how much they hoped to sell in shoes that day. My wife gave a realistic number. The co-worker, however, an older guy who was a bit off, said he was going to sell some totally unrealistic dollar value of shoes that day. The day went on and, predictably, the guy sold nowhere near the amount of shoes he predicted.

    The point of the story: When goals are unrealistic they are really not helpful to anyone and actually invite well-deserved mockery. This is similar to declaring something to be about “all of life”. Our confessions do a good job of defining the law of God and our expectations about how we are to approach the Law. We don’t do people favors when we go on our own and “supercharge” the Confessions. What I am saying about the law also applies to expectations about what the church will accomplish and what individual believers will accomplish in their work and in their daily lives. Let’s keep the focus on Christ, not on us.

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  35. Many Christian people will go through life, struggle with sin, struggle with their work, suffer disappointments and setbacks with people, maybe suffer with their health. They won’t experience a lot of triumph. We tell these people to cling to Christ and the hope of the life to come, nonetheless. Hear the Word, partake of the sacraments, find a measure of peace and reassurance therein.

    Like

  36. Guys, I read through, very quickly, all the comments here. I found no evidence that anyone saw my quotes: #5 and #? not far after. I am really excited about my new ministry (unofficial) here at Alexian Brothers. I found nothing but more bickering. Lots of it. Erik, I can’t believe you brought out the sad, sad, thing about George Roche. Do you really wonder what pain George Roche and the suicide of his daughter-law-Lissa Roche has brought to many Christians @ Hillsdale? Especially to the good Larry Arnn. Shame on You!!! Forgetting all this, I hope for a blessed Christmas for all @ OLT and the prayer that ALL of you may read Ephesians 4, esp. v.32. Love and ‘Bye, Old Alexian elder, Bob

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  37. Erik Charter: For example, I have known very religious people who were very angry people and not very forgiving, generous, or gracious toward others. These people would consider themselves to be “pious”. The sterotype is that the Sunday eat out after church crowd are the worst tippers, for instance.

    RS: But then again, what does eating out on Sunday say about keeping the Sabbath day? Religious people can be anything but what a Christian is, but then again there are Christians (to paraphrase from C.S. Lewis) who in terms of manners and culture can be behind many pagans, but they have still grown in that area.

    Erik Charter: I have known other people who might be labeled as “impious” who did not wear their religion on their sleeve, yet were very forgiving, generous, and gracious.

    RS: Unbelivers can be all of the above.

    Eric Charter: The pharisees appeared pious, but were not. A lot of the guys here don’t always speak in a traditionally pious way, but I would entrust a lot to them without even knowing them first hand.

    RS: The question, however, has to do with what is biblical.

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  38. Erik Charter: Richard, I can only speak for myself, but I don’t think what you (and Neocalvinists — who are kind of your cousins in this regard — although you are coming at things from a bit of a different angle) are not “too pious”, but are a bit utopian, idealistic, not particularly helpful, and extraconfessional in this “all of life” stuff.

    RS: Whatever else you think about the matter, the Scriptures set out the standard of loving God with all of your being. If you think that is utopian, idealistic, and not particularly helpful, then you are arguing with the Word of God. I don’t think that the Greatest Commandment is extraconfessional.

    Erik Charter: Let me give you an example. When my wife was in high school she held several different jobs at the local mall. One of them was at a shoe store. One of the emphases at the shoe store was to meet their quota each day. One day the manager asked my wife and her co-worker how much they hoped to sell in shoes that day. My wife gave a realistic number. The co-worker, however, an older guy who was a bit off, said he was going to sell some totally unrealistic dollar value of shoes that day. The day went on and, predictably, the guy sold nowhere near the amount of shoes he predicted.

    The point of the story: When goals are unrealistic they are really not helpful to anyone and actually invite well-deserved mockery.

    RS: So the Great Commandment is not helpful and invites well-deserved mockery? Your wife and the other person set goals for themselves. God is the One that has told us what the standard is.

    Erik Charter: This is similar to declaring something to be about “all of life”. Our confessions do a good job of defining the law of God and our expectations about how we are to approach the Law.

    RS: Notice that according to the Belgic Confession (Article 37) that every idle word they have spoken will be brought into judgment.

    Belgic Confession Article 37: The Last Judgment

    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: Read what Westminster says about the Law. I am not saying anything contrary to it.
    WCF Chapter XIX Of the Law of God
    I. God gave to Adam a law, as a covenant of works, by which He bound him and all his posterity, to personal, entire, exact, and perpetual obedience, promised life upon the fulfilling, and threatened death upon the breach of it, and endued him with power and ability to keep it.[1]

    II. This law, after his fall, continued to be a perfect rule of righteousness; and, as such, was delivered by God upon Mount Sinai, in ten commandments, and written in two tables:[2] the first four commandments containing our duty towards God; and the other six, our duty to man.[3]

    V. The moral law does forever bind all, as well justified persons as others, to the obedience thereof;[8] and that, not only in regard of the matter contained in it, but also in respect of the authority of God the Creator, who gave it.[9] Neither does Christ, in the Gospel, any way dissolve, but much strengthen this obligation.[10]

    VI. Although true believers be not under the law, as a covenant of works, to be thereby justified, or condemned;[11] yet is it of great use to them, as well as to others; in that, as a rule of life informing them of the will of God, and their duty, it directs and binds them to walk accordingly;[12] discovering also the sinful pollutions of their nature, hearts and lives;[13] so as, examining themselves thereby, they may come to further conviction of, humiliation for, and hatred against sin,[14] together with a clearer sight of the need they have of Christ, and the perfection of His obedience.[15] It is likewise of use to the regenerate, to restrain their corruptions, in that it forbids sin:[16] and the threatenings of it serve to show what even their sins deserve; and what afflictions, in this life, they may expect for them, although freed from the curse thereof threatened in the law.[17] The promises of it, in like manner, show them God’s approbation of obedience,and what blessings they may expect upon the performance thereof:[18] although not as due to them by the law as a covenant of works.[19] So as, a man’s doing good, and refraining from evil, because the law encourages to the one and deters from the other, is no evidence of his being under the law: and not under grace.[20]

    RS: The Heidleberg Catechism:

    Question 3. Whence knowest thou thy misery?
    Answer: Out of the law of God. (a)

    Question 4. What does the law of God require of us?
    Answer: Christ teaches us that briefly, Matt. 22:37-40, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength. This is the first and the great commandment; and the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

    Question 5. Canst thou keep all these things perfectly?
    Answer: In no wise; (a) for I am prone by nature to hate God and my neighbour.(b)

    Question 8. Are we then so corrupt that we are wholly incapable of doing any good, and inclined to all wickedness?
    Answer: Indeed we are; (a) except we are regenerated by the Spirit of God. (b)

    Question 9. Does not God then do injustice to man, by requiring from him in his law, that which he cannot perform?
    Answer: Not at all; (a) for God made man capable of performing it; but man, by the instigation of the devil, (b) and his own wilful disobedience, (c) deprived himself and all his posterity of those divine gifts.

    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.” (c)

    Question 94. What does God enjoin in the first commandment?
    Answer: That I, as sincerely as I desire the salvation of my own soul, avoid and flee from all idolatry, (a) sorcery, soothsaying, superstition, (b) invocation of saints, or any other creatures; (c) and learn rightly to know the only true God; (d) trust in him alone, (e) with humility (f) and patience submit to him; (g) expect all good things from him only; (h) love, (i) fear, (j) and glorify him with my whole heart; (k) so that I renounce and forsake all creatures, rather than commit even the least thing contrary to his will.

    Question 109. Does God forbid in this commandment, only adultery, and such like gross sins?
    Answer: Since both our body and soul are temples of the holy Ghost, he commands us to preserve them pure and holy: therefore he forbids all unchaste actions, gestures, words, (a) thoughts, desires, (b) and whatever can entice men thereto. (c)

    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. (a)

    Erik Charter: We don’t do people favors when we go on our own and “supercharge” the Confessions. What I am saying about the law also applies to expectations about what the church will accomplish and what individual believers will accomplish in their work and in their daily lives. Let’s keep the focus on Christ, not on us.

    RS: I did not “supercharge” the Confessions. If you read the parts that I have given above, you will see that I am being faithful to the Confessions in what I am writing about. The effort to water down the law and lower our expectations to something less than what God sets out and what God will judge us for (as the Confessions teach) is unbiblical and not faithful to the Confessions.

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  39. Erik Charter: Many Christian people will go through life, struggle with sin, struggle with their work, suffer disappointments and setbacks with people, maybe suffer with their health. They won’t experience a lot of triumph. We tell these people to cling to Christ and the hope of the life to come, nonetheless. Hear the Word, partake of the sacraments, find a measure of peace and reassurance therein.

    RS: If that is all you tell them, then you are not directing them to Christ in the way that the Bible and the Confessions teach. Violating the commandments of God occurrs and brings misery on the soul whether people admit it or not. When we drop the expectations or standards down, that leaves them without the Law to reveal their sin and lead them to Christ so that their sins may be washed away. Your way, while on the surface may indeed sound compassionate and wise, actually leads people to misery because the sins they don’t see continue on their consciences.

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  40. Richard,

    Do you differentiate between these:

    (1) God’s standard for people

    (2) Christians’ standards for other Christians

    (3) Christians’ standards for non-Christians

    Or are they all the same?

    What do you make of the parable of the man who was forgiven much and then went and forgave little? Who was that directed toward?

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  41. Richard,

    What would you say you object to in Two-Kingdoms thinking?

    What would you say you object to in how you see Two-Kingdoms advocates live their lives?

    Do you have any concerns about Neocalvinism? About Theonomy? Don’t know how much of these guys you have read.

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  42. I don’t think that we (2K guys) differ with you that much on personal piety (other than some minor issues like drinking alcohol, watching movies, etc.). You take up the Neocalvinist “side” in these debates here, but I really don’t think you share their views — at least you come at them differently. Your “all-of-life” is not really their “all-of-life”. Yours is more evangelical, theirs is more of a Calvinist “system”.

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  43. Here’s an example from Dr. Kloosterman’s latest blog post:

    “We continue our discussion of the relevance of H. Henry Meeter’s classic work, The Basics of Calvinism, to contemporary discussions within the Reformed and Presbyterian world concerning the Bible, the church, and the world.

    In chapter 10, “The Best Form of the State,” Meeter discusses the important matter of how Calvinism understands Christianity to relate to the state.”

    I just don’t see Richard Smith writing those two paragraphs. Part of 2K’s frustration is we have “all-of-life” guys coming at us from all angles. There is the Kloosterman/Neocalvinist camp, the Wilson/CREC/Postmillennialist camp, The Bayly camp (I’m less familiar with them), the theonomist camp, the garden variety evangelical political activist camp. They don’t agree with each other (although I think the Baylys like Wilson), but they sure disagree with us. If the “all-of-life” guys can’t even agree on what “all-of-life” means, how can they criticize us?

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  44. If we can just distract you “all-of-lifers” by changing the subject to who should be baptized and who should receive the Lord’s Supper we can sneak out while the fireworks are flying.

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  45. DGH,

    If I understand your objections to “all of life”ism, they come to three.

    (1) All-of-lifers claim that the Bible speaks to all of life, but cannot offer specifics. Thus, the Bible is not sufficient for all of life. Lurking around the corner is an assault on Christian liberty.

    (2) All-of-lifers conflate life in the secular realm with life in the sacred realm, so that everything becomes worship — and everything becomes secular. This objection is not present in your article, but you have expressed it in the past.

    (3) All-of-lifers are way too introspective, engaging in a Scripturally uncommanded “epistemological self-consciousness.” In so doing, they are unconsciously touching the third rail of pietism, the legalism of trying to self-regulate the heart.

    Is that a fair assessment?

    If so, then I have some questions for you:

    (1) When you give commands — to your students, to your cat — do you provide exhaustive detail in every command? Assuming not, then what do you expect to make up the difference?

    (2) What does Romans 12.1-2 mean?

    (3) How do you approach sins of omission? For example, I assume that you agree that it is possible for us to fail to give due respect to our superiors and inferiors, and that we likely do this every day in many ways. Now what? Should we strive against sins of omission, and if so, how?

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  46. Darryl

    I value your efforts to resist a triumphalist neo-calvinism and to uphold a 2K position. I don’t keep abreast with all the nuances of this debate (seems particularly alive in the States) and so don’t always know what you are attacking but I worry that you overstate your case and thus damage it. Scripture, in my view, does not prescribe for us in detail how we must live in the world (nor does it prescribe the minutiae of life in the local church) but it does two things: a) it tells us we ought to allow the gospel of Christ crucified and risen to shape our life in every respect b) it gives some specific examples of the gospel applied in for example marriage, work-relations, wider cultural engagement (whatsoever things are honest etc). God does not leave us to meander as pilgrims without direction. His Word externally and his Spirit internally provide all that is necessary to life and godliness in every sphere of life.

    Is there a blueprint for Christian education, Christian politics, Christian sport, no. Does God even imagine such institutions, I doubt it. But is there guidance for Christians to act Christianly in such contexts, yes indeed. Is this guidance beyond that which is open to conscience in natural revelation, yes. Natural revelation never calls upon a man to live a crucified life and to set his affections on things above.

    If I may add, one reason I find the neo-calvinist notion of redeeming culture unacceptable is that it asks men who are not redeemed to live as though they were. We may rightly appeal to conscience and urge unregenerate men to here the voice of conscience (or works of law written on heart) and work out its implications for a fair and just society but that is quiet different from asking them to apply gospel implications of death to self and the world (which they do not believe) to the workings of society. Again, I am supposing an ethical distinction between creation and new creation. I do not think new creation simply fulfils creation (though it does honour creational norms) but that it supersedes it and brings in new obligations and structures. Thus new creation constraints may urge some to forego marriage (an old creation blessing) for the sake of the Kingdom of God. Even those who are married will live as though they were not (that is, not devote time to their marriage that in a perfect world they may well have done, because the demands of the coming kingdom, where after all there will be no marriage, take priority). To make our goal in life fulfilling a creational mandate assumes peace conditions that no longer exist. We live in war conditions, where we are not simply interested in recovering the status quo (creation) but introducing a new reality (new creation); we do this through preaching and living the gospel. Christians are not merely conservatives (conserving creational ideals) but also radicals. We are committed not simply to cosmic restoration but to cosmic regeneration, not to normative creation but to ‘new’ creation. In Scripture, such ‘newness’ is so radical it can only be achieved, whether individually or cosmically, by the death-judgement of the old and the grace-creation of the new. (Getting away from the original post here a fair bit, I know).

    regards

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  47. John – “If I may add, one reason I find the neo-calvinist notion of redeeming culture unacceptable is that it asks men who are not redeemed to live as though they were”

    Not to mention this is all supposed to happen in a world that is still full of sin and death.

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  48. Tying my two comments together, have you noticed that trying to get human beings to cooperate on any type of program (that doesn’t involve sinning together) is like trying to teach a cat to do something?

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  49. Erik Charter: Richard, Do you differentiate between these:

    (1) God’s standard for people

    (2) Christians’ standards for other Christians

    (3) Christians’ standards for non-Christians

    Or are they all the same?

    RS: The standards of God in one sense are the same for all people. On the other hands, there is a distinction between how believers treat other believers and unbelievers. A professing believer living in open sin is viewed differently than that of a professing unbeliever living in open sin.

    Westminster Confession of Faith Chapter XIX Of the Law of God
    I. God gave to Adam a law, as a covenant of works, by which He bound him and all his posterity, to personal, entire, exact, and perpetual obedience, promised life upon the fulfilling, and threatened death upon the breach of it, and endued him with power and ability to keep it.[1]

    II. This law, after his fall, continued to be a perfect rule of righteousness; and, as such, was delivered by God upon Mount Sinai, in ten commandments, and written in two tables:[2] the first four commandments containing our duty towards God; and the other six, our duty to man.[3]

    V. The moral law does forever bind all, as well justified persons as others, to the obedience thereof;[8] and that, not only in regard of the matter contained in it, but also in respect of the authority of God the Creator, who gave it.[9] Neither does Christ, in the Gospel, any way dissolve, but much strengthen this obligation.[10]

    Erik Charter: What do you make of the parable of the man who was forgiven much and then went and forgave little? Who was that directed toward?

    RS: Word and Sacrament people who hold to 2K?

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  50. Erik Charter: Richard,
    What would you say you object to in Two-Kingdoms thinking?

    RS: As far as I can tell the 2K is mostly correct, which is to say that Christians are to be focused primarily on the church and not have the focus of change being in the political realm. The point I struggle with is what seems to be a disregard of our neighbors and being willing to go too far in the other realm as if it is without moral ramifications.

    Erik Charter: What would you say you object to in how you see Two-Kingdoms advocates live their lives?

    RS: As it comes across, too much focus on the pleasures of the world.

    Erik Charter: Do you have any concerns about Neocalvinism?

    RS: As with all theology groups, all have a tendency to polarize and all tend to shoot at each other and then polarize some more. It would seem that some in this group are focused too much on the church being involved in politics rather than individual Christians doing that themselves.

    Erik Charter: About Theonomy? Don’t know how much of these guys you have read.

    RS: Theonomy is a very hard topic to deal with. However, since the WCF teaches us the truth about the Bible that all men will face judgment before God for all that they think and do, this shows us that each person will answer to God for how s/he passes laws and for sin. One purpose of government in passing laws should be to restrain evil behavior. What is the standard for behavior that the government is to uphold? The leaders will answer to God for the laws they passed that did not restrain sin but instead gave freedom to evil. Apart from the laws of God there is no standard for justice and righteousness, so apart from the laws of God our leaders have no real basis for the laws they pass that they will answer to God for. So it appears to me that theonomy is on the right track.

    The enforcement of those laws, however, is where the problem begins. What punishment is the correct punishment and who gets to make that decision? When the Church has taken that over in the past it has messed that up royally. I guess theonomy can only run well when Christ is the One who rules rather than men who love power and self running things out of love of power and self.

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  51. Erik Charter: They don’t agree with each other (although I think the Baylys like Wilson), but they sure disagree with us. If the “all-of-life” guys can’t even agree on what “all-of-life” means, how can they criticize us?

    RS: We can criticize you because you don’t teach “all-of-life.” It is hard to meaningfully say that the commands of God do not reach all of life and then say that God is sovereign over all. It is hard to meaningfully say that God is not “all-of-life” and then say that people will answer to God on judgment day for all their sin. It is hard to agree with the confessions that teach God is sovereign over all, will bring all to judgment, and then to say that this other kingdom should not listen to the Word of God.

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  52. Erik Charter: Tying my two comments together, have you noticed that trying to get human beings to cooperate on any type of program (that doesn’t involve sinning together) is like trying to teach a cat to do something?

    RS: Erik, tying two of your comments together is often like tying the tails of two cats together and hanging them over a clothes line. They are not at peace and do not get along. I couldn’t resist.

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  53. I think that Neocalvinists, Theonomists, and others who think they have a lot to offer in the area of teaching and reforming society miss a lot that Jesus has to say about their own spiritual condition (things he said to the Pharisees, parables about logs in eyes, parables about forgiveness). There is a way of thinking that goes along the lines of “now that we have our acts together we are going to take it to a wider audience”. The question is, do the people who advocate this path really have their own acts together as much as they think they do? I think Jesus casts doubt on that notion.

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  54. Erik Charter: What do you make of the parable of the man who was forgiven much and then went and forgave little? Who was that directed toward?

    RS: That was aimed at the disciples directly and then the Church. Forgiven sinners have more forgiven than they can imagine, so they should forgive others who have sinned toward them which is almost nothing in comparison of what they have been forgiven. True forgiveness, as opposed to the “no big deal” type of the world, comes from a forgiven heart. Those who don’t truly forgive reveal that they have not truly been forgiven and as such will spend eternity in hell suffering for their own debts/sins.

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  55. As an example, take what is probably the largest church in the URC, Covenant Reformed in Pella. Lots of nice, Dutch people there. Heavily Republican. Many presumably excited about reforming society. Probably 20 elders in the church. Meanwhile their own minister is sleeping with at least 4 women in the congregation. Is this a body that should be all about reforming society or is it a body that is in serious need of reforming itself? Reformed churches are dealing with divorces, church discipline, wayward youth, teen pregnancies. Who are we to teach the world?

    I am not even that surprised with all of the above because I know that sin still abides in us as Christians. I am humbled by it and my expectations for the church are tempered by it. Others gloss over these things. Take Old Bob’s response to my asking about George Roche recently. Rather than reflecting on his sins (which impacted the conservative movement, not the church) he said “shame on you” to me for even bringing it up. Talk about logs in eyes.

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  56. Erik Charter: As an example, take what is probably the largest church in the URC, Covenant Reformed in Pella. Lots of nice, Dutch people there. Heavily Republican. Many presumably excited about reforming society. Probably 20 elders in the church. Meanwhile their own minister is sleeping with at least 4 women in the congregation.

    RS: As long as he is just sleeping there is no problem. If it is going beyond that, however, there is a problem. One that practices serial adultery is not a true Christian.

    I Cor 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, 10 nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God.”

    Erik Charter: Is this a body that should be all about reforming society or is it a body that is in serious need of reforming itself?

    RS: They need to excommunicate the man (assuming he is a serial adulterer) and find a pastor who will shepherd the sheep rather than abuse them. A church that has 20 elders and is letting this go on sounds like a church in name. To be a true church one has to preach the Gospel, practice church discipline, and connected to two previous points use the sacraments biblically. However, part of the problem with this “church” is the testimony (or lack thereof) to the world.

    Titus 1:16 They profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him, being detestable and disobedient and worthless for any good deed.

    Titus 2:10 not pilfering, but showing all good faith so that they will adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in every respect.

    Erik Charter: Reformed churches are dealing with divorces, church discipline, wayward youth, teen pregnancies. Who are we to teach the world?

    RS: Perhaps the real problem, then, is churches that don’t really believe the Gospel and so have nothing to say to the world. A “church” that has become like the world has nothing to say to the world about the differences since there are none in reality.

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  57. Richard, I have no doubt that you believe what you wrote about no breaks from glorifying God. I also have trouble thinking you actually live or think this way. Did you glorify God when you wrote this comment? Did you pray over it? Did you “take it captive”?

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  58. Jeff,

    Those three points are mainly in view, though in this post I was looking especially at the greatest neo-Calvinist of them all to see how used Scripture as a lens. It’s hard to see that working in Kuyper (because it is always hard to see that in anyone, except that it is easy for anyone to justify their perspective as being the lens of Scripture).

    I’d like to answer you questions, but I’m not sure how they follow from the points that you attribute to me (and that I admit holding). You seem to think that the directions I give to students (I never command — I’m not a theonomist), Rom. 12, and sins of omission somehow raise problems for my argument/perspective. But I don’t see how that’s the case. So I could answer better if you explained how these points somehow invalidated my point.

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  59. D. G. Hart: Richard, I have no doubt that you believe what you wrote about no breaks from glorifying God. I also have trouble thinking you actually live or think this way. Did you glorify God when you wrote this comment? Did you pray over it? Did you “take it captive”?

    RS: Whether I live it or not is not the present point. It is simply whether it is the biblical command to do this for all people believers and unbelievers alike. As people grow they grow in this area. If they don’t grow in this area, then they will be judged by God for violating His Great Command.

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  60. D. G. Hart: Richard, your rendering of the Pharisees — lowering standards so that they can say they conform — doesn’t explain Paul. And I thought you knew your Bible.

    RS: But it does explain Paul. He was zealous for the traditions of his forefathers, but as it turned out not for the biblical teachings. He understood the letter of the law and was zealous to maintain it, but when the spiritual nature of the law opened up to him he died to the law.

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  61. John, you may not think you are a neo-Calvinist, but when you write “a) [the Bible] tells us we ought to allow the gospel of Christ crucified and risen to shape our life in every respect” you open the door to Christian schools, hospitals, and labor unions. Can you be a little more precise in that affirmation so that it doesn’t light a fire to the neo-Calvinist imagination?

    But when you say Christians are radicals you are not being biblical since Paul calls us to lead peaceful and quiet lives. See? I do believe the Bible informs some of life in the world.

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  62. DGH,

    I don’t know that they invalidate your points. I’m trying to understand how things “map.”

    So for example, I see a lot of merit to point (1). In the last two years, I’ve experienced two glaring examples of “world-viewism”, one of which led to pernicious trampling on Christian liberty, the other of which nibbled at the edges of it. In both cases, there was overspecificity that confused “thus saith the Lord” with common grace wisdom.

    At the same time, when I consider a positive command in Scripture such as

    Eph 5 — “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— for we are members of his body. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.”

    Most of the details are left out of this command. The goal is stated, but there is no concrete action plan, and indeed a concrete action plan will look different from Christian to Christian.

    Does loving my wife entail buying her chocolate? (No) Helping around the house? (Yes). Killing spiders? (Sometimes). Those answers are not directly present in the command — yet they are entailed given my particular wife.

    So I struggle to understand how you believe that Scripture is sufficient for the husband, but insufficient for the plumber. It seems to me that the plumber is in the same situation as the husband. Scripture lays out particular goals for him — honest weights and measures, loving customer as self, etc. — but does not give him details.

    Why is this a problem or difficulty for the “All-of-lifer”? It seems like Christian liberty and common grace reasoning cover the details, while Scripture supplies the goals.

    No?

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  63. Richard, but Paul didn’t define Judaism down in order to observe it, which was your point. He out Phariseed the Pharisees. So your point about the Pharisees was off. Then again, who could ever stand in your great day of total absolute glorification and holiness?

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  64. Jeff, I concede that the Bible has more to say about parenting than it does about plumbing. This would explain why we have a chapter on marriage in most Reformed confessions. The insufficiency of Scripture would also account for no chapters on plumbing or math.

    Where I think I disagree is with the notion that the Bible is sufficient for the husband. Just because the Bible speaks of marriage does not mean it is sufficient. BTW, I’m betting most biblical authors and their audiences would not have thought helping around the house was required of loving one’s wife. The Proverbs 31 woman does everything while the husband gets to sip tea at the city gate.

    I don’t dispute that the Bible supplies goals (though I sure hope you’re not on board with Richard’s 8640/7 rendering of glorification). What I dispute is whether they are sufficient for the actual work of plumbing or marriage. I could well imagine a Christian reading Eph. 5, and thinking that he had followed Paul’s prescription, all the while his wife is wondering when he is ever going to spend his Saturdays fixing up the basement rather than watching college football.

    It is the abstractions (and the breeding of them) that I find so annoyingly amazing about neo- and experimental Calvinism. As if claiming the glory of God or Christ’s lordship makes everything right instead of contributing to a pride that ignores limits, flaws, and even wickedness.

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  65. D.G. – “As if claiming the glory of God or Christ’s lordship makes everything right instead of contributing to a pride that ignores limits, flaws, and even wickedness.”

    In other words, a utopianism of the Christian right to counter the utopianism of the secular left.

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  66. DGH: So to pursue this a bit further, would you say that Scripture “speaks to” being a husband?

    (Ha, ha — WordPress thinks I posted the above “too quickly” and commanded directed me to “slow down.” Perhaps I should wait a couple more months?)

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  67. DGH: BTW, I’m betting most biblical authors and their audiences would not have thought helping around the house was required of loving one’s wife.

    Yes, exactly. The goal of loving one’s wife is explicit. The ways and means are not.

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  68. Darryl, I am wondering what your purpose is in putting all this time and effort into posts @ OLT. Do you really like this endless sparring between Erik and Richard? Richard does better than Erik, I think. I am beginning to deal with the REAL problems, spiritual AND of-this-world, here at our new Alexian home. Think things like criticizing Abraham Kuyper would help the old folks? Erik, think plowing up disasters like Hillsdale’s former president and his d.i.l., Lissa Roche can bless anyone? Darryl, can’t you do something for Erik? I think his main goal is to show how smart and theologically wise he is. If so, he is failing. Badly! I think I heard him say he uses a computer at his work. If so, I think Godly wisdom is sorely needed! And honesty. See how negative I get in my rare, but too frequent visits to OLT? Contageous. Help! And, PUH-LEEZ, Darryl and Erik, respond my ideas like you spent a few minutes really thinking about them. Like walls. Your one-liner “responses” are less than useless. How about exegeting Ephesians 4, especially v.32 for all who hope in vain to follow Jesus more faithfully by visits to OLT. Have a blessed Christmas, Love, Old Alexian elder, Bob.

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  69. Bob,

    Some of us have benefited greatly from Darryl’s writing, and his advocacy of an older Reformed faith and practice and defense of 2k theology (which has roots going back to the very beginning of the Reformation). It seems to me that you have taken it upon yourself the role of being the conscience of some of the posters here, and I am having a hard time understanding what you are trying to achieve by this. How much Erik posts is his own business, if there is an issue with it, it is something for his spiritual superiors or boss to take up with him privately.

    I appreciate the fact that you have served the church for many years, however, I think you are using your age in the faith as leverage to try to get Darryl, Erik, and others to behave the way you want them to. This seems to run contrary to the liberty we have in Christ. If the folks here at Old Life believe in their consciences that the excesses of Kuyperianism, pietism, and the cultural imperialism of certain factions within the Reformed community has been bad for the church and has taken us away from our confessional identity, why shouldn’t we be free to voice our opinions. It is not as if anyone here is being forced to read the posts or comments, or to agree much less – the fact that there is such robust and vigorous debate here speaks to Darryl’s tolerance and willingness to try to make his case with his arguments as opposed to spiritual coercion.

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  70. Jeff, I know we’ve been here before, but I still wonder what’s to be gained by saying Scripture “speaks to being a husband.” It seems better to say it speaks to (believing) husbands, the difference being speaking to an abstract concept as opposed to an actual person. I mean, whatever else it’s about, covenantal theology sure seems to be about a personal Creator and Redeemer speaking to his created and redeemed people.

    Maybe you think that a tortured distinction, but it makes as much sense to me and distinguishing between “living the gospel” and “living in response to the gospel.” I don’t understand the former, but the latter is what the entire third section of the HC is about.

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  71. Bob,

    I, for one, enjoy your posts in which you essentially ‘son’ the rest of us. It’s both comedic and remindful, at least to me, of the distinguishing, in this case of relation across generations, that Paul commends to believers in regarding older men as fathers and younger women as sisters etc. And though you push back against much of what Darryl posts, your insistence of consideration based on ‘seniority’, reinforces the very ‘compartmentalization’ and distinguishing of life that 2k and cult/culture distinctions encourages and argues for as necessary for PROTECTING the sanctity and purpose of the church and it’s particular and exclusive calling to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ and administer the keys to the kingdom of God. Human life, even more so the church, is particular, distinct, indentifiable and purposeful. Your behavior, though unintended, reinforces such distinctions.

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  72. Zrim: Jeff, I know we’ve been here before, but I still wonder what’s to be gained by saying Scripture “speaks to being a husband…”

    I’m trying to understand also. There’s a three-act play happening here:

    Act 1: “The Bible doesn’t speak to plumbing”

    Act 2: “The Bible has things to say to plumbers that they must observe while they are plumbing.”

    Act 3: “Yes, but …”

    I’d like a different ending. 🙂

    Zrim: It seems better to say it speaks to (believing) husbands, the difference being speaking to an abstract concept as opposed to an actual person. I mean, whatever else it’s about, covenantal theology sure seems to be about a personal Creator and Redeemer speaking to his created and redeemed people.

    I’m fine with this. Would you be able to say also that the Bible has things to say to redeemed husbands about their husbandry?

    Zrim: Maybe you think that a tortured distinction …

    No, I understand what you mean.

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  73. Jeff, sure, but (sorry to be so Act 3ish) I’d also want to qualify it by pointing out that on top of redeemed husbanding’s purpose to be spiritual, redeemed husbands also have a lot to learn from merely created husbands.

    And since plumbing isn’t a biblical category (along with so many other created vocations), I’m wondering how much energy is wasted by asking whether the Bible has things to say to redeemed plumbers about their plumbing.

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  74. D. G. Hart: Richard, thanks for that word of encouragement. Always leave it to the Edwardsians to leave you feeling imperfect.

    RS: But the confessions teach that as well.

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  75. D. G. Hart: Richard, but Paul didn’t define Judaism down in order to observe it, which was your point. He out Phariseed the Pharisees. So your point about the Pharisees was off. Then again, who could ever stand in your great day of total absolute glorification and holiness?

    RS: But my point about the Pharisees was not off. They would not interpret the spiritual nature of the law and so they watered it down. Jesus helps us to see that in Matthew 5-6. Paul was more zealous, but he still did not hold the Law up as it should have been. We see that in Romans 7.

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  76. D.G. Hart: I don’t dispute that the Bible supplies goals (though I sure hope you’re not on board with Richard’s 8640/7 rendering of glorification).

    RS: But you have not shown from the Bible or the confessions that God does not require that of us. The Greatest Commandment does not allow any breathing room, though we should not want any. I Cor 10:31 says whatever you do do to the glory of God. It is not just that the Bible give goals, it gives the standard of God that people will be judged by. Did Jesus really mean that every careless word a person speaks during the day or night that person will have to give an accounting for? Matthew 12:36 “But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment.”

    D.G. Hart: What I dispute is whether they are sufficient for the actual work of plumbing or marriage. I could well imagine a Christian reading Eph. 5, and thinking that he had followed Paul’s prescription, all the while his wife is wondering when he is ever going to spend his Saturdays fixing up the basement rather than watching college football.

    It is the abstractions (and the breeding of them) that I find so annoyingly amazing about neo- and experimental Calvinism. As if claiming the glory of God or Christ’s lordship makes everything right instead of contributing to a pride that ignores limits, flaws, and even wickedness.

    RS: The issue, however, is that God commands and what people will be judged for. Sure people can misinterpret and have that contribute to pride, but that says nothing against the commands of God. It just says that people are proud and will twist anything.

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  77. Zrim: And since plumbing isn’t a biblical category (along with so many other created vocations), I’m wondering how much energy is wasted by asking whether the Bible has things to say to redeemed plumbers about their plumbing.

    RS: But Scripture commands that all things be done to the glory of God, so perhaps a lot of energy is wasted arguing that the Bible says nothing about plumbing. Scripture commands us to love God with all of our being, so perhaps unredeemed plumbers need to hear that they are to love God in the way they plumb and in the way they do their business.

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  78. Erik Charter: Beer cans just don’t make that sound any more when you throw them.

    RS: Some of us hear the sounds of the pit when beer cans are thrown. After all, 75,000 deaths a year are attributed to drinking alcohol.

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  79. RS: The issue, however, is that God commands and what people will be judged for. Sure people can misinterpret and have that contribute to pride, but that says nothing against the commands of God. It just says that people are proud and will twist anything.

    SM: I have found that to be the case when I look at myself.

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  80. B: Richard,
    How many millions of lives are saved or extended by drinking alcohol to the benefit of the body?

    RS: Zero

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  81. Richard, no, sinners of whatever vocation or avocation need to hear how they have trespassed the law, that the gospel is being held out to them, and that should they embrace it they are to live in grateful obedience (i.e. guilt, grace, gratitude). Note how that prescription makes room for every tribe, tongue, and nation, while your neo-leaning prescription is for plumbers only.

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  82. Jeff, yes, the Bible talks (not as much as the Kellers do) about marriage and being a husband. But here’s another thing, what people think that a husband loving his wife is unusual, so much so that we need to find this nugget of truth in the Bible? The question implies that the people who appeal to the Bible as lens often ignore that the truths they affirm are generally affirmed by people who don’t use the Bible as lens.

    oh well.

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  83. Jed, thanks for speaking up for Old Life. Bob doesn’t seem to realize that within OL circles he is as disagreeable as he thinks we are in the world of broad Protestantism. At least some of his WTS education stuck.

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  84. Richard, the confessions teach what the Bible does — that God demands perfection, that I am a sinner and can’t obey God, and that God forgives my sins in Christ. What you teach is that God demands perfection — full stop.

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  85. Darryl,

    I suggest that the Bible and the confessions do not teach a full stop after either “God forgives my sins in Christ” or “God demands perfection.” Rather, I think it more accurate to think of the the propositions as a cycle fueled by repentance.

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  86. Zrim: Richard, no, sinners of whatever vocation or avocation need to hear how they have trespassed the law, that the gospel is being held out to them, and that should they embrace it they are to live in grateful obedience (i.e. guilt, grace, gratitude). Note how that prescription makes room for every tribe, tongue, and nation, while your neo-leaning prescription is for plumbers only.

    RS: But of course I have not argued that the prescription is for plumbers only. That is just the position that has been put forth so often here. So plumbers and all vocations should do all they do out of love for God and His glory.

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  87. D. G. Hart: Richard, the confessions teach what the Bible does — that God demands perfection, that I am a sinner and can’t obey God, and that God forgives my sins in Christ. What you teach is that God demands perfection — full stop.

    RS: But you did leave a few things out, not to mention that I don’t have that full stop. My argument in this context is that God demands perfection in every motive, intent, word and deed all of the day. It seems that you argue something different. But of course I agree that unregenerate sinners cannot obey those commands in the slightest in their own strength, but instead they violate them when they try and when they don’t try. God forgives repentant sinners in Christ (item one of what you left out). The repentance thing is vitally inmportant. Item two that you left out is the growing in holiness part. Those who are regenerated by grace have grace working in them so that they now pursue holiness to greater degrees. Do they do this perfectly or even close to perfectly? No, but they still pursue it.

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  88. Richard, the question that remains is what the plumber and everyone else are to do when they don’t meet the law’s standard and don’t do all they do out of love for God and his glory, something that happens more frequently than the new lifer seems to ever be able to imagine. The old life answer is to flee again to Christ. And it’s not just an answer but an emphasis, whereas the new life emphasis seems to be on personal holiness.

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  89. Our debates often come down to our differing temperments. The true Old Lifers are cats. The Richard’s, Doug’s, Don’s & Old Bob’s are dogs. At least cats don’t sniff each other’s butts.

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  90. I remember Erik once saying that the difference that distinguishes 2k’ers is their ability to make distinctions. It seems to me that Zrim is hyper distinction oriented in accusing Richard of where he places his emphasis. Fleeing to Christ and personal holiness are equally emphasized in repentance.

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  91. But, Don, something has to distinguish paleo-Calvinism from neo-Calvinism. There are plenty of options, but one of them does seem to be emphasizing the work of Christ as opposed to the work of the Christian. Paleo-Calvinism isn’t opposed to the latter–it’s just that it seems a natural thing that to emphasize the former is the way to elicit the latter. To the extent that this is how the HC reads, how this is hyper escapes me.

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  92. Zrim: Richard, the question that remains is what the plumber and everyone else are to do when they don’t meet the law’s standard and don’t do all they do out of love for God and his glory, something that happens more frequently than the new lifer seems to ever be able to imagine.

    RS: No, that is not the question at hand. The question at hand is whether Scripture in some ways speaks to all of life or not. That is the issue that I have been dealing with. If I am a new lifer, then this new lifer says that one falls short every moment of every day. But that does not change the standard and it does not change the fact that the standard is the same for all each moment of each day.

    Zrim: The old life answer is to flee again to Christ.

    RS: The new life answer is to cry out to Christ in our helplessness and that Christ would come to us by grace alone.

    Zrim: And it’s not just an answer but an emphasis, whereas the new life emphasis seems to be on personal holiness.

    RS: The new life (if you are calling me one) is that the new life in the person is Christ Himself in the soul which is to say that Christ dwells in the person. The opposite of personal holiness is personal unholiness. If the emphasis of new life is holiness and the emphasis of oldlife is not, then I will assert unequivocally that new life is right.

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  93. Zrim: But, Don, something has to distinguish paleo-Calvinism from neo-Calvinism. There are plenty of options, but one of them does seem to be emphasizing the work of Christ as opposed to the work of the Christian.

    RS: But as I have said repeatedly, the holiness of the new lifer is that it is the work of Christ by His Spirit in the soul. The Oldlife emphasizes the historical work of Christ and –“full stop.” Newlife emphasizes the historical work of Christ and then what that historical work as purchased for now and for eternity. Holiness is not a dirty word, but it is the very nature of God. Holiness is not something to be mocked, but something to be loved and pursued. It is, after all, the nature of the HOLY Spirit and that is what He works in those whom Christ has purchased and dwells in.

    Zrim: Paleo-Calvinism isn’t opposed to the latter–it’s just that it seems a natural thing that to emphasize the former is the way to elicit the latter. To the extent that this is how the HC reads, how this is hyper escapes me.

    RS: Historical Calvinism has stressed holiness in this life, but it is a holiness by grace. It is to share in the divine life (II Peter 1:3-4). Holiness is a blessing and a gift and it was purchased by Christ. To speak of the historical work of Christ in life and on the cross without thinking that holiness must come is to miss what He did in history. Christ was humble, therefore we are to be humble by having the humble life of Christ in us. Christ was holy, so we are to be holy as He was holy. Christ loved, so we are to love because of the love His Spirit pours out in the hearts of His people. Holiness is not works as such, but instead it is by grace and that grace was purchased by Christ and is found only in Christ.

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  94. Zrim,

    I think another difference in the way that Old Life and New Life (your term, not mine) view redemption is that OL seems disposed to think in static terms of cause and effect, i.e., Christ’ completed work on the cross, our grateful response. I think that NLs view redemption more dynamically and progressively through history and ultimate fulfillment. I believe God’s design for creation was, is, and shall be the new creation, and Christians do not merely respond to Christ’s work on the cross, but are also caught up in the joy of participating in it as members of His body.

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  95. Richard, you wrote: “Those who are regenerated by grace have grace working in them so that they now pursue holiness to greater degrees. Do they do this perfectly or even close to perfectly? No, but they still pursue it.”

    Or else.

    Or else, Richard judges them to be Pharisees.

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  96. Richard, if the issue is what the Bible speaks to, then saying that the Bible speaks to every motive is not the same as saying that the Bible speaks to all of life.

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  97. D. G. Hart: Richard, you wrote: “Those who are regenerated by grace have grace working in them so that they now pursue holiness to greater degrees. Do they do this perfectly or even close to perfectly? No, but they still pursue it.”

    D.G. Hart: Or else.

    Or else, Richard judges them to be Pharisees.

    RS: No, Scripture says that they have no life.
    Hebrews 12:14 Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord.

    Romans 6:22 But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life.

    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.

    1 Thessalonians 4:7 For God has not called us for the purpose of impurity, but in sanctification.

    1 Peter 1:15 but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; 16 because it is written, “YOU SHALL BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY.”

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  98. D. G. Hart: Richard, if the issue is what the Bible speaks to, then saying that the Bible speaks to every motive is not the same as saying that the Bible speaks to all of life.

    RS: If all that a person does and the reasons that a person does what s/he does comes from motives, then the Bible does speak to all of life in some way when it speaks to the motives. Since there is nothing that a person can do without motives and even a supreme love, then when the Bible speaks to motives it is speaking to all of life. The now infamous plumber has motives and loves in what he does and while he does it. The Bible speaks to his motives at all points and at all times. The Bible speaks to all which includes the plumber and commands them to do all that they do out of love for God and to do all they do for His glory. That will have a lot to do with how a plumber does his job.

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  99. Erik Charter: Richard, What have you done for a living other than the ministry? Not putting you down, just asking.

    RS: Teaching and law enforcement.

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  100. Richard,

    B: Richard,
    How many millions of lives are saved or extended by drinking alcohol to the benefit of the body?

    RS: Zero

    Richard, there is actually a good degree of scientific evidence that supports the fact that a moderate intake of alcohol (1-2 servings a day depending on height and weight), especially red wine, and darker beers have many health benefit, from providing valuable antioxidants to the diet, aiding in digestion, reducing risk of heart disease and hypertension, and preventing certain cancers.

    If you abstain from alcohol, that is fine by me, but abuse notwithstanding, responsible use is quite healthy. The problem is, when abused, alcohol can cause major problems that extend far beyond personal health issues – which is why balance is so important for those who do choose to imbibe.

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  101. O.K., guys. Sex leads to unplanned pregnancy, disease, jealousy, adultery, fornication, pornography, lustful thoughts, maybe even murder. Who votes we give up sex with our wives? Why do you even argue with Richard about alcohol? Jesus drank wine — real wine. Deal with it.

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  102. Could one man possibly be more of a caricature of all that is annoying about religious people? If you are putting us on, Richard, you have some kind of special Academy Award coming your way. You have all of the bad qualities of my mom in her fundamentalist phase and you don’t even cook my supper or wash my underwear.

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  103. Richard, old life can emphasize personal holiness, but it’s the personal holiness of Christ. Sort of like saying salvation is by works—those of Christ. Talk about motives. Which is yet another difference between old life and new—old life looks outside for motives, new life within.

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  104. Don, that’s fine, but then I don’t see how new lifers can really still claim something like the Heidelberg Catechism which speaks in old life terms (i.e. Christ’s completed work on the cross and our grateful response).

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  105. Zrim – Great point. Let’s keep a tally about how many posts Richard makes about objective things that Christ has accomplished vs. subjective things that Christians do or don’t do or things we see or don’t see in Christians. It’s as if the former is kind of assumed and all the focus should be on the latter. This is why I want to keep him away from new Christians with weak consciences lest he get their focus off of Christ and onto their own tails.

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  106. Erik Charter: O.K., guys. Sex leads to unplanned pregnancy, disease, jealousy, adultery, fornication, pornography, lustful thoughts, maybe even murder. Who votes we give up sex with our wives? Why do you even argue with Richard about alcohol? Jesus drank wine — real wine. Deal with it.

    RS: I have never argued that Jesus drank real wine. But does that give us a license to drinking all kinds of alcohol? Is the wine that Jesus drank the same kind of wine or does the wine today have a far greater alcohol level? There may be a lot of questions regarding the practice that you have not dealt with.

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  107. Zrim: Richard, old life can emphasize personal holiness, but it’s the personal holiness of Christ. Sort of like saying salvation is by works—those of Christ. Talk about motives. Which is yet another difference between old life and new—old life looks outside for motives, new life within.

    RS: You can continue to look outside for motives if you please, but Hebrews 4:12 speaks of inward things and Genesis 6:5 speaks of the very intent of the thoughts being evil. The Christ who was holy on earth will work holiness in those whom He has saved from sin. The Christ who did many good works on earth will work in those He saves and makes His temple. It appears that your system wants to have a different Christ now than He was while on earth. However, He is immutable.

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  108. Zrim: Don, that’s fine, but then I don’t see how new lifers can really still claim something like the Heidelberg Catechism which speaks in old life terms (i.e. Christ’s completed work on the cross and our grateful response).

    Rs: Be careful about that grateful response. It can become a work. Why not respond to grace with the work of grace in the soul? We can only be truly grateful if there is grace in the soul.

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  109. Erik Charter: Zrim – Great point. Let’s keep a tally about how many posts Richard makes about objective things that Christ has accomplished vs. subjective things that Christians do or don’t do or things we see or don’t see in Christians. It’s as if the former is kind of assumed and all the focus should be on the latter.

    RS: No, not assumed at all. Remember, you keep changing the focus of the conversation. If the conversation is about A, then that is the focus. But you jump to B and claim that I am assuming that. Whatever. But once again, what Christ has accomplished is also the holiness of eternal life in His people. It would appear that you will leave Christ in the tomb rather than have a resurrected Christ who is with His people.

    Erik: This is why I want to keep him away from new Christians with weak consciences lest he get their focus off of Christ and onto their own tails.

    RS: No, Erik, the point is as always that it is Christ in the soul by His Spirit. The kingdom of Christ is known by where the King dwells and by the acts of the King. You seem to just want people to believe a few things and think that is all there is. No, Jesus Christ lives and reigns in His people now and forever.

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  110. Zrim: And, Erik, you know what they say about assumptions. Even worse is an assumed gospel.

    RS: But of course the biblical system that I am speaking of is not about assumptions, but instead about the objective work of King Jesus in the hearts of His people by His Spirit. I would argue that you are the one making the assumptions since you don’t seem to leave room for Christ to work in the work now much less in the hearts of His people. If you have no way of looking at His objective work in the world today, then you are just assuming it. If He is not working in the world today, are you so sure He did what He claimed to do back then?

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  111. Erik Charter: Could one man possibly be more of a caricature of all that is annoying about religious people? If you are putting us on, Richard, you have some kind of special Academy Award coming your way. You have all of the bad qualities of my mom in her fundamentalist phase and you don’t even cook my supper or wash my underwear.

    RS: Your words remind me of what the Pharisees said about Jesus.

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  112. Richard,

    If Jesus drank wine that you couldn’t get drunk on, then why all the biblical warnings against getting drunk? Once someone here starts advocating drunkenness then you have a legitimate beef. Until then, you are being a legalist and a pain.

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  113. Richard – “Your words remind me of what the Pharisees said about Jesus.”

    Erik – No, it’s actually the other way around. Once again you totally don’t get the Pharisees errors. Old Lifers can be accused of being antinomians (wrongly) but never Pharisees. Until you get the Pharisees you will continue to suffer from log in eye syndrome.

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  114. Z,

    I concede that we are to gratefully respond to Christ’s completed work on the cross. But are you saying that this absolutely precludes our participation in the unfolding of history? How do you interpret “Christ’s completed work?”

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  115. Erik Charter: Richard, If Jesus drank wine that you couldn’t get drunk on, then why all the biblical warnings against getting drunk?

    RS: Erik, please read a book on logic at some point real soon. Your sentence above is not a great sentence. How about this one: If Jesus ate food, then why all the biblical warnings against gluttony? Jesus was not warning Himself about getting drunk and the apostles were not writing to Jesus about getting drunk.

    Erik Charter: Once someone here starts advocating drunkenness then you have a legitimate beef. Until then, you are being a legalist and a pain.

    RS: Until alcoholics start advocating drukenness, then you will have a legitimate beef against alcohol. Erik, one drink from a modern beer slows the foot down just a little from the gas pedal to the brake. If you define drunkeness by a slobbering drunk, then perhaps you have a point. But if you think of drunkeness as having lessening inhibitions and less control, then you might want to reconsider your position. Again, I don’t argue that Jesus did not drink wine and I am not arguing that a glass of wine is sinful. But talking about all the great things of strong drink is a different story. If we truly want to be holy, then we would want to spend our time pursuing Christ and fleeing from sin rather than seeing how close we can get to the line without crossing it.

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  116. Erik Charter quoting Richard – “If you have no way of looking at His objective work in the world today, then you are just assuming it.”

    Erik- Ever heard of Word & Sacrament?

    RS: Yes, I have heard of many Roman Catholics who use those terms. Any person regenerate or not can hear sermons and watch the Sacrament or take it. But that is not the same thing as looking at the work of Christ in the world today.

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  117. Erik Charter quoting Richard – “Your words remind me of what the Pharisees said about Jesus.”

    Erik – No, it’s actually the other way around. Once again you totally don’t get the Pharisees errors. Old Lifers can be accused of being antinomians (wrongly) but never Pharisees. Until you get the Pharisees you will continue to suffer from log in eye syndrome.

    RS: Erik, you might try reading the Bible some more. Read Matthew 5 and 6 just to start off with. Notice how Jesus corrected the Pharisees in how they had watered the Law down to be just external things. So the Pharisees had watered the Law down and there is really no other way to read that passage with any degree of honesty. When a person waters the Law down and/or tries to keep the Law just to the externals, then that person has treated the Law like the Pharisees did.
    Then read of how He corrected them in how they prayed, gave alms, and fasted. They said the right words (more or less) and had long prayers. But they did them for self rather than actually praying to God. Erik, sometimes people see logs in the eyes of others and don’t see the logs in the yes of people that they agree with because of the forest in their own eyes.

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  118. Don, I’m not sure how responding to Christ’s completed work would absolutely preclude our participation in the unfolding of history. We can’t help but participate in that unfolding. But as it unfolds we are being renewed by grace through faith in Word and sacrament.

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  119. Richard – “When a person waters the Law down and/or tries to keep the Law just to the externals, then that person has treated the Law like the Pharisees did.”

    Erik – Yes, things like no alcohol, no movies, no fiction, not much laughter…

    External, watered down, easy to keep & feel self-righteous.

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  120. Erik Charter quoting Richard – “I am not arguing that a glass of wine is sinful.”

    Erik – Yes. Thank you. Finally.

    RS: I have not argued that it was, but instead you have made that deduction. However, if the glass of wine is over .05 ounces, then it is sinful. Notice that I didn’t say how large or small the glass might be. One cannot get those huge one gallon glasses.

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  121. Erik Charter quoting Richard – “When a person waters the Law down and/or tries to keep the Law just to the externals, then that person has treated the Law like the Pharisees did.”

    Erik – Yes, things like no alcohol, no movies, no fiction, not much laughter…

    External, watered down, easy to keep & feel self-righteous.

    RS: But you have make false deductions on those things as I don’t say absolutely “no alcohol, no movies, no fiction, not much laughter.” I argue for the pursuit of holiness which will limit (perhaps even greatly) those things. When I set out all the dangers and damage of alcohol, I am not arguing that no one should ever drink a glass of wine. When I argue that we shouldn’t joke around about drinking and the use of hard drink, I am not arguing against people having a glass of wine. And so on regarding fiction, movies, and laughing. I will argue, however, that it does not seem consistent with pursuing the glory of God in the face of Christ to be consumed with fiction, alcohol, movies, and laughing. One only has so much time.

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  122. I love the fact that we are ‘declared’ holy, for Jesus’ sake. It’s a gift.

    That we don’t often exhibit a visible holiness doesn’t belie the fact that we are holy. “We are to consider ourselves dead to sin”(even though we still sin).

    The self-focused piety of those climbing a religious ladder suffocates our freedom and turns us inward. The Christian life is best lived outward, and in freedom…for the sake of the neighbor. After all, what does God need with our good efforts? But our neighbors sure could use them.

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  123. Not to interrupt, but….

    Richard, while I admire your stoic resolve to pursue God’s greatest gift found in Christ, it seems a little ungrateful to deal so dismissively with the simple gifts he provides (a good beer, a well told story, a good joke). The idea that “pursuing the glory of God in the face of Christ” (spirit) is ultimately incompatible with enjoying the common (material) blessings God bestows on his creatures seems a bit gnostic.

    Then again, I guess it depends on what you mean by “consumed.” But “being consumed” by something for one person is not the same as for another, which is a point that undermines any attempt to systematize and bind the conscience. Christian liberty working in concert with the Holy Spirit, not a hedge around the Torrah, is the way out of this predicament.

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  124. Richard – What is your undergraduate degree in? Did you resent having to be exposed to the liberal arts? How do you deal with Edwards being a quite broadly educated man? You act like the default for literature and film is frivolous at best and sinful at worst. What do you base that idea on? Why did the Puritans send their sons to Harvard and not Bible college?

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  125. Steve Martin: I love the fact that we are ‘declared’ holy, for Jesus’ sake. It’s a gift.

    RS: Indeed, Christ Himself is our gift and in union with Him we have an imputed righteousness that is perfect.

    Steve Martin: That we don’t often exhibit a visible holiness doesn’t belie the fact that we are holy. “We are to consider ourselves dead to sin”(even though we still sin).

    RS: But again, the Christ that lives in His people will not be silent and will make Himself known.

    Steve Martin: The self-focused piety of those climbing a religious ladder suffocates our freedom and turns us inward. The Christian life is best lived outward, and in freedom…for the sake of the neighbor. After all, what does God need with our good efforts? But our neighbors sure could use them.

    RS: Of course God does not need our good efforts, but that is to misunderstand the point and the position. God commands us to love Him with all of our being and then our neighbors. In other words, if we don’t truly love God then we don’t truly love our neighbors. If what we do for our neighbors is not out of love for God first then it is not out of true love for them either. The Christian life is lived toward God first or it is idolatry. The Christian life is lived first toward God or it is not the Christian life. What our neighbors need is God.

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  126. Adam Petersen: Not to interrupt, but….

    Richard, while I admire your stoic resolve to pursue God’s greatest gift found in Christ, it seems a little ungrateful to deal so dismissively with the simple gifts he provides (a good beer, a well told story, a good joke). The idea that “pursuing the glory of God in the face of Christ” (spirit) is ultimately incompatible with enjoying the common (material) blessings God bestows on his creatures seems a bit gnostic.

    RS: I am not sure why you think I am against all wine, all stories, and all good jokes. I am against a life that seems to think that the good life is focused on those things.

    Adam: Then again, I guess it depends on what you mean by “consumed.” But “being consumed” by something for one person is not the same as for another, which is a point that undermines any attempt to systematize and bind the conscience. Christian liberty working in concert with the Holy Spirit, not a hedge around the Torrah, is the way out of this predicament.

    RS: I would argue that people who spend a lot of time talking about movies, alcohol, UTube, and fiction seem to be absorbed and consumed to some degree. When we get caught up with our liberty in Christ more than we are with Christ Himself, the things we think are liberty are actually taking us prisoner. You might notice that I have not set out rules or limits to go by, but instead have tried to set out that those things should be limited by our pursuit of Christ and holiness. As an old Puritan wrote (in paraphrase), the Christian has three entertainments. Reading the Bible, prayer, and meditation. Surely we should find out greatest joy and delights in the river of delights that flow from His throne.

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  127. Richard – “You might notice that I have not set out rules or limits to go by”

    Erik – Then why the stance of an ever-present scold?

    When Anne Bradstreet being frivolous when she wrote poetry about subjects other than Christ?

    You seem to lose sight of the fact that there are 24 hours in a day, 16 of which we are awake for. We have time to pray, read the Bible, work at our jobs, read books, watch movies, spend time with family, spend time with friends, have hobbies, exercise. It doesn’t have to all be “three meditations”. If that’s all you want to do, fine, but I’m not sure where constant blog commenting fits in. My system allows for that, your system doesn’t seem to. How much more Scripture could you read, how much more could you pray, and how much more could you meditate if you got rid of your computer?

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  128. Erik Charter: Richard – What is your undergraduate degree in? Did you resent having to be exposed to the liberal arts? How do you deal with Edwards being a quite broadly educated man? You act like the default for literature and film is frivolous at best and sinful at worst. What do you base that idea on? Why did the Puritans send their sons to Harvard and not Bible college?

    RS: Erik, Mortimer Adler wrote a book on How To Read a Book. That might be a good place for you to start. There are many good works on logic as well. Why would I resent having to study liberal arts? Why would I have to deal with Edwards as being a broadly educated man? What is your basis for thinking that I act like liberature and film are frivolous at best and sinful at worst? Why does the question about the Puritans and Harvard even come up? The founder of Harvard was Thomas Shepard whose writings are simply tremendous, though I think you would break out in a rash if you read them. Harvard was founded to train ministers and its original motto, though originally in Latin, was Truth for Christ and the Church. It had three books in the seal with the top two books facing up and the third book, just below the other two, was face down. That symbolized the limites of reason and the need for God’s revelation.

    Below is a couple of requirements for students:
    2. Let every Student be plainly instructed, and earnestly pressed to consider well, the maine end of his life and studies is, to know God and Jesus Christ which is eternal life (John 17:3) and therefore to lay Christ in the bottome, as the only foundation of all sound knowledge and Learning. And seeing the Lord only giveth wisedome, Let every one seriously set himself by prayer in secret to seeke it of him (Prov. 2:3).

    3. Every one shall so exercise himselfe in reading the Scriptures twice a day, that he shall be ready to give such an account of his proficiency therein, both in Theoreticall observations of Language and Logick, and in practical and spiritual truths, as his Tutor shall require, according to his ability; seeing the entrance of the word giveth light, it giveth understanding to the simple (Psalm 119:130).

    RS: By the way, a discussion about the evil of things and the excess of things is not something that necessarily leads to a conclusion that another thinks that they are all evil at all times. As I have said many times, don’t jump to conclusions and be careful of the deductions your draw.

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  129. Erik – Then why the stance of an ever-present scold?

    RS: Erik, are you judging my heart and imputing motives to me?

    Erik: When Anne Bradstreet being frivolous when she wrote poetry about subjects other than Christ?

    RS: Not necessarily, but possibly. Again, one has to go to the intent of the author and the reason for it. Let us say that author A hates God and writes fiction out of that hatred. Is it beneficial to read that person’s fiction that expresses hatred for God in its moral outlook?

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  130. Richard Smith,

    “In other words, if we don’t truly love God then we don’t truly love our neighbors.”

    We really don’t love either, Richard. Not the way that we ought.

    If we did, we wouldn’t need a Savior.

    Lots of luck with your holiness project.

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  131. Steve Martin quoting Richard Smith: “In other words, if we don’t truly love God then we don’t truly love our neighbors.”

    Steve Martin: We really don’t love either, Richard. Not the way that we ought. If we did, we wouldn’t need a Savior.

    RS: Steve, Christ came to save us from our sin. He didn’t just come to save people from the punishment of their sin, but from sin itself. Read the passage from Titus 2 below. The Savior of His people came to save people from sin itself and that is one reason He died. The grace of God that brings salvation also teaches us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires. Did you catch that? The grace of God teaches us that. It also teaches us to live sensibly, righteously and godly in this present age. Not again, it is the grace of God that teaches us that. Jesus the Christ (v. 14) gave Himself (went to the cross) to redeem us from every lawless deed. You seem to want the purpose of the cross to be limited to forgiveness of sin, but what is forgiveness of sin apart from repentance from sin? The cross of Christ and the grace of Christ also has purposes of making the people of God live righteously.

    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.

    Steve Martin: Lots of luck with your holiness project.

    RS: 1. There is no such thing as luck in the world that the sovereign God is fully of control over. 2. It is not my holiness profect. Christ died so His people would be holy in Him and pursue holiness out of love for Him.

    2 Peter 1:1 Simon Peter, a bond-servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ:
    2 Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord;
    3 seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.
    4 For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.
    5 Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge,
    6 and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness,
    7 and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love.
    8 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
    9 For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins.
    10 Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble;
    11 for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you.

    II Peter 2:18 For speaking out arrogant words of vanity they entice by fleshly desires, by sensuality, those who barely escape from the ones who live in error,
    19 promising them freedom while they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by what a man is overcome, by this he is enslaved.
    20 For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world by the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and are overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first.
    21 For it would be better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn away from the holy commandment handed on to them.
    22 It has happened to them according to the true proverb, “A DOG RETURNS TO ITS OWN VOMIT,” and, “A sow, after washing, returns to wallowing in the mire.”

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  132. Z,

    You say that as history “unfolds we are being renewed by grace through faith in Word and sacrament.” So, can we agree that Christ’s completed work is being worked out in us as manifested in greater holiness?

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  133. Steve Martin says: We really don’t love either, Richard. Not the way that we ought. If we did, we wouldn’t need a Savior. Lots of luck with your holiness project.

    Whoa Steve! How dare ye? The Bible commands us to love each other like Jesus loved us, and to be holy! Are you mocking Richard for wanting to be holy? What on earth are talking about?

    Consider 1 Peter 1:13-16

    “Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”

    Here’s the biggie!

    “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, You shall be holy, for I am holy.”

    Or 2nd Corinthians 7:1

    “Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.”

    Wow! Did you catch the last sentence? Bringing your holiness to completion? Why would you mock Richard for wanting to work on trusting and obeying God? Which is our holiness!

    Are you ready to apologize to Brother Richard? How could you get it so wrong? We are commanded to be holy and continue in holiness in the fear of the Lord until it’s complete by God himself!

    Do we ever talk about the fear of God in the modern Church anymore?

    Of course our salvation is not based on the quality of our obedience, (thank God) yes we rest in the completed work of Christ, nevertheless, if we are truly born of God we will serve Christ with a broken and contrite heart, which is what walking by faith means. We are assured the true saints will persevere to the end. It’s all gift!

    “And those who endure to the end will be saved.”

    “No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he *cannot* keep on sinning because he has been born of God.”

    Obedience is synonym for walking by faith, and is a saving benefit in the saving work of Christ’s all encompassing salvation, it’s all gift! Yet we still play a crucial subjective role in our salvation!

    Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling”

    For its God who is at work in and through you”

    Who repents us or God?

    All true Christians must trust and obey for there’s no other way, to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey. Perfectly? No, but blamelessly washed in the precious blood of the lamb being sanctified by the ongoing work of Jesus our Great High Priest. Christ’s once for all sacrifice not only secured our redemption but he also broke the power of sin allowing the saint to walk with greater confidence, faith, and assurance.

    The Lord Jesus is our Great High Priest interceding that our works done in faith will be accepted by the father. It’s all gift! Even the works we do in faith require God’s grace working in and through our life for them to be called good. The saving work of Christ is a beautiful awesome work, greater in scope than any of us can fathom.

    “Thanks be to God for his unspeakable gift!”

    We are all called to obedience throughout the New Testament! So please get off Richard’s case!

    Question for Steve Martin, why did Jesus create us?

    “We are his workmanship created *for* good works in Christ Jesus that he prepared beforehand for us to walk in.” NASV

    That’s the very reason God created us Steve, for good works that he predestined us to walk in. Even in our fallen state, (in Christ) we can be well pleasing. So please don’t mock Richard for desiring to be sold out and holy for God which is the bear minimum God requires anyway.

    Merry Christmas Steve,

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  134. Doug,

    Merry Christmas to you, friend!

    __

    I’m not “mocking” anyone. I am just saying that none of us loves God or our neighbors as we ought.

    That word id ‘none’ of us. Myself included. Seeking holiness? It’s already done for you, on the cross…in your baptism. If you want to acquire it yourself, you might as well become a Roman Catholic. That’s their game.

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  135. RS.

    I still don’t understand how your holiness system permits for anything other than the study of Scripture, prayer, and meditation. It sounds very monkish (but hardly very Puritan seeing they liked to have a good time feasting, drinking, and playing “frivolous” games).

    Unfortunately, at the end of a long day at work, sometimes all I want to do is go to the bar with friends, have a beer, a smoke, and talk. Given enough time and effort, though, I should be able to kick the dirty habit, leave the cave, and reflect on the platonic form of the Father through the Son 24/7.

    In the end, I really don’t think what a Christian does and enjoys is necessarily that radically different from non-Christians. Along with my non-believer friends I love talking about great music, drinking good beer, and watching baseball games. The differences is that I see all of these things as gifts from God and I’m thankful for them. It’s this gratefulness towards the Creator that sets the Christian apart, not the cart blanch denial of such pleasures in favor of “more holy” activities.

    And honestly, that’s where I find your position vaguely legalistic: you deny a strict list of do’s and dont’s (for every hour spent on the blog, you must spend on hour reading your Bible. Or flip it around and make it an earning system, you can blog for an hour once you’ve read your Bible for an hour) but you have a very clear idea of God’s economy: reading the Bible is better than reading Shakespeare.

    And it’s that unhelpful bifurcation that tragically makes people feel guilty for going to the bar rather than heading home to read their Bibles or going to a prayer meeting. It also makes certain folks come across as annoyingly judgmental…which is what I think the pharisee comments are directed at…

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  136. The Richard & Erik Holiday Special:

    Erik: Is wine a good thing?

    Richard: No, wine is a terrible thing. I can’t imagine why any Christian would drink wine.

    Erik: But Psalm 104 talks about “Wine which makes man’s heart glad”.

    Richard: If you had attended seminary like me you would realize how foolish you sound.

    Erik: What does attending seminary have to do with this?

    Richard: Do you know how many people are killed by strong drink?

    Erik: I know that drunkenness is a sin and that drinking requires wisdom and moderation.

    Richard: No, I’m talking about cases of Scotch falling from the shelf at Costco on top of people’s heads and killing them.

    Erik: Well that’s just a freak accident.

    Richard: Accident? That is the providence of God killing a sinful drinker.

    Erik: What if the person just happened to be in the wrong part of the store?

    Richard: If Jesus is on the throne of your heart you won’t be in that part of the store.

    Erik: O.K., let’s move on. What do you mean by “on the throne of your heart”?

    Richard: You foolish man. The gospel is Jesus abiding in the hearts of his people.

    Erik: Wait, I know Jesus abides in his people, but I thought that the gospel was God’s removal of His wrath from sinful people because of Jesus’ death on the cross? When people have true faith in the gospel, then Jesus abides in their hearts.

    Richard: Open up my shirt.

    Erik: What?

    Richard: Open up my shirt.

    Erik: O.K….(Erik opens up Richard’s shirt)

    Richard: What do you see on my chest?

    Erik: It’s some kind of tattoo.

    Richard: Yes, it’s a tattoo of a throne. Do you have a throne tattoo on your chest?

    Erik: Well, no….

    Richard: How can Jesus be abiding in your heart if there is no throne tattoo on your chest?

    Erik: What? (Sigh). Let’s change the subject. What are you and your family doing on Christmas? We are all thinking about going to see “The Hobbit”.

    Richard: A movie? That’s kind of a waste of time, don’t you think?

    Erik: No. I like movies, especially family movies that are appropriate for all of us.

    Richard: My family will be reading our Bibles from 8:00-9:00, then praying from 9:00-10:00, then meditating from 10:00-11:00, then going on a nature walk to reflect on God’s creation from 11:00-12:00.

    Erik: Wow, those are some great activities. What will you do the rest of the day?

    Richard: What are you, stupid? That’s only 4 hours. We are awake 16 hours a day. Obviously we repeat the cycle three more times. Movies indeed.

    Erik: You’re a strange one, Richard, what with being so against alcohol, talking incessantly about Jesus in the heart, and maintaining such a strict focus on spiritual disciplines and against worldly entertainments.

    Richard: Where is the world did you get the idea that’s how I am? You have obviously grossly misinterpreted me. Perhaps you need a remedial reading class.

    Erik: Merry Christmas, Richard.

    Richard: Mourn & weep rather than being merry if you know what’s good for you.

    Erik: I actually do that a little every time I read you, Richard. Merry Christmas.

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  137. Steve Martin says: Seeking holiness? It’s already done for you, on the cross…in your baptism.

    Steve all children of believers are called holy and amen. (holy means set apart for Christ) That doesnt preclude God from commanding that we walk holy in all our conduct as well.

    “you also be holy in *all* your conduct, since it is written, You shall be holy, for I am holy.”

    and:

    “Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, (bringing holiness to completion) in the fear of God.”

    How would Steve Martin bring his holiness to completion?

    It’s not a trick question Steve, its a commandment from God!

    Like

  138. Why did God create Steve Martin?

    Ephesians 2:10

    “Steve is God’s workmanship created *for* good works in Christ Jesus that he predestined Steven to walk in.”

    Amen!!!

    I took the liberty of using *Steven* instead of *we*.but the point is the same. For good works! That is the reason you were created! For good works that God prepared for you to walk in, by faith of course! So while everyone at Old Life knows you aren’t saved BY good works, we should equally know that we are saved FOR good works, and amen!

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  139. “He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion”.

    I trust that He can do what He says He will do. He declares us righteous and holy in our baptisms. If you have “put on Christ in your baptism” (Galatians), then how much holier do you need to be?

    Yes, we were created for good works. Jesus said that those who were “doing: this and that in His name should “depart from Him”. But those who were just doing what was needed with NO ulterior motive (become more holy?) received a well done. Sanctification is forgetting about yourself. Or…you could just start climbing the religious spirituality ladder as the Catholics do.

    Luther saw this in so many Evangelical types whom he said “had swallowed the Holy Spirit, feathers and all”. He call them (the ‘enthusiasts’ and the Catholics) “two wolves tied at the tail”. Outwardly they hate each other, but they operate with basically the same theology…’ a lot of God and a little bit of me’.

    No thanks. Been there, done that. No freedom or rest in that stuff. You can have it.

    Thanks. And a Merry Christmas to you.

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  140. Hi RS,

    I think your explanation of the Pharisees as “watering down the requirements of the Law” fails to grasp the basic dynamic. Not that you are incorrect, but you are confusing the *effect* of their teachings with the *intent* of their teachings.

    The intent of the Pharisees (whom I am equating with the Judaizers) was to strive to keep the Law in all of its detail. Thus the teaching of one of their famous teachers, Shammai, that “if every Jew in Israel kept the Sabbath for just one day, the Messiah would return.” (http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/judaica/ejud_0002_0017_0_17221.html)

    The effect, however, was actually to water down the Law.

    Because keeping the Law in every detail is impossible (citations unnecessary!), the Pharisees deluded themselves, becoming hypocrites. They did this in two ways.

    First, they deliberately placed fences around the Law, human commands that tried to protect the keepers from accidentally sinning. This was the origin, for example, of the “washing of hands” commands that Jesus criticized them for. Likewise, they spent great energy defining exactly what is and is not keeping the Sabbath. The intent was to keep the Law scrupulously, but the effect to mingle the Word of God with the commands of men. The wine of the law was watered down by being “cut” with the watery commands of men.

    Second, they deluded themselves about their ability to keep the Law and thence to their actually performance of the Law. Hence Luke records that they criticized Jesus for healing on the Sabbath whilst they plotted to kill Him on that same Sabbath. The reader is left to reflect on Jesus’ question: Which is better on the Sabbath: to save life or to destroy it?

    I haven’t followed your discussion of drinking wine, but I would throw out this general caution: Do not add to the command of God by supplementing it with the commands of men. The Scripture commands not getting drunk. To go beyond this and command this amount of drinking or that is to dilute, not strengthen, our allegiance to the commands of God.

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  141. Zrim: Jeff, sure, but (sorry to be so Act 3ish) I’d also want to qualify it by pointing out that on top of redeemed husbanding’s purpose to be spiritual, redeemed husbands also have a lot to learn from merely created husbands.

    No argument here. But notice what you’ve done wrt being a husband: Both Scripture and common grace wisdom have something to say about the same activity. Sphere separation is getting a little messy here.

    Which isn’t to deny any sphere separation at all, but to say that the boundaries are soft and not hard.

    Zrim: And since plumbing isn’t a biblical category (along with so many other created vocations), I’m wondering how much energy is wasted by asking whether the Bible has things to say to redeemed plumbers about their plumbing.

    Let’s reframe the question. You and I agree that Scripture is speaking to Christians, whether plumbers (whose ears surely by now require first aid) or pastors.

    Now, should a Christian look to Scripture to inform his plumbing or pastoring?

    Based on the nature of sphere separation, we should argue generally that Scripture has much more to say about pastoring than about plumbing. Can we then go all the way and say that Scripture has *nothing* relevant to say about plumbing?

    Not unless we want to argue that the plumber is free of the command concerning honest weights and measures in his plumbing.

    Can we then go neo-Cal and argue that Scripture lays out a Christian theory of plumbing?

    Not that either — for there is no such indication in Scripture that there is a theory of Christian plumbing hidden between its pages.

    No: Scripture provides some commands that inform the plumber about all of his activities, one of which is plumbing. No more, no less. We dare not add to them by constructing a theory of plumbing (or education, or …) and calling it “the Christian way to plumb”. We dare not subtract from them and say that the plumber need not be mindful of God’s commands in his plumbing.

    The sound ground on which to stand here is this: God’s commands are distinct from the words of men; and they are normative in all spheres of life.

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  142. Erik (and Zrim):

    You raise a very good question about what we should expect from our Law-keeping. Is it “better and better every day, by the help of the Spirit striving more and more to conform my life to the Law?”

    I would argue Very No. Such a view undermines the Confessional understanding of sanctification as the work of God’s Spirit and replaces it with a “Spirit-aided work of man.”

    Rather, I would argue that awareness and consciousness of the Law has two aims, one primary and the other secondary. The primary aim is to expose our sin and bring us under God’s grace.

    If we agree that we daily break God’s law in thought, word, and deed; if we agree that sin is any violation of or want of conformity to the Law of God, then we must see the depth of the Law’s requirements for us, and we must see that those requirements really apply 24/7. This is the basis for a life of grace: to recognize Jesus as a real savior, I must first understand myself as a real sinner.

    So Erik, it’s not a question of supercharging the Law. The Law is plenty charged enough — and we stand charged under it.

    From this understanding, and vastly secondary to it, is the notion that we obey the Law out of gratitude, not as a means of sanctification but as its fruit.

    So I would actually affirm, with RS, that the Law is applicable “24/7.” Not so that we might become superstriving superChristians, but so that our need for Jesus might be seen by us as real rather than theoretical.

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  143. Don, you ask if we can agree that Christ’s completed work is being worked out in us as manifested in greater holiness. HC 114 rings in my ears:

    “But can those who are converted to God perfectly keep these commandments?

    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.”

    So yes and no. Holiness increases within us, but detecting it is nearly impossible, even for the holiest among us. And since I don’t count myself among the holiest, I’ll look to Christ outside instead of holiness within for motivation.

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  144. Jeff, ok, but a good test case is education. Forget plumbing. I dare you to tell Christians there is no biblical theory on how to educate.

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  145. Jeff Cagle: Hi RS,
    I think your explanation of the Pharisees as “watering down the requirements of the Law” fails to grasp the basic dynamic. Not that you are incorrect, but you are confusing the *effect* of their teachings with the *intent* of their teachings.

    The effect, however, was actually to water down the Law.

    Because keeping the Law in every detail is impossible (citations unnecessary!), the Pharisees deluded themselves, becoming hypocrites. They did this in two ways.

    First, they deliberately placed fences around the Law, human commands that tried to protect the keepers from accidentally sinning. This was the origin, for example, of the “washing of hands” commands that Jesus criticized them for. Likewise, they spent great energy defining exactly what is and is not keeping the Sabbath. The intent was to keep the Law scrupulously, but the effect to mingle the Word of God with the commands of men. The wine of the law was watered down by being “cut” with the watery commands of men.

    Second, they deluded themselves about their ability to keep the Law and thence to their actually performance of the Law. Hence Luke records that they criticized Jesus for healing on the Sabbath whilst they plotted to kill Him on that same Sabbath. The reader is left to reflect on Jesus’ question: Which is better on the Sabbath: to save life or to destroy it?

    RS: Some of the people I am discussion the issue with here, however, make some of the same mistakes. They make the same argument that the Pelagians do, more or less. By the way, that is not an argument that they are Pelagians. They argue that I don’t keep the Law perfectly and so I should not make the standard so high. My position is that of course I cannot keep the Law perfectly, but that is no reason that the standard is wrong. The Pharisees watered down the Law so that they could keep it, but so does anyone that waters the Law down to external practices. The Pelagian says that God would not give us a Law that we cannot keep, so we must be careful to set out the Law in a way where people can keep it. My argument is not necessarily what the ultimate intent of the Pharisees was, but that they did water the Law down and so they could keep it externally and that was what Jesus went after in Matthew 5-6.

    Jeff Cagle: I haven’t followed your discussion of drinking wine, but I would throw out this general caution: Do not add to the command of God by supplementing it with the commands of men. The Scripture commands not getting drunk. To go beyond this and command this amount of drinking or that is to dilute, not strengthen, our allegiance to the commands of God.

    RS: I have not added to the commands of God, but I would argue that His commands go further than you are suggesting here. I would argue that if the command of God is not to get drunk, then perhaps we should pursue holiness rather than spending time talking about the wonders of alcoholic drinks. The commands of God are very clear. We are to love Him with all of our being and in our eating and drinking or whatever we do we are to do for His glory.

    What does it mean to be drunk? If we take the standards of men on what being drunk is, most likely we would come up with the stumbling man with slurred speech. But if we think of being drunk as enough to loosen our tongue or free us from our inhibitions or slow out mental capacity down, then perhaps that is closer to what the Bible intends. How much alcohol can one drink to the glory of God? How much can one drink out of love for God? Can one do this without causing others to stumble? Those are important questions as well.

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  146. DGH: You are leery of self-consciousness, and I think that’s probably right. Being self-aware is probably a matter of personality and certainly not a virtue that Scripture requires.

    But there are two kinds of awareness that Scripture does require, in this order:

    (1) Awareness of — fear of — the Lord and His commands.

    I needn’t multiply citations to prove that forgetting God is a sin. Even forgetting God in the midst of one’s common callings is a sin. Jesus tells us multiple times, for example, to beware of riches because they can lead us to be wealthy in this world but poor in the kingdom.

    We are to do all things, whether sacred or secular, in the fear of the Lord and by faith.

    So while I may not be consciously thinking about the Lord while planting hostplants for the leps, I *do* need to keep a weather eye on whether my butterfly gardening is one of the cares of the world that distracts me from faith and fulfilling my various callings. If I cannot garden by faith, it is sin.

    And I don’t say this as one who is particularly “God-conscious” during the day, but as one who does have to evaluate priorities and who struggles greatly at times with knowing what to say “No” and “Yes” to.

    (2) Likewise, awareness of my neighbors and their needs.

    The only defense this requires is the obvious point that loving my neighbor as myself cannot be fulfilled without actual knowledge of what my neighbor needs — as James 2 points out.

    DGH, this goes to my third question about sins of omission. You have presented a picture of the Christian life which seems to me to be,

    (1) Worship God on the Sabbath, and
    (2) Avoid sinning during the week.
    (3) Don’t strive too hard for perfection because the striving puts our eyes on ourself rather than Christ.

    And I would say that (2) and (3) have elements of truth, but make a lot more sense in a framework where the only possible sins are ones of comission.

    What does it mean to “avoid sinning” if that includes avoiding sins of omission? Doesn’t that entail some kind of purposeful intent, even if not self-consciousness?

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  147. Zrim: So yes and no. Holiness increases within us, but detecting it is nearly impossible, even for the holiest among us. And since I don’t count myself among the holiest, I’ll look to Christ outside instead of holiness within for motivation.

    RS: King Jesus lives in His people. Where else will you look for Him? I know you will answer that you will look for Him in the Sacrament. Is there a biblical command or example for looking to Jesus in the Sacrament that parallels the teaching of Paul and John that we should examine or look in ourselves to see if Christ is in us or if we have eternal life? There was a song years ago about someone looking for love in all the wrong places. That can be done in religion as well.

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  148. RS: I have not added to the commands of God

    That’s a bold claim. That’s one of my primary concerns when I preach, to avoid adding to the Scripture, and it’s non-trivial to achieve.

    RS: What does it mean to be drunk? If we take the standards of men on what being drunk is, most likely we would come up with the stumbling man with slurred speech. But if we think of being drunk as enough to loosen our tongue or free us from our inhibitions or slow out mental capacity down, then perhaps that is closer to what the Bible intends. How much alcohol can one drink to the glory of God? How much can one drink out of love for God? Can one do this without causing others to stumble? Those are important questions as well.

    Those *are* important questions, and I affirm you in your asking them.

    But where are you deriving your answers from?

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  149. The problem with the Pharisees was that they approached the law, “as though it were by works.” They lacked faith, and stumbled on the stumbling stone which is Christ. Everything they attempted to accomplish is this life was in there own strength, and not acceptable to God in the slightest.

    Anything that is not of faith is sin, period. The Pharisees were D.O.A. So no matter how hard they tried, they were doomed because they didn’t approach God with a broken and contrite heart, which is a gift of God, amen.

    Since they didn’t have the Holy Spirit working in and through them, EVERYTHING they did was outward. They were not born of God, therefore they were a bad tree producing bad fruit.

    Can we learn from them? Sure, we are tempted everyday to walk in our own strength, which is sin. Everything that is not of faith is sin. This is why we seek his kingdom and his righteousness, and everything else will be added unto us. It’s all gift!

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  150. RS: King Jesus lives in His people. Where else will you look for Him?

    Not inside us! I have never seen one Scripture suggesting that we look inward to see Jesus. Sure we should examine ourselves to see if we’re in the faith, but does that mean look inward? I think not.

    As much as I appreciate much of what you say Richard, this is your weak point; in my humble opinoin.

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  151. Adam Petersen: RS. I still don’t understand how your holiness system permits for anything other than the study of Scripture, prayer, and meditation. It sounds very monkish (but hardly very Puritan seeing they liked to have a good time feasting, drinking, and playing “frivolous” games).

    RS: I am not sure I have a holiness system, but I guess that is one way of looking at it. Remember, what I am trying to communicate is being misinterpreted. Some have made deductions from wrong interpretations of what I have said and then hold that out and mock it. I do not argue that the only thing that a person can do is study Scripture, prayer, and meditation. But I would ask why the desires of our hearts are not given to that more if we love God.

    Adam Peterson: Unfortunately, at the end of a long day at work, sometimes all I want to do is go to the bar with friends, have a beer, a smoke, and talk. Given enough time and effort, though, I should be able to kick the dirty habit, leave the cave, and reflect on the platonic form of the Father through the Son 24/7.

    RS: But why do you want to do that? Do you do those things out of love for God? Do you do those things out of a desire to glorify His name? Do you ever reach the end of a long day and desire to go and spend time with God?

    Adam Peterson: In the end, I really don’t think what a Christian does and enjoys is necessarily that radically different from non-Christians. Along with my non-believer friends I love talking about great music, drinking good beer, and watching baseball games. The differences is that I see all of these things as gifts from God and I’m thankful for them. It’s this gratefulness towards the Creator that sets the Christian apart, not the cart blanch denial of such pleasures in favor of “more holy” activities.

    RS: I would argue that the Bible sets out a different story. The Christian is to be radically different than the non-Christian, but not necessarily BECAUSE of the outward activities, but because of the change of heart. Now the believer longs to know, love, and glorify God. Even unbelievers can be thankful that God gives them the things they desire and do that without a true love for God.

    Adam Peterson: And honestly, that’s where I find your position vaguely legalistic: you deny a strict list of do’s and dont’s (for every hour spent on the blog, you must spend on hour reading your Bible. Or flip it around and make it an earning system, you can blog for an hour once you’ve read your Bible for an hour) but you have a very clear idea of God’s economy: reading the Bible is better than reading Shakespeare.

    RS: But, Adam, I have not set out any “list of do’s and dont’s” much less a strict one. What I am arguing, at least partly, is that we should be pursuing holiness and to know God. If we were pursuing the face of God (biblical language for His presence) and desiring to be holy as He is holy, then the focus of those other things would be less.

    Adam Peterson: And it’s that unhelpful bifurcation that tragically makes people feel guilty for going to the bar rather than heading home to read their Bibles or going to a prayer meeting.

    RS: Perhaps they should feel guilty for going to a bar. There is no command of God to go to a bar. What we do have are Scriptures telling us to pant after God as the deer pants for water in dry places. What we do have are Scriptures telling us that God should be the greatest desire, pleasure, and love of the soul. How much love for God will one find in a bar? Does the bar help a person grow in their love of God and holiness? See, I am not setting out rules, I am asking questions if the activity helps one toward fulfilling the Greatest Commandments.

    I Cor 6:8 On the contrary, you yourselves wrong and defraud. You do this even to your brethren.
    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, 10 nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God.
    11 Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God. 12 All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything.

    RS: Let us take your position that going to a bar is lawful. Scripture asks you if it is profitable. Once again, I think the wrong question is being asked many times. It is not always if it is lawful, but if it is profitable. I might add the question is if it is spiritually profitable.

    Adam Peterson: It also makes certain folks come across as annoyingly judgmental…which is what I think the pharisee comments are directed at…

    RS: I have noticed that once people perceive another person as being judgmental they become very judgmental toward that person. I might also add that Jesus came across as annoyingly judgmental to the Pharisees and others at the time as well. So many read the parable where the Pharisee thanked God that he was not as that terrible sinner and look down their nose at all who preach or teach some type of holiness. They are then thanking God that they are not like that Pharisee and in doing so are just like the one they think they are condemning.

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  152. Doug Sowers quoting RS: King Jesus lives in His people. Where else will you look for Him?

    Doug Sowers: Not inside us! I have never seen one Scripture suggesting that we look inward to see Jesus. Sure we should examine ourselves to see if we’re in the faith, but does that mean look inward? I think not.

    As much as I appreciate much of what you say Richard, this is your weak point; in my humble opinoin.

    RS: A few verses to give you some basis for what I am saying.

    2 Corinthians 13:5 Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you– unless indeed you fail the test?

    2 Corinthians 6:16 Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said, “I WILL DWELL IN THEM AND WALK AMONG THEM; AND I WILL BE THEIR GOD, AND THEY SHALL BE MY PEOPLE.

    John 6:56 “He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him.

    John 14:23 Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him.

    John 17:26 and I have made Your name known to them, and will make it known, so that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them.”

    Romans 8:10 If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness.

    Galatians 2:20 “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.

    Ephesians 3:17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love,

    Colossians 1:27 to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.

    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. 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 [literally “in” us. It is the same preposition translated in this chapter over and over as in]. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him

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  153. Jeff Cagle quoting RS: I have not added to the commands of God

    Jeff Cagle: That’s a bold claim. That’s one of my primary concerns when I preach, to avoid adding to the Scripture, and it’s non-trivial to achieve.

    RS: I don’t mean that I have never done that, but in the discussions here I am specifically making great efforts at not adding to the commands and instead of that pointing to the commands to love God and pursue holiness.

    Jeff Cagle quoting RS: What does it mean to be drunk? If we take the standards of men on what being drunk is, most likely we would come up with the stumbling man with slurred speech. But if we think of being drunk as enough to loosen our tongue or free us from our inhibitions or slow out mental capacity down, then perhaps that is closer to what the Bible intends. How much alcohol can one drink to the glory of God? How much can one drink out of love for God? Can one do this without causing others to stumble? Those are important questions as well.

    Jeff Cagle: Those *are* important questions, and I affirm you in your asking them.

    But where are you deriving your answers from?

    RS: I don’t think that I am coming up with answers for others on this one. However, Ephesians 5:18 does give some important pointers on it: “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit.”

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  154. Erik Charter: The Richard & Erik Holiday Special:

    Erik jokingly referring to Richard: My family will be reading our Bibles from 8:00-9:00, then praying from 9:00-10:00, then meditating from 10:00-11:00, then going on a nature walk to reflect on God’s creation from 11:00-12:00.

    RS:
    Luke 6:12 It was at this time that He [Jesus] went off to the mountain to pray, and He spent the whole night in prayer to God.

    Genesis 32:24 Then Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. 25 When he saw that he had not prevailed against him, he touched the socket of his thigh; so the socket of Jacob’s thigh was dislocated while he wrestled with him. 26 Then he said, “Let me go, for the dawn is breaking.” But he said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”

    Psalm 22:2 O my God, I cry by day, but You do not answer; And by night, but I have no rest.

    Colossians 4:2 Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving;

    Psalm 119:96 I have seen a limit to all perfection; Your commandment is exceedingly broad. Mem. 97 O how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day. 98 Your commandments make me wiser than my enemies, For they are ever mine. 99 I have more insight than all my teachers, For Your testimonies are my meditation. 100 I understand more than the aged, Because I have observed Your precepts.

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  155. Jeff Cagle quoting RS: What does it mean to be drunk? If we take the standards of men on what being drunk is, most likely we would come up with the stumbling man with slurred speech. But if we think of being drunk as enough to loosen our tongue or free us from our inhibitions or slow out mental capacity down, then perhaps that is closer to what the Bible intends. How much alcohol can one drink to the glory of God? How much can one drink out of love for God? Can one do this without causing others to stumble? Those are important questions as well.

    Jeff Cagle: Those *are* important questions, and I affirm you in your asking them.

    But where are you deriving your answers from?

    RS: It is easy to point out to people like me that I am a legalist (not that you are doing that) and am setting out standards that the Bible does not explicitly set out. But what is harder for people to see beyond what they think is an open field of liberty is that others do the exact same thing in telling people that they are permitted to do so many things that the Bible does not explicitly say is wrong. So people just automatically assume that because the Bible does not say “thou shalt not go to bars” that it is okay. The Bible also does not say “it is fine if thou do go to bars.” There are mine fields on both sides of the issue, but it seems that in our day people only see them on the one side. An awful lot of people appear to be stepping on mines in the darkness of what people think or assume is liberty.

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  156. RS: I don’t think that I am coming up with answers for others on this one. However, Ephesians 5:18 does give some important pointers on it: “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit.”

    OK, I can appreciate this. One of the reasons that you’ve hit the OL buzz-saw is that you may not have made clear that your questions and scruples are aimed at the individual and to be exercised within the framework of liberty (in fact, I’m not positive you’re clear yourself on this point?).

    Many OLers view things from within the framework of church discipline and the visible church, since church discipline extends to any matter of sin. So if you are suggesting that X is sin, then X is also a matter of church discipline (which includes teaching).

    RS: It is easy to point out to people like me that I am a legalist (not that you are doing that) and am setting out standards that the Bible does not explicitly set out. But what is harder for people to see beyond what they think is an open field of liberty is that others do the exact same thing in telling people that they are permitted to do so many things that the Bible does not explicitly say is wrong.

    I like this answer much less. You seem to be trying to “strike a balance” between legalism and license, overcorrecting the license of others with a little Law emphasis.

    There is no balance between legalism and license. Both are manifestations of the flesh, and are often found concurrently in individuals (such as the Pharisees).

    The corrective for license is to magnify the Law and Gospel properly, not to put a fence around the Law. Your answer above is in dangerous territory, brother.

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  157. Richard, Calvinists don’t look for Jesus in the sacrament. That’s those Catholics (and sometimes Lutherans). We say that Jesus is bodily seated the right hand of God, even as his Spirit indwells his people. But you might also recall that the purpose of the Spirit within is to point to Christ without. In which case, to look for Christ within may be to resist the Spirit.

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  158. Jeff Cagle quoting RS: It is easy to point out to people like me that I am a legalist (not that you are doing that) and am setting out standards that the Bible does not explicitly set out. But what is harder for people to see beyond what they think is an open field of liberty is that others do the exact same thing in telling people that they are permitted to do so many things that the Bible does not explicitly say is wrong.

    Jeff Cagle: I like this answer much less. You seem to be trying to “strike a balance” between legalism and license, overcorrecting the license of others with a little Law emphasis.

    RS: No, not at all. The issue is not that Christ gives us liberty to sin, but sets us free from the bondage of sin to the liberty of love and obedience. There is no real attempt to strike at a balance, but to get at what Paul did when he said that there are things that are not against the Law but are not profitable. I Cor 6:12 ” All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything.” Another way to put it is that some people flee from the things that the Bible says are sin and yet take no notice of the things that the Bible says are of no profit.

    Jeff Cagle: There is no balance between legalism and license. Both are manifestations of the flesh, and are often found concurrently in individuals (such as the Pharisees).

    The corrective for license is to magnify the Law and Gospel properly, not to put a fence around the Law. Your answer above is in dangerous territory, brother.

    RS: But I did not put a fence around the Law and am not looking for a balance between legalism and license. The point is that whatever does not glorify God is sin (Rom 3:23) and that we are commanded to be holy as He is holy. We are also commanded to love Him with our whole being and to do all for His glory. So it is not just a matter of saying that I am a legalist because I think there are strong limits on what the Bible does not speak against, but that there are some who are pursuing things that the Bible does not say are good and are not beneficial. Anything less than seeking God out of love is sin. It is not just a matter of finding things that are sinful and stop doing and find things that are good and do. It is a matter of the whole life pursuing God out of love.

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  159. Zrim: Richard, Calvinists don’t look for Jesus in the sacrament. That’s those Catholics (and sometimes Lutherans). We say that Jesus is bodily seated the right hand of God, even as his Spirit indwells his people. But you might also recall that the purpose of the Spirit within is to point to Christ without. In which case, to look for Christ within may be to resist the Spirit.

    RS: But not if the Spirit says we are to examine ourselves to see if Christ is in us. I am assuming that the words of Paul in II Cor 13:5 are the words of the Spirit. Not to mention that Christ dwells in His people by His Spirit.

    Romans 8:9 However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him.

    2 Corinthians 13:5 Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you– unless indeed you fail the test?

    2 Timothy 3:16 All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;

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  160. Richard, nothing I’ve said opposes Christ indwelling his people by his Spirit nor self-examination. But those who do not have the Spirit do not examine themselves. Not unlike those who worry that they have committed the unpardonable sin (which is to resist the Spirit, BTW) evidence that by their concern have not.

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  161. Question for Richard:

    Suppose I pursue holiness. Suppose I make a conscious effort not to sin and seek God’s righteousness. In particular, suppose I avoid pornography, lusting after other women, and sexual activity apart from the marriage bed. I make every effort to cherish my wife according to biblical injunctions. Now suppose while sleeping I have an erotic dream about another man’s wife. I repent of the unconscious sin, but soon after I have another such dream. No matter how hard I try, my unconscious mind takes me places my conscious mind tries not to go. What gives? How do I pursue unconscious holiness? Is my sin of emission a result of omission or commission?

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  162. Zrim: Richard, nothing I’ve said opposes Christ indwelling his people by his Spirit nor self-examination. But those who do not have the Spirit do not examine themselves. Not unlike those who worry that they have committed the unpardonable sin (which is to resist the Spirit, BTW) evidence that by their concern have not.

    RS: But if those who do not have the Spirit cannot examine themselves, then that sure seems to do away with what Paul is saying in II Cor 13:5.

    2 Corinthians 13:5 Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you– unless indeed you fail the test?

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  163. wjw: Question for Richard: Suppose I pursue holiness. Suppose I make a conscious effort not to sin and seek God’s righteousness. In particular, suppose I avoid pornography, lusting after other women, and sexual activity apart from the marriage bed. I make every effort to cherish my wife according to biblical injunctions. Now suppose while sleeping I have an erotic dream about another man’s wife. I repent of the unconscious sin, but soon after I have another such dream. No matter how hard I try, my unconscious mind takes me places my conscious mind tries not to go. What gives? How do I pursue unconscious holiness? Is my sin of emission a result of omission or commission?

    RS: Your question demands an answer that will be sure to bring the derision of some, but that is okay. That may even be the motivation of the quesion. However, the heart is the issue. The mind reflects on what comes from the heart. We can assume that an erotic dream will either come from the evil one as temptation or from the secret desires of the heart. We can think of dreams as those things that come to us like evil thoughts do. They can pass through the mind and find no lodging and as such they have found no willing room in our hearts, but if that evil thought begins to find lodging in our heart and we reflect on it and perhaps desire it, we have given room for it and as such it will be sin. The erotic dream can be the same thing. It can be a dream that passes through our less than conscious mind and we find it repulsive and cry out to God for deliverance from it, or we can think on it with delight and at least at that point it will be sin.

    Having sinful dreams can be a sign that the deepest desires of the heart are really for other things or it can be that the evil one is at work. So omission or commission? Perhaps one has ommitted prayer and the Word of God or perhaps one has not pursued holiness in the heart by grace. No way to really answer the question exactly, but it is only grace that can overcome sin and it is only the blood of Christ that can take away the power of sin. Self-effort may overcome a particular sin, but it will only leave room for pride.

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  164. Richard,

    How is the mind different from the heart? When we “will” do we will with our minds or our hearts? When I pursue holiness do I do it with my mind or my heart? When is the line crossed between conscious and unconscious desire? How does one know the line?

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  165. wjw: Richard,
    How is the mind different from the heart?

    RS: Why do I get the idea I am being set up here?
    The mind, in common language, refers to the thinking. The heart refers to the depths of the soul in all aspects, but when there is a contrast it is referring to the desires and perhaps affections and/or passions.

    WJW: When we “will” do we will with our minds or our hearts?

    RS: Yes. The soul is one. The mind, in this sense, is the thinking capacity of the soul. The affections/passions are the feeling aspects of the soul. The will is the soul’s capacity for choice.

    WJW: When I pursue holiness do I do it with my mind or my heart?

    RS: A true pursuit of holiness is the the whole soul.

    WJW: When is the line crossed between conscious and unconscious desire?

    RS: I was using that language to refer to when one was asleep and when one was awake.

    WJW: How does one know the line?

    RS: When one is asleep one is not awake. When one wakes up one has been asleep.

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  166. Richard,

    You admonish the pursuit of holiness and nicely quote scripture for support. But when asked how specifically one pursues holiness when even the unconscious self stumbles you punt to Lockean psychology if not Aristotle by carefully distinguishing mind and heart, umbrellaed by by soul, and then soul divided into affections and passions, with thought, feeling, and will and representing various activities of soul. These divisions are not found in Scripture. They are found in philosophy and in Protestant qua enlightenment theological appropriations of philosophy. Let me try again. How are conscious and unconscious desires different? Can I be awake and desire something not fully present in my conscience?

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  167. Richard, again, nothing I’ve said is opposed to plain self-examination. But in all the Scripture you cite I see nothing that would suggest the sort of introspective self-dwelling you champion. There is a difference, you know. One has more in common with an objective and legal examination, the other with a subjective and therapeutic examination.

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  168. wjw: Richard,

    You admonish the pursuit of holiness and nicely quote scripture for support. But when asked how specifically one pursues holiness when even the unconscious self stumbles you punt to Lockean psychology if not Aristotle by carefully distinguishing mind and heart, umbrellaed by by soul, and then soul divided into affections and passions, with thought, feeling, and will and representing various activities of soul. These divisions are not found in Scripture.

    RS: But those points are found in Scripture. I set out that the soul had different capacities, but was not really divided. The reason for the distinction between passions and affections is that it has to do with the order of things in the soul. For example, Scripture speaks of sinful passions. Passions are the desires that are strong enough that they drive the soul (passively) alone. The affections are those things that come from the Spirit and follow truth.

    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,

    Romans 7:5 For while we were in the flesh, the sinful passions, which were aroused by the Law, were at work in the members of our body to bear fruit for death.

    Galatians 5:24 Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

    2 Corinthians 7:15 His affection abounds all the more toward you, as he remembers the obedience of you all, how you received him with fear and trembling.

    Philippians 1:8 For God is my witness, how I long for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus.

    WJW: They are found in philosophy and in Protestant qua enlightenment theological appropriations of philosophy. Let me try again. How are conscious and unconscious desires different? Can I be awake and desire something not fully present in my conscience?

    RS: Until you see that the distinction are really biblical distinctions between passions and affections, it is futile to go on. But again, I used the term “conscious” in the context of being awake as opposed to being asleep.

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  169. Zrim: Richard, again, nothing I’ve said is opposed to plain self-examination. But in all the Scripture you cite I see nothing that would suggest the sort of introspective self-dwelling you champion. There is a difference, you know. One has more in common with an objective and legal examination, the other with a subjective and therapeutic examination.

    RS: I am not sure why you continue to make this charge. The type of examination I am speaking of is not really subjective and it is far from a therapuetic examination. It is not some sort of morbid introspection either. You can repeat that as many times as you wish, but it does not change the truth of the matter.

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  170. Richard,

    Let’s go on just a little longer. Word searches are neat, and, indeed, many words such as “heart,” “mind,” “affection,” and “passion” are found in Scripture. Still, the relationship you assume between the categories is not stated in Scripture. The “order of things in the soul” is a matter of theological interpretation, and, the interpretation you give the order of the soul betrays the limits of your biblicism. You need Aristotle and Locke just as much as you need Jesus to make sense of the order of the soul. A bit more arid than the heart strangely warmed, but welcome to the club. Aquinas and Turretin are over at the bar. Edwards is pouting in the corner (He has a man crush on Locke, but Locke’s not reciprocating). I am not using the terms conscious and unconscious simply in exchange for being awake and being asleep. I use the terms because they throw a kink in just how aware we are when we claim we are pursuing holiness. Likewise, we may be unaware of when we are not pursuing holiness. The objective standard is indeed fixed, unfortunately my subjective experience is not. The mind, ahem soul, ahem heart, ahem will, is a tricky thing.

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  171. wjw: Richard, Let’s go on just a little longer. Word searches are neat, and, indeed, many words such as “heart,” “mind,” “affection,” and “passion” are found in Scripture. Still, the relationship you assume between the categories is not stated in Scripture. The “order of things in the soul” is a matter of theological interpretation, and, the interpretation you give the order of the soul betrays the limits of your biblicism. You need Aristotle and Locke just as much as you need Jesus to make sense of the order of the soul.

    RS: I don’t think that is necessarily the case.

    WJW: A bit more arid than the heart strangely warmed, but welcome to the club. Aquinas and Turretin are over at the bar. Edwards is pouting in the corner (He has a man crush on Locke, but Locke’s not reciprocating).

    RS: But of course Perry Miller’s thought that Edwards was locked into Locke is no longer thought to be so true.

    WJW: I am not using the terms conscious and unconscious simply in exchange for being awake and being asleep.

    RS: In your original question you did speak of dreaming and so on. Here is part of your original post which is why I was using the terms “conscious” and “unconscious” as I did. It certainly appeared to me and still appears that you were using the terms as basically meaning awake and asleep.
    “Now suppose while sleeping I have an erotic dream about another man’s wife. I repent of the unconscious sin, but soon after I have another such dream. No matter how hard I try, my unconscious mind takes me places my conscious mind tries not to go.”

    WJW: I use the terms because they throw a kink in just how aware we are when we claim we are pursuing holiness. Likewise, we may be unaware of when we are not pursuing holiness. The objective standard is indeed fixed, unfortunately my subjective experience is not. The mind, ahem soul, ahem heart, ahem will, is a tricky thing.

    RS: Indeed the soul and all its aspects can be tricky things. But then again, differing ideas on what holiness is can be tricky things as well. Perhaps differing concepts of the nature of holiness may have a large influence here as well. Nevertheless, we are commanded to be holy because He is holy and to be like Him in holiness. Does God know when He is pursuing holiness?

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  172. Richard,

    Your “order of the soul” is completely dependent on extra biblical authority. Not that there is anything wrong with it. Say hello to Lady Philosophy. She’s been giving the bride of Christ a run for for her money since the 2nd century. Caught you looking. Don’t worry, many fine Christian thinkers have taken a peek, liked what they saw, and stayed faithful. So in light of my clever original question, what about the problem of the non-conscious will and the pursuit of holiness? (Hint: Augustine had a neat take on the subject)

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  173. God is holy. He doesn’t pursue it. He just is.

    Our pursuit of it quite often brings about a self-focused, internal project which abrogates our freedom and sets us, once again, under the yoke of slavery. The slavery of a pietistic pursuit of something that we really, down deep, do not want and that we really are not serious about.

    God knows that we really aren’t all that serious about Him. He knows it. And He loves and forgives us, anyway. Is that an excuse to run roughshod over our neighbor and ignore His commands? Certainly not. We ought constantly live in repentance and forgiveness and return again and again to the places where God makes His promises to us.

    My pastor said this to me once and I believe it, “Steve, you’re never going to be a better Christian, or more holy, than at the moment when God baptized you.” He gives you all that is necessary in that Baptism. you have “put on Christ”. How could you possible become any holier and more righteous than that?”

    Thanks.

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  174. Richard, if yours is not a form of subjectivist and therapeutic self-examination, I wonder what you think would be. My hunch is that as a semi-revivalist you’ll throw the revivalists under the bus. But you’re still the one who speaks of spiritually mastering one’s dreams. Does it get any more subjectivist and therapeutic than that?

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  175. Jeff, I am dead opposed to moralism and self-righteousness, not to mention the extra helping of each that comes with certain brands of experimental Calvinism and its introspective piety. But your account of my account of the Christian life is pretty much off. What I react against is not the same as what I advocate or try to do. For my money, the matters for which we pray in the Lord’s Prayer pretty much cover the Christian life, with the main difference being work during the week and rest on the Lord’s Day.

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  176. wjw: Richard, Your “order of the soul” is completely dependent on extra biblical authority. Not that there is anything wrong with it. Say hello to Lady Philosophy.

    RS: I would not argue against the value of philosophy, but I don’t think that the order of the soul is from philosophy. It is an honored thought in the Reformed tradition and is known as the primacy of the mind in terms of how the soul is to be reached, though there is also the primacy of the heart in terms of importance. This is why there are passions which are the sinful desires and drives that overcome the soul rather than the soul following the mind which is supposed to love God. The Bible is replete with examples of how we follow what we love and yet how salvation comes from knowing God and loving God. I simply don’t know why you think that this is not biblical.

    WJW: She’s been giving the bride of Christ a run for for her money since the 2nd century. Caught you looking.

    RS: I guess I am puzzled on why you think that the order of the soul is from philosophy rather than the Bible.

    WJW: Don’t worry, many fine Christian thinkers have taken a peek, liked what they saw, and stayed faithful. So in light of my clever original question, what about the problem of the non-conscious will and the pursuit of holiness? (Hint: Augustine had a neat take on the subject)

    RS: Are you still thinking of non-consciousness in terms of sleep? This question doesn’t really reveal a problem with the pursuit of holiness unless one thinks in terms of free-will as opposed to the sovereignty of God.

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  177. Zrim: Richard, if yours is not a form of subjectivist and therapeutic self-examination, I wonder what you think would be. My hunch is that as a semi-revivalist you’ll throw the revivalists under the bus. But you’re still the one who speaks of spiritually mastering one’s dreams. Does it get any more subjectivist and therapeutic than that?

    RS: I don’t say we master dreams, but that God is able to do so through the means of grace. Of course I think that the revivalists are far afield from the biblical truth. But if I am looking in me to see if Christ is there and looking for the objective work of Christ, that is not subjectivism. It is simply looking for Christ in ways that the Bible prescribes.

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  178. D. G. Hart: WJW, well done in showing how much experimental Calvinism depends on a faculty psychology that is extra-biblical.

    RS: Dr. Hart, I am surprised at you. If you and WJW are correct and my position is builty on a faulty pshychology, then you will have to assert that the WLC and the WCF are built on the same faulty pshychology as well. I might add that if you would go through some of the older works on what true faith is, you will see some of the same positions as well. It is an old and honored Reformed position.

    WCF Chapter VI Of the Fall of Man, of Sin, and the Punishment thereof
    II. By this sin they fell from their original righteousness and communion, with God,[3] and so became dead in sin,[4] and wholly defiled in all the parts and faculties of soul and body.[5]

    WLC: Q. 28. What are the punishments of sin in this world?
    A. The punishments of sin in this world are either inward, as blindness of mind,[101] a reprobate sense,[102] strong delusions,[103] hardness of heart,[104] horror of conscience,[105] and vile affections;[106] or outward, as the curse of God upon the creatures of our sakes,[107] and all other evils that befall us in our bodies, names, estates, relations, and employments;[108] together with death itself.[109]

    Q. 99. What rules are to be observed for the right understanding of the ten commandments?
    A. For the right understanding of the ten commandments, these rules are to be observed:
    1. That the law is perfect, and bindeth everyone to full conformity in the whole man unto the righteousness thereof, and unto entire obedience forever; so as to require the utmost perfection of every duty, and to forbid the least degree of every sin.[422]
    2. That it is spiritual, and so reacheth the understanding, will, affections, and all other powers of the soul; as well as words, works, and gestures.[423]

    Q. 141. What are the duties required in the eighth commandment?
    A. The duties required in the eighth commandment are, truth, faithfulness, and justice in contracts and commerce between man and man;[801] rendering to everyone his due; restitution of goods unlawfully detained from the right owners thereof;[802] giving and lending freely, according to our abilities, and the necessities of others;[803] moderation of our judgments, wills, and affections concerning worldly goods

    Q. 147. What are the duties required in the tenth commandment?
    A. The duties required in the tenth commandment are, such a full contentment with our own condition,[911] and such a charitable frame of the whole soul toward our neighbour, as that all our inward motions and affections touching him, tend unto, and further all that good which is his.[912]

    Q. 148. What are the sins forbidden in the tenth commandment?
    A. The sins forbidden in the tenth commandment are, discontentment with our own estate;[913] envying[914] and grieving at the good of our neighbour,[915] together with all inordinate motions and affections to anything that is his.[916]

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  179. Steve Martin: God is holy. He doesn’t pursue it. He just is.

    RS: True, but I was making a point in terms of the question asked.

    Steve Martin: Our pursuit of it quite often brings about a self-focused, internal project which abrogates our freedom and sets us, once again, under the yoke of slavery. The slavery of a pietistic pursuit of something that we really, down deep, do not want and that we really are not serious about.

    RS: The pursuit of holiness is really the pursuit of God Himself. If one takes their eyes off of Him, then they have stopped pursuing holiness. The heart of Christianity in both Testaments is to know God and seek Him. In fact, that is also the core of the WSC first question regarding the primary purpose of man.

    Steve Martin: God knows that we really aren’t all that serious about Him. He knows it. And He loves and forgives us, anyway.

    RS: Perhaps you don’t really mean that. The love of God is working love of Himself in us. God forgives the repentant sinner, so if a person is not that serious about God then that person has not repented.

    Steve Martin: Is that an excuse to run roughshod over our neighbor and ignore His commands? Certainly not. We ought constantly live in repentance and forgiveness and return again and again to the places where God makes His promises to us.

    Steve Martin: My pastor said this to me once and I believe it, “Steve, you’re never going to be a better Christian, or more holy, than at the moment when God baptized you.” He gives you all that is necessary in that Baptism. you have “put on Christ”. How could you possible become any holier and more righteous than that?”

    RS: I suppose this is not the place or time to discuss baptism and justification. But if you are correct that you cannot be a better Christian or more holy than the time of justification, then why does the command to be holy as He is holy in the Bible? What are we commanded to grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord? What is the purpose of the HOLY Spirit in the people of God if not to produce the fruit of holiness, which cannot be found without true love? What would the purpose of the letters of Paul be in the NT if there is nothing more beyond justification?

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  180. Richard, I have no doubt that faculty psychology is part and parcel of Christian reflection. But figuring out what David, Paul, Aristotle, and Edwards mean by parts of the human person that are unobservable and largely matters of conjecture is different from saying your understanding of the heart, mind, soul — wait, which is it? — is biblical. Sometimes the light of nature has to order our considerations of the human person as much as it does the ordering of worship (WCF 1.6).

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  181. “Faculty psychology views the mind as a collection of separate modules or faculties assigned to various mental tasks. The view is explicit in the psychological writings of the medieval scholastic Theologians, such as Thomas Aquinas.”

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  182. Z,

    You say, “So yes and no. Holiness increases within us, but detecting it is nearly impossible, even for the holiest among us. And since I don’t count myself among the holiest, I’ll look to Christ outside instead of holiness within for motivation.”

    It would appear then that we have at least reached partial agreement wrt to the holiness of a Christian. Yet, you seem to withhold agreement on a point which I never explicitly addressed, i.e., the ability (I assume you mean of others rather than ourselves) to detect the increase of that holiness within us.

    So, I am curious why it is important to you to maintain that the holiness that increases within us is nearly impossible to detect. Do you find this in the confessions or Scriptures? Have you never detected the increase of holiness in others, especially those who have walked with the Lord their entire lives?

    Perhaps you are concerned that if we focus on making our holiness a thing to be detected by others, we are certainly misguided. With that I would agree, but I just can’t see how an increase in holiness will be nearly impossible to detect or understand why you are so concerned to raise this.

    Finally, as I have been reading all the traffic on this issue, I can’t help to think that the disagreement is largely over nuance rather than essence. I suspect that all would agree with Calvin on the subject as found in Book 3, Chapter 6 of the ICR, a portion of which follows:

    5. I insist not that the life of the Christian shall breathe nothing but the perfect Gospel, though this is to be desired, and ought to be attempted. I insist not so strictly on evangelical perfection, as to refuse to acknowledge as a Christian any man who has not attained it. In this way all would be excluded from the Church, since there is no man who is not far removed from this perfection, while many, who have made but little progress, would be undeservedly rejected. What then? Let us set this before our eye as the end at which we ought constantly to aim. Let it be regarded as the goal towards which we are to run. For you cannot divide the matter with God, undertaking part of what his word enjoins, and omitting part at pleasure. For, in the first place, God uniformly recommends integrity as the principal part of his worship, meaning by integrity real singleness of mind, devoid of gloss and fiction, and to this is opposed a double mind; as if it had been said, that the spiritual commencement of a good life is when the internal affections are sincerely devoted to God, in the cultivation of holiness and justice. But seeing that, in this earthly prison of the body, no man is supplied with strength sufficient to hasten in his course with due alacrity, while the greater number are so oppressed with weakness, that hesitating, and halting, and even crawling on the ground, they make little progress, let every one of us go as far as his humble ability enables him, and prosecute the journey once begun. No one will travel so badly as not daily to make some degree of progress. This, therefore, let us never cease to do, that we may daily advance in the way of the Lord; and let us not despair because of the slender measure of success. How little soever the success may correspond with our wish, our labour is not lost when to-day is better than yesterday, provided with true singleness of mind we keep our aim, and aspire to the goal, not speaking flattering things to ourselves, nor indulging our vices, but making it our constant endeavour to become better, until we attain to goodness itself. If during the whole course of our life we seek and follow, we shall at length attain it, when relieved from the infirmity of flesh we are admitted to full fellowship with God.

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  183. RS: Your question demands an answer that will be sure to bring the derision of some, but that is okay. That may even be the motivation of the quesion. However, the heart is the issue. The mind reflects on what comes from the heart. We can assume that an erotic dream will either come from the evil one as temptation or from the secret desires of the heart. We can think of dreams as those things that come to us like evil thoughts do.

    Your opening sentence indicates that you’re not soliciting comments on your assumptions. But the biblicist psychology left me curious if there was such a thing as Christian phrenology back in the day.

    http://mirrors.syringanetworks.net/gutenberg/3/5/7/4/35748/35748-h/35748-h.htm
    http://archive.org/details/christianphrenol00clar

    Apparently the love organ (situated in the cerebellum) frequently diminishes in old age, PTL.

    Related story, my wife and I had our first child a few months ago. One of the most helpful resources for us was http://movies.netflix.com/WiMovie/National_Geographic_Science_of_Babies/70144620?locale=en-US. (Of course science is subject to the limitations of human knowledge, like ectypal theology. Somehow the latter doesn’t carry the same disclaimer.) Learning about our daughter’s neurological development has yielded far more parental insight than that offered by those who attempted to prooftext two-week old vipers into feeding schedules.

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  184. Erik Charter: Richie, In your entire ministerial career has anyone ever been able to successfully correct you on even a single point of theology? Humility is a virtue, isn’t it?

    RS: Erikie, I have moved on virtually every single thing I believe in terms of theology. Humility is not just wondering around with no strong beliefs.

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  185. D. G. Hart: Richard, I have no doubt that faculty psychology is part and parcel of Christian reflection. But figuring out what David, Paul, Aristotle, and Edwards mean by parts of the human person that are unobservable and largely matters of conjecture is different from saying your understanding of the heart, mind, soul — wait, which is it? — is biblical.

    RS: But when the Bible teaches on these issues, perhaps not all of it is a matter of conjecture. Then when the WCF teaches that the Bible teaches it, as a strong Confessionalist I would have thought that you would be moved to believe that it is biblical.

    D.G. Hart: Sometimes the light of nature has to order our considerations of the human person as much as it does the ordering of worship (WCF 1.6).

    RS: So, according to your position, the unbeliever has enough light to run a decent government and now it tells us a lot about the order of human beings. It may be that my deduction on this is wrong, but it does have the appearance of it. I much prefer the teaching of the Bible and good philosophers who believe the Bible (and some who don’t).

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  186. Erikie Charter: “Faculty psychology views the mind as a collection of separate modules or faculties assigned to various mental tasks. The view is explicit in the psychological writings of the medieval scholastic Theologians, such as Thomas Aquinas.”

    RS: That definition may have its own faults. Whatever the case, that was not the position I was espousing.

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  187. Richard, what’s it mean—to say nothing of the biblical and confessional proof—that God masters our dreams through the means of grace? I’m flummoxed. But by Jesus’ own hermeneutic in John 5:39 and Paul’s in 1 Cor 2, the heart of Christianity in both testaments is not to know God and seek him, but Christ and him crucified. That’s not to negate the former but to say it only comes by the latter.

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  188. So, I am curious why it is important to you to maintain that the holiness that increases within us is nearly impossible to detect. Do you find this in the confessions or Scriptures? I just can’t see how an increase in holiness will be nearly impossible to detect or understand why you are so concerned to raise this.

    Don, because on top of HC 114 I also read in 62 that “…that our best works in this life are all imperfect and defiled with sin,” in BC 24 that “…we do no work but what is polluted by our flesh,” and in WCF XIII.2 that “…yet imperfect in this life, there abiding still some remnants of corruption in every part; whence arises a continual and irreconcilable war, the flesh lusting against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh.” All of which not only resonates with personal experience, but also makes it hard to see how any increase in personal holiness would be closer to easy to discern than difficult.

    I also don’t see what’s to be gained by detecting personal holiness. Doesn’t Paul call for the self to diminish that Christ may increase? How can Christ increase with so much self-focus?

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  189. Zrim: I also don’t see what’s to be gained by detecting personal holiness. Doesn’t Paul call for the self to diminish that Christ may increase? How can Christ increase with so much self-focus?

    RS: The life of holiness is the increase of Christ in the person and in the church. One can only increase in holiness when self loses focus and Christ increases. I am not sure why you continue to think of holiness as self-focus. What is unmistakable, however, is that we are to grow in holiness.

    II Peter 1:4 For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.
    5 Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge,
    6 and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness,
    7 and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love.
    8 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
    9 For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins.

    2 Timothy 2:22 Now flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.

    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.

    Philippians 3:12 Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. 13 Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 15 Let us therefore, as many as are perfect, have this attitude; and if in anything you have a different attitude, God will reveal that also to you;

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  190. Richard, and I’m not sure why you continue to miss that growth in holiness isn’t opposed. It’s been conceded all along. What’s being opposed is the focus on personal holiness at the expense of a focus on Christ (full throttle personal holiness) or in conjunction with a focus on Christ (semi-personal holiness).

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  191. wjw: Do you believe sodomy is the same sin as fornication? The reason I ask is that God never demanded the DP for fornicators in the Mosaic Law, yet he did for men who lay with other men like a women. There wasn’t even a DP for prostitutes, unless they laid with a married man, why do you suppose that was the case?

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  192. D. G. Hart: Richard, do you prefer the Bible’s medicine to modern physicians? Lots of light out there from which we all benefit.

    RS: Of course I prefer the Bible’s medicine (Christ as the Physician) to the modern physicians. Dare I remind you that modern physicians still practice (as opposed to perfectly cure) and that modern science still is not certain of most things (except for evolution)?

    D.G. Hart: Embrace it (along with a drink).

    RS: If you will turn some water into wine (as in a miracle) I will drink that. But since the Bible does not command anyone to drink but instead warns of the dangers of it, and that of a far weaker type, I will refrain.

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  193. Z,

    You have not shown that our increase in holiness will be nearly impossible to detect, only that it will be impeded in this life, with which I agree.

    You ask what is to be gained by detecting personal holiness. According to Paul, what was gained by the apostles was the testimony to others that their behaviour was not by earthly wisdom but by the grace of God. According to 1 Cor 1:12, the apostles even boasted about this.

    Paul and Calvin both demonstrate that pursuing, demonstrating, and even boasting about holiness glorify Christ. I think you are ascribing a straw man caricature to those who advocate the pursuit of holiness as those who are focused on self glorification.

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  194. Rickie Ricardo – “RS: Erikie, I have moved on virtually every single thing I believe in terms of theology.”

    Tell me where you were at when you started. I might actually agree with that guy! What did you believe when you left RTS? When did Edwards get a hold of you?

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  195. D.G. – “wjw, no. Well, it’s better to reach me when I’m a reliable correspondent. I will reply.”

    Hilarious. I had a similar response when I sent a text to the neighborhood cat who keeps pawing through my garbage bags. Not even a meow in response.

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  196. Reading the blog banter on this thread I can’t help but envision members of the younger generation listening to the be-bop, yell/scream, bay-at-the-moon, singing-off-tune noise reminiscent of an expressway pile-up in slow motion, with eyes closed and hands in the air, believing they are engaging in activity that makes them more “holy.”

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  197. RS: I do not argue that the only thing that a person can do is study Scripture, prayer, and meditation. But I would ask why the desires of our hearts are not given to that more if we love God.

    AP: But that’s my point: because we love God we are thankful for all his blessings, not just the Bible.

    RS: But why do you want to do that [go for a drink]? Do you do those things out of love for God? Do you do those things out of a desire to glorify His name? Do you ever reach the end of a long day and desire to go and spend time with God?

    RS: Perhaps they should feel guilty for going to a bar. There is no command of God to go to a bar. What we do have are Scriptures telling us to pant after God as the deer pants for water in dry places. What we do have are Scriptures telling us that God should be the greatest desire, pleasure, and love of the soul. How much love for God will one find in a bar? Does the bar help a person grow in their love of God and holiness? See, I am not setting out rules, I am asking questions if the activity helps one toward fulfilling the Greatest Commandments.

    I Cor 6:8 ….

    RS: Let us take your position that going to a bar is lawful. Scripture asks you if it is profitable. Once again, I think the wrong question is being asked many times. It is not always if it is lawful, but if it is profitable. I might add the question is if it is spiritually profitable.

    RS: I have noticed that once people perceive another person as being judgmental they become very judgmental toward that person. I might also add that Jesus came across as annoyingly judgmental to the Pharisees and others at the time as well. So many read the parable where the Pharisee thanked God that he was not as that terrible sinner and look down their nose at all who preach or teach some type of holiness. They are then thanking God that they are not like that Pharisee and in doing so are just like the one they think they are condemning.

    AP: I’m guessing you’ve never been to a bar with friends: it might lighten the wallet a bit but it’s definitely profitable in a multitude of ways.

    Also, Jesus had a thing for making wine at parties and going to parties with sinners. It sounds like you might be uncomfortable with this. It made the Pharisees a bit uncomfortable. Maybe Christ should have been reading the Torrah and praying to the Father instead.

    Also, see 1 Timothy and Psalms 104 reference above.

    With all that said, an important related question (wjw) is whether or not studies or activities apart from Scripture are ever profitable. It seems that in your world the best Christian would shed all activities apart from Scripture, prayer, and meditation since everything else is profitless in comparison. Maybe not though…

    p.s. It’s PetersEn (Norwegian) not PetersOn (Swedish). As we like to say, a thousand Swedes ran through the weeds chased by one Norwegian.

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  198. Don, I’m not sure how you get boasting of personal holiness out of 1 Cor 1. The whole chapter is about setting a theology of the cross against a theology of glory, namely the worldly wisdom of philosophy against Christ and him crucified. But what is said of philosophy could also be said of personal holiness–both are manifestations of a theology of glory. This the part where philosophers charge anti-intellectualism and the holiness personnel charge anti-nomianism. But Paul couldn’t be more clear about boasting when he ends the whole thing by boasting not in holiness but in Christ: “And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

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  199. Don & Richard,

    It’s about Jesus. Us looking like Jesus is valid, but secondary. Jesus living in us is valid, but secondary, Society looking like Jesus is tertiary (at best). Reformed people are all about Jesus. Look to Jesus.

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  200. Was with my aunt today. Background in Kansas City area charismatic churches. Prophecy, gifts of the Spirit, etc. She told me her beliefs were pretty basic — Jesus died on the Cross to save us from our sins. I couldn’t argue. We get along great.

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  201. Z,

    I meant to cite 2 Cor 1:12, “Now this is our boast: Our conscience testifies that we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially in our relations with you, with integrity[a] and godly sincerity. We have done so, relying not on worldly wisdom but on God’s grace.”

    Here is how Calvin addresses the very same objection you raise:

    But how does Paul’s glorying in his integrity comport with that statement, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord?   (2 Corinthians 10:17.)    Besides, who is so upright as to dare to boast in the presence of   God? In the first place, Paul does not oppose himself to God, as though he had anything that was his own, or that was from himself. Farther, he does not place the foundation of his salvation in that integrity to which he lays claim, nor does he make confidence in that the ground of his dependence. Lastly, he does not glory in God’s gifts in such a way as not at the same time to render all the glory to him as their sole Author, and ascribe everything to him.

    Interestingly enough, Calvin also addresses your accusation that his focus on holiness confounds the present life (theology of the cross) with that of glory in the ICR, Book 3, Chapter 3, section 9:

    The greater is the effrontery of an impure raver and apostate, named Staphylus, who pretends that I confound the condition of the present life with the celestial glory, when, after Paul, I make the image of God to consist in righteousness and true holiness; as if in every definition it were not necessary to take the thing defined in its integrity and perfection. It is not denied that there is room for improvement; but what I maintain is, that the nearer any one approaches in resemblance to God, the more does the image of God appear in him. That believers may attain to it, God assigns repentance as the goal towards which they must keep running during the whole course of their lives.

    The theology I so often see touted on this blog is more reminiscent of the condescending, black-and/or-white thinking I used to hear from the White Horse Inn rather than the very nuanced teaching of Calvin and Scripture itself.

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  202. Don – “The greater is the effrontery of an impure raver and apostate, named Staphylus”

    Zrim, I think Don just compared you to some guy in Calvin’s day whose name sounds like some awful venereal disease.

    Don – “The theology I so often see touted on this blog is more reminiscent of the condescending, black-and/or-white thinking I used to hear from the White Horse Inn.”

    Yeah, some of the guys on WHI are black and some are white, so what?

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  203. Erik Charter: 1 Timothy 5:23, Rico – a command to drink some wine! Wiggle out of that one, buddy!

    RS: Erika, that was a specific command to a specific person in a specific historical setting. We cannot take God’s command to Abraham to take his son and offer him as a burnt offering as a command to us.

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  204. Adam Petersen: I’m guessing you’ve never been to a bar with friends: it might lighten the wallet a bit but it’s definitely profitable in a multitude of ways.

    RS: So going to a bar and having drinks is spiritually profitable. I take it that you just came from there.

    Adam Petersen: Also, Jesus had a thing for making wine at parties and going to parties with sinners. It sounds like you might be uncomfortable with this. It made the Pharisees a bit uncomfortable. Maybe Christ should have been reading the Torrah and praying to the Father instead.

    RS: You might want to think through you statement here. He turned water into wine in order to display His glory and that was one of the signs that He did. You can term what He did as going to parties, but I doubt that what He did at those things were what people today think of as parties. If you recall people went to Him all the time wanting to hear Him speak the words of God.

    Adam Petersen: Also, see 1 Timothy and Psalms 104 reference above.

    RS: Yes, Paul told Timothy to drink some wine and not just water for the sake of his stomach. A common practice then before the days of water purification. In reference to Psalms 104, it does not say how much wine a person drank. It certainly does not condone going to bars to drink it.

    Adam Petersen: With all that said, an important related question (wjw) is whether or not studies or activities apart from Scripture are ever profitable. It seems that in your world the best Christian would shed all activities apart from Scripture, prayer, and meditation since everything else is profitless in comparison. Maybe not though…

    RS: I did not say those things.

    Eph 5:3 But immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints;
    4 and there must be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks.
    5 For this you know with certainty, that no immoral or impure person or covetous man, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.
    6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.
    7 Therefore do not be partakers with them;
    8 for you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light
    9 (for the fruit of the Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth),
    10 trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord.
    11 Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them;
    12 for it is disgraceful even to speak of the things which are done by them in secret.
    13 But all things become visible when they are exposed by the light, for everything that becomes visible is light.
    14 For this reason it says, “Awake, sleeper, And arise from the dead, And Christ will shine on you.”
    15 Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise,
    16 making the most of your time, because the days are evil.
    17 So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.
    18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit,
    19 speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord;

    Adam Petersen: p.s. It’s PetersEn (Norwegian) not PetersOn (Swedish). As we like to say, a thousand Swedes ran through the weeds chased by one Norwegian.

    RS: Wow, he must have smelled really bad.

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  205. Erik Charter: Don & Richard,

    It’s about Jesus. Us looking like Jesus is valid, but secondary. Jesus living in us is valid, but secondary, Society looking like Jesus is tertiary (at best). Reformed people are all about Jesus. Look to Jesus.

    RS: Where do you look, Erik? What are you looking for? What would He look like?

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  206. Don, so now you’re proof-texting? I thought the Reformed looked at whole chunks. I still don’t see how the verse you cite props up the sort of personal holiness Richard represents. But like I’ve already said to Richard, I’m not pushing back against sanctification but against an undue focus on sanctification. So far, I haven’t seen your side of the table even admit that there is such a thing.

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  207. Richard – “Where do you look, Erik?”

    Erik – The preaching of the Word & the administration of the sacraments. That is where we see Christ.

    Feel free to keep seeking Christ in your navel, though, if that is what makes you happy. You are being an Omphaloskepsistic Christian, however.

    Omphaloskepsis is contemplation of one’s navel as an aid to meditation.

    The word comes from Greek omphalos (navel) + skepsis (act of looking, examination). Similar words are “omphaloskeptic” (one who engages in the practice) and “omphaloskeptical” (related to contemplation of one’s navel).

    Actual use of the practice as an aid to contemplation of basic principles of the cosmos and human nature is found in the practice of yoga of Hinduism and sometimes in the Eastern Orthodox Church Some consider the navel to be “a powerful chakra of the body”.

    However, phrases such as “contemplating one’s navel” or “navel-gazing” are frequently used, usually in jocular fashion, to refer to self-absorbed pursuits. This criticism is often leveled at professions interested in themselves: movies about Hollywood, for example, or television shows about television writers.

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  208. Richard,

    The gospel is outside of you. It is something that took place between the Father and the Son. You reap the benefits of it if you have true faith. You twist it and needlessly complicate it if you claim otherwise.

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  209. Richard,

    If you say the gospel is Jesus in your heart and you trust yourself to discern whether or not Jesus is in your heart, how do you know you aren’t deceiving yourself by discerning he is in your heart when he really isn’t? An unsaved person wrongly seeing Jesus in his own heart would be very consistent with being unsaved.

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  210. Richard,

    You may look at your works (your interaction here, for instance, which you think is righteous and truth-expounding) and see that as evidence that Jesus is in your heart. I may look at your works (your interaction here, which I think is stubborn, prideful, quarrelsome, gospel twisting, etc.) and see that as evidence that Jesus is not in your heart. You look at your perception of subjective things, I look at my perception of subjective things. We are at a stalemate as to whether Jesus is in your heart with no authoritative tie-breaker.

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  211. It really cracks me up.

    Folks who list all the stuff that we ought be doing, and how we ought be living, and then they just rock along and live exactly like they’ve always been living ‘me first’…and tip their hat to God.

    I think there’s a parable in the Bible about people like that. “Oh yes, Father, I will go and work in the vineyard.”

    LOL.

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  212. Well this is interesting. So Don is opposed to the emphasis on law/gospel and forensic justification on WHI and tries to marry what he champions to Calvin and a more ontological focus, ala CTC and the prot-catholics. I’ll take that juxtaposition. Though we will take back Calvin in support of our position;

    “If we seek redemption, it lies in his passion; if acquittal, in his condemnation; if remission of the curse, in his cross; if satisfaction, in his sacrifice; if purification, in his blood; if reconciliation, in his descent into hell; if mortification of the flesh, in his tomb; if newness of life, in his resurrection; if immortality, in the same; if inheritance of all blessings, in his Kingdom; if untroubled expectation of judgment, in the power given to him to judge. In short, since rich store of every kind of good abounds in him, let us drink our fill from this fountain, and from no other. (Inst. 2.16.19)

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  213. Richard,

    A specific command to a specific person in a specific historical setting? So how do you distinguish when a command is historical and when a command is trans-historical or universal? Looks like your tightroping your biblicism again. Same cup-de-sac as trying to explain the biblical account of the soul with epistemology. Demand holiness with appeals to the text and then jump outside of the text when the going gets dodgy. Be consistent.

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  214. wjw: Richard, A specific command to a specific person in a specific historical setting? So how do you distinguish when a command is historical and when a command is trans-historical or universal?

    RS: In this case, Paul wrote and spoke specifically to Timothy and told him the reason that he should drink a little wine with his water is because of his stomach. I don’t see that as a universal command and am not sure how it could be interpreted as such.
    1 Timothy 5:23 “No longer drink water exclusively, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments.”

    WJW: Looks like your tightroping your biblicism again.

    RS: How is trying to look at a text in its own context tightroping?

    WJW: Same cup-de-sac as trying to explain the biblical account of the soul with epistemology.

    RS: I suppose one could try to explain things without any epistemology, but it appears rather hard to strive to gain knowledge without knowledge. However, I am not sure where you came up with that.

    WJW: Demand holiness with appeals to the text and then jump outside of the text when the going gets dodgy. Be consistent.

    RS: But I am being consistent. It is treating the text with respect and simply looking at what it says in its own context. Paul was speaking to Timothy quite specifically and told him to use a little wine and not water exclusively because Timothy had some stomach troubles. That is not a universal command. One can develop a few priniciples from it, but that would not make it a universal command. If person A is having stomach troubles caused by drinking water exclusively, then drink a little wine for the sake of the ailments. But I was told that the text was a command and so all should drink wine. The text does not do that.

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  215. Zrim: I still don’t see how the verse you cite props up the sort of personal holiness Richard represents. But like I’ve already said to Richard, I’m not pushing back against sanctification but against an undue focus on sanctification. So far, I haven’t seen your side of the table even admit that there is such a thing.

    RS: What kind of personal holiness do you think I represent? So far you have not presented anything I have said with any degree of accuracy. By the way, I am not complaining, but at this point I really am wondering what you think I am saying.

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  216. Erik Charter quoting Richard – “Where do you look, Erik?”

    Erik – The preaching of the Word & the administration of the sacraments. That is where we see Christ.

    RS: Really, does the Bible really teach that?

    Erik: Feel free to keep seeking Christ in your navel, though, if that is what makes you happy. You are being an Omphaloskepsistic Christian, however. Omphaloskepsis is contemplation of one’s navel as an aid to meditation.

    The word comes from Greek omphalos (navel) + skepsis (act of looking, examination). Similar words are “omphaloskeptic” (one who engages in the practice) and “omphaloskeptical” (related to contemplation of one’s navel).

    Actual use of the practice as an aid to contemplation of basic principles of the cosmos and human nature is found in the practice of yoga of Hinduism and sometimes in the Eastern Orthodox Church Some consider the navel to be “a powerful chakra of the body”.

    However, phrases such as “contemplating one’s navel” or “navel-gazing” are frequently used, usually in jocular fashion, to refer to self-absorbed pursuits. This criticism is often leveled at professions interested in themselves: movies about Hollywood, for example, or television shows about television writers.

    RS: Erik, the only way you could come up with what you have just written is by examining your own navel. I have not written anything that a person making honest deductions could come up with the things you have just written.

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  217. Richard, the kind of personal holiness that suggests laze and disobedience (at best) and latent Romanism (at worst) when prioritizing Word and sacrament to create and sustain faith.

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  218. Erik Charter: Richard, The gospel is outside of you. It is something that took place between the Father and the Son. You reap the benefits of it if you have true faith. You twist it and needlessly complicate it if you claim otherwise.

    RS: Erik, wake up. As an example of just one aspect of the Gospel, look at propitiation. You say look outside of me. Fine, okay. But if the wrath of God is not really removed from me and my conscience and heart are not really cleansed so that Christ will then take His place in His temple, then what on earth are you talking about? If the Gospel is not truly applied by the Holy Spirit, then how is the Gospel good news to my soul? You can chant all day that the Gospel is outside of a person, but until the work of the Holy Spirit actually happens in the soul then the message of the Gospel is just words to that person. The good news of the Gospel is not just a message of words, it is about what God will do in the soul. Read the WLC and look at what grace actually does.

    Q. 32. How is the grace of God manifested in the second covenant?

    A. The grace of God is manifested in the second covenant, in that he freely provideth and offereth to sinners a Mediator,[115] and life and salvation by him;[116] and requiring faith as the condition to interest them in him,[117] promiseth and giveth his Holy Spirit[118] to all his elect, to work in them that faith,[119] with all other saving graces;[120] and to enable them unto all holy obedience,[121] as the evidence of the truth of their faith[122] and thankfulness to God,[123] and as the way which he hath appointed them to salvation.[124]

    RS: Notice a few things here. In this God promises AND gives His Holy Spirit to all His elect to work faith and all other saving graces. God promises AND gives His Holy Spirit to enable them unto all holy obedience. Is that just outside? No, the believer is the temple of the Holy Spirit and Christ dwells in those whom He has saved.

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  219. Erik Charter: Richard, If you say the gospel is Jesus in your heart and you trust yourself to discern whether or not Jesus is in your heart, how do you know you aren’t deceiving yourself by discerning he is in your heart when he really isn’t? An unsaved person wrongly seeing Jesus in his own heart would be very consistent with being unsaved.

    RS: That is why a person uses Scripture and prayer seeking the Holy Spirit for spiritual illumination. But remember, there are many people who hear “sermons” and take the Supper who are quite deceived as well.

    Matthew 7:22 “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?’

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  220. Erik Charter: Richard, You may look at your works (your interaction here, for instance, which you think is righteous and truth-expounding) and see that as evidence that Jesus is in your heart. I may look at your works (your interaction here, which I think is stubborn, prideful, quarrelsome, gospel twisting, etc.) and see that as evidence that Jesus is not in your heart.

    RS: So now you are looking into the hearts of people and even making judgments over the internet? Hmmm, and I advocate helping people examine their hearts in person and you blast me for that?

    Erik: You look at your perception of subjective things, I look at my perception of subjective things. We are at a stalemate as to whether Jesus is in your heart with no authoritative tie-breaker.

    RS: That is why one must go to the Scriptures and pray for the illumination of the Spirit. I am not looking at it as subjective things, but as objective things (to repeat). You claim to have a Gospel that is outside of you and who else can see that? You just claim it. But the Bible says that Christ changes hearts and dwells in His people. It also shows us how to determine those things, though indeed not something that can be done over the internet. So your view leads you to have nothing but your subjective claim and my view allows for an objective work of God in the soul. But the reason that I claim that there is the objective work of God in the soul is because the Bible teaches it. The Bible does not know of a Gospel that is simply out there somewhere. It is a Gospel of Jesus Christ that He accomplished in history, but what He accomplished must be applied. One can believe the facts of what He did in history and be just like the devil who also believes the fact of history. But the real issue is the Gospel that is applied to the human heart and that God Himself dwells in man. Yes, as the old writer Scougal put it, it is “The Life of God in the Soul of Man.”

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  221. Zrim: Richard, the kind of personal holiness that suggests laze and disobedience (at best) and latent Romanism (at worst) when prioritizing Word and sacrament to create and sustain faith.

    RS: Sigh. Well, nothing like taking a few words out of context and then sticking with them to misunderstand another. But if you expect Word and Sacrament to create and sustain faith, however, you might think through that again. It is actually the Holy Spirit who sovereignly and freely gives faith as He pleases while using the means He pleases as He pleases.

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  222. Sean and Z,

    Again, you commit a false dilemna falacy. Calvin is not afraid that our focus on holiness will take our focus away from Christ, but just the opposite. I could cite a hundred quotes from Calvin that explicitly challenge your black and white thinkiing, but let these few suffice:

    In short, the more a man studies to conform his life to the standard of the divine law, the surer signs he gives of his repentance.

    Moreover if it is true, and nothing can be more certain, than that a complete summary of
    the Gospel is included under these two heads—viz. repentance and the remission of sins, do we
    not see that the Lord justifies his people freely, and at the same time renews them to true holiness. by the sanctification of his Spirit?

    When mention is made of our union with God, let us remember that holiness must be the bond; not that by the merit of holiness we come into communion with him (we ought rather first to cleave to him, in order that, pervaded with his holiness, we may follow whither he calls), but because it greatly concerns his glory not to have any fellowship with wickedness and impurity. Wherefore he tells us that this (i.e., holiness) is the end of our calling, the end to which we ought ever to have respect, if we would answer the call of God. For to what end were we rescued from the iniquity and pollution of the world into which we were plunged, if we allow ourselves, during our whole lives, to wallow in them?

    the spiritual commencement of a good life is when the internal affections are sincerely devoted to God, in the cultivation of holiness and justice.

    There is nothing more that could be said than that which has already been said to dissuade you from your argument based on a false dilemna.

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  223. Richard – You speak of things that are the effects of the gospel when it is embraced in faith, but not the gospel itself. This is why I say that you twist the gospel here – day, after day, after day.

    When a believer professes faith he or she has elders to practice church discipline should they stray and sin without repentance. Lone Ranger Christians seeking spiritual illumination within themselves is not a substutute. Who are the pastors and elders that you are accountable to? What other pastors and elders are they accountable to?

    Where do you see the doctrine of “spiritual illumination” in the way you speak of it in the Bible? That sounds kind of Eastern.

    Note that Matthew 7:22 speaks of works, not faith. The problem with those people was not that they had not probed the depths of their souls regularly, it was that they had works but not faith.

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  224. Richard, now what are you talking about? Belgic 33 clearly states:

    We believe that our good God, mindful of our crudeness and weakness, has ordained sacraments for us to seal his promises in us, to pledge his good will and grace toward us, and also to nourish and sustain our faith.

    He has added these to the Word of the gospel to represent better to our external senses both what he enables us to understand by his Word and what he does inwardly in our hearts, confirming in us the salvation he imparts to us.

    For they are visible signs and seals of something internal and invisible, by means of which God works in us through the power of the Holy Spirit. So they are not empty and hollow signs to fool and deceive us, for their truth is Jesus Christ, without whom they would be nothing.

    Sure sounds like Word and sacrament create and sustain faith, and that by the power of the Spirit.

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  225. Richard – So now you are looking into the hearts of people and even making judgments over the internet? Hmmm, and I advocate helping people examine their hearts in person and you blast me for that?

    Erik – Yes. I can use my system to shoot you down or I can use your system to shoot you down. Your choice.

    We both believe that God does a work in the soul, but the question is, why do you always lead with that? Why do you constantly harp on that? Why are you here? What is the axe you are grinding against Old School P&R people? Why won’t you answer questions about your time at RTS? Who has put this burden to shoot us down upon you? Time to come clean, Mr. Smith.

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  226. Richard – But if you expect Word and Sacrament to create and sustain faith, however, you might think through that again. It is actually the Holy Spirit who sovereignly and freely gives faith as He pleases while using the means He pleases as He pleases.

    Erik – So now you are preaching a doctrine of the Holy Spirit working apart from Word & Sacrament?

    Why even bother going to church? Maybe that’s your goal since you’re so down on most churches?

    If it’s all “As He Pleases” apart from any God-ordained means, then why even bother examining yourself to see if he’s there. You can’t do anything about it one way or another. Why not just watch movies and go to the bar?

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  227. Richard,

    You’re a weird combo of Reformed, Baptist, Biblicist, Fundamentalist, & Pentecostal but I don’t think your “system” coheres because you can’t point to how it actually works out in actual, visible churches in the world today (or even in history?). Individual people typing stuff on a blog does not a systematic theology or a church make. Those of us who hold to The Three Forms or the Westminster Standards have a theology that is time tested, in real churches, with real Christians, over hundreds of years. Why would we trade that for what you are peddling?

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  228. Richard,

    You cite Westminster 32. The order there is (1) Christ’s work, (2) faith, (3) The Holy Spirit, (4) holy obedience.

    So why do you always lead with and focus on (3) & (4) while either assuming or neglecting (1) & (2)? It’s like sitting down to dinner, skipping the meat & potatoes, and having dessert & an after-dinner drink (I know you would never do that). What’s up with this hobby horse? What motivates it?

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  229. Richard,

    I would encourage you to abandon your effort to persuade those who are not willing to listen to sound reasoning. It will only frustrate you and tempt you to dispair. If you are interested in blogs that foster thoughtful dialogue and respect for one another’s views, I suggest Christian in America for a modern pro two kingdom perspective (i.e., church/civil) and The Calvinist International for a traditional pro two kingdom perspective (i.e., spritual/temporal).

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  230. Question 21. What is true faith?

    Answer: True faith is not only a certain knowledge, whereby I hold for truth all that God has revealed to us in his word, but also an assured confidence, which the Holy Ghost works by the gospel in my heart; that not only to others, but to me also, remission of sin, everlasting righteousness and salvation, are freely given by God, merely of grace, only for the sake of Christ’s merits.

    Question 60. How are thou righteous before God?

    Answer: Only by a true faith in Jesus Christ; so that, though my conscience accuse me, that I have grossly transgressed all the commandments of God, and kept none of them, and am still inclined to all evil; notwithstanding, God, without any merit of mine, but only of mere grace, grants and imputes to me, the perfect satisfaction, righteousness and holiness of Christ; even so, as if I never had had, nor committed any sin: yea, as if I had fully accomplished all that obedience which Christ has accomplished for me; inasmuch as I embrace such benefit with a believing heart.

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  231. Note that the Holy Ghost works “by the gospel”. The Holy Ghost working is not the gospel, however.

    Also note that Question 60 (which summarizes the gospel) does not mention the Holy Ghost working.

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  232. Don,

    The point of citing Calvin was to counter your charge against an overemphasis of Justification at the expense of ‘holiness’ or sanctification(or a WHI black and white illegitimacy). Calvin, as well as the confessions, as well as somebody of a more puritan stripe like Owen(mortification) grounds our sanctification in the legal and spiritual reality of adoption and in response to our justification (righteousness) in Christ by faith.

    WCF XII:
    All those that are justified, God vouchsafes, in and for His only Son Jesus Christ, to make partakers of the grace of adoption,[1] by which they are taken into the number, and enjoy the liberties and privileges of the children of God,[2] have His name put upon them,[3] receive the spirit of adoption,[4] have access to the throne of grace with boldness,[5] are enabled to cry, Abba, Father,[6] are pitied,[7] protected,[8] provided for,[9] and chastened by Him as by a Father:[10] yet never cast off,[11] but sealed to the day of redemption;[12] and inherit the promises,[13] as heirs of everlasting salvation.[14]

    It’s not accidental that the chapters on justification and adoption precede sanctification

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  233. Don, you seem to think the point is to delete sanctification. It’s not. It’s to say that sanctification necessarily flows from justification. How is that so black and white? You complain there is no nuance over here, but how is to make a point about priority not nuance? Still, I also don’t see anything you’ve provided from Calvin that makes the case for prioritizing personal holiness and the Spirit within instead of Christ and him crucified without.

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  234. Sean – “It’s not accidental that the chapters on justification and adoption precede sanctification”

    Erik – The Heidelberg has the same order – Guilt, Grace, Gratitude. The grace section is the longest.

    Like the cow in Napoleon Dynamite that has wandered off into the onion patch, Don & Richard have wandered off into an unbalanced approach to the Confessions. Napoleon detected the onion when he sampled the milk. We detect the wandering when we read their posts. Napoleon was in FFA, We are in OLA (Old-Lifers of America).

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  235. Sean and Z,

    You seem to assume that because justification comes before sanctification, that our focus on and response to justification are the basis of/motivation for our sanctification. Calvin is showing, on the other hand, that holiness is the bond of our communion with God and the end which we ought ever to have respect. This places the motivation of our sanctification on our desire for closer communion with God, not that He has reconciled us to Him through justification by faith.

    If you say that it is our justification by faith that awakens our desire for communion with God, I could go along with you. In that case, it would not be our justification, but the fruit of our justification that motivates us to greater holiness.

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  236. Don: This places the motivation of our sanctification on our desire for closer communion with God, not that He has reconciled us to Him through justification by faith.

    Me: This just completely bypasses the person and work of Christ.
    More Calvin;

    “No portion of righteousness sets our consciences at peace until it has been determined that we are pleasing to God, because we are entirely righteous before him. From this it follows that the doctrine of justification is perverted and utterly overthrown when doubt is thrust into men’s minds, when the assurance of salvation is shaken and the free and fearless calling upon God suffers hindrance – nay, when peace and tranquility with spiritual joy are not established. Thence Paul argues from contraries that the inheritance does not come from the law [Gal.3:18], for in this way “faith would be nullified” [Rom.4:14, cf. Vg.]. For faith totters if it pays attention to works, since no one, even of the most holy, will find there anything on which to rely.” – Institutes, Book III, Ch.XI.11

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  237. wjw: Richard, How do you distinguish when a command is historical and when a command is trans-historical or universal?

    RS: It was spoken to a specific person and given specific reasons for that specific person.

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  238. Good word Don, and may I add, I think definitive sanctification is being confused as justification in this debate. Definitive sanctification is Christ breaking the power of sin in our life at conversion, which is distinct from our on going sanctification.

    Doesn’t everyone believe in two aspects of sanctification?

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  239. Don – “If you say that it is our justification by faith that awakens our desire for communion with God, I could go along with you.”

    Erik – Being that we are dead (like a corpse) in our sins prior to our being justified, I’m not sure what is there just waiting to be awakened.

    You’re not a good person who is merely improved by the gospel, Don. If you were, then it wouldn’t truly be the gospel. It would be more like what Robert Schuller taught.

    Your second setence of the second paragraph is sound, but your second sentence contradicts your first sentence.

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  240. Zrim: Richard, now what are you talking about? Belgic 33 clearly states:
    Sure sounds like Word and sacrament create and sustain faith, and that by the power of the Spirit.

    RS: Indeed, by the power of the Spirit. You did not mention that earlier. Instead, you said faith was created by Word and Sacrament.

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  241. Erik Charter: Richard – You speak of things that are the effects of the gospel when it is embraced in faith, but not the gospel itself. This is why I say that you twist the gospel here – day, after day, after day.

    RS: No, Erik, the Gospel is not good news if it is just floating around out there. It is good news when it is applied and the heart is changed. It is not good news to hear that my heart needs to be changed and that there is a remedy, but it is good news when the remedy is applied.

    Erik: When a believer professes faith he or she has elders to practice church discipline should they stray and sin without repentance. Lone Ranger Christians seeking spiritual illumination within themselves is not a substutute. Who are the pastors and elders that you are accountable to? What other pastors and elders are they accountable to?

    Where do you see the doctrine of “spiritual illumination” in the way you speak of it in the Bible? That sounds kind of Eastern.

    RS: 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.

    Erik: Note that Matthew 7:22 speaks of works, not faith. The problem with those people was not that they had not probed the depths of their souls regularly, it was that they had works but not faith.

    RS: But, Erik, James is quite clear that faith without works is dead. So how will you be able to tell amongst the folks that have works whether or not they have faith?

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  242. The biggest thing that bugged me about the E-Free Church I was in prior to seeking out a Reformed Church was the notion that the gospel was about making nice people nicer. Absolutely drove me nuts. Meanwhile people in the congregation are getting divorced, sleeping around, teens are getting pregnant. No church discipline, pastor is being a total wimp, and a continuing message about the gospel making nice people nicer.

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  243. Erik Charter: Richard, You’re a weird combo of Reformed, Baptist, Biblicist, Fundamentalist, & Pentecostal but I don’t think your “system” coheres because you can’t point to how it actually works out in actual, visible churches in the world today (or even in history?). Individual people typing stuff on a blog does not a systematic theology or a church make. Those of us who hold to The Three Forms or the Westminster Standards have a theology that is time tested, in real churches, with real Christians, over hundreds of years. Why would we trade that for what you are peddling?

    RS: Erik, to be blunt, you can claim your creeds if you want, but understanding them is quite a different thing. You certainly don’t understand what I have been setting out. It is quite in line with the WCF and most of the Three Forms. The fact that you don’t get that does not make me weird, though I admit that I am weird in many ways.

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  244. Erik Charter: The biggest thing that bugged me about the E-Free Church I was in prior to seeking out a Reformed Church was the notion that the gospel was about making nice people nicer. Absolutely drove me nuts.

    RS: That explains a lot.

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  245. Erik – So now you are preaching a doctrine of the Holy Spirit working apart from Word & Sacrament?

    RS: Erik, you might learn to read a bit closer. I was responding to a comment of a person that said that the Word and sacrament created faith. My comment had to do with the fact that they cannot create faith but instead that the Holy Spirit did that. I did not say that the Spirit works apart from Word and Spirit. I will assert that the Spirit, in order to create faith in regeneration, uses the Word to do so. Context, context, context.

    Erik: Why even bother going to church? Maybe that’s your goal since you’re so down on most churches?

    RS: You are ranting because you are not reading things in context.

    Erik: If it’s all “As He Pleases” apart from any God-ordained means, then why even bother examining yourself to see if he’s there. You can’t do anything about it one way or another. Why not just watch movies and go to the bar?

    RS: You are ranting because you are not reading things in context.

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  246. Erik Charter: Note that the Holy Ghost works “by the gospel”. The Holy Ghost working is not the gospel, however.

    RS: Galatians 3:13-14 tells me that Christ purchased the Holy Spirit for His people. The New Covenant teaches me that God puts His law in the minds of His people and writes them on their hearts. The WCF tells me that God promises to work faith in His elect by His Holy Spirit. So I either believe that I can work faith in my own heart or I look to the promises of God to do so.

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  247. Erik Charter: The biggest thing that bugged me about the E-Free Church I was in prior to seeking out a Reformed Church was the notion that the gospel was about making nice people nicer. Absolutely drove me nuts. Meanwhile people in the congregation are getting divorced, sleeping around, teens are getting pregnant. No church discipline, pastor is being a total wimp, and a continuing message about the gospel making nice people nicer.

    RS: So the Gospel is about making people meaner? I thought you said that the Gospel was totally outside the person? What is wrong with divorce and sleeping around since according to you the Gospel is totally outside the person? How does the Gospel change people if it does not change their hearts, which I might add is not outside them?

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  248. More Calvin on priority of Justification to Sanctification;

    [W]hen it is a question of the founding and establishing of their own salvation, [the Saints,] without regard for works turn their eyes solely to God’s goodness. Not only do they betake themselves to it before all things as to the beginning of blessedness but they repose in it as in the fulfillment of this. A conscience so founded, erected, and established is established also in the consideration of works, so far, that is, as these are testimonies of God dwelling and ruling in us. Inasmuch, therefore, as this reliance upon works has no place UNLESS YOU FIRST cast the whole confidence of your mind upon God’s mercy, it ought not to seem contrary to that upon which it depends.[18]

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  249. Richard Smith – “the Gospel is not good news if it is just floating around out there.”

    Erik – But it’s not floating around. It is anchored in time and space – 2,000 years ago when Jesus was crucified and was resurrected. It’s very objective and doesn’t need your help to be discerned. It’s good news for those who embrace it in faith.

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  250. Richard – “You are ranting because you are not reading things in context.”

    Erik – For once Richard doesn’t have an answer. When do we get the story of what happened at RTS?

    You do not teach according to the Three Forms. There is very little in the Three Forms about the Holy Spirit, much less making subjective determinations about what the Holy Spirit is doing in you or others. You are not being truthful when you claim to teach according to the Three Forms. And I haven’t even talked about Baptism.

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  251. Richard – So the Gospel is about making people meaner?

    Erik – No, definitely not. It’s about Christ saving bad people from their sins through his work on the cross.

    Richard – I thought you said that the Gospel was totally outside the person?

    Erik – It is. I wasn’t on the cross with Jesus 2,000 years ago.

    Richard – What is wrong with divorce and sleeping around since according to you the Gospel is totally outside the person?

    Erik – Non-sequitur. They are wrong because they are violations of God’s law.

    Richard – How does the Gospel change people if it does not change their hearts, which I might add is not outside them?

    Erik – Those whom God justifies through the gospel He also sanctifies.

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  252. Galatians 3: 10-14 – Great gospel passage. Holy Spirit comes at the end. Richard – your attempt to put the Holy Spirit at the center of what the gospel is is doomed to failure – because the Bible itself doesn’t do it. You’re out of balance.

    For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.” But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.” Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”—so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.

    (Galatians 3:10-14 ESV)

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  253. Richard,

    In general, how do you distinguish when a command is historical and when a command is trans-historical or universal?

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  254. Richard – RS: Galatians 3:13-14 tells me that Christ purchased the Holy Spirit for His people. The New Covenant teaches me that God puts His law in the minds of His people and writes them on their hearts. The WCF tells me that God promises to work faith in His elect by His Holy Spirit. So I either believe that I can work faith in my own heart or I look to the promises of God to do so.

    Erik – No where in what you cite is the Holy Spirit or what the Holy Spirit does called the gospel. If what the Holy Spirit does is the gospel then why did Jesus have to die on the cross?

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  255. Richard,

    Did you notice Paul saying this prior to your 1 Cor. 2 passage?:

    “For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.”
    (1 Corinthians 2:2 ESV)

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  256. Erik says: The WCF tells me that God promises to work faith in His elect by His Holy Spirit. So I either believe that I can work faith in my own heart or I look to the promises of God to do so.

    Erik does it have to an either, or? Can’t you do both? Listen to Paul’s exhortation:

    “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”

    That would seem to suggest that because God is working in us, we need all the more to press on all the more, no? What am I missing?

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  257. wjw, May I chime in? Brother, I’d say the answer to you query to Richard, is that you need wisdom to discern the difference. James says that if anyone lacks wisdom let him ask of God in faith with all humility and he will pour it to you with no reproach, so that you lack in nothing.

    God bless you

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  258. Doug,

    The confessions primarily regard sanctification as progressive. I understand the attempt to rewrite the ordo salutis according to mystical or existential union, and setting on an even keel every other benefit accrued because of it. However, the confessions don’t generally speak in this manner about sanctification and this ‘reordering’ of the ordo, is dubious. The reformed have traditionally spoke of a priority of justification to sanctification in terms of logical movement, and I’m convinced it is the Pauline structure from Law/Gospel distinctions to indicative/imperative construction of the epistles.

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  259. Doug,

    So how does one know when they have this wisdom and/or discernment? The Bible contains a lot of commands. Richard admonishes the pursuit of holiness. He also says Paul’s admonishment that Timothy drink wine is a specific case of a command limited by historical context. So what about other commands? Are the commands given at Sinai limited to their historical context? What about love your neighbor as yourself? How do I pursue holiness if I can’t distinguish between a specific command trapped in history and a command that transcends history? Worse, what do I do if I lack wisdom?

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  260. Erik Charter quoting Richard Smith – “the Gospel is not good news if it is just floating around out there.”

    Erik – But it’s not floating around. It is anchored in time and space – 2,000 years ago when Jesus was crucified and was resurrected. It’s very objective and doesn’t need your help to be discerned. It’s good news for those who embrace it in faith.

    RS: So the Gospel is good news to those who by their free-will embrace it in faith? If that is not what you mean, then the Gospel includes the work of God in giving a believing heart. The WCF also taught that.

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  261. Richard – So the Gospel is good news to those who by their free-will embrace it in faith? If that is not what you mean, then the Gospel includes the work of God in giving a believing heart. The WCF also taught that.

    Erik – No. It’s for the elect. The problem with your gospel formulation is it always leads back to you (or someone like you) having to help the person discern whether or not they have a believing heart, which is no better than the Priestcraft that Rome offers up. Not buying.

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  262. Erik Charter quoting Richard – So the Gospel is good news to those who by their free-will embrace it in faith? If that is not what you mean, then the Gospel includes the work of God in giving a believing heart. The WCF also taught that.

    Erik – No. It’s for the elect. The problem with your gospel formulation is it always leads back to you (or someone like you) having to help the person discern whether or not they have a believing heart, which is no better than the Priestcraft that Rome offers up. Not buying.

    RS: No, Erik, it is nothing like Rome. It is that thing you you harp on so much about being under elders and the like.

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  263. Sean, your perspective doesn’t seem to jibe with the WCF XIII on sanctification:

    1. They who are effectually called and regenerated, having a new heart and a new spirit created in them, are farther sanctified really and personally, through the virtue of Christ’s death and resurrection, by his word, and Spirit dwelling in them; the dominion of the whole the whole body of sin is destroyed, and the several lusts thereof are more and more weakened and mortified, and they more and more quickened and strengthened in all saving graces, to practice of true holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.

    Wow!!! Sean do you agree with the WCF on sanctification?

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  264. Erik Charter: Richard – “You are ranting because you are not reading things in context.”

    Erik – For once Richard doesn’t have an answer. When do we get the story of what happened at RTS?

    RS: There is no need to answer when you are ranting on something way out of context. Why do you keep bringing up RTS? Which one, by the way? You mentioned something about a SBC something sometime back as well. I have not been a member of a SBC since the late 90’s. Enough of the personal stuff. All you want to do is find a handle to slam on me with. Just stick to the Scriptures or confessions.

    Erik: You do not teach according to the Three Forms. There is very little in the Three Forms about the Holy Spirit, much less making subjective determinations about what the Holy Spirit is doing in you or others. You are not being truthful when you claim to teach according to the Three Forms.

    RS: Actually, Erik, I am. Try reading them sometime rather closely. For example, read the Belgic on the Trinity and you will see that it speaks of the Holy Spirit as the power and might of God. So whenever the Belgic speaks of the power and might of God or something that requires that, it is speaking of the Holy Spirit.

    Erik: And I haven’t even talked about Baptism.

    RS: Whew

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  265. Erik – No where in what you cite is the Holy Spirit or what the Holy Spirit does called the gospel. If what the Holy Spirit does is the gospel then why did Jesus have to die on the cross?

    RS: Jesus purchased the Holy Spirit on the cross to apply spiritual blessings. That is part of the good news and it teaches me that I don’t have to come up with things in my own power to apply anything to myself, but instead the Gospel is of grace alone from beginning to end. If Jesus Christ did not purachase the Spirit for His people, then there is no Gospel of grace alone because there would be no regeneration and no faith. There would be no spiritual illumination. And so on.

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  266. Sean,

    So how do we reconcile Calvin with Calvin? I think we both can agree that Calvin is clearly saying that the foundation of justification and sanctification is in no way owing to our works which are all tainted by sin, but solely to the mercy of God demonstrated in the perfect work of Christ. But as Paul commands us to “move beyond the elementary teachings about Christ and be taken forward to maturity”, so Calvin agrees in saying holiness is the end which we ought ever to have respect.

    If the emphasis is not equally placed on both truths, either the Christian will not grow to maturity, or the Christian will lack the assurance of salvation.

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  267. RS: So going to a bar and having drinks is spiritually profitable. I take it that you just came from there.

    AP: Of course it’s spiritually profitable! If we’re not discussing life in general (which Scripture is intimately concerned about) then it’s history-theology-philosophy, etc etc. Why you have such an aversion to the bar I don’t know.

    RS: You might want to think through you statement here. He turned water into wine in order to display His glory and that was one of the signs that He did. You can term what He did as going to parties, but I doubt that what He did at those things were what people today think of as parties. If you recall people went to Him all the time wanting to hear Him speak the words of God.

    AP: Jesus demonstrates his power for the first time by making the devil’s drink (a lot of it) at a wedding party that had already drunk through all their supplies? Interesting…

    Also, I’m pretty sure “sinners and tax collectors” had similar tastes as people now a days do (human nature and all that), although i imagine they tamed it down for the rabbi a bit.

    RS: Yes, Paul told Timothy to drink some wine and not just water for the sake of his stomach. A common practice then before the days of water purification. In reference to Psalms 104, it does not say how much wine a person drank. It certainly does not condone going to bars to drink it.

    Really, now I think you’re pulling my leg. A drink is ok (according to you) but the bar isn’t. Further, there are plenty of things we do with clear conscience that Scripture doesn’t explicitly command us to do.

    My point in all of this is that God, in his graciousness, has given us many gifts. It’s true that our love for some of these gifts may become vices. But to assume that an appreciation for one of these gifts is a vice is really uncharitable. Ultimately, that can only be assessed between the person’s conscience and God.

    And yes, I imagine that Norwegian smelled fairly odorous on account of all the wriggling fish he was eating. Whatever it takes to frighten the Swedes….

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  268. Erik Charter: Richard, Did you notice Paul saying this prior to your 1 Cor. 2 passage?:

    Erik quoting Scripture (finally):“For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” (1 Corinthians 2:2 ESV)

    RS: Erik, keep reading and let the text explain what that means, or at least part of what it means. Notice that part of preaching Christ crucified is to preach in demonstration of the Spirit and of power. The context is very important. There is no true preaching of Christ crucified apart from preaching in a way that is a demonstration of the Holy Spirit and of power.

    I Cor 2: 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,

    RS: Erik, notice how the Gospel l is spoken of in the passages below. There is something very important about the Gospel that the natural man cannot see. It is the glory of God in the Gospel of the glory of Christ and also the Gospel of the glory of God in the face of Christ. These are things that must happen in the souls of people and cannot be limited to historical information from the past. These are things that happen in the souls of people or they will not believe this Gospel of great glory. The Gospel is veiled and the devil is working to keep people from seeing the glory of the Gospel and not just keeping them from hearing the historical facts.

    You might also consider the words of Jesus in John 11:40: “Did I not say to you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” Many people saw the resurrection of Lazarus, but only those who believed saw the glory of God. True faith is not just believing historical information, though it must do that as well, but it beholds the glory of God in that. The Gospel of the glory of God I might add.

    II Cor 4:3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing,
    4 in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.
    5 For we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your bond-servants for Jesus’ sake.
    6 For God, who said, “Light shall shine out of darkness,” is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.

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  269. Doug,

    I take no scruple with the WCF on sanctification. I never denied existential union with Christ or regeneration. You, on the other hand, seem to be implying an understanding of sanctification in isolation from justification, adoption, and saving faith in disregard of the confession’s language in this section, of; “by his word, and Spirit dwelling in them.”

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  270. Sean my reading of the WCF is that justification and sanctification along with adoption are benefits received at conversion. Why does there have to be an order to them? You can’t have one without the other.

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  271. Morever Sean just so I’m clear, while justification and sanctification can be distinguished I don’t how they can be seperated. They’re two side of the same coin, so to speak. Does that make sense to you?

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  272. Doug,

    Nobody is arguing that sanctification and justification are separated. What I AM arguing is there is a logical priority that tracks along a Pauline, and biblical structuring. The ‘move’ to emphasize existential union at the expense of the logical priority of justification to sanctification as a biblical prescriptive, is a move toward ontological emphasis over forensic or legal or objective, that has much in common with the flattening of soteriological categories and ontological emphasis, that one finds in roman soteriology (i.e. justification is ONE doctrine among many).

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  273. This places the motivation of our sanctification on our desire for closer communion with God, not that He has reconciled us to Him through justification by faith.

    Don, wow. But here is how the third section of the HC begins:

    “Question 86. Since then we are delivered from our misery, merely of grace, through Christ, without any merit of ours, why must we still do good works?

    Answer: Because Christ, having redeemed and delivered us by his blood, also renews us by his Holy Spirit, after his own image; that so we may testify, by the whole of our conduct, our gratitude to God for his blessings, and that he may be praised by us; also, that every one may be assured in himself of his faith, by the fruits thereof; and that, by our godly conversation others may be gained to Christ.”

    And here is Belgic 24 on Sanctification:

    “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’– 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’…So we would always be in doubt, tossed back and forth without any certainty, and our poor consciences would be tormented constantly if they did not rest on the merit of the suffering and death of our Savior.”

    How do you get from any of that that our motivation is for a closer walk with God and not that he has reconciled to God through the merits of Christ?

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  274. Richard – “it is nothing like Rome. It is that thing you you harp on so much about being under elders and the like.”

    Erik – Have you had some bad experiences being under church elders? The Bible says quite a bit about them and their role in a healthy church. One of the things they do is protect the congregation from a minister from getting off on a tangent.

    I don’t think it was me who said anything about the SBC.

    So many things to argue, but not enough hours in the day. I’m going into tax season next week so I think I’m going to bail out for now. I’ll check in occasionally. Everyone else will need to keep Richard in line until I get back.

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  275. Sean, “logical priority”? Oh please! Quit being such a nervous Nellie! Forget your logical priority; (reminds me of the infra supra (waste of time) debate.)

    Number one, its way to esoteric and I think you’re too smart by half. You sound like the “white knuckle” crowd on soteriology. How about using the language in the Bible? We receive justification and sanctification at conversion, along with adoption. See how easy that was? That’s what the WCF explicitly says, so why get in an esoteric argument over structure when you cant’ prove it clearly in the Bible? What a useless fight!

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  276. Doug,

    You’re so right. I totally should have said theological priority, not logical priority. I’m such a nerd. Justification is antecedent to sanctification theologically. I’m such a dweeb. Do forgive.

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  277. Z,

    See my response to Sean. Both are equally emphasized — Christ, having redeemed and delivered us by his blood (the foundation), also renews us by his Holy Spirit, after his own image (maturity and end). First redeemed, the Holy Spirit draws us/fills us with desire to drawn into continually closer communion with the Trinity.

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  278. Hey, hey, I’m the dweeb not you! But I would like to see you try to prove your theory with some Scripture. You may not agree with Richard much, (I do) but at least that brother backs up his views with holy Scripture. Go and do likewise!

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  279. Don, that’s the rub of it. First, you did not say (to me) they are equally emphasized, you said that “…the motivation of our sanctification on our desire for closer communion with God, not that He has reconciled us to Him through justification by faith.” You prioritized union to justification. Second, I am prioritizing justification to union. I’m not sure why you’d want to claim an equal emphasis–it’s actually an oxymoronic notion to emphasize these two things at once. The analogy is marriage: the union my wife and I enjoy has a legal and forensic priority. Union is great, but it’s not equally emphasized along with that legal status. Our union necessarily flows from our declared change in relational status.

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  280. Doug, Don, Zrim, and Sean, why is it that the biggest critics of 2k invariably balk at the priority of justification over sanctification? It’s deja vu all over again (thank you, Yogi).

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  281. Darryl, you can’t be justified if your not sanctified and vise a versa. Don’t you adhere to the WCF? They both happen simultaneously at conversion when we are united with Christ. Why put a priority on two things that can not be separated? It’s a fool’s errand. It’s like putting a priority on one wing of a plane! It’s like saying what more important Jesus death or his resurrection? You can’t have one without the other!

    And unless you’re willing to show this taught in Scripture, you need to cease and desist! Why push something you can’t find in Scripture?

    I notice when Richard gives an argument, he has multiple Scriptures to back up his perspective. You? Nary one Scripture!

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  282. WCF VIII
    One more time for Zrim Sean and Darryl.

    They who are effectually called and regenerated, having a new heart and a new spirit created in them, are farther sanctified really and personally, through the virtue of Christ’s death and resurrection, by his word, and Spirit dwelling in them; the dominion of the whole the whole body of sin is destroyed, and the several lusts thereof are more and more weakened and mortified, and they more and more quickened and strengthened in all saving graces, to practice of true holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.

    Notice the last sentence boys? Sanctification is being quickened and strengthened in all saving graces, to the practice of TRUE HOLINESS, without which no man shall see the Lord. Sounds like Richard Smith word for word.

    Does this make Zrim a moron or oxymoronic? Maybe Zrim has never seen the Lord, since he chafes at the notion of perusing holiness. Why does the notion of pursuing holiness upset you Zrim?

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  283. D. G. Hart: Doug, Don, Zrim, and Sean, why is it that the biggest critics of 2k invariably balk at the priority of justification over sanctification? It’s deja vu all over again (thank you, Yogi).

    RS: A few thoughts of John Owen on the subject.

    “To suppose that an unpurified sinner can be brought into the blessed enjoyment of Godm is to overthow both the law and the gospel, and to say that Christ died in vain. It is, therefore, of the same importance with the everlasting salvation of our souls to have them purged from sin.”

    ‘To suppose that whatever God requireth of us that we have power of ourselves to do, is to make the cross and grace of Jesus Christ of none effect.”

    “Whatever, therefore, God worketh in us in a way of grace, he prescribeth unto us in a way of duty, and that because although he do it in us, yet he also doth it by us, so as that the same work is an act of His Spirit and of our wills as acted thereby.

    John Owen

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  284. Darryl,

    All I know is they don’t understand the Reformation against the backdrop of Rome. Rome does ontological and flattening of soteriological categories.

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  285. Sean, I think you’re right but I don’t see among Protestant converts to Rome a hostility to 2k. Granted, I do think that Christendom is an appeal to many 2k critics (e.g. Doug Wilson). And I do think Kuyper’s Netherlands functions as a form of Christendom for neo-Cals. But it is curious to me anyway the politics of flattening soteriological categories. With neo-Cals the culture warrior implications are obvious. For Rome, the culture warriors are hardly uniform.

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  286. Darryl, as it regards the prot-catholics, I think it’s Rome’s amillenialism that explains the 2k friendliness. Certainly cradle’s can be a pretty diverse group, but the prot-catholics I’ve read seem to be culture warrior friendly on abortion, and family. They’re a little more diverse on the political end as regards poverty and social action but even there they seem to be tracking with the ‘softer’ activism of Keller and his ilk, the difference being Rome has been doing that through the religious orders for as long as I can remember.

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  287. I also think Rome’s sacramental system and these prot-catholics attraction to churchly authority distinguishes them from some of the culture warriors on the protestant side, who tend to diminish the church, visibly or institutionally considered. Neo-cal’s organic tends to eclipse the institutional, the revivalist or semi-revivalist’s impulse diminishes or casts a jaundiced eye toward word and sacrament as a rock behind which the unregenerate heart hides. For the prot-catholics, it’s FIRST about sola ecclesia and then everything else is brought into conformity with that instinct. This is not how the protestant culture warriors view the institutional church at all.

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  288. DGH and Zrim, and Sean; you missed the point as per usual, why do you boys feel its okay to believe doctrines you can’t find in God’s Word? As you all just admitted, it’s you 2K’ers who flee to Rome, yet it’s you three guys who seem to have your panties in a perpetual snuggy, because you’re petrified someone else will go back to Rome. When all along it will probably be one of you.

    Here is an honest question; since our Confessions say that justification and sanctification cannot be separated, why can’t we say they are both necessary saving works of Christ and move on? Why go beyond God’s Word?

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  289. Doug, did you really just say “…you can’t be justified if your [sic] not sanctified…”? Wow. So how is that any different from the Roman construal that one is only as justified as he is sanctified? What is it that you think the Reformation was all about?

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  290. Why is it, that Zrim, M&M, DGH, Sean, and yes even my buddy Erik, never talk about the fear of God? Why is it, that you Old Lifers save for Richard never, exhort each other to press on to the higher calling in Christ; in the fear of God? Especially since that’s one of the main points of emphasis in the New Testament.

    Just wondering

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  291. Doug, why is it that folks who talk most about fear of God don’t seem to fear how God may view their words and actions? Talking about fear doesn’t imply fear. It actually suggests nonchalance about fear. Go figure.

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  292. Darryl, Sean, and Zrim,

    You justify emphatic priority on the basis of logical priority. No one builds a foundation and emphasizes the foundation over the building. Rather, once the foundation has been laid, the builder trusts in it to uphold the building which occupies the builder’s full attention. This is what the Scriptures, Confessions, and most respected reformed theologians teach, and with whom you are disagreeing.

    Darryl, I think you know this to be true, but I am not sure that your young disciples do. Like Paul in Heb 6, I would encourage you to move beyond the elementary teachings about Christ and be taken forward to maturity. Each of you should show this same diligence to the very end, so that what you hope for may be fully realized. Do not become lazy, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised.

    And please don’t accuse me of being a cultural warrior in order to deflect what you know to be true. Transformation begins with cultivation of the heart and mind to love God first and your neighbor as yourself.

    Do I hear an amen, brothers?

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  293. Actually Doug, it’s your under-realized view of the visible church that sets you up for the over-correction the other way when you tire of your activist and prayer-closet christianity and suddenly, or gradually Rome looks attractive as this enormous spiritual ‘parent’, and since your soteriology is so similar anyway, the pope and Mary, become minor impediments as you raise toward your doctrinal nirvana of infused righteousness through sacerdotalism in Rome. Rome’s entire sacramental system has most, if not all it’s roots in OT levitical priesthood, so, you’ll appreciate the OT emphasis over NT christianity.

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  294. Doug, have you read the OPC’s report on justification?

    . . . the idea of the ordo salutis makes clear that justification is prior to sanctification. This is not priority in the sense that one is somehow more important than the other. Neither is it a temporal priority, strictly speaking, for there is no such thing as a justified person who is not also being sanctified. But while justification is the necessary prerequisite of the process of sanctification, that process is not the necessary prerequisite of justification. It is true to say that one must be justified in order to be sanctified; but it is untrue to say that one must be sanctified in order to be justified. Justification and sanctification bear a relationship to each other that cannot be reversed. (60-61)

    Look out. Some 2kers had a hand in that report (but no theonomists).

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  295. Don;

    You justify emphatic priority on the basis of logical priority. No one builds a foundation and emphasizes the foundation over the building. Rather, once the foundation has been laid, the builder trusts in it to uphold the building which occupies the builder’s full attention.

    Sean: Don, you do realize this is the ontological thrust of Roman soteriology? It’s the eclipsing of Christ while we focus on the ‘real’ work that the spirit is now doing in my heart. All you and Doug need to do now is drop your petty bias against robes and funny hats, they’ll give you a few years to warm up to Maryology, and you’re good to go.

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  296. Zrim as John Owen (Psssst he’s reformed) points out; you can’t be justified if you’re not sanctified. Just like you can’t fly a plane with one wing. God would violate his nature if he justified a person without breaking the power of sin in his life. God would be creating a monster, which is against his nature. So since both saving works are indispensible in our lives, let’s not go beyond Scripture and says one has priority over the other, okay?

    Unless you find it being taught in Scripture, Sean, Zrim, DGH anyone? No Scripture? Good, then let’s drop it!

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  297. Don, as I just wrote to Doug, try this on for size:

    . . . the idea of the ordo salutis makes clear that justification is prior to sanctification. This is not priority in the sense that one is somehow more important than the other. Neither is it a temporal priority, strictly speaking, for there is no such thing as a justified person who is not also being sanctified. But while justification is the necessary prerequisite of the process of sanctification, that process is not the necessary prerequisite of justification. It is true to say that one must be justified in order to be sanctified; but it is untrue to say that one must be sanctified in order to be justified. Justification and sanctification bear a relationship to each other that cannot be reversed. (60-61)

    It’s from the OPC report on justification.

    BTW, on the amen, you’re not going to hear it when you claim the Scriptures, Confessions, and respected Reformed theologians and then take the self-righteous ground of maturity (not to mention calling Paul the author of Hebrews). That’s the kind of argument my mother would make. You’re not my mother, Don.

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  298. Doug, carelessly enlisting Reformed stalwarts to bolster your confusion isn’t really to answer the question, which still stands: what’s the difference between your construal that one cannot be justified without being sanctified and Rome’s construal that one is only as justified as he is sanctified? Maybe you mean to say what the OPC report does, that there is no such thing as a justified person who is not also being sanctified (like us). But then you’d also have to agree about its main point concerning justification priority, which is to agree with this side of the table. Or maybe you don’t, in which case we’re back to square one and I’m wondering if you’ve ever heard of the material principle of the Reformation.

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  299. Once again DGH the OPC report says there is NOT a temporal order, which was my point! They are simultaneous benefits received at conversion. Zrim almost peed his pants when I said God wouldn’t justify without sanctifying a sinner. Which is what the OPC report confirms, you can’t have one without the other!!! They are both necessary! I also pointed out a distinction between definitive and on going sanctification, a concept that escapes Zrim and Sean, but which is also a “reformed” tenant.

    What are you arguing for?

    Let’s move on!

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  300. Doug, ” justification is the necessary prerequisite of the process of sanctification, that process is not the necessary prerequisite of justification.” That is the point.

    Plus, if sanctification is imperfect, how can it be necessary for salvation in the sense that the imputed righteousness of Christ is necessary to satisfy God’s demand for holiness? If you want to treat justification and sanctification as equal, simultaneous, and neither having priority, then say hello to my little Roman Catholic friend.

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  301. Doug, do you see a distinction? This side of the table is saying exactly what the OPC report is saying. Are you? If so, then why all the push back and blustering?

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  302. This was my point as confirmed by the OPC report.

    Neither is it a temporal priority, strictly speaking, for there is no such thing as a justified person who is not also being sanctified.

    When I said that, Zrim almost peed his pants! That was my point! As for the logical priority? “whatever” that means, fine! Have it your way! It really doesnt matter one way or the other to me.

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  303. Zrim exclaims: Doug, did you really just say “…you can’t be justified if your [sic] not sanctified…”? Wow

    The OPC report: Neither is it a temporal priority, strictly speaking, for there is no such thing as a justified person who is not also being sanctified.

    Now who is out of accord on the OPC report Zrim?

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  304. To not affirm a logical priority of justification over sanctification is to muddle the gospel beyond understanding. How is it possible that a person not yet declared in good standing with God, not yet forgiven of his sins, a covenant-breaker by virtue of the covenant of works in Adam, how can that person experience sanctification before being declared righteous through faith? Justification must proceed union (mystical, not decretal) and sanctification, or you have someone dead in their sins being sanctified.

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  305. Doug, so you affirm the OPC report. So do we. But with all your blustering about justification priority it’s hard to know what you’re saying. Left hand taking what the right gives and all that.

    But the reason for being nonplussed over your language is that it makes it sound like justification depends on sanctification (“can’t be”), whereas the OPC report is clear about the inevitability of sanctification flowing from justification.

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  306. DGH says: Doug, why is it that folks who talk most about fear of God don’t seem to fear how God may view their words and actions?

    Darryl, my question is why *you* and your Old Life buddies never talk about walking in the fear of God, since we are exhorted too all through Scripture. Not rather I do. When Richard exhorts us to walk in holiness, he gets attacked, yet I see Paul exhorting that very life style; let me illustrate:

    2nd Corinthians 7:1

    Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion IN THE FEAR OF GOD.

    If Richard says something like that, he gets called a legalist, yet there it is in Scripture. Why is it Darryl that I never hear you speak about desiring holiness and walking in the fear of God? Just curious.

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  307. Doug; As for the logical priority? “whatever” that means, fine! Have it your way! It really doesnt matter one way or the other to me.

    Sean; Doug it needs to matter to you. It is THE major doctrinal position which the reformers expounded which led to Rome excommunicating them. Take it from a guy who was born on the other side of this debate. The elevating of union to logically or theologically antecedent to justification or sanctification or any other soteriological benefit, takes you 90% of the way to Rome. This is why the OPC in light of ‘union’ discussions and it’s effect on the ordo salutis saw the NECESSITY to make the clarification of the PRIORITY of justification to sanctification. I worry that if you don’t tease these distinctions out clearly in your mind, you may fall victim to roman apologists. Most everybody who hasn’t been RC can’t imagine embracing all the other ‘stuff’-popes, Mary, priests, on and on, but I tell you now if you expect those prejudices to hold you back from ever being tempted or becoming a roman catholic, you’re mistaken. Maybe you can’t reconcile to this theological priority of justification to sanctification, if so, you need to reconsider why you’re not a roman catholic.

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  308. Todd, when does God justify and sanctify us? At conversion when we are united to Christ. As the OPC report says, there is NOT a temporal order, they happen simultaneous with each other. Why should we quarrel over logical orders? As long as we all agree that they are sepertate works of Christ, and you can’t have one without the other, lets all hold hands and sing Kumbya.

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  309. Doug,

    If an unbeliever said to you something to the effect of; “I am tired of living a sinful life with so much hatred and lust in my heart. What do I do to live a Christian life pleasing to God?” I am assuming you would tell him he needs to repent and believe the gospel. In other words, instinctively you know that the road to sanctification is through justification, that he cannot live for God until he is first forgiven of his sins and declared righteous. In our gospel presentations, justification always precedes sanctification, because that is the order of the application of redemption in the Scriptures.

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  310. Sean says: This is why the OPC in light of ‘union’ discussions and it’s effect on the ordo salutis saw the NECESSITY to make the clarification of the PRIORITY of justification to sanctification.

    The OPC report says: This is NOT priority in the sense that one is somehow more important than the other. Neither is it a temporal priority, strictly speaking, for there is no such thing as a justified person who is not also being sanctified.

    That’s what I have been saying all along!!!! When I said made that exact point, you were all over me!

    Sean the OPC report denies that justification has priority over sanctification! You can’t have one without the other! It’s like a man and his wife, you can’t have marriage without them both!

    Let’s just shake hands and say we agree on this point!

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  311. Doug,

    I’ve never, not even once, argued for a temporal priority but a logical and/or theological priority. Nevertheless, look at Todd’s description of the application of redemption and at least agree to that construction.

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  312. But Todd, a man can not repent unless he is born again! At regeneration he’s united to Christ being both justified and sanctified simultaneously! In fact prior to conversion he is in bondage to sin, so he couldn’t come to Christ if he wanted too.

    Todd, do you believe in both definitive and ongoing sanctification?

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  313. Sean, I appreciate your concern, so I will take your words under advisement.

    By the way, do you believe in definitive sanctification? I didn’t understand your answer earlier.

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  314. Sean says I’ve never, not even once, argued for a temporal priority BUT:

    “a logical and/or theological priority”.

    Sounds infomed but sadlyit’s the same argument the supralapsarian’s made on God ‘s degrees. A logical and/or theological priority. Sean just out of curiosity, are you supralapsarian as well?

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  315. Doug,

    You are confusing regeneration and sanctification, conflating them as one. Regeneration renews the will, enabling it to choose Christ, and it enlightens the mind to grasp the gospel, but does not begin the work of sanctification. I do believe in definitive sanctification, but following justification. We are forgiven and declared righteous, and as a result of justification, God pours his Spirit into our hearts (Rom 5:5), and thus we are empowered with renewed hearts to love and obey God. If you believe infants can be regenerated in the womb, then without a logical priority of justification before sanctification, you have one being sanctified before being justified, which comes through faith alone, thus as Sean said you’ve unwittingly agreed with the Roman position.

    “That faith in Christ is the root of all holiness—that the first step towards a holy life is to believe on Christ—that until we believe we have not a jot of holiness—that union with Christ by faith is the secret of both beginning to be holy and continuing holy—that the life that we live in the flesh we must live by the faith of the Son of God—that faith purifies the heart—that faith is the victory which overcomes the world—that by faith the elders obtained a good report—all these are truths which no well-instructed Christian will ever think of denying.” (Bishop Ryle)

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  316. Todd says; that until we believe we have not a jot of holiness

    Huh?! Consider 1 Corinthians 7:14

    For the unbelieving husband is made holy because of his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy because of her husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy.

    In your haste to avoid the Roman Catholic errors, you seem to have forgotten what the Bible says about children and unbelieving husbands and wives. They are both clean and holy!

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  317. Sean – “I also think Rome’s sacramental system and these prot-catholics attraction to churchly authority distinguishes them from some of the culture warriors on the protestant side, who tend to diminish the church, visibly or institutionally considered. Neo-cal’s organic tends to eclipse the institutional, the revivalist or semi-revivalist’s impulse diminishes or casts a jaundiced eye toward word and sacrament as a rock behind which the unregenerate heart hides. For the prot-catholics, it’s FIRST about sola ecclesia and then everything else is brought into conformity with that instinct. This is not how the protestant culture warriors view the institutional church at all.”

    Erik – Nice. You tied a lot of annoying strands together quite well.

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  318. I’ve been out of the loop for a day now and I’ve really missed debating Richard, Doug, Don, etc. I’ve also really missed having my prostate examined, having root canals done, and watching my teachers scrape their fingernails across the chalk board.

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  319. Doug, Just for expediency purposes here’s an excerpt from an article at Modern Reformation by J.V. Fesko(btw, what’s the deal with academicians and abreviated names?);

    Justification Is the Ground of Our Sanctification

    Why does Paul insist upon the imputed active obedience of Christ in our justification? Why is this necessary aside from the fact that the Scriptures teach its necessity? The answer lies in the nature of our justification. We must recognize that the ground of our justification is not our sanctification, or the transformative aspect of our union with Christ. To base our justification in our sanctification is to change the judicial ground from the work of Christ to the work of the believer. The good works of the believer, even those that are the result of the sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit, are at the end of the day imperfect. In this regard the Westminster Confession of Faith concisely explains why our good works, or more broadly our sanctification, cannot be the ground of our justification:

    We cannot, by our best works, merit pardon of sin, or eternal life, at the hand of God, by reason of the great disproportion that is between them and the glory to come, and the infinite distance that is between us and God, whom by them, we can neither profit nor satisfy for the debt of our former sins; but when we have done all we can, we have done but our duty, and are unprofitable servants; and because, as they are good, they proceed from His Spirit; and as they are wrought by us, they are defiled, and mixed with so much weakness and imperfection, that they cannot endure the severity of God’s judgment. (WCF 16.5)
    It is only the obedience of Christ, therefore, that can be the ground of our justification, not only the obedience that he offered in his vicarious suffering throughout his entire earthly ministry, his passive obedience, but also his perfect law-keeping that he offered on our behalf to his Father, his active obedience.
    In terms of union with Christ and justification, Berkhof therefore explains that “justification is always a declaration of God, not on the basis of an existing condition, but on that of a gracious imputation-a declaration which is not in harmony with the existing condition of the sinner. The judicial ground for all the special grace which we receive lies in the fact that the righteousness of Christ is freely imputed to us.” What we must realize, then, is that the ground of our redemption is the work of Christ; correlatively, we should also recognize that the ground of our sanctification is our justification. In other words, apart from the legal-forensic work of Christ, received by imputation through faith, there is no transformative work of the Holy Spirit. Or, using the title of John Murray’s famous book, apart from redemption accomplished, there can be no redemption applied (see WCF 11.3; Larger Catechism, Q/A 70).

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  320. Thanks Sean, but I’ve never said sanctification is the ground of justification, no not once. I rest in the completed work of Christ, alone for my salvation, period.

    I’m re-reading John Murray’s “Redemption accomplished and applied” right now as I write.

    I’ll get at you later

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  321. Darryl, et. al.

    You say

    the idea of the ordo salutis makes clear that justification is prior to sanctification. This is not priority in the sense that one is somehow more important than the other.

    Amen to that. If you read my posts, you will see that this is exactly what I have been arguing. Justification is the priority only in the sense that it is prior to sanctification, not in the sense that it is more important. I have been consistently arguing that we must equally stress both; justification as foundation and sanctification as the building upon which we are supported.

    In saying this, I have been accused of going down the path of Roman Catholicism and seeking to transform the culture. However, whoever wrote the book of Hebrews, makes it clear that the proper focus on holiness is the path to maturity.

    Now, give me an amen, brothers.

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  322. Don it’s assertions such as this; “This places the motivation of our sanctification on our desire for closer communion with God, not that He has reconciled us to Him through justification by faith.” that probably makes us feel uncomfortable.

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  323. Sean: Neo-cal’s organic tends to eclipse the institutional, the revivalist or semi-revivalist’s impulse diminishes or casts a jaundiced eye toward word and sacrament as a rock behind which the unregenerate heart hides. For the prot-catholics, it’s FIRST about sola ecclesia and then everything else is brought into conformity with that instinct. This is not how the protestant culture warriors view the institutional church at all.

    RS: You might not have taken all things into account, though you might not have tried to make an exhaustive list. Consider that some “semi-revivalists” cast a jaundiced eye toward some of those who assert word and sacrament for various reasons. One, word and sacrament can be a rock which unregnerate hearts can hide. Two, word and sacrament can be a way of keeping people from looking to Christ Himself. The Word is supposed to be preached so that people would look to Christ Himself and not to the Word as a handbook for theological propositions or moral textbook alone. Three, while indeed God does give grace through Word and Sacrament, grace is and always be at the sovereign disposal of God. Not all Word and Sacrament people are alike and so it is hard to lump them all together.

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  324. Richard, your argument would have more force if God had prescribed an alternative to word and sacrament by which the gospel was to be communicated but seeing how the very preaching of God’s word is exalted as the preeminent way by which God communicates with his people and that under the auspices of lord’s day gathering and administration of the Lord’s supper, all within the construct of officers ‘executing’ the keys to the kingdom, it’s hard to embrace a semi-revivalist piety that makes a habit of looking askance at that same biblical norm. I’m more likely to be suspicious of a piety that is itself suspicious of the ‘ordinary’ biblical means. It seems that God accounts for and acknowledges the presence of false confessors and prescribes what He prescribes in spite of that opportunity.

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  325. Okay Sean, I am going to carefullyl read Murray’s “Redemption Accomplished and Applied” before I argue anymore with you on the logical order issue.

    Keep pressing on!

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  326. Sean: Richard, your argument would have more force if God had prescribed an alternative to word and sacrament by which the gospel was to be communicated but seeing how the very preaching of God’s word is exalted as the preeminent way by which God communicates with his people and that under the auspices of lord’s day gathering and administration of the Lord’s supper, all within the construct of officers ‘executing’ the keys to the kingdom, it’s hard to embrace a semi-revivalist piety that makes a habit of looking askance at that same biblical norm. I’m more likely to be suspicious of a piety that is itself suspicious of the ‘ordinary’ biblical means. It seems that God accounts for and acknowledges the presence of false confessors and prescribes what He prescribes in spite of that opportunity.

    RS: I am not sure why you continue to think that semi-revivalists are opposed to Word and Sacrament. The books from centuries past on true revival were strongly in favor of true preaching and true doctrine. It is true that some of not most semi-revivalists (which may mean many things) don’t put the stress on the sacraments that perhaps you do, but those like me see that Jesus established it and Paul taught on it once. The rest of the NT is silent on it. So those like me would argue that by not focusing on it we have a more biblical balance. So it is not that we look askance at Word and Sacramet, but we believe that preaching should take place more often than Sundays (so we focus on it more) and that the rest of the Bible does not focus on the Sacrament and so we stress that far less. But that is not looking askance, that is simply looking for the balance that the Bible does.

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  327. Richard your logic doesn’t work for me. Paul only talks about the requirements for office in one place, so, for instance, the focus on elder rule, polity-wise, is overwrought. The conditions of rightful practice of the Lord’s supper is only delineated in one place, therefore the practice much less the insistence on fencing the table is overwrought. The advocation of the need for and expounding on the gifting within the body, i.e. teachers, evangelists and pastors is only propounded once so our distinguishing and recognition of gifting within the church is overwrought. You get the point.

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  328. sean: Richard your logic doesn’t work for me. Paul only talks about the requirements for office in one place, so, for instance, the focus on elder rule, polity-wise, is overwrought.

    RS: But Paul gives the requirements for elders in two places and speaks about elders in several other places. Peter, James, and John also speak of elders.

    Sean: The conditions of rightful practice of the Lord’s supper is only delineated in one place, therefore the practice much less the insistence on fencing the table is overwrought. The advocation of the need for and expounding on the gifting within the body, i.e. teachers, evangelists and pastors is only propounded once so our distinguishing and recognition of gifting within the church is overwrought. You get the point.

    RS: My point about the Supper only being mentioned once has to do with the stress put on it by some. The rest of the letters to the churchs regarding spiritual growth and grace do not mention it. My point is not that it is unimportant, but that the stress some put on it is far more than the Bible itself puts on it. The part it plays is simply not dealt with hardly at all in the NT and so I would argue that semi-revivalists are not against the Supper, but simply think that it is not accorded all the powers and importance in the NT that some put on it. But elders are mentioned many times.

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  329. I’m trying to just observe but I had to comment on this:

    (1) Richard gives three reasons of why “semi-revivalists” object to “Word and Sacrament”.

    (2) The next post he says, “I am not sure why you continue to think that semi-revivalists are opposed to Word and Sacrament.”

    Huh? Didn’t you just tell us some were and go so far as to list the reasons why?

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  330. I think Richard makes some fair points about the Sacraments. I think he has the Lord’s Supper primarily in mind since he will argue for days about baptism. The Reformers had an awful lot to say about the Sacraments, however, some of which should appeal to a (semi)revivalist because of the Reformed doctrine of the real presence of Christ in the Supper. Maybe we do have to ask, however, if the Reformers were more influenced by Scripture or by the lingering effects of Rome in their thinking on the Sacraments. They certainly had no problem throwing lots of other elements of Catholicism aside, though.

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  331. Sean,

    You were uncomfortable after I quoted Calvin which was before I made that statement. You specifically cited me for opposing emphasis on justification though I was clearly advocating the equal importance of both.

    The statement I made that “This places the motivation of our sanctification on our desire for closer communion with God, not that He has reconciled us to Him through justification by faith.” was a paraphrase of what Calvin said as follows:

    When mention is made of our union with God, let us remember that
    holiness must be the bond; not that by the merit of holiness we come into communion with him
    (we ought rather first to cleave to him, in order that, pervaded with his holiness, we may follow
    whither he calls), but because it greatly concerns his glory not to have any fellowship with
    wickedness and impurity. Wherefore he tells us that this is the end of our calling, the end to which
    we ought ever to have respect, if we would answer the call of God.

    Calvin is saying that holiness must be the bond of our union with God because God will not have fellowship with wickedness. Therefore, since we cherish our union/fellowship with God (as the fruit of our justification), Calvin is saying that holiness is the end which we must have respect since without it we cannot enjoy our union with God.

    So while Calvin (and I) recognize that justification by Christ’s work alone is the basis or foundation of our desire for holiness, our motivation (sustained only by the Holy Spirit who dwells in us as the result of our justification) is the continued enjoyment of fellowship with God. Admittedly, this statement by Calvin does not actually contradict your statement that holiness is a response to our justification. He is fine-tuning that statement to connect the dots from justification to why holiness should be the end to which we must have respect. Calvin does this throughout his institutes, of which the following serve as examples:

    he holds forth a promise of favour, as a means of alluring them to the study of holiness

    “And now, Israel, what does the Lord thy God require of thee, but to fear the Lord thy God, to walk in
    all his ways, and to love him, and to serve the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul,
    to keep the commandments of the Lord and his statutes which I command thee this day for thy
    good?” (Deut. 10:12, 13). And he ceased not to reiterate the same thing, whenever he had occasion
    to mention the end of the Law. To this the doctrine of the Law pays so much regard, that it connects
    man, by holiness of life, with his God; and, as Moses elsewhere expresses it (Deut. 6:5; 11:13),
    and makes him cleave to him.

    And this is why I resist simple dualisms.

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  332. Erik Charter: I’m trying to just observe but I had to comment on this:

    (1) Richard gives three reasons of why “semi-revivalists” object to “Word and Sacrament”.

    (2) The next post he says, “I am not sure why you continue to think that semi-revivalists are opposed to Word and Sacrament.”

    Huh? Didn’t you just tell us some were and go so far as to list the reasons why?

    RS: Erik, context, context, context. Some object to what some think of as Word and Sacrament but in reality are not because we think the Bible defines or prescribes Word and Sacrament differently than those who go under that title.

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  333. sean: Fair enough Richard, I forgot about Titus, so two places. The rest of the polemic stands.

    RS: Regarding elders, they are talked about in many, many places, so I am not sure how the polemic would stand at that point. But again, if the stress that the Reformers put on the Sacraments is in line with Scripture, one would expect Paul and the rest to be pointing at it all the time in their letters. I would argue that Paul stresses maturity and how spiritual growth occurs in his epistles (holiness is part of that), but he does not get into the importance of the Table for that. Those who hold to Word and Sacrament strongly tend to stress the Sacrament as a means of grace more than prayer and Bible study as means of grace. I am not sure that your polemic really addresses that.

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  334. Don, are you saying that our pursuit of holiness is the motivation for continued fellowship with God? What then happens when we do not pursue holiness? Calvin seems to take that into account when he also says in the same passage:

    I insist not that the life of the Christian shall breathe nothing but the perfect Gospel, though this is to be desired, and ought to be attempted. I insist not so strictly on evangelical perfection, as to refuse to acknowledge as a Christian any man who has not attained it. In this way all would be excluded from the Church, since there is no man who is not far removed from this perfection, while many, who have made but little progress, would be undeservedly rejected.

    You may resist simple dualisms. But do you resist simple formulations of holiness?

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  335. DGH asks: What then happens when we do not pursue holiness?

    Same thing that happens when we don’t pursue the 8 steps to making your election sure.

    Check out 2nd Peter 1:9

    For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins.”

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  336. Richard,

    When Paul stresses maturity and spiritual growth in his epistles how do you
    determine when he is speaking only to a specific historical context and when he is speaking universally?

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  337. Richard, the polemic still stands because I clarified as to the qualification for office. BTW, It’s of importance to note that nowhere in those qualifications does it specify or anticipate an ability to read the desires and intentions of another’s heart. That attribute is still in the sole possession of God. See 1john. Furthermore, I didn’t bother to address the idea of private reading, because that privilege is a rather modern one and doesn’t have the historic legibility that preaching and corporate teaching would have. So, the idea of word and sacrament would have not been construed as one of a number of means but THE means by which God communicates with his people. Also, my response to your logic, was my attempt at a reductio ad absurdum. I think that got lost in the translation.

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  338. Darryl,

    You may not have noticed that I cited that same quote by Calvin in an earlier post. I have never even hinted that we will in this life reach the aim of perfect holiness, yet, with Calvin, have maintained that it should nonetheless be our aim. Note also that I did not end the quote where you did, but completed his thought which goes as follows:

    What then? Let us set this before our eye as the end at which we ought constantly to aim. Let it be regarded as the goal towards which we are to run. For you cannot divide the matter with God, undertaking part of what his word enjoins, and omitting part at pleasure. For, in the first place, God uniformly recommends integrity as the principal part of his worship, meaning by integrity real singleness of mind, devoid of gloss and fiction, and to this is opposed a double mind; as if it had been said, that the spiritual commencement of a good life is when the internal affections are sincerely devoted to God, in the cultivation of holiness and justice. But seeing that, in this earthly prison of the body, no man is supplied with strength sufficient to hasten in his course with due alacrity, while the greater number are so oppressed with weakness, that hesitating, and halting, and even crawling on the ground, they make little progress, let every one of us go as far as his humble ability enables him, and prosecute the journey once begun. No one will travel so badly as not daily to make some degree of progress. This, therefore, let us never cease to do, that we may daily advance in the way of the Lord; and let us not despair because of the slender measure of success. How little soever the success may correspond with our wish, our labour is not lost when to-day is better than yesterday, provided with true singleness of mind we keep our aim, and aspire to the goal, not speaking flattering things to ourselves, nor indulging our vices, but making it our constant endeavour to become better, until we attain to goodness itself. If during the whole course of our life we seek and follow, we shall at length attain it, when relieved from the infirmity of flesh we are admitted to full fellowship with God.

    Clearly, we acknowledge that perfection will not be reached until Christ returns, yet that must nonetheless be our goal. To deny that is, in the words of Calvin, undertaking part of what his word enjoins, and omitting part at pleasure. Will the real neo-Calvinist please stand up.

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  339. WJW: Richard, When Paul stresses maturity and spiritual growth in his epistles how do you
    determine when he is speaking only to a specific historical context and when he is speaking universally?

    RS: He is writing his letters to churches and giving instructions to whole churches. At the very least his letters were circular letters and so went to several churches. The context determines whether he is giving basic principles to follow or is saying something to a specific person. Even when he is saying something to a specific person, Timothy, for example, one can still find principles in that. But Paul spoke to Timothy specifically (the text in question) and told him to drink a little wine and not water exclusively for the sake of his stomach and frequent ailments.
    1. A statement directly to a historical person
    2. A statement with reasons based on the historical person’s problems
    3. A statement with a specific “cure” for a specific historical person’s bodily problems
    4. That statement is in a letter to that specific person

    The conclusion is that Paul did not write this as a moral precept, but to Timothy alone. If one wants to draw principles from this statement, then fine. A person that has frequent stomach troubles and ailments might want to drink a little wine.

    I Tim 1:12 “To Timothy, my true child in the faith: Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. 3 As I urged you upon my departure for Macedonia, remain on at Ephesus so that you may instruct certain men not to teach strange doctrines.”

    In the passage above Paul is speaking to Timothy and telling him to remain on at Ephesus. That command was to Timothy and Timothy alone. We cannot apply that to anyone else but Timothy.

    I Tim 1:18 This command I entrust to you, Timothy, my son, in accordance with the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you fight the good fight,

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  340. sean: Richard, the polemic still stands because I clarified as to the qualification for office. BTW, It’s of importance to note that nowhere in those qualifications does it specify or anticipate an ability to read the desires and intentions of another’s heart.

    RS: But the texts that address that do not say that the person must even be a Christian either. I would also argue that there are judgments made about the heart (loving what is good as one) though indeed one cannot read the heart infallibly. However, the issue we were discussing was about Word and Sacrament.

    Sean: That attribute is still in the sole possession of God. See 1john. Furthermore, I didn’t bother to address the idea of private reading, because that privilege is a rather modern one and doesn’t have the historic legibility that preaching and corporate teaching would have. So, the idea of word and sacrament would have not been construed as one of a number of means but THE means by which God communicates with his people.

    RS: But again, your position does not take into account the teaching of the epistles on how people grow in faith and mature in holiness. The apostles do not bring the Table into the matter and it is not always preaching that they are talking about when they bring up the Word, not to mention preaching on Sunday only. When the author of Hebrews (4:16) tell us that we can approach the throne of grace to receive grace, does that not teach us that prayer is a means of grace as well? When Paul commands us to pray without ceasing, is that to each church and for them to have corporate meetings to keep that as well?

    Sean: Also, my response to your logic, was my attempt at a reductio ad absurdum. I think that got lost in the translation.

    RS: Understood, but simply don’t think that you obtained that. The simple fact is that in the Gospels the Table is established by the pracice of Jesus and in the epistles the Table is only mentioned in one passage of one book. In terms of the maturity and growth of the church in holiness and in grace, not a word is said apart from that in the rest of the epistles. If the Table was one of two parts of THE means of grace, I would think it would have been stressed in more places. Yes, a lot more places.

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  341. Don, don’t bruise yourself with your breast beating. As long as you can affirm the following from the Belgic Confession while you’re quoting Calvin, you may have a point:

    We believe that our blessedness lies in the forgiveness of our sins because of Jesus Christ, and that in it our righteousness before God is contained, as David and Paul teach us when they declare that man blessed to whom God grants righteousness apart from works.

    And the same apostle says that we are justified “freely” or “by grace” through redemption in Jesus Christ. And therefore we cling to this foundation, which is firm forever, giving all glory to God, humbling ourselves, and recognizing ourselves as we are; not claiming a thing for ourselves or our merits and leaning and resting on the sole obedience of Christ crucified, which is ours when we believe in him.

    That is enough to cover all our sins and to make us confident, freeing the conscience from the fear, dread, and terror of God’s approach, without doing what our first father, Adam, did, who trembled as he tried to cover himself with fig leaves.

    In fact, if we had to appear before God relying– no matter how little– on ourselves or some other creature, then, alas, we would be swallowed up. Therefore everyone must say with David: “Lord, do not enter into judgment with your servants, for before you no living person shall be justified.”

    BTW, what does this have to do with the renewal of “all things” or the lens of Scripture?

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  342. DGH asks: Doug, you mean if we don’t pursue the 8 steps our election isn’t sure? You do enjoy threat to comfort.

    I tremble at the warnings and I rejoice in the promises. The Alfred E. Newman approach to Biblical warnings, “what me worry?” is a proscription for disaster. You’ll become like man who looks at himself in the mirror and forgets his own face!

    Wake up the sleeping giant, wake up out of your slumber! Press on to the higher calling found in Christ Jesus! Make your election sure! Walk by fatih!

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  343. D. G. Hart: Don, don’t bruise yourself with your breast beating. As long as you can affirm the following from the Belgic Confession while you’re quoting Calvin, you may have a point:

    RS: The Belgic Article 23 is followed by Article 24. Sanctification must be there and it must happen or justification did not happen. On the other hand, sanctification cannot add one bit to justification. A truly justified person, according to Article 24, has a new nature and faith as a gift of the Holy Spirit and that causes them to live a new life. It is justifying faith which works in the soul and gives the soul and enables it to love God. This means that it is impossible for a holy faith (a justifying faith) to be unfruitful in the human soul. If a person focuses on Article 23, some see them denying Article 24. Those who stress Article 24 are seen as compromising Article 23. But the two are in perfect harmony with one another. Those with a holy faith want to commune with God who is perfect light and so they flee from sin because they cannot have communion with God and sin at the same time.

    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.

    I John 1:3 what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ.
    4 These things we write, so that our joy may be made complete.
    5 This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all.
    6 If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth;
    7 but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.

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  344. Justification – very important. Sanctification – very important, Preaching of the Word – very important. The Sacraments – very important. We turn a lot of discussions here into either/or instead of both/and. The importance of the debates, it seems, is how these doctrines (and their relative importance) gets worked out corporately in the church. Don & Richard’s church is going to look a lot different than D.G., Zrim, and Sean’s church. This may be an argument as to why denominations are o.k. It’s better than constant fighting within a particular church or group of churches. It becomes difficult when a particular debate is going on within a church (like 2K/Neocalvinism within the Dutch Reformed churches or the OPC). That debate is still at a pretty high/scholarly level, however. I can see it impacting the examination of ministers and whether or not a minister receives a call to a particular church, though, since elders and other ministers are probably aware of the debate and have opinions.

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  345. Reformed Churches (especially the Presbyterian Churches with life terms for elders) are pretty good churches for tolerating minority views. As long as the person holding the minority view is not an officer or minister they can hold to their conscience and they are not hurting anyone else in the church. We have some people in our church who are semi-revivalists & family centered church enthusiasts. We used to have some exclusive Psalm singers. I send my kids to public school. All of these are out of the mainstream of the URC, but nobody is harassed for holding minority views. Becoming an elder with minority views, however, is very difficult, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I was an elder early on in our church (and am still ordained) but will probably have difficulty being elected again as long as I am in the minority on schooling. As long as we have good elders I am fine with that.

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  346. Richard,

    Sean raises a good point. If private Bible reading was to be a key factor in spiritual growth, what about the first 1600 years (plus or minus) of church history when a Bible cost more than a house? Not opposed to Bible reading, but that was difficult for the average person for most of church history.

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  347. Don – “Clearly, we acknowledge that perfection will not be reached until Christ returns, yet that must nonetheless be our goal.”

    Erik – Who here is denying this?

    Every time you quote Calvin someone else throws him back at you and you appear to retreat. Are you saying anything different from what a 2K person says at this point? Calvin is talking about personal holiness. Not “cultural holiness” or any such thing.

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  348. Richard,

    How do you (and Don, and Doug) work out your view of Sanctification in the church? In particular, with respect to church discipline. Is it all about constant exhortations of self-examination and holiness or do you put some teeth into it?

    Our church just excommunicated a woman for divorcing her husband and not being willing to even meet with the elders before doing so. A serious sin. The Bible gives all kinds of “fruits of the Spirit” that most of us here lack to some extent. How do you decide which of those to discipline for?

    Maybe all you advocate is constant warnings and exhortations, but are you really using the keys of the kingdom in the way envisioned in the Reformed Confessions if this is the case? It’s kind of like the parent who constantly threatens to spank but never does.

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  349. Erik Charter: Richard, Sean raises a good point. If private Bible reading was to be a key factor in spiritual growth, what about the first 1600 years (plus or minus) of church history when a Bible cost more than a house? Not opposed to Bible reading, but that was difficult for the average person for most of church history.

    RS: I have read of places in the world where Bibles are scarce. People memorize the Bible and so meditate on it. Then you have elders and/or deacons who would go around and teach and read the Bible. Again, thinking of the local church as meeting on Sunday morning only is perhaps not the most accurate way to think of the church.

    Acts 2:46 Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart,

    Acts 5:42 And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they kept right on teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.

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  350. Erik Charter: Richard, How do you (and Don, and Doug) work out your view of Sanctification in the church? In particular, with respect to church discipline. Is it all about constant exhortations of self-examination and holiness or do you put some teeth into it?

    RS: As the NT exhorts, seeking God is to be done out of love. Holiness is to be set apart from one thing and set apart for another. such as the vessels in the temples. They were used for one thing. So people are to be taught and exhorted to love and holiness. Discipline, on the other hand, is exercised for specific sins as set out in Scripture.

    Erik: Our church just excommunicated a woman for divorcing her husband and not being willing to even meet with the elders before doing so. A serious sin. The Bible gives all kinds of “fruits of the Spirit” that most of us here lack to some extent. How do you decide which of those to discipline for?

    RS: The Bible sets those out. For example, I Cor 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, 10 nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.

    Erik: Maybe all you advocate is constant warnings and exhortations, but are you really using the keys of the kingdom in the way envisioned in the Reformed Confessions if this is the case? It’s kind of like the parent who constantly threatens to spank but never does.

    RS: I have no idea where this came from, but I suspect we have a different idea of holiness. However, people should refrain from sin out of fear and if they do not refrain from sin then church discipline is in order. But in terms of pursuing communion with God by love, those things are not a matter of discipline but a matter of hearts seeking God for more grace and love that they may love Him more and be taken from sin more and more.

    I John 2:15 Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world.

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  351. Erik Charter: Our church just excommunicated a woman for divorcing her husband and not being willing to even meet with the elders before doing so. A serious sin. The Bible gives all kinds of “fruits of the Spirit” that most of us here lack to some extent. How do you decide which of those to discipline for?

    RS: A couple of quick points. One, I still think that in a church that operates like the NT church did the elder(s) would be meeting with the people before these things happened and try to stay aware of their spiritual growth or lack thereof. Two, I knew a woman that left her husband and would not talk to her family or anyone else for quite some time. She was so hurt from various forms of abuse that she didn’t want to talk about it. I might add that she might also wonder where the people of the church were when she was hurting so bad. Maybe they just attended on Sunday and put on the happy face. By the way, that is not intended toward your church in particular but primarily noting the difference between the NT way of “doing church” and the modern way.

    Eph 4:15 but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.

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  352. Richard – “Discipline, on the other hand, is exercised for specific sins as set out in Scripture.”

    Erik – I think you are on shaky ground there. In Reformed Church history have churches made a list of the things they can and cannot discipline for?

    Let me tell you what my #1 concern is about your system. Combine an overbearing minister, weak elders (or no elders), and church members with weak consciences who look up to the minister. The minister seeks to promote holiness in the lives of the church members and goes overboard, ending up actually damaging the faith of the church members, who become so frustrated that they leave the faith — Not because they don’t embrace the gospel, but because the minister has been practicing spiritual malpractice. What are the checks and balances against this happening?

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  353. Richard,

    I can’t comment on our specific situation beyond what has been made public. I wholeheartedly agree that these are very complicated issues. The only exhortation I would make to those under discipline is to make their case to the elders if they think they have one. If they don’t like the elders response they have appeals to classis and synod available to them. We have had recent cases in the URC of discipline being overturned as a result of such appeals. It’s a good system. When someone won’t even talk to the elders their guilt is unfortunately presumed because the elders only hear one side.

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  354. Richard,

    Your big on context, but even moral precepts and commands have a context. Much of church history and historical theology is the story of trying to determine what is universal and what is specific when it comes to context. Law, atonement, and even holiness (to name but a few) can all be delimited by context. Indeed, the scribes and the pharisees were quite capable in this regard. When you admonish the pursuit of holiness context matters. Are we talking behavior, attitude, psychological disposition, feelings? The context for holiness is nuanced, but the concept as an attribute of the divine is fixed. You need to be specific. Depending on the context my pursuit of holiness has much in common with Romans, Jews, Scythians, and Democrats. Virtu et pietas. I don’t need a redeemer to pursue virtue.

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  355. We do have regularly family visits in the URC. Unfortunately the families with the biggest problems are sometimes the hardest ones to get a meeting with and the hardest to have a fruitful meeting with once you have it. People are tricky and hard to help unless they are looking for help. Life (and church life) is messy.

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  356. Richard, not that it’s the point of the polemic, but not only are elders to be christians but they have to be seasoned one’s (no new convert) in both character and just straight time put in. So, we’re even on the tit for tat scoreboard. Again, because there isn’t another alternative prescribed, and that you can find ways that people can ‘fake it’, which by the way is accounted for in scripture, you’re posture of suspicion of word and sacrament is unwarranted and unbiblical. Your balance argument only works if I was claiming to be exhaustive of all opportunities by which a person may exhibit his faith. I was only addressing ‘formal’ considerations. I can exhibit my faith by prayer, by providing food for the hungry, by tithing, by giving drink to those who are thirsty, etc.. But my positive position of confessionalism in no way regards those other endeavors as suspect. Your polemic however seems to consistently concern itself with the ways in which word and sacrament can be abused. This is not the position of the NT scriptures, in this way you are out of balance. Which was my point.-

    “it’s hard to embrace a semi-revivalist piety that makes a habit of looking askance at that same biblical norm. I’m more likely to be suspicious of a piety that is itself suspicious of the ‘ordinary’ biblical means.”

    “Neo-cal’s organic tends to eclipse the institutional, the revivalist or semi-revivalist’s impulse diminishes or casts a jaundiced eye toward word and sacrament as a rock behind which the unregenerate heart hides.”

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  357. Richard – “By the way, that is not intended toward your church in particular but primarily noting the difference between the NT way of “doing church” and the modern way.”

    Erik – You seem to be contrasting the Presbyterian and Reformed church orders with “the NT way” which seems kind of Bible church like or something. Around here you seem to kind of want to have your Reformed Confessions cake and eat it to. I would challenge you to not do this, either be confessional or don’t. To claim to be confessional but to depart from them when it suits you is pretty disingenuous. It’s o.k. to not be confessional (as long as you are not subscribing), but just admit it. Don’t confuse innocent people about what the P&R confessions and church orders say.

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  358. Maybe you don’t claim to be confessional, though. You do cite the Westminster & The Three Forms frequently, but maybe that’s to just try to convince us using our own arguments. You have mentioned the London Baptist Confession in the past, but I don’t know that you hold to it or subscribe to it.

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  359. Richard, I know the drill. Sanctification inevitably follows from justification. Works proceed from faith.

    But the kicker is that our good works are filthy rags. The way you, Don, and Doug talk, it’s as if I can look at my works and take comfort that I am making MY election and calling certain. But if my good works are marred by sin, then how can I take comfort? That’s why I’m going to look to Christ, know that I do some things that show my faith, and also know that my striving for holiness is going to come up well short. I need a God who saves me. I don’t need neonomians who make me aware of how sinful I am.

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  360. Darryl quit being so touchy, I was exhorting you with Scripture, not my opinion. The Bible says if you’re not pressing on, you can lose your joy and confidence. (Start wondering if you’re the elect) God’s words not mine. Don’t look at your works as proof of you’re salvation, but know that when you’re walking by faith that God will be pleased to fill you with the joy of the Lord, which in your strength.

    But Jesus also teaches us to be like the “Persistent widow”, in regards to our prayer life and “seeking God with all of our heart”. That means be like the widow “daily”! Rejoice always, pray without ceasing and in everything give thanks, for this is the will of God concerning you. That’s how you see if you’re in the faith!

    Look to Christ the author and finisher of our faith. But with all diligence press on! We’re exhorted to *stir* each other up in the faith. Paul said to be like him, who was more zealous than Paul? Press on Darryl!

    Rest in his completed work,

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  361. No contradiction Erik, sanctification presupposes justification which is why we rest in the completed work of Christ on our behalf. As the WCF says you can’t have justification if you don’t have sanctification. (Just like you can’t fly a plane with one wing) For that reason, let’s be all the more zealous and press on to the higher calling! Thanks be to God for his unspeakable gift!

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  362. Doug – “As the WCF says you can’t have justification if you don’t have sanctification.”

    Erik – How much sanctification is enough? Who defines what it is and judges its sufficiency? What if you see it in you and I don’t? What if I see it in me and you don’t? A profession of faith I can hear and accept. Assessing sanctification is more tricky.

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  363. Erik,

    “Do you know that all of us who have been baptized in Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father,

    Here is the biggie Erik

    “WE MIGHT WALK IN NEWNESS OF LIFE.”

    Sanctification is the main purpose God saved us! For good works that He predestined! And God doesn’t see our works done in faith as dirty rags! He adorns us in our works done in faith through his High Priestly work.

    Press on!

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  364. Doug,

    You haven’t defined what sanctification is or is not, though. I guarantee you there are people who read this blog that think pretty much every one of us is quarrelsome and therefore sorely lacking in sanctification. Are they correct? Is that how they should be judging whether or not we have true faith?

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  365. I don’t know what Doug does for a living, but I have a persistent vision of him standing at a workbench pounding square pegs into round holes and then pausing to stand back and admire his work. His approach to the faith is by no means elegant, to say the least.

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  366. Doug – Erik asks – How much sanctification is enough?

    Never tire of doing good brother! Keep pressing on like Paul instructed us too!

    Erik – Have you ever served as an elder in a Presbyterian or Reformed Church? I think a lot of your ideas are a little difficult to put into practice when applied to the nuts and bolts of church life.

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