Was Victoria Osteen Channeling Jonathan Edwards?

I was not planning to write about this since discussing the Osteens is like mistaking Bill O’Reilly for Michael Oakeshott. But I am intrigued by the experimental Calvinist response to Pastorette Osteen’s remarks on the importance of experiencing happiness in worship. The issue is conceivably whether we pit God’s glory with our experience in worship. And sure enough, the experimental Calvinists echo Pastorette Osteen. Ligon Duncan reminds us that even the famous first answer of the Shorter Catechism (an experimental Calvinist product) combines God’s glory with our enjoyment:

The Reformed steadfastly affirm that the fundamental purpose of human existence is God’s glory, but we refuse to pit God’s glory and human happiness against one another (as Ms. Osteen, perhaps unwittingly does in her misguided exhortation). The very first question of the Westminster Shorter Catechism gets at this. “What is man’s chief end?,” it asks. The resounding answer is: “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.” In other words, our chief and highest purpose, goal and end in life is God’s glory. That is what we live for. Whereas many of our contemporaries think that God is the chief means to our highest end (happiness), the Reformed do not believe that God is a means to an end, he is The End. He is the reason and aspiration for which we exist. There is no ultimate happiness and satisfaction and fulfillment and joy apart from him.

BUT, the Reformed do not believe that God’s glory and our joy stand in opposition. We do not believe that those two things are in contradiction. Indeed, we believe that they are inseparable. The Reformed believe that it is impossible to pursue God’s glory without our own souls being blessed with everlasting good. We think that our fullest joy cannot be realized or experienced apart from the pursuit of God’s glory.

That is John Piper’s cue:

Christian Hedonism teaches that all true virtue must have in it a certain gladness of heart. Therefore the pursuit of virtue must be in some measure a pursuit of happiness. And the happiness, which makes up an essential part of all virtue, is the enjoyment of the presence and the promotion of the glory of God. Therefore, if we try to deny or mortify or abandon the impulse to pursue this hapiness, we set ourselves against the good of man and the glory of God. Rather we should seek to stir up our desire for this delight until it is white hot and insatiable on the earth.

And then Piper chimes in with Edwards:

Self-love, taken in the most extensive sense, and love to God are not things properly capable of being compared one with another; for they are not opposites or things entirely distinct, but one enters into the nature of the other. . . Self-love is only a capacity of enjoying or taking delight in anything. Now surely ’tis improper to say that our love to God is superior to our general capacity of delighting in anything. (Miscellanies, #530, p.202)

I am not saying that Piper, Duncan, and Edwards are wrong because they echo Pastorette Osteen. But it is striking to see how many people reacted negatively (Christian and not) to Osteen’s video and how experimental Calvinists are less inclined to pounce.

Now in the world of Reformed Protestant objections to Lutheranism, it is also striking to see how the funny Lutheran guy (thanks to our New Jerusalem correspondent) responds to the Osteen comment:

In their sermons and books, both Joel and Victoria Osteen give full-throated endorsement to the prosperity gospel, a theology which states that those enduring hardships, poverty, and sickness have only their lack of faith and confidence to blame for their suffering. There are, of course, some enormous theological problems with this Christianized version of “The Secret,” where you obtain God’s blessings by speaking them into existence. The first is that it has no basis in the Scriptures and conveniently ignores all of the words that Jesus speaks about the question of suffering, the cost of discipleship, and the blessedness of persecution. The second is that it offers nothing but despair to those who are faithfully enduring the crosses Christ has given them to bear. And the third is that such a doctrine simply doesn’t square with the lives of those who were the first to tell us about God’s blessings in Christ (self-promotion alert).

So is it bad for Victoria Osteen to encourage us to think of God as the “Treat Yo Self” Tom Haverford to our name-it-and-claim-it Donna Meagle? Most definitely. But surely it’s a few notches lower on the pole of theological indefensibility than speaking words that, one, say the exact opposite of what the Bible says; two, belittle suffering Christians with the insensitivity a man horking down a hot fudge sundae three inches from the face of a starving child; and, three, imply that St. Peter, St. Paul, and even Jesus Himself must have been really lousy Christians who couldn’t unlock God’s potential blessings.

In other words, the funny Lutheran guy sees here a version of the prosperity gospel. And so my point is whether we should see the prosperity gospel also at work in experimental Calvinism — as in the happier, the more you’re experiencing God’s presence, or the more holy you are, the more pious and spiritually successful you are. And lo and behold, along comes Mark Jones to confirm the point:

I am of the view that powerful preaching, by a minister who labours week-in, week-out, with his flock has a strong correlation to his own godliness. I think Robert Murray M’Cheyne was right to say, “a holy minister is an awful weapon in the hand of God.” A man who has been broken – who really does preach with “fear and trembling” (1 Cor. 2:3) – is a man people will listen to week-in, week-out. There’s a reason God “breaks” his servants: he wants them to preach as broken men, not as those who strut around like peacocks. There’s a reason old, seasoned ministers have a massive advantage over young ministers. And it’s a good reason – they speak with a type of wisdom that comes from many years of ministry. Personally, I rarely listen to preachers under the age of 45 – with apologies to my friends who are ministers under 45 (you know who you are).

In 1 Timothy 4:16 Paul writes the following to Timothy: “Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.”

A plain reading of the text leaves us with little doubt that personal holiness and perseverance in holiness are means (along with teaching true doctrine) that God uses in the salvation and sanctification of Christ’s bride. What a thought, for ministers, that watching ourselves and our teaching has eternal consequences for us and our people. That’s why, if you desire to be a minister, you’re either called or mad, though hopefully not both!

And there you have it — making the world safe for celebrity pastors (how else do we explain their success or their joy?).

125 thoughts on “Was Victoria Osteen Channeling Jonathan Edwards?

  1. And here I thought the term “Donatist” was to be reserved for those of us who wait for a confession of having been effectually called before water and bread! Maybe it’s time to ignore the Osteens as a much too easy target and begin to warn about the shepherds who look more godly but who are robbing their congregations by teaching baptismal regeneration (something the Donatists had it common with Augustine). And since the Lutherans don’t have a celebrity as big as the pope, maybe it’s time for stop talking about the Osteens and start reminding folks that the pope is still antichrist.

    II Corinthians 11:12 And what I am doing I will continue to do, in order to undermine the claim of those who would like to claim that in their boasted mission they work on the same terms as we do. 13 For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. 14 And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. 15 So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness

    Dr. T. David Gordon in his book “Why Johnny Can’t Preach: The Media Have Shaped the Messengers” (Phillipsburg, NJ: P & R Publishing, 2009)
    “Some of the neo-Puritans have apparently determined that the purpose of Christian preaching is to persuade people that they do not, in fact, believe. The subtitle of each of their sermons could accurately be: “I Know You Think You Are a Christian, but You Are Not.” This brand of preaching constantly suggests that if a person does not always love attending church, always look forward to reading the Bible, or family worship, or prayer, then the person is probably not a believer…”

    The hearer falls into one of two categories: one category of listener assumes that the preacher is talking about someone else, and he rejoices (as did the Pharisee over the tax collector) to hear “the other guy” getting straightened out. Another category of listener eventually capitulates and says: “Okay, I’m not a believer; have it your way.” But since the sermon mentions Christ only in passing (if at all), the sermon says nothing about the adequacy of Christ as Redeemer, and therefore does nothing to build faith in Christ.

    “It is painful to hear every passage of Scripture twisted to do what only several of them actually do (i.e., warn the complacent that not everyone who says, “Lord, Lord” will enter the kingdom of heaven). And it is absolutely debilitating to be told again and again that one does not have faith when one knows perfectly well that one does have faith, albeit weak and imperfect…”

    “So no one profits from this kind of preaching; indeed, both categories of hearer are harmed by it. But I don’t expect it will end anytime soon. The self-righteous like it too much; for them, religion makes them feel good about themselves, because it allows them to view themselves as the good guys and others as the bad guys – they love to hear the preacher scold the bad guys each week. And sadly, the temperament of some ministers is simply officious. Scolding others is their life calling; they have the genetic disposition to be a Jewish mother.” (pp. 83-84)


  2. Move over bacon (insert local church pastor’s name here), now there’s something meatier (i.e. Tim Keller’s sermons).

    Does that money go to Keller or to his church who paid him to develop them in the first place?

    My pastor’s sermons remain free online for anyone to listen to.



  3. Maybe it’s also time for Lutherans (and the rest of us) to stop confusing “the theology of the cross” with a “methodist” glorification of suffering problems as the necessary preparation for a desired piety.

    Stan Hauerwas—-Bonhoeffer’s attack in Letters and Papers from Prison is on the Protestant apologetic that tries to secure “faith” on the edges of life and the despair such edges create is a continuation of his attack on pietism and his refusal to let the proclamation of the Gospel be marginalized…. Bonhoeffer insists that Christians must claim the center, refusing to use the “world’s” weakness to make the Gospel intelligible. He refuses all strategies that try “to make room for God on the borders” The gospel is not the solution to human anxiety but a proclamation of a “fact.” Thus Bonhoeffer’s wonderful remark: “ The transcendence of epistemological theory has nothing to do with the transcendence of God… The church stands, and not only at the boundaries where human powers give out…

    mcmark—The puritan (“experimental calvinist’) attempt to produce a certain “piety” in its client base is just one attempt to save religion, and the vestiges of Christendom.


  4. But the prosperity which comes from meeting the “conditions” of the covenant has always been there, but you fellows who put grace into antithesis with law keep missing the “beauty of threats”

    John Murray—they are simply the reciprocal responses of faith, love and obedience, apart from which the enjoyment of the covenant blessing and of the covenant relation is inconceivable….viewed in this light that the breaking of the covenant takes on an entirely different complexion. It is not the failure to meet the terms of a pact nor failure to respond to the offer of favorable terms of contractual agreement. It is unfaithfulness to a relation constituted and to grace dispensed. By breaking the covenant what is broken is not the condition of bestowal but the condition of consummated fruition.
    The covenant does not yield its blessing to all indiscriminately.Particularization is correlative with the spirituality of the grace bestowed and the relation constituted and it is also consonant with the exactitude of its demands. A covenant which yields its blessing indiscriminately is not one that can be kept or broken. The intensification which particularism illustrates serves to accentuate the keeping which is indispensable to the fruition of the covenant grace.”

    John Piper, Future Grace—-Jesus calls us to a radical purity. But I find that many Christians have no categories for thinking clearly about the commands and warnings and promises of Jesus. When he says that we should pluck our lusting eye, he backs it up with a warning: “It is better for you that one of the parts of your body perish, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell” (Mt 5:29). Threats of going to hell because of lust are simply not the way contemporary Christians usually talk or think. This is not because such warnings are not in the Bible, but because we don’t know how to fit them together with other thoughts about grace and faith and eternal security. We nullify the force of Jesus’ words because or conceptual framework is disfigured. p.11

    Piper—the Bible rarely, if ever, motivates Christian living with gratitude…Could it be that gratitude for bygone grace has been pressed to serve as the power for holiness, which only faith in future grace was designed to perform?… some popular notions of grace are so skewed and so pervasive that certain biblical teachings are almost impossible to communicate. For example, the biblical concept of unmerited, CONDITIONAL grace is nearly unintelligible to Christians who assume that unconditionality is the essence of all grace.

    Piper—… “the conditional promises of grace are woven all through the New Testament teaching about how to live the Christian life. “If you forgive men for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you” (Matthew 6:14). “Pursue…sanctification without which no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14)…I find that Biblical thinking behind these kinds of conditional promises is uncommon in the minds of Christians today. Some popular conceptions of grace cannot comprehend any role for conditionality other than legalism.”


  5. Piper, the Pleasures of God, p 251— ‘Works’ is not synonymous with obeying the law. That’s plain because Paul says you can pursue obedience to the law either by faith or by works. But God never meant for obedience to be pursued by works. Works is a way of trying to bring about the fruit of obedience without making faith the root…. Grace is not simply leniency when we have sinned. Grace is the enabling gift of God not to sin. Grace is power, not just pardon.”

    mcmark—so what about you, do you have enough obedience, with enough right motives, to preach with “power”, and also—to not go to “hell”??

    John Piper—-I know people, and I would say this about myself, for whom the greatest threat to my perseverance and my ultimate salvation is the slowness of my sanctification. It’s not theoretical questions like ‘Did He rise from the dead?’ or the problem of evil. But why I sin against my wife the same at age 62 that I did at age 42 causes me sometimes to doubt my salvation or the power of the Holy Spirit…This question is not theoretical.” 60th Annual Meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society


  6. Mark is so Pauline. I’m sure he meant to shoehorn in this:

    1 Timothy 4:12English Standard Version (ESV)

    12 Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.

    With this: “There’s a reason old, seasoned ministers have a massive advantage over young ministers. And it’s a good reason – they speak with a type of wisdom that comes from many years of ministry. Personally, I rarely listen to preachers under the age of 45 – with apologies to my friends who are ministers under 45 (you know who you are).”

    Can I get a “amen”? “This is my Bibul, there are many like it, but this one is mine. It is Jesus’ love letter to me”


  7. Christian Hedonism teaches that all true virtue must have in it a certain gladness of heart. Therefore the pursuit of virtue must be in some measure a pursuit of happiness.

    Shouldn’t this read “John Piper teaches”? Isn’t he quoting/referencing himself? I don’t recall reading about the historic Xian doctrine of hedonism from anyone else.


  8. That is such a distorted reading of the Calvinists you’re referencing. For a start there’s a fundamental difference between what Mrs Osteen was arguing and what Duncan was arguing: the former was giving the glory to the creature, Duncan to the Creator. And to not even acknowledge that is effectively a slur against Duncan.

    As it is to constantly accuse those who strive after godliness of pride and a low view of sin. Are we to understand there are no godly people in the OPC who are an example to the younger generations? You are so quick to accuse others of pride but you ignore your pride in your lack of godliness.

    And do you dispute the ministers with years if experience have more to offer than those who have only been doing it for a short time? Do you have no time to learn from your elders? And now you’re criticising M’Cheyne?


  9. Funny Lutheran Guy also says: “So when Victoria Osteen says we worship God for our sake and not His, she’s wrong. But she’s not wrong because she’s choosing man instead of God as her answer to the question “for whose benefit do we gather for worship?” Rather, she’s wrong because she’s made an either/or proposition out of the matter.” Isn’t that what Duncan was saying?

    I would really like to hear more about the definition of experimental Calvinism and some discussion of how monolithic the idea is. It seems to me that the Westminster Divines and Edwards/Piper may both be tagged as experimental, but they are light years apart in how they understand experience. The latter lay an unhealthy amount of stress on ecstasy and emotion, in a way I doubt the Divines would have agreed with. Is Westminster really of a kind with Bethlehem Baptist? Is SC1 really sympathetic to the prosperity gospel? Help me out, here.


  10. Alexander, you gotta back up a couple of levels and take in the glory that is the celebrity pastoring of Ref. 21 and others. It’s like Cross preaching ecumenism, charity and dialogue while he maintains a virtual trophy case of reformed kills. Sometimes the truth is just all out in front like that.


  11. Alexander, surely you cannot agree with this from Saint M’cheyne (quoted by Jones):

    Maybe, just maybe, M’Cheyne was on to something when he said: “The greatest need of my people is my personal holiness.”

    That’s Piperian excess, at best.


  12. Duncan: “BUT, the Reformed do not believe that God’s glory and our joy stand in opposition. We do not believe that those two things are in contradiction. Indeed, we believe that they are inseparable. The Reformed believe that it is impossible to pursue God’s glory without our own souls being blessed with everlasting good. We think that our fullest joy cannot be realized or experienced apart from the pursuit of God’s glory.”

    Duncan is partly right, partly wrong. The key here is “everlasting good”. Nowhere is there a promise of temporal good except the comfort, often fleeting and imperfect, often wavering, of a justified soul and a conscience being painfully and slowly sanctified. In the here and now God’s glory and our temporal joy are very often in opposition. Everlasting good is not always, perhaps seldom temporal good. This seems to me the connection between prosperity gospel and ‘New Calvinists.’

    When the Divines wrote “the chief end [summum bonum] of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever” they were drawing on Augustinian precepts. The summum bonum does not exist in this life. That is why the more than 250 attempts of the Greek philosophers outlined by Varro to find it failed. It does not exist here below, sayeth Augustine (City of God 19). It exists above, in the next life.

    ‘Christian hedonism’ wants the hereafter in the here and now.


  13. In 1733 and 1734, in Edwards’ own words, “the Spirit of God began extraordinarily to set in and wonderfully to work amongst us,” so that souls began to flock to Christ, as the Savior in whose righteousness alone they hoped to be justified.”85 The Great Awakening had begun. Within a single year, in a town of some 200 families, about 300 souls were saved. The former “dullness in religion,” “night walking, and frequenting the tavern and lewd practices” were replaced by a focus on God’s redemptive work. The town “seemed to be full of the presence of God: it never was so full of love, nor so full of joy; and yet so full of distress, as it was then.” Upon conversion, there was often laughter, tears or loud weeping.


    Gerald R. McDermott, “Jonathan Edwards on Justification: Closer to Luther or Aquinas?,” Reformation & Revival 14, 2005 “Jonathan Edwards’s supreme devotion to Petrus van Mastricht, the late-seventeenth-century Dutch Reformed theologian who was steeped in Suarez, was not without effect. Edwards agreed with Thomas Aquinas -more than with many of his evangelical followers and that faith is inherently related to Christian living,and that justification changes the regenerate soul.”, p 132

    “For Edwards faith and works are not mutually exclusive, and justification has an eschatological (not yet) dimension. We have seen that Edwards understood justification as dependent, in one sense, on sanctification (or “perseverance,” as he put it).

    “Faith is not the instrument that gets members attached to the body, but is the act of union itself, and so is the badge identifying the members. Since these are members of the person of Christ, they will gradually begin to resemble that person. Any discussion of justification must therefore include works of love. Edwards suggests that we must eschew false dichotomies between faith and works, imputation and infusion, or justification and sanctification….”


  14. Captioning the Piper picture:

    1. This is how I make a shadow turkey
    2. Hit me Lig, I’m open!
    3. Only eight commandments are REALLY important.
    4. I like to imagine the HS is more like a peacock than a lame dove.


  15. Christian hedonism wants the hereafter here and now, because the “not yet aspect” of justification in that future hereafter is (for Christian hedonism) conditioned on the here and now

    Jonathan Edwards: “What is real in the union between Christ and his people, is the foundation of what is legal; that is, it is something THAT IS REALLY IN THEM, and between them, UNITING THEM, that is the ground of the suitableness of their being accounted as just by the Judge….We are really saved by perseverance…The perseverance which belongs to faith is one thing that is really a fundamental ground of the congruity that faith gives to salvation…For, though a sinner is justified in his first act of faith, yet even then, in that act of justification, God has respect to perseverance as being implied in the first act.”


  16. more from the canuck mark—If you hear the well-known dictum, “God does not need your good works, but your neighbour does”, you might consider that while this is true, it is not the whole truth.Christ personally rejoices in Heaven as his people are justified and sanctified (Matt. 25:31-46),,,His sending of the Spirit is the guarantee that his labor was not and will not be in vain. In this sense, Christ “needs” our good works! So… praise the Spirit who produces Christ’s resurrection life in you.. Christ is most satisfied when you most glorify.
    – See more at: http://www.reformation21.org/blog/2014/06/christ-is-most-satisfied-when.php#sthash.3Cv6JUrS.dpuf


  17. David Noe,

    Duncan is partly right, partly wrong. The key here is “everlasting good”. Nowhere is there a promise of temporal good except the comfort, often fleeting and imperfect, often wavering, of a justified soul and a conscience being painfully and slowly sanctified.

    By way of clarification, are you saying that Duncan was partly wrong in what he said, or partly wrong in that he omitted the qualification you suggest? (I ask because I don’t see that he actually affirms a promise of temporal good.)


  18. When I was wee New Calvinist, I loved listening to Piper. Now when I hear him I just get exhausted. He’s exuberant and emotionally charged up and thinks you ought to be too, but now I know that is a personality trait, not a sign of sanctification or deeper communion with God. I fear that many a Piperite will not figure that out and finally crash when his own pep cannot match Piper’s.


  19. So is there an agreed historical definition of ‘experiential/experimental Calvinism’ and who fits under the label? Is the term an unmitigated negative or is there a confessionally sound and appropriate experimentalism?


  20. Well, I think Jones has a point, and was at least arguing Scripturally. After all, God chooses for the Gospel to be propagated through forgiven sinners instead of “superior” methods (such as direct revelation or through an angel). So we must set an example in something — you can’t entirely divorce the content of the message from the person through whom it it is delivered (though of course it is the content which saves, when empowered by the Spirit).

    But I prefer we set an example in the pulpit of FAITH, rather than personal piety or godliness. In other words, we set forth an example of someone still BELIEVING the Gospel DESPITE our ongoing lack of godliness at many points. Perhaps this is the beginning of true wisdom in preaching. And it just might point to Christ instead of to us. Perhaps that was the example Paul was setting more than any other. Otherwise, why boast of his weaknesses? Why state that he is the worst of all sinners?

    But you don’t have to listen to me. Just listen to John Updike, via Lutheran pastor Fritz Kruppenbach in Rabbit, Run (1960), as he addresses a clueless Episcopal minister, who is trying to fix a young marriage:

    “Do you think this is your job, to meddle in these people’s lives? I know what they teach you at seminary now: this psychology and that. But I don’t agree with it. You think now your job is to be an unpaid doctor, to run around and plug up holes and make everything smooth. I don’t think that. I don’t think that’s your job…. I say you don’t know what your role is or you’d be home locked in prayer…. In running back and forth you run away from the duty given you by God, to make your faith powerful…. When on Sunday morning, then, when you go out before their faces, we must walk up not worn out with misery but full of Christ, hot with Christ, on fire: burn them with the force of our belief. This is why they come; why else would they pay us? Anything else we can do and say anyone can do and say. They have doctors and lawyers for that…. Make no mistake. Now I’m serious. Make no mistake. There is nothing but Christ for us. All the rest, all this decency and busyness, is nothing. It is Devil’s work.”


  21. Me too Jesse, Piper was very important to my getting onto the superhighway of Reformed Theology.

    For some reason a lot of people stay with Piper and sit there on the onramp for a longgggggggggggg time…


  22. The threat by Mark Jones against no fault preaching reminds me of the very gross book (by Edmund Gross) published by P and R which suggested that “covenant succession” depended on good parenting. As Mary Pride taught us, if your children are not elect, there is no such thing as no fault parenting..

    Covenant conditionality and the “efficacy of works (of faith)” is what the “federal vision” and the “new perspective” were all about. Elect by birth but becoming non-elect if you don’t use the offer of grace right. Or if your parents and “senior pastor” were not godly enough, or did not respond to the threat of sanctions as they should have…


  23. Jesse:So is there an agreed historical definition of ‘experiential/experimental Calvinism’ and who fits under the label?

    I would suggest it ends when one subscribes to the WCF or 3FU and joins a church as a member and attends to partake humbly in the means of grace of preaching, sacrament, and direction by officers of the church.


  24. Jonathan Edwards:“What is real in the union between Christ and his people, is the foundation of what is legal; that is, it is something THAT IS REALLY IN THEM, and between them, UNITING THEM, that is the ground of the suitableness of their being accounted as just by the Judge”

    Me: Yikes


  25. Over Labor Day weekend while vacationing, my family attended a Reformed church where a seminarian filled the pulpit. Seemed like a very earnest, nice man, and he had good oratory skills, but the neo-Puritan influence was obvious when he spent 45 minutes lamenting the lack of sanctification evident today, and 14 ways to produce it. I don’t recall hearing him ever make clear the connection between our sanctification and the work of same Spirit who justifies us. Just lots of effort and striving.


  26. Jesse,

    Good comment and question.

    Staying on that bandwagon is more a matter of temperament than it is theology in my observation. Emotion, emotion, emotion is just really important to lots of people.

    I haven’t encountered a hardcore experimental Calvinist who I was not very, very wary of — both in terms of the harm they can do themselves and to innocent bystanders. See also: Gilbert Tennent.


  27. I wonder if MJ asks the preacher before he preaches: “How broken are you?

    Nothing like trying to conjure up some brokenhearted feelings to start off the Lord’s Day.


  28. What this stuff is is starting out with Reformed theology and backsliding into arminianism, evangelicalism, emotionalism, legalism and all the junk that Reformed theology was meant to lift us out of. Same thing with The Federal Vision, The Obedience Boys, Patriarchy, and every other pious-sounding substitute for the gospel and Biblical Christianity. As soon as the focus shifts from the objective work on the cross that Christ did on behalf of sinners to anything else, get ready to have the wool pulled over your eyes by a man or men who seek to be your master.


  29. Chris H: In other words, we set forth an example of someone still BELIEVING the Gospel DESPITE our ongoing lack of godliness at many points. Perhaps this is the beginning of true wisdom in preaching. And it just might point to Christ instead of to us.

    mcmark—Amen. We can talk about the gospel without talking about our personal moral failures because we can talk about the gospel without talking about ourselves. There is no need for a “methodist” path from our sins to the gospel to teach us about the standard of God’s law . Christ’s death as the satisfaction of God’s law (for the elect) teaches us to fear God and to see what God’s law demands.

    When Mark Jones says that conversion does not depend “entirely” on the godliness of the preacher, he reaches for the balance which can avoid antithesis. No “merely” or “sola” for him, when catholic nuance can always include faith into the works and works into the faith. “Faith alone” is a serious omission, because it forgets to say that faith alone is never alone, because from the beginning faith means the godly works which follow.

    Depending on the situation (or how you frame it), sometimes faith is resting and sometimes faith is how you act in order to avoid worrying about the threats.


  30. Mboss, well, the GRN(gospel reformation network) is big on the effort front even to the point of conditioning the COG by transformative, subjective sanctification. So, what’s enough? and how do I separate out the corruption bit from the sanctified bit? And when we do this parsing are we gonna go ahead and do it along cultic conformity lines like membership, sabbath, second commandment, and sacraments or do we somehow have room for Frameian latitudinarianism while condemning drug store pornography, R2k, bi-covenantalism, gays and baby-killers. They wanna be tough, demanding, and unflinching on the monastic front, I’ve got some nuns and brothers they might wanna take the measure of to see how they’re doing..


  31. Erik – “Staying on that bandwagon is more a matter of temperament than it is theology in my observation. Emotion, emotion, emotion is just really important to lots of people.”

    Agree. I read Piper’s Desiring God and Don’t Waste Your Life back in 2006 and spent the next few months paranoid about my salvation and getting emotionally burned out trying to gin up these Christian Hedonistic affections. Then I found Clark, Hart, Horton and others who brought me back to my Old School sensibilities. Some people are just highly emotive and make their emotional experience or pursuit thereof the measure for everyone else.


  32. Jesse, my definition is Puritanism and the Dutch nadere reformatie (Dutch pietism), both of which fed the First Pretty Good Awakening which Calvinists consider great because Whitefield and Edwards were sort of Calvinist. Experimental Calvinism is evident wherever someone says that outward observances are inconsequential compared to what the Spirit is doing. A good brand of experimental Calvinism would somehow keep the outward forms and the desire for earnestness together. I myself think they are an unstable compound. But Banner of Truth has managed somehow to keep both parts in print.


  33. David R: By way of clarification, are you saying that Duncan was partly wrong in what he said, or partly wrong in that he omitted the qualification you suggest? (I ask because I don’t see that he actually affirms a promise of temporal good.)

    I am saying that Duncan was partly wrong because of the omission. Not intentionally no doubt, but I think that is part of the issue with that viewpoint: an overly optimistic view of what can be achieved in the here and now. I don’t understand WSC 1 to mean that the “enjoy Him forever” is realized now. While that viewpoint would save alot for the hereafter, I would save considerably more than they do. The divines were more sober and realistic about the limitations of human nature post regeneration than some contemporary men seem to be.


  34. Darryl GHAR, Yes, the enjoyment is forever and not at Starbucks. I find it simplistic and discouraging to connect the “enjoy Him forever” with our day to day emotions, obedience, etc. I’m sure Duncan would give a more nuanced treatment in something longer than a blogpost.


  35. Who are these non-experimental Calvinists that Hart et al. are lionizing? Whose works should I read before St. Nevin of Mercersburg? And is Hart really criticizing the theology of those who produced the Westminster Standards?


  36. Sean — Puritanism was a very diverse movement with both (from a Reformed perspective) positive and negative aspects. Some Puritans we non-experimental Reformed-types appreciate today (eg, Owen, with a few reservations), while others we leave alone (eg Baxter).

    The Dutch Second Reformation was, in part, inspired by Puritan devotional literature and similarly produced both positive and negative results (check out the Voetian-Cocceian controversy and the mediating theologian Herman Witsius).

    To accept all of Puritanism uncritically is foolish and dangerous. Good theology requires discernment. Even some of the great Puritan writers of old believed and taught some not-so-great theology.


  37. C’mon, Sean, or should I say “MacDonald”? There were congregationalist English Puritans and crusty old Scots and plenty besides at Westminster. I had a former pastor explain the reason we didn’t relate well to a certain man. “He’s English Puritan, we’re Scottish Presbyterian,” he said.


  38. I am not saying that Piper, Duncan, and Edwards are wrong because they echo Pastorette Osteen. But it is striking to see how many people reacted negatively (Christian and not) to Osteen’s video and how experimental Calvinists are less inclined to pounce.

    To their credit. Not sure what an “experimental” Calvinist is, except they appear to be the last ones still willing to defy the sneers of the elite.

    You flirted with the mark here, Dr. Hart. You’re an astonishing intellect, a solid scholar, and gentleman of good will. Experiment on!



  39. Spoken like those who have never read the authors to whom they refer.

    For Owen, read Vol. 6 of his Works (Mortification of Sin, Temptation, Indwelling Sin, etc.).

    For the Scots, I don’t even know where to begin. Seriously? Rutherford’s Letters, Trial and Triumph of Faith, Christ Dying and Drawing Sinners to Himself? Dickson on the Psalms? Durham’s Clavis Cantici, Christ Crucified, Law Unsealed? Robert Bruce, Andrew Gray, William Guthrie? Could you find for me a non-experimental Scottish Presbyterian who wasn’t a moderate or a neonomian?


  40. DGH – 14 points was my attempt at (sanctified?) hyperbole. I lost count of the number of points and subpoints in the sermon. I was also trying to keep my 3 year old under wraps at the time.

    Linda – I don’t know. The bulletin didn’t say, and I didn’t have opportunity to ask. I have a pretty good guess, but that’s all.


  41. The desire is in my heart to want to attend church, learn, and worship, and I would say that I do desire to worship in a pleasing way with godly affection, sincere reverence, and being focused in prayer. As one who has ‘tried to improve myself’ (‘intentionally’ as Harry Reeder likes to say), I have seen little to no improvement – my mind still wanders in prayer, Sunday School, and worship, even when I have done one-on-one accountability, small groups, and sung to my heart’s and voice’s cardiovacular and decibel limits (charismatic church experience of long ago), and in the end, I found that I was more proud of my level of piety, and tended to look down on those of less expression in worship, and that my sin nature was unchanged, PTL went under, Judge Bork didn’t get the nomination, AIDS became an epidemic, and Reagan suffered through Iran-Contra. I did this because I was told that I should be ‘bold’ and not timid, and that God would not use anyone with half-hearted love for him, so you can imagine how this rebuke from my pastor at that time (who later got into immorality and lost his pastorate) affected me. It was abnormal behaviour, and I never felt like this was who I was. Only after the church crashed and burned did I begin to see the fallacy of all this (that this post addresses). I am by nature more reserved, quiet, cautious, and desire to be authentic/real at all times, even with doubts and acknowledging my sinfulness and shortcomings.

    By contrast, understanding that it is God who works in me to achieve His Will and purpose is a comfort, and takes the pressure off of me doing it ‘intentionally’ or in ‘synergy’, or all by myself. I haven’t read much of Edwards, and I think that if I did, I might need another ten years…….didn’t his relative slash his wrists or something like that because of Edwards influence?


  42. One problem with experimental Calvinism is its tendency to confuse the law and the gospel. Exhortations to greater and stronger affections are examples of preaching the law, not the gospel. Similarly, there can be w/in experimental Calvinism a tendency to associate preaching the law with preaching sanctification, whereas it is through the means of preaching of the gospel that Christ sanctifies us (just as he justified us).

    I am in favor of preaching both the law and the gospel, but the two must be distinct from each other.


  43. “Could you find for me a non-experimental Scottish Presbyterian who wasn’t a moderate or a neonomian?” How about George Gillespie? David Mullan’s book on “Scottish puritanism” gives a really good general description of this movement of piety within Scottish presbyterianism, and its enormous and sometimes surprising variations (including a belief in the continuation of extraordinary revelation).

    There are certainly also wide differences among English puritans, but I get worried when publishers promote material which pushes “spirituality” or “experimental religion,” which English puritans often had in common, without thinking seriously about the theological structure which underpins that piety.

    There is a gulf between Owen and Baxter which we wouldn’t notice if we just read Banner of Truth books. Yet on certain core gospel issues that gulf is almost as wide as the reformation itself.


  44. Thanks Mad Hungarian ~ it’s been within the past 6-7 years that I really began to understand what you expressed above. I now see that this is the Good News. You’re right – experimental Calvinism leads to those types of consequences. A minister in the Midwest told me something I’ll never forget back in 2010:

    “Moralism always has a good beginning, but ends badly”, or words to that effect.


  45. For Richard Bax­ter, the ground of jus­ti­fi­ca­tion was NOT Christ’s satisfaction of law imputed. Baxter held that Christ’s right­eous­ness caused a change in the demands of the law. Packer — “Where ortho­dox Calvin­ism taught that Christ sat­is­fied the law in the sinner’s place, Bax­ter held that Christ sat­is­fied the Law­giver and so pro­cured a change in the law. Here Bax­ter aligns him­self with Armin­ian thought rather than with ortho­dox Calvin­ism.”

    Bax­ter sug­gested a “neonomian” old law/new law dis­tinc­tion: Christ’s work makes the terms of the new covenant more lenient than the old, procur­ing a change in the law that makes obedi­ence possible—now you can and you will do this.

    Baxter had a notion of a twofold right­eous­ness. “As there are two Covenants, with their dis­tinct Con­di­tions: so there is a twofold Right­eous­ness, and both of them absolutely nec­es­sary to Sal­va­tion.” The first of these two is what Baxter called legal right­eous­ness, that is, the right­eous­ness earned under the law of works. This right­eous­ness is not per­sonal to the believer, “for we never per­son­ally sat­is­fied the law,” but is “wholly with­out us in Christ.”

    Baxter’s sec­ond type of right­eous­ness, how­ever, is a “real” and “imparted” and “infused” and “evangel­i­cal” right­eous­ness, which, accord­ing to Bax­ter, does belong to the believer, and con­sists of the believer’s faith. Bax­ter: “faith is imputed for Righteousness…because it is an Act of Obe­di­ence to God…it is the per­for­mance of the Con­di­tion of the Jus­ti­fy­ing Covenant.

    Alli­son: “Jus­ti­fy­ing faith, for Bax­ter, is that which is imputed and reck­oned for right­eous­ness as a con­di­tion of the new covenant.”Bax­ter takes the posi­tion that Christ pur­chased (to offer all sinners) eas­ier terms within the new covenant. On account of Christ’s right­eous­ness, our own right­eous­ness (faith and repen­tance) is to be counted as accept­able right­eous­ness. We are, in other words, justfied by our own right­eous­ness on account of the right­eous­ness of Christ. Baxter thinks that Christ’s right­eous­ness makes jus­ti­fi­ca­tion by a believer’s right­eous­ness possible.

    Or, to say it in terms of the Marrow, “Christ is dead for you”, in the sense that there is a plan which offers you benefits, but no strict legal propitiation for anyone yet.

    The Reformed con­fes­sional stan­dards teach the very oppo­site from Baxter about faith, namely, that faith is not a substitute for righteousness (i.e. HC 60–61; BC 22; WCF 11.1–2; WLC 70–73). What was even more provoca­tive in Baxter’s posi­tion was his insis­tence that jus­ti­fy­ing faith con­tained works, which is the third point we must con­sider in Baxter’s doc­trine of justification.

    For Bax­ter, faith itself is not the sole ground of a believer’s jus­ti­fi­ca­tion; rather, faith must be joined to works. “Both jus­ti­fie in the same kinde of causal­ity, viz. as Causae sine quibus non…Faith as the prin­ci­pal part; Obe­di­ence as the less prin­ci­pal. The like may be said of Love, which at least is a sec­ondary part of the Con­di­tion.”



  46. Baxter’s neonomianism makes it worse for the sinner, not better. Baxter claims to offer a “new plan of salvation”, an easier way. Baxter says that God no longer commands to “do and live”. Baxter says that God the Father has transferred His right to punish over to Christ, who has new terms of mercy, not the old law which condemns “in rigor of justice” Universal Redemption, 1694, p 26

    But in reality Baxter has not relaxed the terms but ALWAYS WANTS MORE. The satisfaction of the law by Christ’s death is NOT ENOUGH FOR BAXTER. Baxter also has a new plan and this plan will accept always wants more from us than “merely” the obedience of a “substitute”. This new plan will only take obedience from the sinner himself who needs to be saved.

    What Baxter calls the “obedience of faith” is more about obedience than faith. No salvation for the ungodly. No salvation for the disobedient. Baxter warns that Christ did not and cannot deliver us from the punishment of the new law for disbelief. “Christ died not for any Man’s non-performance of the conditions of the law of grace.” (p 33) Arguing from Hebrews 10, Baxter concludes that “Christ by His law has made a far sorer punishment than before belonged to them, to be due to all those that believe not on Him. Only for refusing their Redeemer shall they be condemned” (p 44)

    In this new plan, the “gospel” becomes the law, and Christ comes to condemn you. The idea is that Christ came to make you an offer, and nothing now but one thing condemns you, and that is you not accepting the offer.

    Richard Baxter—“the imperfections too commonly cleaving to the work of grace in the redeemed, call for a certain coercive influence of the law even for them…fear being needed to awe the sinner where love has failed to inspire and animate.”


  47. Mark, exactly! “Neonomian” is the most polite word for the infusion of works into the righteousness that justifies sinners.


  48. cg, one good response to Baxter I find in Benjamin Keach, The Marrow of True Justification: The Biblical Doctrine of Justification Without Works, Solid Ground Books, Birmingham, Alabama USA, 2007, p 80—”None have an evangelical righteousness, but those who are justified before they have it. Christ is our legal righteousness by a proper imputation of His righteousness to us, Once we are justified, we need not inquire how a man is justified after he is justified. God has not appointed a personal evangelical righteousness in order to our Justification before Him…By that righteousness of Christ which is out of us, though imputed to us, the Justice of God is satisfied; therefore all Works done by us, or inherent in us, are excluded in our Justification before God.”


  49. DGH: “But Chris, which is it? Burn them with “the force of our belief” or with Christ? Then again, why scorched earth at church? Jesus’ burden is light.”

    Well, if it is either/or, then Christ, obviously. But it is not, since Christ is in one sense, “mediated” to us through preaching, and thus, necessarily, through preachers, cf. WCF 14.1, who must either burn or simmer or do something as they preach. I think the preacher should be who he is and believe the Gospel while he is preaching, and let that take whatever form it takes through him, as long it is still with weakness and trembling to some degree, cf. I Cor 2. It is certainly not a discussion about style.

    But the key is that if we “burn” folks with faith, it is a faith which calls them to REST in Christ and His work, cf. WCF 14.2, WLC 72. That is hardly a heavy burden. But they still must get there, and that sometimes takes some anguished wrestling, even for believers, cf. Romans 7, not to mention most of the Psalms. But it is to arrive at a place of rest. I think I could preach that way and still have been most comfortable as an Old Lighter back in the 1740s, from what I know of the period. At least I think so.


  50. CW-

    I can see why you would balk at that statement. I would say I can envisage a context in which such a statement might make sense, whilst also recognising it’s a pretty forthright thing to say. And the context I can imagine is quite different from Piper’s creepy chat about his daughters’ clothes.

    That probably doesn’t satisfy you.


  51. http://www.opc.org/review.html?review_id=220

    Reviewer Mark Sumpter (link above) gives Priolo higher marks than I would, since Priolo’s (and Jay Adams) Law-based methods turn one inward into introspection and do not point people to Christ in justification (noted by Sumpter) – and he quotes very much from Neonomian Richard Baxter!

    “Moralism always has a good beginning, but ends badly.”


  52. Neonomianism demands an either or between faith and the object of faith. Baxter’s faith was in faith. But our faith must be in the object of faith, and God does not credit faith as righteousness.Galatians 3:5-8 quotes Genesis 15:6, which tells us that Abraham believed God and it was imputed to him as righteousness. Luther tells us that to have faith is to have Christ indwelling, tells us that God really is pleased with the faith God has given us, and that this faith is really righteous in God’s sight.

    But faith (produced and given by God) does NOT satisfy the law of God . To begin to understand Genesis 15:6, we need to know that “as righteousness” should be translated “unto righteousness”. (See Robert Haldane’s commentary, Banner of Truth). That’s important to see, but at the end of the day, it still does not explain the imputation.

    Whether we see imputation as the transfer of something, or if we see imputation as the declaration of something, what is the “it” which is being imputed? No matter if we have clarified that “it” is not credited as righteousness but only unto righteousness, what is “it” and why is God imputing “it”?
    “It” has an antecedent, but the antecedent is not faith alone. God imputes the righteousness revealed in the gospel to a person justified by the gospel. The righteousness revealed in the gospel is Christ’s satisfaction of the law.

    “Faith” in Galatians 3:5-8 is defined in two ways: not by works of the law, and the gospel preached to Abraham. In Genesis 17, God warned Abraham that anybody not circumcised would be cut off from the covenant. But that conditional covenant with Abraham is not the gospel God preached to Abraham.

    God did not say to Abraham: if you believe, then I will bless you. God said, I will bless you without cause, not only so that you will believe but also so that in your seed there will be one seed who will bring in the righteousness (for the elect alone) required by the law. The “it” which was imputed by God to Abraham was not Abraham’s faith (or works of faith) but the obedient death of Abraham’s seed Jesus Christ. Only that death satisfies God’s law. Not out faith.


  53. In his book on antinomianism, (p 6), Mark Jones writes that “Melanchthon changed his mind and came to a ‘Reformed’ view of the gospel, which included the whole doctrine of Christ, including repentance…” The assumption is that a Reformed view of the gospel is NOT about a distinction between law and gospel “defined narrowly as pure promise”, but instead includes conditions and sanctions

    But since Reformed people know that our duty is not based on our ability, the soundbite from Augustine (give what you command, and command what you will) is wrong if it’s understand to say that Christians now CAN obey the law. No matter what we think or don’t think about some new covenant ability to keep the law, no such change could lower the standard of the law to the level of what those in the new covenant are now doing.

    And, if the idea is that now we “could be” doing better, then the gospel has now been changed into law.

    It is often the case that God does NOT give us to do what God commands. The law is not the gospel, grace is not the law, and it’s still too late for justified sinners to keep the law in order to be sanctified or arrive at the “not yet aspect” of justification and adoption. Those who are already saints are commanded to obey the law.

    To say that only Christ could or has satisfied the law is to properly fear God. Neonomians turn out to be antinomians. To think that one can produce “sanctification” and gain other blessings by something extra infused and imparted into us in addition to what God has done in Christ is to not yet fear God as the Holy One who demands perfection. Puritan pastors who point to their own piety are not exactly following the example of the apostle Paul—they are not merely thanking their god that they are not like other sinners, because they are working because their faith is not entirely in some past substitution but also in their own future working faith


  54. p 75, Mark Jones—“Turretin argues that all in glory will be equally happy. However, Jonathan Edwards disagrees. In his sermon on “The Portion of the Righteous”, he argues not only for degrees of glory, but also for different degrees of happiness. Moreover, he claims that the degrees of happiness will be in ‘some proportion to the saints’ eminency in holiness and good works.while on earth”

    Edwards, 2:902—-Every vessel that is cast into this ocean of happiness is full, though there are some vessels larger than others.


  55. Two basic comments or questions on this post: isn’t Duncan Ligon’s “inseparable” link between joy and worship tinged by the the theology and ecclesiology of those he so ardently supports through thick and thin? I have in mind, for example, his dear dear friend CJ Mahaney, the erstwhile darling of those who wanted to be Reformed and yet hip with the cutting edge charismatics.

    Secondly, how does Mark Jones figure that holiness and godliness is the vital aspect of preaching needed today? The lack of seminary called and trained men is more the problem as in many churches the preaching is little more than amateurs pushed forward into the pulpit in the crazy hope they will become preachers through pulpit experience. The emphasis on experience for worship and ministry by such men must make John Piper indeed a very happy man. It’s no wonder that he has such influence that even WS East have him as a key speaker on the topic of calvinism – this shows how far this once clearly Presbyterian seminary is now sending out profoundly mixed and muddled signals in comparison to it’s founding days.


  56. Alexander, it doesn’t satisfy me one whit. I cannot conceive any context in which my greatest need is my pastor’s personal holiness when Christ and him crucified (and risen) is on the table. In fact, the more I think about it, how dare M’cheyne, Jones, and you. Get behind me, Satan.


  57. Chris – I think the preacher should be who he is and believe the Gospel while he is preaching, and let that take whatever form it takes through him, as long it is still with weakness and trembling to some degree

    Erik – I’ll settle for speaking English and not talking so long that my butt falls asleep.


  58. Alex – And the context I can imagine is quite different from Piper’s creepy chat about his daughters’ clothes.

    Erik – Which creepy Piper chat was that? Weird Piper chat = Day that ends in “Y”


  59. You observe that “appreciated people” exchange grumbling for praying, competing for celebrating, bitterness for thankfulness, performing for serving, and boasting for encouraging. What’s an “appreciated person”? Isn’t that what Joel Osteen wants me to be?

    mark Driscoll—I am aware of the theological differences that exist between our tribe and Pastor Joel. I also know my Reformed brothers like to treat Pastor Joel like a piñata, but there are worse things than being happy and encouraging at a time when the most common prescription medications are antidepressants. A few guys in our tribe could learn to talk about something other than painful, arduous suffering once and a while—if nothing else than for the sake of variety. Our identity is not in our joy, and our identity is not in our suffering. Our identity is in Christ, whether we have joy or are suffering.



  60. Marc requesting a MINIMUM of 6 weeks off to recoup and heal.

    A primer on the private, capitalistic sector (which pays the church’s bills) and the church sector:

    For the past 22 years I have never had even 2 weeks off since I’ve had to process a payroll every other week that entire time (except for 9 months when I worked in a CPA firm). This includes the birth of 4 kids and one all-night stint in the hospital with one of them when he had to return shortly after birth. I recall having to head into the office in the midst of that fiasco.

    During August I worked all 31 days — 70 hour weeks. My first day off — Labor Day. I went to the town where I work on some personal business and my car broke down. I had left my cell at home and my wife wasn’t there to come get me anyway. So what did I do? Walked 5 miles — to the office.

    And in spite of all this I’m thrilled – Thrilled – to have a good job.

    6 weeks off indeed.


  61. My postmillennial theonomist friends have always been fond of pointing out that a Deuteronomic paradigm is a “prosperity gospel”. They call attention to the parts of the puritans that Banner of Truth ignores or edits out. Gary North dedicated his books to charismatic prosperity teachers and getting more buyers was not the only reason.

    John Calvin: There are some men, not otherwise ill-disposed, to whom it appears that our condition under the Gospel is different from that of the ancient people under the law; not only because the kingdom of Christ is not of this world, but because Christ was unwilling that the BEGINNINGS of His kingdom should be aided by the sword.

    Calvin: But, when human judges consecrate their work to the promotion of Christ’s kingdom, I deny that on that account its nature is changed. For, although it was Christ’s will that His Gospel should be proclaimed by His disciples in opposition to the power of the whole world, and He exposed them armed with the Word alone like sheep among wolves, He did not impose on Himself an eternal law that He should never bring kings under His subjection… nor change them from being cruel persecutors into the patrons and guardians of His Church. Magistrates at first exercised tyranny against the Church, because the time had not yet come when they should “kiss the Son” of God and become the nursing fathers of the Church. Harmony of the Law, Commentary on Deuteronomy 13.5


  62. The rub for all this stuff with Marc is that if you want to be a humble family man and Bible teacher you’re not going to be a star pastor online, on social media, and in print. It just doesn’t work — you’re one or the other. The former is about laboring in relative obscurity, the latter is about 21st Century stardom.

    The same is true of Doug Phillips — If he tries to return to the pedestal that he was once on, he won’t have learned the lessons he needs to have learned.

    Being an ordinary Christian man or pastor and being a “Christian Star” are just not compatible.


  63. Erik, some of Driscoll’s non- fans have stated he told the board he was taking time off, letting them do their “investigation” and then he will return business as usual.

    Wonder what the investigation will find


  64. Erik – I’ll settle for speaking English and not talking so long that my butt falls asleep.

    Wow, you’re easy. The key then in most Reformed churches I think is thickly padded chairs.


  65. None of them are ever sorrowful enough to queet. I just really wanna love my family and keep doing what i’ve been doing sans social media for a bit. Always makes me doubt the sorrow part and believe the vacation/pr/let Janet Mefferd and Throckmorton find a new chew toy, part


  66. Sorry, he also has delayed his new book. Undoubtedly out of sorrow and not because he’s waiting for more favorable/profitable sentiment towards him. God needs him on the wall, he just feel…errr….knows it. I’m gonna start auditing my own books for the IRS, cuz I’m generous like that.


  67. Let’s see, chronologically he’s 43. That’s at least ten years to early to start the sage/legacy/twitter haiku portion of his ride. Maybe he can go all dr dre and find new talent and produce. Kinda legacy but not quite twitter-haiku sageness.


  68. To quote the great Freddie Mercury, “You gave me fame and fortune and everything that goes with it. I thank you all. But it’s been no bed of roses, no pleasure cruise.”

    In other news, I’ve finished the 5th of Eric Rohmer’s “Six Moral Tales” — “Claire’s Knee”. What a delicious ride this has been.

    Lake Geneva looks incredible.


  69. Holy Smokes! Driscoll wrote: “this book is the best thing I’ve written by a long stretch”. Oh yes – the charges brought against him was humility, right?


  70. The whole notion that his book is being delayed is an interesting one. Book? Why would I buy a Christian book? Presumably because the author possessed superior knowledge, research, and interest in Christian topics that I want to learn about. Beyond that I would hope that his life & ministry would be in some measure exemplary. If the author has just been through a time of turmoil, much of it due to his own admitted poor judgment, this second factor would be um — absent.

    If you’re truly regrouping, don’t even talk about your next book. Maybe consider burning it. Start from scratch, give it a few years, and then we’ll talk about whether or not you’re fit to write Christian books.

    The commercial side of “big-time” ministry just warps everything.


  71. mark mcculley
    Posted September 3, 2014 at 2:06 pm | Permalink
    In his book on antinomianism, (p 6), Mark Jones writes that “Melanchthon changed his mind and came to a ‘Reformed’ view of the gospel, which included the whole doctrine of Christ, including repentance…”

    Philipp Melanchthon realized what theological anarchy Luther had spawned–Servetus, non-Trintarianism, whathaveyou, you could look it up.

    As THE “moderate” of the Reformation he saw that Luther had let the toothpaste out of the tube, and orthodoxy’s death knell had sounded along with Servetus’s. Then Melanchthon tried to reconcile Germany and Geneva before it all went to spit. But he’d already diagnosed the incurable theological disease. He called it

    Rabies theologorum.

    Melanchthon da bomb. Stand up or stand back.


  72. Martin Luther, the Heidelberg Disputations

    The law of God, the most salutary doctrine of life, cannot advance man on his way to righteousness, but rather hinders him.

    Although the works of man always appear attractive and good, they are nevertheless likely to be mortal sins.Although the works of God always seem unattractive and appear evil, they are nevertheless really for good and God’s glory.

    The works of the righteous would be mortal sins if they are not be feared as mortal sins by the righteous themselves out of pious fear of God.

    To say that works without Christ are dead, but not mortal, appears to constitute a perilous surrender of the fear of God. Indeed, it is very difficult to see how a work can be dead and at the same time not a harmful and mortal sin.

    Arrogance cannot be avoided or true hope be present unless the judgment of condemnation is feared in every work.

    Free will, after the fall, exists in name only, and as long as it does WHAT IT IS ABLE TO DO, it commits a mortal sin

    mcmark—The “large commanding gospel” of the late Melanchthon is not only a compromise with the Roman antichrist but a confusion of law and gospel. Instead of seeing that the teaching of Romans 5 (the two imputations, the two headships) leads to the question of Romans 6, Mark Jones claims that “Paul could hardly be accused of antinomianism.” (p 121)

    I certainly agree that Paul was not antinomian. In Romans 3:2-8, Paul even responds to that accusation by affirming the condemnation of antinomians. But for Mark Jones to claim that Paul had a “large commanding gospel” in which the question would never be asked is to ignore not only the context but the content of Romans 6, which teaches that Christ was “alive to sin” (because of imputed sins) and that Christians are justified from sin (6:7) by Christ’s substitute death. The gospel is about Christians being included in Christ’s death by legal imputation.

    Sin is so bad that our only hope is death. But our own deaths will not satisfy God. Only by the death of Christ are Christians are justified before God and the law. Christians are not under the power of sin because they are no longer under the law, no longer guilty before God. There was a time in history when Christ was under the law because of the sins of the elect imputed to Christ by God. “In Christ” means “by Christ’s death”.


  73. Zrim- I was speaking in a pastoral sense, which is how I take that statement. I don’t know the context. Clearly, though, M’Cheyne wasn’t speaking about justification.

    MM- What do your non-theonomist postmillenial friends say?


  74. I don’t have that many postmill friends and, as far as I know, none of them are non-theonomic. I am not a Banner of Truth guy—all that scolding is way too sweet for me.

    even so, come Lord Jesus

    “Thy kingdom come” is not the adjustments you made in your life this past year.


  75. The “experimentalists” promise some Christians extra blessings. Not happy? Well, you could be more holy. David Murray puts the ball in your court. “I don’t want the Osteens’ happiness. But neither do I want to lose true biblical happiness. I steadfastly refuse to let the Osteens’ steal this beautiful biblical word from me or the Church. Instead, let’s reclaim it and fill it with biblical ballast. By doing so we can surely out-happify the Osteens. And yes, that kind of happiness will pass the Mosul test.” – http://www.reformation21.org/blog/2014/09/concerning-mere-happiness.php#sthash.NjKb8K6X.dpuf

    When Mark Jones reports that john Gill rejected Rutherford’s claim that God loves Christians more if they obey more, Mark Jones does not attend to the arguments of Gill, but simply rehearses Rutherford’s conclusions and then (as usual) calls into questions if Gill even understood what Rutherford was saying.(p 84)

    Mark Jones argues from the fact that Christ learned obedience and “increased in favor with God” to the idea that Christians could begin to sin less and thus be more loved by God. Mark Jones advocates sanctification by divine punishment in this life. Either you can be more happy or you can do more purgatory now in this life. . Mark Jones call it “evangelical punishment” (p 93)


  76. MM- Why do you assume Gill us right and Rutherford wrong? Gill was a hyper-Calvinist: could that have anything to do with his views on obedience?


  77. That being said I think Gill would be unimpressed with a lot of what professing Christians today claim they have the liberty to do.


  78. Alexander, so was I speaking in a pastoral sense. So I’m still flummoxed. In what conceivable pastoral context could anybody ever think that a pastor’s personal holiness is the greatest need when in any pastoral context it is Christ and him crucified that is the greatest need? And I don’t know what your point is in saying he wasn’t speaking about justification, unless you are compartmentalizing doctrine and pastoral care. But they’re organically intertwined.


  79. Zrim,

    What most Christians need today is not their pastor’s personal holiness but his ability to fit into a pair of skinny jeans, sport a super hot wife, and act like a 20-year old youth pastor even though he’s 45.

    They should probably be needing something different.


  80. I think his point was that the example set by the preacher is as important as what he preaches and indeed if his example and life contradicts what he says then it is more important as it undermines his teaching. And Driscoll is the perfect example if this: a lot of what he said was fine, but his conduct exposed him for the fraud he is and that was what mattered more. It’s easy enough to teach sound doctrine; living it is another matter. Another quote of is us something along the lines of: one’s sermon lasts a couple of hours; one’s life preaches all week.


  81. I went through a protracted period of my life where we had no choice but to live off my wife’s salary, and during that time I remember seeing a video of Mark Driscoll basically condemning men who were not being the breadwinners in the home or not working at all due to laziness.I could see the point for pure laziness, but I was doing everything I could, and had to work in near minimum-wage jobs. He was vitriolic in the video, and very condemning. Sounded like some of Harry Reeder’s or Douglas Wilson’s ‘Be Christian Men’ lambasts. I wasn’t alone – other Christian men were working at whatever they could get to do to being home something. Now our situation has changed very drastically, by God’s grace, and I have a very good job now, but I will never forget how mean-spirited his take was on situations like mine.


  82. The Osteens speak blasphemy. sad. I have great joy in our Lord’s love. I have great regret in my own wretchedness. And God forbid that i boast, or rejoice in anything other than the Cross, whereby i am crucified to the world, and the world to me.
    The osteens are the world:-Religious world. They most likely need to hear the Gospel, so that it pricks their minds, and God quickens their souls, and they are ‘Born Again”. ye must be born agains, Jesus said.

    Are the Osteens born again?


  83. Erik, So right.

    My pastor at that time was very helpful, but the influence of the ‘Patriarchs’ (Wilson, Reeder, Priolo, Adams, and more) in our circles was pretty big. Driscoll was troubling to my pastor back then.


  84. Alexander, I understand the need for credibility. Quite right, but where the personal holiness crowd errs is in saying that his credibility “is as important as what he preaches.” Take a minute and think about that. I can’t help but sense a Donatist error at play–does the sin of the messenger really degrade the substance of the message? Also irony. I mean, you cite Driscoll to make your point but it’s this same hyper-spiritual conflation of message and messenger that gives us celebrity religion. Then everybody hyperventilates and says things like, “He has done enormous damage to the gospel!” Come on. He’s damaged himself, but the gospel is quite beyond the personal holiness of any man who handles it. Still flummoxed over how a preacher’s holiness could ever be a sinner’s greatest need.


  85. Right, Zrim. The medium shapes the message as much or more than the messenger shapes the message. I’d rather have mediocre preaching by an unexceptional guy in the context of a simple, reverent, biblical worship service than super Calvinist preaching by a charismatic dude-tool in a Mickey Mouse shirt who has to be careful not to trip over the amps, mic stands, and water bottles on the stage.


  86. cg: Most of Gillespie’s works were polemical. I would suggest reading his sermons. Naphtali Press recently published the sermons of the Scottish Commissioners before Parliament; Gillespie gets quite experimental and applicatory there. So far as I know, those are the only sermons of Gillespie in print.


  87. George Ella—“Donatus ran away when trouble arose and died peacefully in his bed – in exile. He was certainly not made of such stuff as form martyrs, and had long persecuted those of his own kind.. Because of their highly sacramental view of baptism and ordination, the Donatists insisted that the sacraments were only valid if the authority and intention of the priest was God-given. They came to the proud conclusion that all the run-of-the-mill ‘catholic’ priests, with themselves as exceptions, were unclean,”



  88. Tell me if I am right or wrong, but I get the feeling that so many of you in the Old Life family here were raised up in churches or environments where questioning/disagreeing with teaching or the pastors or elders was not only allowed, but was very encouraged, unlike a number of, or probably many, church environments in the Presbyterian Church in America.

    I do recall an incident where I disagreed with a couple of PCA Elders, and one of them told me that when the Session voted, their decision was God’s decision – I always took issue with that statement/feeling.


  89. Semper, what gives you that impression? But in its better manifestations, a Reformed view of ecclesiastical authority is one that avoids the anti-institutionalism of evangelicalism and the authoritarianism of Catholicism. Your incident sounds like one that veered Catholic. The irony is how anti-institutionalism tends to breed authoritarianism in which individuals rise up as little popes over the herd and exercise a kind of spiritual tyranny.


  90. Zrim,

    I’m learning a lot here – definitely felt like the ‘veered Catholic’ situation. No wonder – spiritual authority, spiritual formation, mysticism, contemplative prayer, overemphasis on confession………….


  91. Rather we should seek to stir up our desire for this delight until it is white hot and insatiable on the earth.

    Yeah, until you end up in counseling trying to figure out why you’re never “stirred up”.

    The only insatiable desire I have is for In-N-Out burgers. God gave man 1 day in 7 to satiate themselves with him. Why is that never sufficient for the experimental Calvinists? Until I enter that rest, you can’t expect me to enjoy something my body literally cannot fully enjoy.


  92. Nate,

    John Piper negatively affected people in our circles years ago by his assertions and opines on different topics and issues of the day…………..I thought some of his material was good, but this aspect (the italicized quote above) is the reason I can’t read his material anymore. I can’t find the Rest of Christ in his writings/presentations. I would wonder if many of the church’s faithful Moms wouldn’t feel like second class citizens in the kingdom with Piper and Edwards being played on the loudspeaker all the time……I think many do, and also many Dads who want to take their children fishing or to the zoo without feeling guilty for not going to the neighborhood urban ministry on Saturday mornings/church work party-outreach, etc. that is Piper/Kennedy style.

    Fan of IN-N-N Out Burgers, too!


  93. CW- I hope you’d agree, though, that M’Cheyne and Driscoll are two completely different kettle of fish. Some preachers just become well known. There’s bugging necessarily wrong with that- we all read and post on blogs by people who have become well known.

    Zrim- It’s not a phrase I’m gonna die in a ditch over but I think you’re being harsh on the guy. Of course the Gospel is not dependent on the holiness of the preacher; but the spiritual life of the preacher can still have a profound impact on the spiritual life of the congregation. Also in the Scottish context, especially at that time, there was such a divined between the church and the world that the conduct of church people- especially ministers and members- was heavily scrutinised by all about them and people were very careful about their conduct. The church was often at real antagonism with the surrounding culture and so the witness of Christians was very important. It should still be. I think that’s how you need to understand it.


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