No Need to Apologize to Me

Though a short note to Tullian Tchividjian (hereafter Double T because who can spell that?) may be in order.

Mark Jones apologizes to me — 15 seconds of my 15 minutes? — in his double-dare to Double T to debate sanctification:

Commenting on what typically happens after times of revival – sorry, D.G. Hart – James Stalker wrote: “it is no unusual thing to find the initial stage of religion regarded as if it were the whole. Converts go on repeating the same testimony till it becomes nauseous to their hearers as well as unprofitable to themselves. In the religion of many there is only one epoch; there is no program of expanding usefulness or advancing holiness; and faith is only the constant repetition of a single act.” Indeed.

If I read this right (and I am still feeling a little foggy after the flight to Dublin), Jones is saying that revivalism tends to lock converts into a certain pietistical predictability. That sounds negative. Isn’t this one more strike against revivalism? Shouldn’t Jones be thanking me for leading the charge against revivalism?

But aside from (all about) me, I do wonder about a couple of matters in this kerfuffle between opposite points on the North American Presbyterian compass. First, we have yet another theological imbroglio among PCA pastors in which the courts of the church seem to have little or no bearing. No one seems to think of this as a denominational problem even though both men are part of the same communion. Could that be because the PCA has no real theological center, even avoids striving for one? To be sure, the Federal Vision was another theological problem on the PCA’s watch and some did try to remedy that situation. But it has apparently been left to presbyteries to decide. In the meantime, ministers can talk, act, and teach what they want with seemingly little sense of obligation to what will pass in the wider communion. (What happens in NYC, stays in NYC.)

Second, the conversations about sanctification are long, historical, sometimes exegetical, and incredibly abstract. Consider Paul Helm’s reflections on the controversy surrounding Double T:

Summarising, the idea that the law is no longer to be the moral guide, a point often insisted on by those dismissed as ‘antinomian’ (rather unjustly it seems to me) is clearly mistaken. The relevance of the moral law is a view endorsed by Christ and spelled out by the apostles. So in the most extended discussion of the nature of sanctification in the New Testament, Romans 12 and 13, the command to love one’s neighbour (12.9), and not to remain indebted (13.7), the laws forbidding adultery, stealing, covetousness are summed up, as Christ himself taught, as particular instances of ‘you shall love your neighbour as yourself’. (13. 8-10) But the law in not thought of primarily as obligations, duties, but as structural directions for the new life.

And this may be thought of as providential given the varieties of circumstance that the New Testament international church of Christ may find itself in. Without being relativistic, there may be across the world and down the centuries very different ways in which the injunctions are to be taken to apply to one thing and another. We must never forget that New Testament church is an international jurisdiction, by comparison with the Old Testament theocracy. . . .

All these forms of language in themselves strongly imply that Christian moral character is formed from the inside out, by means of the renewal of the mind, by the development of those seed-graces planted in regeneration. Morality is considered not of a code of separate acts of obedience which then develop in the agent corresponding habits of mind, but as an inner renewal which brings about the practice of the appropriate actions in a properly motivated manner.

This is useful, especially the point about the varieties of circumstance that confront believers. And it is these varieties that are so far from view in the shoving contest between alleged antinomians and neo-nomians. No one really asks a simple question like: so I am home from a not-so-hard day at work and it is the customary hour for an adult beverage and maybe a little ear-time with Phil Hendrie. Should I or should I not do this in my life of sanctification? Should I instead turn to Scripture with a time or prayer? Or maybe I should try to earn a little extra money with some on-line sales scheme in order to give more to foreign missions. Or maybe I should cut the grass a couple days early so that I can spend my entire Saturday in preparation for the Lord’s Day. Can I get a little help here?

Or to give the problem even greater concreteness, can someone claim to be more sanctified now than she was ten years ago even while being impolite — interrupting someone else who is speaking — to make this claim?

Which makes me wonder if we should postpone all talk about sanctification until the talkers are willing to mention specifics. The only people allowed to talk about it, in the meantime, are pastors who are preaching on texts related to the topic, church officers and parents who are catechizing children, and church officers doing the rounds of family visitation. I will grant an exemption to scholars who are writing commentaries or works of theology, but they must confine their remarks to the manuscript. Otherwise, sanctification may be a subject best left alone lest it become something so ethereal that we can affirm it without ever having to talk about how the dying to self goes in real time.

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158 thoughts on “No Need to Apologize to Me

  1. Can you imagine if the PCA tried to develop a theological center, how malformed that product would be?! They have become the gang that can’t shoot straight. Maybe they know it too, and that’s why when they show up at presbytery their biggest goal is to get out unscathed.

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  2. Carl Trueman weighed in witha good post yesterday. And, if I may be like you and make it all about me, I also weighed in on the practical side of this debate. Meanwhile, did you see the TGC kicked TT off its website?

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  3. Bill, as some others who’ve weighed in asked, can TGC excommunicate? But who will liberate us from the proliferation of niche ministries, conferences, and networks?

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  4. I’ve found the LC’s answers on the Ten Commandments and Thomas Watson’s discussion on them very helpful. Lots and lots of specifics there. How’s that for starters?

    Your example of listening to the radio or private worship is interesting. It seems you want someone to say one is right the other wrong. (I don’t know the show you mention so I can’t comment on its morality.) Well, clearly worship is always more edifying than listening to a radio show. Doesn’t mean all radio shows are bad. I suppose my question would be: do you (we) always choose something else rather than private worship? If so, why?

    Your example of cutting the grass a couple of days early is good: you’re beginning to think along the right lines there. Not essential, but surely not a bad idea? A better idea?

    Sometime it’s a question of priorities. But sometimes there are dos and don’ts, as given, for example, in Galatians 5:19-26. Again, lots of specifics there, like revellings: people like to forget about the prohibition on revellings today but it’s there in black and white.

    Maybe the reason the debate hasn’t gotten too specific is because it’s hard enough to get everyone to agree that the Christian is required to live any sort of a holy life?

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  5. I would add that Bob Godfrey and Scott Clark had a good discussion about this at Office Hours.
    http://heidelblog.net/2014/05/right-on-time-godfrey-on-the-law-and-sanctification/

    Dr. Godfrey made an important point in this debate: The doctrine of justification has been under attack for quite some time. In defending it sometimes people emphasize it to the exclusion of other doctrines. Godfrey and Clark didn’t name TT but apparently have him in mind (as well as others) who get branded as antinominian. I thought that was a fair point.

    While Jones apologized to you he also took a swipe at Clark and perhaps WSC as well.

    You are correct about the lack of a theological center in the PCA.

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  6. “There are a number of problems and ironies that have resulted from Tchividjian’s writings. The first concerns his rhetoric. He persistently speaks of people and ministers – even Reformed ministers – grossly confusing law-gospel categories, even going so far as to suggest that many assume that the law has the power to produce what it demands. This claim is nearly impossible for anyone to really prove.” – Mark Jones

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  7. “Of course, that did not stop him from writing a rather strong response to a ‘housewife theologian,'” – Mark Jones on TT

    Where is this at? People need to include links in their blog posts.

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  8. Bill, at the risk of winding Carl up, I’m not sure that raising the stakes of sin as he did will help to settle this disagreement:

    Or let’s raise the stakes even higher and move outside of the bounds of the transgressions of the Updikean suburbs. What if the person is compulsively sodomising children? Or remorselessly beating the billy-oh out of his wife? Or stalking and raping women after dark? Or indulging in child pornography? What do you say to them? Do you only point them back to their justification, to one way love, to the fact they are a glorious ruin? Is that what Paul’s command to ‘put to death the deeds of the body’ means? And if you tell them to stop it, do you tell them to do so simply because their behaviour breaks the civil law code? I do not believe that any of the critics of pastors like Mark Jones would actually do that in such a situation. They would surely know that such is clearly inadequate. But if they would not do so, why not? How would they counsel the child rapist? And would such counsel apply only in cases of extreme public sin as society sees it?

    I mean, as horrendous or beastly as the sins Carl mentions, I’m not sure that Mark Jones’ rendering of sanctification is going to help the pastor or the sinner in such a case. Does anyone doubt that a Christian should not do this? Is Double T merely excusing suburban sins? How is Jones going to minister to the child molester, who already knows what he is doing is wrong, to stop?

    How is Jones, for that matter, going to untap the elixir of sanctification to get me to be patient driver and husband?

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  9. Alexander, do you really think Presbyterians (outside the mainline) are uninterested in holiness? Over in the U.S., we’re drowning in it. Every moment of our lives have to be directed to some spiritual end. Here’s one of the “most successful” churches:

    Life-on-Life Missional Discipleship

    The Great Commission
    Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” – Matthew 28:18-20

    Job, family, friends and other duties of life all clamor for your attention and your devotion. Life-on-life missional discipleship is the most effective means of progressing toward spiritual maturity. This is the model Christ used with His disciples.

    Christianity without discipleship is always Christianity without Christ. – Dietrich Bonhoeffer

    I for one would like to see the stakes lowered so that leading an quiet and peaceful life with two services on Sunday qualifying as holy.

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  10. Is that church in your denomination? I’m sure lots of churches are filled with moralism: but how many in the PCA, OPC, URCNA? When double T writes a book it’s available to everyone. Therefore pastors have to deal with the fall out. If double T has specific ministers in mind he needs to name names. These vague and general accusations help no-one.

    Scott Clark keeps saying how legalism is such a problem: where? In the URCNA? Then why isn’t he doing anything about it? In the OPC? What are you doing about it?

    You asked for specifics, I gave some. Are you actually arguing that God is only interested in the Christian on Sabbath?

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  11. Alexander, so moralism is bad. How do you tell the difference between moralism and real sanctity? Which seminary course covers that?

    God is obviously interested in more than the sabbath. But if you look at what the Israelites in trouble, it was their inability to worship God. And think of the heroes that David and Judah were — we wouldn’t dare make such sexual perverts part of our list of saints.

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  12. The Law-Gospel Tempest in a Parachurch Teapot is probably both more and less important than we think it is. So your pastor is a little more apt to preach grace in a way that some feel is antinomian — if you’re in a confessional church the law and its warnings and directions are still there in the confession and in the readings. Maybe the reverse is true and your pastor tends to apply the law more than most — not the end of the world since grace drips from the reading and the confession, too. Some latitude is required because it is just IMPOSSIBLE to be absolutely clear and simple on these issues. They will not be mastered by anyone.

    And yes, the PCA remains a mess, but maybe some of its leading lights will reconsider their parachurch involvements and talk about these things at GA and presbys instead of online with a bunch of raving baptists and charismatics.

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  13. DG: “I for one would like to see the stakes lowered so that leading a quiet and peaceful life with two services on Sunday qualifying as holy.”

    Amen.

    The phrase below, “he knows not how,” is an eternal rebuke to all our vain strivings.

    And he said, “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground. He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how. The earth produces by itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. But when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.” (Mark 4:26-29 ESV)

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  14. I don’t know, maybe there’s a back story to explain it all, but if part of Jones’ complaint is that Tullian isn’t specific as regards practitioners or instances, is Jones’ rising to the bait an example of one ‘outing’ themselves as guilty? Is it possible that Tullian was, in fact, particular enough and the intended targets duly cried foul?

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  15. I’ve been in P&R circles my whole life (30+ years), and in several denominations (CRC, URC, OPC, PCA), and if someone really doesn’t think confusion of law and gospel and moralism isn’t a perennial problem in the P&R world, that person is willfully ignorant. Double T’s emphasis or rhetoric may need refocusing (hence the apparent careful handling of Double T by several of the WSC faculty members), but I hardly think he’s peddling “false doctrine,” in the words of Rick Phillips.

    What I find obnoxious is how the good old boys network of TGC and T4G circle the wagons, protect their own, and silence dissent.

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  16. Color me cynical, but I view a certain branch of the reformed world as forever retrying the Shepherd controversy with the intent of having Shepherd’s developments or where he was trending and/or Murray’s recasting of the COG being exonerated in the end. Either through ‘union’ or historia salutis BT application, or through the ‘puritan’ emphasis or Calvin vs Calvinists, and even FV, this same fight keeps getting rehashed over and over and over and over…………………… Of course, there’s also the group who just isn’t very good at what they do-‘Why Johnny Can’t Preach’.

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  17. Jack that’s unacceptable of you. You need to revolve around the idea of God’s delight in you, not His acceptance of you. Then there’s Owens, after about 300 pages, or so, into mortification of sin, where even he gets tired of his own navel-gazing and recommends as a summary; “get a sense of the love of Jesus Christ for you” as elixir for the sin that besets.

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  18. Maybe I am something, DG, and I have not followed this as closely as others, but it did not appear to me that Carl all Carl was doing was saying the inadequacy of TT’s approach is exposed by testing it against these worse case scenarios. At least that was my take away. But, what at least to my experience in Reformed circles is that he grants that people who do such things are Christians who need pastoral care. In my experience people would say, “Well it’s obvious such a person is not born again.” And/or, “We must excommunicate him today.” We have had a lot of the Al Martin “true conversion rare and difficult” and the Gardiner Spring kind of stuff among us. To someone who ran in the circles I ran in, what Carl wrote is a breath of fresh air. Sill, as I say at the end of my blog about it, there is still a great need for people with mature pastoral insight and experience to suggest what we say and what we do in cases of chronic repetitive sins It has to be something besides “God really, really loves you” on the one hand and “Pray that he will convert you” on the other.

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  19. TT’s tone and trance music fixation add to the irritation caused by loose cannon theologizing. But if you challenge the actual ideas ( see David Robertson’s comments ) all you get is the same repeated mantras over and over again along with an arsenal of 100 watt affirming pleasantries. It’s very peppy, but hard to figure out how it helps with the nitty gritty of slugging out the daily Christian walk. Jones’ invocation of Stalker seems right on.

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  20. Sean: Then there’s Owens, after about 300 pages, or so, into mortification of sin, where even he gets tired of his own navel-gazing and recommends as a summary; “get a sense of the love of Jesus Christ for you” as elixir for the sin that besets.

    Don’t forget the several dozen works by Puritans that come to us as horribly scanned 850 page tomes in Olde Engliffh.

    (sure you’ve read those when you are a high-school dropout…)

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  21. As a T-Shirt wearing Trueman devotee, I was disappointed in his latest article critiquing TT. It seemed rhetorically cheap for him.

    – If a member is engaging in such horrible abuse, shouldn’t the pastor immediately get the state/authorities involved? That’s what the state is there for in such situations, not the pastor.
    – Once the appropriate authorities are involved, then isn’t the pastor still called to preach the gospel to the parishioner caught in such horrible sin? Even if that parishioner is behind bars? I don’t see how the pastor’s duty suddenly changes when the horribleness of the particular sin goes up.
    – Of course, if the parishioner is unrepentant, no matter what the particular sin, then the pastor needs to apply the law and perhaps keep them from the Eucharist until that parishioner is repentant.

    I don’t see why the pastor’s duties and theology must change as the sordidness of the sin increases, except that at a certain point the authorities must get involved. St. Paul certainly seemed to handle extremely sordid sins without adjusting his theology.

    Am I off here?

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  22. I, for one, am not entirely sure Carl achieved anything in his post. For one thing, he clearly is taking sides. For two things, his suburbian narrative is actually the other way round: ‘the law’ (he seems to imply) is necessary only/primarily? to outright perverts; as for ‘middle-class’ (respectable) sins, a decent dose of TT maybe be fine for a moment. Hmm..?

    As you can tell… he confused me even more.

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  23. Bill, I read Carl as minimizing suburban sins — do I have a cocktail or read the Bible? I don’t see how minimizing any sin — suburban or gutter — works to the sanctifiers’ advantage.

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  24. 1. Of course, some sins are worse than others. In that sense to maximize some sins is to minimize others. But still all sins are worthy of death. 2. Some sins are more compulsive than others. When you take the kinds of sins to which Carl calls attention, esp child sexual abuse you are dealing with sins which are compulsive by natue. 3. So what do we do with the poor parishioner who has been arrested for child sexual abuse. He knows he is guilty. He wants to change but he keeps returning to the sin. So when we visit him in jail what can we offer? Do we say, “I am sorry but this is a compulsive which nobbody knows what to do about. So you need to stay locked up where kids will be saved. But good news you are justiified”? Perhaps that’s all that can be done. But one would like to think that change is possible – that there is some way such a persons can be able to live either without such compulsions or in control of such compulsions. I don’t have answers. But one thing that I see Carl does is to move us beyond abstractions to real pastoral issues, which is where most of working stiff pastors have to live.

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  25. Trueman’s post is especially rich when we just take a look at the historical context his critique of TT’s stance on sanctification –

    TT may be running afoul w/ TGC, T4G, and Ref 21, but it isn’t simply on the grounds of his position on grace and sanctification. He also committed the cardinal sin in any good ole’ boys clubs, namely criticize one of the good ole boys. What is so fascinating is that he has blasted these organizations for their glowing endorsements of CJM when his ministries, and individuals involved in his ministry were involved in sexual abuse, with allegations of cover up. The conviction of Nate Morales has opened a whole new can of worms, because CJ’s brother-in-law and SGM higher-up admitted on the stand that they new about the then alleged abuses of Morales, knew it should have been reported, and did nothing.

    Yet, he goes after TT in what is tantamount to a reductio ad absurdum implicating his views with allowing rank sexual sin to persist on the grounds that we are under grace. Now I’ll grant that TT could do a better job of clarifying his position, but he is the one (the only one in the Gospel Industrial Complex I am aware of) who has been crying foul publicly for how sexual sin and abuse was handled at SGM, and how the Gospel Industrial Complex has basically given cover to Mahaney without letting the process reveal all the pertinent facts. Anyone who has questions the Complex on this matter is accused of libel and slander.

    Given the fact that immediately following Morales’ conviction Mahaney stepped down from TGC’s executive council, as did his former protogee’ Josh Harris, we may find out sooner than later just how foolish and preliminary the Complex was in giving him cover. Additionally, TT being booted out of the club just might be a badge of honor in the future.

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  26. Here’s a short interview of TT on Janet Mefferd’s show today. Discusses TGC; Mahaney; who knew what—and when; etc.

    Where’s Don P. Veitch the Viking? Always fun to hear his take.

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  27. RL,

    If the Viking comes out of his cage for this one, I doubt he will leave any corner un-sniffed.We should call him the Bloodhound.

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  28. I’m amazed how few even question the propriety of either TT, or the TGN ministers who are always posting and speaking at conferences, spending so little time ministering to their own people individually. Are there not enough people in TT’s church that he has time to start another ministry? The same goes for TGC conference circuit pastors. At what point do ruling elders garner the courage to say to these celebrity pastors – we actually called you to pastor this church and these people – could you possibly see to doing this full-time?

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  29. D. G. Hart
    Posted May 21, 2014 at 11:24 am | Permalink
    charlie whisky, is victor delta, tango a raving baptist or charismatic?

    Charismatic? Moi? DeltaIndiaNovemberGolf? Yahtzee!!!???

    If so, be assured I’ve exorcized far worthier demons than you, Uncle Screwtape.

    The Raving Baptist card is interesting too, though. Do keep throwing that spaghetti against the wall. Something might stick.

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  30. D. G. Hart
    Posted May 21, 2014 at 5:26 pm | Permalink
    Bill, but isn’t the problem also there for me and my impatience with my wife? Both are sins, right? So when does holiness come?

    Hard to say. Is holiness the lack of sin? Why not just think nothing, do nothing, be nothing until you just die, a perfect nothing?

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  31. CW – Some latitude is required because it is just IMPOSSIBLE to be absolutely clear and simple on these issues. They will not be mastered by anyone.

    Erik – You obviously missed comment 57 by Bryan on Bryan’s article “Bryan Makes These Issues Absolutely Clear and Simple”…

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  32. I like Carl Trueman’s examples of the most repugnant forms of sexual sin. TT should really think about how he is going to respond to all of his congregants behaving in that manner. That was good. Now, is sexually abusing children and telling your congregants that going to the police is sinful because you are with holding forgiveness not considered grotesque? I guess not. I guess we won’t have to worry about how everyone over at SGM handles those things. Whew. One less thing to argue about.

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  33. DGH – Bill, I read Carl as minimizing suburban sins…
    TBR – For two things, his suburbian narrative is actually the other way round

    WDO:
    I read it as the opposite. It’s basically an argument from absurdity, with an attempt at a visceral reaction to drive the point home.

    He’s essentially saying to Double-T’s supporters, “Look, the only reason you think this is a good idea is because you don’t take the “middle-class sins” seriously. It only “works” because if you don’t care about them then you can have a church full of “decent,” “respectable,” “nice,” “churchy” people who get feely-good feel-goods by being told they’re all alright and not being confronted about sins that the world doesn’t care about and aren’t going to cause a public scandal. But wait — you guys think about how this works out with REAL sins, you know the kind of things that still stir your conscience (or at least your condemnation)? Well then, in that context, isn’t TTs position obviously absurd?”

    The finishing move then, which apparently Trueman didn’t make explicit enough, is: “And in God’s eyes, those middle-class sins you’re ignoring really are REAL sins, too, aren’t they? Therefore TTs view is absurd in that context as well, making it an altogether absurd position.”

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  34. WDO, I still don’t get it. Don’t the people who commit the suburban sins still need forgiveness? And if those suburbanites are molesting children, by Jones’ and Trueman’s logic, aren’t they making progress in sanctification? Simply because we discipline either the gross or the common sins doesn’t mean sanctification is happening.

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  35. Robin, who said that forgiving sins meant you don’t turn someone in to the police. Even Everett McGill in O Brother Where Art Thou? understood that being squared with the Lord did not square you with the State of Mississippi.

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  36. TT’s emphasis was rampant in the PCA church I (used to) attend. In fact, my (former) pastor just had a “speaking gig” at TT’s church….birds of a feather and all that. I do not know what kind of preaching TT does and how he presents the gospel to his listeners. Coral Ridge is a mystery. TT’s gospel presentation is likewise a mystery. But here in Farmville, we have heard the same type of message. Perhaps we are examining TT’s theology too deeply. Here, the trend toward downplaying sanctification might be because there is no possibility of it happening in churches where a different gospel is being preached. A different gospel does not produce believers. Unbelievers are not justified and therefore have no possibility of growing in Christ because there has been no repentance to begin with. A pastor who has delivered a flawed gospel is faced with a congregation of (very busy) unbelievers and must account for the sins of his flock in a way that does not implicate him overmuch. This approach does the trick, with the added bonus of smoothing out the rough edges of a gospel he did not preach in the first place.

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  37. When did lack of clarification in important (any) doctrine become a minor issue? Where was this surfeit of charity when Norman Shepherd claimed he was being misunderstood? Maybe it’s just that you all agree with TT’s position?

    On heidelblog I lost count of the times TT’s followers said “well of course he’s orthodox…”. Methinks, to paraphrase Mrs. Thatcher, that being orthodox is like being a lady: if you have to keep telling people you are, you aren’t.

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  38. Kent: Thanks for asking. That was kind of you. Perhaps (all about me) is a better email subject.

    C.W.: Not surprised about Steve Brown, as “birds of a feather….” Brown gave our Easter sermon years ago. And “conference stage”… doesn’t that term just speak volumes? TED talks come to mind.

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  39. WDO, but the implication is to treat all sin the same, as in apply a measure of law to subtler sins and grosser sins. The point isn’t apathy, rather that some sins have different qualifiers for good reason and so require different responses. So it’s not really a matter of ignoring sins but adjusting accordingly. Do we really think that how we respond to sin that is criminal helps us know better how to respond to sin that it isn’t? Do we really want our pastor to call the cops when we admit to taking that second glance at the neighbor’s lycra shorts or a lost temper at the clerk?

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  40. MSL,

    A different gospel does not produce believers. Unbelievers are not justified and therefore have no possibility of growing in Christ because there has been no repentance to begin with.

    I agree with your statement on one level but I don’t think TT is preaching a “different gospel”, you’re going to have to prove that one. The issue isn’t the content of TT’s ‘gospel’ but what he does with the law with believers. That’s the problem, lots of people want to turn this into a gospel issue and it’s not, it’s a law issue. Let’s keep it there.

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  41. Nate,

    I do not think it is correct to say the only problem with many in this new grace movement is with the law for believers. It almost always comes down to a proper understanding of the gospel. I have not listened enough to TT to know if this applies to him, but if the gospel presentation fails to include repentance, (and not simply repentance from attempts at self-justification), if it fails to include counting the cost, or a call to treasure the gospel over self and family, when it fails to add that the purpose of the gospel is to ” teach us to say No to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age…who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.” (Titus 2), then it is a truncated gospel, though when a truncated gospel becomes a different gospel is a difficult question.

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  42. Todd, are we talking about TT or ‘new grace movement’? Mountain man (MSL) was talking about Tullian, not a movement. I haven’t read/listened to a lot of TT (and honestly probably won’t) but what I have I don’t see the smoking gun of compromising the gospel. I get that he can be a bit imprecise on the use of the law but hypothetical situations aren’t the reality, at least as far as TT is concerned. That’s why this issue seems a little overblown to me.

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  43. Nate,

    I guess I consider TT part of the grace movement because that is what he is known for. My general point was that a problem with understanding obedience is rarely disconnected from a problem with understanding the gospel correctly, but with you, I do not know enough to make specific accusations.

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  44. Todd,

    My general point was that a problem with understanding obedience is rarely disconnected from a problem with understanding the gospel correctly, but with you, I do not know enough to make specific accusations.

    Accuse away man, the lad could use a drubbing! I know him pretty well, and aside from not liking him much, I also think he’s full of it 93% of the time.

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  45. 1. Helm asks the question “is sanctification imputed”. But Helm does not answer the question.

    2. I would not use the word “imputed”, because a I am a biblicist and “imputation” is not a word the Bible uses with the words “holy” or “sanctification” and b. the word “imputed” has different meanings for different people.

    3. The word “imputed” is not even used in most of the proof-texts I use for justification. It has a double meaning of declaration and transfer, Sometimes the word is used only in the declared sense. And even the word “transfer” has problems, since it’s Christ’s death/ righteousness, which belongs to Him still, so I prefer “legal solidarity” as the term. Even on sins imputed, it was still also Adam’s sin, and when our sins were imputed to Christ, it’s still important to understand in what way they are our sins, not Christ’s in the sense of His psychology, personal prayer and etc.

    4. But to get back to Helm’s thought on “sanctification”, he rightly criticises the WCF for making the focus law obedience. He even suggests that this is because of the national church context, but I think most nation-states (theocratic or not) are also big on law obedience.

    5. But Helm does not ever get back to the biblical “balance”, which is almost all on “definitive sanctification”, not only in terms of the blood (imputed perfection, Hebrews 10) or the either or effectual work of the Holy Spirit (I Thess 2:13), either we have the new life or we do not. We are saints or not, holy or not.

    6. In discussing the “new man”, Helm focuses on “the life within” (his reading of the seed within, I John 3) in a way which is not what the Bible says about “the new man” or the “new creation”. Becoming part of the new man is about Christ’s headship vs Adam’s headship, not about two natures. Helms does not say “two natures”, but he still gives a Banner of Truth answer, and still talks about some “success”. Christ outside, AND plus now we are able and you can see it in how we live,..

    7. Helm translates the Sermon on the Mount back into the “values of the Decalogue”. That really is too bad, especially given his shot at the WCF for coming out of a Constantinian context.

    http://matthewtuininga.wordpress.com/2013/08/22/why-didnt-the-church-emphasize-the-ten-commandments-until-the-late-medieval-era/

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  46. Sean: “Color me cynical, but I view a certain branch of the reformed world as forever retrying the Shepherd controversy with the intent of having Shepherd’s developments or where he was trending and/or Murray’s recasting of the COG being exonerated in the end. Either through ‘union’ or historia salutis BT application, or through the ‘puritan’ emphasis or Calvin vs Calvinists, and even FV, this same fight keeps getting rehashed over and over and over and over”

    Mark: Amen to all that, Sean! —(Antinomianism, 2013, P and R Jones does not mention the Westminster Seminary California volume “The Law Is Not of Faith”, but I think thse writers are the ultimate target of his passionate desire to be more famous. Jones even links John Cotton with “antinomianism” because Cotton understood God’s imputation to be before faith, and a cause of faith. (But see II Peter 1:1, Galatians 3-4, given the Spirit because of being sons, Romans 8:10, life because of righteousness.)

    Along the way, Jones provokes division by accusing those in the “Sonship” faction as giving “boring…messages each week when they have a sort of systematic theology that they need to declare every Lord’s day”. (p 118). To return like for like, let me say that I am at least equally bored with those who make everything to be about “union with” the resurrected Christ so that we Christians “can and will” now do what Christ did.

    These folks who keep repeating “threefold union” always take almost no time to forget union by election or by imputation, so that they can run back to “union by faith” or “union by the Spirit” or to “Christ in us” instead of “us in Christ”, which they did not deny but which they never stop to talk about.

    It’s very much like those who speak of “threefold sanctification”, in which they do not deny that, in biblicist terms, sanctification is an either or and based on being in Christ’s death or not (Hebrews 10, sanctified by the blood), and in which they do not deny that “sanctification is by the effectual call and hearing of the gospel by the Holy Spirit in believing the gospel about what Christ did (I Thess 2:13), but then from on, nothing but a “conditional sanctification” which depends on our cooperation and effort. They lecture us. They tell us that to believe the gospel is the same as do what Jesus says to do. Some of us are doing it. You are not doing it.

    This moralist preaching does not seem to me very different from Arminian preaching.

    In his latest attack, Jones begins by stressing the diversity of opinion in the Reformed tradition on the law-gospel antithesis. But as soon as he finishes doing that, he goes right back to claiming that he’s in the mainstream Reformed tradition and calls for sending others (specific sectarians) into exile.

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  47. The old baptists that Calvin and Luther persecuted practiced church discipline, But they did not call the cops because the cops were after them!

    These old baptists did not think that preaching and sacrament was all that the church could or should do. Of course there is always the question about the marks of the church—are they only the stuff that God does, or is there some stuff that a true church does, and how do we make a distinction between what a true church does and what God does (or sacrament)?

    But to make a slightly less philosophical observation, it seems that D A Carson has no problem saying that love for God means going to war with Muslims, but has more problems calling for other males from his coalition to call the cops. It is a coalition in which male-headship is more of an issue than evangelical idols like Arminianism.

    http://www.christianpost.com/news/tullian-tchividjian-blasts-sovereign-grace-ministries-handling-of-sex-abuse-scandal-prematurely-departs-the-gospel-coalition-120062/

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  48. McMark,

    … or to “Christ in us” instead of “us in Christ”, which they did not deny but which they never stop to talk about.

    There is a lot, there. I will respond more, but I think you are onto a critical distinction that the modern unionists fail to make. There is much talk of Christ in us, which does have biblical precedent. However, as I recall, the predominant use is referring to the saints being “in Christ.” The meaning of this in the union debates is often lost.

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  49. Nate,

    Jed, the other 7% is when I’m talking with you

    You give yourself too much credit, usually you just sound like Charlie Brown’s teacher to me: “Wah wah wah wah…”

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  50. (By Faith Not By Sight) Gaffin — “Typically in the Reformation tradition the hope of salvation is expressed in terms of Christ’s righteousness, especially as imputed to the believer…however, I have to wonder if ‘Christ in you’ is not more prominent as an expression of evangelical hope…” p 110

    Romans 3: 27 Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. 28 For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.

    Romans 7:4 Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we bear fruit for God. 5 For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. 6 But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive….

    Romans 8:3 For God HAS DONE what the law, weakened by the flesh, could NOT do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh,

    Al Martin and Gardiner Spring (Distinguishing Traits) seem to think it’s “cheap grace” for us to say that God DID what the law could NEVER do . That sounds too “antinomian” and “dispensationalist”.

    Thus they lecture us—
    “Everything depends on the inward attitude of the heart, with the great contrast lying between the
    unregenerate flesh and the indwelling, regenerating Spirit. Those indwelt by the Spirit are disposed to comply with the law.”

    Justification by grace APART FROM WORKS has disappeared. The either/or that Paul had between faith and works has disappeared. Now we need to get busy. Now we need to produce.

    Ironically, the only problem left now for the legalist is “legalism” defined as boasting. If you work without boasting and with faith and give god the credit for making you able to do it, then there is no sin of self-righteousness you will be justified. If you do not work (enough), then you are an antinomian (so much so that you will not get past the judgment and avoid the second death).

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  51. We do not stand apart from law before God, we stand only in Christ’s death as our satisfaction of the law before God. We need to reject the Socinian notion that God saves the elect apart from Christ’s satisfaction of the law or the Richard Baxter/ new perspective notion that God saves (or sanctifies) by means of our imperfect satisfaction of the law.

    Romans 6:14 For sin will have no dominion over you, BECAUSE you are not under law but under grace.

    Mark Jones—“The trouble is that this grace-lit fashion is wrecking havoc for those of us who have to minister on the ground and away from the academic ivory towers. Its incredible how many modern Christians who hardly know their bibles can tell us that they are not under law but under grace ….”

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  52. Zrim – Do we really want our pastor to call the cops when we admit to taking that second glance at the neighbor’s lycra shorts or a lost temper at the clerk?

    Male neighbor or female neighbor?

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  53. Anyone who is genuinely antinomian will eventually out themselves. There will be no mystery when you see a former minister living under a bridge or walking the streets as a tranny hooker. These things all make sense in the long-term.

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  54. So Carl’s answer to the child-rapist is to parrot Jones and say “good works are necessary for salvation”? Such an approach doesn’t seem to have stopped multitudes of Catholic priests. I’m disappointed in Carl on this one.

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  55. Erik, female, but I suppose if male then the example would be lost on certain theos who seem pretty sure that the civil authorities should indeed be called upon a second glance.

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  56. Darryl,

    “Don’t the people who commit the suburban sins still need forgiveness? And if those suburbanites are molesting children, by Jones’ and Trueman’s logic, aren’t they making progress in sanctification? Simply because we discipline either the gross or the common sins doesn’t mean sanctification is happening.”

    Would you discipline the chronic molester (or other horrendous and beastly sins) but not the chronic impatient driver or husband? Would you counsel the chronic molester he may not actually be saved, but not the chronic impatient driver that he may not be saved?

    Chortles,

    “Lloyd-Jones: “If your presentation of the Gospel does not expose it to the charge of Antinomianism you are probably not putting it correctly.””

    Hood: “Tullian Tchividjian borrows from Lloyd-Jones in exhorting preachers to use the antinomian accusation as a self-assessment tool for ministerial fidelity….An accusation of theological heresy cannot be considered a fool-proof test of fidelity….We should strive to avoid the charge of antinomianism. And if Paul is our model, if such charges ever do come they must be refuted with the strongest language and clearest corrections possible. They should not be met by a nod and a checkmark on our fidelity chart.”
    http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2011/januaryweb-only/heresyisheresy.html

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  57. got to like that Bill Smith guy, ex-PCA now Episcopal. I like how he names names (Al Martin, Gardiner Spring etc)

    Here’s a quotation from the Curmudgeon:

    (1) Saving Faith. … If your faith is of the saving variety, it will produce definitive effects in your life. You will find in and about yourself evidences that saving faith is at work changing you. You must examine yourself to see if your faith is transforming, and if you cannot find clear evidence of transformation then your faith may not be of the saving sort. It may be “nothing in my hand I bring” at the beginning, but some things better show up in your hand pretty soon. It may be “just as I am I come” but you better not be what “I am” long or you didn’t really come.

    (2) Regeneration. Faith is impossible apart from the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit. Regenerating grace or the new birth precedes faith. But what does regeneration do? Does it awaken the sinner to his true peril and then enable him to trust in Christ, or does it involve a total moral renovation? If it involves moral renovation, then you must look not only for faith that rests in and on Christ, but moral differences of nature, character, and behavior….

    3) Repentance. ….You cannot turn to Christ without turning from sin. But what is this repentance that goes with faith? Is it a change that means you no longer resist God, rely on yourself, and reject Christ? Or is it more? Is it being sorry for your sin, seeking mercy, and longing for the happy day when you will be free of it? Or is it more? …How much transformation and renovation must there be if you truly repent? How much ceasing from sin is involved in the repentance that is faith’s Siamese twin?

    4) Lordship. … You cannot exercise just the “Savior option” and reject the “Lord option.” You cannot hold Christ’s Lordship in abeyance while you are a “carnal Christian” and later become a “spiritual Christian” when you put Christ on the throne and rise to a new level of faith, the faith of submission as distinct from the faith of assent. But what does receiving Christ as Lord mean? It is bowing to him as your only hope – putting yourself in his hands and saying, “Lord, I cannot save myself; you must save me”? Or is it a submission that issues in a consistent pattern of obedience? Are you in a new realm where the devil is no longer king but Christ is? Or, are you now so dead to the devil’s rule and so alive to Christ’s that, as a citizen of His kingdom, there is some but not a whole lot of remaining corruption….

    What is given in justification by faith alone can be taken away by so defining faith that the comfort and hope of justification is removed.

    http://thechristiancurmudgeonmo.blogspot.com/2013/07/how-righteous-do-i-have-to-be-to-know-i.html

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  58. victor delta, charlie, what is your point? Every sin gets discipline. Sins that damage the reputation of the church receive different treatment. But molesters and the impatient are both sinners. Why wouldn’t they both receive discipline and forgiveness?

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  59. Erik Charter
    Posted May 23, 2014 at 8:53 am | Permalink
    “The Big Lebowski brilliantly married slacker dudeness with surreal design.”

    – The Story of Film: An Odyssey

    Ah, he finally gets it.

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  60. Jed ,

    You mean like Colossians 1:27: Christ in [the believer] the hope of glory? I guess that’s a pretty minor point though, you know: the believer’s hope of glory being that Christ indwells him.

    Sheesh.

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  61. Only the outside righteousness of Christ satisfies God’s law, who God is in me and what God does in me, cannot satisfy God’s law.

    “Although true believers be not under the law… to be thereby justified, or condemned; yet the law is 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; discovering also the sinful pollutions of their nature, hearts and lives; so as, examining themselves thereby, they may come to further conviction of, humiliation for, and hatred against sin, together with a clearer sight of the need they have of Christ, and the perfection of His obedience.It is likewise of use to the regenerate, to restrain their corruptions, in that it forbids sin:[ and the threatenings of it serve to show what even their sins deserve;”

    mark: Notice that the Confession teaches the threatenings of law, NOT the threatenings of a=a “large gospel” as endorsed by Jones, Gaffin, and Shepherd (with many others in the Reformed establishment)…

    “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”

    As Walter Marshall explains in the Gospel Mystery of Sanctification, we don’t know if we are doing good (before God, not only in the estimate of the world) until we first know if we are good trees, in a justified state before God. We don’t sin to get more grace. We don’t not sin to get more grace.

    https://oldlife.org/2014/01/court-sanctification/comment

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  62. 2 Peter One commands us to examine our works by making our calling and election sure. Those who know Christ are not commanded to become fruitful in order to find out if they know Christ (or are known by Christ).

    But many assume a “practical syllogism” in which assurance of calling is based on our works. To do that,they attempt to isolate one verse and ignore the context, which begins in the very first verse with the idea that faith is given because of Christ’s righteousness. They makes their works of faith the assurance. In effect, their assurance of Christ’s atonement is only as good as their confidence in their own works. Their “faith” turns out to be assurance in works, not assurance in Christ’s atonement. Because it can’t be both. There is no “balance” in “sola fide”.

    By what gospel were we called? Was it the gospel of “characteristic obedience” or was it the gospel of “Christ paid it all for the elect”? Legalists think they can follow Christ as Lord without submitting to salvation only by God’s perfect and sufficient alone righteousness.

    We do not work to get assurance. We must have assurance before our works are acceptable to God. But many puritan “experimentalists” along with the “Lordship” Arminians, think of faith as the “condition” that saves them.. Yes, they disagree about the source of faith, but they both are much more concerned about the disposition of the believer than they are in the object of faith.

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  63. Smeaton, Apostles Doctrine of the Atonement, p 178

    ”Romans 8:4–That the righteousness of the law would be fulfilled in us. That is so like another expression of the same apostle, that the two passages might fitly be compared for mutual elucidation (II Cor 5:21). This expression cannot be referred to any inward work of renovation; for no work or attainment of ours can with any propriety of language be designated a “fulfillment of the righteousness of the law”.

    The words, “the righteousness of the law,” are descriptive of Christ’s obedience as the work of one for many (Romans 5:18). This result is delineated as the end contemplated by Christ’s incarnation and atonement, and intimates that as He was made a sin-offering, so are we regarded as full-fillers of the law…”

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  64. On the TG4, TGC, Ref21, etc… front I think the possibility exists that they handled the whole SGM affair abhorrently and that TT is incorrect in his preaching and teaching.

    I’ll never understand how/why Presbyterians, who have the most biblical and wisest form of church government, refuse to use it instead referring to use the anabaptist mob version of polity.

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  65. Ben, I know you probably mean that PCA people shouldn’t be arguing this in public forums, but I question — how relevant is the PCA to TT comparted to TGC? Or his own enterprises? And does the PCA’s unwillingness or inability to deal with doctrinal matters make some more likely to pounce in public inasmuch as they believe that the GA or presbyteries will never deal with error effectively? And further — is the PCA becoming a division of TGC? Or does the PCA exist now to help facilitate TGC?

    I’ll bet “how the Coalition will view this” factors in more than you might suspect at Redeemer HQ and at PCA HQ…the PCA, featuring Tim Keller and a host of other TGC celebs.

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  66. Some TGC figures, relevant or not. On the 48-member TGC council (assuming they haven’t whacked any this weekend) I count 33 baptist-independents, 10 presbyterians (7 PCA), two whose affiliation (if any) I cannot discern, two Anglicans, and one RCA.

    http://thegospelcoalition.org/about/council

    One could argue that (if the organization is of any value) Reformed folk are way under-represented, or (practically speaking) that the Reformed are way over-represented.

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  67. Alexander,

    I think you are making an assumption that I am anti-union here. I am not. Christ is in us as we are in him. However, as I have observed some of the excesses on the pro-Union side, I hear more about Christ in us vs. us in Christ. I think that they are related concepts, but the emphasis of each “in” is different. The Pauline use is predominantly describing how we are “in Christ”, and I think that the emphasis amongst several of the Union advocates ignore the rich OT background of what the believer being “in Christ” means. In a sense it is over-spiritualized, drawn into mystical categories, when it’s practical import is far richer to the believer.

    My contention is that the unionists are guilty of over-emphasizing certain NT union themes, while under-emphasizing or even ignoring other union themes in their broader canonical context. I’ll post more specific examples later today.

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  68. D. G. Hart
    Posted May 24, 2014 at 3:24 am | Permalink
    victor delta, tango, when will you?

    I get you just fine, my dear Uncle Screwtape. That’s our problem. ;-D

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  69. Chortles,

    I am not PCA and I have no problem with public discourse, heated even.

    And the fact for TT and NYC that Presbyterianism plays little or no part of the problem is a large part of the issue.

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  70. Alexander, the only legitimate sheesh, is the argument that the Gaffinite-Shepherdite development of the duplex gratia, eclipses the logical priority of justification to sanctification. You understand ‘union’ through your reception of Christ through faith NOT via the renovative effects of union with Christ. WSC30:

    Q. 30. How doth the Spirit apply to us the redemption purchased by Christ?

    A. The Spirit applieth to us the redemption purchased by Christ, by working faith in us, and thereby uniting us to Christ in our effectual calling.

    We are united to Christ but we understand this union through the Spirit’s application to us and the Spirit applies this redemption by working FAITH in us and THEREBY/THUSLY uniting us to Christ in our effectual calling.

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  71. Would you discipline the chronic molester (or other horrendous and beastly sins) but not the chronic impatient driver or husband? Would you counsel the chronic molester he may not actually be saved, but not the chronic impatient driver that he may not be saved?

    CvD, are these more Jews-in-the-attic type questions? But if the question is, Are all sins in some sense a violation of holiness, then yes. But if the question is, Should all sins be treated the same, then no. There are more questions that could be asked, e.g. is there any repentance involved, how are we coming into the knowledge of these behaviors, have they been addressed privately, etc. IOW, just like the Jews-in-the-attic question there are plenty of wrinkles involved and taking them case-by-case is required before anybody starts using the d-word. Or just like with the Jews-in-the-attic question, was this just meant to stir the blogpot for effect?

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  72. D. G. Hart
    Posted May 24, 2014 at 6:17 pm | Permalink
    victor delta, tango, you get SierraQuebecUniformAlphaTangoTangoAlphaHotel.

    Attaboy, Screwtape. Constitutionally unable to ever play it straight. Even your little crew of acolytes doesn’t know what you’re saying half the time. [Although they agree with it.]

    Come to think of it though, I’m self-evidently the Dude, poor Erik’s Donnie and you’re the big genius Walter, always telling people they’re out of their element. Like now.

    And that’s the name of this movie.

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  73. I think there might be two PCAs going on here. The ones caught up in all this publicly are the 1%ers in terms of empire building and influence. The rest of us just muddle along, as if we were in the OPC as far as they care. The courts are irrelevant here, since everyone is taking to the public airwaves to conduct their trials. It’s been shameful.

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  74. “ It is sometimes said that the merits of Christ cannot be imputed to us as long as we are not in Christ, since it is only on the basis of our oneness with Him that such an imputation could be reasonable. But this view fails to distinguish between our legal unity with Christ and our spiritual oneness with Him, and is a falsification of the fundamental element in the doctrine of redemption, namely, of the doctrine of justification.”
    —Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology, 452.

    Berkhof——union in a broad sense as a designation not only of the subjective union of Christ and believers, but also of the union that lies back of it, that is basic to it, and of which it is only the culminating expression, namely, the federal union of Christ and those who are His in the counsel of redemption, the mystical union ideally established in that eternal counsel, and the union as it is objectively effected in the incarnation and the redemptive work of Christ. (p. 495)

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  75. Some Reformed preachers think that God is not angry at them right now today because they are being moral right now today.

    But I think this—If we have to stop sinning before there is no condemnation, there will always be condemnation. What does it matter how much we say we can obey the law if we still don’t? An argument about ability does not change our obligation. But neither does an argument about new ability change our need for the blessings of salvation earned by Christ’s perfect satisfaction of God’s law.

    Romans 2: 17 But if you call yourself a Jew and rely on the law and boast in God 18 and know his will and approve what is excellent, because you are instructed from the law; 19 and if you are sure that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, 20 an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of children, having in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth— 21 you then who teach others, do you not teach yourself? While you preach against stealing, do you steal? 22 You who say that one must not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? 23 You who boast in the law dishonor God by breaking the law.

    Romans 3:19 Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. 20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.

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  76. victor delta, tango, “Come to think of it though, I’m self-evidently the Dude, poor Erik’s Donnie and you’re the big genius Walter, always telling people they’re out of their element. Like now.”

    That’s a long name for a movie.

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  77. DG, as a pastor I will take your advice and preach on sanctification as I continue the lectio continua through the book of Ephesians.

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  78. D. G. Hart
    Posted May 25, 2014 at 2:19 pm | Permalink
    victor delta, tango, “Come to think of it though, I’m self-evidently the Dude, poor Erik’s Donnie and you’re the big genius Walter, always telling people they’re out of their element. Like now.”

    That’s a long name for a movie.

    That was actually witty, Darryl. A sign of the Apocolypse…

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  79. Darryl,

    “victor delta, charlie, what is your point? Every sin gets discipline. Sins that damage the reputation of the church receive different treatment. But molesters and the impatient are both sinners. Why wouldn’t they both receive discipline and forgiveness?”

    Why doesn’t the admitted chronic sin of being impatient or constantly breaking the 2 great commandments not damage the reputation of the church, but child molestation and others do? If all sin is equally damning (though differing in degree of punishment) why do some chronic ones get passes while other chronic ones don’t and would lead to severe discipline or even counsel that the committer might not be saved? I don’t deny you hold that every sin/sinner can receive forgiveness, I just don’t understand why you distinguish in treating “light” sins differently than “beastly” sins given your theology of sin and rejection of mortal/venial sin distinction.

    Zrim,

    “CvD, are these more Jews-in-the-attic type questions?”

    Sometimes it’s more illuminating to work from examples than just abstractions all day.

    “But if the question is, Are all sins in some sense a violation of holiness, then yes. But if the question is, Should all sins be treated the same, then no.”

    Okay, why not then given the first premise? All sin is equally damning right? You fall in one point, you’re guilty of all.

    “There are more questions that could be asked, e.g. is there any repentance involved, how are we coming into the knowledge of these behaviors, have they been addressed privately, etc. IOW, just like the Jews-in-the-attic question there are plenty of wrinkles involved and taking them case-by-case is required before anybody starts using the d-word.”

    I understand how/when discipline will be applied is going to be context-dependent. I’m not questioning that – I’m questioning what’s upstream from that – how your principles of sin mesh with your principles for discipline. For example, how do you determine repentance is involved? Remorse and firm purpose of amendment? So how are all the churchgoers who are admittedly serially breaking the 2 great commandments constantly and habitually exhibiting repentance or judged to be free from discipline? Why are the self-admitted serial 2GC breakers treated differently than self-admitted serial adulterer/wifebeater/molesters?

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  80. CvD, where the Catholic may distinguish between mortal and venial sin, the Reformed distinguish between the eternal and temporal, the sinful and the criminal, the private and the public, the personal and the political, repentant and unrepentant sin (yes, remorse and evidence of actual reform), original sin (inherited from Adam) and personal sin (committed in one’s own body), literal and figurative speech, utter depravity and total depravity. All of these distinctions make it possible to not treat the one who admits to second glances the way we treat the one who admits to a crime. This isn’t because the former is negligible sin so much as subtle and no crime. It’s also why we don’t have congregations full of folks without eyes and hands that cause them to sin.

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  81. The WLC is good on this:
    Q. 151. What are those aggravations that make some sins more heinous than others?
    A. Sins receive their aggravations,
    1. From the persons offending; if they be of riper age, greater experience or grace, eminent for profession, gifts, place, office, guides to others, and whose example is likely to be followed by others.
    2. From the parties offended: if immediately against God, his attributes, and worship; against Christ, and his grace; the Holy Spirit, his witness, and workings; against superiors, men of eminency, and such as we stand especially related and engaged unto; against any of the saints, particularly weak brethren, the souls of them, or any other, and the common good of all or many.
    3. From the nature and quality of the offence: if it be against the express letter of the law, break many commandments, contain in it many sins: if not only conceived in the heart, but breaks forth in words and actions, scandalize others, and admit of no reparation: if against means, mercies, judgments, light of nature, conviction of conscience, public or private admonition, censures of the church, civil punishments; and our prayers, purposes, promises, vows, covenants, and engagements to God or men: if done deliberately, willfully, presumptuously, impudently, boastingly, maliciously, frequently, obstinately, with delight, continuance, or relapsing after repentance.
    4. From circumstances of time, and place: if on the Lord’s day, or other times of divine worship; or immediately before or after these, or other helps to prevent or remedy such miscarriages: if in public, or in the presence of others, who are thereby likely to be provoked or defiled.

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  82. 4. From circumstances of time, and place: if on the Lord’s day, or other times of divine worship;

    Murder’s worse on Sundays?

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  83. I’ve told my kids not to murder each other on the Lord’s Day. It puts a quizzical look on their faces and they lose their fratricidal intentions.

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  84. mikelmann
    Posted May 26, 2014 at 12:42 am | Permalink
    I’ve told my kids not to murder each other on the Lord’s Day. It puts a quizzical look on their faces and they lose their fratricidal intentions.

    Cool, but don’t rule out patricide. The little monsters might just be awaiting their chance.

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  85. TVD, if patricide is how they want to express themselves I won’t stand in the way. I’ll just remind them to hydrate first. There, I think I’ve learned suburban parenting.

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  86. Zrim
    Posted May 26, 2014 at 10:59 am | Permalink
    Tom, have you never heard of adding insult to injury?

    ‘Round here you don’t get one without the other.

    BTW, Mike, LOL.

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  87. If you have seen that video of Duncan and Phillps congratulating each other on how brilliant they are, they make a point that they are not neonomians–ie, they think they are on the “right side of the Marrow”, because they too oppose moralism for justification. So they would say that being moralists for “sanctification” is not neonomian.

    Fair enough, I guess, but that still leaves them as self-righteous pharisees when it comes to living the christian life, They think that God is happy with them because they are not sinning too much. . They think their children are born justified, and that now their children just need to make as much effort as they themselves do to keep “sanctified”.

    Quoting each other and making selective observations from historical theology is no substitute for an exegesis of what the Bible says about “sanctification”. Quoting Boice to say that Christians are unhappy if they sin too much does not come to terms with the reality of the sad ruined world in which we now live. I know a lot of folks who don’t even profess to be Christian but they too are unhappy when they fail. And fail again.

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  88. Mr MM – after seeing the hefty personas of Mr. Duncan and Mr Phillips on the video you linked, one might be inclined to ask them if they are typically ‘unhappy’ when they dine? Proverbs 23:2.

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  89. Darryl,

    “victor delta, charlie, you see no difference between Bingo at the local parish and child molestation by priests?”

    Okay so only sins the particular current society (obviously subject to change) a church operates in deems as heinous are the ones to be disciplined because they bring disrepute upon the church? I’m not aware of where Scripture says to tie gravity of sin to society’s estimation and/or criminalization of it. You might as well not discipline those endorsing homosexuality or abortion or atheism or universalism then. Most of society doesn’t care about FV or distinguishing between synergism and monergism in progressive sanctification (which you have said you would discipline). So my question remains why you treat some sins as light or getting a pass in terms of discipline but others don’t get a pass given all sin is equally damning in your view.

    Zrim,

    “repentant and unrepentant sin (yes, remorse and evidence of actual reform)”

    So how is a churchgoer who is habitually constantly breaking the 2GC showing evidence of actual reform? Isn’t he always going to be breaking that commandment 24×7 until death? If that behavior is consistent with repentance, what would behavior consistent with unrepentance look like? Would you treat a child molester molesting 24×7 as repentant and showing evidence of actual reform?

    “All of these distinctions make it possible to not treat the one who admits to second glances the way we treat the one who admits to a crime. This isn’t because the former is negligible sin so much as subtle and no crime.”

    See above to Darryl. I might buy this if all you did was discipline criminalized behavior by society.

    “It’s also why we don’t have congregations full of folks without eyes and hands that cause them to sin.”

    This is similar to another person I asked about this – he said well if we disciplined like that our churches would be empty. Which is my point – unwanted implications of one’s theology does not make hand-waving adequate.

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  90. CvD, it seems to me you are from the anti-Calvinist group where nothing a Calvinist says will suffice. I know we Calvinists have anti-Catholics who return the favor. And I’ll admit to bias, but I fail to see where the Reformed faith implies a kind of discipline that vanquishes churches of all sinners. C’mon.

    You continue to suggest that in the Calvinist scheme some sin is treated lightly in terms of discipline while other sin not so much, despite it being pointed out that while all sin is a violation of holiness not all sin is handled the same here on earth—not treated lightly but differently. Maybe another factor for you is to forget the difference between admonition and discipline—there is admonition for sinners every week in a law and gospel church. Not only is sin not getting a pass, it is being assumed that all sitting there—even the good looking and upright in their Sunday best— have sinned daily and that they do well to confess it and receive forgiveness by looking to Christ alone for it.

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  91. Dan, as if Pete lacks warrior children credentials or street cred. He thinks Double T shows a lack of awareness. Clueless, give thyself a clue.

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  92. victor delta, charlie, now you’re going to adopt a sola scriptura pose and a Calvinist line on the heinous character of even small sins to upbraid us? Are you for real?

    Israel went into exile, why? For marriage deviations, which were many? For owning slaves, which they did? No, for worshiping idols. You don’t think that sets a precedent (that Francis may have wanted to follow when visiting with the Eastern Orthodox Patriarch)?

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  93. DGH, some of the comments over at Enns blog call him out on more or less the same point you make, which is a very good one. Also, I doubt we will ever know for sure, but my suspicion is that this whole dispute is less about sanctification than it is Mahaney.

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  94. DGH,

    I would be an interesting study to see which of the sins the OT gives as reasons for the exile are mortal sins according to Rome and which aren’t. Methinks that there’s a whole lot that modern Rome would define as mortal sin that never would have gotten Israel kicked out of Canaan, and maybe even a whole lot that Rome says is venial that actually did get Israel kicked out of Canaan.

    Not that we would expect biblical reality to change Rome’s view of sin…

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  95. Zrim,

    “CvD, it seems to me you are from the anti-Calvinist group where nothing a Calvinist says will suffice.”

    I’ve read your replies and respond to them taking them into account. Nothing I’ve said ignored your replies/points afaik, but was just examining them more closely to get behind the curtain. I’m not just banging drums.

    “but I fail to see where the Reformed faith implies a kind of discipline that vanquishes churches of all sinners. C’mon.”

    Right, so it then should be easy to show how I am misreading your theology of sin. I have been arguing assuming what I think to be your principles.

    “You continue to suggest that in the Calvinist scheme some sin is treated lightly in terms of discipline while other sin not so much, despite it being pointed out that while all sin is a violation of holiness not all sin is handled the same here on earth—not treated lightly but differently.”

    Yes and I’ve been asking why they are treated differently given your theology on sin and rejection of the mortal/venial distinction. If you don’t like “treated lightly” – feel free to replace with “disciplined lightly” which I assume you would admit is true. Otherwise you’d discipline all sin to the same degree.

    “Not only is sin not getting a pass, it is being assumed that all sitting there—even the good looking and upright in their Sunday best— have sinned daily and that they do well to confess it and receive forgiveness by looking to Christ alone for it.”

    So if they sin daily, and presumably constantly every second against the 2GC, how are they showing evidence of actual reform which you said was a necessary condition of repentance? As I asked above, So how is a churchgoer who is habitually constantly breaking the 2GC showing evidence of actual reform? Isn’t he always going to be breaking that commandment 24×7 until death? If that behavior is consistent with repentance, what would behavior consistent with unrepentance look like? Would you treat an admitted child molester molesting 24×7 as repentant and showing evidence of actual reform? Or if you say the child molester needs to be disciplined because he’s committing a civil crime, then replace it with any other heinous but legalized sin.

    Darryl,

    “victor delta, charlie, now you’re going to adopt a sola scriptura pose and a Calvinist line on the heinous character of even small sins to upbraid us? Are you for real?”

    Of course. If I’m examining your position, I am going to adopt your principles. Otherwise I’d just be begging the question.

    “Israel went into exile, why? For marriage deviations, which were many? For owning slaves, which they did? No, for worshiping idols. You don’t think that sets a precedent (that Francis may have wanted to follow when visiting with the Eastern Orthodox Patriarch)?”

    That precedent is compatible with other theologies of sin besides the one you endorse. I’m asking how it’s compatible with yours. Isn’t all sin idolatry and equally damning in your view?

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  96. Pete’s ad hominem seems to claim that others have doctrines but he doesn’t. His doctrine is against doctrine, and he intends on being judgmental toward all those who are judgmental. Enns declares war against those who still admire Machen’s fights….

    wound too tight, a few degrees off true north, trying to compensate for unresolved psychological trauma, unbalanced , harsh, not pastoral, showing the effects of stress, in need of counseling, drinking too much coffee, weird, mean, seeing stuff that isn’t there, missing the point, full of pride , dangerous, prone to fixation, overly precise, not living in the real world, out of touch, intolerant, paranoid, grasping at straws, suffering from the loneliness and rejection, in need of serious prayer, just not getting it, riding a hobby horse, singing in the shower, unloved at home,, dooming yourself to implode in parochial obscurity, jousting at windmills, irritating, bitter, ignorant of the real needs of people, less mature, not preaching the whole counsel of God, not compassionate, needing to relax, a bigot, a sectarian living in a gnostic alternative universe…..

    Ecclesiastes 9: 5 For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing, and they have no more reward, for the memory of them is forgotten. 6 Their love and their hate and their envy have already perished, and forever they have no more share in all that is done under the sun.7 Go, eat your bread with joy, and drink your wine with a merry heart, for God has already approved what you do. 8 Let your garments be always white. Let not oil be lacking on your head.9 Enjoy life with the wife whom you love….

    Go Spurs

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  97. Yes and I’ve been asking why they are treated differently given your theology on sin and rejection of the mortal/venial distinction. If you don’t like “treated lightly” – feel free to replace with “disciplined lightly” which I assume you would admit is true. Otherwise you’d discipline all sin to the same degree.

    CvD, your assumption seems to be that the Reformed see no gradations in sin. I’ve no idea where you get that. But look above at MM’s quoting of WLC 151. We may not use the language of mortal/venial, but I think it more or less fair to say that we do agree with you in substance that there are sins of greater or lesser heinousness and as such receive different kinds of discipline (from general admonition to specific excommunication).

    Would you treat an admitted child molester molesting 24×7 as repentant and showing evidence of actual reform? Or if you say the child molester needs to be disciplined because he’s committing a civil crime, then replace it with any other heinous but legalized sin.

    Like idolatrous or homosexual behavior? Yes, discipline is entirely in order for the one who persists in it (even if the civil powers couldn’t care any less). And from where I sit, constant, consistent, and regular infractions don’t look much like repentance. Periodic, intermittent, erratic, and unpredictable falls do though.

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  98. foxy young charlie, is bingo as damnable as child molestation on your RC principles? Don’t hide behind my system. I still don’t understand your point. Given your own system, some sins require a longer time in purgatory than others.

    Plus, you don’t know “my” system:

    Q. 151. What are those aggravations that make some sins more heinous than others?
    A. Sins receive their aggravations,
    1. From the persons offending; if they be of riper age, greater experience or grace, eminent for profession, gifts, place, office, guides to others, and whose example is likely to be followed by others.
    2. From the parties offended: if immediately against God, his attributes, and worship; against Christ, and his grace; the Holy Spirit, his witness, and workings; against superiors, men of eminency, and such as we stand especially related and engaged unto; against any of the saints, particularly weak brethren, the souls of them, or any other, and the common good of all or many.
    3. From the nature and quality of the offence: if it be against the express letter of the law, break many commandments, contain in it many sins: if not only conceived in the heart, but breaks forth in words and actions, scandalize others, and admit of no reparation: if against means, mercies, judgments, light of nature, conviction of conscience, public or private admonition, censures of the church, civil punishments; and our prayers, purposes, promises, vows, covenants, and engagements to God or men: if done deliberately, willfully, presumptuously, impudently, boastingly, maliciously, frequently, obstinately, with delight, continuance, or relapsing after repentance.
    4. From circumstances of time, and place: if on the Lord’s day, or other times of divine worship; or immediately before or after these, or other helps to prevent or remedy such miscarriages: if in public, or in the presence of others, who are thereby likely to be provoked or defiled.

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  99. Hi Dr. Hart,

    You took the words right out of my mouth, however a lot more eloquently, of course.

    Thanks,
    Ginger

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  100. DGH, the only explanation I can come up with for Enns is that he suffers from PTSD after the Westminster controversy, though he seems to have come out of that smelling like a rose.

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  101. Zrim,

    “CvD, your assumption seems to be that the Reformed see no gradations in sin. I’ve no idea where you get that.”

    Yes you have gradations of sin. But all sin no matter its gradation is violation of holiness and worthy of damnation. The existence of gradation in your system does not equate to the concupiscence/venial/mortal distinctions, obviously.

    “We may not use the language of mortal/venial, but I think it more or less fair to say that we do agree with you in substance that there are sins of greater or lesser heinousness and as such receive different kinds of discipline (from general admonition to specific excommunication).”

    But I’m wondering *why* that is. If all sin/imperfection is damnable, why would only more “heinous” ones get strong discipline? Isn’t the point of discipline to stir repentance – if light sins need to be repented of just as much as heinous ones do given they are equally damning (hence the criticisms of RCism’s tri-fold distinction), why do they get treated differently in discipline? Why does an admitted serial impatient person or 2GC-breaker not get the stern discipline or even counsel that he might not be saved that an admitted serial molester would?

    “Like idolatrous or homosexual behavior? Yes, discipline is entirely in order for the one who persists in it (even if the civil powers couldn’t care any less).”

    Good. Then we don’t need to bring that up as part of the distinctions in when/how to dole out discipline.

    “And from where I sit, constant, consistent, and regular infractions don’t look much like repentance. Periodic, intermittent, erratic, and unpredictable falls do though.”

    Do you not hold that all regenerate are breaking the 2GC 24×7 and will continue to do so until death? So how does that look like repentance? What about Darryl and his admitted impatience? Shouldn’t his elders be bringing him to task for measurable repentance on that score?

    Darryl,

    “foxy young charlie, is bingo as damnable as child molestation on your RC principles? Don’t hide behind my system. I still don’t understand your point. Given your own system, some sins require a longer time in purgatory than others.”

    No, bingo is not damnable. Nor is every imperfect act mortally sinful, obviously, in contrast to your system. My point is, again, to see how your theology of sin meshes with your view of discipline and/or repentance.

    “Plus, you don’t know “my” system”

    I read what MM said. As I said to Zrim, obviously you guys have gradations which inform how you discipline. But as I just responded above to Zrim, I’m still trying to look at what’s behind the curtain.

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  102. foxy young charlie, why don’t you read the catechism? You may not agree, but it makes sense, unlike the idea that the church forgives, makes saints, allows people to go to purgatory, and then sells indulgences to get them out.

    And you’re asking us about what’s behind the curtain!

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  103. Dan, I did see that. It’s not Harvard (nor Penn St. for that matter). It’s a hierarchical world out there in U.S. academia as Pete is sometimes want to remind readers and students.

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  104. But I’m wondering *why* that is. If all sin/imperfection is damnable, why would only more “heinous” ones get strong discipline? Isn’t the point of discipline to stir repentance – if light sins need to be repented of just as much as heinous ones do given they are equally damning…why do they get treated differently in discipline? Why does an admitted serial impatient person or 2GC-breaker not get the stern discipline or even counsel that he might not be saved that an admitted serial molester would?

    CvD, color me stumped. How does it not make sense that the more heinous the sin the stronger the discipline…?

    “And from where I sit, constant, consistent, and regular infractions don’t look much like repentance. Periodic, intermittent, erratic, and unpredictable falls do though.”

    Do you not hold that all regenerate are breaking the 2GC 24×7 and will continue to do so until death? So how does that look like repentance? What about Darryl and his admitted impatience? Shouldn’t his elders be bringing him to task for measurable repentance on that score?

    The latter looks more like repentance than the former because the latter implies that obedience is the happening in between the infractions. The former makes no room for any obedience. But your problem seems to be in the assumption that just because our theology holds that all sin is a violation of God’s holiness it means all sin must be dealt with in the same manner by the church. That’s how Fundamentalists think—black and white with no middle ground. Fortunately, even most fundies don’t actually practice per their theory. But Calvinists aren’t Fundamentalists—we understand there isn’t a straight line from holiness to creatureliness.

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  105. @CVD
    “But I’m wondering *why* [sins are disciplined differently].”

    I’m just a lowly layman, so I will happily stand corrected if the elders on this board think I am mistaken. My understanding though is that discipline serves multiple purposes. Of course, one is to bring the sinner to repentance. But as we see in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, other reasons have to do with ensuring that other Christians aren’t led astray and non-believers aren’t turned off to the gospel (thus the focus on public/scandalous/notorious sin).

    Additionally, the nature of discipline in the reformed church is more or less restricted to admonition, to restriction from communion, to finally excommunication from the church – scripture does not give pastors the authority to levy fines (indulgences?), require fasts, order lashings, or order prayer regiments. Obviously only “visible” sins can be confronted and disciplined. Obstinate sinners (folks who refuse to repent of their sin) and those of us who realize that apart from Christ we will never even repent properly aren’t in the same boat. All sin separates me God, but in my sanctification the power of sin is weakened and someday when I am glorified I’ll be freed from the presence of sin. One who battles his sin (however failingly) is very different from one who embraces it. Like the difference between art and porn (we know it when we see it), a pastor knows the difference between the obstinate sinner and the Christian working out his faith in fear and trembling when he sees it. I’m surprised that this distinction of sins is so befuddling to you. The Christian life is more than just whether or not one makes it through the pearly gates.

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  106. sdb,

    “But as we see in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, other reasons have to do with ensuring that other Christians aren’t led astray and non-believers aren’t turned off to the gospel (thus the focus on public/scandalous/notorious sin).”

    If all sins are equally damning, Christians can be led just as astray by the lighter-disciplined sins just as much as the strongly-disciplined ones – both result in damnation – fail in one point, fail in all. In fact, they might even be led more astray by the lax discipline of the “lighter” sins because they will see those as just “well we all do them” and the “if we disciplined all sin, our church would be empty” mentality.

    “Obviously only “visible” sins can be confronted and disciplined.”

    As can sins that everyone in the church knows their fellow churchgoers commit by their own admission (in terms of their theology/doctrines). If everyone freely admits they are breaking the 2GC constantly 24×7, then pastors are just as aware of that as they are about Joe who just got outed by the newspaper. Darryl has admitted here he has a problem with impatience. But I’m betting he’s still engaging in it. So why is he getting the pass while the still-engaging molester or universalist isn’t?

    “Obstinate sinners (folks who refuse to repent of their sin) and those of us who realize that apart from Christ we will never even repent properly”

    Isn’t failure to repent properly sinful? So if you can never do that, how are you repenting of it (i.e. showing evidence of actual reform as Zrim said)? If you’re breaking the 2GC 24×7, how is that not obstinate sin? What would need to change for it to be obstinate/habitual sin?

    “All sin separates me God, but in my sanctification the power of sin is weakened”

    How is the power of sin weakened if you are still breaking the 2GC every second of your life until death? What would non-weakened power of sin look like instead?

    “One who battles his sin (however failingly) is very different from one who embraces it.”

    Is the child molester committing it every hour battling his sin? If not, why is the 2GC-breaker who breaks it constantly every second battling sin then?

    Zrim,

    “CvD, color me stumped. How does it not make sense that the more heinous the sin the stronger the discipline…?”

    Because as I said, the lighter sin is just as damning (and so should be just as concerning) as the grave sin.

    “The latter looks more like repentance than the former because the latter implies that obedience is the happening in between the infractions.”

    If you’re breaking it every second of your life until death, how is obedience happening? How is there any time “between the infractions” if that is a constant condition? Concupiscence is sin proper right? Isn’t that always part of your state?

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  107. CvD, these sound like the questions of perfectionism. Calvinists aren’t perfectionists. That sin still clings and made manifest doesn’t imply to us what it seems to you. We’re content to leave the mortification of sin to God and in the meantime strive by grace to keep God’s commandments.

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  108. @cvd
    “If all sins are equally damning, Christians can be led just as astray by the lighter-disciplined sins just as much as the strongly-disciplined ones – both result in damnation – fail in one point, fail in all.”

    There are two issues I mentioned: the effect on other believers and the effect on outsiders. You ignored the second. Do you really think that gossiping clergy turn people away from the church as readily as the cover up of sexual abuse? Regarding the first one, its not the damnability (is that a word?) of the sin that may lead other Christians astray – if I harbor lustful thoughts in my heart, my fellow congregant isn’t going to think – hmmm he’s such a hypocrite or hmmm lust must be OK. He has no idea that I’m sinning in that way. If I’m running a brothel on the other hand, that’s a whole other story. While both sins may be equally damning to me, their effect on the congregation is not the same.

    But maybe this is a side issue. You seem to think that if the end result of some cause is the same, the method to fight the cause must be the same. The fact that every kind of cancer can kill you does not imply that the treatment for every kind of cancer should be the same. The fact that every kind of fire burns doesn’t mean that you should use water to put out every fire. The fact that every sin can separate you from God does not imply that the same tool should be used for fighting every sin.

    You will often hear a statement in reformed circles along the lines of:

    By our justification we were saved from the penalty of sin, by our sanctification we are being saved from the power of sin, and by our glorification we will be saved from the presence of sin.

    Salvation is a process. The ordinances that carry us along in that process include the preaching of the word (Sunday worship), the sacraments, and church discipline. How to administer church discipline is a pastoral decision. Again, we are all at different places in our sanctification and it looks different from believer to believer. The purpose of church discipline is not just for the one being disciplined, but also for the community of believers and and those on the outside.

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  109. Zrim,

    “CvD, these sound like the questions of perfectionism. Calvinists aren’t perfectionists.”

    Yes, but all imperfection in your view is damnable sin. Hence imputation and your criticism of RC distinctions of sin.

    “We’re content to leave the mortification of sin to God and in the meantime strive by grace to keep God’s commandments.”

    Do/Can you ever actually keep God’s commandments for even a second?

    sdb,

    “There are two issues I mentioned: the effect on other believers and the effect on outsiders. You ignored the second. Do you really think that gossiping clergy turn people away from the church as readily as the cover up of sexual abuse?”

    Two things – first Zrim said above “Like idolatrous or homosexual behavior? Yes, discipline is entirely in order for the one who persists in it (even if the civil powers couldn’t care any less).” which I would assume you second. The “effect on outsiders” is tying discipline to social secular estimation/perspective which is always subject to change, not to mention seems to have no biblical warrant. So what it boils down to is the effect on other believers. Outsiders don’t care (or resist) what you guys think about FV or universalism or synergism or homosexuality or abortion.
    Secondly, yes I do think gossiping clergy and other “light” sins have a negative impact on outsiders. That’s one of the main planks of atheist arguments – that Christians aren’t showing any radical charity/altruism that non-Christians don’t or can’t show (or even do better). That’s why they use the divorce argument to undermine your view on homosexuality/marriage. Why isn’t divorce being strongly disciplined then?

    “Regarding the first one, its not the damnability (is that a word?) of the sin that may lead other Christians astray – if I harbor lustful thoughts in my heart, my fellow congregant isn’t going to think – hmmm he’s such a hypocrite or hmmm lust must be OK. He has no idea that I’m sinning in that way.”

    As I said, all your fellow congregants do know and “have every idea” that everyone else is breaking the 2GC every second by the doctrine they subscribe to. Everyone has that knowledge – it’s not silent.

    “If I’m running a brothel on the other hand, that’s a whole other story. While both sins may be equally damning to me, their effect on the congregation is not the same.”

    Why not? Just because society deems one unsavory compared to the other? See above then.

    “The fact that every sin can separate you from God does not imply that the same tool should be used for fighting every sin.”

    So you fight a self-admitted serial child molester by excommunicating him. You fight a self-admitted serial 2GC breaker by keeping him in your congregation as a fine upstanding Christian. Why? Because the former isn’t showing repentance? How is the latter showing repentance then?

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  110. CvD, what criticism of RC distinction of sin? I’ve already said that while the Reformed may not use the language, there seems to be substantive agreement on the relative heinousness of sin. If you mean criticism of the purification theology that is attached to RC notions of abiding sin (mortal and venial), sure, but who’s critical of gradations of sin?

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  111. Zrim,

    Perhaps this will better crystallize the issue. If a person persists in habitual sin, that is a sign of unrepentance correct (no evidence of “actual reform” as you said – repentance is not just sorrow/remorse)? So a serial child molester molesting every day even after counsel I assume would be viewed by you and your congregation as unrepentant – this would lead to disciplinary measures of some severe degree. A serial 2GC-breaker breaking that commandment every *second* of their lives (all imperfection is sin, fail in one point fail in all, etc) and freely admitting it I assume would not be viewed by you and your congregation as unrepentant – they would still be considered an upstanding Christian who just needs to hear the Word every Sunday like everyone else. So why is the serial/habitual 2GC-breaker still viewed as repentant and not needing discipline any greater than a normal Sunday service (discipline that itself does not result in “actual reform” as the person will still be breaking 2GC damnably every second until death), but the serial child molester is viewed as unrepentant and/or showing evidence he might not be saved and requiring excommunication or similar harsh penalties? Secondly, isn’t this just a recipe for formalism?

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  112. @CVD
    I’m on my way out, so I only have a moment… you wrote, ” The “effect on outsiders” is tying discipline to social secular estimation/perspective which is always subject to change, not to mention seems to have no biblical warrant. ”

    You are incorrect here. In his epistle to the Corinthians, Paul instructs the church there to maintain an orderly service precisely because of what outsiders would think. In this particular example, he wasn’t referring to church discipline, but the pattern was there. He was admonishing them (part of church discipline) because of the effect their behavior had on social secular estimation. Of course this will vary from time to time which is why pastoral discretion is necessary.

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  113. @cvd
    I’m sure you’ve been on pins and needles waiting for me to get back and offer a longer response…or not. Anyway, here is my stab at it once again:
    1) All sins may have the same ultimate effect (eternal separation from God), but not all sins require the same medicine (all cancers may ultimately kill, but not all cancers kill as fast or require the same treatment).
    2) Discipline includes admonishing, barring from the table, and finally excommunication – there aren’t harsher or less harsh levels of discipline.
    3) Discipline serves three purposes – turning a sinner from sin, protecting the peace and purity of the church (i.e. keeping weaker Christians from being led astray), and protecting the name of Christ (again Paul’s instructions on worship are important here – gossiping clergy are a problem to be sure, but the cover up of sexual abuse has decimated the RC church in Boston in ways that gossip never did – not all sins have the same effect on the church. The application of this principle from scripture will vary in time and place.).
    4) Not all sins manifest themselves the same way. There is a difference between obstinacy and not being good enough yet (and realizing you’ll not get there on this side of glory). Due to the different natures of the sin (public/private, obstinacy/weakness, etc… examples found in our confessions based on the scriptures), repentance looks different as well.

    Refusing to repent of specific sins is a sign that we aren’t being sanctified. Not living up to the @GC manifest itself in concrete sins (like molestation or swearing under your breath at other drivers in rush hour). But (to use your example) we don’t necessarily expect the molester to perfectly overcome his sin. I suspect that such people will probably always struggle this way and probably continually fall (part of why society has the penalties it has).

    “discipline that itself does not result in “actual reform” as the person will still be breaking 2GC damnably every second until death”

    What you are missing here is that the absence of perfection is not the absence of actual reform. It isn’t binary. The final end may be which is why we need Christ’s imputed righteousness. By that imputation we are saved from the penalty of sin. As a result we are sanctified in which we are increasingly freed from the power of sin. That doesn’t mean that our sins are like switches that turn off one by one as we go through life. Rather we grow and these sins have a weaker hold on us. But we realize through all of this that we are dependent on Christ’s righteousness because even are best efforts are tainted by sin. To aid us in our sanctification we are given the sacraments (especially communion in which we feast on Christ), the word, prayer, church discipline, Christian fellowship, etc… One who obstinately refuses to turn away from a sin, but instead embraces that sin, church discipline may need to extend all the way to excommunication. We are like the one who says, “I believe, but forgive my unbelief”. Very different from saying, “whatever, I don’t care”. And church discipline reflects where we are on that journey. Our shepherds (pastor/elders) take this into account as they help us along in our sanctification (discipline isn’t a penalty, harsh or otherwise, it a means of grace). So back to the dichotomy you’ve posed. The “serial” 2GC breaker would be seen as repentant if s/he showed progress here that would manifest itself in specific public acts (not the least of which would be regular sunday worship).

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  114. CvD, I take “serial/habitual 2GC-breaker” to mean one who is sinful more in his nature than his actions. Discipline in the form of excommunication is not designed to eradicate the sinful nature. It is designed to bring not only inward remorse for sin but even more so to reform its outward manifestation. What you seem to keep wanting Calvinists to do is go beyond repentance and into eradication, but like I said we’re not perfectionists.

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  115. Belgic 24: It is so far from being true that this justifying faith makes men remiss in a pious and holy life, that on the contrary without it they would never do anything out of love to God, but only out of self-love or fear of damnation.

    For it is by faith in Christ that we are justified, even before we do good works; otherwise they could not be good works, any more than the fruit of a tree can be good before the tree itself is good.

    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 to work, for his good pleasure.

    We can do no work but what is polluted by our flesh, and also punishable; and although we could perform such works, still the remembrance of one sin is sufficient to make God reject them. Thus, then, we would always be in doubt, tossed to and fro without any certainty, and our poor consciences would be continually vexed if they relied not on the merits of the suffering and death of our Savior.

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