Lean and Means

Charles Pope — good for him, none of this Rodney King, CTC pose — takes issue with Protestants for separating faith from works, grace from transformation (ugh), and Scripture from church authority:

There are a lot of “solos” sung by our Protestant brethren: Sola Fide (saved by faith alone), Sola Scriptura (Scripture alone is the rule of faith), and sola gratia (grace alone). (See the Protestant logo to the right.) Generally, one ought to be suspicious and careful of claims that things work “alone.” It is our usual experience that many things work together in harmony, that things are interrelated. Very seldom is anyone or anything “alone.”

The problem of the “solos” emerges (it seems to me) in our minds, where it is possible to separate things out. But the fact is, just because we can separate something out in our mind does not mean that we can separate it out in reality.

What Pope doesn’t seem to consider, first of all, is that the solas of the Reformation were not mere intellectual exercises but efforts to restore the supremacy of Christ and his accomplishments (both in redemption and revelation). You clutter up Christ with images and pilgrimages and stigmata and saints and the next thing you know you don’t have Christ alone. And where will you be on that great day?

But, second of all, does Pope ever wonder how sloppy Christianity gets when you don’t eliminate some of the clutter? When it comes to marriage and divorce, Pope can sound pretty sola himself. He doesn’t want divorcees to be harmonized with faithful spouses, or marriage between husband and wife cluttered with gay marriage.

So either Pope is selective in the way he separates things or is unaware of the importance of such separation. Either way, for those Christians who wanted a reform of the Western Christian Church, Pope’s desire for seeing the interrelations of things is an important reason for doubting that a reformation of Rome will ever happen. As Mike Horton said somewhere, you can’t keep adding pages to the notebook. At some point, you need to take out the page the conflicts with the one you just inserted. After Vatican 2, though, the Roman church’s mode seems to be insertionamento.

20 thoughts on “Lean and Means

  1. Something I’ve observed by those in Reformed circles who Emphasize Union with Christ with a spotlight on our obedience/sanctification is that they seem to disregard or at least de-emphasize the 5 solas of the Reformation in favor of their own hobby horse distinctives. No doubt the Reformation was about more than these five slogans and it was about more than the five points of Calvinism, however they were certainly core central issues of the Reformation and I think the reformers got it right to put the emphasis there. It seems to me that those who are being accused of being antinomion or Lutheran like are in point of fact the very ones who best highlight union with Christ via Christ alone emphasis in their teachings, that is to say giving Christ’s life and work (not ours) top billing and the spotlight along with the other four Solas. It also seems to me that some of the ones overly worried about the hole in other people’s holiness and other unwelcomed guests sound an awful lot like Mr. Pope. So if we are “Lutheran like” are they Roman Catholic like??


  2. E, you start with yourself and your local church.

    As you expand you start taking on a risk of red herrings and rabbit trails.

    Those who publicly emphasize the enhancement of a spiritual union aren’t that plentiful and don’t seem to be much different from me and my local church.

    But who knows…


  3. Of course that assumes the local church is completely unaffected by these teachings and broader debates. Au contraire mon frere, it always has and always will hit the pews right where we live. Hardly a rabbit trail. If it is only my or your local church that matters I guess we should start by never visiting a blog, etc. We should just be Reformed Amish. ? But I may be misunderstanding your point.


  4. Find a local church that doesn’t violate your conscience. Some games and nonsense will be everywhere you go.


  5. Amen to that. I have found one, happy to be there. However, we all still discuss broader theological issues that impact (or can impact) our local church which is the very reason why you’re at this blog right now or at least one reason you are here. It seems to say otherwise would be equivocation.


  6. lean and mean

    The Old Life Theological Society has existed for over a decade, the creation of D. G. Hart and John R. Muether. Its aim has been to point the way back to the health and vigor of historic Reformed Protestantism.

    that’s what we’re here to encourage, yo.


  7. The keeper of this site, and most of the loyals are good. I don’t let the others bother me or influence me too much.


  8. amen to Burns. He must be one of those “hyper TRs” mark jones was warning about

    E. Burns
    Posted January 16, 2015 at 2:17 pm those in Reformed circles who Emphasize Union with Christ with a spotlight on our obedience/sanctification ,,, seem to disregard or at least de-emphasize the 5 solas of the Reformation It seems to me that those who are being accused of being antinomion or Lutheran like are in point of fact the very ones … giving Christ’s life and work (not ours) top billing and the spotlight along with the other four Solas. It also seems to me that some of the ones overly worried about the hole in other people’s holiness and other unwelcomed guests sound an awful lot like Mr. Pope. So if we are “Lutheran like” are they Roman Catholic like??

    Mark Jones—For a while now, I’ve thought that a lot of so-called “Calvinists” in the broader North American church are, unwittingly, hyper-Calvinists ( – See more at: http://www.reformation21.org/blog/2015/01/what-on-earth-is-a-100-calvini.php#sthash.1ya1kPGg.X7CIZnOZ.dpuf


  9. David Zahl quotes Rod Rosenbladt:

    “Someone says, ‘But surely you don’t mean that the pastor should be evangelizing believers from the pulpit?’ Most evangelicals have no category for preaching Christ to a congregation of believers; their only category for preaching the Gospel is the evangelizing of pagans. But important as the latter is, the former is no less important. Think of the inner soliloquy many Christians experience week by week. ‘There may have been grace for me when, as a sinner, I was initially converted. But now, having been given the Spirit of God, I fear that things have gotten worse in me rather than better. I have horribly abused all of God’s good gifts to me. I was so optimistic in the beginning, when the pastor told me that Christ outside of me, dying for me, freely saved me by his death, and that the Holy Spirit now dwelling within me would aid me in following Christ. I looked forward to so much. But it has all gone badly. Others have no doubt done what God equipped them to do, but not I. I have used grace and Christ’s shed blood as an excuse for doing things I probably wouldn’t even have done as a pagan. I have rededicated myself to Christ more times than I can count. But it seems to stay the same, or even get worse, no matter what I do. Whatever the outer limits of Christ’s grace are, I have certainly crossed them. I have utterly, consciously, and with planning aforethought blown it all. I guess I was never a Christian in the first place, because if I had been, I would have made some progress in the Christian life…I’ll try going to church for a while longer, but I think I’ve tried every possible thing the church has told me to do. After that, I guess I’ll return to paganism and ‘eat, drink, and be merry’ for the time I’ve got left. What else is there to do?’ First of all…the pastor realizes that what is needed in this case is not the Law but the Gospel. One of the effects of Wesleyan revivalism in this country has been the common conviction that genuine conversion always shows itself in measurable moral progress (and correlatively, the lack of such progress is evidence that no true regeneration has taken place.) so the still-sinning believer is led to believe that he is not now a believer at all…To put the matter bluntly, Luther knew that the death and resurrection of Christ in our stead was strong enough in its effect to save even a Christian” (pp. 39-4


  10. There we go again quoting Lutherans at a Reformed blog. Proof that antinomianism is afoot. The next thing you know the keeper of this site will be really mixing it up by directing our attention to the archdiocese of Washington and other Roman Catholics. It’s chaos I tell you,……”dogs and cats living together!”

    I am locking the door and throwing away the key on my Reformed Amish Commune. I kid, I kid!


  11. Oh no, another false either/or forced on me between incorrect charges of antinomianism on Lutheran brothers and perfectionist pietism by the kook Reformed (fundamentalists)


  12. Perhaps the problem is not so much Reformed fundamentalists but the “catholic Reformed” who make alliances with Wesleyans like Fred Sanders and Arminians like Randy Alcorn


    Repentance was to Wesley faith’s precondition, sorrow for sin and reform of manners. Sometimes, indeed, as in his 1744 Conference Minutes, he would describe repentance as “a low state of faith,” or as the faith of a servant in contrast with that of a son(compare Gal. 4:1-7; Rom. 8:15f.); his basic thought, however, was that, whereas repentance is a state of seeking God, faith is the state of finding him, or rather of being found by him. A person seeking God can do no more than wait on God, showing the sincerity of his quest by the earnestness of his prayers and the tenderness of his conscience, till the light of assurance dawns in his heart. Such teaching is similar to the Puritan doctrine of “preparatory works,

    Wesley would never let the world forget that he wanted his teaching taken in an Arminian sense, because Calvinism in all its forms was anathema to him; and this caused him much trouble, mostly unnecessary and of his own making. He always caricatured Calvinism in the same three ways-as antinomian, making holiness needless; as restricting the preaching of God’s love to the world (for some reason he was always sure that according to Calvinism only “one in twenty” is elect); and as fatalistic, destroying moral responsibility and denying the connection between means and ends in the spiritual realm. At the end of his life he wrote:
    Q. 74. What is the direct antidote to Methodism, the doctrine of heart-holiness?
    A. Calvinism: All the devices of Satan, for these fifty years, have done far less toward stopping this work of God, than that single doctrine. It strikes at the root of salvation from sin, previous to glory, putting the matter on quite another issue.
    Q. But wherein lie the charms of this doctrine? What makes men swallow it so greedily?
    A. It seems to magnify Christ, although in reality it supposes Him to have died in vain. For the absolutely elect must have been saved without Him; and the non-elect cannot be saved by Him.
    in 1770 Wesley’s Conference Minutes (against real or supposed Calvinistic antinomians) were so drafted as to appear to teach, Roman-style, that a man’s own works are the ground of his acceptance with God. Having reaffirmed that “we have leaned too much toward Calvinism” in playing down the fact that a man must be faithful and labor for life and bring forth works of repentance if he is to be saved, the Minutes proceed thus:
    Once more review the whole affair: (1) Who of us is now accepted with God? He that now believes in Christ with a loving, obedient heart.
    (2) But who among those that never heard of Christ? He that, according to the light he has, “feareth God and worketh righteousness.”
    (3) Is this the same with “he that is sincere?” Nearly, if not quite.
    (4) Is not this salvation by works? Not by merit of works, but by works as a condition.
    (5) What have we been disputing about for these thirty years’? I am afraid about words. . . .
    (6) As to merit itself, of which we have been so dreadfully afraid. We are rewarded according to our works, yea because of our works. How does this differ from, “for the sake of our works?” And how does this differ from “as our works deserve. ” Can you split this hair? . . .
    (8) Does not talking . . . of a justified or sanctified state, tend to mislead men; almost naturally leading them to trust what was already done ? Whereas we are every moment pleasing or displeasing to God, according to our works.


  13. John Piper comes out strong against dividing up faith and works also., from a sermon on Romans 8:2—We are justified not ALONE by that initial reception of the gospel but by an ongoing life of faith. The coming of the Holy Spirit into a person’s life and the working of the Spirit to liberate that life from the law of sin and death always accompany genuine faith and there is no other way to have it….It is by faith that we receive the Holy Spirit, and it is by faith that the Spirit works within us. To live by faith and to live in the power of the Holy Spirit are the same thing, viewed from two different angles.
    Paul says in Romans 8:14, “As many as are led by the Spirit of God are the sons of God.” . One must believe in Christ to be God’s child; one must be led by the Spirit to be God’s child. And these are not two conditions but one, for it is by faith that God supplies to us the Spirit, and it is by a life of faith he works miracles among us.
    Now with these two insights I think we can solve our earlier problem. On the one hand Romans 5:1 says we have been justified by faith. . Freedom from condemnation is made conditional upon the work of the Holy Spirit freeing me from sin.
    May no one react and say, O, that cannot be. All you have to do is believe in Christ as Savior; you don’t have to overcome sin by the power of the Spirit. That error cheapens faith, contradicts the teaching of Romans 8:1, 2, and runs the risk of hearing Jesus say on the judgment day: Depart from me, you evildoers, I never knew you.
    You don’t want to believe in a Christ who makes no difference in your life, do you? Who wants a Jesus who is so nothing that all he can produce is a people who think, feel, and act just like the world? We don’t want that


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