Is Lent for Obedience Boys?

The ying and yang of good works.

Ying:

Lent is the time that we embrace the discipline that is necessary for success in all aspects of life — study, work, fitness and financial management. There is no free lunch. Lent is when we do the hard work necessary to have Easter, like studying before an exam, or doing spring cleaning to keep the house in good order. We have to suffer first in order to rejoice later.

“In every culture, there are ancient stories and myths that teach that all of us, at times, have to sit in the ashes,” writes Father Ronald Rolheiser in a magnificent book of art and meditations, God for Us: Rediscovering the Meaning of Lent and Easter, edited by Gregory Pennoyer and Gregory Wolfe. “We all know, for example, the story of Cinderella. The name literally means the little girl (puella) who sits in the ashes (cinders). The moral of the story is clear: Before you get to go to the great feast, you must first spend some lonely time in the ashes, humbled, smudged, tending to duty, unglamorous, waiting.”

Yang:

God’s grace — the gift of his Son and his redemptive work — is not something we earn or achieve. It is entirely gratuitous.

The “gift” of salvation is not at all like the “transgression” of sin, as we read from St. Paul on the First Sunday of Lent. So the idea of Lent as a sort of necessary period of spiritual training before an athletic competition or artistic performance is not a fully Christian vision.

Ying:

It remains true, though, that even taking into account the gift of God’s grace, we do need spiritual discipline. That’s the second reason we look forward to Lent. We don’t earn our salvation, but we do have to work it out.

Discipline of our imagination, our appetites and our attachments are all necessary for growth in virtue. We all recognize God’s grace is not some magic that he works upon us as passive objects. We are genuine subjects, who must freely respond to God’s invitation. We don’t earn the invitation to the Wedding Feast of the Lamb, but if we accept it, we do have to make the effort to go to the feast and arrive wearing our wedding garments, lest we be found unworthy and cast out.

Yiang:

If there is a danger in thinking we earn salvation, there is also a danger that we simply presume on God’s mercy, treating it as something we are entitled to. Lent corrects that tendency.

Truth:

Question 1. What is thy only comfort in life and death?
Answer: That I with body and soul, both in life and death, am not my own, but belong unto my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ; who, with his precious blood, has fully satisfied for all my sins, and delivered me from all the power of the devil; and so preserves me that without the will of my heavenly Father, not a hair can fall from my head; yea, that all things must be subservient to my salvation, and therefore, by his Holy Spirit, He also assures me of eternal life, and makes me sincerely willing and ready, henceforth, to live unto him.

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158 thoughts on “Is Lent for Obedience Boys?

  1. “polemics is not merely confronting error, but also teaching truth. And orthodoxy is not merely knowing the truth, but also submitting to it. ”
    (this am @ challis.com)

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  2. Lenten devotionals available at the Back to God hour.

    https://backtogod.net/stories/no-such-thing-as-secular

    Lent is one of those square inches some have a vocation to reform.

    Mark Jones—“Of all the Reformed theologians I have surveyed on the matter of good works, the vast majority affirmed that good works are necessary for final salvation.”

    John Gill—1. no such thing is ever to be found in the scriptures, that good works are necessary to salvation. If this was so principal a part of truth, as some lead, it would be contained in express words in the scriptures

    2. The apostle treating of the causes of our salvation, removes good works, and entirely excludes them; and teaches, that he only has blessedness, to whom God imputes righteousness without works, Romans 4:6. Compare Ephesians 2:8, Titus 3:5. If therefore good works are entirely excluded from the causes of salvation, how will the same be necessary to salvation?

    3. . If we are saved by grace, then good works are not necessary to salvation; for the antithesis remains firm, If of grace, then not of works, otherwise grace is not grace, Romans 11:6. Romans 6:23.
    4. If by the death of Christ we obtain justification of life and salvation, then we are not saved by our own obedience: Romans 5:17-19,
    5. Faith is not works, Faith alone is not Faith Also Including Works. Romans 1:17 and 4:6; Galatians 3:11;. Heb 10:38
    6. If good works were necessary to salvation, we would need to thank the Holy Spirit for enabling us to be obedient enough, but the holy Spirit takes away all glorying from us, and for this very reason excludes good works from hence, Romans 3:27 and 4:1, 2.
    7. Wherever the scripture produces reasons for which good works are necessary, it mentions other reasons than that they are necessary to salvation; namely, that we ought diligently to perform good works, because of God, because of Christ, because of the holy Spirit, because of our neighbor…

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  3. Dr. Hart,

    Very good point you make! I tend to agree with you about Lent. I can tolerate someone who quietly goes about some form of Lent observation, it is the mandate or implied mandate from church authorities that I find especially disturbing. But again, that being said, NAPARC types do have their own versions of Lent in the form of a whole variety of “spiritual disciplines”, events, programs, practices, etc. Just like in your earlier post about Lent and food, it is interesting how devoting oneself to a particular day of the week can make an idol out of the do’s and dont’s we focus on for that day. Hence putting the emphasis on our personal piety, our own personal spiritual disciplines. Whereas, for example, instead of wrongly overemphasizing the Sabbath day (which is going to intrinsically have us more focused on her own personal piety, do’s and don’ts on that day just as much as Lent can have us over focused on what we eat or don’t eat) we would do better to devote oneself to the Lord of the Sabbath. Hence bringing a better Christward focus and gratitude. Wait for it……here is where they come out of the woodwork and accuse guys like me of being Antinomian. 🙂

    I am not denying the Creational aspects of the Sabbath or its importance for NT Christians to observe it. I am saying the Sabbath looks different in light of the Lord of the Sabbath’s coming and He said Himself made that clear. There is not one example in the New Testament of Jesus saying to the pharisees …..” You guys just are not strident enough , you just are not observing the Sabbath in an “earnest” enough manner, etc.””. But there are a plethora of times where God in His wisdom records for all human history our Lord rebuking the religious leaders of the day about being overly scrupulous and otherwise legalistic and Neonomian about the Sabbath.

    WCF Got it wrong in 21.8. By the rational of 21.8 you should be brought up on charges (or at least rebuked) if you ask a fellow member how their work was this last week or if you allow your children to play a pick up game of basketball on the Lord’s day, etc. etc.
    Wait for it……here is where they accuse me of not being “confessional” , because I don’t agree with every jot and tittle of the Reformed Confessions. Us Reformed can’t take yes for an answer and it’s a big reason why our denominations are so tiny and turned in on themselves.

    The Westminster devines just went too far with the language there (21.8) and I think it’s high time us “Confessional types” owned it, we got plenty of our own versions of Lent, trust me. For Pete sake, there are reformed folks out there who the sum total of the warp and woof of their reformed ministry is essentially …”To Make the Sabbath Day great again I guarantee it.”

    I think they do far better to put the spotlight, the emphasis, the top billing on Christ, the Lord of the Sabbath.
    It sure beats a focus on our own personal piety, whether the topic is observing Sabbath or Lent.

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  4. Mr. Hart (Dr. Snarky Redirect),

    I think you missed the point. I would have no problem with that or a host of other things that WCF clearly prohibits on the Sabbath Day. I would not have a problem because scripture is not as scrupulous as WCF 21.8 and the Lord of the Sabbath is far less strident about Sabbath do’s and dont’s compared to many of His NAPARC followers. To be sure the broader Evangelical culture is very loosy goosy (Antinomian) about the Sabbath, a lack of reverent observance/worship I will not deny, but that is in no way the problem in NAPARC. Their leaning tends in the other direction. To apply your oft used phrase, we Reformed tend to be extremely “Earnest” shall we say when it comes to this one.

    My only point is this can become our own version of Works righteousness, Lent like in characteristics.

    Mark Jones gets it entirely wrong. The bigger problem as far as Reformed theology’s UnWelcomed guest is not Antinomianism, rather the far bigger problem (in general) in NAPARC circles is Neonomianism. I think we need to own that.

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  5. Mr. Burns, I understand your point. But your point has led some to consider the antinomian Lord’s Day. At least you don’t have to go to three services:

    Sunday was church in Orange City, Iowa, in the first decades of the century. I suspect that is is so even now in the little pockets of piety that dot Northwest Iowa, though it can’t be as still in the town or in the homes as it was in my youth. There were three services, which I attended with simulated docility. The preacher delivered three sermons before his often critical sheep, dressed in a somber Prince Albert, sweating it out in August afternoons without air-conditioning before a whir of variegated hand-propelled fans. He spoke in these churches, some of them large, without the aid of electronic devices, and a voice of good timbre could be heard on the street through the open windows. There were always competitive babies in the crowd, quieted not by artful jouncing but by breast feeding. As the sermon pounded on, squirming little boys were pinched. Sometimes fractious older boys in the back seats were policed by elders. Dutch psalms were fervently sung while a lathering janitor pumped the bellows of the organ at 110 degrees. There was no choir – an irrelevant impertinence.

    The heart of the service was the sermon; upon that the evaluation of the preacher and the determination of his ecclesiastical fortunes depended. Then, as it was well into the sixties, it was as rhetorically fixed as the terza rima. Apparently all texts were best analyzed and interpreted in terms of three points. I remember a preacher saying, “One more point and then we go home.” Whether the content was brilliant or mediocre, it was formulated in terms of an introduction, three divisions, and application. The three points were often chosen with care and memorably phrased. These pegs to remembrance enabled certain people to recall sermons accurately for years. A lady of eighty-eight wrote me recently saying about some sermons she had heard “I know the introduction and application he made and often talk about them.” She also gave the three points of several sermons she had remembered for fifty years. Such fixed rhetoric may seem wooden, bit its mnemonic helpfulness was striking. As a boy, of course, I had no interest in these sermons. I spent my time counting the pipes in the organ, the panes in the colored glass windows, watching the consistory up front, and daydreaming. I am glad that later I learned to appreciate the meticulous preparation, craftsmanship, and meditation that went into their making. Some of these older ministers operated on volubility, but others on a lot of mind and heart; not a few had style and some had class. . . .

    Three services, three trips to church, three meals pretty well consumed the day. What time remained was to be used in a way compatible with the spiritual tone of the day. To many this all sounds like “a hard, hard, religion,” as well as something of a bore. Indeed, it took something out of one but it put something real into one also. The church was a sanctuary, a renewal of hope, a confirmation of faith. These people did not have easy, pleasure-filled lives. They had a profound sense of the mystery and misery of human existence. There were no protective barriers. I remember my mother crying over the deaths of little children. Children were sometimes marred by smallpox, weakened by scarlet fever, dead of diphtheria. Diseases now almost routinely cured carried off parents, leaving homes fatherless and motherless. Fearful accidents occurred on the farm. Hail, storm, and drought brought destruct to crops. But the death of the saints was precious in the sight of the Lord, and in the eye of the storm was the providence of God. How often these people prayed for a rainbow, how often they found a spiritual rainbow in the church where God spoke to them through his servants, and promised cure for all misery.

    At that time and even into the sixties, there was a remarkable consensus as to the meaning and practices of Sunday. Although the Bible did not specify the number of services to be held on Sunday, congregations attended with notable faithfulness and did not appear to grow weary of that kind of well-doing. Even though the services in the earlier decades of the century were a surcease from loneliness on the empty prairie, a stay against loss of identity in a strange land, and the warm concourse of friends, these were not the reasons that brought them to church. What did bring them to church was a felt spiritual need and a sense of duty. They believed God wanted them to come as often as they could and that it was good for them to be here. That kind of consensus has been eroding for years, whether out of spiritual amplitude, secular diversions, boredom, or alienation. . . .

    The consensus on Sunday behavior is also waning. Whereas in the early decades of the century, attendance at church three times was common, today attendance twice is lessening. The blue laws have almost vanished. If a member of my old church in Iowa had spun his Buick over to the Blackstone Cafe at Sioux City for a Sunday dinner of prime rib and cocktails, he would have been in danger of losing his membership; if one does that in Grand Rapids today he risks only losing his shirt. The old blue laws were based on the idea that the Sabbath is a “day of sacred assembly” and that “wherever you live, it is a Sabbath to the Lord.” The older generation thought God made the Sabbath for man to insure rest and spiritual growth, not to do what he wanted. They were uptight and possibly self-righteous about Sunday. The present generation is relaxed and self-righteous about it. . . .

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  6. Burnsie, I think your average old school presby elder would be happy if most congregants made it to both services on Sunday (if applicable — means you might have to restructure some hobbies/avocations/kid sports), tried not to work on Sundays unless their job is one necessity, and didn’t participate in commerce that required others to have to work. That’s not too much to ask, I don’t think. And not particularly legalistic.

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  7. CW,

    Personally I don’t engage in commerce, the seeking after my own dollars/ work on the Lord’s Day. I endeavor to faithfully and joyfully attend service on almost every Sunday, unless Providentially hendered. The “recreation” reference in WCF is another issue. As per usual no one wants to deal with WCF 21.8. Why can’t we just admit they went to far? Why can’t we acknowledge the Westminster devines were over correcting due to dealing with specific issues of their time on this one?

    “If applicable” you say, hhhmmmmm, so second service is arbitrary and capricious in the sense that some churches practice it and some do not is that correct ? Other than NAPARC tradition where is 2nd service written? A “must have” second service is NAPARC ‘s Lent. Because we all know the more spiritually mature are the ones who never miss a second service. I agree, there is a Creational Sabbath, (not saying it is part of ceremonial law) a mandate of worship on that day, (I hope it is a joy of worship) a set apart day not working after dollars on the Sabbath, etc. I find it a stretch however to imagine that my piety (again the focus is directed there by implication) and my discipline in obstaining from a visit to the local diner is the key to another persons spiritual well being. We have delusions of grandeur about our “witness” on this topic I am afraid. As if somehow my practice (again all about my piety) is the key to the heart of the waitress. We go not to eat out, therefore the pagan waitress has opportunity and or desire to go to church. More Blue laws = more people pleasing God. Or at least pagan waitress pleases God more by not being able to work on Sunday. Wait a minute, can Pagans (those outside of Christ) please God? I am not suggesting that one should go to eat at a diner on Sunday to evangelize the waitress.

    So second service is a must, (again where is that written?) , but yet many a NAPARC church who practice a “must have” second service only practice the celebration of the Lord’s Supper once every 3 months. Hmmmmm, I can see plenty of spots where it is written that we should frequently observe the Supper. Again, we have plenty of our own versions of “must have” spiritual disciplines and practices which are not clearly mandated in Scripture that we choose to practice, while at the same time we choose to not practice those which are indeed much more clear.

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  8. Who said that you said it? I am clearly referencing an ethos among many in NAPARC. To deny that is to deny the obvious. Case in point….WCF 21.8

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  9. I am using the phrase “a must” to capture a sense of earnestness. Earnestness in something not mandated, a lot like Lent. You said yourself…. many a Presby old school elder would be happy if folks attended an arbitrary non- mandated second service. So clearly the ethos I am referencing does exist.

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  10. E., I’m sympathetic to some extent–legalism is an equal opportunity affliction and sabbatarian sensitivities aren’t invulnerable to it (he said as a sabbatarian-of-a-non-legalist-variety). But I’d rather point to something like the Communion Season among the Scottish Highlanders as a Protestant parallel to the Lenten Season.

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  11. Zrim,
    Good points. Of course Sabbatarian issues (must have 2nd service) are just one dynamic to all of this. Just the one I picked out to make the larger point that we Reformed have our fair share of extra biblical spiritual disciplines/ practices. Some of which are better than others, some of which should be resisted, some of which are fine if done quietly as a matter of conscience.

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  12. More truth:

    WCF:
    “And therefore it is the duty of every one to give all diligence to make his calling and election sure”

    “God does continue to forgive the sins of those that are justified; and although they can never fall from the sate of justification, yet they may, by their sins, fall under God’s fatherly displeasure, and not have the light of His countenance restored unto them, until they humble themselves, confess their sins, beg pardon, and renew their faith and repentance.”

    “Their ability to do good works is not at all of themselves, but wholly from the Spirit of Christ. And that they may be enabled thereunto, beside the graces they have already received, there is required an actual influence of the same Holy Spirit, to work in them to will, and to do, of His good pleasure: yet are they not hereupon to grow negligent, as if they were not bound to perform any duty unless upon a special motion of the Spirit; but they ought to be diligent in stirring up the grace of God that is in them.”

    Calvin: “As it is an arduous work and of immense labour, to put off the corruption which is in us, he bids us to strive and make every effort for this purpose. He intimates that no place is to be given in this case to sloth, and that we ought to obey God calling us, not slowly or carelessly, but that there is need of alacrity; as though he had said, “Put forth every effort, and make your exertions manifest to all.”

    A.A. Hodge: “Thus while sanctification is a grace, it is also a duty; and the soul is both bound and encouraged to use with diligence, in dependence upon the Holy Spirit, all the means for its spiritual renovation, and to form those habits resisting evil and of right action in which sanctification so largely consists.”

    Owen: “He does not so work our mortification in us as not to keep it still an act of our obedience”

    Boettner: “On the other hand, sanctification is a process through which the remains of sin in the outward life are gradually removed … It is a joint work of God and man”

    Packer: “Regeneration was a momentary monergistic act of quickening the spiritually dead. As such, it was God’s work alone. Sanctification, however, is in one sense synergistic – it is an ongoing cooperative process in which regenerate persons, alive to God and freed from sin’s dominion (Rom. 6:11, 14-18), are required to exert themselves in sustained obedience. God’s method of sanctification is neither activism (self-reliant activity) nor apathy (God-reliant passivity), but God-dependent effort (2 Cor. 7:1; Phil. 3:10-14; Heb. 12:14).”

    WGT Shedd: “The believer cooperates with God the Spirit in the use of the means of sanctification. Sanctification is both a grace and a duty….. Regeneration, being a sole work of God is not a duty. It is nowhere enjoined upon man to regenerate himself”

    Berkhof: “That man must cooperate with the Spirit of God follows: (a) from the repeated warnings against evils and temptations, which clearly imply that man must be active in avoiding the pitfalls of life … and (b) from the constant exhortations to holy living. These imply that the believer must be diligent in the employment of the means at his command for the moral and spiritual improvement of his life…”

    Edwards: “In efficacious grace we are not merely passive, nor yet does God do some and we do the rest. But God does all, and we do all. God produces all, we act all. For that is what he produces, viz. [namely] our own acts. God is the only proper author and fountain; we only are the proper actors. We are in different respects, wholly passive and wholly active.”

    Sproul: “As part of the process of sanctification, perseverance is a synergistic work. This means it is a cooperative effort between God and us. We persevere and he preserves. ”

    Gaffin: “Here is what may be fairly called a synergy but it is not a 50/50 undertaking (not even 99.9% God and 0.1% ourselves). Involved here is the ‘mysterious math’ of the creator and his image-bearing creature, whereby 100% plus 100% =100%. Sanctification is 100% the work of God, and for that reason, is to engage the full 100% activity of the believer.”

    Grudem: “Some object to saying that God and man “cooperate” in sanctification, because they want to insist that God’s work is primary and our work in sanctification is only a secondary one. However, if we explain the nature of God’s role and our role in sanctification clearly, it does not seem inappropriate to say that God and man cooperate in sanctification. God works in our sanctification and we work as well, and we work for the same purpose… The role that we play in sanctification is both a passive one in which we depend on God to sanctify us, and an active one in which we strive to obey God and take steps that will increase our sanctification.”

    Hoeksema: “It is not true that God works our sanctification and that we work also, and that these two aspects of the work of salvation stand independently from each other or must be conceived as an irreconcilable contradiction. Nor is it true that God alone accomplishes sanctification and that He drags us along the way as stock and blocks, as is the presentation of the antinomians. Still less is it true that the relation between God’s work and our work is such that we must work, and that if we work, God will help us, as is the view of the Pelagians.”

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  13. Mr Burns—Mark Jones gets it entirely wrong. The bigger problem as far as Reformed theology’s UnWelcomed guest is not Antinomianism, rather the far bigger problem (in general) in NAPARC circles is Neonomianism.

    mcmark—I don’t disagree, but I would point out that neonomianism is also antinomian, because it claims that God’s law is satisfied in some way (when it comes to “sanctification”) by imperfect obedience.

    Mark Jones—“God accepts less – often, a lot less (i.e., “small beginnings”) – than perfection from us because of his Son and for the sake of his Son, who is glorified in us . God is our Father. Parents will no doubt understand the joys that our children can bring to us in their obedience, even if their obedience falls short of what Christ would have offered to his own parents. God is not a hard task-master, reaping where he hasn’t sown (Matt. 25:24). He remembers we are dust (Ps. 103:14), and treats us accordingly. As our Father, he accepts less than absolute perfection because he accepted absolute perfection in our place…

    Mark Jones—The obedience we offer to God does not have to be sinless obedience or perfect obedience, but it must be SINCERE obedience. Sincere obedience means we may be called “blameless.” The Westminster Confession of Faith sums up this principle well: Yet notwithstanding, the persons of believers being accepted through Christ, their good works also are accepted in him, not as though they were in this life wholly unblameable and unreprovable in God’s sight; but that he, looking upon them in his Son, is pleased to accept and reward that which is sincere, although accompanied with many weaknesses and imperfections” (WCF 16.6).

    Mark Jones–In our imperfection, we may please God. God rewards imperfect works, according to the riches of his grace, because he is our Father. (Even if the devils would perform good works, God would delight in these works, according to Charnock and Witsius). The fact that our works are tainted with sin does not invalidate them as good works. Just as the fact that we have indwelling sin does not mean we cannot be called good, holy, righteous, etc. It is wrong-headed, I believe, to suppose that we exalt the grace of God by suggesting that the only righteousness pleasing to God is Christ’s righteousness. This is a radical form of substitution that would confuse any HONEST reader of the Scriptures. God manifests his grace not only in providing a perfect (imputed) righteousness that can withstand the full demands of his law, but also an inherent, imperfect righteousness that he declares to be both good and pleasing.

    Mark Jones– The “divine acceptilatio” explains why and how we can be zealous for good works (Tit. 2:14)…. This view reflects the already-not yet theology whereby we are now pure in heart but one day will be pure in heart. We are good, but we wait to be good. Do we want to say that the widow’s offering in Luke 21:1-4 was not pleasing to God, but instead “filthy rags”? Are we allowed to pray the words of the Psalmist (Ps. 18:20-24)? Or are these words only true of Christ?
    The Lord dealt with me according to my righteousness;
    according to the cleanness of my hands he rewarded me.
    21 For I have kept the ways of the Lord,
    and have not wickedly departed from my God.
    22 For all his rules were before me,
    and his statutes I did not put away from me.
    23 I was blameless before him,
    and I kept myself from my guilt.
    24 So the Lord has rewarded me according to my righteousness,
    according to the cleanness of my hands in his sight.

    Mark Jones—“How amazing that notwithstanding the very powerful indwelling sin that remains in us, God thinks more of our obedience than we do. This keeps us from despair regarding obedience … There is a word used by Arminius: acceptilatio. The concept behind the word is good, but he places it in the wrong category, namely, justification. In saying that God accepts our imperfect obedience, we must be careful not to bring this “acceptilatio” into the realm of justification, but keep it in the realm of sanctification.”

    http://www.reformation21.org/blog/2015/02/god-accepts-imperfection.php

    I quote Mark Jones above not because I agree with him, and not even to comment on his interpretation of the Confession. I myself am not even Reformed or Confessional. I quote the above because if my hope depends on putting “synergism” in the “sanctification” category and not in the “justification” category, then I have no hope. Those who are not yet sanctified are not yet justified, and those who attempt to satisfy God’s law by their imperfection are not only antinomians but not yet justified.

    Mike Horton: “It is inappropriate to import the monergism-synergism antithesis (typically belonging to the debate over the new birth and justification) into sanctification. It is better simply to say that we are working out that salvation that has Christ has already won for us and given to us by his Spirit through the gospel. Though in sanctification (unlike justification) faith is active in good works, the gospel is always the ground and the Spirit is always the source of our sanctification as well as our justification.”

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  14. Mr. Burns, get this. The Anglicans have a morning and evening service right in their BCP for each and every day of the week. Is it too much to ask to begin and end the Lord’s day in corporate worship?

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  15. James Young, but our sanctification lands us in heaven. Yours? Say hello to purgatory. And do pray that your family members remember to do whatever the church requires for indulgences.

    Word.

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  16. If my hope depends on a dialectic in which the math allows the possibility of me giving “100 percent”, not for present justification but rather for the “not yet” justification of Romans 2. then I have NO HOPE.. Those who are not yet sanctified by the Holy Spirit in order to believe in sanctification by Christ’s blood (Hebrews 10:10-14) are those who read a not-yet justification by works out of Romans 2, and call it “sanctification” for the sake of ecclesial politics.

    Forgiveness of sins without me making that safe by my then changing (enough)? To some people it sounds too good to be true, and to other people it sounds like playing a game of forensic pretend that doesn’t do anybody good .

    But what if the obedience boys are “playing pretend games” themselves about how much they have changed and are changing.? Maybe they are only trying to scare those in the covenant into not fornicating.

    Too much talk about ‘the forgiveness of sins” is not Reformed, the neonomians warn us. But if the good news about forgiveness of sins is too much pretending (imputing) and not really true, what then is the solution for a sinner like me? If I were to depart the fundamentalist certainty-closure with its presumption about the final forgiveness of all my sins.would I in that new trajectory have escaped all forms of wishful thinking?,

    yes, it’s true that I want the forgiveness of sins to be true

    can a sinner like me fix my future sins problem by starting to stop sinning?

    Christ’s death for the forgiveness of all the sins of all the elect, no hope without it

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  17. D. G. Hart says: James Young
    Word.

    extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one- take the sword of the Spirit -the WORD –
    and the full armor of God -and with all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints (Eph 6:10-18)

    and re: word (human ones, that is)….

    “Words are cheap. Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 7:21).”
    From this am http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/strive-to-rest

    “There is no contradiction in the gospel invitations to passively receive God’s free gift of salvation and in the gospel exhortations that we press on to make this gift our own. Our works are not decisive in our salvation. They are evidence of God’s saving work in us. And that is why we must “be all the more diligent to confirm [our] calling and election” (2 Peter 1:10) by working out our salvation with fear and trembling.”

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  18. My other brother Darryl,

    Other than the burning in your bosom where is the written mandate for a “must have” 2nd or 3rd service?

    (By the way, that burning in your bosom is called confessional reformed tradition, not a biblical mandate)

    Assuming one is faithful to attend Lord’s Day Worship, I believe they are free in Christian Liberty and conscience if they deem rest for their family later that evening applicable. If brothers and sisters out of sincere desire want to gather for worship for a second or third time on the Lord’s day and they to do it quietly instead of with spiritual pride, more power to ya.

    Although I suppose we could say the same thing about Lent couldn’t we?

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  19. Of course Sabbatarian issues (must have 2nd service) are just one dynamic to all of this. Just the one I picked out to make the larger point that we Reformed have our fair share of extra biblical spiritual disciplines/ practices. Some of which are better than others, some of which should be resisted, some of which are fine if done quietly as a matter of conscience.

    E., you mean “worse” than others? After all, extra-biblical spiritual disciplines and practices are categorically bad to most Reformed sensibilities.

    But I quibble. Here’s a little more fuel to the fire—Bible toting, which some P&R get from the Fundies, as The Curmudgeon points out elsewhere:

    “One of the things members were encouraged to do was to carry their Bibles along with their books from class to class [church?]. Of course this was “bearing a testimony” not emulating the Pharisees. It is not just the Roman Catholics or the Lutherans or we Anglicans who can be charged with practicing righteousness before men.”

    Ding.

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  20. Mark 7 6 And He said to them, “Rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written:‘THIS PEOPLE HONORS ME WITH THEIR LIPS,BUT THEIR HEART IS FAR AWAY FROM ME.7 ‘BUT IN VAIN DO THEY WORSHIP ME, TEACHING AS DOCTRINES THE PRECEPTS OF MEN.’
    8 Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men.”

    … due preparing of their hearts… (Sunday to Sunday)

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  21. Mr. Burns, so the way you show love to your wife is beginning an evening out with her and then calling your mom when dessert arrives?

    Do you really need a proof text for all of life?

    And don’t forget church membership vows. As matters stand, officers have taken vows to chapter 21 and members have taken vows to submit to the government of a local session — which has called them to an evening service.

    But let’s pretend that vows taken to the church are so much less demanding than those to a spouse:

    CHAPTER 22
    Of Lawful Oaths and Vows

    1. A lawful oath is a part of religious worship, wherein, upon just occasion, the person swearing solemnly calleth God to witness what he asserteth, or promiseth, and to judge him according to the truth or falsehood of what he sweareth.

    2. The name of God only is that by which men ought to swear, and therein it is to be used with all holy fear and reverence. Therefore, to swear vainly, or rashly, by that glorious and dreadful Name; or, to swear at all by any other thing, is sinful, and to be abhorred. Yet, as in matters of weight and moment, an oath is warranted by the Word of God, under the new testament as well as under the old; so a lawful oath, being imposed by lawful authority, in such matters, ought to be taken.

    3. Whosoever taketh an oath ought duly to consider the weightiness of so solemn an act, and therein to avouch nothing but what he is fully persuaded is the truth: neither may any man bind himself by oath to anything but what is good and just, and what he believeth so to be, and what he is able and resolved to perform.

    4. An oath is to be taken in the plain and common sense of the words, without equivocation, or mental reservation. It cannot oblige to sin; but in anything not sinful, being taken, it binds to performance, although to a man’s own hurt. Nor is it to be violated, although made to heretics, or infidels.

    5. A vow is of the like nature with a promissory oath, and ought to be made with the like religious care, and to be performed with the like faithfulness.

    6. It is not to be made to any creature, but to God alone: and, that it may be accepted, it is to be made voluntarily, out of faith, and conscience of duty, in way of thankfulness for mercy received, or for the obtaining of what we want, whereby we more strictly bind ourselves to necessary duties; or, to other things, so far and so long as they may fitly conduce thereunto.

    7. No man may vow to do anything forbidden in the Word of God, or what would hinder any duty therein commanded, or which is not in his own power, and for the performance whereof he hath no promise of ability from God. In which respects, popish monastical vows of perpetual single life, professed poverty, and regular obedience, are so far from being degrees of higher perfection, that they are superstitious and sinful snares, in which no Christian may entangle himself.

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  22. Darryl,

    So you’re cool with the ying and yang of good works in your sanctification. Truth.

    Jeff,

    Heh well you know, when in Rome….

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  23. James Young, I’m “cool” with saying some Protestants err.

    You have no way of knowing if a pope or cardinal or bishop errs because you don’t have the pay grade. Why not be a Protestant where you can quote from sources all the time and enjoy as much authority as any of us.

    It also saves you from purgatory — not so cool I hear.

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  24. Darryl,

    Wow! You are very practical and relevant comparing evening Worship service to a date with my wife. Is that all you got? You still really are not addressing anything of substance. In order to bind my conscience I need scripture not the teaching as if doctrine which is really the precepts of man.

    You, as with all other hard line Reformed Confessionalist I have had this conversation with, have provided notta, zilch, zippo. Other than the burning in your bosom, which is reformed confessional tradition. As far as membership vows the minute my session has the nerve to bind conscience in this same fashion is the minute I suggest either A. We move to become adherents, not members or B. We may need to leave.

    Again case at hand example, this is exactly why (or at least one reason) NAPARC churches are so turned in on themselves. They often brow beat folks to agree with every jot and tittle of Reformed Confessions. Look at how much you are indeed making/pushing a “must have” evening service, it is your Lent.

    I consider myself to be more confessional than most (I think objectively I am) , but sadly so many Reformed folk can’t take yes for an answer.

    So, Dr. Hart, your church sings man written songs and uses instruments correct? Shall we chat about that? What does Reformed tradition say about that?

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  25. Darryl,

    That’s quite a few Reformed lights who erred on an apparent fundamental given you have said previously you would discipline members who affirm sanctification is synergistic. Did the writers of WCF also err with:

    “And therefore it is the duty of every one to give all diligence to make his calling and election sure”

    So sanctification is both a duty (yin) and grace (yang) as the erring Reformed lights said.

    “God does continue to forgive the sins of those that are justified; and although they can never fall from the sate of justification, yet they may, by their sins, fall under God’s fatherly displeasure, and not have the light of His countenance restored unto them, until they humble themselves, confess their sins, beg pardon, and renew their faith and repentance.”

    So sanctification is both grace (yin) and requires striving and effort (yang) as the erring Reformed lights said.

    “Their ability to do good works is not at all of themselves, but wholly from the Spirit of Christ. And that they may be enabled thereunto, beside the graces they have already received, there is required an actual influence of the same Holy Spirit, to work in them to will, and to do, of His good pleasure: yet are they not hereupon to grow negligent, as if they were not bound to perform any duty unless upon a special motion of the Spirit; but they ought to be diligent in stirring up the grace of God that is in them.”

    So one has to be “diligent in stirring up the grace” and “performing duties” (yin) but their ability to do good works is “wholly from the Spirit of Christ” (yang) as the erring Reformed lights said.

    Truth.

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  26. cw l’unificateur says: …You’ll get sanctificated or else….

    You’re funny cw. Can you see that your inquiry about someone’s soccer activity (presumable playing soccer and not going to church?) is a call (presumably) to holiness (sanctification), just like someone else’s exhortation may be in another way to the same, so denigrating would seem hypocritical.

    And the presumption that yours is a genuine call to holiness may be generous, since I cannot recall (I might be wrong) you calling anyone to holiness in any other way besides attending church, so perhaps it is just a ragging to get mechanical adherence without a pure heart. Jesus had the harshest words for those, for in doing so, they had abandoned all the commandments contained in God’s Word and substituted a humanly designed standard for God’s standard.

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  27. Ali, no one has a pure heart (no, not one). That’s why regular word, sacrament and discipline is needed. Pietists never understand this.

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  28. Zrim, right on!

    But, Ali has a valid point about CW’s inquiry (snark) about soccer. By implication who is saying that it is a “must have”? Well, it is folks like CW when they start going down that road. …….
    The “you are clearly not as spiritually mature as me, cuz I am at 2nd and 3rd service, (and I would do a fourt if they had, cuz I delight in the Lord’s Day don’t ya know)…..I am more earnest in my devotion to the Sabbath, while you clearly are just sloughing off playing soccer and the like.”” Trump card Cabooom! All over something not mandated by scripture, but sense it is a Huuuuuge part of Reformed tradition, it’s a “must have.” And if you don’t comply you’re spiritually lazy, not as confessional, not minding to your vows, vows to confessions, etc etc.
    Total Spiritual pride, plain and simple.

    Again, sounds a lot how some folks (not all) treat Lent.

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  29. E., I’d caution against giving pietists much credence. I’d also caution against an accusatory posture–runs the risk of getting the point buried.

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  30. Zrim,

    Read the thread. I was essentially accused of sloughing off with soccer. Let’s not allow our bias against pietist to cloud the truth.

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  31. E., nah, you were just elbowed a bit. Why not check back instead of calling a personal foul? Could over reacting be another form of Reformed hyper spirituality? Sorry. Stil think you’re onto something otherwise.

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  32. Mr. Burns, you mistake an opinion and a teaching of the standards that I’ve subscribed with browbeating. When did you become a snowflake?

    So you think loving your family, which you do six days a week, takes precedence over worshiping your maker with the saints and angels on Sunday?

    Why is it you find loving your family so consequential but not God? I seem to recall Jesus saying something about following him and giving up family.

    Biblical much?

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  33. E & Z, yellow cards all around. But since I love everybody there’ll be juice boxes and oranges slices over by the fence.

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  34. James Young, right, so I get to err on sanctification and I still go to heaven. Chew on that.

    Don’t forget that Sanctification is the work of God’s free grace whereby we are renewed in the whole man dot dot dot.

    Looks to me like Sanctification is passive, twist as you may a few 500 character quotes from whatever search engine you use. That’s not going to get you out of purgatory.

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  35. Zrim and CW,

    Peace out, I love some orange slices and juice box, I am all in. In the words of Dean Martin….” I quit drinking, now I just freeze it and eat it like Popsicles!”

    Dr. Hart,

    To deny the existence of the overly strident ethos among many NAPARC folks in regards to Sabbath issues to the point of it being Lent like in an extra Biblical (neonomian) bent at times, is to deny the obvious. WCF 21.8

    I’m well aware that for confessionalist’s (maybe I am not one) my position on this one topic puts me in the vast minority, but I’ve never been a sycophant, especially over something I’m not convicted on. So I’m not about to start today. Especially when I am on to something. If that is what it takes to be a confessionalists (every jot and tittle agreement) you all can keep it. That wax nose might be hiding a Pope, his garments are faith in confessions and his hill to die on is tradition.

    If there be heartburn from the Burning in your bosom, take heart lad I have some Popsicles that can cure anything!
    😉
    Grace, peace and much earnestness,

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  36. Zrim says: Ali, no one has a pure heart (no, not one). That’s why regular word, sacrament and discipline is needed.
    D. G. Hart says: Looks to me like Sanctification is passive

    ok, then, very very passively… flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. 2 Tim 2: 22

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  37. Darryl,

    Looks to me like Sanctification is passive

    The accent is on divine initiative in sanctification, but isn’t there a place for human effort as well in sanctification that there isn’t in justification?

    I mean, at the very least, we have to actively participate in the means of grace in order to be sanctified, do we not? I think the word “synergism” can be confusing, but there does seem to be activity in sanctification that we do not have in justification, or am I missing something?

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  38. Mr. Burns, you might have a point if sabbatarianism was an “overly strident ethos” in NAPARC or that many people talk about it on the order of Lent.

    On what planet do you live? Planet Hypersensitive?

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  39. Robert, as long as you remember:

    These good works, done in obedience to God’s commandments, are the fruits and evidences of a true and lively faith (CoF 16.2)

    we’re good.

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  40. Robert, I’m partial to RSC’s thumbnail: the law structures sanctification, the Spirit empowers it. Which is to say, those being sanctified (note the passive construction) will evidence it outwardly by keeping the law, but the actual power of inward sanctification is completely a divine and mysterious work, not a cooperation between God and sinner. Sanctification, then, is just as much by grace alone as justification. It may necessarily entail being constructed by the law in a way unlike justification, but that doesn’t diminish its being a complete work of grace alone.

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  41. Zrim, like faith is not a work in justification but it is part of human agency and only happens by the mysterious work of the Spirit.

    But when it comes to virtue signaling, even Protestants want a piece of the pie. Or should it be, refuse dessert.

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  42. Zrim says: Ali, I agree with the Bible, too.

    Oh, ok, thanks for telling me, I wasn’t sure. Sometimes I get the ‘feeling’ you are calling Jesus a liar and even though I am a woman, I know feelings are not reliable, so I’m sure I am wrong about that.
    Words are cheap though, as I was reminded reading yesterday. Faith expresses itself – and according to the word, not just in any old way, but in the ways the Lord says. One way NOT: very very passively. Don’t think trust can be ‘passive’. But if so, have a good day very very passively trusting in and trusting the Lord Zrim

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  43. Darryl, and contrariwise the law is a vital facet of our justification which often gets overlooked at the expense of grace, just like grace gets diminished in questions of sanctification at the expense of law. Or something.

    But make mine ordinary warm pecan pie, please. Whipped cream preferred but not required.

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  44. Darryl,

    “Don’t forget that Sanctification is the work of God’s free grace whereby we are renewed in the whole man dot dot dot.”

    And of course none of those yin-yanger Reformed lights, let alone the WCF, deny that. But the home team gets a pass (well, on the blog at least, at your church you’d kick ’em out apparently) while everyone else doesn’t.

    “Looks to me like Sanctification is passive”

    A.A. Hodge: “It must be remembered that while the subject is passive with respect to that divine act of grace whereby he is regenerated, after he is regenerated he cooperates with the Holy Ghost in the work of sanctification…. The act of grace which regenerates, operating within the spontaneous energies of the soul and changing their character, can neither be co-operated with nor resisted. But the instant the soul is regenerated it begins to co-operate with and sometimes, alas! also to resist subsequent gracious influences prevenient and co-operative.”

    Turretin: “The question does not concern the second stage of conversion in which it is certain that man is not merely passive, but cooperates with God (or rather operates under him). Indeed he actually believes and converts himself to God; moves himself to the exercise of new life. Rather the question concerns the first moment when he is converted and receives new life in regeneration. We contend that he is merely passive in this, as a receiving subject and not as an active principle.”

    Brakel: “Man, being thus moved by the influence of God’s Spirit, moves, sanctifies himself, engages in that activity which his new nature desires and is inclined toward, and does that which he knows to be his duty … make an earnest effort to purify yourself from all the pollutions of the flesh and of the mind, perfecting yours sanctification in the fear of God. Permit me to stir you up to this holy work; incline your ear and permit these exhortations addressed to you to enter your heart.”

    Charles Hodge: “When Christ opened the eyes of the blind no second cause interposed between his volition and the effect. But men work out their own salvation, while it is God who worketh in them to will and to do, according to his own good pleasure. In the work of regeneration, the soul is passive. It cannot cooperate in the communication of spiritual life. But in conversion, repentance, faith, and growth in grace, all its powers are called into exercise. As, however, the effects produced transcend the efficiency of our fallen nature, and are due to the agency of the Spirit, sanctification does not cease to be supernatural, or a work of grace, because the soul is active and cooperating in the process.”

    Roger Nicole: “Regeneration is monergistic…. Sanctification, on the other hand, is synergistic. That is, God wants to associate us with himself in accomplishing this work. He has not said, ‘I am going to clean your junky house up by myself. When you come back you will find it entirely free of all the things that are unworthy.’ God has said, ‘I want you to have a part in this great work. I want you to bring your will into conformity with my will. I want you to yield yourself to the life I have implanted in you.’ Instead of doing the work by himself, without taking account of our will, co-operation and labours, God involves us as co-laborers with him, in the same way in which in the propagation of the gospel God involves human beings as fellow-workers ”

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  45. The Creation mandate is not in question. You still are not dealing with the legit concerns regarding aspects of Reformed tradition going beyond Soli Scriptura. It is all the extra biblical do’s and dont’s attached to the Sabbath that can be a problem, but again this is just one area where we have our own Lent type Earnestness. (Homeschool only, culture wars, overemphasized patriarchal, to name but a few other heavy movements) That was the whole point. Yet not one square inch will be given to concede or own that we Reformed do it too. Until you write about Tim Keller doing it next week. You just don’t like my example, my using evening service to point it out. It clearly is a sacred cow. Look how you dig in your heels to make second service an absolute mandate, 21.8 a linchpin, etc. So a linchpin to ones adherence to the Creational mandate, to the Sabbath itself is in one attending 2-3 worship services on a Sunday?
    I ask where is that written? The answer provided over and over again is confessions, vows , tradition and that elders have authority to mandate it. I thought elders can only bind conscience based on the Word? What a wax nose and circular reasoning. An absolute digging in of the heels, talk about Planet Hypersensitive. So much for Soli Scriptura!
    It’s kind of a selective Soli Scriptura I guess.

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  46. obey more, get more

    Jonathan Edwards—“Every vessel that is cast into this ocean of happiness is full, though there are some vessels far larger than others; and there shall be no such thing as envy in heaven….Not only higher degrees of glory in heaven, but heaven itself is in some respect given in reward for holiness, and good works of the saints, …The doctrine of justification by faith alone–does in no wise diminish the necessity of obedience. Man’s salvation is indissolubly connected with obedience, and damnation with the lack of obedience….Even in accepting us as entitled to life in our justification, God has respect to our obedience, as that on which the fitness of justification depends, so that our salvation does truly depend on it.”

    Mark Jones–”If God is never disappointed in his child’s lack of holiness, then God isn’t actually a very good Father (see Heb. 12), and we are not actually responsible agents in our Christian life….. Duguid presents a misguided view of the Holy Spirit’s goal in our sanctification. She contends that if the Holy Spirit’s ‘chief work’ in sanctification is making us more and more sin-free, “then he isn’t doing a very good job”; after all, she claims there are unbelievers who are “morally superior” to Christians (p. 30). This view makes a mockery of the New Testament’s teaching on the moral difference between Christians and non-Christians, Duiguid’s book contains some rather strange statements, like the following: ‘If the sovereign God’s primary goal in sanctifying believers is simply to make us more holy, it is hard to explain why most of us make only ‘small beginnings’ on the road to personal holiness in this life’

    http://www.reformation21.org/shelf-life/housewife-theologian-and-extravagant-grace.php

    Mike Horton: “It is inappropriate to import the monergism-synergism antithesis (typically belonging to the debate over the new birth and justification) into sanctification. It is better simply to say that we are working out that salvation that has Christ has already won for us and given to us by his Spirit through the gospel.

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  47. Cletus,

    I think what you’re missing is the question of cause and effect.

    Does sanctification involve effort on our part? Of course it does. So says Paul.

    But does our effort cause additional sanctification? Is it true that “faith is a muscle that gets stronger with exercise” (Protestant version) or that “We can merit grace for ourselves and others” (Catholic version)?

    That’s the issue at stake, and I contend that the Bible teaches no such thing.

    So any amount of quotes demonstrating that we exert ourselves in sanctification or that we cooperate with God in sanctification are of course welcome, but are not germane.

    The point is that good works are fruit, not fertilizer.

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  48. Jeff,

    Cause and effect and fruit:
    Trent: “On the fruit of Justification, that is, on the merit of good works, and on the nature of that merit…. For, whereas Jesus Christ Himself continually infuses his virtue into the said justified,-as the head into the members, and the vine into the branches,-and this virtue always precedes and accompanies and follows their good works, which without it could not in any wise be pleasing and meritorious before God”

    CCC: “Filial adoption, in making us partakers by grace in the divine nature, can bestow true merit on us as a result of God’s gratuitous justice. This is our right by grace, the full right of love, making us “co-heirs” with Christ and worthy of obtaining “the promised inheritance of eternal life.” The merits of our good works are gifts of the divine goodness. “Grace has gone before us; now we are given what is due…. Our merits are God’s gifts.” … The charity of Christ is the source in us of all our merits before God. Grace, by uniting us to Christ in active love, ensures the supernatural quality of our acts and consequently their merit before God and before men.”

    I’m glad you don’t think effort, cooperation, good works, nonpassivity, duty are antithetical to grace. Darryl seems to think they are, hence his yin yang juxtapositions and “well, Protestants err” response to my citations.

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  49. Sean,
    Aren’t creation mandates just mandates made pre-fall? If so, isn’t sabbath observance, like marriage, a ceational mandate?

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  50. Letmesplain/ Sean,

    My understanding of the term “Creational mandate” as it relates to Sabbath is exactly what sdb said. Creational ordinance may be a better term. So the idea (like marriage) since God’s Sabbath was instituted in Creation, it is not entirely done away with via New Testament the way the ceremonial laws are.
    While I affirm this, nonetheless the Sabbath must and indeed does look different in light of the Lord of the Sabbath’s coming. A clear indication of this is how Christ spoke to the people of His time regarding Sabbath.
    Hot tip: He was not seen rebuking them for not being earnest enough about their Sabbath observance, do’s and don’ts. Just the opposite is what we see consistently recorded in Scripture. No I’m not saying Jesus was a loosy goosy Antinomian about Sabbath, but clearly there was a new light on Sabbath in light of His coming.

    This is not difficult for Christians to understand. Circumcision becomes baptism , Sabbath Saturday becomes Sunday, etc. etc.

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  51. James Young, justification for you lands you in purgatory. Protestants who waffle on obedience still go to heaven. Why? Only because of the perfect righteousness of Christ, imputed by faith alone.

    Sure, that’s just what you have in mind.

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  52. sdb, obviously you’re not. The creation mandate idea is based on a one day in seven principle which has no exegetical support. There is all sorts of support for a seventh day principle which finds its NC fulfillment in faith in Christ with edenic reference(creation-heb 3:11). One day in seven is foisted upon Gen. 2:3 without grounds.

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  53. Wait, I’m confused.

    The “Creation Mandate” that I know of generally refers to God’s command to rule the earth and subdue it. Gen 1.28 and 2.15.

    Separately, the Sabbath is typically grounded in the one-day-in-seven concept, which SDB points out is found in Gen 2.3. It is noteworthy that Gen 2.3 is the ground for the Sabbath command in Ex 20.8 – 11:

    “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.”

    From there, if one is not Sabbatarian at some level, the options are (that I know of)

    (1) The Sabbath principle in the moral law is fulfilled by resting from our good works (Luther)
    (2) The Sabbath principle is purely ceremonial, not moral.
    (3) There is no moral law; the entirety of OT law is abrogated.

    None of these options is generally accepted as Reformed.

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  54. Jeff, there’s the NT option of the Lord’s day(Darryl’s eighth day reference) which isn’t grounded in a one day in seven principle. But rather the seventh day principle. In fact, the idea of keeping it on the grounds of a one day in seven, work-rest cycle, is to deny the reality of Christ’s fulfillment of the work.

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  55. Jeff – I understood creational mandates (perhaps I am confused with ordinances) as those things established in the creation narrative pre-fall. They would include sabbath day rest, marriage, work, and child bearing.

    Sean – In addition to the bit in Ex 20, we have Jesus’s reference in Ex 23 indicating that the sabbath was made for man (we need rest) also grounded in Genesis 2:3. The reason for 1 in 7 rather than the focus on a particular day of the week is provided by the apostolic example of setting aside Sunday as the Lord’s day – this is in keeping with the declaration by God that every seventh day should be set aside and indicates the particular day is not the emphasis in Genesis 2:3 – thus a 1 in 7 principle. To be sure Hebrews notes that the sabbath day is a type of the rest that is to come, but that does not abrogate the setting aside of one day out of seven to the Lord (Saturday in the OT, Sunday in the NT) any more than the fact that Paul notes that marriage is a type abrogates the creational institution of marriage. As surely as I am not a seventh day adventists, I’m sure you aren’t a restorationist who affirms “No creed but Christ, no book but the Bible”. The fact that there isn’t a Bible verse that says, “Thou shall make Sunday the Lord’s Day” does not imply that there is no exegetical support for a 1 in 7 principle any more than that the fact that Bible does not say, “Thou shall baptize infants” implies there is no exegetical support for paedobaptism.

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  56. sdb, even if we take Darryl’s example, it’s still not a 1 in 7 principle. That sort of observance is relegated to shadows Colossians 2:16–17. Galatians 4:10–1. I don’t need a non existent 1 in 7 principle to have Lord’s day observance. Marriage doesn’t hold as a correlative because it’s a common enterprise. Observance of the Lord’s day is SOLELY a cultic engagement. Resting as God rested is a cultic imperative not a creational one. And, again, even if you want to argue for creation mandate, the mandate isn’t one in seven. It’s the seventh.-Strive to enter into that rest. It’s a cultic imperative/privilege.

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  57. I’m not convinced. If it’s not a 1 in 7 principle and its Saturday that’s special, then we should be SDA (and not just sdb). As we see in Ex 23, resting is a common enterprise – we all need it. It is not just a cultic activity, but something made for this world – the animals and aliens too! Just as marriage points to a greater union, that rest we have been given from our daily work points to a greater rest that I agree we should strive to enter.

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  58. sdb, the rest spoken of in creation finds it’s interpretation in Heb 4. God wasn’t actually tired. The Jews(cultic only) kept it as type and shadow. To tie it to creational ordinance/mandate(as similar to marriage) is to divorce it from it’s eschatological and cultic signifigance. Animals and aliens in the land(recreative cultic place-not common). It’s not a one in seven principle.

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  59. This is a key component to one aspect of the point I have been endeavoring to make. You are right we cannot divorce Sabbatth from its bigger picture meaning. Those types and shadows were indeed pointing to that bigger picture meaning, Christ the Lord. Lord of the Sabbath. So while I affirm the idea of a Creational Sabbath ordinance and the idea of a set apart day to gather , worship, pray ( it was founded in Creation, God rested though He was not literally tried) I am much quicker than my hard line Reformed Confssionalist Sabbaterian friends to make the emphasis / spot light of any and all talk about Sabbath be on Christ. In whom is the real rest, fulfillment , in whom we find that rest. They often tend to focus on the day.

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  60. Sean,

    But it is also worth noting that Hebrews speaks also as if we have not yet entered that rest in its fullness, which would argue for a continuing one day in seven principle that typifies the rest to come in the consummation.

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  61. Robert, there’s an ongoing principle of observance that parallels the already-not yet paradigm while also keeping us from sliding off into some anabaptist/gnostic notion of reaching beyond our humanness. It’s not a one day in seven creation mandate. It’s a cultic privilege and imperative tied to word and sacrament and the promise of the Holy Spirit. Darryl wants to go with the eighth day, I won’t quibble much with it other than it’s the seventh day(eschatological day). Color me biblicist on the issue, just not to my face.

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  62. Cletus: I’m glad you don’t think effort, cooperation, good works, nonpassivity, duty are antithetical to grace. Darryl seems to think they are, hence his yin yang juxtapositions and “well, Protestants err” response to my citations.

    (1) Not all your citations were of equal quality.

    (2) If you think DGH thinks effort is antithetical to grace, just ask him directly.

    (3) I appreciate — I really do! — that Catholics try to ground merit in the merit of Christ and in prior, unmerited grace. Your comments are in that vein, and are received as such.

    (3a) Still and all, the whole notion of “free will”, and the exertion of free will, and its tie to merit is very difficult to make coherent. I get that the origins of freedom of will lie with Augustine: The Spirit frees our wills from the corruption of sin.

    But as one drills down into the details, free will and the merit that attends to freely chosen actions by cooperation with God’s grace cannot shake itself from Pelagian tendencies.

    If you want to see the problem, just ask “from what are our wills free?” and think that through carefully.

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  63. Jeff,

    Let me jump in here. It is impossible for humans to merit heaven apart from grace, so there is no way Catholicism is Pelagian. A difference is that Catholicism teaches that even with sanctifying grace in our souls we can still be tempted and fall ( from grace as it were). Think of the warning in Hebrews.
    So bad acts( works) done, according to a will that chooses to act wrongly, after our initial justification will remove grace from our souls until we repent of our wrong doing. But that repentance happens *again* in our lives because we get actual grace from God to lead us to that repentance. So it’s always a work of God, but we creatures “actually” do have to respond.

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  64. Jeff,

    “If you think DGH thinks effort is antithetical to grace, just ask him directly.”

    Perhaps he intended something different with the yin yang characterization in his post. His subsequent non-responses, save for an affirmation that sanctification is passive, failed to enlighten in that regard.

    Believers cooperate with grace in their sanctification. They can also resist grace and sin. That’s not Pelagian or tending to such. Orange and Augustine weren’t Pelagian in opposing the Pelagians. Hodge wasn’t a Pelagian saying “The act of grace which regenerates, operating within the spontaneous energies of the soul and changing their character, can neither be co-operated with nor resisted. But the instant the soul is regenerated it begins to co-operate with and sometimes, alas! also to resist subsequent gracious influences prevenient and co-operative.”

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  65. Susan: is impossible for humans to merit heaven apart from grace, so there is no way Catholicism is Pelagian.

    “is Pelagian” is really vague. Is Catholic soteriology strictly Pelagian? Of course not. It’s not even strictly semi-Pelagian.

    But the objectionable feature of Pelagianism, that it removes the gracious character of God’s grace by making grace contingent upon man’s will, continues to be a problem within Catholic soteriology.

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  66. Letme, ” Resting as God rested is a cultic imperative not a creational one.”

    How is it not imperative for critters to engage in cultic activities? I understand that only redeemed can do the cult aright. But we do worship God as redeemer and creator, right?

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  67. James Young, so? Justification is fundamentally different for Rome and Geneva. And you still haven’t stepped up to your version of co-operation with grace only nets you purgatory.

    Go ahead. Let it pass again.

    But you have to envy that I’m a saint and you’ll never be.

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  68. Who’s afraid of Lutherans on “sanctification”?. http://www.soundwitness.org/living_faith/sanctification.htm

    David Scaer—Jesus, in requiring that we love God with our whole being and our neighbors more than ourselves, was not giving us an impossible goal to awaken in us a morbid sense of sinfulness. Nor was Jesus speaking in exaggerated terms to make a point, but He was describing His own life and the life of His Christians who live their lives and die in Him. Like Christ, Christians trust only in God and sacrifice themselves for others.

    Scaer—Sanctification not only defines the Christian life, but in the first and real sense it defines Christ’s life. Jesus Himself loved God with everything which He was and had and made us His neighbors by loving us more than He loved His own life.

    Scaer– Christ’s giving of Himself is in turn an extension of Father’s giving of His Son, “God so loved the world that He gave His only Son.” The sending of the Son as a sacrifice reflects the Father’s eternal giving of Himself in begetting the Son, “begotten of His Father before all worlds.” So the Christian doctrine of sanctification draws its substance from atonement, incarnation and even the mystery of the Holy Trinity itself. This self-giving of God and of Christ take form in the lives of believers and saints, especially those who are persecuted for the sake of the Gospel and martyred.

    Scaer–In practice our sanctification is only a weak reflection of Christ’s life. Good motives often turn into evil desires. Good works come to be valued as our own ethical accomplishments. Moral self-admiration and ethical self-absorption soon replace total reliance on God. The sanctified life constantly needs to be fully and only informed by Christ’s life and death or our personal holiness will soon deteriorate into legalism and moralism….Our only hope is to look to Christ in whom alone we have a perfect and complete sanctification. “He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, whom God made our wisdom, our righteousness and sanctification and redemption” (1 Cor. 1:30).

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  69. “The Jews(cultic only) kept it as type and shadow.”
    Is it clear that sabbath day observance started with Jews? I didn’t think that was the case. Seven day weeks are pretty common in ancient societies…likely based on seven wandering heavenly bodies. Certainly was in Egypt.

    “To tie it to creational ordinance/mandate(as similar to marriage) is to divorce it from it’s eschatological and cultic signifigance.”
    But marriage also has eschatological significance doesn’t it? Isn’t that Paul’s point in the whole mystery bit? If the fact that marriage is for all and established pre-fall doesn’t undermine its significance, why would that be for observance of the Lord’s Day?

    “Animals and aliens in the land(recreative cultic place-not common). It’s not a one in seven principle”
    I’m still not following you here. It is one day in seven that is ti be set aside per Gen 2:3. It was Saturday. Now it is Sunday. They both point to our eternal rest (I think we agree there). Setting aside a day to the Lord was not abrogated as guys like MacArthur claim. It shifted from sat to sun, but the principle remains the same. We still have 10commandments. Still don’t see why 1 in 7 gives you heartburn, but if Jeff agrees with you obviously I’m the one who doesn’t get it. Wouldn’t be the first time!

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  70. Darryl, right but only the redeemed have the opportunity. Election and all. What? the unredeemed are supposed to observe it in anticipation of their eschatological doom? It’s not a one in seven, it’s the seventh day and it got conditioned by the fall. Work-rest cycle is shadow. See below.

    sdb, the marriage analogy breaks down at precisely the point where the seventh day transcends this temporal life. The seventh day is our graduated state, we just engage it in the already-not yet state for now. I deny a 1 in 7 principle in Gen 2:3.

    I don’t know how the Egyptians did it. IMO, you can’t keep the eschatological hard wiring and argue one in seven. This isn’t how Hebrews argues for it and Paul further buttresses that argument by relegating all Jewish and other setting aside and practicing of days, sabbaths and seasons as returning to type and shadow(denial of the reality). That alone is enough to refute one in seven.(one person values one day over the other while another esteems them alike) It’s not about the day or one in seven work-rest cycle. So, this is where I go to cultic imperative. My creatureliness evident in practice is an accident(I think I’m using that correctly) -word,sacrament, pilgrimage, already-not yet are driven not by an alleged abiding moral will of one in seven(mere creatureliness or even false religion-Egyptians maybe) but cultic fidelity and NC practice.

    If it helps, I don’t know that Jeff agrees with me. Why is Jeff the Good Housekeeping Seal? Just because I don’t do the work anymore(read) doesn’t mean I’m not fine living off the fumes of remaining talent and past effort.

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  71. sdb says:
    Setting aside a day to the Lord was not abrogated
    the principle remains the same

    “The Old Testament (perhaps to our surprise) tells us very little about how believers actually kept the Sabbath day. Its regulations were few and simple and focused on the twin principles of resting from work and delighting in the Lord. By either neglecting God’s gift, or by going beyond Scripture in the way we regulate it, we may forfeit both rest and delight.” https://banneroftruth.org/us/resources/articles/2016/the-fourth-commandment/

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  72. @ SDB: Still don’t see why 1 in 7 gives you heartburn, but if Jeff agrees with you obviously I’m the one who doesn’t get it.

    I don’t (anymore), actually. My trajectory over the last decade has been more Sabbatarian, not less. At one time, I found the Heb 4 argument very compelling, but I couldn’t reconcile that with why God would make a purely ceremonial command one of the Ten Words, and why He would ground it in the pre-theocratic event of creation.

    Sean: Why is Jeff the Good Housekeeping Seal?

    Exactly.

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  73. http://theaquilareport.com/why-i-am-sort-of-a-sabbatarian/

    This article has valid points.

    Also…..Why were the Westminster divines way more strident about the Sabbath compared to Reformed confessions written 80 plus years earlier? It is not (contrary to what we are often told) because the divines reached the zenith of Reformed thinking. Rather it is because they were dealing with things on the issue of Sabbath very specific to their times and they over corrected. WCF 21.8

    The Kings Book of Sports and its effects on the Westminster confession on this topic cannot be underestimated.

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  74. Jeff,

    “But the objectionable feature of Pelagianism, that it removes the gracious character of God’s grace by making grace contingent upon man’s will, continues to be a problem within Catholic soteriology.”

    Grace is efficacious to final perseverance, just like it is efficacious to our initial justification.

    And when we consult the Tradition of the Church we find that idea addressed in Canon 3:
    :
    “That the grace of God not only gives remission of sins, but also affords aid that we sin no more. (Canon 3 of 418 Synod)
    Likewise it seemed good, that whoever should say that the grace of God, by which a man is justified through Jesus Christ our Lord, avails only for the remission of past sins, and not for assistance against committing sins in the future, let him be anathema.”

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  75. Susan, you became Roman Catholic for this? What exactly did you miss (except much) about Protestantism?

    Q. 32. What benefits do they that are effectually called partake of in this life?
    A. They that are effectually called do in this life partake of justification, adoption and sanctification, and the several benefits which in this life do either accompany or flow from them.

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  76. @Ali
    Thanks for SF’s essay very good. I don’t understand your citation of his footnote though. Do you think the belief that one should set aside the Lord’s day entails counting our steps or somesuch? I certainly don’t think that. I do think taking in a Saturday night praise service, and skipping out on church for jr’s travel baseball/soccer/gymnastic travel team is very problematic and it is these kinds of choices that serve as a de facto self excommunication of the means of grace. Hours of Christain radio, a fish on the bumper, and motivational bible verses slapped on kitschy posters do not compensate. It is no wonder why, in this environment, we do such a poor job passing our faith on to our kids when we present them with our revealed preference that we don’t even need to set aside His day to him. You have snarked that many of here care about proper worship and Sunday observance to the exclusion of all else. I think that was an unfair observation on your part, but I agree that it gets a lot more attention here than other places. The reason being that over the past ~50yrs a number of erstwhile bible believing Christians have gone out of their way to undermine a core teaching of the faith that is crucial for our sanctification. Lack of observance is closely associated with the decline of the faithful. Have there been those who have been legalistic? Perhaps. Does the Bible give us step by step instructions on what setting aside looks like? No, it provides principles to guide us, but that doesn’t mean anything goes. SF’s essay is helpful in clarifying that, so thanks again for the link.

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  77. ” If it helps, I don’t know that Jeff agrees with me.”
    Now I don’t know what to think!

    “Why is Jeff the Good Housekeeping Seal?”
    Just because I don’t do the work anymore(read) doesn’t mean I’m not fine living off the fumes of remaining talent and past effort.”
    I usually understand Jeff. I’m not clever enough to follow your fumes. You might be right, but I don’t follow your argument. My knowledge of theology has pretty wide gaps and eschatology is certainly one of those gaps.

    “I couldn’t reconcile that with why God would make a purely ceremonial command one of the Ten Words, and why He would ground it in the pre-theocratic event of creation.”
    Agreed. My main concern on this topic is that the Lord’s day not be seen as optional. The 4th commandment is grounded in creation. The particular day isn’t what was crucial that shifted from O->N, but contra MacArthur, the command to honor the Lord’s day has not been abrogated. The decline in observance is harmful to believers and the church.

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  78. sdb says: @Ali Thanks for SF’s essay very good. I don’t understand your citation of his footnote though. Do you think the belief that one should set aside the Lord’s day entails counting our steps or somesuch? I certainly don’t think that. I do think taking in a Saturday night praise service, and skipping out on church for jr’s travel baseball/soccer/gymnastic travel team is very problematic and it is these kinds of choices that serve as a de facto self excommunication of the means of grace. Hours of Christain radio, a fish on the bumper, and motivational bible verses slapped on kitschy posters do not compensate. It is no wonder why, in this environment, we do such a poor job passing our faith on to our kids when we present them with our revealed preference that we don’t even need to set aside His day to him. You have snarked that many of here care about proper worship and Sunday observance to the exclusion of all else. I think that was an unfair observation on your part, but I agree that it gets a lot more attention here than other places. The reason being that over the past ~50yrs a number of erstwhile bible believing Christians have gone out of their way to undermine a core teaching of the faith that is crucial for our sanctification. Lack of observance is closely associated with the decline of the faithful. Have there been those who have been legalistic? Perhaps. Does the Bible give us step by step instructions on what setting aside looks like? No, it provides principles to guide us, but that doesn’t mean anything goes. SF’s essay is helpful in clarifying that, so thanks again for the link.

    I’ve snarked, sdb? I thought I was the agreeable, loveable Amelia Bedelia who baked her former adversaries cakes.

    Don’t think I’m unfair about my observation, but we could discuss that more another time if you like, which I doubt you would like.

    I really always appreciate Sinclair Ferguson too. Of that article, I include that footnote because it encapsulates the principles of this discussion: gift, rest, delighting in Him.

    As far as our kids and us – it has been a shocking truth to come to realize – if I think I will just go ahead and slot Jesus somewhere along with and even under other and higher treasures (if He is even considered a treasure at all) – I have missed it all.

    “The greatness of God’s majesty is not magnified in hollow efforts to keep commandments. Every religion does that. That doesn’t make God look great. It makes you look moral. Rather, the greatness of God’s majesty is exalted when you are satisfied in him more than anything, especially when you’re suffering. My point here is you’ll never feel this, you will never devote your life to magnifying God by being satisfied in God until you see that the ultimate essence of evil is the failure to be satisfied in God.”
    “I just wonder how many of you try to be good without any attention to this? Like you’re fighting the battle at the level of deeds all the time. “Well, I’m not supposed to do that, or I should be doing that, or more of that, or less of that” — Satan is laughing up his sleeve that you are fighting on a front that can never succeed. The battle is here in your heart, really deep. What do you love? What do you cherish? What are you satisfied by? Are you fighting that battle? That’s the battle that gives rise, then, to all that’s good and kills all that’s evil.
    So, the reason that I’m talking at Passion about the ultimate essence of evil is because Passion is about the majesty of God, and you will never make much of the majesty of God until you know and hate that the ultimate essence of evil is preferring anything to God.”
    http://www.desiringgod.org/holiness-is-the-fight-for-happiness

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  79. ” I’ve snarked, sdb?”
    Yep

    “I thought I was the agreeable, loveable Amelia Bedelia who baked her former adversaries cakes.”
    ?

    “Don’t think I’m unfair about my observation, but we could discuss that more another time if you like, which I doubt you would like.”
    Why do you doubt?

    “Of that article, I include that footnote because it encapsulates the principles of this discussion: gift, rest, delighting in Him.”
    Interesting thing to draw from that footnote. To be sure neglect and traditions of men are both dangers. One is more pressing today.

    ” As far as our kids and us – it has been a shocking truth to come to realize – if I think I will just go ahead and slot Jesus somewhere along with and even under other and higher treasures (if He is even considered a treasure at all) – I have missed it all.”
    The question of course is how we develop a heart that treasures Christ above all. This of course is sanctification. Scripture teaches that right worship an attendance to the means of grace is how God sanctifies us.

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  80. Susan,

    But saving grace is not irresistible in RCism. And if it is not irresistible, then it is contingent on man’s will.

    If grace is truly efficacious, it is necessarily irresistible. If grace doesn’t do anything without my assent and cooperation, and grace does not guarantee my cooperation, then at the end of the day, grace is only a help and the deciding factor in my salvation is me. That’s Jeff’s point about the objectional features of Pelagianism and RC soteriology.

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  81. @ Ali:

    You have to up your pun game if you want the Amelia Bedelia title.

    @ SDB: if I ever go three-letter like you, I’m going with GHS.

    Only one problem: my housekeeping is about 3/10.

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  82. Robert,

    “If grace is truly efficacious, it is necessarily irresistible. If grace doesn’t do anything without my assent and cooperation, and grace does not guarantee my cooperation, then at the end of the day, grace is only a help and the deciding factor in my salvation is me. That’s Jeff’s point about the objectional features of Pelagianism and RC soteriology.”

    Yes, I understood Jeff’s point. But notice the language of that canon from the Council of Carthage:

    Likewise it seemed good, that whoever should say that the grace of God, by which a man is justified through Jesus Christ our Lord, avails only for the remission of past sins, and not for ***assistance*** against committing sins in the future, let him be anathema.”

    Grace is truly efficacious because it gives us the life of God in the soul, but just like our first parents, we can sin and lose God’s friendship. Hence the parables of the talents, the tenvirgins, nations in Matthew 25.

    And what about the language in canon 10 from Council of Orange ?

    “God’s help is always to be sought even for the regenerated and
    holy, that they may come to a happy end, or that they may
    continue in the performance of good works.”

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  83. sdb, I hope I didn’t portray observance as optional. That wasn’t my intent nor is it my piety. I just don’t have expectation that my unbelieving neighbor should or has a right to it. I’m not as impressed with the ability to rightly sort and categorize the Ten. The Ten also had promises to the land annexed to them. I understand the catechetical effort, but the exegetical result is not so clean. Regardless, cultic imperatives/norms aren’t optional.

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  84. Susan,

    Grace is truly efficacious because it gives us the life of God in the soul, but just like our first parents, we can sin and lose God’s friendship.

    Again, this is making grace contingent on you. It’s all up to you to cooperate the best you can with grace. Grace doesn’t save you; your right decision does. This is the problem with synergistic systems, whether Roman or Arminian.

    And then there’s the problem of us being restored to a position just like our first parents. If that’s the case, we’re doomed. And it also doesn’t deal with the idea that what Christ gives us is better than what Adam had.

    I don’t deny that grace offers assistance. But the question is who is finally responsible for my salvation. If grace is finally resistible, the person who saves me is me. This is the Pelagian tendency.

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  85. What if it turns out that you need to obey to receive final justification but also obey for the right motives? What happens to you if “faith alone” really means that now you hate sin for itself? It if turns out that you don’t hate sin as much as you should, that could mean that you won’t obey as much as you should, and that possibly might be read as proving that your faith in the gospel was only a fake fact.

    Tim Keller–“The root of our sinful behavior is an inability to hate sin for itself, and this stems from a tendency to see obedience as simply a way to avoid danger and have a good life—not as a way to love and know Jesus for who he is.”

    Does Sinclair Ferguson agree with Kant that we need to get the self-interest out of believing alone and hating sin, or does Sinclair Ferguson agree with John Piper (and Jonathan Edwards) that being motivated by the benefits is not a problem?

    To a sinner like me, it feels like an one-two punch. —They tell me that my definite sanctification now makes me ABLE to to hate sin for itself , but then the second punch keeps asking , but do you, do you, did you and will you, love God for God’s person and not for yourself and the benefits??? And do you, will you tomorrow?

    http://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/4-lessons-for-the-bedeviling-sanctification-debate

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  86. Hello Robert,

    We haven’t spoken in a good while. I hope you are doing well.

    I don’t know if our discussion can be fruitful because we are operating from and trusting in different soteriological systems. I understand your point-of-view, but yours has adjacent problems; however, I’m also aware that you perceive that the Catholic and EO view has its adjacent difficulty. So where do we start?

    I mentioned the parables that Jesus spoke in Matthew. Does your system have to explain these in such a way that they are no longer warnings? Would you mind addressing this?

    Also, to be mentioned is that if wrongdoing out of self-love( rather than charity) is the whole reason for all of our guilt and just punishment ( and this is also the way God dealt with ancient Israel) then why believe that He would abrogate the law for those who have been given grace? That idea would be the epitome of Antinomianism. Further, in your system any more than the one time grace that gives faith is superfluous being not needed to obtain the beatific vision. So why are the sacraments salutary in your system?
    It’s a philosophical materialism view of life to believe that grace doesn’t transform us so that we can do the works that He has called us to walk in( Eph 2:10) In fact, the only way we can do good works that merit heaven is because of grace
    ( being in a state of friendship with God).

    What you are denying is man’s supernatural telos. It’s this telos that makes the moral life( and all of life because what else is life but a series of choices) intelligible otherwise, there’s no reason for our being here rather than in Heaven after our initial justification.

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  87. Also, Robert, I’m going to go with the councils that defined what is or isn’t a Pelagian error. The Doctrine of Grace so meticulously defined along with the councils of Carthage, Ephesus, and Orange really don’t leave room for charge of “Pelagian tendencies” In other words, none of us would have known whether we should listen to the man Pelagius( who was a very pious and good man) if his theological thoughts didn’t elicit concern and subsequent hammering out. My understanding of ecclesiology is that councils are reliable to get to the bottom of a dispute and that when they do, their findings are better than mere opinions being able to distinguish orthodoxy from heresy, and then binding it on the faithful. In fact, I thought that was an aspect of the essence of Tradition.

    I won’t be able to respond anymore today. Have a wonderful Sunday.

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  88. Before I go….

    “If grace is finally resistible, the person who saves me is me. ”

    Let’s be clear. Without grace(friendship with God that has to include faith, but also hope and supernatural charity) we can do good works, but they are only goods associated with our natural end. If we resist grace( don’t possess faith, hope, charity but rather unbelief, despair, sin) we damn ourselves. God keeps giving us graces until our very end because He’s not willing that any should perish. If we are saved at the end it isn’t possible that it’s through our own merit. Thinking we end up in heaven without cooperating with grace, is Pelagianism.

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  89. Susan, You’re the Pelagian in thinking human nature is capable of cooperating. How is someone who’s dead in trespasses and sins going to cooperate? Stick a fork in ’em.

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  90. Oh Darryl. Of course human nature unaided by grace cannot cooperate.

    “And having been buried with Him in baptism, you were raised with Him through your faith in the power of God, who raised Him from the dead. ”

    So new birth means we are no longer dead in our trespasses.

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  91. Darryl,

    I should probably leave off from commenting. I really enjoy discussing these things( and have no one who will talk to me about it in real life), so while I appreciate your open forum, I also see that I don’t make any dents.

    I wish you well!

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  92. Lent is only 40 days. Puritan purgatory comes before death—if you sin on purpose and never repent it or confess it, then it turns out that you were never justified in the first place.

    John Gerstner—This man, before he was converted, was a hobo. After his conversion, he was so conscientious that he wrote to the various train lines on which he had, as a hobo, stolen rides, asking if he could reimburse them for his thefts of free passage. They invariably responded by saying they had no established rates for such travel and forgave him. That shows how seriously he took his Christian life. He got a job, after his conversion, in an electric light company in Akron, Ohio. One time while working for that company, he stole an electric light bulb, took it home, and screwed it up in the ceiling of his room. At night, when he would get down on his knees and pray, he would often look toward heaven and see that stolen light bulb. Finally, it pained him so much that he simply could stand it no longer. He unscrewed the bulb and returned it to its owner. This was his final comment on that episode: “If I had not returned that light bulb, I would have gone to heaven anyway, but I would not have been happy along the way.”

    Gerstner—There is your “minus works.’’ Minus very, very little work. Minus a five-cent electric light bulb. Minus next to nothing. But, nevertheless, minus a good work of doing what is a manifest duty of a Christian person: providing things honestly in the sight of all, not being a thief. A man who steals a five-cent light bulb, if he does not return it, is a thief. If one takes property that does not belong to him and does not return it while it is in his power to do so, he is a thief.

    Gerstner–What is the standing of thieves? The Bible is utterly unambiguous on that subject. Thieves, it says, shall not inherit the kingdom of God. When the rich young ruler asked Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life, Christ told him in no uncertain terms, “You know the commandments.” Christ then mentioned some of the decalogue, including the eighth commandment. A person could not inherit eternal life unless he was about the business of keeping the commandments. Christ was not saying that he would be saved by any merit in keeping the commandments. Christ made it clear that there was no inheriting eternal life without keeping the commandments. Christ makes no exceptions. “Thou shalt not steal” is one of those commandments, and a person who is a thief is a breaker, not a keeper, of that commandment.

    Gerstner–“He may repent, and if he repents then he is no longer a thief. If he is a Christian who was overtaken in a fault, he can be restored. But one option is not open. He cannot continue in his thievery and be an heir of eternal life. Thieves cannot inherit the kingdom of God. So our friend was utterly out of line with Holy Scripture when he said that though he was a thief he would have gone to heaven anyway. He would not have been happy on the way, but neither would he have been on the way. Thieves are not going to heaven. About that he was FATALLY mistaken

    http://www.ligonier.org/blog/antinomian-way-justification/

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  93. D. G. Hart says: Ali, “I really always appreciate Sinclair Ferguson too.”
    really went out on a limb there.

    You already knew I was way out on a limb here in hostile country with open admiration of Mark Jones (which got me in big trouble right from the start here). 

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  94. The theology of Gerstner, Mark Jones and/or John McAurther will either turn one into a Pharisee or a drug addict- depending on how honest you are about your own levels of sanctity. If you think that is the Gospel may God have mercy on you:

    Tianqi Wu
    At the root of all forms of “Lordship salvation” is a confusion of Law and faith.
    This issue is not addressed by the antinomianism of Arminian “free grace”, Calvinist “free offer”, or Lutheran “sacrament”. In fact, after getting rid of law, they all end up making faith a new law.
    If you get rid of law, you will put in a new law in some form.
    Law is not of faith.
    This sentence is not about our way of doing it. For sure, Law condemns man’s not understanding God, not seeking God, using deceit, not knowing a way of peace. Law condemns the false gospel of salvation by doing law.
    Yet, it still says, Law is not of faith.
    This difference, then, lies not in man’s response, but in God’s purpose.
    God’s purpose of Law is a revelation of His righteous judgment. The Law is a standard to which all are compared, and found falling short. It shuts up all under sin.
    Faith is set against this background, not nullifying it, nor blended into it. When there is no righteousness on earth, faith is the divine revelation of a righteousness from heaven coming all the way down that brings salvation out of the heart of the earth, causing righteousness to spring up on earth.
    This righteousness from heaven is not incarnation of the Word alone, or the life of the incarnate son alone, but him having become obedient unto death, died on a cross, God having condemned sin in his body, concerning the sin of the elect. The firstfruit of salvation by this righteousness is his own resurrection from the grave. The righteousness that springs up on earth because of this is the justification of the elect in time.<<<<<<<<<<
    there are many forms of "Lordship salvation"
    some are broader, some are narrower
    even some of the Arminian "free grace" movement is some sense a kind of "Lordship salvation" – a reduced version, cutting down the condition to one thing they think everybody can do if they so will
    You can search some of these people (e.g. "ex preacher man") and feel their wrath towards those they call Calvinists – they think those who reject their "free grace" are committing a sin beyond all other sins, implying that they are saved because they loved the "truth"
    This, to me, is the commonality of the various kinds of Arminianism – a man is saved because of his accepting "the truth"
    This can be subtle – as I oppose the view that truth is optional – what I'm exposing here is the view that one's accepting "the truth" is their righteousness
    How? Don't they say God gives the "gift of righteousness" – if you accept? Indeed, what they say is, your accepting ENTITLES you to the receiving of this righteousness. The game being played here is by introducing a condition but insisting on not calling it "righteousness", disguising the nature of the scheme – the "imputed righteousness" becomes something obtained on the basis of man's doing this one RIGHT THING – accepting it, not rejecting it
    Some are perhaps less wrathful towards Calvinists, and care less about any notion of "truth", but equally insisting on man's accepting as instrumental condition to receiving righteousness – to borrow a phrase from another category, less moralist, more sacramental; they will more consistently emphasize "faith" is not a good work, but then say this not-a-good-work "faith" is specially divinely appointed as the condition on man's side to receive righteousness<<<<<<<
    In this "Lordship" (perfectionism, Neonomian, "experimental" assurance by works, "covenantal" perseverance, …) vs "Free grace" (Lutheran sacrament, Marrow offer, Arminian decisionist, …) controversy, the ''Free Grace' side emphasizes on one condition (accepting what Christ did for you) to the exclusion of other conditions, while the "Lordship" side emphasizes a more comprehensive view of conditions
    There are different degrees of monergism on the condition(s) in both sides – some Lutherans/free offer Calvinists say, you cannot believe/accept unless God regenerates you; some "lordship" Calvinists say, you cannot commit/obey unless God regenerates you; some Arminian "free grace" say, you can believe if you are willing; some perfectionists say, you can obey if you are willing
    So the degree of monergism on the condition(s) is not a central issue here.
    Common to the "Free grace" side is a view of universal atonement (in some sense, so that the benefit is available to all)
    Common to the "Lordship" side is a view of regeneration giving (some kind of) ability to keep law (so that you will sin less, sin "differently")
    Some fall in both camps – "free grace" when it comes to offer to outsiders, "lordship" once you are in<<<<<<<<
    To me, the "Lordship" view (in its many forms) is more deceiving, since it seems to attribute "more" to the power of God in salvation.
    NT has no explicit word against the teaching of universal atonement, the basis of "free offer", since such notions were not conceived until later, but has a full epistle (Galatians) against a form of teaching similar to "Lordship salvation", suggesting its level of deception
    "Lordship salvation" is compatible with the abstract summary of the five points. A person can be a straight double-predestination limited-atonement monergist (I'm excluding all the "free offer" people) while also a straight "Lordship salvationist".
    "Lordship salvation" becomes more deceptive when the proponent not only subscribes to the five points but also professes "justification by faith", only to introduce works in that justification by faith. The even more deceptive version is when they deny works in justification by faith but reintroduce works in "sanctification". But they may not be practically distinguishable.

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  95. Susan,

    We haven’t spoken in a good while. I hope you are doing well.

    Thank you, I hope you are well as well.
    So where do we start?

    All we can do is go to Scripture.
    I mentioned the parables that Jesus spoke in Matthew. Does your system have to explain these in such a way that they are no longer warnings? Would you mind addressing this?

    I’m a little confused by what you mean here. I think what you are saying is that these warnings are only real warnings if in fact people with true faith can fall away from faith and be damned. That’s the typical reading of these texts in non-Calvinist circles.

    My basic response is fourfold:
    1. If these can be true warnings only if a person can in fact fall from true faith and be damned, then they aren’t true warnings for some people in almost every theological system. In RCism, for example, these are not true warnings for those who have been elected to glory because those who have been elected to glory are not going to fall away and be damned. There are corollaries in Arminianism as well.
    2. There are plenty of cases where people are warned against doing something that they will not do. For example, household cleaners warn against ingesting them. Now, barring mental illness, I’m not going to drink bleach or something like that. Does that make the warnings against ingesting them not real warnings to me? No. In fact, the warnings confirm my already existing desire not to ingest household cleaners. I would say that the warnings in Scripture do something similar. For the elect, they confirm their already existing desire not to fall away. People hear them and heed them.
    3. In general, I would say that parables related to salvation are descriptive, not prescriptive. It’s not as if the person in the parable of the talents is saved by investing his talents. Not even RCism would say that, as far as I am aware. That parable isn’t an illustration of how we are saved as much as it is a description of what those who have been truly saved do.
    4. There are no completely airtight systems, but I think the Reformed system better integrates all of Scripture. If, as the Reformed believe, the warnings in Scripture are given as a means by which God’s grace operates to keep the elect in the faith—the elect hear them and by the Spirit, heed them, then it is quite easy to integrate the promises of God with the warnings. I don’t see how the Roman system (or Arminianism) can do this at the end of the day. For example, Paul in Romans 8 says that those whom God justifies He also glorifies and that nothing can separate God’s people from His love. There’s no qualification in these passages that make these things dependent on the people’s response. In John 6, all the people who are given to Jesus are raised up to eternal life on the last day. The text is quite clear that God gives only some to Jesus and that all of these are raised up on the last day. That’s very hard to square with most RC systems. Unless you are a hardcore Augustinian, which RCism has basically outlawed (see the Jansenists), you can’t fit John 6 in with Roman Catholic sacramentology. And even if Augustianism were to be a true option in RCism, you still have the problem of it not being the only way to understand the text, which creates a problem in RCism allowing many divergent and contradictory teachings on grace to exist within its system.
    Why believe that He would abrogate the law for those who have been given grace? That idea would be the epitome of Antinomianism.

    Reformed theology does not teach that the law has been abrogated for those who have been given grace.

    Further, in your system any more than the one time grace that gives faith is superfluous being not needed to obtain the beatific vision. So why are the sacraments salutary in your system?

    Sacraments strengthen our faith in Christ and our union with Him. They are also means by which God makes his elect persevere. I see baptism, am reminded of my sin and my need for a life of repentance, and God’s promises are sealed to me. The Lord’s Supper reminds me of my need for atonement and my need for the whole Christ for salvation. I feed on Him by faith. There isn’t any kind of absolute necessity of the sacraments for salvation, but there isn’t any absolute need of them in RCism either. People can be saved apart from the mass, and you can be saved by a baptism of desire—which effectively undermines the entire sacramental system of Rome, but that is another issue.

    It’s a philosophical materialism view of life to believe that grace doesn’t transform us so that we can do the works that He has called us to walk in( Eph 2:10).

    Reformed theology teaches that grace transforms us so that we can do the good works He has prepared for us. In fact, the Reformed view of predestination is a much stronger view of good works and God’s work in us to do them than competing views.

    In fact, the only way we can do good works that merit heaven is because of grace
    ( being in a state of friendship with God). 

    The problem we have is in talking about grace. Grace is antithetical to merit. Grace-enabled merit is an incoherent idea biblically.
    What you are denying is man’s supernatural telos. It’s this telos that makes the moral life (and all of life because what else is life but a series of choices) intelligible otherwise, there’s no reason for our being here rather than in Heaven after our initial justification.

    None of this follows. If in baptism you are in a state of justification and free from all mortal and venial sin, why does God keep you here? Seems awfully cruel to give you the chance to mess things up and fall away.
    Also, Robert, I’m going to go with the councils that defined what is or isn’t a Pelagian error. The Doctrine of Grace so meticulously defined along with the councils of Carthage, Ephesus, and Orange really don’t leave room for charge of “Pelagian tendencies”

    This is where I have to disagree. The councils do a good job in many ways, but they don’t go far enough. I’d say the same thing about Augustine, at least in some places in his writings.

    If grace is finally resistible, salvation isn’t by grace alone. It’s based on your willingness to cooperate. Grace might help, but it isn’t determinative. And if grace isn’t determinative, we have left the biblical teaching on grace.

    In other words, none of us would have known whether we should listen to the man Pelagius (who was a very pious and good man) if his theological thoughts didn’t elicit concern and subsequent hammering out.

    Really? Augustine thought it was concerning long before any council was held on the matter. How did he know?

    My understanding of ecclesiology is that councils are reliable to get to the bottom of a dispute and that when they do, their findings are better than mere opinions being able to distinguish orthodoxy from heresy, and then binding it on the faithful. In fact, I thought that was an aspect of the essence of Tradition.

    But if you drill down here, are you not giving me a mere opinion that councils are better?

    But in any case, I believe councils are reliable to get to the bottom of a dispute and when they do their findings are better than my own studies. The difference between us is that you believe a council has gotten to the bottom of the issue simply on its say so and that it is faithful simply because someone calls it an authoritative council.

    Let’s be clear. Without grace(friendship with God that has to include faith, but also hope and supernatural charity) we can do good works, but they are only goods associated with our natural end. If we resist grace( don’t possess faith, hope, charity but rather unbelief, despair, sin) we damn ourselves. God keeps giving us graces until our very end because He’s not willing that any should perish. If we are saved at the end it isn’t possible that it’s through our own merit. Thinking we end up in heaven without cooperating with grace, is Pelagianism.

    Translation: Grace is necessary to help me save myself, but it in no way has any determinative force in my decision. That’s the problem. The Roman system isn’t full-on Pelagian. But the church’s response to the errors of Pelagianism circa 500 was inadequate. It was left to Protestantism, particularly the Reformed, to effectively deal with all of the problematic aspects of Pelagianism. Any system that makes the human will the final arbiter of salvation does not effectively condemn Pelagian thought, and that is our basic point.

    The question is this: You, Susan, and another RC, let’s name him Bill, get the same grace in baptism and the Eucharist, and so on. Hypothetically, you continue in grace but Bill does not. Why do you continue to respond to grace correctly? It’s not because of grace because Bill is getting the same grace. What do you have that Bill doesn’t?

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  96. https://heidelblog.net/2017/03/resources-for-recovering-psalmody/

    So we know (or assume) the Reformed tradition does not like Lent. Yet there are very few “old school Presby” churches or denominations out there who still follow the historic Presbyterian RPW of only singing the Word with zero musical instruments. Why does that issue get a pass with so many old lifers? Lent seems like an irrelevant problem compared to the lack of real RPW practice week in and out in NAPARC.

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  97. Mr. Burns, so let me see if I understand. You think some Presbyterians and Reformed are Pharisaical about the church calendar.

    And now you want them to be Pharisaical about unaccompanied psalmody.

    Don’t you think you are outdoing the Pharisaism of the Pharisees?

    Or is it you want consistency?

    Or is it wisdom?

    Which is more Roman Catholic? Lent or congregational song accompanied by a piano?

    Which is a more accepted practice? 40 days of penance (not 365) or singing praise to God?

    And you think Old Lifers are obsessed? Seems like Old Life brings out the obsessive compulsive in you.

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  98. Dr. Hart,

    Yes, some wisdom and consistency. Just pointing out the fact that we Reformed have many an extra Biblical practice too. While we may be “old lifers” in many of the positions we hold, we do have our inconsistency. There are many a self professed “old lifer” taking off this morning to engage in what the true old life Presby’s (including Calvin) would have called “will worship” by using non-inspired lyrics and instruments. The real old lifers never did that.
    The RPW for all intents and purposes is hardly practiced in NAPARC anymore, not really.

    I must live rent free (Lent free too) in your head.

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  99. No, I don’t think I could with clear exegesis make that claim. But if guys like you get to site tradition and Confessional tradition on some issues (evening service or whatever it may be), why not others?
    That said, I have never ever walked out of a Accappela Psalm singing Reformed church saying….”Wow, ya know we really should have sung more man written ditties today!” …. .. “We really needed to get out rock band for Jesus on more.” Always been content with singing Soli Scriptura.

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  100. I am in good company too.

    In his treatise, “On the Necessity of Reforming the Church,” a document to be presented by the leaders of the Protestant movement to the Emperor Charles V, Calvin wrote.
    “If it be inquired, then, by what things chiefly; the Christian religion has a standing existence amongst us, and maintains its truth, it will be found that the following two not only occupy the principal place, but comprehend under them all the other parts, and consequently the whole substance of Christianity, viz., a knowledge, first, of the mode in which God is duly worshipped; and, secondly, of the source from which salvation is to be obtained.” (The second issue had to do with justification and imputation)

    So yep, Lent or concerns thereof are not in the top two at least. At least they were not for Calvin. Yes, I believe I can say with solid historic Reformed certainty that right Corporate Worship is more important than concerns about who is doing Lent privately or concern about how many times a day (on the Lord’s day or any other) we engage in Corporate Worship. Yes, indeed I think also there is more a Biblical warrant for weekly celebration of the Lord’s Supper, than for other practices we Reformed seemed to do more frequently in our organized and gathered time together. If the Lord’s Supper really does what we say it does why in the world do so many NAPARC churches only do it once a month or once a quarter?

    “To sing the praises of God upon the harp and psaltery,” says Calvin, “unquestionably formed a part of the training of the law and of the service of God under that dispensation of shadows and figures, but they are not now to be used in public thanksgiving.”1 He says again: “With respect to the tabret, harp, and psaltery, we have formerly observed, and will find it necessary afterwards to repeat the same remark, that the Levites, under the law, were justified in making use of instrumental music in the worship of God; it having been his will to train his people, while they were yet tender and like children, by such rudiments until the coming of Christ. But now, when the clear light of the gospel has dissipated the shadows of the law and taught us that God is to be served in a simpler form, it would be to act a foolish and mistaken part to imitate that which the prophet enjoined only upon those of his own time.”2 He further observes: “We are to remember that the worship of God was never understood to consist in such outward services, which were only necessary to help forward a people as yet weak and rude in knowledge in the spiritual worship of God. A difference is to be observed in this respect between his people under the Old and under the New Testament; for now that Christ has appeared, and the church has reached full age, it were only to bury the light of the gospel should we introduce the shadows of a departed dispensation. From this it appears that the Papists, as I shall have occasion to show elsewhere, in employing instrumental music cannot be said so much to imitate the practice of God’s ancient people as to ape it in a senseless and absurd manner, exhibiting a silly delight in that worship of the Old Testament which was figurative and terminated with the gospel.”3

    Calvin’s ranking worship as first in importance over salvation is due to one very important fact, namely that salvation is a means to an end, with worship being the end itself: We are saved to worship God, now and eternally, with our public worship being a foretaste of the heavenly worship that awaits us. So, who and how we worship is not peripheral but fundamental.

    So yes, those who practice a form of Lent quietly , not thinking they are earning right standing (not pridefully imposing it on others) concerns me far less than the “will worship” of insisting on our man written songs be included in Corporate Worship. It concerns me far less than neglect of the Supper.

    So beside Calvin (and many other a Reformer) on this subject of RPW, what shall we say about the Westminster “Directory of Public Worship”? Clear direction to sing only Psalms, clearly historic Confessional Presby’s followed that model (can’t be denied) in their beginning. Only when they became pragmatic and embraced more the second great awakening revivalism did they cave more and more. A better practice of RPW and more faithful / frequent celebration of the Supper are far more important than many things NAPARC folks have elevated to superior levels of importance.

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  101. E. Burns says: Wow, ya know we really should have sung more man written ditties today!”

    Have you ever considered that God might enjoy (and be glorified by) heartfelt endeavors of devotion such as ‘man written ditties’ from His children just for Him?

    John 4:23 But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”

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  102. Thanks Ali. I rest my case.

    I don’t doubt the sincerity or desired piety in your MTV for Jesus. However, the idea of historic Reformed Regulative principle of worship (RPW) is still not being dealt with. R. Scott Clark is right, it can be done. But sadly Bill Smith is right too, there is liturgical chaos throughout NAPARC and because the topic is considered “settled” in our modern times (because it’s culture shock even for the reformed let alone evangelicals to sing only the Word acappella with no instruments ), only the Amish live or practice like that, or so it’s thought.
    Everyone does what is right in their own eyes…. Therefore, for all intents and purposes it’s almost impossible to really achieve historic RPW.

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  103. Mr. Burns, have you noticed the same problem afflicts Rome? Funny what happens when you don’t have the magistrate to enforce RPW. They also took away Lent.

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  104. Dr. Hart,

    True dat! You make good points, though you avoid mine. That said , I thought the Reformed confessions fixed all this?

    As said in my first post, I tend to agree with you on Lent, in general. (And most topics for that matter)
    Do you know what I am giving up for Lent, ?……… Jesus is my boyfriend praise songs.
    🙂

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  105. E., (Ali, duck), here’s where the P&R reasoning against calendars comes in handy: if repentance is lifelong instead of seasonal then so too should P&W be given up all year instead of only for Lent.

    Even so, I still like Xmas (so sue me) and I still think you have a point about Sabbath stuff, and I’d also like to see more chutzpah on frequency (which could bolster points about seasons and calendars, ahem).

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  106. Whether Lent or the Reformed versions thereof, as you listed in your first post, best to put our hope in something better.

    Question 1. What is thy only comfort in life and death?
    Answer: That I with body and soul, both in life and death, am not my own, but belong unto my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ; who, with his precious blood, has fully satisfied for all my sins, and delivered me from all the power of the devil; and so preserves me that without the will of my heavenly Father, not a hair can fall from my head; yea, that all things must be subservient to my salvation, and therefore, by his Holy Spirit, He also assures me of eternal life, and makes me sincerely willing and ready, henceforth, to live unto him.

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  107. E. Burns says: Thanks Ali. I rest my case.

    oh. ok. I hadn’t realized you were in the curmudgeon club. (btw, just so you know, Jesus is not any curmudgeon club).

    Also, if you think that song I linked is in the “Jesus is my boyfriend category, we are definitely on different wavelengths

    Jeremiah 10
    “6 There is none like You, O LORD;
    You are great, and great is Your name in might.
    7 Who would not fear You, O King of the nations?
    Indeed it is Your due!
    For among all the wise men of the nations
    And in all their kingdoms,
    There is none like You.

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  108. Ali,

    Your scripture quote is great, why not sing it or other infallible or inspired writings ? Why the insatiable desire to think that we can outdo His Word in Corporate Worship? I’d be great with singing old and New Testament. Of course then the question becomes, is this particular passage designed to be song? The Psalms were, at least that was one clear element of them. They were Jesus Hymmbook in fact. His disciples and apostles didn’t write songs like this and chant it back to him, they sang the Psalms. Why?? That’s a matter of historical record along with the fact that the early church for its first 600 years sang acappella with no instruments. Why????? I’m not trying to get your dander up or be provocative. I can very much connect with what you might think or be thinking. At one time the historic Reformed Regulative Principle of Worship was a flat out culture shock to me. It was more than that, it was legalistic and repugnant, or so I thought.

    I would encourage you to truly study the historic Reformed RPW before you dismiss it.

    I don’t take myself seriously enough to be a curmudgeon. But I take the corporate Worship of God through the Lord Jesus Christ very seriously.

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