What’s a Plumber to Think?

In which category, flesh or Spirit, fall washers and gaskets?

5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6 For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 7 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. 8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

9 You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. 10 But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.

12 So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. 13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” (Romans 8)

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133 thoughts on “What’s a Plumber to Think?

  1. I’ll put all in and then call you that walk in the Spirit simply means believe the Gospel. That would make the pursuit of holiness a fig newton of someone’s imagination.

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  2. First of all, I would want to see how and why strive and pursue are the English words translated from the Greek. In other words, is that an accurate translation?
    Secondly, those verses could be interpreted in a similar way that Romans 2 could be interpreted. Paul is making a command that he knows the sin nature cannot obey. The power of sin is the Law. Imperatives do not have to imply ability. The Gospel is the only thing that can take away the Law’s ability to bring guilt and condemnation through the sin nature.

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  3. JY,

    Imperatives do not have to imply ability.

    That’s certainly true for unconverted people. But Christians aren’t unconverted and they have the Spirit. And if walking in the Spirit simply means believing the gospel (which it certainly includes), then why all the moral teaching in the NT. If believing the gospel is all we need, most of the NT seems rather superfluous. Paul didn’t seem to think that believing the gospel would inevitably result in a changed life without some further instruction as to what that changed life would look like.

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  4. Thank John. And for you this sam – crazy, crazy. That pietist, legalist, boasting, self- ,works- righteousness guy Paul!.

    Shouldn’t he just say ‘believe the Gospel’ that would make the bible a lot thinner and more manageable 😉

    ONE OF THE REMARKABLE FEATURES of Paul’s letters is that much space is devoted to teaching people how to live. Indeed, the Bible as a whole is interested in teaching us what to believe (because these things are true), and it is no less interested in teaching us faithful conduct. Nowhere is such balance more evident than in Paul’s letters.

    The reason for this comprehensiveness lies in the nature of God. The God of the Bible, the God who is there (as Francis Schaeffer taught us to say), is God of everything. He is not the God of thoughts only, or of some spiritual or religious realm exclusively. He is God. As our Maker and providential Ruler, his interests and writ extend to every aspect of our being, beliefs, utterances, and conduct. Thus to preserve some horrible tension between our belief systems and our conduct is not only an invitation to schizophrenia, it is also an insult against God, a horrible rebellion no less ugly for being selective.

    This means that our teaching and preaching must include not only truths to be believed, but also instruction on how to live. Entirely exemplary in this respect is the example of Paul in Ephesians 4:17-32. No one seriously doubts that this epistle contains rich doctrine. Here, however, we find Paul insisting that his readers “no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking” (Eph. 4:17). He ties this “futility” to their ignorance of God on the one hand, and to their disgusting conduct on the other. “You, however, did not come to know Christ that way” (Eph. 4:20). You were “created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph. 4:24). That means “put[ting] off” the old self, and being “made new in the attitude of your minds” and “put[ting] on” the new self (Eph. 4:22-24).

    All of this could remain a little ethereal. Paul will not allow such an escape. The rest of the chapter is frank and practical. The conduct Paul expects includes truthful speech–“for we are all members of one body” (Eph. 4:25), and a practical commitment to let no day end in anger, lest the devil be given a foothold (Eph. 4:26-27). Converted thieves must steal no more. They must work, doing something useful, learning to be generous with what they earn (Eph. 4:28). Our talk must not only eliminate what is blasphemous, vulgar, or “unwholesome,” but must learn to utter “what is helpful for building others up according to their needs” (Eph. 4:29). Comprehensively: “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Eph. 4:31-32).
    https://blogs.thegospelcoalition.org/loveofgod/

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  5. In which category, flesh or Spirit, fall washers and gaskets?

    For we know that the whole creation groans – the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption –
    no more rusting?

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  6. and you probably don’t like this (excerpt) from this am, either, John 😊
    …The New Testament rebukes the believer who is satisfied with milk and flees from serious learning of the things of God by avoiding the difficult digestion of the meat of the Word of God. But a good shepherd weans his sheep from the elemental principles of milk that is given to babes, and he gives them a diet that will cause them to become strong and fully equipped to do the ministry of the gospel. ….
    http://www.ligonier.org/blog/what-does-it-mean-be-shepherd-over-flock/

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  7. and John, gotta go, but, and so, continued, other post, re: reasons one might pray about revival #10…
    because we are to, 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; for there is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death;
    and we know we are charged with destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God and taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ by the divinely powerful weapons of our warfare,
    and so we pray for destruction of fortresses, by the power of His word and Spirit

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  8. Was Esau born in the covenant of grace, but then later lost his justification in Christ and therefore failed to “enter heaven”?

    Hebrews 12: 5 And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?
    “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
    nor be weary when reproved by him.
    6 For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
    and chastises every son whom he receives.”
    7 It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8 If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. 9 Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. 11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
    14 Pursue peace with everyone, and holiness—without it no one will see the Lord. 15 Make sure that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no root of bitterness springs up, causing trouble and by it, defiling many. 16 And make sure that there isn’t any immoral or irreverent person like Esau, who sold his birthright in exchange for one meal.

    https://heidelblog.net/2016/09/office-hours-with-steve-baugh-hebrews-1214-might-not-mean-what-you-think-it-does/

    mcmark–Those who reduce all post-fall covenants to one covenant of grace tend to say that their children need to have been born in grace in order to be taught the law. Like the Arminians who assume that the duty to believe the gospel implies the ability to believe the gospel, these like John Murray work their way from assumptions about the new capacity of regenerate disposition to denial of antithesis between law and grace for those born “in the covenant”

    Mark Jones—“Divine grace is not MERELY God’s goodness to the elect in the era of redemptive history. … Divine grace is a perfection of God’s nature, even apart from sin. In the garden, the grace of God was upon Adam.”

    John Murray, The Covenant of Grace— “The continued enjoyment of this grace and of the relation established is contingent upon the fulfillment of certain conditions. Grace bestowed implies a subject and reception on the part of that subject. The relation established implies mutuality. The conditions in view are not conditions of bestowal. They are simply the reciprocal responses of faith, love and obedience, apart from which the enjoyment of the covenant blessing and of the covenant relation is inconceivable….the breaking of the covenant is unfaithfulness to a relation constituted and to grace dispensed. By breaking the covenant what is broken is not the condition of bestowal but the condition of consummated fruition.”

    Richard Gaffin, by Faith not by Sight, p 103–”The law-gospel antithesis enters NOT BY VIRTUE OF CREATION
    ….. but as the consequence of sin…The gospel is to the purpose of removing an absolute law-gospel antithesis in the life of the believer…”

    Leithart–“God can and does reward appropriate (albeit imperfect) human response. God’s unmerited love, then, does not nullify reciprocity. . . . God’s love is bestowed prior to conditions and is undeserved, yet there are conditions for its continuance”

    Here are two responses to the ideas that that duty implies ability, or that ability eliminates distinctions between teaching children law and assuming that grace bestowed is necessary

    Paul Helm—“One thing that the Amyraldian proposal does is to weaken connection between the plight of the race in the fall of Adam. For the Amyraldians the responsibility of each of the non-elect comes simply from hearing and not receiving the message of grace.”

    Lee irons—”Their principle (that all types must typify grace and cannot typify the works principle) would rule out Adam from being a type of Christ. And what about the types prefiguring the day of judgment throughout the OT? For example, Noah’s flood, the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, the plagues of Egypt, the conquest of the Canaanites, the expulsion of Israel from the land in the exile. These are not symbols of grace but of wrath.”

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  9. JY: First of all, I would want to see how and why strive and pursue are the English words translated from the Greek. In other words, is that an accurate translation?

    Fair question. The word “pursue” in 2 Tim 2.22 and Heb 12.14 is garden variety Greek, indeed one of the first verbs taught in Machen: δίωκε δὲ δικαιοσύνην. It means follow, chase after, pursue, or even persecute (“Saul, Saul, τί με διώκεις?”).

    So yes, it’s an accurate translation, and enjoys consensus among major translations (let the reader fact-check)

    JY: Secondly, those verses could be interpreted in a similar way that Romans 2 could be interpreted. Paul is making a command that he knows the sin nature cannot obey… Imperatives do not have to imply ability.

    Certainly so. We will most certainly fail in any attempt to be righteous. Moreover, our sin nature will fail even to pursue righteousness, much less achieve it.

    But even in Romans 2, inability does not imply lack of imperative.

    JY: The Gospel is the only thing that can take away the Law’s ability to bring guilt and condemnation through the sin nature.

    Yes, and the Gospel also brings life. One aspect of that life is mentioned by Paul

    If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you. So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. — Rom 8

    Rom 8 is a difficult passage, but this much is clear:

    * The Spirit is the agent who gives life (which I take to primarily refer to the life to come).
    * We are under an obligation, which is not to the flesh (either in legalism or license)
    * The Spirit enables us in this life to put to death the deeds of the sin nature.

    I would go further and say that the clause “if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live” is an excellent example of a concomitant condition. Putting to death the deeds of the body is not a cause of or ground for receipt of eternal life, but rather a thing that flows out of having eternal life: those who put to death the deeds of the body are those who have eternal life.

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  10. I don’t have much time to comment right now but I did listen to that Office Hours link on the passage from Hebrews chapter 12. The main point was the once for all time sacrifice of Christ is that which is to be pursued. The text is not saying that once you reach a certain degree of sanctity you will then be qualified to see the Lord. The Greek, according to Baugh, makes that point clearly. The holiness spoken of is an antithesis. You either have it or you don’t. There is not a certain degree of holiness.

    On the other hand, the benefits of Christ’s work do renovate inwardly. The point of debate remains what that renovation really does inwardly and how much we can expect to obey the imperatives with the still latent sin nature that God does not eradicate while the elect Gospel believers remain in their mortal bodies.

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  11. One more comment- what is to be pursued and striven for is a greater understanding of the sacrifice of Christ (his atoning work and the benefits that resulted to the people he died for). It is from the atoning work that life flows. Like Michael Horton used to say, the Gospel is the wind in our sails. Any work that does not find its root in the Gospel is a dead work. So I still remain all in in regards to the meaning of walking in the Spirit. I would add the following though- believe, pursue and strive for the grace of God found only in the Gospel. If you do not submit to the righteousness found only in the Gospel you are seeking to establish your own righteousness apart from it. There is a huge gap between dead works and bearing fruit from belief in the Gospel.

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  12. Romans 8:10 the Spirit is life because of righteousness.
    Whose righteousness?

    Mark Seifrid— “The Law speaks even to us who are regenerate as fallen human beings. Being a Christian means again and again, in all the trials and temptations of life, hearing and believing the Gospel which overcomes the condemnation pronounced on us by the Law and by our own consciences in which that Law is written….But according to the puritan perspective, Law and Gospel do not address the believing human being in radically different ways, but only in differing degrees according to the measures of “grace” present within them. …. The embedding of the Law within grace qualifies law’s demand—while the Law works the death of sinners, it has a different effect on the righteous. The puritans regards the “flesh” is present as a power that exerts partial influence on us.

    http://equip.sbts.edu/wp-content/uploads/2010/07/sbjt_102_sum06-seifrid1.pdf

    Many assume that “ freedom from the dominion of sin” in Romans 6 describes an ontological change in mind. However, when Paul wrote “so you also must count yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Romans 6:11) the “counting” is an imputation. consequent to God counting a sinner as righteous We declare what God has declared about us. We do not count in our deeds. We do not count in our works. We put to death “deeds of the flesh”

    Philippians 3: 3 For we are the circumcision, the ones who serve by the Spirit of God, boast in Christ Jesus, and do not put confidence in the FLESH although I once also had confidence in the FLESH.

    Freedom from the dominion of sin is liberty from the condemnation of sin and from the guilt of falling short of the law’s demands. Where many would seem to suggest that “living by the Spirit” is conforming to law (by the Holy Spirit’s help), Romans 7 reads–

    “4 you also were put to death in relation to the law through the crucified body of the Messiah, in order that you belong to another—to Him who was raised from the dead— in order to bear fruit for God. 5 For when we were in the flesh, the sinful passions operated through the law in every part of us and bore fruit for death. 6 But now we have been released from the law, since we have died to what held us, in order to serve…”

    Many would suggest that being freed from the dominion of sin means that the believer has newly attained ability to keep the law, Such a view would never occasion questions about law being sin. If responsibility does not include ability in the pre-converted state, then it is not proven that responsibility include ability in the post-converted state.. And the demand of the law is not decreased or less strict for us because we are now justified and regenerate.

    “Woe is me…” Isaiah. 6:5,

    “I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes” Job. 42:5, 6

    Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom” Matthew. 5:20

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  13. Jeff – God created society and ordained money as a blessing within that society (see numerous OT references). Riches are therefore a blessing from God, but love of riches (idolatry) is sinful and of the flesh.

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  14. I’m pretty sure most here are all saying the same thing John.(btw on that- just saw a new Tullian twitt –
    ‘here we go again’ – attempting to divide- saying so many just ‘don’t get’ the gospel and grace. Don’t be like that ok.

    Question: “What does it mean to walk in the Spirit?” (from gotquestions)
    Answer: Believers have the Spirit of Christ, the hope of glory within them (Colossians 1:27). Those who walk in the Spirit will show forth daily, moment-by-moment holiness. This is brought about by consciously choosing by faith to rely on the Holy Spirit to guide in thought, word, and deed (Romans 6:11-14). Failure to rely on the Holy Spirit’s guidance will result in a believer not living up to the calling and standing that salvation provides (John 3:3; Ephesians 4:1; Philippians 1:27). We can know that we are walking in the Spirit if our lives are showing forth the fruit of the Spirit which is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22,23). Being filled (walking) with the Spirit is the same as allowing the word of Christ (the Bible) to richly dwell in us (Colossians 3:16).

    The result is thankfulness, singing, and joy (Ephesians 5:18-20; Colossians 3:16). Children of God will be led by the Spirit of God (Romans 8:14). When Christians choose not to walk in the Spirit, thereby sinning and grieving Him, provision has been made for restoration through confession of the wrongdoing (Ephesians 4:30; 1 John 1:9). To “walk in the Spirit” is to follow the Spirit’s leading. It is essentially to “walk with” the Spirit, allowing Him to guide your steps and conform your mind. To summarize, just as we have received Christ by faith, by faith He asks us to walk in Him, until we are taken to heaven and will hear from the Master, “Well done!” (Colossians 2:5; Matthew 25:23).

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  15. David Garner–If you believe that sanctification grows only from gratitude for your justification, you just might be an antinomian.

    http://www.reformation21.org/shelf-life/antinomianism-reformed-theologys-unwelcome-guest.php

    Robert Haldane —The expression, walking not according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit, in the verse before us, is generally interpreted as referring exclusively to the practice of good or of wicked works. It is supposed that the Apostle in Romans 8:4 is guarding his doctrine of gratuitous justification from abuse, by excluding all claim exemption from condemnation, where there is not purity of conduct… But there are many different paths in the broad way; that is, many ways of walking after the flesh, all of which lead to destruction. Seeking assurance of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit by works, either moral or ceremonial, is incompatible with freedom from condemnation. This way of gaining assurance, is probably that by which the greater number are deceived. There is the fleshly wisdom, under the notion of a zeal for God and of regard for the interests of virtue, sets men on the endeavor of the flesh…in the sense the word flesh is employed in the beginning of the fourth chapter of this Epistle. Flesh, in that place, cannot signify immoral conduct; for that Abraham was justified by wicked works could never be supposed. Flesh must there signify works,
    In the Epistle to the Galatians, the terms flesh and spirit are likewise used in this way ‘Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?’ ‘Having begun your Christian course by receiving the doctrine of justification by the righteousness of Christ, are ye seeking assurance of Christ’s indwelling by works?

    Either Christ’s righteousness is imputed by God before regeneration or it is not.

    Either Christ’s death is Christ’s righteousness, or it is not.

    Either Christ’s righteousness is the legal cause of regeneration, or it is not.

    Either God’s electing love in Christ is the cause of Christ’s death for the elect, or it is not.

    Either thanks for God’s satisfaction of the law is reason enough for our obedience, or we must bring back in “gospel threats” and fear of condemnation.

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  16. Ali, it’s obvious that you’re an insightful thinker,i.e., well versed and well taught by the meat of God’s Word. Beware though, the Gospel Coalition theologians (along with Sproul) can be tricky. They are prone to sneak in the idea that there is a final justification based on how well you have lived your life and did your part in helping to fulfill the righteousness of the Law; without which no one will see the Lord.

    I’ll continue to wean on the milk of the Gospel (although that’s not what that verse in Hebrews is talking about).

    How many of our churches
    truly live up to the name “evangelical”?
    Should the Gospel be reserved only for
    the beginning of the Christian life, or an
    invitation at the close of the sermon? Is
    the hymn by Charlotte Elliott, “Just As I
    Am?” to be reserved merely for evangelistic
    crusades? Or is it for the daily life of
    every Christian? If this hymn and others
    like it become part of our daily thought
    and life, are we resigning ourselves to
    weakness and defeatism—an impotent faith that brings no growth?

    http://equip.sbts.edu/wp-content/uploads/2010/07/sbjt_102_sum06-seifrid1.pdf

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  17. VV, They have not considered the idea that God is on purpose INCREASING THEIR PROSPERITY ON ACCOUNT OF THEIR SIN, which is the opposite of what you would expect. Less sin, more prosperity, we tend to think, when we are not trusting God. But Psalm 73 teaches a “double bind”. God increases the prosperity of the non-elect not only because of their sin but also in order to make them more sinful and hard. What a fearful thing this is. As Engelsma points out on p 31, “God uses the “no troubles” as a means to increase their sin.\

    https://markmcculley.wordpress.com/2013/09/07/engelsma-on-psalm-73/

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  18. johnyeazel says: Ali, it’s obvious that you’re an insightful thinker,i.e., well versed and well taught by the meat of God’s Word. Beware though, the Gospel Coalition theologians (along with Sproul) can be tricky. They are prone to sneak in the idea that there is a final justification based on how well you have lived your life and did your part in helping to fulfill the righteousness of the Law; without which no one will see the Lord. I’ll continue to wean on the milk of the Gospel (although that’s not what that verse in Hebrews is talking about).

    hmm, careful about false witness, John.

    reminds me though…..and so, continued, other post, re: reasons one might pray about revival #11… because no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit – so we pray that the veil be taken away from many; that heart eyes be enlightened to know the hope, riches, surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe in Christ.

    Then the eyes of the blind will be opened and the ears of the deaf will be unstopped; the lame will leap like a deer and the tongue of the mute will shout for joy, for waters will break forth in the wilderness, and there will be the Highway of Holiness there on which the unclean cannot travel and no lion nor any vicious beast will be there to harm, and there will be everlasting joy and sorrow and sighing will flee away.

    🙂

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  19. just again, John. Reason #11.
    To open blind eyes, to bring out prisoners from the dungeon and those who dwell in darkness from the prison
    All the nations of the earth will hear of all the good that He does for us

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  20. Piper’s Future Grace teaches works not only as evidence for us and other people but for God

    How then can I say that the judgment of believers will not only be the public declaration of our differing rewards in the kingdom of God, according to our deeds, but will also be the public declaration of our salvation – our entering the kingdom – according to our deeds? The answer is that our deeds will be the public evidence brought forth in Christ’s courtroom to demonstrate that our faith is real. And our deeds will be the public evidence brought fourth to demonstrate the varying measures of our obedience of faith. In other words, salvation is by grace through faith, and rewards are by grace through faith, but the evidence of invisible faith in the judgment hall of Christ will be a transformed life. (Future Grace, p 364)

    Several times Paul listed certain kinds of deeds and said, “those who practice such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God” (Galatians 5:21; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10). In other words, when these deeds are exposed at the judgment as a person’s way of life, they will be the evidence that their faith is dead and he will not be saved. As James said, “Faith without works is dead” (James 2:26). That is what will be shown at the judgment. (Future Grace, p 366)

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  21. D A Carson on the atonement:

    D A Carson—

    Surely it is best not to introduce disjunctions where God himself has not introduced them. Of one holds that the Atonement is sufficient for all and effective for the elect, then both sets of texts and concerns are accommodated. As far as I can see, a text such as 1 John 2:2 states something about the potential breadth of the Atonement When Jesus Christ died, John rejoins, it was not for the sake of, say, the Jews only or, now, of some group, gnostic or otherwise, that sets itself up as intrinsically superior. Far from it. It was not for our sins only, but also for the sins of the whole world. The context, then, understands this to mean something like “potentially for all without distinction” rather than “effectively for all without exception” – for in the latter case all without exception must surely be saved, and John does not suppose that that will take place.

    Carson—In recent years I have tried to read both primary and secondary sources on the doctrine of the Atonement from Calvin on. [Footnote 3: One of the latest treatments is G. Michael Thomas, The extent of the Atonement: A Dilemma for Reformed Theology from Calvin to the Consensus (1536-1675), Paternoster Biblical and Theological Monographs (Carlisle: Paternoster, 1997).] One of my most forceful impressions is that the categories of the debate gradually shift with time so as to force disjunction where a slightly different bit of question-framing would allow synthesis. Correcting this, I suggest, is one of the useful things we may accomplish from an adequate study of the love of God in holy Scripture. For God is a person. Surely it is unsurprising if the love that characterizes him as a person is manifest in a variety of ways toward other persons. But it is always love, for all that.

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  22. Don’t see the errors John – you are going to have to point it them out explicitly.

    anyway cont. re: those who ‘really’ ‘get the gospel and get grace’ –
    those who know they are harming covenant breakers and those who have been harmed by other covenant breakers -who have eyes to see sin for what it is – who trust, believe, and rely on the One True Covenant keeper- for as many as are the promises of God, in Jesus they are yes, and through Him is our Amen to the glory of God.
    It is God alone who establishes us in Christ, who anoints us, who seals us, who gives us the Spirit in our hearts as a pledge. Boasting? It is excluded.

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  23. Ali says: “Don’t see the errors John – you are going to have to point it them out explicitly.”

    John Y: That’s the whole point; those who don’t know the content of the true biblical Gospel will not recognize the errors when others express their errors. The transformed life becomes the Gospel in those who are confused about what the Gospel is. That’s an easy sell and you can make some good bucks by peddling that message.

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  24. The doctrine of double imputation should shatter all misconceptions of a two will theory of God – or, a theory that wants to say that the will of God consists both in a desire to save all in some degree and a desire to save only his elect to a greater degree.

    2 Corinthians 5:21, For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

    Romans 4:7-8, “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven,and whose sins are covered; blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin.”

    Isaiah 53:6;11,12 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. . . . Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see[i] and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities. Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors;yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors.”

    Unfortunately, most will twist those Scriptures to fit their “two-will” theory. So there needs to be more explanation as to why these Scripture verses blow the “two-will” theory apart. And then do more explaining about other Scriptures which the “two-will” people use to support their claims about the elect and non-elect. Talking about election, and what election means, forces the two-will advocates to think more deeply about their positions. If they remain rational then they will have to choose either side. But they don’t remain rational. They say things like Piper and Warren do in those video’s, i.e. I am a both/and type of thinker not an either/or thinker; that is non-sense, and not an answer at all.

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  25. John,

    I’m not sure I follow you. Why would double imputation necessitate that in some sense God wants all to be saved but that He wants something more than that, the full display of His glory in the revelation of both His mercy and His wrath?

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  26. Robert, I am not following what you are saying I did not say that double imputation necessitates that in some sense God wants all to be saved. Those who say that Christ’s atonement is sufficient for all but effective only for the elect are by necessity saying that God has two wills in regards to the redemption of fallen sinners. However, if God wanted all sinners to be justified He would have imputed all of fallen man’s sins to Christ when He died His sacrificial death. Only the elect’s sins get imputed to Christ and then the elect get justified in time by

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  27. Post glitch……get justified in time by being imputed into the righteous death. God does not hold out his hands, as Piper described, wishing that all sinners would repent and believe. When God imputes the sins of the elect to Christ, He also imputes the righteous death at some point to the elect during their lifetimes so they become righteous. However, if someone is going to insist that faith unites to the death of Christ rather than election and imputation then you have to devise some kind of two will theory in the will of God to make that seem believable. The question is is that rational?

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  28. John,

    I’m sorry, I mistyped. Let me respond to this:

    Those who say that Christ’s atonement is sufficient for all but effective only for the elect are by necessity saying that God has two wills in regards to the redemption of fallen sinners. However, if God wanted all sinners to be justified He would have imputed all of fallen man’s sins to Christ when He died His sacrificial death.

    Well, it’s rather traditionally Reformed to speak of two wills (though ultimately, these wills are one). One could also say that God desires all people to be saved but that He desires something more—the full revelation of His glory in His attributes, which means that He can’t save all people even if in some sense He might want to. After all, if He saved everyone, we wouldn’t see the glory of His justice.

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  29. Robert,

    That second paragraph is equivocal language- it’s Orwellian doublespeak. It’s the same thing Piper said in the video on limited atonement. I don’t know how two different wills can ultimately become one unless you revert to irrationality. Or, God desires all to be saved but desires something more.

    When you refuse to talk about election, definitive atonement and imputation in a rational manner you are going to have some doctrinal problems that ultimately end up making peace with an arminian gospel. Internal transformation and a final judgment according to works become the emphasis of this gospel. The atoning work of Christ outside the sinner takes on the role of a shelf doctrine. You can take it or leave it.

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  30. John,

    I don’t know how two different wills can ultimately become one unless you revert to irrationality.

    Calvin said we distinguish but that ultimately God only has one will. It’s standard systematics to make the distinction but then to admit that God’s will is a unity.

    And Jeff is right. All Christians have some idea of the decretive/preceptive will distinction. Some call it the perfect will of God vs. the permissive will of God (tends to be the Arminian formulation). But in any case, people always make a distinction between what God decrees (not everything He decrees is pleasing in itself because He decrees sin) and what God orders via precept (the moral law; these things he finds inherently pleasing).

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  31. I should say, the two wills controversy that found expression in the free offer of the Gospel, has hardly been a settled matter in the Reformed world.

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  32. William Young: “That the desire is not simply meant as an anthropomorphic mode of emphasizing the revealed will becomes evident when the assertion is made that it is an instance of a deep paradox or antinomy not resolvable by logic. In the fact that God has decreed to save only some, but has commanded the gospel to be proclaimed indiscriminately to all, there is no contradiction, but simply the difference between God’s decree and his preceptive will. Why such a command is given may well be beyond our powers to fathom at least in this life, but there need not be an apparent, much less a real contradiction to those who are well instructed by the Word and Spirit of God. But to search behind the revealed will in the gospel offer for a divine inclination to save those who have been foreordained to everlasting wrath, can only appear to be ascribing a real contradiction in the will of God. The common evasion that this is only an apparent contradiction to us but not a real contradiction to God is nothing other than Kierkegaard’s own thesis as to the absolute paradox. It is not the historic position of Reformed theology.

    It has been claimed that the alleged desire is actually revealed in Scripture. Those who fail to find it there have been accused of having their minds made up and ignoring the analogy of Scripture. May it not be retorted that a person with universalistic prejudices comes to the Bible determined to prove that God wants all to be saved and either ignores the passages that teach divine sovereignty in salvation, or explains them away or seeks refuge in Irrationalism? Certainly the whole teaching of the Word is to be listened to, and listening means first the use of reason in understanding what God has said, while the limits of that understanding are recognized. The real question here is whether Scripture actually teaches the universalistic view in texts such as 2 Peter 3:9, Ezekiel 33:11 and Matthew 23:37.

    http://reformedpresbyterianveritasdocuments.blogspot.com/2009/01/free-offer-of-gospel-dr-william-young.html#more

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  33. Hi John,

    I wasn’t asking idly about the difference between God’s decretal and preceptual wills. Although I would prefer to be more clear through a direct response, I will take your quote from William Young as agreement that, yes, God does have two wills.

    In fact, Young goes further and attributes God’s commands to all to “repent and believe” and to preach the Gospel to all to the “difference between God’s decree and his preceptive will.” And this is entirely salutary.

    In fact, up to the point of distinguishing God’s precepts and decrees, there is no controversy in the Reformed community. Where Young parts company, as do Hoeksema and G. Clark before him, is in attributing to God any actual desire to save the non-elect.

    But both sides agree that God has two wills, decrees and precepts, and those may not coincide. It is God’s will, says Paul, that believers abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.

    This is God’s will — that is, His precept, which He wants for all of His children to follow. And yet it is not His decree that His children will, in fact, follow this command to perfection. King David would be the first to say so!

    The one point of departure is whether God’s precepts reflect His desires in any sense? And to me, it seems obvious that they must. Else, God would be commanding something that He in no sense wants to be accomplished. And in that case, loving God, really fulfilling His desires, would mean disobeying His commands … which is ludicrous.

    So I would argue, contra Young, that God in some sense or other must desire that His precepts be kept.

    If you can unpuzzle why God would command and desire something (that no one transgress and wrong his brother) that He does not also decree to come about, then you probably have the solution to how God might command and desire something (the repentance of all) that He does not also decree to come about.

    Since Adam, the perfectly sovereign God has been expressing His will in precepts. It cannot be the case that He would fail to desire that His precepts be kept; yet it is certainly the case that He has not decreed it so, and even has decreed that they would not be kept.

    Likewise, it cannot be the case that God would command something that He has NO desire would be kept, that Adam was actually fulfilling God’s desires by eating the fruit.

    Ruling those things out, we must conclude — with no quarter given to Arminians — that God’s desires do not coincide t all points with His decrees.

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  34. @ McM: Your comments deserve a more thorough response, and I can’t do them justice. So I’ll just leave this bit here.

    (1) Either Christ’s righteousness is imputed by God before regeneration or it is not.

    (2) Either Christ’s death is Christ’s righteousness, or it is not.

    (3) Either Christ’s righteousness is the legal cause of regeneration, or it is not.

    (4) Either God’s electing love in Christ is the cause of Christ’s death for the elect, or it is not.

    (5) Either thanks for God’s satisfaction of the law is reason enough for our obedience, or we must bring back in “gospel threats” and fear of condemnation.

    (1) Maybe. Is Christ’s righteousness imputed to us the same act as our sins imputed to Him? If not, then imputation could occur both before and after regeneration.

    (2) Not. Christ’s life was also His righteousness.

    (3) Not. The term “legal cause” is non-standard. There are efficient and final causes, and legal grounds, but not (to my knowledge) “legal causes.” The confused terminology points to a larger conceptual problem, that you have not explained how faith is the alone instrument of justification.

    (4) Not. It is a cause, but not the (ie., sole) cause.

    (5) Ehhh … Thanks is certainly reason enough. Yet it is not the only reason adduced in Scripture. Other reasons given include love (John 14.15), hope for the life to come (1 Cor 15.58), reward (Matt 6.19ff). Indeed, at rare points, God threatens His people in the NT (Heb 12.15-17).

    And yet we would agree that Christians are not to live under fear of condemnation (Rom 8, 1 Jhn, etc). So what to do with all of that? Perhaps more complexity.

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  35. That Clark link is the same paper linked in the OPC majority report written by John Murray. The minority report is Young’s rebuttal to Murray’s essay (Free Offer of the Gospel). The other link was an expansion of Young’s response in the minority report. You did see that, right?

    There is still lots to respond to but I cannot right now. I think this does have implications in regards to the nature and extent of the atonement. So, it is worth pursuing in more depth to get to the implications of the differing thoughts on the matter; anyone interested, stay tuned

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  36. In regards to the two wills question- I think that causes more problems than it solves. It strikes at the antithesis between Law and Gospel and tends to conflate the two.

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  37. johnyeazel says: That’s the whole point; those who don’t know the content of the true biblical Gospel will not recognize the errors when others express their errors.

    ok, reason #12 “only by the Spirit and the word of God”

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  38. You’re always putting the cart before the horse, Ali. Without a Reformation of the doctrine of the Atonement all your going to get is a lot of sound and fury. It is Christ who gives the Spirit, not the other way around.

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  39. The best thing those born condemned in Adam can do is keep praying for an understanding of the biblical Gospel and keep an open dialog about what the true biblical Gospel is. That’s the sinners only hope.

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  40. John Y: The transformed life becomes the Gospel in those who are confused about what the Gospel is.

    and…John, huh, Jesus is a liar? The gospel is deliverance – from the penalty, power, and presence of sin. I know you love the first part, but God is too good to truncate it there.

    even Saul was changed into ‘another man’ (for a while) 1 Samuel 10:6 Then the Spirit of the LORD will come upon you mightily, and you shall prophesy with them and be changed into another man.

    though for us, by the great mercy of God, it is an everlasting, done deal – if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away- new things have come

    please don’t truncate the Lord’s gospel – freedom from the penalty, power, and presence of sin-
    for we open the book a and find the place where it is written :“THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD IS UPON ME, BECAUSE HE ANOINTED ME TO PREACH THE GOSPEL TO THE POOR. HE HAS SENT ME TO PROCLAIM RELEASE TO THE CAPTIVES, AND RECOVERY OF SIGHT TO THE BLIND, TO SET FREE THOSE WHO ARE OPPRESSED

    the Lord commended Moses – that he spoke ALL that God spoke to him – truncation would be sin, wouldn’t it?

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  41. Martin Luther, the sinner: Don’t put the theologians you admire too high on a pedestal. Luther proved time and time again that he still dwelt in this body of sin and it often got the best of him- just like all of us who have been imputed into the death of Christ. The elects righteousness is an alien righteousness- outside of themselves and in the work of the cross; all the while God still commands his elect with imperatives and to seek to grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ. Luther committed some serious sins and his theology had some serious errors in it. I will leave it at that. It’s much easier to critique in hindsight than when actually involved in the battles.

    btw, many interpret the new creation verse from Corinthians much differently than you or that song conveys:

    https://www.theguardian.com/books/2016/sep/07/martin-luther-lyndal-roper-review

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  42. morning John.

    johnyeazel says: Don’t put the theologians you admire too high on a pedestal.

    I put Jesus on a pedestal. Those who agree with Him and say all that He says, not adding nor taking away, I appreciate. What theologians are you putting on a pedestal? You seem to quote some much more than you quote the word of God.

    johnyeazel btw, many interpret the new creation verse from Corinthians much differently than you or that song conveys:

    not sure what you are saying. The song is bible quoting and I was bible quoting. What interpretations are you talking about? (that link didn’t help) .One thing I notice is how when some speak the whole counsel of God, some always have a pushback and make accusation that people ‘don’t get it.’ Why is that?

    I know you want to feel really comfortable just as you are, but per Jesus -it’s WAR – the battle belongs to Him – He has all the resources and power – and we submit and engage – 1 John 3:8b The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil.

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  43. johnyeazel btw, many interpret the new creation verse from Corinthians much differently than you or that song conveys:

    Ali says: “not sure what you are saying. The song is bible quoting and I was bible quoting. What interpretations are you talking about? (that link didn’t help) .One thing I notice is how when some speak the whole counsel of God, some always have a pushback and make accusation that people ‘don’t get it.’ Why is that?”

    That verse in Corinthians, properly translated from the Greek, should read like this:

    2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

    John Y: The “new creation” or “new man” has to do with a change of legal state. Paul is talking about justification in that verse. He is not talking about a new change in nature or substance on the inside of the one justified. I’m not denying that God gives those whom He justifies a new heart. However, that is not what Paul is talking about in that passage of Scripture.

    I don’t think you have to put on your full regalia of battle gear in order to defeat sin and conquer the Kingdom of Satan. You’ll never do it and it subtly undermines the glory and accomplishment of Christ. Christ already defeated sin and Satan by His work on the cross. The justified elect defeat sin because they are no longer under the Law. Christ took away Satan’s means of guilt, condemnation and accusation before the throne of God. All the elects sins have been dealt with by Christ- past, present and future. It is done once and for all the elect. Not for the non-elect. That is the offense of the Gospel. That does not mean that the justified elect are not obligated to obey the New Covenant imperatives. The purpose of the Luther link was to give an example of someone who held on to the truth of an imputed and alien righteousness and yet disobeyed the imperatives of the New Covenant on a regular basis. Anyone who thinks they are obeying all the imperatives is not seeing the impossible high standards that the Law obligates all of fallen man to obey. To focus in on and continually quote the New Testament imperatives, i.e., the whole counsel of God, is not solving the problem fallen man and the justified elect still have. It just increases sin. You have to continually go back to the Gospel and what the Gospel is. That is how we justified sinners defeat sin and Satan.

    What exactly a new heart entails is hotly debated. I’m sure what I think that means and what you think that means are on the opposite poles of one another.

    What you call “the whole counsel of God” is usually code word for an alone faith that is not really alone. For example, would you agree with the following statement that I saw at one of the blog sites I check in with on occasion?:

    “Good works are essentially prerequisite to an admission into heaven. Though they do not merit everlasting life, yet they are indispensably necessary in all who are “heirs of the grace of life.” Believers “being made free from sin, have their fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life.” Rom vi. 22. (my addition: Rom 6:22- 22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord).

    John Y: That’s why there is push back. If you are believing what that guy said in that last paragraph than you are believing a false Gospel. What is the Gospel? That is fallen man’s only hope. Galatians 6:15 For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation.

    II Corinthians 5:14 “one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live would no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sakes died and was raised. From now on, we regard no one according to the flesh”.

    “We should not judging the new creation by morality or immorality or by anything other than the gospel of justification.” “If anyone is in Christ, there is a NEW CREATION. The old has passed; the new has come.”

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  44. From the New Creation song:

    “I will never run away from you, anymore, anymore”

    I think Peter said that to Jesus too.

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  45. johnyeazel says: The “new creation” or “new man” has to do with a change of legal state.
    -Jesus says:1 Peter 1: 23 for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God

    johnyeazel says: I don’t think you have to put on your full regalia of battle gear
    -Jesus says: Eph 6: 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.

    johnyeazel says: To continually quote the whole counsel of God just increases sin. What you call “the whole counsel of God” is usually code word for an alone faith that is not really alone.
    -Jesus says: 2 Tim 3:16 All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; 17 so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.

    johnyeazel says: would you agree with the following statement that I saw at one of the blog sites I check in with on occasion
    -don’t see the error

    johnyeazel says What is the Gospel?
    -Deliverance from the penalty, power and presence of sin

    and not sure about your song. was Cohen a Messianic Jew? and wondering – does that song put Jesus on a pedestal

    johnyeazel says: “I will never run away from you, anymore, anymore” I think Peter said that to Jesus too.
    -And? And do you mean this Peter?
    Luke 22:31 “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat; 32 but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”

    This Peter?:The Peter who may have been crucified upside-down because of Jesus and perhaps requested because he had denied his Lord, he did not consider himself worthy to die as Jesus had

    This Peter?: 1 Peter 5: 8 Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 9But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world. 10 After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you. 11 To Him be dominion forever and ever. Amen.

    This Peter? 1 Peter 15 who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, 7 so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ; 8 and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, 9 obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls.

    This Peter?13 Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 14 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, 15 but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; 16 because it is written, “YOU SHALL BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY.”22 Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren, fervently love one another from the heart, 23 for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God.

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  46. johnyeazel says: To continually quote the whole counsel of God just increases sin. What you call “the whole counsel of God” is usually code word for an alone faith that is not really alone.

    and from today’s reading at gty.org

    DAY 15: What is the effect of the Word of God working in a person’s life?
    “We also thank God without ceasing,” Paul said, “because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God” (1 Thess. 2:13). Paul’s message from God is equated with the Old Testament (Mark 7:13). It was the message taught by the apostles (Acts 4:31; 6:2). Peter preached it to the Gentiles (Acts 11:1). It was the word Paul preached on his first missionary journey (Acts 13:5, 7, 44, 48, 49), his second (Acts 16:32; 17:13; 18:11), and his third (Acts 19:10).

    “Which also effectively works in you who believe.” The work of God’s Word includes:
    saving (Rom. 10:17; 1 Pet. 1:23);
    teaching and training (2 Tim. 3:16, 17);
    guiding (Ps. 119:105);
    counseling (Ps. 119:24);
    reviving (Ps. 119:154);
    restoring (Ps. 19:7);
    warning and rewarding (Ps. 19:11);
    nourishing (1 Pet. 2:2);
    judging (Heb. 4:12);
    sanctifying (John 17:17);
    freeing (John 8:31, 32);
    enriching (Col. 3:16);
    protecting (Ps. 119:11);
    strengthening (Ps. 119:28);
    making wise (Ps. 119:17–100);
    rejoicing the heart (Ps. 19:8);
    and prospering (Josh. 1:8, 9).

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  47. Ali, with what you said you might as well as swim the Tiber and join Susan and the rest of the gang at called to communion. You’re believing a Roman Catholic doctrine of justification

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  48. johnyeazel says: Ali, with what you said you might as well as swim the Tiber and join Susan and the rest of the gang at called to communion. You’re believing a Roman Catholic doctrine of justification

    sorry, 21 minutes youtube. too long, didn’t watch it.

    anyway, you, seeming to prefer ‘johnyeazel says’*, in direct conflict with ‘Jesus says’ sometimes, ought join THAT ever-growing group. Let God be found true, though every man be found a liar.
    [*johnyeazel says: The “new creation” has to do with a change of legal state.
    johnyeazel says: To continually quote the whole counsel of God just increases sin.
    johnyeazel says: I don’t think you have to put on your full regalia of battle gear ]

    -Colossians 2:13 When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, ( ie new creation) having forgiven us all our transgressions, 14 having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.
    -Ephesians 2: 1 you were dead in your trespasses and sins, 2 in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. 3 Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), (ie new creation)

    2 Corinthians 10:3 though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, 4 for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. 5 We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ, 6 and we are ready to punish all disobedience, whenever your obedience is complete.

    17 HE WHO BOASTS IS TO BOAST IN THE LORD.

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  49. And John , speaking of the war, good post here this am
    https://www.challies.com/articles/vlog-7-false-teachers-in-the-church-today/ ( excerpts, paraphrases):

    Wherever there is truth there will be error. Wherever there are people teaching sound doctrine there will be people teaching false doctrine.

    The first false teacher .the heretic…denies core, fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith. He takes what God says it’s true, and he outright denies it. He takes the things that God forbids and he affirms or celebrates them. He looks to the core and fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith and says, “That is not true! I have something else in it’s place.”..more

    The second false teacher ..the charlatan…who is in it only for himself. He sees Christianity as a means to personal gain. He sees Christians as marks, as people he can take advantage of in order to enrich himself, ..more

    The third false teacher…the false prophet..who claims to bring fresh revelation from God himself. “Yes, God has spoken in the Scripture,” this person will say, “but now he has spoken anew to me. He’s given me a fresh word. He’s given me something now that supersedes the Bible, something that further explains the Bible, something that you need to believe in place of the Bible.

    The fourth false teacher … the abuser…uses others to gain providence and to feed his sexual lust. So he may abuse people on his path to glory, his path to fame, his path to prominence. He may want a platform. He may want to be seen. He may want to be known in the eyes of all the people. So he’ll run over people. He’ll throw them to the side. He’ll run roughshod over them if only he can gain what he wants.

    The fifth false teacher..the divider…perhaps he shows up physically, perhaps he comes in through books or through other forms of teaching, and he brings rifts within the church. Instead of bringing the unity that Jesus prayed for, the unity that is meant to mark Christians, he brings division.

    The sixth false teacher .the speculator..deals with what is novel, original, speculative..more.

    The seventh false teacher ..the tickler..listens to what people want and then he gives it to them. He listens to what people don’t want, and he refuses to give it to them. No matter what the Bible says, if it’s uncomfortable, if it’s unpopular, he will shy away from it. And so he deals with what is popular. He craves affirmation from the world. He craves popularity within the world, so he won’t do anything that will turn the world away from him..more

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  50. Ali, your mind works in mysterious ways. Speaking of false teachers:

    MacArthur does not define faith until chapter 16 (of 20), and when he does, he gives a non-Biblical definition. He quotes W. E. Vine with approval: Faith consists of “a firm conviction…a personal surrender…[and] conduct inspired by such surrender” (173-174). According to this definition, faith includes conduct, that is, works. Faith is conviction, surrender, and conduct. Whether MacArthur or Vine realize it or not, they have fallen back into the Romanist heresy, and MacArthur has deceived many with his book,

    MacArthur rejects the Biblical view of justification and adopts the Roman Catholic view: “Many people believe justified means “just-as-if-I’d-never-sinned.” In other words, God says, “I count you righteous even though you’re really not.” It is true that God makes that declaration, but there is also a reality of righteousness. We are not only declared righteous; we are made righteous (Justification by Faith, 1988, 98). This making righteous is accomplished by infusing Christ’s righteousness into Christians: “God actually credits righteousness to our account. He imputes righteousness to us; he infuses divine life into us. He regenerates and sanctifies us. He makes the unholy holy, and therefore declares that we are righteous…. There is a reality–God gives us righteousness, and thus he can declare that we are righteous” (Justification, 121). MacArthur writes: “The believing sinner is justified by righteousness infused into him” (Justification, 122).

    MacArthur confuses justification, regeneration, and sanctification:

    MacArthur: “The word justification is a technical term that refers to our legal standing before God: We have been declared to be just because of our faith. [This is not the Biblical or Protestant view.] But the word [justification] also embraces a radical and real transformation. Our moral character has been altered eternally through regeneration. Justification by faith means that God has both declared us righteous and made us righteous. We have been regenerated – made new by faith…. Justification is not only a state of being righteous; it is actual regeneration. We are made righteous by faith” (Justification, 132).

    http://www.trinityfoundation.org/journal.php?id=193

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  51. Ali, I could recommend some books for you to read. They might change your mind on the meaning of some important biblical words and concepts. Gordon Clark’s book, WHAT IS SAVING FAITH,? and Machen’s book on faith are much more accurate to biblical texts in their definitions than MacArthur is.

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  52. @ Ali:

    I would agree for the most part with JY’s critique. I don’t know that I would call McA “Romanist”, since many non-RCs have flirted with justification-as-transformation.

    But I would agree that McA intermingles justification and sanctification in such a way that a Christian’s standing before God is in part on the basis of qualities within himself.

    Carefully distinguishing justification and sanctification (while maintaining that all who are justified are also sanctified) is essential for faithfully presenting the Biblical teaching of justification by faith alone.

    I think John has something to say that you should hear.

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  53. An example of language that could use better precision is

    “The Gospel is freedom from the penalty, power, and presence of sin.”

    That statement *can* be made orthodox, if proper vocab is substituted and qualifications made:

    “The Gospel consists of justification, sanctification, and glorification, through the merit of Christ received by faith alone.”

    But that same statement *can also* mean some very unorthodox things: Instant freedom from the presence of sin (Wesleyan “total sanctification”), or fredom from penalty conditioned upon continuance in freedom from power of sin.

    The point of doing careful theology is to close the door to misunderstandings that damage our relationship with God. The “penalty, power, presence” slogan fails at that basic point.

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  54. Jeff, so you agree with John’ statements below? Once again you seem partial in your exhortation.

    johnyeazel says: The “new creation” has to do with a change of legal state.
    johnyeazel says: To continually quote the whole counsel of God just increases sin.
    johnyeazel says: I don’t think you have to put on your full regalia of battle gear
    johnyeazel says: “the whole counsel of God” is usually code word for an alone faith that is not really alone.

    John -I didn’t address that last statement before – Calvin: It is faith alone which justifies, and yet the faith which justifies is not alone.
    Good post here on that this am. https://www.desiringgod.org/labs/through-faith-alone

    Q. 77. Wherein do justification and sanctification differ?
    A. Although sanctification be inseparably joined with justification, yet they differ, in that God in justification imputeth the righteousness of Christ; in sanctification his Spirit infuseth grace, and enableth to the exercise thereof; in the former, sin is pardoned; in the other, it is subdued: the one doth equally free all believers from the revenging wrath of God, and that perfectly in this life, that they never fall into condemnation; the other is neither equal in all, nor in this life perfect in any, but growing up to perfection.

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  55. I’d also be careful of Gordon Clark, since he had a deficient Christology and held that faith was mere mental assent to propositional truths. That’s not the definition of faith by the Reformers or the WCF.

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  56. @Robert
    I found this statement shocking for someone who moves in reformed circles:

    Many people believe justified means “just-as-if-I’d-never-sinned.”…there is also a reality of righteousness. We are not only declared righteous; we are made righteous…by infusing Christ’s righteousness into Christians…

    It strikes me as a repudiation of WCF 11.1,

    Those whom God effectually calls, He also freely justifies; not by infusing righteousness into them, but by pardoning their sins, and by accounting and accepting their persons as righteous; not for any thing wrought in them, or done by them, but for Christ’s sake alone; nor by imputing faith itself, the act of believing, or any other evangelical obedience to them, as their righteousness; but by imputing the obedience and satisfaction of Christ unto them, they receiving and resting on Him and His righteousness by faith; which faith they have not of themselves, it is the gift of God.

    If you read to the end of the book review from which this was taken, it seems that this does not express JMac’s views:

    On October 31, 2000, Phillip R. Johnson, aide and ghostwriter for John MacArthur, posted this notice to a small discussion group on the Internet:

    “Several years ago I [John MacArthur] made some inaccurate statements that have unfortunately confused people about where I stand on the doctrine of justification by faith. While teaching a series on this crucial issue, I made the point that God does not justify anyone whom He does not also sanctify. That is true. Unfortunately, however, I also implied that God’s sanctifying work in us may in part provide the ground on which He declares us righteous. That is not true. I also suggested that God’s righteousness is infused into believers in a way that makes their justification something more than a forensic declaration. That is emphatically not true.

    “This error was confined to a single series preached several years ago. But some of the misstatements were published in a study guide and in the first edition of my Romans commentary. When I realized my error, I withdrew the study guide from publication. It is no longer available. Furthermore, I immediately corrected the Romans commentary. Only a few relatively minor changes were necessary, and those revisions appear in later printings of the book.

    “For the record, I have never believed that we can be justified because of anything good in us (Phil. 3:9). Scripture clearly teaches that God accepts us and declares us righteous only because of Christ’s perfect righteousness, which is imputed to us by faith alone (Rom. 4:1-6). God’s ongoing work of making us righteous is properly labeled sanctification–and should be carefully distinguished from justification. I hereby retract any earlier statements I ever made to the contrary.

    John MacArthur”

    Although Mr. MacArthur does not mention “The Gospel According to Jesus” or other works criticized in this Review, nor has this statement ever been published in any of his books (at least MacArthur’s aide Phillip Johnson failed to provide us with a citation after repeated questioning), we are glad that MacArthur has made at least some attempt to acknowledge and correct the false ideas on justification he taught in tens of thousands of copies of “The Gospel According to Jesus,” his commentary on Romans, and other books and tapes. We only wish he had published this closet retraction as widely as he had published his errors.
    John Robbins

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  57. @Ali
    “johnyeazel says: The “new creation” has to do with a change of legal state.”
    I agree. The moment one responds to the gospel call in faith, one is a new creation because Christ’s righteousness is imputed to you. One is not a new creation as a result of behaving differently.

    “johnyeazel says: To continually quote the whole counsel of God just increases sin.”
    Not sure what the context is, but it sounds like a restatement of Romans 5. Is there a subtext I’m missing?

    “johnyeazel says: I don’t think you have to put on your full regalia of battle gear”
    In context, I agree. We don’t defeat Satan – Christ has done that on our behalf. Perhaps you are thinking of Paul’s word picture in Eph? I don’t think that was what is in view here. But maybe I misread that.

    “johnyeazel says: “the whole counsel of God” is usually code word for an alone faith that is not really alone.”
    That’s been my experience, but that’s a sociological observation not a theological conclusion. Those who pound the table about “the whole counsel of God” are those insisting that we somehow merit God’s favor (or dodge his disfavor) based on our behavior. Perhaps your experience is different. This is not to say that all scripture isn’t breathed out by God and useful instructing, etc…

    Is your concern about sanctification? I think it is important to keep those ideas distinct, but not because sanctification matters less or is in anyway unimportant. Rather the logical priority of justification keeps the believer humble when things are going well and keeps one from despair when things aren’t. The brilliance of the authors of the Westminster standards (and TFU) comes out in their understanding of human frailty.

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  58. The like button is broken (?), so manual liking:

    Robert: In fact, this post from GTY indicates that JMac, at least now, holds to JBFA and to justification as a non-transformative declaration on account of imputation:

    Very glad to hear that, and the retraction.

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  59. Ali: Jeff, so you agree with John’ statements below?

    I don’t agree with all of his statements, but rather with the center of his critique, that the quotes attributed to JMcA represent a false gospel. As Robert points out, JMcA does not actually believe the words that were published under his name, so that’s actually a very good thing. I would hope that we could all agree with John’s critique of the published words.

    About the four statements:

    JY: The “new creation” has to do with a change of legal state.

    That’s one respected exegetical option.

    JY: To continually quote the whole counsel of God just increases sin.

    I would say that the Law increases transgression, which I take to be “visible proof that we have sinned.” In other words, the Law exposes sin for what it is.

    JY: I don’t think you have to put on your full regalia of battle gear [ in order to defeat sin and conquer the Kingdom of Satan. You’ll never do it and it subtly undermines the glory and accomplishment of Christ. ]

    I don’t understand this entirely. Certainly we are commanded to put on the full armor of God. Certainly also, in so doing we do not defeat sin and the kingdom of Satan, which is God’s job. Half-agreement?

    JY: “the whole counsel of God” is usually code word for an alone faith that is not really alone.

    Half-agreement. Looking at the full context of Acts 20, it is clear that Paul considered the “whole counsel of God” to refer to repentance on the one hand and faith on the other (v 21), and that it built up those who listened (v 32). So I would not be as quick as John to dismiss those who speak of “the whole counsel of God” as speaking in code.

    BUT

    It is very true that many people teach in one way or another that our obedience increases God’s sanctifying grace. And when those people are confronted with the falsehood of their view, they sometimes take refuge in “I am preaching the whole counsel of God, not some truncated gospel.”

    One example:

    …if Christians own all things and the world, then they have the responsibility to cultivate the world in their God-given Cultural Mandate.

    This was an accepted truth among Reformed theologians until the 1950s. Only in the last generation a neo-Reformed theology emerged that declares man’s Cultural Mandate to be null and void, and only valid for an agricultural society. Or, that Christians can not change culture because there is no such thing as a Christian culture. Neo-Reformed theologians like Al Mohler and Michael Horton claim such a thing, and then add that Christians’ cultural involvement is not a primary task but only a secondary by-product of the Christians’ “faithful presence” (whatever that means) in a dying culture. Christian life and action, they believe, must be centered on the self and the church, and whatever cultural influence there is, will be only incidental. And of course, no cultural influence can produce cultural impact strong enough to build a Christian culture; because there can’t be such a thing as a Christian culture, period…

    …God is sovereign. Man is given the Dominion (Cultural) Mandate over the earth. When we combine these two Biblical truths with the belief that God has revealed Himself and His will in God’s Word, we can easily answer the question: What rules has God established for man in his Cultural Mandate? Obviously, these rules for dominion must be found in that same Word that reveals God to us.

    We call these rules the Law of God. The Law of God is given to man to obey. Man is given dominion but not as a sovereign, only as subject to God. And man is obligated as creature to obey God’s Law as far as his Cultural Mandate extends. How far does it extend? In everything man does, in his personal life and in his cultural life. There is nothing on earth that can remain outside of man’s Cultural Mandate, and therefore there is nothing that can be free from the requirements of God’s Law. God’s Law must be taught to individuals, families, churches, and nations, because it is only God’s Law that gives them the tools to obey God in the task He has given man. Once the foundation of God’s Sovereignty is established, and the Dominion Mandate is taken as man main task on earth, there is only one logical conclusion: God’s Law is the Law, in everything man does, individual or cultural.

    — Bojidar Marinov, “Teaching the Whole Counsel of God”

    This would be an excellent example of John’s statement, someone who wants to create room for dominionist theonomy by rejecting the notion that the Christian mandate is evangelistic and not cultural. And the rallying cry is “the whole counsel of God.”

    So yes, JY has a point here, but it’s not true 100% of the time.

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  60. Ali: Once again you seem partial in your exhortation.

    Certainly I have engaged JY recently. But perhaps you feel that I’m pushing back harder against you than him?

    Ali: btw Jeff, you know who also has precision in theology – James 2:19b the demons also believe and shudder

    Scarily enough, James doesn’t say that the demons have precision, but that they have faith.

    So what is your point: That if the demons have faith, we shouldn’t?

    Isn’t it rather that the demons have a dead faith, whereas the faith that justifying is living? And there goes James, being precise.

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  61. I’ll try again with my explanations that Ali has rejected and then implied that I was expressing false teaching:

    1) 2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

    John Y: The context of this verse is “in Christ” not “Christ in us.” So it is clear that Paul is talking about justification and not the resulting inward renewal that the imputation of righteousness is the cause of (I know that is the point of controversy with many at oldlife, i.e., the logical priority of union with Christ) When God the Father declares a person “in Christ” and imputes Christ’s death to that person the Holy Spirit follows with the inward renewal (regeneration and sanctification). The person is declared justified. This all takes place as a result of the hearing the Gospel.

    The Gospel is an “alien righteousness.” So the very foundation of hearing the Gospel results in repentance from any kind of righteousness that the sinner thinks he has earned with God or has within himself. Righteousness that is acceptable to the Holy God is only found “in Christ.” What the Holy Spirit does in the sinner to produce faith (inward renewal) is not the righteousness. The seed is the righteousness imputed not the inward renewal. In conclusion, the new creation is being transferred from “in Adam” to “in Christ.” A change of legal state. Paul’s whole argument in the first 11 chapters of Romans is a legal argument for the elect “in Christ”, i.e. what it all means. The legal imputed righteousness results in the work of the Spirit. The elects only hope is the imputed righteousness. Who can bring a charge against God’s elect? (Romans chapter 8).

    2) To continually quote the whole counsel of God just increases sin.”

    John Y: What I take Ali to mean by the whole counsel of God is what sbd said. Or, the way I interpret it is get off the constant talk of the legal righteousness and start obeying the imperatives. That is the heart of the matter according to those who point to the whole counsel of God. Exhorting to obey the imperatives without knowing what the Gospel is just increases sin.

    If you look at the context of that one verse in Acts chapter 20 where Paul talks about the whole counsel of God to the Ephesian elders you see that Paul is talking about not refraining from talking about the grace of the Gospel. Read it in context and you will see. What Paul was warning against was those who would come in after him and pervert the Gospel of grace with a works like righteousness that Paul wrote about in the book of Galatians.

    3) I don’t think you have to put on your full regalia of battle gear”

    John Y: I was not clear with what I was trying to communicate. What I should have said was the full regalia of battle gear is markedly defensive not aggressive. Paul is telling to Ephesians to stand and to stand firm in the Gospel. It is not an exhortation to go out and become a moral crusader for the kingdom of God.

    4) “the whole counsel of God” is usually code word for an alone faith that is not really alone.”

    John Y; I think I already explained what I meant by that.

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  62. Quickly sdb, the most humble posture is to trust and believe everything the Lord says. The sum of His word is truth.

    We are being saved at the highest cost to our God . He is saving us; we don’t deserve it; but Jesus paid the ransom to completely redeem His people from slavery – to sin and death – to liberate captives and set free the oppressed. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; Jesus came that we may have life, and have it abundantly.

    Haven’t read Jeff’s and John’s latest comments, so don’t know about any further comment from me or not.

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  63. Robert says:

    I’d also be careful of Gordon Clark, since he had a deficient Christology and held that faith was mere mental assent to propositional truths. That’s not the definition of faith by the Reformers or the WCF.

    John Y: Clark makes a pretty convincing case for “mere mental assent to propositional truths” in his book, WHAT IS SAVING FAITH? He also defines faith with great biblical clarity and does challenge the three fold definition of faith of the WCF. He challenges the third element of faith, i.e., the trusting of the person of Christ as distinct from what Christ accomplished- his works. How one makes a distinction like that is quite unclear and he unpacks that over several pages of commentary. Have you ever read the book? I can’t remember all of Machen’s book on faith but I know Clark quotes a lot of it in his, WHAT IS SAVING FAITH,” book.

    In order to really come to an understanding of why there are such huge rifts and disagreements in the Reformed world regarding doctrine one would have to delve deeply into the common grace controversy of the 1920’s, the Van Til/Clark controversy of the 40’s and 50’s and the Norman Shepherd controversy of the 70’s. They all still linger in the Reformed world and make coming to a consensus about what Reformed theology really is nearly impossible.

    btw, John MacArthur is still a firm believer in free offer of the Gospel and the sufficient for everyone but effective only for the elect view of the atonement. That is a whole other topic but related to the common grace controversy of the 1920’s.

    “Recently, John MacArthur, Jr., the popular and professedly Calvinistic pastor of Grace Community Church in California, has entered the fray with his book, The Love of God, mentioning the controversies in the CRC and OPC, and coming down squarely on the side of the hypo-Calvinists. His four appendices showcase four of the historical fathers of hypo-Calvinism; he is even kind enough to reprint one heretical piece from each of them (Chalmers, Fury Not in God, Fuller, On the Love of God, and Whether it Extends to the Non-Elect, Boston, Christ the Savior of the World, and Brown, The Love of God to the World).

    Surprisingly, there was one section encouraging to Calvinists, which surely Mr. MacArthur did not intend. He says this: “A friend of mine recently gave me seven or eight articles that have circulated in recent months on the Internet. All of them were written and posted in various computer forums by Christians. And all of them deny that God loves everyone. It is frankly surprising how pervasive the idea has become among evangelicals.” Could these be the rumblings of Reformation? Not if MacArthur can help it. A page later he gives his position away when he says, “I want to state as clearly as possible that I am in no way opposed to logic.” This smells like a Van Tilian disclaimer. And-surprise, surprise-MacArthur goes on to say, “We must conclude that there is a sense in which His decrees do not always reflect His desires; His purposes are not necessarily accomplished in accord with His preferences.” Murray and Stonehouse couldn’t have said it better. This statement was in response to the “difficulty” that â “unfulfilled desire” [is] compatible with a wholly sovereign God. He goes on to devote a paragraph to the free offer controversy in some Reformed and Presbyterian denominations about fifty years ago in which one group denied that God loves the non-elect, which is a form of hyper-Calvinism.

    http://www.trinityfoundation.org/journal.php?id=161

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  64. Ali,

    “the most humble posture is to trust and believe everything the Lord says. The sum of His word is truth.”

    Sure, and one of those truths is a proper view of justification.

    “We are being saved at the highest cost to our God . He is saving us; we don’t deserve it; but Jesus paid the ransom to completely redeem His people from slavery – to sin and death – to liberate captives and set free the oppressed. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; Jesus came that we may have life, and have it abundantly.”
    OK. Not sure what that has to do with the question of whether anything we do merits anything. JohnY is trying to clearly lay out that we add nothing. If I’m reading you correctly, I think you might be saying that we do contribute something and disagreement with your position is a sort of demonic false teaching. Am I reading you correctly?

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  65. a further comment- in case there is any baby, young believer buying into the complete ridiculousness and travesty that you propose we ought stay away from any of the bible (the whole counsel of God)

    1 Peter 22 2 like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation, 3 if you have tasted the kindness of the Lord.

    John 17:3 This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.

    Psalm 119
    24 Your testimonies also are my delight; They are my counselors.
    104 From Your precepts I get understanding; Therefore I hate every false way.
    105 Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.
    30 The unfolding of Your words gives light; It gives understanding to the simple.
    160 The sum of Your word is truth, and every one of Your righteous ordinances is everlasting.

    John: suggestion. nix the ‘edgy’ videos (egged on by deacon sean) and pick up your bible more

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  66. John,

    I haven’t read Clark’s book, but his wonky Christology is enough to render him untrustworthy.

    It’s possible to give mental assent to truth and not trust in that truth/person. That’s what demons do. They know that God is Savior, that Christ is Lord, etc. They don’t trust in Him to save them. The rich young ruler would be another example, though he may have come to faith later in life. Defining faith as mere mental assent turns the faith into a mere mental exercise. There’s a reason why most people don’t follow Clark and why you can count on one hand the handful of those who are his true disciples—he was wrong and at least in his formulations on these matters, anti-catholic and anti-Reformed.

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  67. Ali: a further comment- in case there is any baby, young believer buying into the complete ridiculousness and travesty that you propose we ought stay away from any of the bible (the whole counsel of God)

    Who said that?!

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  68. @Ali
    I asked if I was reading you correctly and your response is that someone has proposed that we ought to stay away from any of the Bible. No one on this thread has proposed such a thing. It looks to me that you have misunderstood things written here, and rather than trying to understand, you’ve slipped into attack mode. Perhaps I’m wrong.

    The issue here has been the priority and distinction of justification. Do you disagree with this priority and distinction?

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  69. Robert, you got to do better than “wonky.” That’s not an explanation of Clark’s Christology. I have heard there are some problems with Clark’s theology. There are some problems with Van Til’s theology too. The pro Van Til folks have the upper hand in today’s Reformed world. Some say there was a personal smear campaign and vendetta against Clark during his ordination into the OPC. The reasons were not merely theological from what I have read. I suppose it is possible that the smeared pro Clarkians could be biased in their assessment of the whole scenario. I really don’t want to get sidetracked and distracted by all that but stick to the issues being argued about- like what is saving faith? Certainly, Christology does matter when trying to answer that question. You don’t want to be believing in a different Jesus than what the Scriptures say about Him. So, if you want to tell me how Clark’s Christology is in error please feel free to do so.

    btw, that demon verse in James is talking about demons believing in the one God, it is not talking about demons believing the Gospel by mental assent but not really trusting in the person of Jesus. There certainly is no evidence that the demons described in the book of James believed that Jesus atonement dealt with the elect’s sins- once and for all time (for those written in the book of life). Try explaining how mental assent to the content of the Gospel is different from trusting in the person of Christ.

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  70. Ali is the expert in biblical exegesis on this site. She has similar convictions about that demon verse in James too. However, I would rather listen to edgy music than Ali’s exegesis of the Scriptures. Who she consults in her biblical exegesis is problematic to my mind too.

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  71. I have not communicated with deacon Sean in a long time. How are you, Sean? Do you still live in the Grand Rapids area? Do you have any edgy music suggestions for me that I can listen to and be distracted with while commenting back and forth with the intimidating and patronizing biblical exegete, Ali

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  72. “stick to the issues being argued about- like what is saving faith?”

    Agreed…not sure ad hominem attacks on Ali are going to help her better understand what you are getting at.

    The WCF defines saving fsith as:

    I. The grace of faith, whereby the elect are enabled to believe to the saving of their souls, is the work of the Spirit of Christ in their hearts, and is ordinarily wrought by the ministry of the Word, by which also, and by the administration of the sacraments, and prayer, it is increased and strengthened.

    II. By this faith, a Christian believes to be true whatsoever is revealed in the Word, for the authority of God Himself speaking therein; and acts differently upon that which each particular passage thereof contains; yielding obedience to the commands, trembling at the threatenings, and embracing the promises of God for this life, and that which is to come. But the principal acts of saving faith are accepting, receiving, and resting upon Christ alone for justification, sanctification, and eternal life, by virtue of the covenant of grace.

    III. This faith is different in degrees, weak or strong; may often and many ways assailed, and weakened, but gets the victory: growing up in many to the attainment of a full assurance, through Christ, who is both the author and finisher of our faith.

    Is there anything here you would quibble with? How do you understand what the divines meant by saying that ” the principal acts of saving faith are accepting, receiving, and resting upon Christ alone for justification, sanctification, and eternal life…”?

    What is the relationship among accepting, receiving, and resting? Are they synonymous with mental assent? They strike me as something more.

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  73. Ad hominem breaks are a common occurrence at oldlife. I suppose it is similar to comic relief or Greek catharsis. It eases the tension for a bit before getting back to the serious matters at hand. I do think, what is saving faith?, and what is the Gospel? are very important questions. I will try to behave without the ad hominems. I think I am going to have to wait until tomorrow to answer your questions, sbd. I got to get ready to go to work and I am in the middle of making some soup before I go.

    Actually, I find lots to quibble about in that unclear definition of saving faith. It may take me awhile to answer that though. I want to be very careful in how I respond.

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  74. @jy
    I certainly don’t want to get between a man and his soup! I look forward to hearing your response. Do you think the tfu do a better jib defining “saving faith”?

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  75. Before I go to work I can post three quotes from Clark’s book, WHAT IS SAVING FAITH? What Clark says would answer your inquiry, sbd- you ask: “What is the relationship among accepting, receiving, and resting? Are they synonymous with mental assent? They strike me as something more.”

    Clark says:

    1) “Long before the Neo-orthodox theologians thought of saying that faith is an encounter with a divine Person rather than assent to a proposition, preachers who ought to have known better taught that faith is trust in a person, not belief in a creed…..the result is that both Christians and non-Christians are either needlessly confused or totally misled. Perhaps the world is not responding to the churches message because the message is garbled. Neither the churches nor the world knows exactly what to do to have eternal life.”

    2) “Statements about the head and the heart and trusting a person, not believing a creed are not only false; they have also created the conditions for the emergence of all sorts of religious subjectivism, from Modernism to the Charismatic movement and beyond. No one will miss heaven by twelve inches (the distance between the head and the heart), for there is no distance between the head and the heart: ‘As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.’ The head/heart dichotomy is a figment of modern secular psychology, not a doctrine of divine revelation. St. Sigmund, not St. John, controls the pulpit in nearly all churches.”

    3) “Several factors have contributed to the growing rejection of the Gospel in the churches, and one of those factors is confusion about the nature of faith. That confusion is common to those who oppose the doctrine of justification by faith alone, and to some of those who defend it. Faith, rather than being recognized as belief of a statement, that is, intelligent assent to an understood proposition- and saving faith being belief of the truth, that is, intelligent assent to Biblical propositions- rather than faith being understood in Scriptural terms, faith is seen as something more than belief- as ‘commitment to a person,’ ‘trust of a person,’ ‘encounter with a person,’ ‘surrender to a person,’ or a ‘personal relationship.’ This common viewpoint is not in accord with the Scripture, for it makes a fatal dichotomy between persons and propositions, and regards faith as trust in or commitment to a person, rather than belief of a proposition.”

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  76. John,

    What saves us, the person Jesus or propositions about Him?

    Well, to some degree it’s a false dichotomy. But it’s possible to believe that Jesus died to atone for the elect and yet not trust in Jesus for salvation. I’ve talked to people who are convinced that Jesus died to atone for the elect but don’t think that they themselves are elect and so they haven’t call upon Him for salvation.

    I do agree with Clark that head/heart are ultimately the same thing in Scripture. But we need to make distinctions. I know that in order to lose weight, I have to eat less than I burn off, but if I need to lose weight and don’t do that, have I believed? People know that illegal drugs are bad for their health, but they take them anyway.

    Obviously, those examples are limited in paralleling saving faith, but I think they are enough to indicate that it is possible to know something is true and yet not act on it.

    Or how about this: If I commit adultery and yet tell my session that I mentally assent to the proposition that Christ is my Savior, on what possible basis should I be disciplined according to the definition of faith that Clark is giving.

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  77. Robert
    The problem with your analogies is that in each of them you have to go from believing that a process can work to actually implenting the process to see results. The gospel turns this on its head… we can only believe that Jesus is Lord iff our hearts are changed. Belief is a consequence rather than a cause.

    Note the language in the wcf:

    “Those whom God effectually calls, He also freely justifies; not by infusing righteousness into them, but by pardoning their sins, and by accounting and accepting their persons as righteous; not for any thing wrought in them, or done by them, but for Christ’s sake alone; nor by imputing faith itself, the act of believing, or any other evangelical obedience to them, as their righteousness; but by imputing the obedience and satisfaction of Christ unto them, they receiving and resting on Him and His righteousness by faith; which faith they have not of themselves, it is the gift of God.”

    In case there is any misunderstanding a few articles later the wcf states that:

    “Although repentance is not to be rested in, as any satisfaction for sin, or any cause of the pardon thereof, which is the act of God’s free grace in Christ, yet it is of such necessity to all sinners, that none may expect pardon without it.”

    IOW all true believers will repent, but faith and repentance are results of salvation not causes or conditions upon which our salvation rests.

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  78. johnyeazel says: However, I would rather listen to edgy music than Ali’s exegesis of the Scriptures.

    I can’t believe you are saying that, John -you have hurt my feelings, alot

    Anyway, we are to: Hebrews 3:13 encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called “Today,” so that none of us will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.

    And in that same passage, we are to be instructed by and Hebrews 3:19 see that they were not able to enter because of unbelief ; 1 Corinthians 10: 6 those things happened as examples for us, so that we would not crave evil things as they also craved.14 Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.

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  79. SDB,

    I know. I think I said the analogies were imperfect.

    But faith and repentance are conditions on which our salvation rests. The WCF doesn’t say they aren’t conditions. You actually aren’t saved in time until you repent and believe. Of course the heart has to be changed by God, and when God changes it, the changed person will certainly believe. But the regenerate person who has not yet believed is not yet saved.

    Faith and repentance aren’t causes of our salvation (at least one has to parse what one means by “cause”), but faith is the instrumental means through which we are saved, and repentance is really the flip side of faith (to trust in Christ I have to turn from my trust in something else; I have to let go of my idols to receive Christ).

    If we say faith isn’t a condition of salvation, then hello eternal justification and goodbye the need to preach the gospel.

    I guess it depends on what one means by condition. God works the faith in us, so ultimately, God is fulfilling all of the conditions He has laid on us.

    But back to my point with John—if faith is mere mental assent, then you can have Jesus as Savior without Him being Lord. You can go on sinning so that grace may abound because, hey, you believe the right things. That’s certainly not what the NT says about faith. And as you note, “receiving and resting” is more than mental assent. It is fiducia—our entrusting ourselves to Christ to save us personally and bowing to Him as Lord.

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  80. Ali, thanks for reminding me that I remain sinful yet justified. You don’t have to rub it in though- I did tell sbd that I would try to behave from now on. Let me say with Paul, you who judge by the Law do you always (perfectly) obey the Law?

    Roman 2: 25- For circumcision indeed is of value if you obey the law, but if you break the law, your circumcision becomes uncircumcision.

    btw, are you sure that all of that praise and worship music you listen to is free from all idolatry and might be teaching you some false doctrine?

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  81. johnyeazel says: I did tell sbd that I would try to behave from now on.

    I thought you hated words like ‘try’. Are you a work righteousness, legalist? 😉

    It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.

    Our old self was crucified with Him in order that our body of sin might be done away with so that we would no longer be slaves to sin;
    Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness?
    Just as we formerly presented our members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness, resulting in further lawlessness, so now we present our members as slaves to righteousness, resulting in sanctification. Having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, we derive our benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life.

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  82. Robert says: “I have to let go of my idols to receive Christ” but then he says: “I guess it depends on what one means by condition. God works the faith in us, so ultimately, God is fulfilling all of the conditions He has laid on us.”

    John Y: That means that God does not really justify the ungodly. God has to do some inward renewal before the ungodly get imputed with the righteousness.

    Robert says: “if faith is mere mental assent, then you can have Jesus as Savior without Him being Lord. You can go on sinning so that grace may abound because, hey, you believe the right things. That’s certainly not what the NT says about faith. And as you note, “receiving and resting” is more than mental assent. It is fiducia—our entrusting ourselves to Christ to save us personally and bowing to Him as Lord.”

    John Y: I say nonsense, Robert. Some more from Clark:

    ” John 5:24 reports that Jesus said, He who hears my word [logos] and believes him who sent me has eternal life. The phrase He who hears my word, can equally well be translated, He who hears my doctrine; and it can be interpreted as, He who accepts my doctrine or theology. Verse 38 of the same chapter says, You do not have his word [logos] remaining in you because you do not believe the one he sent. This verse also refers generally to the doctrine or theology that Jesus had been preaching. John 8:31 and 37 are entirely similar. So is John 8:43, with the additional parallel between logos and lalia. This latter word means speech or talk. The translation can be, Why do you not understand my talk? Because you cannot hear [accept or understand] my word. Verses 51 and 52 also use logos to refer generally to Jesus’ preaching: If anyone keeps my doctrine, he shall not see death ever. Three verses below Jesus contrasts himself with the Pharisees on the ground that he, Jesus, keeps God’s logos.

    Besides these verses in which the term logos refers generally to the preaching of Jesus, John 10:35 uses logos to designate the prophecies of the Old Testament. The prophets were men to whom the Logos of God came, and this logos as written in the Scripture cannot be broken. This is the first verse so far quoted that definitely links the logos to the written words of the Old Testament. The idea that the logos is something that can be written down on papyrus, parchment, or vellum is important, even if only because it is so distasteful to the dialectical theologians.

    The paragraph before this last one compared logos with words, not as written, nor with words merely as such, but with spoken words. John 12:48 identifies the logos with rheemata or words as such. The passage reads, He who ignores me [or, sets me aside] and does not accept my words [rheemata], has a judge: The logos that I have spoken, that logos will judge him in the last day. Note that the logos is something spoken and naturally therefore consists of words.

    If the listing of these verses seems tedious, it is at least overwhelming and leaves no defense for those who deprecate words and doctrine. John 14:23-24 say, If anyone love me, he will keep my logos. He who does not love me, does not keep my logous [plural]; and the logos which you hear is not mine, but the Father’s who sent me. The combination of singular and plural, of hearing and therefore of saying, enforces the point of the argument.”

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  83. ” But back to my point with John—if faith is mere mental assent, then you can have Jesus as Savior without Him being Lord. You can go on sinning so that grace may abound because, hey, you believe the right things. ”

    Why does that follow. If faith is a gift that is mental assent (for sake of argument), why does that preclude the promise of sanctification?

    The wcf seems pretty clear that repentance is not the cause of our pardon, but it always accompanies it. We aren’t eternally justified…it is an act of God’s free grace that occurs in space and time. But the faith we express in response to the gospel call is given to us. It doesn’t merit pardon.

    Am I misreading the wcf or do you think they summarized the scriptures incorrectly here?

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  84. SDB,

    Because sanctification entails obedience to Christ. And that requires trusting that He is Lord, staking your very life and destiny on Him. I can mentally assent to the proposition that Donald Trump is president, but I’m certainly not staking my life on following Him.

    Now one could say that to truly assent mentally to Christ’s claims is to stake their life on His claims and following Him. If that is the case, then the person making the claim that faith is pure mental assent is actually saying faith is more than mental assent.

    Repentance isn’t a cause of salvation; it’s a necessary result of salvation. So I don’t disagree with the WCF. It’s a condition of salvation, however, such that you can’t be saved without it, and that’s because you can’t be saved without faith, and repentance at the end of the day is the first movement of faith, at least the repentance one experiences at conversion. Any repentance after conversion, I think, is different in some way than the repentance one has at conversion, when there is that decisive turn to Christ.

    I think the whole “faith is only mental assent” by Clark is an effort to avoid making faith into a work or incorporating works into faith. And I’m sympathetic to that. But it devolves into us being saved by propositions, not by the personal God. And it really doesn’t get away from the issue that many seem to have with faith being something we do. Yes faith is God’s gift. Yes, if God gives me faith I will certainly and inevitably exercise it. But I’m still the one putting the trust in the person who saves me, even Jesus Christ.

    The problem also with defining faith as mere mental assent is that it actually comes perilously close to the Roman Catholic position that says the dead faith of demons (mental assent—they believe God is one) is true faith but not saving faith. If, as the Reformers said, true faith is always saving faith, then faith has to be more than mental assent. It’s ironic that in trying to avoid the errors of Romanism, the idea of faith as mental assent actually in a sense embraces it. Both the Clarkian view and the Romanist view will affirm that faith as mental assent is true faith; the only difference is that Clark says mental assent saves and the Romanists say that mental assent doesn’t save. I don’t think that’s what Clark intended, but that’s what it is. Thus, his position actually ends up supporting a lot of the Romanist attacks against Protestant notions of faith.

    And it’s also worth noting that Clark’s radical Scripture-only presuppositionalism also puts him outside the WCF and the Reformers.

    Yes on faith not meriting pardon. Yes on the WCF teaching on repentance. But the WCF does teach that both of those are non-meritorious conditions of salvation. To say otherwise is to make faith unnecessary.

    I hope that makes sense.

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  85. John,

    That means that God does not really justify the ungodly. God has to do some inward renewal before the ungodly get imputed with the righteousness.

    If regeneration precedes faith, then a change of heart does logically (and perhaps in some cases temporally) precede justification. But that change of heart is not the basis of justification. All it does is enable one to believe.

    You actually can talk about us being imputed with righteousness before regeneration in at least the sense that God’s decree of election unto salvation incorporates that, and that our sins were actually imputed to Christ on the cross long before we lived. But we aren’t imputed with righteousness in time until we believe, and that requires faith, which requires God to give life to dead hearts. But God giving life to dead hearts doesn’t make us automatically godly. We’re still ungodly at justification because we still have a record of personal sin plus Adam’s sin imputed to us, and regeneration doesn’t deal with that. And in important ways, there is a sense that we remain ungodly after justification because we still sin.

    There really isn’t a way around this. Paul says that those who are in the flesh can’t please God. But since God commands faith, faith pleases Him when we exercise it. Which means we aren’t in the flesh when we trust in Christ. Some kind of change has taken place. But the change itself is not the basis for God finding us righteous in His sight, nor is faith imputed for righteousness, nor is faith a work of merit.

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  86. John,

    I’m not deprecating words or doctrine. I’m just having trouble separating faith as mere mental assent from the doctrine of people like Zane Hodges who says one can mentally assent to the truth of the gospel and be saved.

    Perhaps the Reformers were wrong, but it is easy for me to conceive of people who know the claims of Jesus (notitia), believe He is the Savior and that they are sinners (assensus) but then do not entrust themselves to that (fiducia). Both antinomianism and legalism are flavors of that.

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  87. Ali, that was sarcasm (the try part). You flew right by that Romans chapter 2 reference.

    -Sarcasm? Jesus is a liar, John?
    -Roberts says Yes faith is God’s gift. Yes, if God gives me faith I will certainly and inevitably exercise it. But I’m still the one putting the trust in the person who saves me, even Jesus Christ.

    What part of Romans 2 are you refering to? And, btw, what part of Romans 2 are you flying by? This part?

    Romans 2 God, 6 who WILL RENDER TO EACH PERSON ACCORDING TO HIS DEEDS: 7 to those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life; 8 but to those who are selfishly ambitious and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, wrath and indignation. 9 There will be tribulation and distress for every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek, 10 but glory and honor and peace to everyone who does good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 11 For there is no partiality with God.
    29 he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God.

    The Lord: I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances. I am not doing this for your sake,” declares the Lord GOD
    You have perseverance and have endured for My name’s sake.

    Paul :May it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. For neither is circumcision anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation. And those who will walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God.

    He who boasts is to boast in the Lord.

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  88. @ John Y:

    Unpacking Gordon Clark requires a lot of care and attention. I can’t say that I’ve done so very well, but here are my observations.

    (1) Philosophical: Clark wants for all exegesis to be done deductively. He actively disparages induction as a possible method for a theologian to use.

    The problem with this approach is that it fails at the basic level of the dictionary: How do I know what words mean, if not by observing usage (which is induction)?

    In this way, Clark was (probably wittingly) recapitulating the Hilbert Project for mathematics, the goal to make all statements in mathematics be provable theorems. Unfortunately for that project, Godel’s Incompleteness Theorem shows that any purely logical system must either be incomplete (some statements are not provable theorems) OR inconsistent.

    So also in theology: If all statements must be deduced from the axiom of Scripture, then the meanings of words must also be found in Scripture; that is, there must be a divinely inspired Bible dictionary.

    But there is no such (and Catholics worry about the table of contents!!), so that Clark’s project is doomed. In my conversations with Clarkians (eg Sean Gerraty), this point is deeply offensive and is dismissed.

    (2) Philosophical: Clark is a realist with regard to propositions. Like Greg Bahnsen the van Tillian, Clark holds that propositions have an abstract existence, and that “the mind” of a person consists of the propositions he believes.

    (3) Theological: Clark wants to assert that faith is mental assent.

    For Clark, mental assent is stronger than sincere verbal affirmation. It means that one has understood a proposition and believes it.

    Clark’s concerns are

    (a) to repudiate a three-fold division of man into body/soul/spirit and instead insist on a more Biblical body/spirit division (I agree with him here).

    (b) to repudiate a distinction between “trust” and “believe.” For Clark, one who says “trust” either means “believe” = “pisteuo”, or else he means something else, which is not Biblical.

    Clark is usually regarded here as having missed the point of the traditional Reformed distinction. The reason that faith is considered to have three elements is not to say that faith is complex rather than simple, but rather to give three characteristics that legitimate faith will have.

    (4) Theological: Clark asserts that the persons of the trinity are propositions.

    With considerations such as these Augustine was able to explain the learning and the teaching process. The teacher in the classroom does not give his students ideas. The ideas or truths are discovered by the student in his own mind; and as he contemplates the truth within, he judges whether the teacher has taught the truth. But though the truth is discovered within the mind, it is not a product of the student. Truth is not individual, but universal; truth did not begin when we were born, it has always existed.

    Is all this any more than the assertion that there is an eternal, immutable Mind, a Supreme Reason, a personal, living God? The truths or propositions that may be known are the thoughts of God, the eternal thought of God. And insofar as man knows anything he is in contact with God’s mind. Since, further, God’s mind is God, we may legitimately borrow the figurative language,… and say, we have a vision of God.

    — Gordon H. Clark A Christian View of Men and Things (Kindle Locations 4666-4728). The Trinity Foundation. Kindle Edition.

    I have a number of concerns about Clark, but here’s the central one that I have about both Clark and van Til: They make theories of knowledge into matters of Biblical doctrine. The reason that Clark and van Til argued with schismatic result is that each considered the other’s epistemology to be theologically out of bounds.

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  89. @Robert

    “Because sanctification entails obedience to Christ. And that requires trusting that He is Lord, staking your very life and destiny on Him. I can mentally assent to the proposition that Donald Trump is president, but I’m certainly not staking my life on following Him.”
    Right. But sanctification is not justification. Sanctification is part of salvation (along with Glorification, Election, Regeneration, etc…). But they are not all one and the same.

    Although repentance is not…any cause of the pardon [for sin] … yet…none may expect pardon without it.
    “Repentance isn’t a cause of salvation; it’s a necessary result of salvation. So I don’t disagree with the WCF. ”
    We agree. Eye movement doesn’t cause you to live, but everyone alive has eye movement. If you don’t have eye movement, then you’re dead.

    “It’s a condition of salvation, however, such that you can’t be saved without it, and that’s because you can’t be saved without faith, and repentance at the end of the day is the first movement of faith”
    I think we have to be careful here. I think when you say salvation, you mean justification. Is that right? But I don’t think “condition” means something that always follows. Normally when you refer to something as a condition, we mean that something must occur in order for something else to happen. In other words, it is part of the causal chain. I do think that a lot of people think of faith that way. The gospel is a free offer to us, and all we need to do is convince someone to accept it. Perhaps we can get the right tune going, build up the right emotional atmosphere, and be sufficiently winsome to get someone to take that step in faith and accept the free gift. It leads directly to a sort of “decisional regeneration” that is part and parcel of Billy Graham’s evangelism.

    If it is impossible to truly believe that Jesus is the Christ apart from the Holy Spirit opening our eyes and giving us a heart of flesh, then the act of mental assent is supernatural and a pretty big deal (more than just believer that God exists). Furthermore, this mental assent is always followed by sanctification (all those he justifies he also sanctifies). To be sure, there are hypocrites who say they believe (they may even convince themselves that this is so), but such aren’t sanctified and will not persevere to the end because they have not truly assented to the gospel.

    I don’t know anything about Clark, but if he puts as much weight on epistemology as Jeff indicates, then I doubt that I would be very sympathetic to his overall project.

    I gather the concern is that some will claim that all I have to do is believe (or say I believe) certain propositions and then I can live however I want. The problem isn’t with a faulty understanding of justification. the problem is with a faulty understanding of sanctification and the role of good works in that. Namely that good works “are the fruits and evidences of a true and lively faith: and by them believers manifest their thankfulness, strengthen their assurance, edify their brethren, adorn the profession of the Gospel, stop the mouths of the adversaries, and glorify God…” Our good works are (part of) what strengthens our assurance of our justification and eventual salvation.

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  90. Coming to clarity of communication on the internet is a long and laborious process- I suppose that is what life is like. God gives most of us three score year and ten to reflect on what is really important- even though He knows who is elect and who is not. God give me wisdom, insight and understanding of your Logos to respond in a way that is pleasing to you. You know I am unworthy and plead for your mercy.

    I have four differing conversations to respond to and none of them can be responded to with a mere soundbite. There are others much more qualified and worthy than me to respond. However, I will give it a shot- one at a time. I’m definitely not going to doing it all in one sitting.

    1) Ali, I think you are trying to fight the dominion and power of sin with the willfulness of your flesh; correct me if you think I am wrong. I say this because I think you totally misinterpret both Romans chapter 6 and Romans chapter 2. The root of fallen mans problem is that we are all born guilty and condemned in Adam. Romans chapter 6 gives fallen man a solution to that problem. God’s elect are baptized into the death of Christ. That justly deals with the problem. How does the elect reckon themselves dead to sin and alive towards God? Only because God the Father has placed His elect into the death of Christ. The result of this is Romans 6: 14- For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace. The power of sin is its condemning power through the Law. If you transgress even one of the imperatives you stand guilty and condemned. Christ defeated the condemnation of His elect by fulfilling the Law for His elect.

    In contrast to this solution is the enabling power of the Spirit. The following is a quote that explains the ridiculousness of this solution:

    “This focus on the “sinfulness” that Jesus is bearing sounds like some six hour mystical experience, and it distracts from the meaning of Christ being legally counted with the guilt of the elect.

    First, I question the biblical basis for these mystical guys assuming that Christ was not imputed with sins until six hours before He died. Second, the wages of sin is death, and not some six hour experience. Third, the focus on “sinfulness” rather than imputed guilt calls into question what these guys think “imputation” means. Is it only a transfer of punishment and consequence, and not of guilt, as Andrew Fuller would have it?

    I understand the practical point is that imputation has results. Of course I agree. Indeed, I am the one saying that the life of the new birth is a result of the imputation of Christ’s righteousness. But mystical guys don’t like that. They like to talk about their new birth experience. And when they talk about results of the new birth, they don’t deny imputation and forgiveness of sins, they are looking for more “real” results than that. They think the new birth has given them a better more righteous “soul” than the next guy.”

    Hopefully, I will be able to respond to the Romans chapter 2 objection and the other comments before the weekend has passed.

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  91. SDB: I gather the concern is that some will claim that all I have to do is believe (or say I believe) certain propositions and then I can live however I want.

    The concern is actually more about apostasy. Specifically, how do we understand the false “faith” of James 2 and Luke 8, both of which passages speak of the unsaved who “believe”?

    The traditional Reformed understanding of saving faith grew out of a concern to distinguish true faith from false without resorting to a fallible salvation. Thus Turretin:

    Does temporary faith differ only in degree and duration or also in kind from justifying faith? The former we deny; the latter we affirm against the Remonstrants.

    This question about the difference between temporary and justifying faith was raised by the Remonstrants. For in order to prove the apostasy of the saints, they employed principally the argument drawn from temporary believers. However since our theologians answered that they were not true believers and that their faith was not saving and justifying, but differing in its entire species from the faith of true believers, they (on the contrary) maintained that the difference is only of degree, not specific…the orthodox still maintain that the difference is specific and essential…as to the essential acts of faith, knowledge, assent, and trust.

    — Turretin Inst Elenc Th, Topic 15, Qn 15

    So for Turretin, who is highly representative, the difference between the saved and the apostate is that their faith differs in essential qualities: Knowledge, assent, trust.

    A second concern is to distinguish genuine faith, which must include knowledge and trust, from the “implicit faith” of RC theology (Topic 15, Qn 9 – 10), which requires neither. So the traditional view grows more out of opposition to RCs and Remonstrants than to antinomians.

    Coming back to modern times: for Clark, there is only one unitary act of belief (he disapproves of distinguishing parts of the human psyche such as head and heart); hence, the apostate differs from the saved because the two groups believe different propositions.

    The argument against the traditional view is that it opens the door to meritorious faith; the counterargument is that faith is the instrumental cause, but not meritorious ground, of justification (see Turretin Topic 16, Qn 7).

    The argument against Clark’s view is that it leaves no room for the “noetic effects of sin”, hence no room for a change of heart in effectual calling; rather, the HS simply creates the right propositions in the mind. Clarkian counterarguments are here: http://www.trinityfoundation.org/journal.php?id=258

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  92. @ Ali:

    Gets kinda rough and wild in here. My sense is that you feel a bit offended by the charge that you are involved in a false gospel, and I can’t blame you for feeling that way.

    Let’s back up one step and ask: The quotes that went out under MacArthur’s name that he later retracted, would you agree that they represent a false gospel, and that he did a good thing in repudiating those statements? Here they are again:

    “Many people believe justified means “just-as-if-I’d-never-sinned.” In other words, God says, “I count you righteous even though you’re really not.” It is true that God makes that declaration, but there is also a reality of righteousness. We are not only declared righteous; we are made righteous (Justification by Faith, 1988, 98). This making righteous is accomplished by infusing Christ’s righteousness into Christians: “God actually credits righteousness to our account. He imputes righteousness to us; he infuses divine life into us. He regenerates and sanctifies us. He makes the unholy holy, and therefore declares that we are righteous…. There is a reality–God gives us righteousness, and thus he can declare that we are righteous” … The believing sinner is justified by righteousness infused into him” (Justification, 121-122).

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  93. johnyeazel says: mystical guys don’t like that. They like to talk about their new birth experience. And when they talk about results of the new birth, they don’t deny imputation and forgiveness of sins, they are looking for more “real” results than that. They think the new birth has given them a better more righteous “soul” than the next guy.”

    Huh, Mystical guys, John? quickly for now, gotta go, but, you’re kidding right? Not sure why you don’t embrace and receive this astounding good news of the Gospel; Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you. You need to believe and trust Jesus.

    Romans 8: 9b if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him.

    Tit 3:5 He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit

    Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. 6 “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 “Do not be amazed that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 “The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

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  94. Ali, you’re the antonym of unflappable- even though you think you’re unflappable. Without the work of Christ there would be no work of the Spirit. God the Father makes that clear:

    Romans 8:10- The Spirit is life because of righteousness; 2 Peter 1: 1-2: 1 Simeon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ: 2 May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.

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  95. Thanks Jeff. That is clarifying. I haven’t read Turrentin though I see his name quite a bit. I suppose I should add him to my list. I agree the question of apostasy is a difficult one. There are people who reject the gospel who claim (and at one point really seemed) to believe the gospel. Could it be they were just deluding themselves and never *really* believed? Looking at your quote from Terrentin, “the difference is specific and essential…as to the essential acts of faith, knowledge, assent, and trust”. So is he saying here that the faith is different in kind, the knowledge is different in kind, the assent is different in kind, *and* the trust is different in kind? That reads like a different claim from saying that a false faith is *mere* knowledge or *mere* assent that lacks trust. Like I said, I haven’t read Turrentin, so perhaps I’m reading too much into this snippet.

    For what it’s worth, I don’t have an opinion on the Clark controversy. My concern is with the priority of justification resting solely on Christ’s work applied as an act of God’s free grace and avoiding the pitfall of seeing faith as something that merits justification (the one work that accomplishes part of our salvation). Connected to this is seeing our sanctification as something that follows our justification the progress of which varies in degrees among believers and is never perfected in this life for anyone. Part of my concern here is probably driven from my own biography and the circles I move in. This makes me very sympathetic to JY’s challenge to Ali and concern for her dismissal of the importance of keeping our understanding of justification and sanctification distinct. In my experience (personal and social), it is very difficult to shake the thought that we need to stay on the “straight and narrow” and do “great things for Christ” in order to curry God’s favor (or avoid his displeasure).

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  96. johnyeazel says: Without the work of Christ there would be no work of the Spirit. God the Father makes that clear:

    Who said otherwise John? You truly continue to put words in my mouth.
    btw, Without the work of God – Father, Son, Spirit, – there would be no salvation.

    Btw2 , good post here this am The Prosperity Gospel in Our Closet by Jimmy Needham
    https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/the-prosperity-gospel-in-our-closet

    excerpts:
    -Christianity is the religion of delight. But not any delight — delight in God himself.
    -The staggering claim of the gospel is that God is not just better than anything the world has to offer — God is even better than anything God has to offer.
    -The punchline of our good news is this: You get God!
    -Christ didn’t just come to give us heaven — Christ came to give us himself!
    -Is the punch line of your good news that we don’t have to go to hell when we die? If so, you’re not only holding back the brightest gem of the good news from others, you also might be betraying what you treasure most in being saved: yourself.
    -We must have our God, or we truly have nothing.

    sdb says This makes me very sympathetic to JY’s challenge to Ali and concern for her dismissal of the importance of keeping our understanding of justification and sanctification distinct.

    sbd, I did not originally read that initial quote (Jeff reiterates above) carefully enough obvbiously. Other than that, don’t think I’ve said anything that reflects you above concern but please point where, if so.

    sdb says In my experience (personal and social), it is very difficult to shake the thought that we need to stay on the “straight and narrow” and do “great things for Christ” in order to curry God’s favor (or avoid his displeasure).

    As far as this, please as well see link above suggested to John Yz.

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  97. And here you go guys -enjoy God today.

    Proverbs 4:18 the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn that shines brighter and brighter until the full day.

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  98. SDB: So is he saying here that the faith is different in kind, the knowledge is different in kind, the assent is different in kind, *and* the trust is different in kind?

    Yes. He distinguishes the knowledge, assent, and trust in saving v temporary faith.

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  99. Ali: You truly continue to put words in my mouth.

    I think this has become a central theme of interactions here. Can we agree that it is uncharitable and should cease? For example, would you be willing to leave off such things as

    Ali: I’m really not sure of your point. You r2kers are puzzling, because, though I think you are trying to say what scripture says, you’re always trying to ‘nuance’ it in a way that somehow leaves out or diminishes God (uncharitable Jeff?)

    Those kinds of comments, in addition to being absurdly false, are amazingly offensive. When you say those kinds of things, I stop listening.

    So: How can we have a productive, fruitful conversation that allows you and me and John to express our concerns, opinions, convictions, yet without making wrong judgments about the others?

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  100. @ali your aggressive charge against JY’s narrow point of the priority of justification over sanctification such as this and you suggestion that this conversation reflects demonic self deception (ahem). Perhaps responding clearly to questions for clarification and charitably starting with the assumption that the commenters are orthodox and requesting clarification when someone posts something that seems off before resorting to denunciations, would lead to more productive conversations. You might learn something in the process or perhaps more importantly be effective at helping an errant brother see his error (consider Gal 6:1).

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  101. @jeff that’s interesting. I’ve heard warnings that people might know the orthodox gospel, accept it as true, but not take the last step of surrendering to it. In this case the knowledge and assent are there, but the trust is missing. Apostasy is a tough one. I’ll need to read up here. Is there something in particular by (or about) Turrentine that you would recommend as a starting point?

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  102. SDB,

    I gather the concern is that some will claim that all I have to do is believe (or say I believe) certain propositions and then I can live however I want. The problem isn’t with a faulty understanding of justification. the problem is with a faulty understanding of sanctification and the role of good works in that.

    It’s not the faulty understanding of justification that I see. As far as I know, Clark was orthodox on that. It’s his definition of faith that concerns me. I don’t see how his definition of faith results in the traditional priority of justification and inevitability of sanctification as proof of justification in Protestantism. Though to be fair, as Jeff noted, Clark may not be so concerned with antinomianism.

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  103. @ SDB:

    His major work is Institutes of Elenctic Theology in three hardcover volumes. Still worth it … clear, elegant, reflective of the best of Reformed scholastics.

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  104. Robert,
    We have only scratched the surface of the what is saving faith debate. There is a lot more to be said in that regard. I may be wrong but you seem to be more concerned with antinomianism and moral reform than doctrinal reform. Zrim had a good post about that back in 2011. You and Ali seem to be on the same page and in agreement about doctrinal issues that I would find hard to swallow. It does not really matter what I think; what matters is where the biblical truth lies. Then again there is analogical truth and univocal truth- now I’m heading down that sarcastic road:

    https://confessionalouthouse.wordpress.com/2011/10/31/a-meditation-for-reformation-day-2/

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  105. SBD says: Perhaps responding clearly to questions for clarification and charitably starting with the assumption that the commenters are orthodox and requesting clarification when someone posts something that seems off before resorting to denunciations, would lead to more productive conversations. You might learn something in the process or perhaps more importantly be effective at helping an errant brother see his error (consider Gal 6:1).

    John Y: The errant brother or sister is still to be determined. However, to actually admit error is very rare indeed- as the common grace, VanTil/Clark and Shephard controversies clearly revealed.

    As long as everyone considers that possibility that they could possibly be in error than I heartily agree. We all tend to correct each other in anything but a spirit of gentleness. Some great theological reformers disobeyed this imperative on a regular basis.

    Gal. 6:1-10- “1 Brothers,if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. 2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. 3 For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. 4 But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. 5 For each will have to bear his own load. 6 One who is taught the word must share all good things with the one who teaches. 7 Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. 8 For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. 9 And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. 10 So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.

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  106. Jeff,

    I am going to stay clear of any philosophical and epistemological debates. We all agree that the Scriptures are where the truth about redemption lies. We may disagree whether that truth is univocal or analogical. That may end up where this debate goes but I am not qualified to really go there. I think the whole notion of general revelation can get very confusing too. I’ll try to stay on track with the questions asked by you, SBD and Robert in some other posts. Just responding now before the weekend ends. I’ve been pretty busy with some other stuff.

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  107. Some more from Clark’s, WHAT IS SAVING FAITH?:

    4) “Deniers of justification by faith alone may say that faith is not mere assent, for it is obedience as well. They make the vague ‘something more than assent’ definite by their assertion that saving faith includes works. This allows them- watch their sleight of hand carefully- to assert that justification by faith alone is true, as the Westminster confession teaches, because they have redefined faith to include works. So when they assert that ‘justification is by faith alone,’ they mean, ‘justification is by works, too.”

    5) “Faith and Saving Faith is not primarily about the doctrine of justification by faith alone, but its exegesis and analysis are fundamental to that doctrine. To understand the doctrine of justification by faith alone, one must understand the doctrine of faith, as well as the doctrine of justification. Err on either doctrine, and one errs on the doctrine of justification by faith alone. So one might misunderstand justification as a process, or progressive, or two-staged, or based on infused righteousness, or conditioned on one’s obedience, rather than as an irrevocable legal act of God.”

    6) “And one might misunderstand faith as a complex psychological feat, which, if it is not performed satisfactorily by the sinner, and confirmed by meticulous introspection, cannot justify. One can make faith into a work such as, ‘complete commitment,’ unconditional surrender,’life-changing encounter,’ and ‘total trust.’ Many people are offended by the simplicity of the Gospel, and add to the statements of Scripture. They thus destroy the assurance of Christians by making them wonder if they have ‘surrendered’ enough, ‘trusted’ enough, or been ‘committed’ enough to be saved….this creates a spiritual climate of doubt in which those who deny justification by faith alone can flourish.”

    7) “Both the defenders and deniers of justification by faith alone need to learn the lessons about faith that Scripture teaches. One of them is this: The strength or kind of faith required is nowhere stated in Scripture. The Holy Spirit has said nothing as to the quantity or quality on which so many dwell and over which they stumble, remaining all their days in darkness and uncertainty. It is simply in believing- feeble as our faith may be- that we are invested with this righteousness of Christ. For faith is not work, nor merit, nor effort but the cessation from all these and the acceptance in place of them of what another has done- done completely and forever. The simplest, feeblest faith suffices: It is not the excellence of our act of faith that does anything for us, but the excellence of Him who suffered for sin- the just for the unjust- that He might bring us to God….Many a feeble hand-perhaps many a palsied one- was laid on the head of the burnt offering (Lev. 1:4), but the feebleness of that palsied touch did not alter the character of the sacrifice or make it less available in all its fullness for him who brought it….. The weakest touch sufficed to establish the connection between it and him.”

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  108. Jeff Cagle and sbd say : How can we have a productive, fruitful conversation
    -Thanks guys for calling me out. How forward? Continue to call each other out, because the deeds of the flesh are evident?
    Galatians 5:16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. 17 For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law. 19 Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are:immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, 21 envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
    Romans 8:12 So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh— 13 for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14 For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.

    Jeff Cagle says: For example, would you be willing to leave off such things as
    -Depends what it was specifically in response to, Jeff

    johnyeazel says: You and Ali seem to be on the same page and in agreement about doctrinal issues that I would find hard to swallow. It does not really matter what I think; what matters is where the biblical truth lies.
    -Amen John.-where biblical truth lies

    Hebrews 5:8 Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered. 9 And having been made perfect, He became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation,

    Bible notes:
    Christ’s obedience was also necessary so that He could fulfill all righteousness (Matt 3:15) and thus prove to be the perfect sacrifice to take the place of sinners (1 Pet 3:18). He was the perfectly righteous One, whose righteousness would be imputed to sinners (cf. Rom 3:24-26)
    True salvation evidences itself in obedience to Christ, from the initial obedience to the gospel command to repent and believe (cf. Acts 5:32; Rom 1:5; 2 Thess 1:8; 1 Pet. 1:2,22;4:17) to a life pattern of obedience to the word (cf Rom 6:16)

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  109. JY,

    I may be wrong but you seem to be more concerned with antinomianism and moral reform than doctrinal reform.

    Well, you are wrong. I’m concerned with antinomianism, yes, but I’m equally concerned about doctrinal reform. My point is that the WCF and traditional Protestant definition of faith simply doesn’t need reformation in a direction that makes correct the various Roman Catholic accusations about what we believe about faith.

    You and Ali seem to be on the same page and in agreement about doctrinal issues that I would find hard to swallow.

    Maybe, but I don’t know for sure what Ali’s doctrine is.

    It does not really matter what I think; what matters is where the biblical truth lies.

    Agreed. But Clark was more a Platonic rationalist than a sound interpreter of Scripture in my view. There’s a reason why almost nobody follows his thinking, particularly on faith.

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  110. Ali: Continue to call each other out, because the deeds of the flesh are evident?

    I don’t think the “call-out culture” is very effective. It’s just another form of legalism, really.

    How about this:

    Love one another deeply, because love covers a multitude of sins.

    Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

    Given that we fail to love as we ought, still I think we should be able to agree that love requires of us that we refrain from criticisms that might not be true. And that we work gently with those whom we believe to be in error.

    Agreed so far?

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  111. @ Robert: Clark was a committed Aristotelian in many ways: logic as the high road to all truth. Interestingly, he did not share Aristotle’s interest in science and inductive reasoning.

    Also interestingly, Sproul is an Aristotelian, but is miles away from Clark in theology.

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  112. JY: I am going to stay clear of any philosophical and epistemological debates. We all agree that the Scriptures are where the truth about redemption lies. We may disagree whether that truth is univocal or analogical. That may end up where this debate goes but I am not qualified to really go there.

    Totally agree. I have no desire to get into philosophy here; my sole point is that for both Clark and van Til, philosophy was inextricably entwined with theology. As a result, anyone who rejected Clark’s (or to an extent, van Til’s) philosophy was labeled by Clark (or van Til) as espousing dangerous theology.

    I just don’t think that’s the case. [

    If I may prod on a different issue in a similar situation, I also don’t think that the precise moment of imputation is a matter of theological necessity. I understand that some theological notables (Ursinus, Hodge) have held imputation to be logically prior to faith, and that others (Calvin) have not. I also understand that each one is trying to solve different theological problems.

    But at the end of the day, all are affirming JFBA — and that should be enough. Not that we can’t discuss it, but rather that I don’t view those who take an opposing position in this matter as believing a false gospel.

    If Scripture taught something definite about the place of imputation before faith, that would be a different matter, but it does not.

    Now — there are some more significant issues on the horizon. For example, the Reformed world does seem to be heading into a crisis over “future justification” and “the necessity of works.” Here, IMO, is where the battle is fought, and not so much at the location of imputation in the ordo.

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  113. Ali: Continue to call each other out, because the deeds of the flesh are evident?
    I don’t think the “call-out culture” is very effective. It’s just another form of legalism, really.

    You are a real puzzlement to me Jeff. You called me out, but you think ‘calling out’ is legalism.
    And if you think it is legalism, 1) then just pull up a lounge chair and have a drink and to continue to watch Harvey Weinsteins/etc in the world and abusers/exploiters/etc in the church and 2) consider Jesus

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