What If I Want Jordan Peterson instead of Wendell Berry?

The Gospel Allies are always peppering readers with guidance on contemporary culture without ever acknowledging that many Christians would be better served by reading secular publications (like The New Yorker, The American Conservative, Times Literary Supplement).

As the allies make their way through the haze of relevance, some may wonder what their criteria for evaluating writers, ideas, and cultural expressions are.

Take for instance Joe Carter’s estimate of Jordan Peterson (wherein comes a heavy dose of anti-thetical analysis thanks to a quote from Joel McDurmon):

For all of his toppling of great idols of humanism in our day, Dr. Peterson’s thought, from their presuppositions right through many of his conclusions, is as thoroughly humanist, autonomous, and thus ultimately dangerous, as anything any leftist every said. Christians need to be aware of the depths of this problem in Peterson’s thought, and the implications it has for their discernment of his teachings.

But when it comes to Wendell Berry, a writer much admired here but no font of Christian orthodoxy, the Allies print a positive estimate of the farmer-poet:

Reading Wendell Berry reminds us that one result of rooting ourselves in God’s Word should be that we root ourselves in our neighborhoods. These places are likely to be dark and polluted, but in belonging here while stretching toward the light of God’s love, we bear witness to John’s proclamation: “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:5). Berry’s fictional characters help us imagine what it might look like to be members of God’s household who live with faith, hope, and love—and so bless their neighbors.

Dare I observe that if TGC had given an assignment to a Van Tillian to write about Berry, the article would not be so charitable.

And then to round out the confusion comes a piece that recommends the film of P. T. Anderson (including one — don’t tell John Piper — that has nudity):

Phantom Thread feels like an especially instructive model of a film that I fully expect will be talked about and enjoyed by future generations, long after most 2017 films are forgotten. Director Paul Thomas Anderson is known for making movies (e.g., Magnolia, There Will Be Blood) that aren’t particularly “relevant” but are inarguably good. He is a master of the cinematic form, an auteur who has true, loving interest in the characters and settings he depicts, beyond their utilitarian value as fodder for the zeitgeist. Like Terrence Malick, Anderson makes the films he wants to make, pointing the camera on the things he finds beautiful and interesting, paying little heed to headlines or formulas or convention. Ironically this is often the formula for lasting influence. It certainly has been for Malick and Anderson.

At some point, don’t you wonder that the editors at TGC have less a coherent w-w than they do a desire to pose as up-to-date? And oh, by the way, what does any of this have to do with the gospel?

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153 thoughts on “What If I Want Jordan Peterson instead of Wendell Berry?

  1. The conflicting views of TGC probably have to do with the strong (and in my view unfortunate) Baptist influence. By my count, of the 16 members of TGC’s editorial staff, 3 are Presbyterian, 2 are Anglican, and 11 are Baptist, not to mention bloggers like Kevin DeYoung who are theologically Presbyterian but culturally Baptist. Naturally Baptists like Joe Carter are going to have problems with Jordan Peterson and embrace a professing Christian like Wendell Berry just because, well, he is a professing Christian. Brett McCracken is a bit of an outlier as a Baptist who approves of P.T. Anderson films, but Kevin DeYoung certainly would not.

    I like the idea of TGC, but too often find myself frustrated either by the superficiality of their content or the unwillingness to allow healthy debate on a variety of issues. And I hate that they took away comments from their articles. Sites that don’t allow comments are either lazy or cowardly or both. Unfortunately, when it comes to dissenting views TGC falls into the latter category.

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  2. “As the allies make their way through the haze of relevance…”

    I’m sure, Dr. Hart, you meant to say “haze of irrelevance…”

    There’s nothing sadder than watching members of the Gospel Industrial Complex trying to find some Gospel-Centered hot take on the passing parade of trivia. I can’t imagine the speeches, sermons, podcasts, books, blog posts, tweet storms, dissertations, conferences, and columns on The Black Panther and Racial Reconciliation, Redemption in The Last Jedi, The Handmaid’s Tale and Complementarianism. These people are like groupies – only with less dignity and self-awareness.

    I guess the Trump and White Evangelical Racism well has run dry.

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  3. The litmus test of the coalition is that there shall be no litmus test concerning the five points.

    Ten Myths About Calvinism: Recovering the Breadth of the Reformed Tradition , Kenneth J. Stewart, IVP, 2011
    p 93 “TULIP cannot be allowed to function as a creed”.

    William Smith—–“Once it is acknowledged that there is much more to Calvinism than the five points, and that one can affirm the Five Points and not be Reformed, the question has to be asked: Can one who does not agree with the substance of the five points (if not the terminology) be regarded as holding the truly Reformed faith? Dr. Stewart wants us to understand that Calvinism is much more open to revivals renewal than we might think. Now, as one of a small minority who have some criticisms of “experimental Calvinism” and revivalism, but who could hold of convention of likeminded folks in a phone booth (if he could find one), I ask why Dr. Stewart thinks that….“Calvinists take a dim view of revival and awakening.”

    http://thechristiancurmudgeonmo.blogspot.com/2011/07/kinder-gentler-calvinism.html

    Kenneth Stewart takes sides. He writes about the “adequacy and capaciousness” of the atonement to save the non-elect. But if the death of Christ does not save the non-elect, then it means that God never imputed the sins of the non-elect to Christ. Either God never intended the death of Christ to save the non-elect OR Christ ‘s death without other factors is not adequate to propitiate God’s wrath for sins and purchase faith for sinners. . (On “sufficient/efficient”, I would recommend to the Coalition the book by baptist Tom Nettles, By His Grace and For His Glory,)

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  4. Thank you. I’ve noticed a heavy nostalgia from Berry’s fans. For all their talk of conservatism, I thing they share a modern tendency with progressives: the belief that one can change bits of society/economy and have everything else stay the same.
    “We can live the idyllic(only in stories) small town life, and still have Google and MRI’s!”

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  5. How does one distinguish between the GC and Redeemer? They are so similar it seems they are joined at the hip. So I cannot say I have any time for GC as they act like a denomination in that they are deeply formative, influential and instructive through their website, books (Crossway) and conferences which are unbiblical in encouraging women to act as teaching elders. I do agree with VV though that Kevin DeYoung is essentially in practise but also in truth a Baptist and evangelical: look who he hangs out with when he visits the UK. Why cannot we have more Presbyterians like those highlighted in the quote given by DG recently?
    Jordan Peterson is a refreshing new face to perhaps take over from Roger Scruton and other conservative thinkers, so why Joe doesn’t like him is odd. Maybe Joe is deeply entrenched in suffocating Van Tillian thinking, along with a good number of others in the USA. Jordan certainly gave a typically smug arrogant British leftie (we are full of them) called Cathy Numan a good run recently on a Channel 4 talk.

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  6. First, I just want everyone to know that John Piper is more hip than what D.G. gives him credit for. And second, the following line is funny:


    Dare I observe that if TGC had given an assignment to a Van Tillian to write about Berry, the article would not be so charitable.

    But why listen to and read those outside of our own tribes? First, as Romans 2 states, people outside our faith, and we could include our political and economic ideologies as well, have contributions to make. To assume that we can only learn from Christians or the people from our other tribes is arrogant and wrong. Second, we share society with others and since society is diverse, reading and listening to those outside circles allows us to make better decisions on how to share society with them. Finally, as Paul demonstrated when preaching to the Greeks in Ephesus, I believe, knowing one’s audience helps us in evangelism.

    Though I don’t like to criticize the TGC because they are fellow Christians who provide some useful writings, some of them lean toward being control freaks in telling people what their influences should be.

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  7. I hate to pile on TGC because I actually do like the concept, but I just visited their site and the featured story today is on how to teach your kids history. Absurd as that is, the main picture is of a young girl reading The Fellowship of the Ring. Massive facepalm. I wonder if they do that sort of thing to be ironic, but I really think they are often that thoughtless. The only thing interesting on their main page is a book review of a book on same-sex attraction, which I think is an important and timely discussion to have in the Church today. To add value, they should have multiple articles with careful Scriptural exegesis, analysis of historical theology, and discussion on same-sex attraction, whether it is inherently sinful, an appropriate label, etc., ideally with opposing viewpoints. But I’m sure all we’ll get is a book review. As I said, frustratingly superficial.

    Paul – I don’t think Redeemer and TGC are joined at the hip. There is a natural bond there, but I don’t get the sense that most Redeemer folks have much to do with TGC. Culturally they are very different.

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  8. DGH says the editors at TGC have a desire to pose as up-to-date

    Vae victis (@masonmandy) says sites that don’t allow comments are either lazy or cowardly or both. Unfortunately, when it comes to dissenting views TGC falls into the latter category.

    Paul (UK) says: I do agree with VV though that Kevin DeYoung is in truth a Baptist and evangelical: look who he hangs out with when he visits the UK.

    sdb says: This is yet another example of you attempting to divine the motives of others.

    Good point sdb

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  9. Ali – can you think of any other reason sites don’t allow comments? Laziness suggests unwillingness to moderate the comments, and cowardice suggests intolerance of opposing viewpoints. I can’t think of a single other reason why a site would not allow a comments section.

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  10. vv, I believe there could be reasons that are not negative. In any case you do not know why, and to say “Unfortunately, when it comes to dissenting views TGC falls into the latter category” is to assign two motives you do not know-
    Just as sdb says: This is yet another example of you attempting to divine the motives of others.

    I could assign motives on why one does not call each other out equally, but I will just say -there is no partiality with God.

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  11. @ VV:

    I kind of agree with Ali — we don’t know all reasons.

    For one thing, a whole lot of comment sections become dumpster fires. On the Reformed sites I know of, the commenting can get annoying and heated; on CNN or Reddit it’s just plain awful. Spending the time and energy keeping it tame is not just a matter of overcoming laziness.

    For another, comment sections often become “preaching to the choir” sections, with factions developing who will literally say anything to help their “team.” I can totally see TGC wanting to avoid providing a forum for factionalism.

    That said, the format of “proclamation without response” does create a kind asymmetry that seems undesirable.

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  12. @ Ali:

    You’ve mentioned me in particular as someone who is not even-handed in criticism. You’re correct: I’m not a referee, and I don’t feel that it’s my place to call all fouls.

    I tend to feel that it’s my place to criticize or push back against

    (1) people who are offensive to me personally (though it is better to handle that with gentleness where possible).
    (2) people who promulgate false teaching that rises to the level of gospel matters
    (3) people who seem to want interaction.

    I don’t know if that helps you understand, and that may not satisfy, but that’s how I see my role. I’m not perfectly consistent in that role, and I probably say *more* than I should to people, but that’s the role I aspire to.

    For example: I don’t feel that it’s my place to get involved in the Hart-Keller conflict. Not my circus, not my monkeys — except insofar as Hart’s teaching or Keller’s teaching impact the PCA.

    For example: I did feel obligated to push back hard against Catholic sheep-stealing efforts.

    For example: I do feel that it’s necessary to point out to Curt the basic conflict between the gospel and his theory of corporate sin and political engagement.

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  13. @vv I don’t get the bit about DeYoung being cultural baptist. He was ordained and pastored in the RCA – a mainline reformed denomination – before moving recently to the PCA. His education was at Hope College (if you’re not dutch, you’re not mutch) and pastored in Iowa and Michigan (his grandfathers were both dutch reformed pastors, and his parents worked for a grand rapids ministry). There is nothing in his biography to indicate he is culturally Baptist.

    I do find it curious that he is now an assistant professor of systematic theology at RTS even though his (unfinished) PhD work is in church history while he is a senior pastor of a large PCA church in NC. I’ve read a few things by him, and there is no indication of serious academic engagement with where the conservation on systematic theology is today in anything I’ve come across. Perhaps the title at RTS is generic, and what he actually teaches is something more related to history or homiletics (a professor of the practice of sorts), but if he is really instructing Mdiv candidates in systematics, that is disturbing.

    TGC is an odd collection of things… given their audience and the topics they address, I suspect that not having a comments section is a good idea without a large staff to handle things. I have no idea how many hits they get or if a comment section would matter, but I poke around there a lot less often because of the lack of ability to comment and engage.

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  14. One of the biggest disadvantages TGC has against the secular outlets is how long they have to wait for PT Anderson to make enough movies before they can mention him with the obligatory list (e.g., The Master) without Boogie Nights springing to mind.

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  15. Curt, “First, I just want everyone to know that John Piper is more hip than what D.G. gives him credit for.”

    Why should anyone think you know what hip is?

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  16. SDB,

    As far as DeYoung, just read anything he’s written on moral issues and it’s pretty clear that he’s coming from a more Baptistic cultural perspective. And he is at RTS because Ligon took a shine to him years ago. He’s no scholar, but that’s not all that unusual in RTS’ history of systematic theology profs.

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  17. Are there any Baptists or Lutherans left over at Reformation 21?

    http://www.reformation21.org/blog/2018/03/being-apologetic-for-jordan-pe.php

    “This does not mean that there isn’t a time and place to strongly condemn evil thinking and doing; Jesus does as much in many places. But it is a call to consider the evangelistic import of how we respond to secular resources. Will Jordan Peterson come to Christ if our response to him is exclusively negative? What of his followers? More pointedly, would we have come to God if His response to us had been exclusively negative (Rom. 5.8)?”

    “Calling common grace discoveries good is simply saying “Amen!” back to the God who enabled them in the first place. Even more than this, affirming the good and calling out the bad appears to be one of Jesus’ favorite ways of engaging the lost. Of the many examples of this, Mark 12.28-34 is the most instructive. After a scribe comes up to Jesus and speaks correctly about the law, Jesus tells him that “you are not far from the kingdom of God.” This is a double-edged statement, for Jesus is simultaneously telling this man that there is much good in his thinking and yet that it is not good enough. It is also a brilliant response, for it perfectly balances the call to affirm and challenge non-believing thought.
    Brian Mesimer is a counselor at the counseling center of First Presbyterian Church (ARP) in Columbia, SC.

    The true doctrine having been explained, the Synod rejects the errors of those… Who teach: That the corrupt and natural man can so well use the common grace (by which they understand the light of nature), or the gifts still left him after the fall, that he can gradually gain by their good use a greater, namely, the evangelical or saving grace and salvation itself. And that in this way God on his part shows himself ready to reveal Christ unto all men, since he applies to all sufficiently and efficiently the means necessary to conversion. For the experience of all ages and the Scriptures do both testify that this is untrue. “He showeth his Word unto Jacob, his statues and his ordinances unto Israel. He hath not dealt so with any nation: and as for his ordinances they have not known them,” Psalm 147:19, 20. “Who in the generations gone by suffered all the nations to walk in their own way,” Acts 14:16. And: “And they (Paul and his companions) having been forbidden of the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia, and when they were come over against Mysia, they assayed to go into Bithynia, and the Spirit suffered them not,” Acts 16:6, 7.

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  18. D.G.,
    Because I was around before it was hip. So I know what it is both back then and now. How about you? Or are you too young to know what it means?

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  19. SDB,
    Thanks for the background information about KDY. You are right especially about Ligon Duncan taking a shine to Kevin and snapping him up for RTS. Kevin rarely speaks of Presbyterian convictions and his church looks looks like a smart GC set up. Why he is nominally Presbyterian is a mystery to me, but he certainly is hip and has popular appeal.

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  20. Wendell Berry doesn’t really think it can happen. But this new guy—now’s the time, and Canadians have the ability and now all they need to do is stop doing what is bad and start putting together the fine linen, the fruit of our own agency.

    TORONTO, CANADA—After noting that the pile of clean laundry was still sitting on the kitchen table where he had left it the previous day, clinical psychologist and University of Toronto professor sat down with the clothing and convinced it to sort itself out, reports confirmed.. Take some bloody responsibility! Otherwise you’ll find no meaning, no purpose,”
    https://babylonbee.com/news/jordan-peterson-convinces-pile-clean-laundry-sort/

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  21. D.G.,
    Ask a question, get an accusation. If being serious makes one woke, can one who is woke be hip?

    So again, are you too young to know what being hip means?

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  22. Ali and Jeff – fair enough, maybe I was being a bit uncharitable in my assigning motives for the lack of comments. However, since TGC promulgates mostly personal opinions they *should* allow comments. Moderating comments, in my view, consists of deleting spam and vulgar and/or blasphemous comments. Otherwise there isn’t a good reason to take a lot of time with it – which goes back to the idea of laziness or simple lack of effort.

    sdb – DeYoung’s background may not be Baptist, but as Robert noted, his views of personal morality certainly are. DeYoung follows the Piper and MacArthur mold of emphasizing the need for Christians to “behave a certain way,” and that behavior often comports more with cultural standards than Scriptural standards. This is not unusual in the PCA, especially southern PCA churches.

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  23. Vae,
    You may not be aware but being hip has a similar definition as being woke. Thus, being too serious does not disqualify one from being hip.

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  24. Baptist + “behave a certain way,”

    I don’t see that as distinctively Baptist. Take a look at the position statements from the CRC on “worldly amusements” and see what the thought about cards, dancing, and movies. Same with Methodists. Sure their views have evolved, but moralism is not a characteristic uniquely Baptist.

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  25. “What does this have to do with the Gospel?” Nothing really. But at least I don’t need to busy
    my brain with sorting out the secular from the sacred!

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  26. Both Billy Graham and Katherine Graham believed that people “should behave a certain way”. Billy Graham believed that American Christians should kill and die for the nation.

    I Peter 2: THEY stumble because THEY disobey the message. THEY were destined for this.
    9 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood,
    a holy nation, a people for His possession,
    in order that you proclaim the praises[
    of the One who called you out of darkness
    into His marvelous light.
    10 You were not always a people
    but NOW you are God’s people;
    Once you had not received mercy,
    but NOW you have received mercy.

    http://www.nybooks.com/daily/2018/03/19/jordan-peterson-and-fascist-mysticism/

    Pankaj Mishra—Jordan Peterson himself credits his intellectual awakening to the Cold War, when he began to ponder deeply such “evils associated with belief” as Hitler, Stalin, and Mao, and became a close reader of Solzhenitsyn’s The Gulag Archipelago. This is a common intellectual trajectory among Western right-wingers who swear by Solzhenitsyn and tend to imply that belief in egalitarianism leads straight to the guillotine or the Gulag. A recent example is the English polemicist Douglas Murray who wishes that the idea of equality was “tainted by an ideological ordure equivalent to that heaped on the concept of borders.” Peterson confirms his membership of this far-right sect by never identifying the evils caused by belief in profit, or Mammon: slavery, genocide, and imperialism.

    Mishra–“Peterson may seem the latest in a long line of eggheads pretentiously but harmlessly romancing the noble savage. But it is worth remembering that Jung recklessly generalized about the superior “Aryan soul” and the inferior “Jewish psyche” and was initially sympathetic to the Nazis. Campbell’s loathing of “Marxist” academics at his college concealed a virulent loathing of Jews and blacks. Solzhenitsyn, Peterson’s revered mentor, was a zealous Russian expansionist, who denounced Ukraine’s independence and hailed Vladimir Putin as the right man to lead Russia’s overdue regeneration. ”

    Mishra–“This new object of belief tended to be exotically and esoterically pre-modern. The East, and India in particular, turned into a screen on which needy Westerners projected their fantasies…A range of intellectual entrepreneurs, from Theosophists and vendors of Asian spirituality like Vivekananda and D.T. Suzuki to scholars of Asia like Arthur Waley and fascist ideologues like Julius Evola (Steve Bannon’s guru) set up stalls in the new marketplace of ideas.”

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  27. Theodore Roosevelt’s retort to the popularity of the antiwar song was that it should be accompanied by the tune “I Didn’t Raise My Girl to Be a Mother.” Roosevelt suggested that the place for women who opposed war was “in China—or by preference in a harem—and not in the United States.”

    William T. Cavanaugh—The idea of the nation does not remain an elite idea, but becomes gradually more powerful among the lower classes in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Why were common people willing to sacrifice their lives for nations their grandparents had never heard of, as Benedict Anderson asks?….Ernest Gellner answers this question by drawing a direct link between the weakening of smaller types of association and the growth of the idea of the nation. The loosing of individuals from traditional forms of community created the possibility and need of a larger, mass substitute for community. Loyalties are gradually transferred from more local types of community to the nation.”

    Cavanaugh–The rise of rights language goes hand in hand with the rise of the nation-state… Marx was wrong to dismiss rights as a mere ruse to protect the gains of the bourgeois classes. Individual rights do, nevertheless, greatly expand the scope of the state because political and civil rights establish binding relationships between the nation-state and those who look to it to vindicate their claims. The nation-state thus becomes something of a central, bureaucratic clearinghouse in which social claims are contested. The nation-state is fully realized when sacrifice on behalf of the nation is combined with claims made on the state on the basis of rights.

    William T. Cavanaugh, Killing for the Telephone Company: Why the Nation-State is Not the Keeper of the Common Good., p.20

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  28. Were the Kurds in the Olympics?

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/protestprotest/2018/03/would-you-die-for-the-nation/?

    Doug Bandow—The U.S. never should have backed a Kurdish statelet and military along the Turkish border. And the Kurds shouldn’t have held out hope that America’s moral concern for them would somehow supersede Washington’s larger foreign policy aims…. Denying this territory to Damascus might have inconvenienced Assad but Assad survived when his government controlled far fewer people and resources. Assad wrote off the Kurdish territories for the duration of the conflict. . And Moscow’s commitment to Assad’s survival doesn’t depend on his sway over the north.

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  29. “ sdb – I agree, it is not distinctly Baptist, but moralism/fundamentalism is associated with Baptists in general, possibly because there are more of them than anyone else.”

    That’s the stereotype, but using “Baptist” that way turns it into an empty epithet ala “fundamentalist (a decidedly reformed movement)”, “puritanical”, or “liberal”. That’s unfortunate because there are characteristics, emphases, and distinctives that could be properly understood to be baptistic, and a few of these have influenced the reformed in unhelpful ways. A few that come to mind:
    1. Demphasis of the efficacy and necessity of the sacraments as a means of grace.
    2. Locating the legitimacy of one’s faith in the degree of sincerity of one’s conversion experience.
    3. The belief that the congregation is autonomous and the solo elder congregational model.
    4. Suspicion of confessions and doctrinal definitions.

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  30. Not all of those Anabaptists were pacifists. One group of the baptists were “left-wing” fascists who took over a city with revolutionary violence. The Reformed were defended by the status quo violence of their magistrate (or the resistance of lesser magistrates) The Reformed had the power to make other groups martyrs. Of course the Reformed are not like that now. This was back in the old days before anybody got into detailed questions about definite atonement and the state killing the enemies of the church (except some of those baptists).

    Conrad Grebel and Others to Thomas Müntzer (September 5, 1524)

    Sure, most of the anabaptists even back then were telling both baptists and reformed to NOT KILL PEOPLE. But you should not focus on who the Reformed beheaded or burned or deported. If you want to remember anything, put in your history notes that the Anabaptists took over Munster with violence . So when they were killed and their bodies put on display, that was for political sedition only and when the Synod of Dort was finished, the beheading and other political consequences are not uniquely Reformed like Munster is with the baptists.

    http://proto-protestantism.blogspot.com/2018/03/the-leaven-of-evangelical-sacralism.html

    “There followed the political condemnation of the statesman Johan van Oldenbarnevelt who had been the protector of the Remonstrants. For the crime of general perturbation in the state of the nation, both in Church and State (treason), he was beheaded on 13 May 1619, only four days after the final meeting of the Synod. As consequence of the Arminian defeat the jurist Hugo Grotius was given a life sentence in prison; but he escaped with the help of his wife. Both Van Oldenbarnevelt and Grotius had in fact been imprisoned since 29 August 1618.

    The thirteen Remonstrant ministers, including Episcopius, were ejected from the Synod at session 57 on 14 January… The Remonstrants agreed to refrain from ministering in the government-ordained churches, but confessed their duty to expound their doctrines wherever people would assemble to hear them.On 5 July they were called to the States-General assembly where they were requested to sign The Act of Cessation, the legalization of the order to desist from the ministry. When they refused to sign it, they were sentenced as “disturbers of the public peace” and ordered to leave the United Province

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  31. Vae victis (@masonmandy) says: sdb – DeYoung’s background may not be Baptist, but as Robert noted, his views of personal morality certainly are. DeYoung follows the Piper and MacArthur mold of emphasizing the need for Christians to “behave a certain way,” and that behavior often comports more with cultural standards than Scriptural standards. This is not unusual in the PCA, especially southern PCA churches.

    What do you specifically mean his ‘view of personal morality’? What do you specifically mean “behavior comports with cultural standards rather than scriptural standards” vv? Explanation and example please.

    re: emphasizing the need for Christians to “behave a certain way”; you mean like Jesus stresses? eg and etc:

    Mark 8:34 ( Discipleship Is Costly) And He summoned the crowd with His disciples, and said to them, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. 35 For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it. 36 For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul? 37 For what will a man give in exchange for his soul?

    Luke 9 (Exacting Discipleship)…” 62 But Jesus said to him, “No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”

    1 Peter 4 1 Therefore, since Christ has suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same purpose, because he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, 2 so as to live the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for the lusts of men, but for the will of God. 3 For the time already past is sufficient for you to have carried out the desire of the Gentiles, having pursued a course of sensuality, lusts, drunkenness, carousing, drinking parties and abominable idolatries.

    johnyeazel says:
    you’re listening to the wrong kind of music JY; do I need to counter post some ?

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  32. Ali – see Piper’s claim that it is sinful to watch TV shows with nudity, coupled with DeYoung’s claim that Christians should not watch Game of Thrones for similar reasons. They are attempting bind consciences where Scripture does not. That is cultural moralism.

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  33. oh, I forgot vv, you are the one who thinks God approves of viewing actual pornography

    ps. If you link the references we can review the details and see what they are saying.

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  34. Ali, what is the criteria you use in determining the type of music you listen to? Just the type of music that is helpful in purifying your spiritual affections and desires? i’m of the persuasion that the work of the Son is the only way us fallen sinners can be cleansed from our sin. The work of the Spirit is always directing and pointing the sinner back to the work of the Son. I’m also of the persuasion that human effort in purifying spiritual affections and desires is a fig-newton of man’s imagination so the type of music one chooses to listen to does diddly squat for purifying spiritual affections and desires. So, you can’t bind my conscious to the type of music I choose to listen to. How do you like them apples?

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  35. This cultural question keeps coming up — not only here, but also in the larger Christian culture.

    Some questions for all of you:

    @ VV: Are there shows that you would not watch, books that you would not read, music that you would not listen to because they are tempting to you in some way or another? Can you give an example (if that’s not too personal)?

    Are there shows/books/music that you would consume with caution?

    You have previously drawn a line at overconsumption, with an analogy to gluttony. Can you talk about that a bit?

    @ John Y: You’ve mentioned addiction in your past. Are there steps that you take to avoid returning to the addiction? If so, do you distinguish those steps from sanctification?

    @ Ali: Are there any shows that you watch with a fast-forward button on hand?

    When you consume “Christian” culture — music, video, book — do you apply the same scrutiny to those works that you do to secular works?

    @ All: Do we all agree that sanctification is imperfect in this life? Do we all agree that sanctification is a work of God’s grace? Do we all agree that God commands us to act as strangers and aliens in this world?

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  36. Jeff – I answer in the affirmative your last questions addressed to All.

    As for specific shows/books/music I absolutely avoid, the only actual example I can think of is South Park on TV. A long time ago when it first came out I had friends who loved it, but after seeing an episode where they blatantly mocked Jesus I couldn’t stomach it anymore. The only media I absolutely avoid are those that blatantly mock Christ the way South Park did/does. My conscience won’t allow participation in such a production, even as an audience member.

    I exercise caution with other things on a case by case basis. Sexuality and/or nudity has never tempted me to sexual sin. I was exposed to pornography in college via a roommate, but found it crass and unappealing, so I have never been drawn to it, more as a matter of personal taste than anything else. Violence has likewise never tempted me to real violence at all. I recently re-watched The Sopranos, and found myself regarding others – at least internally – with the same general disregard of their humanity (in violation of the 6th Commandment) as those characters do on the show, so I show caution with similar content.

    Regarding gluttony, that can happen with virtually anything, even true blessings. I’ve idolized and been mentally consumed with sex with my wife before, even though that is clearly a blessing from God (sorry if that’s TMI). I’ve overindulged blogs and message boards, even with highly beneficial Christian content. I’ve overeaten plenty of times and have been overly driven my food and alcohol consumption at times. I get obsessed with sports, especially when my team is doing well and/or football in general. None of those things are inherently bad, but can be overindulged. That rarely happens with entertainment, but has in the past. I have been totally immersed in TV shows before – including Game of Thrones – and books to the point that I think about them constantly. That preoccupation is more concerning to me than the content.

    The line between reasonable enjoyment and excess is different for each person, but as a general rule if I find something occupying my thoughts most of the time – especially over a span of several days – I know it is becoming an inordinate priority. Even more concerning is if certain thoughts distract from prayer, Scripture reading, meditation on the Word, and worship of any kind. When that happens I know it’s time to scale back. Again, that will look different for different people – I don’t want to imply a general principle here. As Calvin said, we always err either on the side of asceticism or hedonism, but the goal is to strike the right balance, which we never will do perfectly in this life.

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  37. Thanks for the link vv. Emily and Adam Asked Pastor John for his counsel and his gave it. 1) Is one’s counsel ‘binding consciences’, 2) is any of that counsel in conflict with scripture? I say no and no. I thought it was an excellent response, resonating with me. I call that resonance the Spirit’s work.

    johnyeazel says: Ali, How do you like them apples?

    -Well, you have opinion about the music I post, so you should be consistent and let me have an opinion about your music, JY. I do notice most songs you post have some element of a lie or deception-that’s usually how secular songs go. And, I would say music posted to a ‘reformed faith’ site should have something to do with faith. Just my opinion.
    As well, JY, you ought really wrestle with Jesus’s words- telling us about our human responsibility and responses. This is where I have said true believers do not resist and oppose God’s word at every turn. Is Jesus a liar?

    Jeff Cagle says: @ Ali: Are there any shows that you watch with a fast-forward button on hand?

    -To be honest, Jeff, I think I still watch shows I ought to phase out. I like mystery and action adventure, which often is about crime and has much violence. I also think I should definitely cut out the Bachelor! No I’m not a fast-forwarder. I better appreciate my former pastor’s declaration of the elders agreement among themselves not to watch R rated movies, period. I see better now that wisdom.

    Jeff says When you consume “Christian” culture — music, video, book — do you apply the same scrutiny to those works that you do to secular works?

    -In what regard, Jeff?

    Jeff says @ All: Do we all agree that sanctification is imperfect in this life? Do we all agree that sanctification is a work of God’s grace? Do we all agree that God commands us to act as strangers and aliens in this world?

    -Yes, Yes, Yes. As regards #3 we ought noteJesus uses several contexts :
    Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul.

    All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.

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  38. What steps do I take to avoid returning to my addiction?
    What helped me the most was a continual revelation and learning of what the Gospel is. I think the biggest driver towards addictive behavior is the suppressed guilt and condemnation that we really never learn how to deal with and get rid of. The temporary relief you get from the guilt and condemnation while indulging in the addictive behavior is usually a greater motivator than the negative consequences that begin piling on as the addictive behavior gets more out of control. So, if you cut the driver to the addictive behavior (the guilt and condemnation) you can gain more control over the addiction. Even if you relapse you can recover more quickly when you really believe that the guilt and condemnation that results from the addictive behavior has been justly dealt with at the cross. You can be assured of that and therefore more easily deal with the all consuming guilt. There is no longer the need to suppress it. Its a matter of cutting off the main drivers that motivate the addictive behavior. I suppose that is a pretty simplified explanation considering the complexity of human behavior. It has been the best thing that has worked for me.

    In regard to the second question, I am not a big believer in progressive sanctification. I don’t think we ever progressively sin less and less; not while we still reside in this mortal and inherently sinful body. When we are able to deal with one type of addictive behavior another one eagerly replaces it. The best we can do is to continue to reckon ourselves dead to sin and alive to righteousness. The Christian is no longer under law but under grace. I like to think of growth in the Christian life as growth in the grace and knowledge of Christ. I’m also not a big believer in overcoming our sin through the power of the Holy Spirit. I think sin losses its dominion over the Christian because the Christian is no longer under the Law but under grace. It’s suppressed guilt and condemnation that does the worst damage to human psyche and spirit.

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  39. “Is one’s counsel ‘binding consciences“
    Depends who “one” is. If you are an elder, then your counsel binds the conscience of the believer insofar as scripture teaches us to obey and submit to our elders ( Heb 13:17, see also 1 Tm 5:17, 1Pt 5, Acts 16:4, etc…). When an elder provides counsel, it carries weight that the opinion of some anonymous schlub in a comm box doesn’t carry. Of course we are to weigh their counsel against scripture, but the command to obey means that they get the benefit of the doubt (I.e., it is not enough to not follow how they arrived at their conclusion from scripture. Rather you must be able to demonstrate how they have contradicted scripture. That’s a pretty tall order which means that pastors should be very careful about whether what they teach is either clearly described in scripture or is a necessary consequence of what the text describes.

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  40. B. B. Warfield: We Never Move Beyond Our Need Of Christ’s Righteousness

    “There is nothing in us or done by us, at any stage of our earthly development, because of which we are acceptable to God. We must always be accepted for Christ’s sake, or we cannot ever be accepted at all. This is not true of us only when we believe. It is just as true after we have believed. It will continue to be as long as we live. Our need of Christ does not cease with our believing; nor does the nature of our relation to Him or to God through Him ever alter, no matter what our attainments in Christian graces or our achievements in behavior may be. It is always on His “blood and righteousness” alone that we can rest.

    – from Perfectionism, Part One, vol. 7 of The Works of Benjamin B. Warfield. HT:Tullian

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  41. JY:

    This is unbelief, opposing the Lord’s own word:

    -I am not a big believer in progressive sanctification.
    -I don’t think we ever progressively sin less and less;
    -I’m also not a big believer in overcoming our sin through the power of the Holy Spirit.

    This is the Lord’s word, so amen:

    -The best we can do is to continue to reckon ourselves dead to sin and alive to righteousness.
    -The Christian is no longer under law but under grace.
    -I like to think of growth in the Christian life as growth in the grace and knowledge of Christ.
    -I think sin losses its dominion over the Christian because the Christian is no longer under the Law but under grace.

    -It’s suppressed guilt and condemnation that does the worst damage to human psyche and spirit.

    Sin and unbelief of all kinds (including the unbelief of condemnation, since God says condemnation Romans 8:1) does all damage

    -When we are able to deal with one type of addictive behavior another one eagerly replaces it.

    Which makes it curious why you reject and mock the instruction of the Lord’s word, that we can’t just stop love of sin but must replace it with (surrender to,love for, the power of, trust in) the Lord.

    Matthew 12:44 Then it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came’; and when it comes, it finds it unoccupied, swept, and put in order. 45 Then it goes and takes along with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there; and the last state of that man becomes worse than the first. That is the way it will also be with this evil generation.”

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  42. Here you go for today JY @1.27 “it ain’t ‘bout how you move, but WHAT MOVES YOU”

    John 6:67 So Jesus said to the twelve, “You do not want to go away also, do you?” 68 Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life.

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  43. Ali, it’s the emphasis on the Holy Spirit as the model for how one grows and matures in the Christian life that I am rejecting. The work of the Holy Spirit is subject to and under the work of the Son. The Son gets all the glory for the justification, sanctification and glorification of His elect people. You misinterpret and misrepresent my words. The elect sinner at justification is completely sanctified when the Spirit responds to the imputed righteousness (baptized into Christ) by God the Father by creating repentance from self-righteousness, dead works, etc. and faith in the atoning work of Christ. The blood cleanses the sinner from his sin. As Christ told his disciples, “My word has cleansed you.” Christ’s words also direct the Holy Spirit to do His work. The Spirit always directs the elect sinner to the work of the Son. That’s as clear as I can make it. The Apostle Paul claims that he glories only in the cross of Christ. When Paul states that the Spirit mightily inspires him within he is talking about the Spirit’s work of maintaining the created faith in the work of the Son in the sinner.

    The Word also instruct us that what was passed on from Adam was the guilt and condemnation of Adams sin. We are all born under guilt and condemnation. Those who emphasize the pollution and radical corruption of human nature (as that which was passed on from Adam) in turn emphasize individual sins as the main problem of man. Those who do this have a hard time interpreting Romans chapter 5 and 6 correctly and then usually wrongly conclude that it is the Spirit’s main work to grant the sinner power over their sin. Thus all the talk of the enabling work of the Spirit. It is the work of the Second Adam that is primary in overcoming the dominion of sin. The Spirit works in the back round. The Spirit does not draw attention to Himself. The Spirit always gives the glory to the Son. I’m making some assertions here from necessary consequences from the teaching of God’s word. So, again, how do like them apples in regards to your accusations that I am calling Jesus a liar and functioning in unbelief?

    For tomorrow Ali, could you please videotape yourself doing the happy dance. I’m sure everyone at oldlife would get a kick out of that.

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  44. @ Everyone (“@ All” looks too much like “@Ali”):

    Thanks for the responses. For my part, I tend to be drawn more by sexuality than alcohol or gluttony — although electronic use might qualify. So I skip GoT for that reason.

    A good friend came to Christ out of Wicca, so she avoids all fantasy. Lewis and Tolkien are off the table, lest the pull of tarot cards return. Scripture seems to indicate that’s how wisdom works — we are to set boundaries for ourselves (and not others) based on what is tempting.

    Here I’ll quote the whole chapter because it is all relevant, with some emphasis at points.

    1 Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarreling over disputable matters. 2 One person’s faith allows them to eat anything, but another, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. 3 The one who eats everything must not treat with contempt the one who does not, and the one who does not eat everything must not judge the one who does, for God has accepted them. 4 Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To their own master, servants stand or fall. And they will stand, for the Lord is able to make them stand.

    5 One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike. Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind. 6 Whoever regards one day as special does so to the Lord. Whoever eats meat does so to the Lord, for they give thanks to God; and whoever abstains does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God. 7 For none of us lives for ourselves alone, and none of us dies for ourselves alone. 8 If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. 9 For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living.

    10 You, then, why do you judge your brother or sister[a]? Or why do you treat them with contempt? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat. 11 It is written:

    “‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord,
    ‘every knee will bow before me;
    every tongue will acknowledge God.’”[b]

    12 So then, each of us will give an account of ourselves to God.

    13 Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister. 14 I am convinced, being fully persuaded in the Lord Jesus, that nothing is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for that person it is unclean. 15 If your brother or sister is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love. Do not by your eating destroy someone for whom Christ died. 16 Therefore do not let what you know is good be spoken of as evil. 17 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, 18 because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and receives human approval.

    19 Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. 20 Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All food is clean, but it is wrong for a person to eat anything that causes someone else to stumble. 21 It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother or sister to fall.

    22 So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who does not condemn himself by what he approves. 23 But whoever has doubts is condemned if they eat, because their eating is not from faith; and everything that does not come from faith is sin.[c]

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  45. @ VV: I know what you mean about blasphemy. My students are always surprised when I say nothing about various euphemisms but object to taking the Lord’s name in vain. That’s one area where the culture has set a definite “hierarchy of taboos” reflecting cultural priorities.

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  46. @ John Y: What do you make of the fruit of the Spirit in Gal 5? Would you say that the Spirit creates love, joy, self-control in those who belong to Christ?

    Also, how do you understand the “old man / new man” contrast in Eph 4 and Col 3?

    I agree with you on the Warfield quote. If our understanding of sanctification is that God creates a new nature in us who operates autonomously, without a need for ongoing grace, then we have fallen into a grievous error. You seem to be pushing back against that error, if I’m following?

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  47. @ Ali:

    JRC: When you consume “Christian” culture — music, video, book — do you apply the same scrutiny to those works that you do to secular works?

    Ali: In what regard, Jeff?

    Well, when I partake of “secular” culture — in the common understanding of that term — I approach it with the understanding that there will error mixed in with truth. For example, in watching NCIS, I assume that

    * There will be some wisdom in terms of how people interact with each other
    * There will be a substantial amount of exaggeration (wrt violence, police work, computer work, relationships and sexuality)
    * There will be a certain amount of propaganda (wrt political issues or cultural issues)
    * There will be assumptions the writers/actors and I do not share.
    * There might be certain features that tempt me to sin.

    Rather than try to sort all of that out directly (analogous to trying to ferret all student errors), I try to rely on a doctrinal framework to keep “true north.”

    But when I partake of “Christian culture” — in the common understanding of that term — all of those issues are still on the table.

    * Christian culture has some wisdom about personal relations
    * There is a substantial amount of exaggeration about piety and the Christian life.
    * There is a certain amount of political propaganda
    * There are assumptions that the writers and I do not share.
    * There are certain features that tempt me to sin.

    A great example of this are the works by Lewis. I really value his works; yet I also recognize some ways in which his fascination with medieval theology led him to pen some rather odd theology.

    A second great example is the corpus of contemporary Christian music. There’s some wheat, a lot of chaff — but the whole structure of the industry tempts towards vanity and pride, and it also creates an alternate teaching authority outside the oversight of church elders.

    So I strongly encourage the same kind of caution with “Christian” culture as with “secular.” In particular, it’s not safe to let down one’s guard just because there’s a “Christian” label attached to it; nor is it wise to utterly reject something because of a “secular” label.

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  48. @ John Y: What do you make of the fruit of the Spirit in Gal 5? Would you say that the Spirit creates love, joy, self-control in those who belong to Christ?

    John Y: The Spirit works in those who are imputed or baptized into Christ’s death. The Spirit is life because of righteousness. The emphasis is on the righteous and just death of Christ for the elect alone. I’m not sure if create is the right biblical word. I’m not denying that the Spirit works on the internal minds and hearts of Christ’s elect sheep. I am saying that the Spirit works because of the imputed righteousness. Without the imputed righteousness there is no faith in the biblical Gospel.

    Jeff C.: Also, how do you understand the “old man / new man” contrast in Eph 4 and Col 3?

    John Y: I understand that contrast as two different legal states not two different natures. The justified elect are placed into a new legal state or a new man.

    Jeff C: I agree with you on the Warfield quote. If our understanding of sanctification is that God creates a new nature in us who operates autonomously, without a need for ongoing grace, then we have fallen into a grievous error. You seem to be pushing back against that error, if I’m following?

    John Y: I’m not sure how you are defining ongoing grace. I’m assuming that you do believe that the redeemed elect are simultaneously justified yet remain sinful due to residing in the still mortal and sinful flesh . Therefore there is the ongoing need for mortification and vivification of this mortal and sinful flesh; even after this flesh has been crucified in the body of Christ’s flesh. I’m not sure if vivification is a word. I think you know what i mean. Like I said in an earlier post I do not think that is the main emphasis in Paul’s theology. The main emphasis is on the righteous and just work of Christ. The internal work of the Spirit is a benefit for those for whom Christ died. It should not be the main focus of the redeemed Christian.

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  49. johnyeazel says: You misinterpret and misrepresent my words. So, again, how do like them apples in regards to your accusations that I am calling Jesus a liar and functioning in unbelief?

    JY, I think we may have been through this before

    -Jesus was empowered by the Spirit:
    Luke 4:14 a And Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit,
    Acts 10:38a 38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power.

    -Jesus talks about the importance of the Spirit:
    Matthew 12:32 Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come.

    -Paul talked about the Spirit’s power
    1 Corinthians 2 4 and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power,

    -God is Father, Son, Spirit.
    Matthew 28:19Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit,

    -God – Father, Son, Spirit -saves
    while recognizing the distinct roles that each Person has, we should never think of their roles as so separate that the other Persons are not involved. Rather, everything that one Person is involved in, the other two are also involved in, one way or another. (John Piper)

    The Father creates a plan, Jesus Christ implements the plan, and the Holy Spirit administers the plan. The way of redemption showcases these roles in a clear manner. The Father designed and organized how mankind would be redeemed (Galatians 4:4-5). He set into motion a complex set of events, actions, and prophecies which culminated in the life and death of a Savior. The Son carried out the plan (John 6:37-38). He followed the Father’s instructions to come to earth, even though that meant He would have to die. The Holy Spirit sees to it that every person feels a call toward God’s saving grace (John 14:26, John 16:8; Romans 1:19-20). Furthermore, He transforms the lives and hearts of those who receive salvation through Jesus Christ. (Charles Stanley)

    -A prayer for you, JY :
    Romans 15:13 Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

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  50. I want to further explain the new man/old man contrast. The change of legal state is the cause of the sending of the Spirit, i.e., his illuminating work on the mind/heart of the elect sinner. I guess you could call this illuminating work of the Spirit a new nature but not a new nature like Chafer and other define it as nature that cannot sin. I think Mark Seifrid’s explanation is helpful:

    Mark Seifrid of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary:

    perspectives-on-our-inner-struggle”Paul does not speak of the Christian struggle with sin in Romans 7. He describes a battle already lost, long ago in Adam. Nevertheless, in sheer wonder, the long-lost battle has been decided in our favor by God in Christ. The Christian is thus called to walk the very narrow path marked by the intersection of the new creation with the present fallen world. On the one side we are subject to the danger of the despair that loses sight of God’s work in Christ. On the other hand, we are subject to the danger of a pride that falsely supposes that the power of salvation is now ours, if only we realize its potential. Such a pride in its own way also loses sight of God’s work in Christ. It brings a ‘therapeutic Christianity’ that turns outward achievements, whether individual, corporate, or social, into a measure of spiritual progress and a mark of the presence of the kingdom. It does not see that what has been accomplished in Christ is located abidingly in Christ, not in ourselves. Our salvation, and therefore all true progress, both individual and corporate, does not rest in our hands…

    As Paul tells the Philippians, progress is a progress in faith (Phil 1:21). It is not a turning inward but a being-turned-outward. It is hearing the address of the gospel afresh within the changing circumstances of life. To use Paul’s language, it is again and again ‘reckoning yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus’ (Rom 6:11)… Not only the first step but every step of Christian progress begins with Paul’s sober and realistic confession in Rom 7:25b […with my flesh I serve the law of sin]. It begins with the acknowledgment that as long as we remain in this body and life the unhappy truth that we ‘serve the law of sin’ remains.”

    -Mark A. Seifrid, Perspectives on Our Struggle with Sin

    http://www.mbird.com/2014/03/fighting-a-long-lost-battle-in-romans-7/

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  51. Again, Ali, I’m not denying the work of the Spirit. I’m denying the explanation that makes the work of the Spirit in the redeemed person like taking a shot of Steroids. It leads to an expectation of an over-realized eschatology. There is a certain element of waiting and longing for the mortal to put on immortality. I think that picture is painted pretty clearly in the New Testament.

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  52. I’m not sure who you think has an “over-realized eschatology”. Just believe Jesus, JY.

    2 Corinthians 3:18 But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.

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

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  53. The Scripture verses you site and the quotes from Piper and Stanley do not address the issues that Jeff originally brought up. Nor do they really address the issues I have stated in my comments. So, what is your point?

    I think I made it clear that I think you have an expectation of an over-realized eschatology. I think your understanding of sanctification and transformation borders on an expectation of glorification in this life too. So again, what is your point? What are you disagreeing with me about?

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  54. johnyeazel says I think I made it clear that I think you have an expectation of an over-realized eschatology.

    based on what (specifically) ? your feelings?

    johnyeazel says I am not a big believer in progressive sanctification

    What is progressive sanctification?”

    The word translated “sanctification” in most Bibles means “separation.” It is used in the New Testament, according to Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, of the separation of the believer from evil, and it is the result of obedience to the Word of God. Progressive sanctification is what gradually separates the people of God from the world and makes them more and more like Jesus Christ.

    Sanctification differs from justification in several ways. Justification is a one-time work of God, resulting in a declaration of “not guilty” before Him because of the work of Christ on the cross. Sanctification is a process, beginning with justification and continuing throughout life. Justification is the starting point of the line that represents one’s Christian life; sanctification is the line itself.

    Sanctification is a three-stage process – past, present, and future. The first stage occurs at the beginning of our Christian lives. It is an initial moral change, a break from the power and love of sin. It is the point at which believers can count themselves “dead to sin but alive to God” (Romans 6:11). Once sanctification has begun, we are no longer under sin’s dominion (Romans 6:14). There is a reorientation of desires, and we develop a love of righteousness. Paul calls it “slavery to righteousness” (Romans 6:17-18).

    The second stage of sanctification requires a lifetime to complete. As we grow in grace, we are gradually – but steadily – changing to be more like Jesus (2 Corinthians 3:18). This occurs in a process of daily spiritual renewal (Colossians 3:10). The apostle Paul himself was being sanctified even as he ministered to others. Paul claimed that he had not reached perfection, but that he “pressed on” to attain everything Christ desired for him (Philippians 3:12).

    The third and final stage of sanctification occurs in the future. When believers die, their spirits go to be with Christ (2 Corinthians 5:6-8). Since nothing unclean can enter heaven (Revelation 21:27), we must be made perfect at that point. The sanctification of the whole person—body, soul, and spirit—will finally be complete when the Lord Jesus returns and we receive glorified bodies (Philippians 3:21; 1 Corinthians 15:35-49).

    God’s work in sanctification involves all three members of the Trinity. God the Father is constantly at work in His children “to will and to work for His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13). He changes our desires, making us want to please Him, and He empowers us to do so. Jesus earned our sanctification on the cross and, in essence, has become our sanctification (1 Corinthians 1:30) and the “perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2). The Holy Spirit is the primary agent of our sanctification (1 Corinthians 6:11; 2 Thessalonians 2:13; 1 Peter 1:2), and He is the one who produces in us the fruit of sanctification (Galatians 5:22-23).

    Our role in sanctification is both passive and active. Passively, we are to trust God to sanctify us, presenting our bodies to God (Romans 6:13; 12:1) and yielding to the Holy Spirit. “It is God’s will that you should be sanctified” (1 Thessalonians 4:3), and God will have His way.

    Actively, we are responsible to choose to do what is right. “Each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable” (1 Thessalonians 4:4). This involves putting to death the “misdeeds of the body” (Romans 8:13), striving for holiness (Hebrews 12:14), fleeing immorality (1 Corinthians 6:18), cleansing ourselves from every defilement (2 Corinthians 7:1), and making every effort to supplement our faith (2 Peter 1:5-11).

    Both the passive role and the active role are necessary for a healthy Christian life. To emphasize the passive role tends to lead to spiritual laziness and a neglect of spiritual discipline. The end result of this course of action is a lack of maturity. To emphasize the active role can lead to legalism, pride, and self-righteousness. The end result of this is a joyless Christian life. We must remember that we pursue holiness, but only as God empowers us to do so. The end result is a consistent, mature Christian life that faithfully reflects the nature of our holy God.

    John makes it clear that we will never be totally free from sin in this life (1 John 1:8-10). Thankfully, the work God has begun in us He will finish (Philippians 1:6). (from Got?s)

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  55. Ali – Piper said directly that “watching nudity” is a sin. I disagree and believer Piper is guilty of moralism here. He was responding to a question from a lay person, and as an elder in the Church he has great responsibility to carefully divide the Word, and that includes not adding to it. He could have provided a pastoral caution without calling it sin.

    Going back to the original post and to echo Jeff’s point, we should be no less circumspect about participating in “Christian” culture as we are about “secular” culture. The problem with TGC is that too many of their authors tend to engage in moralism like Piper does in the linked article, and often blindly accept Christian productions simply because they are ostensibly Christian. In the original post DGH provides a classic example: acceptance of Wendell Berry simply because he is Christian, and general condemnation of Jordan Peterson because he is not, with scant evaluation of the latter’s actual work. This is like saying the Chronicles of Narnia and Lord of the Rings are superior to Game of Thrones simply because they deal with Christian themes (in reality GoT is far better than both).

    JohnY – I agree we always need grace that is granted by virtue of Christ’s blood shed on the cross, but the concept of progressive sanctification is clear in Reformed theology. See WCF 8.

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  56. vv, I agree elders should be very careful about what they say (and do). I look forward to your continued zeal about this without partiality.

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  57. I know that Reformed theology teaches the concept of progressive sanctification. Some other theologians have challenged the assumptions that are taught regarding that doctrine. That is the point I am trying to get at. I don’t have time to respond right now but I will attempt to make myself clear later on today. It is difficult to communicate on the internet when you are battling others assumptions about doctrines; plus, on top of that, it can be a challenge to make what you are trying to get across clear to those who are holding on to the assumptions that you no longer hold.

    Ali, please give references with your comments. And no, I am not relying on my feelings regarding your expectations that lead to an over-realized eschatology. I’m basing that on things you write in your comments.

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  58. Let me also mention some of the other main doctrines of debate and contention that have been ongoing at oldlife since I first started frequenting the site back in 2008 or 2009. Assumptions about the following keep coming up over and over again- they never seem to get resolved;

    1) How an understanding of the doctrine of election influences how one understands covenant theology- this also leads to how one understands the problem of divine sovereignty and human responsibility

    2) The nature and extent of the atonement

    3) Differences in the understanding of sacramental theology

    4) The whole issue of “the free offer of the Gospel” and “common grace.” The assumption that God loves everybody but it is someones faith that determines whether one is among the elect or not. This then gets into arguments about the cause of faith and the definition of faith. Also related to this is how one understands the doctrine of regeneration.

    5) The issue of the how and when of union with Christ. What is the cause (or causes) of union with Christ? This then leads into differences in how someone understands the doctrines of justification and sanctification.

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  59. I should have added another issue:

    6) What is the Gospel and how does one come to assurance that they are believing the true biblical Gospel and not one of the myriad of differing false Gospels?

    I should have added to the number 1 issue- how does one understand the concepts of free agency and free will? Does fallen man have a free will? Does redeemed man have the ability to obey commandments from God? Is there a difference between the commandments of the Old Covenant and the commandments of the New Covenant? How much continuity is there between the Old and New Covenants. These are not easy questions to answer.

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  60. VV,

    I don’t think DGH was claiming that Wendell Berry is a Christian. He was stating that Berry was not a paragon of orthodoxy in his religious beliefs. What is the criteria they use to accept Berrys beliefs but not Jordan Peterson’s? I think that is the question he was asking.

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  61. I’m assuming that DGH asks that question due to his understanding of general revelation and how people who are not paragons of biblical orthodoxy often understand nature, social and political issues better than Christians do. However, that is another point of controversy and contention at this site. What is general revelation?

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  62. JohnY – right, DGH’s point, which I agree with, is that a Christian doesn’t have to denounce Peterson and/or approve Berry simply because Peterson isn’t a Christian (he’s actually an atheist, but believes in living as Christ lived) and Berry is (he professes to be Christian). I agree with you and DGH that non-Christian authors/thinkers/scholars often have a more accurate view of the issues in a variety of areas than do their Christian counterparts. It often seems TGC doesn’t grasp this concept.

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  63. William Evans–It is difficult to completely expunge the notion of conditionality from the concept of covenant and you may be dimly aware of the way that foregrounding the covenant theme has placed the Reformed tradition on the horns of the conditionality/unconditionality dilemma, and so you may eventually feel the tug of Lutheranism.

    Michael Allan (New Dogmatics, Sanctification) engages with Radical Lutheranism, which sees law and grace at such odds that attempts to live in obedience, imitate Christ or apply the imperatives of the New Testament are framed as moralism . Allen is Reformed and clear that we have been called to effort and obedience

    Richard Gaffin—We must confront a tendency, within churches of the Reformation to view sanctification as an expression of gratitude from our side for our justification and the free forgiveness of our sins. Sometimes there is even the suggestion that the lack of sanctification , though unbecoming and inappropriate, is not decisive in the life of the believer, not really integral to our salvation and an essential part of what it means to be saved from sin.

    John Piper—”The conditional promises of grace are woven all through the New Testament teaching about how to live the Christian life. The biblical thinking behind conditional promises is uncommon in the minds of Christians today. They cannot comprehend any role for conditionality other than legalism.”

    So is this next guy Lutheran or Reformed? http://mbird.com/2018/03/through-thick-n-thin-imputation-in-paul/

    “Paul places the weight of his argument on the promise/faith/righteousness sequence in Genesis 15, before Abraham is circumcised , before the birth of Isaac , and before the binding of Isaac . This reading of the Genesis narrative by Paul circumvents any question of Abraham’s inherent righteousness or worthiness prior to God’s declaration….It certainly feels like double-speak for Abraham to be both righteous and ungodly, yet this is precisely what the preaching of imputation does. If it is the ungodly who are reckoned righteous, then the recipient of this righteousness effectively has a double identity, depending on one’s point of reference.
    This double-speak is where the detractors of imputation begin their criticism. Imputation is supposedly a “legal fiction” that makes God a liar. For them, God’s declaration of one’s righteousness must necessarily coordinate with the life of the recipient. The righteousness of God is the gift that keeps on giving, because God never lies and his word is creative, effectually bringing into existence what it declares. It would follow that if God declares Abraham to be righteous, then Abraham must necessarily become a righteous person thereafter.
    But Abraham isn’t exactly a model citizen afterwards. He tries to take matters into his own hands by having a child with Hagar and he passes Sarah off as his sister to Abimelech. There is forever an incongruent mismatch between God’s gift of righteousness and Abraham himself. If Abraham was righteous at all it must be an imputed righteousness. God declared Abraham to be something Abraham was not and never became. …. God justly justifies the unjust.
    Such a non-contingent relationality by definition isn’t instrumental, e.g., demonstrating loyalty to a friend in order that the friend respond in the more or less “correct” way. ….If imputation is a means to an end, in addition to setting oneself up for disappointment, it can also easily be detected by the recipient as manipulation. Whether imputation “works” to improve the recipient is entirely inconsequential to both parties in the imputational exchange. If Abraham wanted his righteousness to improve as a result of God’s imputation, then the dynamic of the relationship is still governed by conditionality

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  64. John Y: I’m assuming that you do believe that the redeemed elect are simultaneously justified yet remain sinful due to residing in the still mortal and sinful flesh . Therefore there is the ongoing need for mortification and vivification of this mortal and sinful flesh; even after this flesh has been crucified in the body of Christ’s flesh. I’m not sure if vivification is a word.

    Yes, yes, and yes.

    John Y: Like I said in an earlier post I do not think that is the main emphasis in Paul’s theology. The main emphasis is on the righteous and just work of Christ. The internal work of the Spirit is a benefit for those for whom Christ died. It should not be the main focus of the redeemed Christian.

    Is your objection to “progressive sanctification” an objection to emphasis or construction? That is, do you think certain folk are hitting a right note too loudly, or the wrong note altogether?

    John Y: The change of legal state is the cause of the sending of the Spirit, i.e., his illuminating work on the mind/heart of the elect sinner.

    Yes. Here, we want to emphasize the forensic ground of sanctification: God sends the Spirit because we are adopted, because we are justified.

    John Y: I guess you could call this illuminating work of the Spirit a new nature but not a new nature like Chafer and other define it as nature that cannot sin.

    I prefer to leave some of the exact details undefined. We are told in Scripture that

    You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

    Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry … Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.

    It seems reasonable to see the new man as incapable of sinning based on those verses; but if so, then that raises the important question, “Why don’t we become instantly righteous upon conversion?” (This same question is put to Catholics, who claim we are made “ontologically righteous” on conversion). And at that point, we enter a realm of a lot of speculation about the will, the work of the Spirit, and God’s providence.

    So I tend to leave all that undefined.

    On the other hand, if we posit that the new man is capable of sinning, then we have to reckon with “created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” Or put another way, if the new man partakes of the sin nature just like the old man, then what’s the point?

    On the third hand, is it possible that new man / old man do not refer to two different psychologies, but are just a metaphor for something? If so, then why use that imagery, and how are we supposed to think of ourselves? The mind boggles.

    Here’s my take, offered tentatively but as one who has studied and thought about it.

    * We do indeed have a new man, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness (Chafer is not all wrong).
    * The Spirit empowers the new man; without Him, the new man has no life of himself.
    * The Spirit is the Spirit of Christ; so there is no question of driving a wedge between the work of Christ and the work of the Spirit.
    * Any goodness in our good works is properly attributed to God.
    * The role of our will in our sanctification is unspecified in Scripture. We are commanded to strive; we are told that God is in us to work and to will. *shrug*
    * The “progression” of our sanctification is likewise mostly unspecified.

    On the one hand, we are told to grow in grace, (2 Pet 3), that our faith can be strengthened (Col 2.7, 1 Thess 3.2), and that we can even be active in strengthening something (Heb 12.12; Rev 3.2).

    BUT, on the other, the means for that strengthening appear to be preaching, sacraments, prayer. Most emphatically, our obedience is the result of, and not the cause of, God’s grace.

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  65. @ John Y: Answering your issues for the record.

    1) An understanding of the doctrine of election…

    Unconditionally elect before the foundation of the world. Election is the direct or indirect ground of all else.

    2) The nature and extent of the atonement

    Sufficient for an infinite number; efficient for the elect. When Christ died, He died for His people as individuals, not for humanity as an undifferentiated generality.

    3) Differences in the understanding of sacramental theology

    Sacraments are signs from God to us that speak the gospel promises; the sacraments are effectual when the promises are believed. They are to be given to all whom God has stipulated they be given to: believers and their children, in the case of baptism; believers who can examine themselves in the case of communion.

    4) The whole issue of “the free offer of the Gospel” and “common grace.” The assumption that God loves everybody but it is someones faith that determines whether one is among the elect or not. This then gets into arguments about the cause of faith and the definition of faith. Also related to this is how one understands the doctrine of regeneration.

    I would affirm some version of a “free offer”, but not as stated here. It is not the case that God loves all equally, nor that faith is the Urfactor that determines election (see (1)).

    Rather, I would say that the offer “everyone who believes will be saved” is offered freely in the sense that no additional conditions beyond belief apply; likewise, God does not actively hinder belief. Nevertheless, belief only occurs for the elect because of the general inability of the sin nature.

    And, I would affirm that God has general benevolence towards humanity, yet without predestining love towards them; else, the command to “love your enemy” is literally impossible. That is, common grace is real, yet not salvific.

    5) The issue of the how and when of union with Christ. What is the cause (or causes) of union with Christ? This then leads into differences in how someone understands the doctrines of justification and sanctification.

    I am sympathetic to the Ursinus / AA Hodge / McMark view that imputation precedes faith, but I’m not finally persuaded by it. Berkhof probably does this best: There is forensic union, there is vital union. The first is the ground of the second, and reaches back to election, coming to fruition at the moment of faith.

    6) What is the Gospel and how does one come to assurance that they are believing the true biblical Gospel and not one of the myriad of differing false Gospels?

    Huge question. The simple answer: “If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.”

    But for that answer to not be corrupted, it must not be accompanied by assumptions about the roles that conditions and will play in belief, profession, and their connection to salvation.

    Longer answer: By careful study and observing the places where the church has had to wrestle with the Gospel.

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  66. Jeff, I will answer your questions “off the cuff” now but may want to touch up my comments or modify them a bit upon further reflection and perhaps further reading:

    1) Jeff- Is your objection to “progressive sanctification” an objection to emphasis or construction? That is, do you think certain folk are hitting a right note too loudly, or the wrong note altogether?

    John Y: I suppose I have mixed thoughts about that question. As Seifrid notes, the unhappy truth is that with my flesh I still serve the law of sin. The redeemed Christian cannot get away from that truth until they die. So, how can you measure progress? However, there are passages in the New Testament that explicitly state and imply that transformation and growth in holiness should be taking place. There seems to be some kind of contradiction in what the New Testament teaches in some passages as opposed to what it teaches in other passages. These passages are hard to reconcile with each other. So, I guess I would say that some folks are hitting a right note too loudly. I would add that I don’t think the solution is a greater dose of the Holy Spirit. The solution is a greater revelation and understanding of the Gospel and the atoning work of Christ. As Paul says, I boast only in the cross of Christ. He does not boast about the power of the Holy Spirit transforming his insides and enabling him to become more inherently righteous.

    2) Your explanation of the old man/new man or old self/new self:

    John Y: I have a hard time accepting your understanding of the passage of Scripture you noted. I believe that is either from Ephesians or Colossians- correct? I would really want to know the Greek translation of that passage. What version are you quoting from in that text? I don’t think Horton would agree with how you interpret that passage of Scripture either. Have you read his union with Christ book? Horton is very leery of understanding the new man or new nature as an ontological change in the redeemed Christians internal makeup. He claims the new man is a new legal state that is the cause of the Spirit’s work of influence on the mind/heart of the justified person. He does not look upon the new nature as a nature that cannot sin. This would lead to a different understanding of the supposed ongoing conflict between the old self and new self. I can’t remember all that he stated in the book but I know he had a different take on this issue than you revealed in what you said in your comment. Perhaps we can talk more about that at another time.

    I also did not agree with what you said in all of your six points but that is all I am going to comment on now.

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  67. @ John Y:

    Thanks. Yes, I was quoting from both Eph 4 and Col 3 in the NIV. The Greek is unremarkable except for the preposition:

    καὶ ἐνδύσασθαι τὸν καινὸν ἄνθρωπον τὸν κατὰ θεὸν κτισθέντα ἐν δικαιοσύνῃ καὶ ὁσιότητι τῆς ἀληθείας.

    “And put on the new person, the one (according to) God created in righteousness and (in) holiness of the truth.”

    The prepositional phrase “kata theou” is a little troublesome — does it mean “by God as the author”, or “after the pattern of God”, or “according to God’s decree”? Different translations take it differently.

    But the “new person” “kainos anthrwpos” is straightforward linguistically. But what is it? 🙂

    I would be interested in reading Horton. I’ve read online articles on union by him and thought they were quite good.

    My preliminary take on the concept:

    * The old man has ontological reality; how not the new?
    * something has to be growing in grace and strengthening in faith; it’s certainly not the sin nature!
    * I wonder how we avoid theosis in the “legal only” scheme.

    Anyways, I’ll happily read what you can send my way on this matter.

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  68. This issue about the new man/old man can be a bit confusing. Is the old man the same thing as the corrupt nature that is the result of our being born guilty and condemned in Adam? Is it the elects corrupt nature that is crucified with Christ or is the term “in Adam” the same term as “old man” and meant to be taken as a legal term and category in Paul’s writings in the New Testament? John Stott says the following:

    John R. W. Stott, Men Made New: An Exposition of Romans 5-8 (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1966), 45: “This is the crucifixion of our ‘old self’. What is this ‘old self’? Is it not the old nature? How can it be if the ‘body of sin’ means the old nature? The two expressions cannot mean the same thing or the verse makes no sense.

    The ‘old self’ denotes, not our old unregenerate nature, but our old condemned in Adam life—Not the part of myself which is corrupt, but my former self. So what was crucified with Christ was not a part of us called our old nature, but the whole of us as we were before we were converted. This should be plain because in this chapter the phrase ‘our old self was crucified’ (verse 6) is equivalent to ‘we…died to sin (verse 2).”

    McCulley says this: “The crucifixion of the “old man” refers to a definitive break with the past in Adam and is something God declares to be true of the elect when God justifies them by imputation. God transfers the justified elect from the age of Adam to the age of Christ. The justified sinner is separated legally and positionally from the community of Adam by being placed into the death of Christ to sin.”

    John Y So, I am taking this to mean that our corrupt natures is not the same thing as the old man that was crucified with Christ. The corrupt flesh still remains in the justified and redeemed sinner. I’m also understanding that flesh and corrupt nature are the same thing but this is not the old man.

    Then what is the new man? Is the Gospel all about getting a new man inside of you? Is there an ongoing struggle between this old man and new man in the life of the redeemed Christian? Is putting off your old man and putting on your new man the same thing as reckoning yourself dead to sin and alive to righteousness? Is growing in holiness all about feeding the new man through spiritual disciplines, sacraments and other practices we exert ourselves in while mortifying the old man? Are all these practices and mortification part of the enabling power of the Spirit?

    Colossians 3:9– “Do not lie to one another since you have put off the old man with its practices 3:10 and have been clothed with the new man that is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of the one who created it. 3:11 Here there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all and in all.” The “new man” in Colossians 3:10 is not something inside an individual.

    In Ephesians 2:15, the Jewish elect and the Gentile elect have been justified and reconciled, and together in Christ they form the “new man” which is a new redemptive-historical society in which all have free and equal access to God and are seated with Christ in the heavenlies (2:5-

    Romans 6:6 is still thinking of the two humanities (and their heads) as in Romans 5:12-21.15 The “old man,” then, must be who the elect were “in Adam,” that is, in the old age of guilt, death and judgment. The focus is corporate. The “old man” is not a sinful nature, and it’s not our corruption.

    Quoting McCulley again: “Those who live” means first of all those who are justified. The category of “we died” is not about an implantation and/or addition of a “seed substance” but about an imputed legal reality.

    The new man is not gradual transformation; it’s an either or—- this legal state or that legal state. The new creation is a legal result of God’s imputation in time of what God did (for the elect alone) in Christ in His death and resurrection.

    John Y: We still have the problem of our corrupt natures to deal with but if the above is true then those truths will have a big influence on how we live out the Christian life while waiting for the new creation to manifest itself.

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  69. Instead of focusing on what Christ did in history, we tend to focus on our inward selves, because history to many is about what happens in us inwardly. We can make no sense of a propitiation, or a legal justification from wrath to favor, because our gospel is not about what Christ did but about my searching inside myself to find the person of Christ there, as evidenced by my own struggle with two natures.

    from Glad Tidings, by Abraham Booth

    p 182, “If by ‘an awakened sinner’ it is taught that no one is
    commanded to depend on Christ for pardon and peace unless possessed of a more holy disposition, he must necessarily be more solicitous to
    find evidence of that prerequisite existing in his own heart, than to
    understand and believe what the gospel says concerning Christ.”

    p 223, “The Scriptures will not permit our concluding that any pious
    affections are possessed by sinners before they receive the truth and
    believe in Christ. If we really love and revere God, it is because He
    first loved us, because there is forgiveness with him, because that
    love for the elect has been revealed in the glad tidings of
    reconciliation.”

    p 228–”For sensible sinners to think that they dare not and ought not
    to believe and embrace Christ, till they be more deeply humbled, and
    do more thoroughly repent of their sins, and be “more fit’ to receive
    him; this is but a gilded deceit and a trick of a false heart.”

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  70. JY –

    taken from various gotquestions about a new creation, a new heart, old/new self, I think mostly from recommended resource: Who am I?: Identity in Christ by Jerry Bridges:

    “Jesus said that to become a Christian we must be “born again” (John 3:3). That phrase implies that we cannot simply remodel our current lives; we must start over. Jesus used the illustration of birth because we understand that, when a baby is born, a new creation is evident. Live birth is followed by a transformation over time from infancy to maturity. When we are born again in the Spirit, we who were “dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1; cf. Romans 6:18) are brought to life.”

    “To understand the new creation, first we must grasp that it is in fact a creation, something created by God. John 1:13 tells us that this new birth was brought about by the will of God. We did not inherit the new nature, nor did we decide to re-create ourselves anew, nor did God simply clean up our old nature; He created something entirely fresh and unique. The new creation is completely new, brought about from nothing, just as the whole universe was created by God ex nihilo, from nothing “

    “The prophet Ezekiel makes several references to a “new heart”. (Most often, the heart refers to the soul of a human being that controls the will and emotions.). A heart of stone finds it impossible to repent, to love God, or to please Him (Romans 8:8). The hearts of sinful humanity are so hardened that we cannot even seek God on our own (Romans 3:11), and that’s why Jesus said no one can come to Him unless the Father first draws him (John 6:44). We desperately need new hearts, for we are unable on our own to soften our hard hearts. A change of heart toward God requires a supernatural transformation. Jesus called it being “born again” (John 3:3).When we are born again, God performs a heart transplant, as it were. He gives us a new heart.”

    “Every human being is composed of body, soul, and spirit (1 Thessalonians 5:23). Before we have a relationship with God through new birth, we live primarily controlled by our soul and body. The spirit lies dormant inside us, like a deflated balloon. When we transfer ownership of our lives to the lordship of Jesus Christ, He sends His Holy Spirit to regenerate our deflated spirits. At salvation, He pours into our hearts and inflates the spirit inside us so that we can now communicate with God. Whereas a person was formerly directed by the sin nature, he or she can now be directed by the Holy Spirit who works to transform us into the image of Christ (Romans 8:29).”

    “Jesus did not come to reform our sinful flesh; He came to kill it (Luke 9:23; Romans 6:6–7). The old and new natures cannot work together, nor can they peacefully coexist (Romans 8:12–14). We must die to self before we can experience the new life Jesus offers us (2 Corinthians 5:15).

    One way to view “nature” is to understand it as a “capacity” within a believer. Thus, the old man is interpreted as the former way of life, that of an unbeliever. In this sense, the Christian has two competing capacities within him—the old capacity to sin and the new capacity to resist sinning. The unbeliever has no such competition within; he does not have the capacity for godliness because he has only the sin nature. That’s not to say he cannot do “good works,” but his motivation for those works is always tainted by his sinfulness. In addition, he cannot resist sinning because he doesn’t have the capacity to not sin. The believer, on the other hand, has the capacity for godliness because the Spirit of God lives within him or her. He still has the capacity for sin as well, but he now has the ability to resist sin and, more importantly, the desire to resist and to live godly. The new nature needs continual renewing (Colossians 3:10). This renewing, of course, is a lifetime process for the Christian. Even though the battle against sin is constant, we are no longer under the control of sin (Romans 6:6)”.
    .
    “There is a difference between continuing to sin and continuing to live in sin. No one reaches sinless perfection in this life, but the redeemed Christian is being sanctified (made holy) day by day, sinning less and hating it more each time he fails. Yes, we still sin, but unwillingly and less and less frequently as we mature. Our new self hates the sin that still has a hold on us. The difference is that the new creation is no longer a slave to sin, as we formerly were. We are now freed from sin and it no longer has power over us (Romans 6:6-7). Now we are empowered by and for righteousness. We now have the choice to “let sin reign” or to count ourselves “dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Romans 6:11-12).

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  71. Jeff,

    I don’t think we agree on what the new nature is but at least your continuing to ask the question, what is the new man? You are not as assured as Ali is about what that new nature or new man is. From what Ali wrote in her comment there is no mention or even need for Christ to die on the cross. The Christian life, according to Ali, is the power of the Spirit strengthening the new man and putting to death the old man. What I tried to make clear in my comment is that the old man and new man are changes in legal states (in Adam and in Christ) not changes in the makeup of our internal selves. Horton goes into great detail in explaining that in his book, COVENANT AND SALVATION, UNION WITH CHRIST.

    I agree with what you said in this comment: There is forensic union, there is vital union. Ali totally bypasses the forensic union. I think forensic union is the union. It is because of the forensic union that Christ sends the Spirit to His elect sheep. I think we probably have a different understanding what vital union or spiritual union is. The forensic is more “vital” than the spiritual. The righteousness imputed is wholly alien and outside the redeemed Christian. While saying that I am not denying the new heart or the new birth by the Spirit. Ali seems to be telling me that I am denying those aspects of the effectual call of the Gospel. I’m not. I am saying that the forensic union results in the sending of the Spirit. It is the atoning work of Christ that has priority not the work of the Spirit. There is a lot more that could be said here but I will stop and let others make their comments if anyone else is interested in commenting.

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  72. I found some more quotes that are relevant to this discussion:

    (By Faith Not By Sight) Gaffin : “Typically in the Reformation tradition the hope of salvation is expressed in terms of Christ’s righteousness, especially as imputed to the believer…however, I have to wonder if ‘Christ in you’ is not more prominent as an expression of evangelical hope…” p 110

    Tipton (Westminster Theological Journal, p 11)—”It is not MERELY in the atoning death of Christ that we find the judicial ground for the believer’s justification (by faith alone in union with Christ). It is ALSO FOUND IN THE RESURRECTION OF CHRIST AS JUSTIFIED. IT IS THE GOD-APPROVED RESURRECTION RIGHTEOUSNESS OF CHRIST ALONE, imputed to me by faith alone, that stands at the tribunal of God.”

    mark mcculley: The righteousness is NOT imputed by faith. My faith does not impute the righteousness. Nor does God wait for my faith before God imputes Christ’s righteousness. But what exactly is imputed? The answer of Gaffin and Tipton is that it’s not “merely’ the finished work which is imputed. According to them, the justified status of Christ is imputed. And thus the not-yet aspect of our justification depends on the not-yet work of the Holy Spirit in us.

    Machen: “The death to the law… the law itself brought about. Since Christ died that death as our representative, we too have died that death. Thus our death to the law, suffered for us by Christ, far from being contrary to the law, was in fulfillment of the law’s own demands.

    John Y: Here is one quote from Horton that tries to balance the objective and subjective regarding the atonement and how it is applied (by legal declaration and transfer, ie. imputation of righteousness, or by the Spirit to the “person” of Christ, ie. relational union). This, to me, just confuses the issue:

    “Criticisms of the substitutionary motif have often rightly insisted upon the ethical and relational character of Christ’s work rather than reducing it to legal calculation. But they have usually done this by focusing not on the ethical and relational character of Christ’s representative life before the Father and in the Spirit, but rather on our own. In other words, it is the atonement’s effect on us (motivating holiness, love , perhaps even fear) rather than on its effect on God (satisfying his just claims and bringing about true restoration) that is its vital concern. In a covenantal approach, where union with Christ is the encompassing soteriological theme, the objectivity of the atonement is maintained without simply reducing it to the satisfaction of God’s dignity and justice. Furthermore, once the objective offering of a fulfilling human life (that is, one that is given to unbroken covenant loyalty) is made by Christ, in the Spirit, that same Spirit unites us to a Christ so that it is both objectively ours completely and subjectively ours definitively (in the new birth) yet imperfectly (in sanctification), and finally consummated (in glorification). As there are many opportunities for convergence between recapitulation and covenantal union, there is significant overlap between theosis and glorification, a point I will pursue in my third volume.”

    John Y: That quote from Horton is on page 228 in his book, LORD AND SERVANT- A COVENANT CHRISTOLOGY.

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  73. @ John:

    Thanks. Is that the only thing above on which we agree? I was surprised you didn’t mention 1) at all.

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  74. Jeff,
    There was not enough detail about election in your comment to make an adequate judgment. It seems to me that the confessional Reformed make election fit their views of covenant rather than vice versa. Plus, there is a lot more to the doctrine. I realize it is not a topic that is discussed much these days. Most try to ignore the issue but I don’t think you can ignore it and really understand what the Gospel is.

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  75. I don’t think you can come to any kind of assurance of justification before a Holy God without talking about election. Of course, you also have to talk about the justice satisfied at the cross for God’s elect sheep too.

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  76. John Y: Another quote from Horton criticizing Barth’s confusion of creation and redemption, Law and Gospel and implying a damnation conditioned on the sinner because of his infralapsarian view of election due to his understanding of covenant theology:

    Quote from Horton’s book, LORD AND SERVANT, A Covenant Christology, pg. 59.

    “There is much in Barth’s treatment (of grace- my addition) that is of value. In fact, his definition of grace is an important improvement on the usual understanding of grace as simply “unmerited favor.” ‘Grace means redemption,’ he rightly says. ‘It is always God’s turning to those who not only do not deserve this favor, but have deserved its opposite.’ In fact, ‘Grace itself is mercy.’ But then it is all the more alarming to suggest that creation itself is an act of redemption and that human-kind simply as human deserves condemnation. But just because of this definition, how can it be applied to every divine act toward the world?

    Grace cannot be comprehensive of God’s being turned toward us in the act of creation, for example, since there is no ethical fault. While creation is an act of divine condescension and therefore a gift that is not deserved, it is also not an act of mercy. It is true, of course, that God’s creation of the world and us in it is in no way conditioned by us, but that does not make it gracious. Adam and Eve were not created out of any external obligation, and so it is an utterly free decision; but this is condescension, love, and goodness rather than grace and redemption. Barth has not slipped into inconsistency in this formulation. He emphatically maintains that grace presupposes sin. However, a supralapsarian version of predestination allows eternity to swallow the horizon of the covenant’s historical unfolding: ‘before’ and ‘after’ lose their ontological status. ‘Where grace is manifest and effectual, it is always a question of the misery of man.’ Grace is ‘how God loves.’ But what if we were to apply this to the intra-Trinitarian life? Furthermore, what has happened to goodness, love, the desire for fellowship with creatures, condescension? Are these not sufficient as the basis for a covenantal relationship with pre-fallen creatures?

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  77. JohnY – I understand your points and your concerns generally, but I’m not sure what you mean about understanding election. It seems clear to me from Romans 8:28-30, and Ephesians 1:3-14 that those who are elect are invariably justified by Christ and sanctified through the Holy Spirit. Are you saying that election should form the basis for our assurance beyond anything else?

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  78. @ John Y:

    I’m a little lost on your last three. Are you saying that you cannot agree to Unconditionally elect before the foundation of the world. Election is the direct or indirect ground of all else because more detail might affect the meaning of those sentences?

    Also, are you suggesting that only one lapsarian view (guessing supralapsariansm) preserves unconditional election?

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  79. VV and Jeff,
    Off the cuff again, I think your questions move the discussion to the issue of conditionality. The spell check is telling me that conditionality is not a word but I think you know what I am trying to communicate. When you start talking about conditions for justification and sanctification (and I think conditions do enter into Reformed theology due to conflating covenants with the doctrine of election) how can you still talk about free grace? For instance, I was just reading an essay last night about the Lordship Salvation theology of Steve Lawson. The author of the essay says this:

    Let’s take a closer look at Lawson’s assertions:

    A: Eternal salvation (being a Christian) is by free and sovereign grace. We know this by virtue of Lawson’s profession of Calvinism.

    B: Being a Christian, being eternally saved and discipleship are all the same. (Substantiated by the bolded claim above.)

    C: Discipleship has a cost that includes transfer of ownership, total complete surrender of your life, supreme allegiance and loyalty, taking a step of faith, etc. (As above.)

    Following Lawson’s reasoning, wherein A = B, and B = C, then C of necessity MUST equal A. Stated more plainly, since Lawson makes no distinction between eternal salvation and discipleship (point B above) he is left with the nonsense assertion that eternal salvation is both “free” and “costs everything.”

    The author continues:

    “Does Lawson honestly believe that man must totally commit himself in order to obtain eternal life? Can such an arrangement be considered salvation by free grace? This is utter nonsense. What if I were to say that I was going to give you a new car by free grace based on no merit on your part, and then followed that by saying that the cost was that you had to “transfer the ownership of all that you are and all that you have to me.” Would you regard such an arrangement as “obtaining a car by free grace?”

    One last quote:

    Free = Costly
    Jesus Paid it all = You must also pay your all

    Such statements are so manifestly illogical that it staggers the mind to believe that such twaddle is promoted among God’s people as deep and pious truths of the Christian faith.

    “Yet the exchange is not bartered or bought with real money, but it is purchased with the total, complete surrender of your life to Christ. That’s what saving faith is.” (Lawson)

    The notion that “saving faith” is defined by “total, complete surrender of your life to Christ” is completely rejected by the testimony of the bible itself. Consider the following explicit refutation:

    Peter said, “Thou art the Christ.” (Matthew 16:16)

    The Lord Jesus Christ affirmed this good profession and identified God as it’s source. (v17)

    This proves that he was born again and in possession of eternal life – “Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God.” (I John 5:1, Ephesians 2:1)

    Peter said, “Though I should die with thee, yet will I not deny thee.” (Matthew 26:35) What is this statement, if not Peter’s prideful and short-sighted affirmation of his own “total commitment” to Christ?

    Peter subsequently denied the Lord. (Matthew 26:69ff) What is this act if not indisputable evidence of Peter’s lack of total commitment? Was Peter “hating his own life” or trying to save his own life by denying Christ? (Luke 14:26) The answer is obvious.

    The preceding sequence of events completely undermines Lawson’s definition of “saving faith” by proving that Peter had “saving faith” in Matthew 16 and demonstrating that he was not “totally committed” in Matthew 26. It follows that “saving faith” is not total commitment.

    John Y: Yes, I am saying that the just requirements of God’s Law that were met by Christ’s death on the cross for His elect sheep is the only legitimate way to gain assurance with the continuing influence of sin on the flesh of the redeemed Christian. However, flesh is not only or not even primarily immorality in the Scriptures. Flesh is the propensity towards seeking to establish one’s owns righteousness apart from the righteous seed (the complete and finished work of Christ). I could site numerous Scripture passages. I think Philippians chapter 3 is the most convincing. I think there are very subtle ways to get around the implications of the doctrine of election that virtually make the doctrine of election irrelevant and insignificant. I don’t think you can understand the Gospel without a right understanding of the doctrine of election.

    Do I think one can hold only one lapsarian view of election and still preserve unconditional election? Yeah, unless someone can convince me otherwise.

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  80. What I said in my last comment also makes me very leery of the doctrine of progressive sanctification.

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  81. @ John Y: Tell your spell checker to go jump in a laak.

    Conditionality: imposing, containing, subject to, or depending on a condition or conditions; not absolute; made or allowed on certain terms:
    conditional acceptance.
    2.
    Grammar. (of a sentence, clause, mood, or word) involving or expressing a condition, as the first clause in the sentence If it rains, he won’t go.
    3.
    Logic.
    (of a proposition) asserting that the existence or occurrence of one thing or event depends on the existence or occurrence of another thing or event; hypothetical.
    (of a syllogism) containing at least one conditional proposition as a premise.

    While “conditionality” is a real word, I’m not sure it’s a helpful word to describe what we both agree on: God’s election of us, and calling of us, is not grounded in anything we do OR anything that God does in us.

    And the reason it might not be the best word is that it is indisputable that Scripture expresses conditions (as in #2/#3 above) concerning our salvation.

    Here are three stark ones:

    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. — Rom 8.9

    Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God. — John 3.3

    Whoever believes in Him is not condemned — John 3.18

    Let’s agree from the start on two things:

    (1) Neither of these quotes implies that God makes us His because we have the Spirit; or that God chooses us or justifies us because we are born again.

    BUT

    (2) Grammatically and logically speaking, both of these quotes directly state a logical condition.

    *If* you do not have the Spirit, you do not belong to God
    *If* you are not born again, you cannot see the kingdom of God.
    *If* you believe in Him, you are not condemned.

    Agreeing to (1) is absolutely necessary for preserving the gracious character of God’s grace. Agreeing to (2) is absolutely necessary to avoid denying God’s word.

    How to untie the knot? Two terms are helpful here.

    The first is Turretin’s distinction between antecedent conditions and concommitant conditions. The first type, antecedent conditions, are the reason for the granting of a benefit. God’s election is the antecedent condition to effectual calling — we are called *because* God chose us. The second type, concommitant conditions, are conditions that are agreeable to, that go along with, something else. *If* we are justified, what goes along with that (indeed, follows from it) is the giving of the Spirit.

    The giving of the Spirit is not reason for our justification (antecedent condition), but it always occurs in those who are justified (concommitant condition).

    A second concept is that of “ground”: the legal reason that a benefit (or punishment) is bestowed. Our election is grounded only in God’s free choice; hence “unconditional.” Our justification is grounded in Christ’s righteousness. The giving of the Spirit is grounded in our adoption, which is grounded in our justification.

    So while we walk together on a quest to preserve the gracious character of God’s grace, let me encourage you (and McMark, if he’s reading this) to let go of the “conditional/unconditional” framework. It only causes confusion when reading verses like Rom 8.9, in which a clear condition is expressed. It’s not completely wrong — after all, I did say that God’s election is “unconditional”, using the historic U-from-TULIP language — but it can mislead if pushed too hard. We can start trying to force covenants to be “unconditional”, which is precisely impossible: agreements always have conditions.

    Instead, consider speaking of “grounds”, or if you want to totally confuse your Reformed Baptist relatives, “concommitant conditions.”

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  82. Oops, sorry — started with two quotes, changed it to three. Change “neither” to “none” and “both” to “all”

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  83. Jeff, I’m not sure if I am following your thinking in regards to the context of Romans 8:9. Do you think that a redeemed Christian can still set his mind on the flesh? Is Paul rebuking and exhorting Christians to not set their minds on the flesh but to set their minds on the Spirit; or, is Paul saying that a redeemed Christian cannot set his mind on the flesh if that person has the Spirit in him? What do you think it means to set your mind on the flesh? What do you think it means to set your mind on the Spirit? That is a condition that the human agent has to meet. You cannot please God if your mind is set on your flesh. That seems to imply that Paul is talking about someone who has been justified- maybe not though.

    Paul also says that with my flesh I still serve the law of sin. Do you think Paul was talking about a time before he was justified? What is the law of sin and what is the law of the Spirit of life? This can get confusing quick; kind of like talk about the old man and the new man.

    Following on from that, do you think there are conditions that the human agent has to make for justification and sanctification? Or, to use the term you want to use, what do you think the grounds are for the human agent regarding justification and sanctification?

    Besides the questions I asked I think I am understanding what you said but am not sure where you want to go with it.

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  84. johnyeasel says the nonsense assertion that eternal salvation is both “free” and “costs everything.”
    Johnyeasel says the notion that “saving faith” is defined by “total, complete surrender of your life to Christ” is completely rejected by the testimony of the bible itself.

    Jesus is a liar and nonsense, JY?

    So then, none of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions. Luke 14: 33

    And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. Luke 9: 23

    When Jesus heard this, He said to him, “One thing you still lack; sell all that you possess Luke 18:22 a

    Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price 1 Corinthians 6:19-20a

    Blessed is that slave whom his master finds so doing when he comes. Matthew 24:46

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  85. JohnY: “Off the cuff again, I think your questions move the discussion to the issue of conditionality. The spell check is telling me that conditionality is not a word but I think you know what I am trying to communicate. When you start talking about conditions for justification and sanctification (and I think conditions do enter into Reformed theology due to conflating covenants with the doctrine of election) how can you still talk about free grace?”

    VV: I don’t think anyone is suggestion that any aspect of salvation – justification or sanctification – are conditional. I’m certainly not. Both are the result of the entirely gracious work of Christ on the cross. Again, I’m not sure what your point is on election. As I said in my previous comment, Scripture is clear that God’s elect are justified and sanctified with no conditions. I don’t mean to be obtuse, but I’m really not sure what your point is with regards to election.

    JohnY: “Flesh is the propensity towards seeking to establish one’s owns righteousness apart from the righteous seed (the complete and finished work of Christ).”

    VV: This is true in part, but not entirely. Galatians 5:16-26 lists the “works of the flesh” opposed to the fruit of the Spirit. Yes, fleshly living can include self-righteous or self-justification, but it also includes sinful behavior. We are exhorted to holy living not as a condition of salvation, but as a result of salvation. The elect have persevering faith animated by good works, but this faith is in no way a condition of our election.

    Ali – I think you are missing JohnY’s point. His point (I think) is that complete surrender to Christ as Lord is not a condition for salvation, because that implies a works salvation. Not only that, but because we are still “in the flesh” such total surrender is impossible in this life.

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  86. vv, JY needs to start with God’s word and work through His word to present his case. The way he presents statements (like above) seems to contradict and oppose Jesus.

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  87. @ John Y:

    Following on from that, do you think there are conditions that the human agent has to make for justification and sanctification? Or, to use the term you want to use, what do you think the grounds are for the human agent regarding justification and sanctification?

    The ground of our justification and sanctification both are the righteousness of Christ.

    The question “are there conditions that the human agent has to make for justification and sanctification” gets really confusing.

    Faith is a condition — you cannot be justified if you don’t have faith, and if you do have faith, you are certainly justified.

    But it is not a ground. We aren’t justified because we have faith; nor is faith meritorious.

    So you can see that the term “ground” lends itself to a lot more clarity than the term “condition”, which is why I prefer it.

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  88. Ali always misses the points of my comments. She even injects things in my comments that reveal that she has either not read them closely or just glosses over them without understanding what I am saying. She interprets the Scriptures and comments at oldlife according to the assumptions she brings to the text of Scripture. A few of the major assumptions I’ve noticed are:

    1) The imperative commands in the New Covenant imply an ability to obey them. That’s why she is constantly posting imperatives in her comments and then telling the person she refers the passages to that they are calling Jesus or Paul a liar.

    2) Sin is overcome by the power of the Spirit not the atoning work of Christ. There is a mortifying role on the remaining flesh that the Scriptures point out as the work of the Spirit but that is usually in conjunction with the work of the Son on the cross.

    3) The old man and new man are ontological natures not differing legal states (in Adam and in Christ). I realize that this view has been a popular view even among the Reformed. However, Ali’s understanding of the divine nature goes far beyond what any good Reformed theologian would say.

    4) She holds to a definition of faith that include works and obedience. If anyone does not hold to the same definition of faith that she holds to then that person is functioning in unbelief.

    It seems to me that Ali has drunk deeply from the notes in John MacAurthur’s study bible but she fails to interact with any of the major biblical theologians in any varying traditions but her own Lordship Salvation theological beliefs.

    It would probably be a waste of my time to make my case from the Scriptures because she has preset assumptions that prevent her from hearing what others are saying. And then she makes wild accusations against those who differ from her. This has been pointed out to her on many occasions at oldlife but from what I have seen it goes through one of her ears and out the other. So, it is probably more a waste of time to continue to try to interact with her. Such is life on the internet websites. I do find it to be good practice in trying to make your points clear so I continue doing it.

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  89. VV, my point about election is that you cannot base assurance on conduct. Assurance is found in the just work of Christ on the cross for His elect sheep. Christ fulfilled the Law for those who were chosen before the foundation of the world. If you don’t talk about election it is an easy path to the idea of a justification by the whole life lived. Here is an example from the thinking of John Piper. Piper is highly influenced by the theology of Jonathan Edwards and Daniel Fuller:

    John Y: John Piper attempts to use Romans 8:2 to teach both justification apart from works and justification by works:

    John Piper—-Now I want to stop and make sure that you are hearing what I believe the Scripture is saying, because it is not commonly said, but our lives hang on it. There is a real sense in which our justification depends on our sanctification. There is a sense in which whether we are acquitted before God depends on whether the law of the Spirit of life has freed us from the law of sin and death.

    But how can this be? The sentence of “not guilty” has already been given, and it was given to those who have faith. How then can I say that the past sentence of “not guilty” is dependent on the present process of sanctification? And how can I say that to experience justification one must not only have faith but also be freed by the Spirit from the power of sin?

    1) The faith to which justification is promised is not merely a single decision to acknowledge Christ’s lordship and accept him as Savior. The faith by which we are justified is an ongoing life of faith. When we read Romans 4 and James 2 carefully we see that Abraham believed God’s promise and it was reckoned to him as righteousness. He was justified by his faith. But then we notice that the illustrations of this faith in Romans 4 and James 2 are not merely its first act in Genesis 12 that caused Abraham to leave the land of Ur and follow God to Canaan, but also Abraham’s faith in God’s later promise in Genesis 15 to make his own son his heir, and the faith in Genesis 22 that enabled him to almost sacrifice his only son, Isaac. In other words, when Paul and James think of the faith by which Abraham was justified they think not merely of his initial belief but of his ongoing life of faith. Therefore Paul says in Colossians 1:21–23,

    And you who once were estranged and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death in order to present you holy and blameless and irreproachable before him, IF INDEED YOU REMAIN IN FAITH stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel.

    Or as he says in 1 Corinthians 15:1, 2: I preached to you the gospel which you received, in which you stand, by which you are saved, IF YOU HOLD IT FAST—unless you believed in vain.
    We are justified not ALONE by that initial reception of the gospel but by an ongoing life of faith.

    2) Second, the coming of the Holy Spirit into a person’s life and the working of the Spirit to liberate that life from the law of sin and death always accompany genuine faith and there is no other way to have it….It is by faith that we receive the Holy Spirit, and it is by faith that the Spirit works within us. To live by faith and to live in the power of the Holy Spirit are the same thing, viewed from two different angles.

    Paul says in Romans 8:14, “As many as are led by the Spirit of God are the sons of God.” . One must believe in Christ to be God’s child; one must be led by the Spirit to be God’s child. And these are not two conditions but one, for it is by faith that God supplies to us the Spirit, and it is by a life of faith he works miracles among us.

    Now with these two insights I think we can solve our earlier problem. On the one hand Romans 5:1 says we have been justified by faith. . Freedom from condemnation is made conditional upon the work of the Holy Spirit freeing me from sin.

    May no one react and say, O, that cannot be. All you have to do is believe in Christ as Savior; you don’t have to overcome sin by the power of the Spirit. That error cheapens faith, contradicts the teaching of Romans 8:1, 2, and runs the risk of hearing Jesus say on the judgment day: Depart from me, you evildoers, I never knew you.

    You don’t want to believe in a Christ who makes no difference in your life, do you? Who wants a Jesus who is so nothing that all he can produce is a people who think, feel, and act just like the world? We don’t want that.

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  90. johnyeazel says: What I said in my last comment also makes me very leery of the doctrine of progressive sanctification

    but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ 2 Peter 3: 18

    The sanctification process, becoming more like Christ, is synonymous with growing in grace. God`s desire for those He has saved is their sanctification and transformation. He wants to transform us into the image of His Son.(got?s)

    johnyeazel says: VV, my point about election is that you cannot base assurance on conduct.

    Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble 2 Peter 1:10

    to make one’s calling and election sure is to live out the Christian life in the power of the Holy Spirit. It is to do more than simply pay lip service to Christ. Those who profess salvation but never grow in their walk with God will suffer a lack of assurance always wondering if they are really saved or not. Those who grow ever more like Christ will be “sure” of their calling and election. They will know they have eternal life (see 1 John 5:13); they will be living testimonies of the power of God to change lives.(got?s)

    johnyeazel says It would probably be a waste of my time to make my case from the Scriptures because she has preset assumptions that prevent her from hearing what others are saying.

    interesting

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  91. Ali,

    In my humble and insignificant opinion, I judge that to be the best comment you have thrown back at me at oldlife.

    1) Here is a long argument against progressive sanctification: https://theworldsruined.blogspot.com/2016/05/walther-to-fonville-to-miller.html

    2) A better translation: 2 Pet. 1: 10-13:

    10 Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. 11 For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. 12 Therefore I intend always to remind you of these qualities, though you know them and are established in the truth that you have. 13 I think it right, as long as I am in this body,to stir you up by way of reminder,

    John Y: Notice that Peter instructs those whom he is writing to too make their calling and election sure. If you don’t make your calling and election sure the qualities that follow are dead works not good works. In other words, you won’t fall if you make your election and calling sure; that is the condition for what follows

    3) If you want me to make a biblical case for my comments, I will. Just assure me that you will let go of your presumed assumptions about Scripture and think out of the box you are used to thinking in. Of course, only God can reveal his truth to you. I am thinking of a verse in the Gospel of John that I am paraphrasing- My sheep do not listen to the voice of strangers. They do not enter by any other gate than by the finished work of the Son completed for those who are written in the book of life.

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  92. I linked the shortened version of the argument against progressive sanctification. There is a much longer version that I would have to copy and paste. I’m not really expecting that you will actually read it. It is in rebuttal to what you think the Scriptures teach regarding progressive sanctification.

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  93. What the heck, here is the longer version:

    The church has for long been debating over the true nature of sanctification. The proponents for the views to be discussed are: Karl Barth, Louis Berkhof, and John Murray. Karl Barth has viewed sanctification as positional. Sanctification, for Barth, is where God declares a sinner as holy; the believer already stands in a “holy position” before God, since Christ is the believer’s sanctification. Barth, thus emphasizes the definiteness of sanctification: the believer has been sanctified. Louis Berkhof, in contrast to Barth, has viewedsanctification as progre ssive. Sanctification, according to Berkhof, is a continual process in which the believer is being transformed more and more into the likeness of Christ – until the believer finally becomes glorified at Christ’s return. Berkhof, thus, emphasizes the ongoing process of sanctification: the believer is becoming sanctified. John Murray, who in some sense acts as a mediator between Barth from Berkhof, has argued that sanctification is both positional and progressive. In this paper I will first present the differing views and then critique John Murray’s view that sanctification is can be both positional and progressive. I will then argue against Murray and Berkhof’s progressive view of sanctification, and thereby conclude that the positional view of sanctification is the Biblical one.

    Karl Barth viewed sanctification as positional, or declartive, rather than as progressive. Barth, as Louis Berkhof critiques him, fails to see sanctification as the removal of actual sin and the transformation into greater personal holiness. Berkhof, in analyzing Barth’s position, writes, “And just as man remains a sinner even after justification, so he also remains a sinner in sanctification, even his best deeds continue to be sins. Sanctification does not engender a holy disposition, and does not gradually purify man. It does not put him in possession of any personal holiness, does not make him a saint, but leaves him a sinner” (Berkhof, 537). Hence, Berkhof criticizes Barth: “Justification and sanctification are, therefore, to Barth, two sides of one act of God upon men. Justification is the pardon of the sinner (justification impii), by which God declares the sinner righteous. Sanctification is the sanctification of the sinner (sanctification impii), by which God declares the sinner ‘holy’” (Berkhof, 537). Berkhof criticizes Barth for the reason that this view only seems to blur justification andsanctification, and thereby “rules out the possibility of confident assurance” (Berkhof, 537).

    Berkhof, on the other hand, rejects Barth’s positional view of sanctification and falls back on a progressive view. Berkhof sees sanctification as two parts: (i) “the mortification of the old man, the body of sin”, and (ii) “the quickening of the new man, created in Christ Jesus unto good works” (Berkhof, 533). Berkhof defines sanctification as “that gracious and continuous operation of the Holy Spirit, by which He delivers the justified sinner from the pollution of sin, renews his whole nature in the image of God, and enables him to perform good works” (Berkhof, 532). Hence, according to Berkhof, the Christian progressively becomes more Christ-like. Berkhof is aware that this view of progression may lead to a view that is mere moralism, since he says that in both the New and the Old Testaments: “ethical holiness is not mere moral rectitude, and sanctification is never mere moral improvement” (Berkhof, 532). The difference, Berkhof says, is that the Biblical view of sanctification is “in relation to God, for God’s sake, and with a view to the service of God” (Berkhof, 532). So, Berkhof reasons, a progressive view of sanctification cannot be attributed merely as moralism, since moralism is not concerned with the mentioned attributes of sanctification.

    John Murray, in his Redemption Accomplished and Applied, argues that sanctification is both positional and progressive. He acknowledges Barth’s view that Scripture teaches a definiteness of sanctification, since he says that “sanctification is not achieved by a process, nor by our striving, or working to that end. It is achieved once for all by union with Christ” (Murray, 143).

    Murray and Barth would both agree that Scripture is clear on the positional aspect of sanctification. For example, Paul says that it is in Christ Jesus that “God made our wisdom and our righteousness and sanctification and redemption” (1 Corinthians 1:30, ESV, emphasis mine). It is for this reason that Paul regards the Corinthian church as “sanctified in Christ Jesus” (1 Cor. 1:2, ESV, emphasis mine). In 1 Cor. 1:2 the Greek word ‘sanctified’, h`giasme,noij [perfect passive participle of a`gia,zw] denotes a completed action in the past, with ongoing continuing results. He uses the verb in the same manner in Acts 20:32 and 26:18. The children of God have been sanctified in Christ. There is no questioning the finished work of sanctification; just as justification is a done deal, so is sanctification. Christians are thus able to live in the present reality that they are sanctified, or “holy” before God. Paul tells the Corinthians, “but you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Cor. 6:11b, ESV, emphasis mine). Just as Christ is the one who has already accomplished our justification, He is also the one who hasalready accomplished our sanctification. To deny a positional, or definite, sense of sanctification would go contrary to Scripture.

    While he acknowledges the definiteness of sanctification (in agreement with Barth), John Murray, however, sees it as a “deflection from the pervasive New Testament witness to speak of it as merely… positional” (Murray, 142, emphasis mine). Murray sees the positional position as necessary but not as sufficient. Thus, Murray also agrees with Berkhof in thatsanctification is progress ive. Murray reasons that if the believer has the Holy Spirit and is given commands to obey God after conversion, then the believer must still be obligated to live out the commandments of God. The positional aspect of sanctification, thus for Murray, is not enough. For Murray, it is impossible for the Christian to be complacent with his ontological holiness.

    Murray’s argument, however, is not sufficient to prove the progressive aspect of sanctification. First, it will be shown that the progressive nature of sanc tification does not follow from achange of disposition in the believer. Second, it will be shown that a progressive nature does not follow from the imperatives given to those indwelt by the Holy Spirit. By rejecting these two premises Murray’s argument for progressive sanctification will be demonstrated as unsuccessful.

    CHALLENGING MURRAY’S TWO PREMISES

    Here it will be shown that the progressive nature of sanc tification does not follow from a change of disposition in the believer. This will be done by first challenging Murray’s grasp of how Christians are no longer under the dominion of sin, and then by offering a more accurate understanding of the freedom in which Paul spoke.

    Murray argues that those who crucified their old self with Christ are no longer under the dominion of sin (Romans 6). He says that “it is wrong to use these texts to support any other view of the victory entailed than that which the Scripture teaches it to be, namely, the radical breach with the power and love of sin which is necessarily the possession of every one who has been united to Christ. Union with Christ is union with him in the efficacy of his death and in virtue of his resurrection – he who thus died and rose again with Christ is freed from sin, and sin will not exercise the dominion” (Murray, 143). Murray further writes, “[the Christian] must reckon himself to be dead indeed unto sin but alive unto God through Jesus Christ his Lord. It is the faith of this fact that provides the basis for, and the incentive to the fulfillment of, the exhortation, ‘Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body…’” (Murray, 146).

    Murray’s usage of Scripture, however, has failed to prove that the indwelling of the Holy Spirit necessarily sanctifies a man in a progressive and ontological sense. His usage of Romans, for instance, is unwarranted for the reason that he assumes that by “the dominion of sin” Paul has an ontological change in mind. However, when Paul wrote “so you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Romans 6:11) the verb he chose to use was logi,zesqe. This verb [logi,zomai] means to “consider”, to “count”, to “credit” or to “reckon”. Such a verb is not used in an ontological sense, but in a positional sense. Paul also uses this very verb to describe the manner in which Abraham was counted righteous by God – by faith (Rom. 4:6, 8-11, 22-24). God accounted, or declared, Abraham righteous even though Abraham ontologically wasn’t. Hence, by his usage of this passage all Murray has done is undermine his own assumptions by reaffirming the positional aspect of God’s blessings.

    The freedom from the dominion of sin, which Paul speaks of, is not the ontological change in holiness, as Murray would suggest. Rather, it is the freedom from the condemnation of sin and from the guilt of falling short of the law’s demands. Whereas Murray would seem to suggest that sanctification is conform ing to the law (by the Spirit’s help), Paul’s claim is that “we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve not under the old written code but in the new life of the Spirit” (Rom. 7:6, ESV, emphasis mine). Paul’s claim is that believers are released from the condemnation of the law’s demand. It is freedom from this captivity that Paul has in mind when he says that Christians are free from the dominion of sin. Whereas Murray would suggest that being freed from the dominion of sin means that the believer has newly attained ability to keep the law, Paul, on the contrary, suggests that such freedom means Christians are absolved from the law’s demands. All the law could do is condemn, kill, and destroy. And it is for this very reason that in Rom. 7:7 Paul anticipates the objection that “doesn’t such a view suggest that the law is sin?” However, the view that the freedom from the dominion of sin only means that the Spirit aids us in obeying the law would never draw one to raise the objection that the law is sin (in fact, quite the contrary). If one were in line with Pauline theology, one would have to expect answer to similar objections in which Paul faced. The fact that Murray does not seems to attract such objections only suggests that he is not reading the Apostle Paul correctly.

    Having shown that the progressive nature of sanc tification does not follow from a change of disposition in the believer. It will now be shown that it s not the case that progressivesanctification follows from the imperatives given to those indwelt by the Holy Spirit. It will first be demonstrated that the burden of proof is on Murray to prove that the imperatives given to the believer entail the believer’s ability to obey them. A potential set of counter objections from Murray will then be introduced and be responded to.

    Murray writes: “the sanctified are not passive or quiescent in this process. Nothing shows this more clearly than the exhortation of the apostle: ‘Work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for his good pleasure” (Phil. 2:12, 13) (Murray, 148). Murray wishes to acknowledge that the commands in Scripture demand human responsibility – not least Paul’s exhortation to “work out your salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil. 2:12). However, one must ask what relevance the imperatives have in proving the progressive nature of sanc tification? Unless one is ready to make the Pelagian presupposition that God would not give us a command unless we were able to keep it, one cannot assume that just because believers are given a command that the believer has the ability to keep them. Murray would agree with Berkhof that uncoverted man is commanded to be perfect, to do good, to not sin, to believe and be saved, but simultaneously “cannot do any act, however insignificant, whichfundamentally meets with God’s approval and answers to the demands of God’s holy law…In a word, he is unable to do any spiritual good” (Berkhof, 247, emphasis mine). If responsibility does not entail ability in the pre-converted state, then it is the burden of proof of Murray to demonstrate that responsibility entails ability in the post-converted state. Murray clearly fails to demonstrate this by his exegesis of Romans 6. One cannot simply assume that God gave the believer commandments and thus man is able – or guaranteed – to keep them.

    Murray would probably indicate that the difference between post-conversion and pre-conversion is the presence of the Spirit in the regenerate man (which is clearly absent in the unregenerate man). Murray would then state that the Spirit then “enables” the believer to perform the requirements of the Law. However, he must demonstrate how regeneration or the presence of the Holy Spirit grants the believer an ability which the unbeliever does not have. One cannot assume, as Murray does, that the Holy Spirit’s presence grants this ability.

    If one cannot assume that the Holy Spirit grants the believer the ability to keep God’s commandments, then Murray might then object by asking me for an explanation on what purpose God gives someone a commandment if one isn’t able to keep it. To this objection, the Apostle Paul responds, “if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. I would nothave known what it is to covet if the law had not said, ‘You shall not covet’” (Rom.7:7, ESV). Again, Paul says elsewhere, “Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the offspring should come…so then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith” (Gal. 3:19, 24, ESV). Paul tells us that the law was given so that it would demonstrate that we can’t keep it and, thereby, lead us to Christ as our righteousness. Nowhere does Paul say that commandments are given so that we could keep them. Like the Old Testament Law Paul’s exhortations provide context for what it means to be perfect, thereby providing a measuring stick for perfection (since perfection is always God’s standard) and drive all men to our only hope, Jesus Christ. Paul contextualizes God’s commands, to demonstrate what the perfect man would look like in their contexts of church conflict (1 Cor. 3, 12-14), in church conduct (1 Ti. 5), in marriage (Eph. 5), in mature character (Rom. 12, 1 Thess 5), in generous giving (2 Cor. 8), in relation to the state (Rom. 13), and so forth. There is no question that Paul wishes his exhortations and commandments to be obeyed. But this demonstrates the pastoral heart of Paul, much like it demonstrated Moses’ heart over the nation Israel. However, in no way do the commandments of Paul demonstrate ability to God’s covenantal people in the New Testament any more than the commandments of Moses demonstrated ability to God’s covenantal people in the Old Testament. And neither Berkhof nor Murray would be willing to move in the direction of the dispensationalist.

    If the law’s only intent was to lead us to Christ, then, Murray may wonder, whether such a view of sanctification leads to antinomianism. After all, the denial of progressivesanctification only seems to point to the road of self-complacency and moral laxity. John Murray wrote, “truly biblical sanctification has no affinity with the self-complacency which ignores or fails to take into account the sinfulness of every lack of conformity to the image of him who was holy, harmless, and undefiled” (Murray, 145) He quotes “spiritual” men in the Bible to prove that true sanctification is never satisfied with self-complacency. He quotes the Apostle Paul: “O wretched man that I am” (Rom. 7:24), the prophet Isaiah: “Woe is me…” (Is. 6:5), the blameless and upright Job: “Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes” (Job. 42:5, 6). To further the point he could even have quoted Paul’s confession that he was the worst of sinners (1 Ti. 1:15) or Peter’s cry, “depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord” (Lk. 5:8, ESV). Murray finally quotes Jesus to drive home the point that true sanctification cannot be self-complacent: “Ye shall be perfect therefore as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt. 5:48)

    It is interesting to see how Murray can quote so much Scripture and yet miss the essential point of what the passages he quotes actually demonstrate. Jesus’ words in Matthew, for instance, “ye shall be perfect therefore as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt. 5:48) demonstrates that God requiresperfection and nothing short of it. He is not satisfied with someone’s best work (with or without the Holy Spirit). Jesus’ point in the Sermon on the Mount is that anyone’s best work still falls short of what God requires. He says, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished” (Matt. 5:17-18, ESV).

    Someone might read that and think that Jesus is asking his hearers to obey more, to sin less, to become more sanctified. However, that would only be relaxing God’s command of perfection and thereby be guilty of what Jesus is warning against: “Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:19, ESV). Jesus is not asking his hearers to put in more effort, to try harder, to sin less, or to be more sanctified – inasmuch as He is setting up the perfect standard of God and thereby demonstrating that they need a greater righteousness than His hearers could ever perform. When Jesus says, “For unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:20, ESV), He is trying to expose the inability of fallen man and thereby lead His hearers to find righteousness that does not come from the law, “but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith” (Phil. 3:9, ESV). Thus, His aim is not to show that they can keep the law (even the scribes and Pharisees have failed!), but that they can’t. Thus He continues to make the law harsher with the repeated formula: “You’ve heard it said…but I say unto You…, even if You…You have still failed” (Matt. 5:21-47). And it is in this context that Jesus says “Ye shall be perfect therefore as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt. 5:48). While it is true that believers are not to be self-complacent, the response Jesus is looking for is not “O wretched man that I am…let me try harder (with or without the Holy Spirit)”, but rather, “O wretched man that I am, I am required to be perfect…who will rescue me from this body of death?” (Rom. 7:24, ESV). It is this context which provides an understanding to which the Biblical men above state “woe is me”, and “I abhor myself”. It is in this context that they recognize their inability to perform righteousness, thus they are only left with cursing themselves.

    Again, Murray only undermines his position by the manner in which

    Murray’s usage of Scripture, therefore, in no way supports his position but only seems to emphasize the fallenness of man and his utter inability to amount to anything worthy. To argue for ability from this passage seems contrary to Jesus’ antithetical position of relaxing a commandment. Furthermore, by Murray’s understanding of complacency, it would seem as though the non-complacent man that is able to perform the law (to greater degrees) is not lead to cursing oneself, but rather to the encouraging of oneself in order to perform tasks better and more frequently (after all, the man who is so able wouldn’t want be discouraged by cursing himself). Simply said, Murray does not disprove the positional view ofsanctification by claiming that the regenerate man should not be morally-lax.

    Viewing sanctification as positional does not lead to antinomianism just because it seems to have removed the law’s condemnation. Someone might wish to ask, “if the law’s condemnation is removed, then what reason is there to obey God? What, then, keeps believers from moral laxity?” However, such an objector fails to realize his question presupposes that the only reason to obey God is fear of the law’s condemnation. But if the only reason to obey God is fear of condemnation, obedience is only done for one’s own sake and thus fails to be “in relation to God, for God’s sake, and with a view to the service of God” (Berkhof, 532), which Berkhof says Biblical sanctification requires.

    It is clearly acknowledged that “the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good” (Rom. 7:12, ESV). Paul explains that the good law’s intendment was to expose the sinfulness of man by contrasting man’s sinfulness with God’s perfect standard of holiness. He writes, “Did that which is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, producing death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure. For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin” (Rom. 7:13-14, ESV). The law’s purpose, therefore, is to expose human sinfulness, but just because it cannot be achieved by human obedience does not entail an antinomian position. It is not the case that the law is done away with or that it is evil; it is simply fulfilled on behalf of the believer.

    Let me create a scenario in order to demonstrate this position. Suppose an average income man, named Joe, and a billionaire, named Bob, live in the United States. The United States’ tax law requires Joe to pay his taxes. If the billionaire, Bob, however, decides to pay Joe’s taxes, this does not in any way abolish the tax law, nor does it demonstrate that the tax law is evil. Since taxes provide roads, schools, infrastructure, etc., it is a good thing for Joe to give money to the State. Joe, however, is now no longer obligated to pay his taxes – even though the tax law is a good thing. Joe neither needs to feel guilty about not paying his taxes, nor be concerned that the authorities will punish him for not paying his taxes.

    If the Holy Spirit does not impart the ability to keep the law, then Murray might then wish to know what benefit the Holy Spirit imparts to the believer. The answer is that the Holy Spirit provides tremendous benefit to the believer: the Holy Spirit gives the regenerate man a new desire and love for God. The Holy Spirit enables him to see and continue to see Christ as his only hope. This Spirit becomes his deposit that guarantees his heavenly inheritance and seals his salvation (Eph. 1:14; 4:30). The Spirit illumines his mind to see the truth in Christ, reminding him of who Christ is, of what Christ has done for him, reassuring him that he belongs in the family (Rom. 8:15-17), and making him hopeful for the fulfillment of the eternal kingdom. The Holy Spirit, besides implanting a new desire, can enable the believer to look more like Christ, to obey Christ, to follow Christ, to love Christ, to turn away from sin – and this grace is given at the Spirit’s disposal, as He so chooses.

    The Holy Spirit, however, does not implant into the believer a new ability to do good works, as if this ability is the faculty that belongs within the regenerate man. The consequence of the contrary leads to what I will call “post-conversion-semi- Pelagianism”. Although Murray would not consider himself a “post-conversion-semi- Pelagian”, he is in danger of functioning like one.

    Murray would counter Pelagians and semi-Pelagians in matters of the pre-converted man. However, it seems as though not all the semi-Pelagian-residue has left Murray in the discussion of post-converted man. Semi-Pelagians believe “God imparts His common grace to all men, which enables them to turn to God and believe” (Berkhof, 247). After all, for the semi-Pelagian, if God gives man a command, then He will provide man the grace and ability to keep it. Murray goes unwarranted in thinking that the converted man is given a new faculty/ability – granted it’s with the Holy Spirit – to do good works. After all, for Murray, “nothing shows this more clearly than the exhortation of the apostle: ‘Work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for his good pleasure” (Phil. 2:12, 13) (Murray, 148).

    Murray would dodge this brand of post-conversion-semi- Pelagianism by denying that this progressive sanctificatio n is synergistic (“cooperation” with the Spirit) in any way. He will do all he can to maintain a monergistic (Spirit being only agent at work) stance in sanctification. He says, “in the last analysis we do not sanctify ourselves. It is God who sanctifies (1 Thess. 5:23). Specifically it is the Holy Spirit who is the agent of sanctification” (Murray, 146). He continues, “it is imperative that we realize our complete dependence upon the Holy Spirit” (Murray, 147). He understands that “if we are not keenly sensitive to our own helplessness, then we can make the use of the means of sanctification the minister of self-righteousness and pride and thus defeat the end of sanctification” (Murray, 147).

    Many evangelical Christians, however, are guilty of functioning like post-conversion-semi- Pelagians. One Christian often confronts another brother “see, brother, the Bible says you are to work out your salvation with fear and trembling” while thinking that the morally-lax brother is worse for a lack of spiritual effort. Often this sounds like, “you’ve got to try!” While this is true, one must not for a split-second think that another brother is worse for not trying, since to think another is worse for not trying implies that oneself is better for trying. However, this puts credit to the flesh and is thus diagnostic of a functional synergistic and post-conversion-semi- Pelagianism, since it fails to functionally realize that one’s effort of even trying comes from God and over which one cannot boast. The verse that follows the imperative to “work out your salvation with fear and trembling” is the acknowledgment that “it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Phil. 2:12, 13, ESV, emphasis mine). Murray notes, “God works in us and we also work. But the relation is that because God works we work” (Murray,149). A truly monergistic understanding of progressive sanctification entails that man cannot claim anything good in and of himself.

    While Murray articulates a monergistic view of sanctification, it seems as though Murray functionally holds to a synergistic view of sanctification. His argument for progressivesanctification results from the imperatives given to the believer. The problem Murray must face is: what relevance does the imperative have in proving the progressiveness ofsanctification, if it’s the Holy Spirit alone who does the work? Murray writes, “what the apostle is urging is the necessity of working out our own salvation, and the encouragement he supplies is the assurance that it is God himself who works in us” (Murray, 149). However, the means of the imperative would not be used to prove the progressiveness of sanctification, unless Murray was functionally holding a synergistic view of sanctification. That is to say that unless Murray understood the command to be upon someone who had the ability to perform the command in some sense (synergistically), then the command is irrelevant in respect to the ability of the regenerate.

    Murray would respond by saying that “sanctification is the sanctification of persons, and persons are not machines” (Murray, 150). First, this line of argumentation is nonsensical, since it is also evident that God sanctifies non-sentient entities (e.g., the ark of the covenant, the tabernacle, the temple, etc.). Perhaps, Murray would like to differentiate God’s “process” ofsanctification of people from God’s sanctification of two stone tablets which Moses carved out of Mount Sinai. Murray wishes to emphasize that although it is all God’s work in the believers’ sanctification, believers are still completely active in the process: “God’s working in us is not suspended because we work, nor our working suspended because God works. Neither is the relation strictly one of co-operation as if God did his part and we did ours so that the conjunction or co-ordination of both produced the required result” (Murray, 148, 149). Murray would see both full divine participation and full human participation in the sanctification process. This view, however, is the definition of synergism, and thus Murray cannot also consistently hold to a monergistic view of sanctification.

    Alternatively to Murray, if conforming into the image of Christ is truly the work of the Holy Spirit alone, then it is difficult to claim a new faculty, or a new ability, in the regenerate man. In other words, the regenerate man is not given an improved ability from the Holy Spirit to obey God. This position does not deny that the regenerate man bears fruit. Nor does it deny that the Holy Spirit sometimes enables the believer to overcome sin. However, it not the case that this is an ability found within man.

    Paul tells us that although the Holy Spirit imparts a desire to do good, He does not always grant the ability. Paul testifies of himself: “I am of the flesh, sold under sin. I do notunderstand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out” (Rom. 7:14-18, ESV, emphasis mine) Paul is very clear that he says that the Holy Spirit has given him the desire for good, but not the ability.

    In an attempt to reconcile Paul’s inability for good works with their presupposition that the Holy Spirit’s indwelling entails progressive sanctifica tion, theologians claim that Paul’s words in this passage are descriptive of his pre-converted lifestyle. However, Paul quenches this theory by using the word “now” [nuni.] in Rom. 7:17 to indicate that it is indeed his present and converted state. This is coherent with Paul’s usage of the present tense and with the impossibility for the unconverted man to even desire the good (Eph. 2:1ff). We thus come to the conclusion that the regenerate man is granted thedesire to do good (the desire is immediately available to him), but unless the Holy Spirit grants the regenerate man the ability to do good – in any particular moment – he is absolutely helpless in sin. If the Holy Spirit did not grant the grace to perform the good, even the regenerate man can only sin. This is what it ought to mean for all men – regenerate or not – to “realize our complete dependence upon the Holy Spirit” (Murray, 147)

    THE BIBLE DOES NOT DEMONSTRATE PRO GRESSIVE SANCTIFICATION

    The honest theologian must evaluate the progressiveness of sanctification upon Paul’s testimony of “hav[ing] the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out” (Rom. 7:18, ESV). A progressive view of sanctification does not hold in light of Scripture, since Scriptures never seems toguarantee the progressive na ture in the regenerate man. And if the Scriptures never seem to guarantee it, then one cannot ask their parishioners to put their hope in it The final task to be undertaken will be to examine five Scriptural passages that are most often quoted to argue in favor of progressive sanctification and to demonstrate how each fails in its attempt.

    Murray offers what he believes to be the “most significant passage” in favor of progressive sanctification to be 2 Corinthians 3:17, 18, “where Paul says that the Lord is the Spirit and then indicates that the transforming process by which we are transformed into the Lord’s image is by “the Spirit of the Lord” (Murray, 148). However, the context in which Paul speaks that “we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another” (2 Cor. 3:17, 18) speaks notof regenerate man progressing from one state of glory to another but is rather comparing the fading glory of the old covenant, the glory of Moses, with the unfading glory of the new covenant, the glory of the Lord (2 Cor.3:6-17). The exegesis of 2 Cor. 3:17, 18 to justify progressive sanctifica tion of the believer is hermeneutically unwarranted and so must be rejected.

    Another passage often quoted to argue in favor of progressive sanctification is found where Paul says “now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thess. 5:23, ESV, emphasis mine) However, Paul is not urging his readers to be holy inasmuch as he is reminding them that although God’s standards seem overwhelming (1 Thess. 5:12-22) their confidence of sanctification is grounded in the work of Christ: “He who calls you is faithful; He will surely do it” (1 Thess. 5:24, ESV, emphasis mine). The other problem is that the passage is clear on God sanctifying the believer rather than the believer working with God to sanctify himself. This passage also does not prove any progression, but seems to ground Christ as our sanctification, and God as the sole actor in our sanctification.

    The third passage is “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold the new has come!” (2 Cor. 5:17, ESV). This frequently memorized Scripture is too often misunderstood to mean that man, at conversion, becomes a morally better person (at least more capable), since he is a new creation via the Holy Spirit. However, this reading does injustice to its immediate context, since the verse immediately prior to it says, “from now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer” (2 Cor. 5:16, ESV, emphasis mine). Paul tells us that we are not to know the regenerate man as a sinner. Paul does not speak of the regenerate man as a ontologically more capable person but rather tells us where our sanctification is found: “For our sake [God] made [Christ] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in [Christ] we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21, ESV). Therefore, just as Christ was made a sinner not in an ontological sense but in the positional sense, so also sinners become the righteousness of God not in an ontological sense but in a positional sense. This is what Paul clearly demonstrates here, so this passage must also be rejected as supporting a progressive nature of sancti fication.

    The fourth passage to examine is Jesus’ teaching to Nicodemus: “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I sad to you, ‘You must be born again.’” (John 3:5-7, ESV). However, this passage doesnot demonstrate that the regenerate man progresses in his sanctification but merely tells us how one is made right with God: “No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life” (John 3:13-15, ESV). Like the other passages above, this verse must be deemed as unsuccessful in proving progression.

    The fifth passage is one offered by John Murray. He claims that the regenerate, or “spiritual”, man is the one whom John speaks of “as not doing sin and as unable to sin” (1 Jn. 3:9, 5:18). However, the same John who says that “everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning” (1 Jn. 5:18) immediately provides the reason: “the one begotten of God” [avllV o` gennhqei.j evk tou/ qeou/] protects him, and the evil one does not touch him” (1 Jn. 5:18). The reason John says that those born of God do not keep sinning is for the reason that the One born of God [o` gennhqei.j evk tou/ qeou] protects them so that the evil one cannot touch them. But one must ask in what manner does Christ protect Christians from the evil one’s touch? Considering that the devil continues to tempt Christians and given the fact that John tells us in the same epistle that the regenerate continue to sin (1 Jn. 1:8, 10), it must be concluded that Christ seems to be less concerned about the believer’s progression inasmuch the devil’s accusations. The devil cannot harm the regenerate man because Christ is his sanctification. And it is in this sense that John refers the regenerate man as one who does not “continue to sin”. The regenerate man can live as though he’s perfectly sanctified, perfectly freed from sin and perfectly safe and protected from the evil one, since “the one begotten of God protects him”. This passage, like the other four that are often used, simply cannot prove a progressive nature of sancti fication.

    Murray has been unsuccessful in proving the progressive nature of sanc tification from the basis of a change of desire in the believer, and from the imperatives given to those indwelt by the Holy Spirit. The major arguments for progressive sanctification from Scripture have also been debunked. In doing so it will have been demonstrated that Murray errs when he affirmed Berkhof’s position. Berkhof had criticized Barth for confusing sanctification with justification, and thereby “rul[ing] out the possibility of confident assurance”. However, there is no confusion in Barth – even perhaps while acknowledging them as inseparable, since he believed that the Bible both declared sinners “righteous” and also declared sinners “holy”. Barth understood sinners’ best deeds to continue to be sins. Thus, he could do nothing but find confidence – by faith alone – in Christ, His Justification and His Sanctification. However, for Berkhof, who understood the rejection of progressive sanctification as the “rul[ing] out the possibility of confident assurance” seems to dictate that a believer functionally finds his confident assurance of salvation in faith plus works, namely in his progression of a greater holy disposition. However, for those like Martin Luther, who was never confident that his obedience was done “in relation to God, for God’s sake, and with a view to the service of God”, the doctrine of progressive sanctification seems like “no gospel at all” (Gal. 1:7). And for those alcoholics, smoke-addicts, sex-addicts, homosexuals, heterosexuals, anorexics, bulimics, gossipers, coveters, kleptomaniacs, or maniacs who never – ever – seem to progress, looking to one’s own “progression” makes one inevitably think that one will never inherit the kingdom of God

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  94. that was long, JY. I read it.
    not sure what you aim is in your path of thinking.

    I’ll just say again (though you said “whatever” to it last time): Jesus came that we may have life and have it abundantly.
    (btw – the thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy) (John 10:10). Which reminds me, btw2 – watch out for those promising freedom while they themselves are slaves of corruption, for by what a man is overcome, by this he is enslaved.(2 Peter 2:19)

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  95. JohnY: “VV, my point about election is that you cannot base assurance on conduct. Assurance is found in the just work of Christ on the cross for His elect sheep. Christ fulfilled the Law for those who were chosen before the foundation of the world. If you don’t talk about election it is an easy path to the idea of a justification by the whole life lived.”

    I agree with this. However, God’s elect will persevere in faith to the end. Justification is based on a whole life lived, because saving faith is by definition persevering faith. Yet God’s elect will ALWAYS persevere, so we can indeed we can have assurance based on election.

    Also, our fruitfulness as Christians does give us assurance as well, as is clear from numerous NT passages, mostly famously 2 Peter 1:10. This does not mean that our final justification is based on, grounded in (to use Jeff’s term), or merited by our sanctification. But God’s elect inevitably produce good works and display fruit of the Spirit to some degree. This provides evidence of the Holy Spirit working in us, which is the “seal” of our salvation.

    Regarding progressive sanctification, I agree that there is no ontological change that somehow allows us to keep God’s commands. Our sanctification is entirely affected by the gracious work of the Holy Spirit through Christ’s death and resurrection. However, this sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit is progressive: there will always be a struggle with the “Old Man” since we are still in the flesh, but the NT leaves little doubt that the “New Man” will grow and mature by the work of the Holy Spirit to more and more overcome the Old Man. This process is never perfect in this life, but it is progressive.

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  96. @VV and John Y:

    I’m not at all ready to sign on to “no ontological change.” Significant difficulties remain. The first and foremost is this: If we agree that the Spirit produces fruit (love, joy peace, …), then “no ontological change” would imply that our dead sin nature is what the Spirit produces fruit in.

    I think it’s a huge problem to attribute life to what is dead!

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  97. @VV: Justification is based on a whole life lived, because saving faith is by definition persevering faith. … This does not mean that our final justification is based on, grounded in, or merited by our sanctification.

    That seems contradictory. Say more?

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  98. @ John Y:

    One odd thing about your article is that it places Murray, Berkhof, Barth on a spectrum:

    Barth “positional” (a dispie term, but ok)
    Murray “positional” and “progressive”
    Berkhof “progressive”

    and then argues that Berkhof is obviously wrong, but so is Murray.

    Weirdly, though, Berkhof of the three takes the view of union with Christ that is most congenial to your position.

    So it strikes me that it might not be possible to draw a straight line, as McMark has been doing, between views of union, views of sacraments, views of justification and sanctification, and views of law in society.

    Berkhof is good on union (in your eyes) but not on sacraments or sanctification.
    Murray is better on sanctification but still not good on sacraments or union.
    Horton you like on sanctification and union, but not so much on sacraments
    Barth you like on sanctification — but he completely reworks law-and-gospel. (See here)

    What to do? I would suggest that we be careful about trying to force theologians into bins, to assume that their view of (say) election is determinative of their view of (say) sanctification.

    In other words, it is *not* the case that Reformed theologians modify their views of election in order to accommodate their views of covenant. Rather, it seems to be the case that Reformed (indeed all) theologians relate their views of election, and covenant, and law/gospel, and sanctification in particular ways. And to adequately describe a given theologian, one must determine and not assume those particular ways.

    That’s a lot of work! For that reason, I recommend focusing on the Reformed confessions when speaking of the Reformed view, rather than on the writings of particular theologians. Who speaks for the Reformed? Not Murray nor Horton nor Berkhof nor Turretin — but the Reformed church, speaking through confessions, speaks for the church.

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  99. Jeff – saving faith is the instrument by which we access salvation, including justification, adoption, sanctification, etc. Saving faith is necessarily persevering faith – it perseveres to the end of our lives, and is not spurious or ephemeral. So justification is based on our “whole lives” because we receive justification by saving faith, which continues to the end. What I’m getting at is that we are not justified because of a momentary or “one and done” faith. We are justified because of a faith that continues throughout our lives.

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  100. Jeff – what I think JohnY is saying is that there is no ontological change that allows us to obey without the work of the Holy Spirit. On this I agree with him. There may be an ontological change from our perspective, but not God’s. Going back to JohnY’s point on election, from God’s perspective we have always been elect – there was never a time when we were not elect.

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  101. Ali says:

    that was long, JY. I read it.
    not sure what you aim is in your path of thinking.

    I’ll just say again (though you said “whatever” to it last time): Jesus came that we may have life and have it abundantly.
    (btw – the thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy) (John 10:10). Which reminds me, btw2 – watch out for those promising freedom while they themselves are slaves of corruption, for by what a man is overcome, by this he is enslaved.(2 Peter 2:19)

    John Y: My aim was to show that progressive sanctification may not be the way the bible defines and describes sanctification. I thought that was understood. Growing in the grace and knowledge of Christ is not sanctification. Sanctification is being set apart by God. To be made holy by God’s words. Jesus told his disciples that my word has cleansed you. It is the righteousness of Christ imputed by God the Father that is the cause of the cleansing and work of the Spirit so that the person now has Christ in them or the Spirit of Christ. Then the question becomes is this an ontological change that is described by the “new man” or is this a new legal state that guarantees the continued work of the Spirit in the elect and redeemed Christian. Jeff remains unconvinced that new man is a change of legal state. VV seems to agree that ontological change is not necessary yet remains unconvinced that old man/new man are changes in legal states; they are changes in nature. At least I think that is what he is saying. If our definitions are not clearly defined it is going to be hard to communicate clearly with each other.

    Faith is another one of those words that needs to be defined clearly. I think faith means believing that the work of Christ on the cross is where righteousness is found. That is the object of the believers faith. When you start searching for righteousness inside yourself you get into trouble and confusion. The object of your faith becomes your assumed work of the Spirit on the insides making you more inherently holy. And then you name that sanctification. When the bible describes someone as righteous he is describing someone who believes the work of Christ is the only place where righteousness is found. So this talk of a final justification of works based on the work of the Spirit inside the Christian is a subtle theological trick. It makes the object of faith the work of the Spirit instead of the work of the Son. This then opens the door to the idea of a final justification based on the work the Spirit has done on the insides of the person. The theologians who teach this call these works faith based works. I call these theologians wolves in sheep’s clothing because they are trying to make you believe that righteousness can be found somewhere other than the work of Christ.

    Ali, I am not sure of the point you are trying to make regarding the Scripture passages you posted. How does one overcome corruption? This goes back to the assumptions you are bringing to the reading of the texts. I think you are saying that corruption is overcome by the power of the Spirit not the power of the Gospel. How do you know what you call the sanctifying work of the Spirit are not simply works of the flesh?

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  102. VV, I think I answered your concerns in my comment to Ali. I think I described where we might differ in our understanding of sanctification, faith, and a final justification based on a whole life lived. My concern with what you said is where does the object of your faith lie and where is righteousness found? I don’t think you are saying that you have to add works to your faith but I am not clear on what you think the basis for the final judgment is. So, I guess I’m not clear on how you are defining faith and the object of faith.

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  103. Jeff,

    I have been reading comments between McMark and you since 2008. Can you clarify your main objections and concerns regarding McMark’s theological beliefs? I know that would be a long response. Perhaps you can just describe your main concerns and objections. The concerns and objections that bother you the most. From what I have observed one of your main concerns is that you think that some of what McMark says veers from what is said in the main Reformed confessions of faith. Can you pinpoint what areas in his theology that you think veer in the most objectionable ways. I know that is a lot of work but I think it would help focus the discussion better. I guess I’m not really expecting you to do so either.

    Why do you bring up the Barth essay on union? It is Calvin, Ferguson, Tipton, Gaffin, and others that McMark objects
    to that subsume the ordo into union with Christ. I know Horton does draw a lot from McCormick in his book on union with Christ. McCormick does draw a lot from Barth. I think it was this idea of ontological change that Barth and McCormick object to in Calvin and that Horton picked up on and commented on a lot about in his book. It was ontological change and how it related to the effectual call of the Gospel and sacramental beliefs. At least that is what I remember. So, what do you think is significant in the Barth essay on union?

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  104. johnyeazel says Ali, I am not sure of the point you are trying to make regarding the Scripture passages you posted.

    Oh, the point primarily – what is your desired end in understanding theology? Do you desire what God’s desire for you? What do you think that is? Why did he save you, why has he left you here right now, what is he doing in you right now?

    And I agree with you – understating what faith is, is critical – without faith (his gift to us), it is impossible to please God – we cannot be saved – we cannot be what God intends us to be – for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him. (Hebrews 11:6).

    Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD and whose trust is the LORD. For he will be like a tree planted by the water, That extends its roots by a stream and will not fear when the heat comes; But its leaves will be green, and it will not be anxious in a year of drought nor cease to yield fruit. Jeremiah 17:7-8

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  105. Not sure how you went from those Scripture passages to the questions you asked me. I’m bored tonight so I will answer them.

    1) What’s my desired end in reading theology? It helps me make sense of the day to day reality I have to deal with, i.e., what I see going on around me and in inside me. It helps me to make sense of what I read in the Scriptures. I read the Scriptures because the good news of the Gospel is found there. They also explain to me why I need to hear this good news. Reading theology helps me grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ.

    2) Do I desire what God desires for me? I think the main theme of the Scriptures is found in Romans chapter 8. The creation groans for the revealing of the children of God: Romans 8: 18-25

    18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

    Yeah Ali, I do desire the redemption of my body. A body that will be perfect and unable to sin. That boggles the mind even to consider. However, until that time we have to wait for it with patience. No over-realized eschtalogical delusions.

    3) Why did he save me and why has he left me here right now?

    That Romans 8 passage pretty well answers those questions too. God has called and continues to call his elect people that he has redeemed for the building His Kingdom. That Kingdom will be established here when Christ returns again to earth. God has left his people here to bear witness to this Kingdom and to call those who are given ears to ear the call of the Gospel. The community of those who hear the Gospel gather together to grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ. They help meet each others earthly needs and basically get spit on and abused by those who reject the good news Gospel. Those waiting for Christ’s return are like sheep awaiting the slaughter- Romans 8: 36-39

    36 As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

    4) What is he doing in me? That’s not the important question. The important question is what did Christ get done for those whom He died for?

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  106. johnyeasel says What is he doing in me? That’s not the important question. The important question is what did Christ get done for those whom He died for?

    Not important according to who? according to you, not according to God. one way love-it terminates on yyoouuu because it’s all about yyoouuuuu, right JY

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  107. JohnY – a few quick points:

    1. Saving faith is resting in (or trusting in) Christ alone for all aspects of salvation. The basis for our justification is the imputed righteousness of Christ, which is received through faith. The object of our faith is therefore Christ and His righteousness.

    2. There is a both a change in legal status AND there is a change in nature because we are regenerated by the Holy Spirit and enabled to repent and have saving faith through the work of the Spirit. Where I agree with you and disagree (I think) with Jeff is that the new nature does not allow us to produce good works and obedience on our own without the continual work of the Holy Spirit. Producing good works and obedience – and growing in those good works and obedience – is the continual gracious work of the Spirit in our heart and soul. Again, I want to emphasize that these good works and obedience are not the CONDITION (or GROUNDS) of our salvation, but the RESULT of our salvation. I think you would agree with this.

    3. I think our main point of disagreement is on progressive sanctification, which I firmly believe is correct theologically. Scripture seems very clear on this point throughout the OT and NT, and that has been the orthodox position from the time of the church Fathers. Roman Catholics might confuse and intermingle justification and sanctification, but they too believe that sanctification is progressive, and the EOC certainly does as well.

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  108. Ali – “Not important according to who? according to you, not according to God. one way love-it terminates on yyoouuu because it’s all about yyoouuuuu, right JY”

    You’re missing the point entirely, Ali. JohnY is saying the exact opposite of what you are attributing to him: it’s all about what Christ did, not what JohnY does or has done. His point is that we should rest in Christ’s work on the cross as the basis for our assurance, not our good works, which leads to self-righteousness and pride. He wants to turn to focus onto Christ and off ourselves, not the other way around.

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  109. Ali is using Ali logic, VV. She continues to say that I deny the work of the Spirit. However, the following is the point I make over and over again: Is it the atonement or is it regeneration that has the priority? This is more significant than I once thought. I think you get into all sorts of theological confusion when regeneration (or what God does inside a person, i.e., become born again with a power to overcome your sin by the transforming power of the divine nature) becomes the priority- the focus becomes our Insides and the power within rather than the Christ on the cross and what He got done. Why would Paul say I boast only in the cross of Christ if the power was on our insides? Why would Paul say I am strongest when I am weakest? The power is in the ability of the Gospel to set His elect sheep free from guilt and condemnation. That is why Paul says in Romans chapter 6 that the redeemed Christian is no longer under the law but under grace.

    Notice that in Romans chapter 6 Paul does not even refer to the work of the Spirit. And he says this in Rom. 6: 19-21- “19 I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification. 20 For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 21 But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death.”

    It is the righteousness imputed that regenerates and sanctifies; the work of the cross is what overcomes the power of sin. This continual appeal to the righteousness (no longer under law but under grace) is what mortifies the flesh in the already justified and sanctified redeemed Christian. It is the work of Christ that is the cause of the work of the Spirit. I don’t know how to say it any more clearly.

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  110. Here is how Jonathan Edwards cleverly tries to tangle together the “in Christ” and the “Christ in you.” There is no doubt that Edwards theology has been passed on through the writings of, John Gerstner, R.C. Sproul, Sinclair Ferguson, John Piper, John MacAurthur, to name of few of the most popular ones:

    Edwards thinks that the “personal union” between Christ and the elect who are justified (based in part on their future perseverance) means that what Christ does in them makes them fit for what Christ did for them, so in the end there will be no “justification of the ungodly”.

    McDermott: “for Edwards,God has decided that at the moment when a person trusts in Christ, that person becomes so really united with Christ’s person, that imputation is not merely legal but based on God’s perception of a new real fact, which is the new moral character of the person called Christ who now includes (by real union) what used to be the sinner.”

    Edwards seems to agree with Osiander (and the early Luther) that the righteousness of Christ which justifies us is not legal foundationally but instead the presence of Christ indwelling our faith.

    the tradition of Jonathan Edwards tends to identify regeneration as the “real union” and also to identify this “application” with the atonement itself. What many Calvinists mean by definite atonement is that the “real union” makes the atonement definite. Thus they make the Spirit’s work to be the real difference instead of Christ’s death.

    Edwards in his book on justification asks “whether any other act of faith besides the first act has any concern in our justification, or how far perseverance in faith, or the continued and renewed acts of faith, have influence in this affair?” When Edwards answers that no other acts are required, Edwards means that works after justification should not be considered separate from the initial act of faith. Edwards thought of perseverance as a part of the original act of saving faith, “the qualification on which the congruity of an interest in the righteousness of Christ depends, or wherein such a fitness consists.”

    By virtue of “union” with Christ, faith —Edwards claims– “is a very excellent qualification” (p. 154), “one chief part of the inherent holiness of a Christian”

    “The act of justification has no regard to anything in the person justified BEFORE THIS ACT. God beholds him only as an ungodly or wicked creature; so that godliness IN the person TO BE justified is not ANTECEDENT to his justification as to be the ground of it” (p. 147)

    justification finds its primary ground “in Christ,” in Christ’s righteousness, and its secondary or derivative ground “in us,” that is, in faith defined as a disposition, as a “habit and principle in the heart” (p. 204).

    Faith AFTER justification, along with the works and love that result from faith, is described as “THAT IN US BY WHICH WE ARE JUSTIFIED” (p. 222 ).

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  111. I think it is important to note that people like Jason Stellman are now peddling a message on podcasts that makes discussions about atonement, regeneration, the order of salvation and the history of redemption irrelevant. His appeal to millenniums is that the discussion be more about the incarnation and humanity of Christ. That the goal and aim of the Christian life is more love towards God and neighbor. Trying to win arguments on the internet is a big waste of time. I guess he thinks defending the Gospel is a big waste of time too.

    His hero’s of the faith are people like Franky Schaeffer, Brian McClaren and the new huge cast of characters that popping up on internet podcasts all over the place. They are trying to make money on these weekly podcasts in order to build up a sufficient amount of listeners so as to make some kind of living through it. I’m sure they will probably go the conference route too if they build up enough listeners and followers. I think it is worthwhile to follow what he is saying and doing on his podcasts. I find Stelllman to be a likable and engaging person. I certainly do not buy into his emerging theological beliefs. He is pretty well connected with those whose podcasts seem to be the most popular. I think it is interesting to follow to see if these people can pull off what they are trying to pull off.

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  112. p 277, Bavinck, A Reasonable Faith–”The gospel, which really makes no demands and lays down no conditions, nevertheless comes to us in the form of a commandment, admonishing us to faith and repentance… The Gospel is sheer good tidings, not demand but promise, not duty but gift As the internal call directly and immediately, without a time lapse, results in “habitual faith,” so also does this faith include from the very beginning of its existence the assurance that not only to others but to me also forgiveness of sins has been granted….When the Scriptures say of this justification that it takes place by and through faith, it does not intend to say that it is produced and wrought through that faith, since Jesus Christ is all our righteousness and all benefits of grace are the fruits of Christ’s labor alone. Saving faith directs our heart from the very beginning away from ourselves and unto God’s mercy in Christ.”

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  113. If repentance from the willful acts of seeking to establish your own righteousness is not part of your Gospel then you are not believing the biblical Gospel. Gospel repentance means you have changed your mind about whose righteousness matters. Is it Christ’s righteousness or what you think God is doing inside of you? Do you have an alien righteousness whose origin is at the cross and is imputed to elect believers or is the Holy Spirit working inside of you the most important matter? Is it Christ’s atonement or is it regeneration by the Spirit that has the priority? Should we be judging by the Gospel or should we be judging by regeneration and transformation? If it is solely by regeneration and transformation are you transformed enough to be acceptable to God? How can this not then lead to a final justification by works that is the main thrust and emphasis of Catholic theological thought? What popular Protestant theologians are really saying the same thing as what the Catholics have always said since the Protestant reformation and the Council of Trent?

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  114. VV: saving faith is the instrument by which we access salvation, including justification, adoption, sanctification, etc. Saving faith is necessarily persevering faith – it perseveres to the end of our lives, and is not spurious or ephemeral. So justification is based on our “whole lives” because we receive justification by saving faith, which continues to the end. What I’m getting at is that we are not justified because of a momentary or “one and done” faith. We are justified because of a faith that continues throughout our lives.

    I’d like to push for a little precision here.

    Saving faith is necessarily persevering faith – it perseveres to the end of our lives, and is not spurious or ephemeral.

    So, this lands us in the middle of the Shepherd controversy. What if I told you that the saints do indeed persevere – but not because of the quality of their faith, but because of the ongoing work of the Spirit?

    In other words, it is not the faith that perseveres. The faith receives — and God perseveres, resulting in the perseverance of the saints.

    By stipulating that “saving faith is a persevering faith”, you are attributing the quality of perseverance to the person, implying that God saves because of a quality in that person. This was the objectionable part about Shepherd’s construction, and it reaches all the way back to the objection to Osiander: If we make faith persevering, then we require that God first infuses righteousness into us as a condition for justifying us.

    Likewise, the word “because” is usually considered to be a “ground” word. We distinguish between “God saves because of faith” (which implies merit) and “God saves through faith” (which implies non-meritorious instrument).

    The key in all of this is to use language that retains the receptive character of faith and does not imply a meritorious character to faith, or an infusion of righteousness.

    Turretin:

    Two things therefore must be done by us here. First, negatively (kat’ arsin), the false mode of the justification of faith (introduced by the Socinians and Romanists) must be removed. Second, affirmatively (kata thesin) true and genuine sense must be established. As to the former, faith or the act of believing is not considered as our righteousness with God by a gracious acceptation: (a) because what is only the instrument for receiving righteousness cannot be our righteousness itself formally. Now faith holds here only the relation (schesin) of an instrument, as is evident both from its proper act (which is instrumental and consists in the reception of Christ [Jn. 1:12] and the acceptance of righteousness [Rom. 5:17] and of the remission of sins [Acts 26:18]); and from the subordination of the causes of justification to the same effect (to wit, the grace of God, the redemption of Christ and faith). This is alluded to by Paul in Rom. 3:24 where faith cannot sustain any other meaning than that of an instrument, since the grace of God holds the relation of an efficient principle and the redemption of Christ that of the meritorious cause.

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  115. John Y: I have been reading comments between McMark and you since 2008. Can you clarify your main objections and concerns regarding McMark’s theological beliefs? I know that would be a long response. Perhaps you can just describe your main concerns and objections. The concerns and objections that bother you the most. From what I have observed one of your main concerns is that you think that some of what McMark says veers from what is said in the main Reformed confessions of faith. Can you pinpoint what areas in his theology that you think veer in the most objectionable ways.

    It would indeed be long, and I sometimes fail to properly represent his ideas.

    In short: I like McMark and appreciate his zeal for retaining the core concept of justification on the ground of Christ’s righteousness alone. So I view us as semi-allies in that way.

    I respectfully dissent from the credo-baptist position. I grew up in it, I know it well — and I came to view it as erroneous. That happens.

    I also respectfully dissent, but weakly, to the Ursinus-Hodge construction of imputation before faith. I appreciate the attempt at logical purity, but I can’t get past the numerous passages of Scripture that plainly teach justification through faith, and the paucity of Scripture that might distinguish imputation from justification as an event that precedes faith.

    Where I object to McMark is when he tries to create a nexus amongst these: pedobaptism, covenant, Constantinianism, union, works-based defection from the gospel. Honestly, it’s a little hard to pin down the argument here because it is buried in layers of quotes, and we don’t always engage clearly. But in general, I think he wants to argue that paedobaptism necessarily creates a structure of “get in by grace, stay in by works” because of the ambiguity of the salvation of baptized children.

    And while that discussion is worth having, I think he overlooks the fact that Baptists have by far a larger problem with “stay in by works” — as in rededicating one’s life to Jesus — than confessional Presbyterians.

    In my own life, becoming Presbyterian helped me see and repent of legalistic tendencies.

    So I am very skeptical of trying on credobaptism as curative for gospel problems. That’s my objection.

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  116. Jeff, I think I get the gist of what you are saying. I’ll continue to watch you and McMark dialog at oldlife and stay out of trying to decipher your differences. I get a lot out of reading both your comments and McMark’s.

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  117. Thanks Jeff. What caused and causes me to repent of my own legalism was and is the doctrine of election (Christ died only for the sins of the elect) and not a doctrine of some ahistorical “the covenant” not governed by Christ’s death for all those in the covenant. John Owen, comments on Hebrews 8:6-13—No man was ever saved but by virtue of the NEW COVENANT, and the mediation of Christ in that respect.

    The problem with the Baptists and the Lutherans is that they don’t believe the biblical doctrine of election. Some of them believe that God only regenerates the elect (the Lutherans teaching by means of the conditional efficacy of baptism), but almost all Baptists and Lutherans do NOT teach that Christ’s death as legal substitute for the elect results in the actual salvation of all for whom Christ died.

    Jeff, we could maybe disagree about how many of those who have signed Reformed Confessions actually teach unconditional individual election (and reject John Owen’s teaching as “commerical atonement”) , but I think that small number would be even smaller among the Baptists and the Lutherans.

    Canons of Dort 1:9—-This same election took place, not on the basis of foreseen faith, of the obedience of faith, of holiness, or of any other good quality and disposition, as though it were based on a prerequisite cause or condition in the person to be chosen, but rather for the purpose of faith, of the obedience of faith, of holiness, and so on. Accordingly, election is the source of every saving good. Faith, holiness, and the other saving gifts, and at last eternal life itself, flow forth from election as its fruits and effects.

    https://www.theaquilareport.com/how-arminian-has-the-sanctification-debate-become/

    Tom Schreiner, Chairman of the New Testament Department, Southern Baptist Seminary, Faith Alone—“Believers in Jesus Christ are now justified through faith in Jesus Christ. They are justified by faith alone by virtue of Christ’s death for their sins and his resurrection for their justification. Still, they look forward to the day when the declaration will be announced publicly and to the entire world. In this sense, as many scholars attest, justification is an already but not yet reality. ” footnote: “On this theme, see particularly G. K. Beale, “The Role of the Resurrection in the Already-and-Not-Yet Phases of Justification,” in For the Fame of God’s Name: Essays in Honor of John Piper (ed. Sam Storms and Justin Taylor; Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2010), 190-213.” This is also the teaching of Richard B. Gaffin, Jr. in his Doctoral Thesis, later published as Resurrection and Redemption: A Study in Paul’s Soteriology, Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing, 1987

    Tom Schreiner—“The empty hands with which we receive Jesus as Lord and Savior don’t remain empty. By virtue of being in Christ, we’re empowered to live a new life that pleases God…The gospel can’t be reduced to the formula “Jesus died for our sins,” since the gospel centers on the truth that Jesus is King and we’re called to express our allegiance to him as our Lord. ”

    I agree with Jeff that Baptists like Schreiner are not teaching future justification because of their paedobaptism. They are not paedobaptists, and many teach a conditional new covenant without being paedobaptists. So I must also agree with Jeff that not all paedobaptists agree with Beale and Gaffin about covenant conditionality and future grace. Therefore it’s not inherent in being paedobaptist because paedobaptists disagree with each other.

    And therefore, all credobaptists are pretty much like John Piper– “Christ died for all sinners, so that IF you will repent and believe in Christ, then the death of Jesus will become effective in your case and will take away your sins. ‘Died for you,’ means if you believe, the death of Jesus will cover your sins.” . In Taste and See (Multnomah,1999, p325), Piper then goes on to disagree with Arminians for not teaching that Christ died to purchase faith for the elect. But Piper does not disagree with Arminians about Christ’s propitiation and substitution and punishment

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  118. Jeff,

    I don’t think you have things quite right here.

    So, this lands us in the middle of the Shepherd controversy. What if I told you that the saints do indeed persevere – but not because of the quality of their faith, but because of the ongoing work of the Spirit?

    That’s fine inasmuch as no one is saved by the quality of their faith.

    In other words, it is not the faith that perseveres. The faith receives — and God perseveres, resulting in the perseverance of the saints.

    This doesn’t sound right. The faith DOES persevere and it perseveres because God preserves it in the person. True faith perseveres in receiving Christ from the moment of conversion until death. To say that it is not the faith that perseveres just sounds odd.

    By stipulating that “saving faith is a persevering faith”, you are attributing the quality of perseverance to the person, implying that God saves because of a quality in that person. This was the objectionable part about Shepherd’s construction, and it reaches all the way back to the objection to Osiander: If we make faith persevering, then we require that God first infuses righteousness into us as a condition for justifying us.

    This sounds convoluted. You aren’t attributing the quality of perseverance to the person; you are attributing it in part to the kind of faith that the person exercises, which kind of faith is a gift of God given only to the elect and that He guarantees we will exercise. The objectionable part of Shepherd’s construction is the notion of obedient faith that makes the good works that are the fruit of faith and that attributes saving power to the faith itself.

    If you don’t stipulate that saving faith is persevering faith then you end up either with Romanism, which says fleeting faith can justify you but then the justification can be lost. Or you end up with people who have false assurance because they walked an aisle but don’t actually trust Christ now.

    We have to say that faith perseveres because of the work of the Spirit, but it’s not objectionable to say that saving faith is persevering faith.

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  119. johnyeazel says: The power is in the ability of the Gospel to set His elect sheep free from guilt and condemnation.

    and you forgot sin

    “Those of us who understand the power of sin, those of us who understand the depth of sin, the pervasive dominance of sin, those of us who have come to grips with its debilitating presence, its devastating effects, those of us who understand its potential to doom us to painful suffering forever, those of us who understand all of that and those of us who desire to be rescued, those of us who desire to be delivered, those of us who want to have sin’s bondage broken should be drawn to this text like metal filings to a magnet because this text makes an amazing offer…amazing. Verse 18 (Romans 6), “Having been freed from sin,” verse 22, “Having been freed from sin.” That is the promise of this passage. This is God’s promise to those who are in Christ, to those of us who have come to faith in Him, the greatest gift, the gift that has no equal, freedom from sin, its penalty, its power and some day its presence. So the text before is all about being freed from sin. Nothing is more wonderful to those who understand the reality of sin both in time and eternity.” (MacArthur)

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  120. Jeff – Robert already responded basically as I would have. I agree that our faith is the work of Christ, the “founder and perfecter” of our faith. We persevere in our faith because of the work of the Holy Spirit, not because our faith (or the fruit of our faith) possesses any qualitative merit. As Paul says in Philippians 1:6, “he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”

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  121. @ Robert: Hmm.

    Is this potato-potahto or a real difference?

    Let’s start here: This faith is different in degrees, weak or strong; may often and many ways assailed, and weakened, but gets the victory [citing 1 John 5.4-5]: growing up in many to the attainment of a full assurance, through Christ, who is both the author and finisher of our faith. — WCF 14.3 “Of Saving Faith”

    Q. 72. What is justifying faith?

    A. Justifying faith is a saving grace, wrought in the heart of a sinner by the Spirit and Word of God, whereby he, being convinced of his sin and misery, and of the disability in himself and all other creatures to recover him out of his lost condition, not only assenteth to the truth of the promise of the gospel, but receiveth and resteth upon Christ and his righteousness, therein held forth, for pardon of sin, and for the accepting and accounting of his person righteous in the sight of God for salvation.

    Q. 73. How doth faith justify a sinner in the sight of God?

    A. Faith justifies a sinner in the sight of God, not because of those other graces which do always accompany it, or of good works that are the fruits of it, nor as if the grace of faith, or any act thereof, were imputed to him for his justification; but only as it is an instrument by which he receiveth and applieth Christ and his righteousness.

    Q. 81. Are all true believers at all times assured of their present being in the estate of grace, and that they shall be saved?

    A. Assurance of grace and salvation not being of the essence of faith, true believers may wait long before they obtain it; and, after the enjoyment thereof, may have it weakened and intermitted, through manifold distempers, sins, temptations, and desertions; yet they are never left without such a presence and support of the Spirit of God as keeps them from sinking into utter despair. — WLC

    However, to speak more clearly, we do not mean, that faith itself justifies us, for it is only an instrument with which we embrace Christ our Righteousness. But Jesus Christ, imputing to us all his merits and so many holy works which he has done for us, and in our stead, is our Righteousness. And faith is an instrument that keeps us in communion with him in all his benefits, which, when become ours, are more than sufficient to acquit us of our sins. — Belgic Confession 22

    21 Q. WHAT IS TRUE FAITH?
    A. True faith is not only a knowledge and conviction that everything God reveals in his Word is true; it is also a deep-rooted assurance, created in me by the Holy Spirit through the gospel, that, out of sheer grace earned for us by Christ, not only others, but I too, have had my sins forgiven, have been made forever right with God, and have been granted salvation.

    Q. BUT DOESN’T THIS TEACHING
    MAKE PEOPLE INDIFFERENT AND WICKED?
    A. No. It is impossible for those grafted into Christ by true faith not to produce fruits of gratitude.
    — Heidelberg

    I agree with you here:

    * What I wrote above is a little off or awkward. Whether the awkwardness is in wording or concept remains to be seen.
    * Saving faith does persevere in some sense.

    Yet we also seem to agree that saving faith does not persevere of itself, but because of the ongoing work of the Spirit.

    So it is not the case that at time 0, Alice has a faith with the quality “it perseveres to the end”, and is justified thereby. Rather, it is the case that at time 0, Alice has a faith that receives Christ and all His benefits; and one of the benefits is the ongoing work of the Spirit, leading to perseverance.

    That is, the perseverance is not a quality of the faith itself; nevertheless, saving faith perseveres (by an outside cause).

    Is there a way to word that well?

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  122. Ali, the redeemed Christian overcomes the power of sin because the redeemed Christian is no longer under law but under grace. According to the Scriptures, everyone is born under the guilt and condemnation of Adam’s sin. Also, according to Paul’s argument in the book of Romans, it is Christ’s atoning death imputed to the elect sheep that is the cause of not being under law but under grace. The power of sin is the Law’s ability to make the sinner guilty and condemned. Christ takes this guilt and condemnation of the Law upon Himself at the cross. Christ fulfilled the law for His elect sheep and His elect sheep alone. This makes the elect sheep not guilty before the Holy God. Christ took away the power of the Law to condemn His elect people, i.e., the new man.

    Confusion can arise in theology if one begins with thinking that the pollution and radical corruption of sin is what is passed on from Adam. I made that remark in one of my other comments. This idea makes it hard to make sense of Paul’s argument in Romans chapter 5 and Chapter 6. The tendency is to then make the power of the Holy Spirit as the main cause for overcoming the power of sin. This is hard to justify in the way Paul argues in those chapters of Romans. That was the point I was trying to get at.

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  123. For Calvin, our sinning in Adam, as taught in Romans 5:12, is strictly that “we are all imbued with natural corruption, and so are become sinful and wicked.”8 The race becomes guilty for Adam’s transgression only by sharing in Adam’s depraved nature. Adam sinned. The punishment for Adam was, in part, the immediate corruption of his nature. But this is the nature of all his posterity (Christ excepted). All of Adam’s posterity are held responsible for the corrupted nature. Not sheer legal representation by a covenant head, but involvement in a corporate nature renders the race guilty before God. I am not responsible for Adam’s disobedience of eating the forbidden fruit. But I am responsible for the sinful nature with which God punished Adam for his act of disobedience.

    This view of original sin leaves Calvin with a huge problem. By what right did God inflict the punishment of a corrupt nature on Adam’s posterity? That the corruption of human nature was divine punishment on Adam, Calvin acknowledges. But it was as well punishment of Adam’s posterity. This, Calvin does not like to acknowledge. Rather, he likes to regard the depraved nature only as the guilt of Adam’s posterity. The question that exposes the weakness — serious weakness — of Calvin’s doctrine here is this: If I am not guilty for Adam’s act of disobedience, with what right does God punish me — not Adam, but me — with a totally depraved nature?

    Calvin’s explanation of the origin of the sin of the human race also has an important implication for the headship of Adam. Adam was head of the race, to be sure. But his headship consisted only of his depraving the human nature of which all partake. His was not the headship of legal representation. Adam did not stand in such a covenantal relation to all men, that, altogether apart from the consequent corrupting of the nature, all are responsible before God for Adam’s act of disobedience.

    In view of the apostle’s comparison between Adam and Christ in Romans 5:12ff. (“as by the offence of one … even so by the righteousness of one,” v. 18), Calvin’s explanation of the headship of Adam would mean that Christ’s headship also consists only of His being the source of righteousness to His people by actually infusing it into them. If Adam’s headship was not legal representation, neither is Christ’s headship legal representation. But this destroys the fundamental gospel-truth of justification as the imputation of Christ’s obedience.

    https://markmcculley.wordpress.com/2011/07/22/calvin-denied-original-guilt-by-david-engelsma/

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  124. AA HODGE— the imputation of Christ’s righteous to us is the necessary precondition of the restoration to us of the influences of the Holy Spirit, and that restoration leads by necessary consequence to our regeneration The notion that the necessary precondition of the imputation to us of Christ’s righteousness is our own faith, of which the necessary precondition is regeneration, is analogous to the rejected theory that the inherent personal moral corruption of each of Adam’s descendants is the necessary precondition of the imputation of his guilt to them. On the contrary, if the imputation of guilt is the causal antecedent of inherent depravity, in like manner the imputation of righteousness must be the causal antecedent of regeneration and faith.

    Horton: Calvin refuses to choose between the forensic (justification) and the mystical-transformative (regeneration). While clearly distinguishing them, he sees both as gifts of our faith union with Christ.

    McCormack—One of the ‘gifts’ Calvin speaks of–regeneration–is difficult to distinguish conceptually from that ‘union’ which is supposed to give rise to BOTH justification AND regeneration….Calvin’s break with Medieval Catholic views was not as clean and complete as he himself thought. For where regeneration is made— if only logically–to be the root of justification, then the work of God in us is once again made to be the ground of the divine forgiveness of sins

    Calvin (3: 2: 24) —-Christ is not outside us but dwells within us. Not only does Christ cleave to us by an indivisible bond of fellowship, but grow more and more into one body with us, until He becomes completely one with us.

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  125. What do the major Reformed confessions say about what was passed to Adam’s descendants from Adam’s original sin? What do they say about the new man and old man? How do they make the distinction about the when and how of the imputation of Adams sin to all of humanity and the when and how of the imputation of Christ’s death to His elect sheep?

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  126. @ John Y:

    Having read Engelsma, you might consider a more nuanced take: http://www.calvin.edu/library/database/crcpi/fulltext/ctj/2009-442-226.pdf

    John Y: What do the major Reformed confessions say about what was passed to Adam’s descendants from Adam’s original sin? What do they say about the new man and old man? How do they make the distinction about the when and how of the imputation of Adams sin to all of humanity and the when and how of the imputation of Christ’s death to His elect sheep?

    WCF (1647): II. By this sin they fell from their original righteousness and communion, with God,[3] and so became dead in sin,[4] and wholly defiled in all the parts and faculties of soul and body.[5]

    III. They being the root of all mankind, the guilt of this sin was imputed;[6] and the same death in sin, and corrupted nature, conveyed to all their posterity descending from them by ordinary generation.[7]

    This is a “both/and” approach: Guilt is imputed; corrupt nature is inherited.

    Belgic (1561): We believe that by the disobedience of Adam original sin has been spread
    through the whole human race. It is a corruption of the whole human nature— an inherited depravity which even infects small infants in their mother’s womb, and the root which produces in humanity every sort of sin.

    It is therefore so vile and enormous in God’s sight that it is enough to condemn the human race, and it is not abolished or wholly uprooted even by baptism, seeing that sin constantly boils forth as though from a contaminated spring.

    What would it mean for mankind to have guilt imputed but nature uncorrupted? I don’t follow why it is desirable to have original sin to refer to imputed guilt only.

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  127. Jeff C: What would it mean for mankind to have guilt imputed but nature uncorrupted? I don’t follow why it is desirable to have original sin to refer to imputed guilt only.

    John Y: I did not mean to imply that the nature remained uncorrupted in Adam’s descendants with the imputation of the guilt of Adam’s sin. The corrupted nature was the result of the imputed guilt to Adam’s descendants. Calvin denied that the guilt of Adam’s sin was imputed to the descendants of Adam. The question Englesma asks is why were the descendants of Adam punished with the corrupted nature if the guilt of Adam’s sin was not imputed to his descendants? The argument in Romans 5 and 6 is that the imputed guilt of Adams sin passed on to His descendants is imputed to Christ for His elect sheep in a legal manner. The corrupted nature remains in the elect sheep.

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