Gratitude and Motivation

The good (loaded term?) folks over at Gospel Reformation Network state the following:

We deny that gratitude for justification is the only valid motivation for holiness, making all other motivations illegitimate or legalistic.

I am not sure how many critics of neonomianism or flattening insist that gratitude is the exclusive motivation for good works. But if you think about better and worse ways to seek holiness, why do you have to warn about gratitude?

For instance, if you sought to follow a program of good works according to the Confession of Faith (16.2), would you be in danger of becoming self-righteous?

These good works, done in obedience to God’s commandments, are the fruits and evidences of a true and lively faith: and by them believers manifest their thankfulness, strengthen their assurance, edify their brethren, adorn the profession of the Gospel, stop the mouths of the adversaries, and glorify God, whose workmanship they are, created in Christ Jesus thereunto, that, having their fruit unto holiness, they may have the end, eternal life.

If I set out to prove (we are in the realm of evidence here — is this a courtroom, a science lab?) that my faith is alive by doing good works, don’t I wind up drawing attention to me, myself, and I? I am not saying that this is what the Confession is teaching. This paragraph is not necessarily prescribing motives for godly living. It is describing the reality of good works and how to understand them in relation to affirmations about justification by faith alone. But if you were to look at this paragraph for a motivation for sanctification, it could certainly lead to the kind of Protestant work ethic that Max Weber made famous: Protestants do good works to prove that they are elect, as if Protestants don’t already have assurance of salvation from resting in the righteousness of Christ.

What then is the problem with describing the Christian life, as Heidelberg (86) does, as one of thankfulness?

Because Christ, having redeemed and delivered us by his blood, also renews us by his Holy Spirit, after his own image; that so we may testify, by the whole of our conduct, our gratitude to God for his blessings, and that he may be praised by us; also, that every one may be assured in himself of his faith, by the fruits thereof; and that, by our godly conversation others may be gained to Christ.

It seems to (all about) me that whenever I say thank you for a gift, a serving of a meal, a gesture of kindness, or a routine act of service (even one for which I am paying), I take on a spirit of humility. By saying thanks, I am recognizing that someone has helped me, that I am in debt to someone, and that I need assistance. That sounds like a pretty good way to pursue holiness. Conversely, if I am trying to prove my goodness, do I say thank you to the waiter, Comcast serviceman, or bank teller? If I am trying to show evidence of righteousness, don’t I have less of a reason to say “thanks”?

Inquiring minds want the Obedience Boys to think this one through.


89 thoughts on “Gratitude and Motivation

  1. “Affirmations & Denials on the Gospel and Sanctification”

    The whole notion behind their project is absurd. What king convened this deliberative body anyway?

    The proper response should probably be “thanks for sharing”.


  2. One of the less-grand features of Protestantism. Hey, lets get a bunch of guys together who think their p**p doesn’t stink, set up a website, and act like we’re The Westminster Assembly.


  3. ‘Whack ’em with the law…’! Sounds like a good supplementary strategy, neh?

    The truth: no amount of law-preaching will make a clearly ungrateful sinner keep the law.


  4. So… let me get this straight, Erik. Ministers getting together to express their views, opinions, poop smell, or whatever you want to call it, is absurd. Good thing we have all of us enlightened ones on this comment thread–haphazardly assembled pontificators–to critique them!


  5. From McMark to me:

    “you can have law without the gospel, but to teach the gospel you need the law as satisfied by Christ’s death—so sinners do not see without the gospel, and without the Holy Spirit—need both gospel and Spirit—the Spirit does not convince apart from the gospel.”

    And this: John 16: 8 And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: 9 concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; 10 concerning RIGHTEOUSNESS, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer…
    LikeLike · · Share

    John Yeazel I think I see that verse now in a different light. The Holy Spirit convicts to show “the world” that mankind is helplessly under sin, that righteousness and been fulfilled in Christ and that judgment will one day come.
    6 hrs · Like

    Mark Mcculley not any and every sin but the sin of self-righteousness—even without the Holy Spirit, people can know when they have messed up morally.


  6. Shane, c’mon!

    How come ‘Oldlife Theological Society’ didn’t even feature at the recent PCA GA?

    The GRN is not just a bunch of dudes chit-chatting; it is a self-appointed coalition* of self-important characters who believe everyone should pay attention to them…

    *You remember what happened to TT, right?

    Just sayin’.


  7. Not “only” but certainly superior. I mean, the entire third section of the HC is titled “Of Thankfulness.” One would think that would register in some minds.


  8. Erik, we’re a Band of Brothers……..I can’t comment as I would like now, but will later on. Many thanks to you and all who oppose the GRN and their Neonomian Tendencies.


  9. DGH: Would you hold to the view of assurance set forth in both of the quotes? Your own comment, “as if Protestants don’t already have assurance of salvation from resting in the righteousness of Christ,” makes it sound as though you would at least question whether believers by their good works “strengthen their assurance” (WCF); or “that every one may be assured in himself of his faith, by the fruits thereof” (Heidelberg).

    I’m wondering also what you would do with WLC Q. 106, 110, 114, 120, 133.

    TBR: How would you understand the three uses of the law (especially the civil use)?

    “The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple. The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. Moreover by them is thy servant warned: and in keeping of them there is great reward” (Ps. 19:7-11).


  10. Sean,


    I believe in three uses mah-man. I also believe the civil use is useless without the Gospel (i.e. gratitude). I am more aligned with the teaching of St. Paul:

    Romans 7:
    “14 We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. 15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18 For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.”


  11. Shane,

    Last I checked we have no manifesto, take on all-comers, allow unmoderated comments, and don’t take ourselves too seriously.

    Neither do we take on functions that churches should probably be doing.

    Think bar vs. Pseudo-Ecclesiastical Assembly.

    Big differences.


  12. I found this description on GRN’s “Members and Contributors” page:

    The Gospel Reformation Network is comprised of a group of Godly men who humbly serve in the Kingdom and graciously contribute to our ministry.

    I hate when Christians are described as “Godly” – what does that even mean? And why can’t they simply serve and contribute this so-call “ministry”? Must it also be “humbly” and “graciously”?


  13. Michael,

    You don’t get it mah-man. When you are high up the ‘obedience ladder’, filled with all the arrogance assurance from your own works, you do indeed earn a right to call yourself ‘Godly’ and ‘humble’.

    Sorry to let you down. Nothing personal. It’s just how the ‘system’ works.


  14. So this little side-group is concerned about sanctification. What other side-groups exist in the PCA and what are their issues? Is there a paedocommunion group? A Federal Vision group? A TKNY group?

    Why the need for a group or groups? Because their numbers aren’t big enough to get any footing at GA?

    We seem to have a little group in the URCNA (mostly in my Classis — sigh) that is all fired up about Belgic 36, but I know they don’t have a website and side-meetings at Synod.

    I’m honestly asking.


  15. Sean, what is this, the floor of presbytery. I see nothing in WLC A 106 that bears directly on my post. Connect the dots. Comments are open.

    I also believe that assurance is of the essence of faith since by faith I receive the righteousness of Christ. With good works I get dirty rags. You do the comparison.


  16. Erik, my view is that the presence of GRN at the PCAGA was a bone thrown to the conserva-trads to make them feel better about how badly everything else was going for them. It appealed to a broad middle spectrum too, many of whom are fine with Keller, strategic plans, contemporary this and that. It was kum-ba-yah for the evangelicals. The in-crowd didn’t mind — some of this year’s GA preachers will be speaking at Toolian’s next LIBERATE confab. The progs and company men are firmly in control. Better an amorphous, hypothetical boogeyman than deal with the actual ecclesial issues.


  17. If our feeble good works are caused by imputed righteousness (good tree) are they still considered filthy rags? Maybe filthy rags refer to works that are concerned about gaining blessing from God while not being legally in Christ, ie. filthy rags = dead works. I am asking? That puts a different twist on the whole scenario. The obedience boys want to give priority to the spiritual union not the legal union. Hence the spiritual union drives the good works. But flesh and spirit are hard to discern until there is a death to legal hope. It is when we are convinced that our internal righteousness is filthy rags that we find our hope in the Gospel and look to the atonement as our righteousness. Then our works become good works, not dead works. You can a relax a lot more too.


  18. As evidence that the PCA In-Crowd and Toolian (the focus of evil in the modern PCA world according to GRN?) are cool with each other: 1) Bryan Chappell, moderator of the 2014 GA, preached for TT this summer 2) PCA big Scotty Smith did too and will speak at the next Liberate conference 3) PCA 2014 GA featured preacher Ray Cortese speaks at Liberate 4) PCA counseling hero-whale Paul Tripp speaks at Coral Ridge and Liberate. So the PCA loves Toolian, GRN brickbats notwithstanding. It’s a phony war. The tanks are made of plywood.


  19. So basically they’ve given these guys some toy ships to stage a battle in their tubs while the real thing is going on outside in the ocean. I get it.

    Revivalists and semi-revivalists are so easily thrown off course.

    Just send two teen neckers driving down John Piper’s lane and he’ll be in a tizzy for days.


  20. And exactly who are these dangerous PCA antinominans (other than TT)?

    I would think I would have run into them here over the last 2-3 years.

    The only borderline antinomian I’ve ever encountered here was a Lutheran (Steve Martin).


  21. DG, I was thinking somewhere between balsa wood and cheap paneling, but cardboard works.

    Erik, there’s a general mistrust of RUF (college ministry) types by the GRN crowd — that, besides TT, is a lot of what they have in mind.


  22. DG, 2 issues/questions

    1)I thought the good works of the believer received rewards – 1 Corinthians 3:12-14

    2)Do you or dont you affirm that good works by the believer strengthen their assurance in agreement with Westminster? Your response to Sean was ambiguous at best.


  23. HG, the evidence of good works assures, it’s just that there is a tendency to overuse this in public pronunciation and experiential testimony that seems suspicious to us doctrine and personal piety types.

    There is no historic balance to keep both sides happy


  24. Gaffin: In the matter of sanctification, it seems to me, we must confront a tendency, within churches of the Reformation to view the gospel and salvation in its outcome almost exclusively in terms of justification. The effect of this outlook, whether or not intended, is that sanctification tends to be seen as the response of the believer to salvation. Sanctification is viewed as an expression of gratitude from our side for our justification and the free forgiveness of our sins, usually with the accent on the imperfection and inadequacy of such expressions of gratitude.

    Gaffin: Sometimes there is even the suggestion that while sanctification is highly desirable, and its lack, certainly unbecoming and inappropriate, it is not really necessary in the life of the believer, not really integral to our salvation and an essential part of what it means to be saved from sin. The attitude we may have — at least this is the way it comes across — is something like, “If Jesus did that for you, died that your sins might be forgiven, shouldn’t you at least do this for him, try to please him?” With such a construction justification and sanctification are pulled apart; the former is what God does, the latter what we do, and do so inadequately. At worst, this outlook tends to devolve into moralism.


  25. Chortles – Erik, there’s a general mistrust of RUF (college ministry) types by the GRN crowd

    That’s just jealousy because they look better in their skinny jeans than the senior pastors.


  26. Chortles,

    Is this a case where the Southern Frat Boy alums are hearing that the current Southern Frat Boys are getting all liquored up at the Frat House on Saturday night and sleeping through Sunday morning services?

    PCA antinomianism, in other words?


  27. Like Daniel Fuller . Gaffin accuses others of being “Galatianists” who teach sanctification by works instead of by faith, and then himself turns our works into that which is a part of our “faith”, because our works are 100 % caused by God’s work in us. Like John Murray, Gaffin insists on defining “justified from sin” (Romans 6:7) as a definitive ontological breach with the power of sin so that we work. He simply assumes that freedom from guilt before the law (as a covenant of works”, as some like to say) is not an adequate motive or basis for the indicative “sin shall not have dominion”

    And Gaffin does this while accusing those with “justification and gratitude” priority with teaching a Galatianist “sanctification by works” ! Gaffin puts “union” before both justification and sanctification, and his defacto definition of “union” is the Holy Spirit’s presence and work in us, and in this way gives first place to Christ’s indwelling present and future presence. Why give thanks for the past when now (in this new age) you CAN (and will) obey in a way Adam could not?


  28. Yeah how about the GRN talk about how Toolian dresses in the pulpit like he’s trying to seduce someone in the third row with his chest hair. Or how he and his church (along with Ray Cortese’ basically anti-confessional GA sermon) exemplifies everything wrong with new-school presbyterian-lite. Or how they are all basically baptist with a cooler name. I live in the St. Louis area and basically all the grads of covenant come out the same. You’re required to quote TKNY at least once every speaking engagement, be a wonderful story-teller, and don’t mention the Lord’s Day ever. period. and dont use the confessions either unless its for nolstalgia, and dont bother with the sacraments unless ya know you gotta do a baptism–but be brief and move on. I am amazed at the amount of literally church sponsored and advertised Sabbath breaking that goes on in these PCA churches. In the bulletins you can find invites from the 20/30s group to go watch the football game and skip the evening service–catered by chipotle, so it rlly brings it all together. If you’re looking for some antinomians, DING DING DING! right there, lets talk about that.


  29. Gaffin, lectures on Romans, on 2:13:–That future judgement decides…the ultimate outcome for all believers and for all humanity, believers as well as unbelievers. It’s a life and death situation that’s in view here. Further, this ultimate judgement has as its criterion or standard, brought into view here, the criterion for that judgement is works, good works. The doing of the law, as that is the criterion for all human beings, again, believers as well as unbelievers. In fact, in the case of the believer a positive outcome is in view and that positive outcome is explicitly said to be justification. So, again the point on the one side of the passage is that eternal life… depends on and follows from a future justification according to works. Eternal life follows upon a future justification by doing the law.

    Gaffin, By Faith, Not by Sight, p 106—In book 3 of his Institutes (The Beginning of Justification and its Continual Progress), Calvin explains “We must have this justification not just once but must hold it it throughout life.” Justification is bound up with the resurrected Christ’s present ongoing intercessory presence, in the sense that our remaining in the state of justification, depends on this unfailing intercession….


  30. Erik,

    Harry Reeder, Rick Phillips, Jim Barnes, Dominic Aquila, Mike Ross, Al Baker, ?Jon Payne?, Ligon Duncan, and others are the chief engineers of this railroad.

    There are good people on board in the movement (as usual), but probably about 10-15% are die-hard toward neonomianism, 30-40% tilt toward the neonomian faction, and the rest of the group are very likely confused, afraid, and unsure about where they land on the issues because they have either been taught incorrectly or never taught at all about the Reformation/Reformation issues of priority and importance. The background of most who are in the PCA seems to be contributory as well: Baptist, Methodist, some Catholics, Episcopalians, PCUSA-crossovers, Bible Church, and a whole host who still have the fangs and venom of Bill Gothard in them. So the soil is fertile for leading bruised, battered, and confused sheep anywhere one wants to with strength and force of personality, masterminding, and smarts.

    Also, there is a militaresque composition and tone about the GRN – I honor our servicemen and women everywhere, but military culture is not civilian life. In the GRN’s view, the military culture is the absolute paradigm for the church to imitate and follow. Just very recently, I lunched with 2 former soldiers who said that soldiers who leave the service must go through a transition phase to re-enter civilian society. I’d never heard of that before, but it makes sense. So that begs the question, if the military paradigm is the only that you follow, why is it necessary to transition back into civilian life? Why isn’t civilian life the paradigm to follow? Is living peaceful, quiet lives too ordinary? Need to ‘love the smell of napalm in the morning’?

    As it stands right now, little will happen to bring about real change in the PCA to change the present theological landscape, I believe. With people of such strong personalities and placed in such positions of power, no underling minister is going to confront the very broad and exaggerated accusations against the early Reformers, the Heidelberg Catechism, Luther, Republication, Calvin-even on points (unbelievably!) and the West Coast Offense. To me, this is a lot that wants to shackle people to the Law again, bind believers consciences to man-made institutions not supported by scripture, and feel that they are entitled to lord over others, because they are worthy of ‘double honor’. Lately, the GRN doesn’t seem to have too many people answering the 5 questions – they seem to have hit a ceiling. But my guess is that they will keep coupling themselves to the General Assembly, using PCA funding, continuing to rule through fear and intimidation to get more people to answer the 5 questions; the underlings need those letters of recommendation, and that is why they will jump – when the GRN says to.


  31. Erik,

    In follow-up, I think a lot of people in the PCA today are ‘trapped’ – feeling that there is ‘nowhere to go’. There are still a number of good, great churches in the PCA, and tons of good people. My comments are really addressed to the 10-15% who lead, or should I say, mislead. These will survive in their positions in part because of the present ‘culture’ of the PCA, and the ‘fealty’ that ‘PCA culture’ gives them. It is possible, though, that one or more of the underlings will get beyond the fear and paranoia of ‘towing the party line’ (which is the GRN and Embers To A Flame/Fanning The Flame), and will begin to challenge the system and everything about it, not minding if they get ‘painted black’ in the process (which is only temporal).

    I seriously question the ethics and practices of the GRN and the Embers To A Flame/Fanning The Flame ministry endorsed by Briarwood. The GRN is acting like a Pre-General Assembly-Assembly (a hurry-up offense and de-facto thinking of themselves akin to Westminster Divines). They appear to be ‘squeezing’ the WCF for juices that it doesn’t produce, because it’s not that type of fruit tree (Neonomian). Also, as stated before by this author, the Embers To A Flame/Fanning the Flame’s monastic mysticism/revivalistic/Higher Life composition and prescription for church revitalization to the tune of $16,000 and a signed contract is downright shameful, especially given the way that they make churches work and work and work to try to revitalize themselves (which is what it amounts to….self-effort). The Affirmations and Denials are ‘Robespierrean’, theologically hollow, and not worth the paper they are written on.


  32. Brian and Semper:

    So, from a Confessional standpoint, there are problems on BOTH fronts? Is that the case?

    How many of TT’s cadre are Covenant Seminary grads btw? Are Covenant and RTS “on the same page” theologically? I was always under the impression Cortese was a Belhaven (Jackson, MS) / RTS (Jackson) grad. Lately, the press has been stating Westminster, Philadelphia (’83). Confusing, as is most of these issues to this non-theologian.


  33. dgh said: But if you think about better and worse ways to seek holiness, why do you have to warn about gratitude?

    As I understand the issues, it isn’t that they’re warning against gratitude, they are warning against gratitude exclusivity. There is a major difference there.

    dgh said: This paragraph is not necessarily prescribing motives for godly living. It is describing the reality of good works and how to understand them in relation to affirmations about justification by faith alone.

    Agreed. The rubber meets the road for me when the believer reflects on that “reality of good works” in his life. The Anti-Obedience Boys are big on saying that the believer ought to repent of his good works. That seems to be inconsistent with WCF 16:2.


  34. Montani,

    Thanks for your reply; I will try to respond in more detail in follow-up, but the short answer is that Confessionalism is upside down, it seems, in the PCA, and for sure nationally, even though the West Coast Offense has been making strident inroads over the past 20 years. I’ve often felt that in the PCA alone, the percentage is about 60/40 or 70/30. The middle is undecided – much like the political landscape. It could even be 80/20, but somehow the aspect of a sliding scale bumps it up more, I think.

    It’s a good thing to question, practice independent critical thinking, and disagree. The worst thing to do (which I have suffered under for years) is to accept everything that is said hook, line, and sinker, and become a mindless drone, doing whatever you’re told to do. Hope this is helpful, Montani.


  35. Despite the good things said in Confession 16.2, there is a weakness. That weakness is that it describes the Christian life as being primarily, if not totally, inner directed. It is all about us even after being saved because it is about the redeemed us. There is no mention of doing what is right out of love for neighbor–that is actions that are the result of being outer directed. The objection to part of that statement that would be that when we are doing good works out of love, we are really trying to prove our goodness. Such an objection can, not necessarily does, show that the person objecting is being inner directed by attributing the reason for the good works by what the individual would get out of it.

    What is the importance of being more outer-directed? The more one is inner directed, the more one can’t move towards loving one’s neighbor or God.


  36. Keith,

    I viewed your post with great interest – could I offer that the GRN seems to be great at erecting huge letters (like the Hollywood Sign) which leaves them lots of room behind each letter and their message as a whole to continue their same old oppressive practices.

    E.G., Regarding ‘Gratitude Alone’: in as much as I have read and understood the issues, I have never been under the impression that it’s all about making sure that it must exclusively and proprietarily be about making sure that I respond out of gratitude,


    after years of suffering under seeking to purify myself and my motives, and continually falling from the face of my own digging/excavations back into the abyss of self-examination, introspection (yes, morbid), Gratitude was a life-giving drink from that purest of springs (the Good News).

    One doesn’t have to guess about how I feel about it, and I do acknowledge that their are other motivations – but my contention is that no one is that ‘pure’ and many times when we are obeying the Lord, we are – well – operating from a strata of many veins of different colored clays, especially when water is added. The miracle is that God is doing his work through us in spite of this fact.


  37. Curt, then consider the entire third section of the HC (“Of Thankfulness”). It’s taken up with the explication of the 10 Commandments, which as Jesus summarized as the love of God and neighbor, which is entirely other directed.


  38. Keith, don’t you think, biblically speaking, gratitude is at the root of all other motivations? You are not clear, neither is the obedience coalition….


  39. I guess I just don’t get what the GRN is after. If gratitude is not at the root of our motivation for holiness, what is? It seems to me any other motivation that is not ultimately based on gratitude, which is a recognition of our inability to please God by our own strength, will find its way to works-righteousness. Maybe I’m just one of those nasty antinomians the GRN wants to root out of the PCA.


  40. Keith, but TT quotes Keller. If TKNY says we need to repent of our righteousness, mustn’t that be true? Are the Obedience Boys really big enough to take on Keller?

    Count me as anti-obedience boy and believe me when I say that I don’t say we need to repent of good works. We simply need to get our clothes — filthy rags — washed. Which is I why I always prefer to be clothed in the robe of Christ’s righteousness (how saintly of MEEE!!!).


  41. The PCA is a web of alliances, connections, and emphases. I can connect any two points in about three steps and find at least tacit approval of most things by most presbyters. That’s good in some ways — it’s presbyterian — but it also makes it tricky to run these passive-agressive, vague campaigns against one thing or another.


  42. John Piper, the Debtor’s Ethic, Future Grace— “the Israelites are at their best, though, what is notable about them is not their gratitude, but THEIR FAITH: And Israel saw that great work which the LORD did upon the Egyptians: and the people feared the LORD, and BELIEVED the LORD, and his servant Moses. Exodus 14:31 To contrast, when Moses behaved badly and struck the rock with his staff, this was his reprimand: And the LORD spake unto Moses and Aaron, Because ye BELIEVED ME NOT, to sanctify me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore ye shall not bring this congregation into the land which I have given them. Numbers 20:12 The LORD doesn’t say that this is because they weren’t grateful enough….”

    Daniel Fuller (The Unity of Faith, p 313): “Paul would have agreed with James that Abraham’s work of preparing to sacrifice Isaac was an OBEDIENCE OF FAITH. Paul would have disagreed strongly with Calvin, who saw obedience and works as only accompanying genuine faith…The concern in James 2:14-26 was to urge A FAITH THAT SAVES a person, not simply to tell a person how they could demonstrate their saving faith…Calvin should have taught that justification depends on a persevering FAITH since he regarded Abraham as already justified before Genesis 15:6.”

    And then Daniel Fuller quotes Jonathan Edwards: “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.”

    mcmark: How could we possibly give thanks, when the future hangs in the balance and depends on our future acts of faith?


  43. Keith: As I understand the issues, it isn’t that they’re warning against gratitude, they are warning against gratitude exclusivity. There is a major difference there.

    Actually, don’t we already know the proper motivation for our obedience? Love for God and neighbor comprehends the entire law.

    Whence comes that love for God? We love because He first loved us…

    So even if gratitude is not the sum total of our motivation, What God has done for us is the sum total of the ground of our obedience.

    That necessarily then excludes as a ground …

    * What I can do for God
    * What blessings and disciplines God might levy upon me
    * Etc.



  44. I’m almost with you, Jeff.

    It agree that it is completely appropriate to say “What God has done for us is the sum total of the ground of our obedience.” But I don’t think that statement “excludes” being motivated by blessings and disciplines. Paul presses forward to win the prize. The audience of the epistle to the Hebrews are encourage to be diligent for fear of failing to enter His rest. (Sorry to get so Bible church proof-texty here, but that’s how I roll.)

    Now, if we peel the onion back, even these motives are seasoned with gratitude that we, as believers, have been made alive with Christ and as new creatures have been created to do good works. The indicatives still precede the imperatives. But I think it is “flattening” WCF 16:2’s “strengthen their assurance” clause into the “manifest their thankfulness” clause. (Which would be a classic violation of the old superfluous language canon of construction).

    Darryl, you know you want to argue for my position. The Rebel Alliance needs another X-wing fighter against the TKNY Empire. (The metaphor can be extended quite easily–we all know that Tulllian dresses in head-to-toe black).


  45. Forgive the typos in the preceding post. The next to last sentence in the second paragraph is missing a “to collapse” after the word “flattening.” Also, I think there’s one too many L’s in Tullian.


  46. D.G.,
    That you read the remaking of society in everything I write is not my fault. But that doing what the OT prophets did is a part of the Gospel ministry. These prophets addressed both personal sins and corporate sins. They addressed both idolatry and injustice. And they called on people to repent of both. And if imitating them there is wrong, then I don’t want to be right. But I doubt if imitating them according to our gifts is wrong.


  47. Zrim,
    Summarizing the commandments as loving God and neighbor is part of the mix. Another part of the mix is acknowledging that we don’t love either the way we have been loved by God or the way we are called to love. Obedience out of thankfulness is part of the mix. My concern is when we our mix is incomplete and, in America, is too inner directed and not outer directed.


  48. Curt, the HC covers all that. Like Ragu, “It’s (all) in there!” You worry too much. Didn’t Jesus have something to say about that?


  49. Chortles: “The PCA is a web of alliances, connections, and emphases.”
    MSL: “Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive.” Walter Scott
    Semper: “It’s a good thing….to…disagree. The worst thing to do (which I have suffered under
    for years) is to accept everything that is said hook, line, and sinker, and become a
    mindless drone, doing whatever you’re told to do.”
    MSL: Ditto. Anger and disillusionment abound, don’t they? Both Obedience Boys and Grace
    Boys can make poor shepherds, can’t they?


  50. Zrim,
    We all have failures and sins otherwise we wouldn’t need Jesus.

    The HC covers that for individual sins; the question is this: What about corporate sins and failing to love our neighbor in the age of technology and democracy?


  51. Curt – The HC covers that for individual sins; the question is this: What about corporate sins and failing to love our neighbor in the age of technology and democracy?

    Erik – Who is your dealer and can I get his number?


  52. During my secondment with the police I got to observe interrogations

    To the direct opening uestion: “did you touch the child??”, the suspect had one of three answers

    1. An immediate and emphatic NO,which might have been a lie but it rings out.

    2. A weak YES which is a very different kettle of fish in the follow up.


    3. The suspect would take ten seconds and say “i find it very amusing but at the same time disconcerting that you would ask something like that. It all depends on the nuances of how one defines touching and who is to judge what a definition means.”. Which speaks unfortunately to the truth

    I’ll call answer #3 the Curt response from now on.


  53. Montani,

    Couldn’t agree with you more – years ago I lunched with someone who was unabashedly, well, full of himself. We were eating at a Chinese restaurant and he came on to the waitress with everything outside of being decent and showing respect. I thought he might catch himslef and express remorse, but he never did. This was so obviously out-of-line. So there is a reality that we all need to keep growing, becoming more Christlike, but it is never ‘us’ that make it happen. That’s the difference. Only Christ, and Christ alone, by His Spirit – in the 100 percentile being His Work in us. The Law is our friend now, to guide us. What a comfort.


  54. Curt, and the answer from you seems to be that the Reformed tradition is insufficient. That may be true to one with extra-biblical concerns, but to those who just want to know what the Bible teaches, the confessional heritage will do.


  55. Zrim,
    When you read the OT prophets or even James, I don’t think you can say that social justice is an extra-biblical concern.

    Again, the problem with the Reformed traditions has more to do with the pedestals on which we put them. Build the pedestals high enough and you have idolatry. And, btw, if the Reformed writers were mere humans like us, why shouldn’t we find that their work is insufficient?


  56. Curt, haven’t you been around here long enough to know that revising the confessions not only happens but is a good thing (WCF 23, Belgic 36)? So stow the idolatry of the confessions jazz. What you want is the Belhar Confession. It’s been done, but you’ll need to go outside of NAPARC to get satisfaction.


  57. Zrim,
    Revising the confessions isn’t happening here, at least, where the confessions are sufficient to lead us regarding Biblical concerns (see your previous note). In addition, the latest revision to the confessions which you can cite is 28 years ago and, without listing any more revisions, you think that we are not in danger of idolatry regarding the confessions? For depending solely on grace, confession of certain sins is surprising. See you state that revisions are taking place but that is in the past. What about within the last 10 years?


  58. Curt: You have the cart (confessional revision) before the horse (persuading the church of Scriptural truth).

    First, you need to get people to agree with you that Scripture really actually does teach such thing as people being guilty for the sins of their social structures. We wish you the best in your new endeavor.

    Then, we can start talking about revising the Confession.

    The Confession is not a document that goes through a 10-year life cycle just because. That model of “progress” comes from somewhere, but it’s not the Bible.


  59. Jeff,
    Or, perhaps we are not dealing with carts and horses and that we can do both concurrently.

    And perhaps the biggest problem with the Confession is the pedestal on which we place it. Build those pedestals too high and you end up with something you bow down to.


  60. Curt, would that count for the social justice confession you have in mind? But if you’re suggesting that Jesus alone deserves adoration, that’s what the confessions already convey, which is why some of us think so highly (but not infallibly) of them.


  61. Zrim,
    We need revisions to make people aware of corporate sin. I was thinking of asking D.G. to write that part of the revision but he seems to busy to do it justice.

    BTW, my feeling is that sometimes the confessions compete with our worship of Jesus. We can tell whether this is happening by how we treat others, especially when talking about the confessions.


  62. D.G.,
    It is not only whether Christ atones for our participation/complicity in corporate sin, it is also whether we start confronting our sin there just as we need to confront our personal sins. After all, battling sin is part of the Christian life. And I believe one of the motivations we have for battling our sins is gratitude.


  63. “For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.” (Rom. 1:21)
    “…do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 4:6-7)

    “And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency [note: or ‘all contentment’] in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.” (2 Cor. 9:8)

    “Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving… giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Eph. 5:4,20)

    “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Col. 3:16-17)

    “…give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thess. 5:18)


  64. Curt – “We need revisions to make people aware of corporate sin. I was thinking of asking D.G. to write that part of the revision but he seems to busy to do it justice.”

    Erik – Wake up guys, this is a 100% put on.


  65. Curt: And perhaps the biggest problem with the Confession is the pedestal on which we place it.

    Is that “we”? Or “you”?


  66. John 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.”


  67. maybe you believe, but that’s not enough

    The success of Christ’s death becomes a gift for the elect (those for whom He died)
    The gift carries moral, not legal, obligations—gratitude

    Is the Giver entitled to be disappointed?
    Did the Giver say he will not withdraw the gift?
    Does the Giver use his possible disappointment or the threat of withdrawal to extract some gratitude from us?
    Does the giver ever say—if you are not grateful, then it was not grace I gave you?

    John Calvin—“The integrity of the sacrament lies here, that the flesh and blood of Christ are not less truly given to the unworthy than to the elect believers of God; and yet it is true, that just as the rain falling on the hard rock runs away because it cannot penetrate, so the wicked by their hardness repel the grace of God, and prevent it from reaching them


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