Mark Jones Finally Agrees with Scott Clark

Turns out Reformed Protestant is better than Calvinist.

First, Clark:

The greatest problem of the acronym TULIP is that it “perpetuates a basic misunderstanding about the Reformed tradition: that predestination is the center of Reformed theology from which all else flows.” Here Todd is echoing the criticism by Richard Muller and others against the “Central Dogma” theory of the history of doctrine, i.e., that the Lutheran “Central Dogma” was justification and the Reformed “Central Dogma” was predestination and that two distinct, parallel systems were deduced from these dogmas. This historiography has been thoroughly debunked but it continues to undergird the way many evangelicals and mainliners (and too many sideliners!) think about Reformed theology, piety, and practice.

In contrast to the caricature created by the TULIP Billings makes an argument that will be familiar to readers of RRC, namely, that there is much more to being Reformed, that to be Reformed is to be committed to a sacramental theology, to a “catholic” vision that connects the Reformed tradition to the whole church, and he argues less persuasively that it entails a “kingdom vision.” He says a, “Reformed view of the church avoids seeing it as a colony separated from society, or as the particular aspect of society that relates to ‘being religious.’” The truth of this claim depends on what one means by “church.” If by it one means “the visible, institutional, organized church” then his language is somewhat problematic. If,however, by “church” he means, “professing” Christians, then most would probably agree with him. The question of a sacred/secular distinction has been much controverted in this space. Todd’s identification of a Reformed “kingdom vision” with the “cultural mandate” is open to discussion and even debate. After the fall are they identical? See Calvin, Institutes 2.2.13, 20 where he clearly made a distinction between the “secular” and the “sacred” and associated the latter with the kingdom of God while not disparaging the goodness of the former.

We should certainly agree with Todd when he says the “New Calvinists pick the TULIP from the Reformed field, overlooking the other flowers. There is much besides the TULIP in this spacious field that has grown from the seed of God’s word.”

Then, Jones:

Opposition to the term came from the Reformed as early as 1555 where Reformed ministers in Lausanne protested against the term “Calvinists.” The French Reformed theologian, Daniel Tossanus (1541–1602) also clearly rejects the term. Herman Selderhuis gives the following account, “In his writings Tossanus speaks continually about the ‘so–called Calvinists.’ Others call us Calvinists, but we are the catholic evangelical church, said Tossanus. Moreover, we were not baptized in the name of Luther, nor in the name of Calvin, but in the name of Christ.” 5 Again, the fear is clearly real, acute among Protestants, that God and Christ are jealous for their glory.

By the time of the Synod of Dort (1618), the Reformed were still sometimes referred to as “Calvinists.” At Dort, the preferred terms were, however, “Reformed” or “Contra–Remonstrants” – the latter a term coined in reference to the Remonstrant (Arminian) theologians who wrote up a Remonstrance that contained five theses that most likely came from Arminius’s Declaration of 1608. The five articles of the Remonstrants were debated at Dort, but these five articles may not do justice to the broader theological project of Arminius, even though he surely would not have disagreed with what was presented by his “followers.” As a point of fact, just as many “Calvinists” do not wish to be known by that name, so too many “Arminians” would prefer to be known as “Remonstrants.”

Oh, happy day, but I wonder if Jones knows he agrees with the disagreeables.


11 thoughts on “Mark Jones Finally Agrees with Scott Clark

  1. Mark Jones—“A wise man once said, we should not turn the covenant of grace into a covenant of works. We should also not let our proper concern about legalism turn sanctification into justification. The moment that occurs, you are dead (i.e., a gospel threat).”

    Maybe the wise man Jones was talking about is Roger Olson (the Arminian who defends extra rewards for more works) or Patrick Ramsey and Mark Garcia, who also wrote about Fesko’s hopeful reading of Beale.

    Mark Jones–“There is a word used by Arminius: acceptilatio. The concept behind the word is good, but Arminians place it in the wrong category, namely, justification. Imperfect faith is “accepted” as righteousness.. The Reformed, however, view imputation as secundum veritatem – God considers Christ’s righteousness as our righteousness, precisely because it is, through union with Christ. …So 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.”

    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.”

    As Mark Jones has explained to us who know less than him, hypothetical universalists have always been “Reformed”. You don’t have to teach that God only imputed the sins of the elect to Christ in order to be “Reformed”.
    As long as you have effectual application, you can be Reformed and teach universal propitiation (historically, according to Jones)

    So being “Reformed” is not about the nature of the atonement. Rather, being “Reformed” is about agreeing that “the covenant of grace” is not only for the elect (like “the covenant of redemption) but also for some of the non-elect. If you can’t agree to “in and out of the new covenant”, then you can’t be “Reformed”. For theologians like Jones and John Murray, being “Reformed” means saying that there is no (important) difference between the Mosaic covenant and Abrahamic covenant. For theologians like Scott Clark and Meredith Kline, being Reformed allows us to make big distinctions between Moses and Abraham but not between Abraham and the new covenant (they both include some of the non-elect).

    Meredith Kline —“We must resist the reduction of covenant to election.”

    Lee Irons–“Excommunication from the church of the New Covenant is not a covenant curse. It is merely an administrative act of being removed from the New Covenant…. If the church’s judgment is correct, the person in question will indeed face covenant curse and divine wrath at the day of judgment — but not from the New Covenant per se…The New Covenant has Christ as its mediator and surety (Heb 7:22; 8:6); therefore, properly speaking, it threatens no curses, but offer nothing but blessings. In a COVENANT OF WORKS by contrast, restoration is impossible once the covenant has been violated.”


  2. But it’s not merely that some of us are ignorant. Others of us are honest.

    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.” … 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.”


  3. Harold Senkbeil, “In its most blatant form heresy claims that we must place our own good works into the balance to give us a favorable standing before God. Its subtle form seems more attractive. God does all the work in justification, but we finish the work in our sanctification.

    “We may be declared right by God’s judicial decree through faith alone, but then it is up to us to perform the works of love and obedience that true holiness requires. This error makes justification merely the first stage of sanctification. God get us on the path of holiness and then we continue. God starts and we finish…”Justified; Modern Reformation Essays on the Doctrine of Justification, p 96


  4. just to highlight, in case it ever were to get lost in any discussion, among whatever set of disagreeables 🙂

    “Moreover, we were not baptized in the name of Luther, nor in the name of Calvin, but in the name of Christ.” Again, the fear is clearly real, acute among Protestants, that God and Christ are jealous for their glory.”


  5. This is great and all. Can they each make a cat video to explain? After all, as Lord Kelvin never quite said, “When you cannot express your knowledge in terms of cat videos, your knowledge is of a meager and unsatisfactory kind.”

    Liked by 2 people

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