Archive for January 2011

What Must I Do To Prove that You Already Married Me?

January 31, 2011

Titus 3:14—“And let our people learn to devote themselves to good works, so as to help cases of urgent need, and not be unfruitful.”

Even though it is popular to be against individualism, and thus FOR making transparent and public what we keep private, I have no intention here of talking much about my marriage to my wonderful wife Linda. I am trying to make a point against self-righteous puritans who condition everything on our perseverance.

My wife tells me– “I already married you. What more do you want?” And of course I reply: everything!

Puritans are not sure if you are married yet. If they are consistent and not simply self-righteous, puritans are also not sure if THEY are married yet. The more they talk against carnal security and the more they insist on the inevitability of mandatory fruit, the more puritans need to ask themselves: am I the fourth dirt in the parable, or one of the other three?

I am not saying that married people don’t want more of each other. I am not even denying at this point that what we do now is a condition of staying married. Although I would like to think that’s true, the analogy breaks down between our marriage to each other and God’s love for the justified elect.

I am not an Arminian, and I don’t believe that the justified elect lose their salvation, and therefore I don’t think that Christians have to do stuff to stay in the new covenant. But my point right now is that I am not a puritan, and I don’t believe that the justified elect have to do stuff to prove to themselves or to God that they are real Christians.

Puritans tend to let you in the front door by faith alone, but then after they allow you a little time, they will let you out the back door if your faith is still alone. In addition to faith, they ask: what have you done for me lately? It would be like my wife saying to me: sure, I married you for love, but now I want to see the big house with the bird nests in the big back yard.

I am not denying that a husband could do more. I also agree that a husband SHOULD do more. There is always more! But how much does a husband have to do in order to show himself and his wife that he really married the wife?

What would you do now if you found out that you didn’t have to do anything?”

When I walked down that aisle , what was my thinking? Was it probation, so that I had so much time to prove to Linda’s parents that I was not worth-less? No. So was my mind thinking: now that I am married, I don’t need to love her? It’s not strictly necessary?

We need to ask the question: necessary for what? I do not say that works are not necessary for justification but that synergism is necessary for “sanctification”, because that difference cannot account for the biblical idea of sanctification by the blood (Hebrews 10:10-14). Our works are not necessary to obtain God’s blessings. Romans 4:4—“To the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due”. The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ has elected the elect in Christ and has blessed the elect in Christ with every spiritual blessing.

Works are needed. Wives need their husband to work for them. Husbands need their wives to work for them. Love works. But works are not needed to prove that we are already married. It might sound good for Dan Fuller to teach that we grow by the same “faith alone” as we get justified by “faith alone”. But when the faith by which we grow is never alone, then that means that the faith by which we get justified is never alone. And this means that faith alone really means with the addition of works.

I know I don’t deserve to have Linda as my wife. But I also know that I will never ever in the future deserve to have Linda as my wife. And you can redefine “justice” until it becomes less strict and never use the word “merit”, but at the end of the day I will still never deserve to be married to her.

BUT I AM married to her. When I do something for her, this is not mortgage payments on a note which can never be burned. I am not like Jacob who had to work seven more years after he got married.

Married is married. What we do doesn’t get us more married. And what we do doesn’t prove that we are married. The elect are saved by Christ’s work. When the elect become justified, they are married to Christ. Christians share in what Christ has, not because of what they do but because they are now married/justified.

The puritans tend to say that you are in the house despite of who you are and what you have done, but now that you are in, there is a covenant which now expects more of you because you could now do more if you wanted to. The subtext is even more threatening— maybe you are in, and maybe you are not in, and we shall wait and see what you want to do and then what you do, and we will never say it specifically about you, but we will say in a general way— there are some folks who were never in the house in the first place.

Sure I have been working now for a long time (but with what motives and what results?) but how am I to know that I will keep working from now on in (so let me die first before I do something which will prove to me and everybody that I was never married in the first place!)

Is It Trusting Jesus that Connects Us To Jesus?

January 31, 2011

Piper writes: “Trusting Jesus connects us with Jesus…Union is established by believing in Jesus.” p165, What Jesus Demands From the World

Is it correct or helpful to say that exercising faith joins us to Jesus, if we make it clear (in non-evangelistic contexts), that this faith which connects is a gift from God to the elect?

I say no: even if Calvinists talk about faith being given to the chosen in their evangelistic message, they are still leaving out the connection of the elect to Christ in election, they are leaving out the fact that only the sins of the elect were imputed to Christ at the cross, and they are leaving out the fact that the elect are baptized into Christ’s death by God’s imputation and not by the sinner’s faith.

I am NOT saying that the elect are already “saved” before the elect believe. I am saying that the elect are already elect before they believe. I am saying that Christ already died only for the elect before the elect believe. I am saying that God imputes, and not the sinner. God puts the elect in Christ and Christ in the elect, and believing the gospel is the immediate effect of this connection.

Of course Piper also defines faith in complicated contradictory ways. Not only is there a contrast between believing at Jesus and believing to Jesus, but believing is so identified with working that there is no contrast between life-long believing and life-long working.

Imputation Of Sins to Christ First, Which is Denied by Andrew Fuller

January 28, 2011

Romans 3:25–”Christ Jesus, whom God put forth as a propitiation by His blood, to be received by faith…”

Andrew Fuller (Reply to Philanthropos, Complete Works,II, p499) comments: “There would be no propriety in saying of Christ that He is set forth to be an expiatory sacrifice THROUGH FAITH IN HIS BLOOD, because He was a sacrifice for sin prior to the consideration of our believing in Him. The text does not express what Christ WAS as laying down His life , but what He IS in consequence of it.”

Though Andrew Fuller affirmed a particular atonement in a certain sense– in that the atonement will procure faith for only the elect–he is not willing to say that Christ was only the propitiation for the elect alone. Instead of telling the plain truth, that Christ either already died for a sinner or already did not, Andrew Fuller wanted to say that Christ died for all sinners in some sense.

And this universal sense advocated by Andrew Fuller has to do with propitiation. He denies that Christ in the past propitiated the Tri-une God for the sins of any specific person. Rather, Andrew Fuller teaches that Christ died to make an offer of propitiation to every sinner.

According to Andrew Fuller, this is the nature and design and intent of what Christ did, that there could be propitiation now if the Holy Spirit were to cause a sinner to accept the offer of propitiation and thus join themselves to Christ through faith .

Fuller asserted an universal conditional sufficiency in Christ’s death for all sinners. It is a sneaky and subtle doctrine, but Andrew Fuller was a sneaky and subtle man, much like John Wesley, using words like “imputation” in ways meant to confuse those who had a different meaning for the words.

What does Andrew Fuller accomplish by shifting from what Christ DID back then over there to who Christ Is and what He can do here and now if the Spirit helps a sinner to take up the offer?

Andrew Fuller changes the meaning of the propitiatory death of Christ. With the Arminians, he makes the propitiation to be dependent on the sinner having faith. The sneaky part is that, with the Calvinists, Andrew Fuller also makes the having faith part be dependent on what God (now?) procures by means of Christ’s death.

With the Socinians, Andrew Fuller ends up putting the emphasis on grace as opposed to justice. God is sovereign now to procure faith for sinners with Christ’s death. The idea that God has already been justly propitiated for a sinner (or not) is no longer in the picture.

Andrew Fuller is opposing the gospel of God being justified in justifying the ungodly. He is opposing justice in the name of grace.

Two comments. First, even though Fullerites want to say that the only way to be consistent in teaching a definite propitiation (what Christ WAS as laying down his life) is to teach an eternal justification, where the elect only subjectively find out that they were always justified, I do not (and Abraham Booth did not) teach that any unbeliever is justified.

All the justified elect are people who believe the gospel. Belief in the gospel is an immediate consequence (not a condition) of Christ’s death being imputed to an elect sinner. “Through faith” in Romans 3:25 does not mean “conditioned on faith”. Faith for the elect is what justice demands AFTER righteousness is imputed to them. I do not say it “their right” but it is Christ’s right because of what Christ WAS AND DID.

So I can and do say to any unbeliever, unless you believe the gospel, you are not yet justified. But I also say to those unbelievers: your believing is not something you can or will do unless Christ died for you, and you will never know if Christ did until you believe the gospel.

Second comment. Look again at what Andrew Fuller is saying with his sophistry about what Christ is as opposed to what Christ was. Fuller is teaching that God is governmentally sovereign and therefore God can do whatever God wants to do now with what Christ did then.

If so, why did Christ die? To make it possible? So that propitiation “might” happen? To ask such questions leads to another question. If God is so sovereignly superior to justice in His government, why did Christ need to die at all?

If the meaning was only to be assigned later, is that meaning a matter of justice or only arbitrary?

All Tolerant Calvinists are Practical Liberals

January 28, 2011

what happens
if nothing gets done?

what got done at the cross?
if what happens with it
depends on our execution?

if we are the ones who make the exchange
and put our sins on him
and execute him?

Girardian (death not needed, sacrifice not needed by God) liberals say the cross only happened because we needed victims . I of course do not deny that we like to scapegoat people.

But even the liberal Girardian is saying that something good and necessary happened by us killing a victim

I say this instead— if we did it, then we did nothing. It was not decisive for anything, certainly not for the redemption of any sinner.

And before we get too high and mighty about liberals saying that, so that we forget the gospel and simply take sides with all the “conservatives” who oppose abortion of unborn victims, let us look at Arminian and Romanist conservatives who do still talk about “sacrifice”

The Arminians who sing “nothing but the blood” and “Jesus paid it all” oh so loudly, then tell us it depends on us to accept it.

Arminians don’t think anything happened either.

So why do we think possibly favorably about the “calvinists” who have definite atonement as their “shelf doctrine”? For the glory of Christ, we need to get real about this evil called Arminianism (yes, it’s ordained by God, and it’s evil)

All liberals deny that “mercy-seat” means propitiation (taking away God’s wrath)

They say this is like the Aztecs, paganism, trying to appease God by throwing virgins down into a fire hole (like one of the Raiders of the Lost Ark movies)

They say: God does not change in time from wrath to peace

They say: God does not need to be reconciled, sinners need to be reconciled so the cross is God’s apology to man, or at least “God letting us do it” God being a pacifist, taking it, not as in taking revenge but letting us take revenge on an innocent victim, ie, God Himself

But you don’t have to be a pacifist to be liberal
All liberals deny that God now has wrath on anybody.

Practical liberals downplay the significance of God’s wrath

All Arminians and tolerant Calvinists, no matter how much they talk about “hell”, are practical liberals, because they eliminate the significance of the imputation of sins to Christ and Christ’s death as God appeasing God for those sins.

Regeneration? Even if Paul Washer Can’t See It, He can See Where It’s Not

January 26, 2011

Even if Arminian Southern Baptists can’t agree with Calvinist Southern Baptists about regeneration being before faith, or about regeneration being purchased for the elect by Christ, they can still all unite in faith that the Jesus who died for everybody and the Jesus who died only for those who are saved are in the end one and the same Jesus.

Because in the end, it’s not the death that matters. It’s regeneration, and most of us think we can see that! And even if Paul Washer doubts that you personally are regenerate, at least we all can see that those who teach a non-Lordship gospel are not yet regenerate.

With Paul the Apostle (not the Washer), I want to say something in my sarcasm: “then let the knife slip, cut the whole thing off”.

Or this, praising the true and only Jesus: “But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has died to me, and I have died to the world.” Galatians 6:14.

Walk by this rule.

Choose Your Antithesis Carefully

January 26, 2011

Josh Moody, pastor of College Church , No Other Gospel, Crossway, p 170

“Living as a godly Israelite in Old Testament times was not legalistic; salvation was always by faith because the promise came first. But trying to live under Moses, when Christ has arrived, is legalism….

p171–” Justification was always by faith…But now that Christ has arrived, the operation of this justification by Christ HAS BEEN REVEALED…Christ now says, ‘with me you can’ and we find that by His Spirit we do and we want to do.”

This is Josh Moody manipulating language to ignore the discontinuity of the covenants. Instead of pointing to a change of covenants, he writes about “the revelation” of what supposedly always there. And more importantly, instead of explaining a change of covenants, he describes a change in “us”, so that we now can and want to do the law.

Part of the problem here is using a word like “legalism” which can mean almost anything and nothing. Does it mean semi-Pelagianism but not Arminianism, so that Moody can assure us that “now that Faith has come” Christ has died for you all?

His claim here is that in the Old Covenant there were godly folks who did not live “legalistically”, even though “the operation of” justification by faith had not been revealed.

So let me see. 1. Some were justified by grace through faith in the righteousness of Christ in the Old Testament. I certainly agree with that. But 2. He says that some of the godly were not “legalistic” during the old covenant despite the lack of new covenant revelation. How this is possible, he does not explain. If he simply means that no true Christian is ever a legalist, that is certainly not what he argues elsewhere in his book. But if he wants to say that the revelation has now released the justified elect from “legalism”, how can he think that the justified elect in the old covenant were also free from this “legalism”? Moody is ignoring the change of covenants.

Perhaps it was not “legalistic” for the justified elect under the Mosaic covenant to do what the Mosaic law told them to do. It was not for them a means of justification. So when Moody speaks of “trying to live under Moses when Christ has arrived”, he is not thinking of “legalism” as trying to be justified by the law.

Am I therefore saying that Moody needs to define “legalism”, and state his different definitions when he changes his meanings?

But there is still a problem. In Galatians 3, when Paul is writing about “before faith came, the law was our cop”, he was not only revealing a change in covenants and in redemptive history. In these same verses, Paul is concerned with individuals “getting justified” by Christ, concerned about individuals being baptized by God into Christ

Even though I don’t think it’s right for Moody to ignore the difference between the old and new covenants (thus only stressing that now people can do the law and want to), the solution here is not only to see that the old covenant law is not the same as the new covenant law. The solution is to remind us that, even during the time of the new covenant, there are many non-elect folks for whom Christ never died and who have never been baptized into Christ.

Even though Moody says often that he doesn’t want to assume that everybody is a Christian, as a “minister of the church” he doesn’t seem to be able to keep from telling his readers that God loves them and that Christ died for them. p42–“Christ was cursed for me and you.” p100–“The only way to realize that you’re okay is to realize that God loves you and that Christ died for you as you are.” p160–“We preach to people that they are sinners until they believe it, and then we preach to them that Christ died for their sins.”

Of course Moody might even agree that election and definite atonement are something to be added “on top of the gospel we already believe” (much like circumcision!) but he certainly does not believe that these truths are the gospel. And so he offers a gospel on terms that evangelicals can accept, the same gospel as preached by Billy Graham (whose false gospel Moody claims that God the Holy Spirit uses,p16).

In my conclusion, I am not any less judgmental than Moody is. I am simply making an “old fashioned point” (p16) that not everybody who talks about Jesus believes in the Jesus revealed in the Bible. The difference between Moody and me is that we have different gospels. I quote Moody: “if I believe something wrong and teach others to believe something wrong, I am under God’s judgment. That
is a thought so strange to modern ears that it feels like, with this passage, we are entering an alien world.” (p39)

Moody rightly asks why the Galatians were tempted to add their works to Christ’s righteousness (faith). Moody rightly answers that this temptation does not come from the faith which fears God, but comes from the fear which does not trust the cross to be enough to justify. But if Jesus died for everybody, and not everybody is justified, then those who trust this false Jesus should be afraid. They will need to be careful to complete their faith with works, and thus we have Moody’s stress on the “now in the AD we can and want to”.

If Jesus died for everybody, and not everybody is saved, then we need to be fearful about if we have enough faith, since as Moody explains it, “faith is the relational glue that attaches us to Christ.” (p150). Moody is enough of a manipulator not to be talking about the topic of Jesus dying only for the elect. And since he is not teaching that, he is teaching that Jesus did die for everybody.

If you think that kind of antithesis is unfair, then I will use one of his analogies: if you can’t go by train (because the train doesn’t go there), you have to go by car, and you can’t go by train and by car at the same time. If the only kind of atonement revealed in the Bible is definite and effectual (for the sheep, and not for those who will not believe, John 10), then there is no atonement revealed in the Bible for everybody, and you can’t have it both ways, no matter what John Stott or Martyn Lloyd-Jones or anybody tried to do. I have no more interest in being rude than Moody does, but when it comes to the thing that really matters, the cross, then I want to take my stand on what the Bible says that cross does.

You can say all matter of true things about the difference between law and gospel (and I have no doubt that the false teachers in Galatia did so), but you have no legitimate right to say them, if you avoid the offense of the cross being A. for the elect alone and B. being alone effectual, being the difference, since Christ’s death was not for everybody. And the true things you say about the cross, or about law and gospel, end up not being true things, just like the doctrine of the false teachers in Galatians.

You can say that Christ died for everybody and not be a “semi-Pelagian” or “soft legalist”. My point is not merely that evangelicalism is inherently Arminian. My point is that, if Christ’s death was the righteousness intended and obtained for everybody, then it’s not His death but our faith which must make the difference. And if that is so, we need to be very afraid.

Let me end with one more quotation from Moody: “Nobody comes along and says that you don’t need faith. They just say it’s not faith alone. But if it’s not faith alone, then it is faith plus law; and if it is by law, then it is no longer by promise; then it is no longer by faith. The message of faith and works is really a message of work; it is simply legalism” (p157)

Let me say something different. Nobody comes along and says that Jesus didn’t need to die. They just say that Jesus died for everybody but that it doesn’t work unless the Spirit causes you to consent to it. They just say that, even if you are not elect and even if the Spirit doesn’t cause you to consent to it, Jesus loves you and died for you and offers to save you, but His death didn’t take away your guilt and it doesn’t work, because you didn’t have faith in it.

But if Jesus died for everybody, then it is that death PLUS you being changed so that you can and want to, and if the difference of the new covenant is regeneration, then the promise is not about Christ alone or His death alone; and if it is about your being changed (so that grace is not cheap and Jesus is King), then salvation is not by Christ’s death. The message of His death plus your regeneration is really at the end a message about your regeneration.

And even if Arminians can’t agree with Calvinists about regeneration being before faith, or about regeneration being purchased for the elect by Christ, then they can still all unite in faith that the Jesus who died for everybody and the Jesus who died only for those who are saved are one and the same Jesus. Because in the end, it’s not the death that matters. It’s regeneration, and we can see that!

No “one or the other” here. No “this or that” needed. So choose your antithesis carefully.

One or the Other?

January 25, 2011

Galatians 4:10–You observe days and months and seasons and years. I am afraid for you…

Galatians 5:2–if you receive circumcision, Christ will profit you nothing…

Herman Ridderbos, NIC on Galatians, p187: “He puts before his readers this dilemma:circumcision or Christ, everything or nothing. Do the false teachers want to persuade the Galatians that they must seek out the right combination of the two?

” Paul denies the possibility. The sufficiency of Christ’s work is being challenged. True, the Galatians have not yet entirely yielded to the opponents, but they seem turned that way. Hence it is necessary now to set the ‘one or the other’ in sharpest focus, and to see through its implications.”

If Christ’s death was for everybody, but not everybody is saved, then Christ’s death alone is not sufficient to save anybody. But Christ died for the elect alone, and Christ’s death alone saves all the elect.

Christ’s Death the Only Difference

January 25, 2011

I realize that nobody can believe what I call gospel unless God causes them to. Literally: cannot believe it. We can discuss freewill all day, but nobody of their freewill believes in a God who saves sinners by death on the cross. (The offense is not only that God only saves some of the sinners.)

By nature, we would rather believe that there is more to it. By nature, we believe that community with other religious people will change us so that by grace we really do become more acceptable to God.

By nature, we believe that God is not strict on justice. By nature, we believe that what we believe about God is a condition of salvation, and not a result of God’s purpose. By nature, we want to believe in order to be saved. By nature, we cannot believe that the elect believe what they do because God elected them to do that.

Even if the Lord Jesus does not come back for a very long time, it won’t be long until I enter into the big sleep until Resurrection Day comes. With Christ, except asleep….though the ultimate thing has already happened, there is some “not yet” left.

Christ has risen, the first-fruits. But then, those who belong to Him, those He purchased by His death as a punishment (Revelation 5!)

So I believe in predestination. But now I know that the content, the ultimate object of faith by the people God has chosen to salvation is not in what God will do in them (even in that future resurrection) , but what God has done for them in Christ’s death. The Bible way of saying this is Romans 6: Christ died to sin, and His people died with Him.

Faith Alone Means Faith Without Works, by Francis Turretin

January 16, 2011

Turretin (chapter 8, p89): “Let the exclusives be examined and the thing will be clear–‘We conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law’ (Rom 3:28); ‘not of works’ (Eph 2:8); ‘knowing that a man is NOT justified by works of the law but by the faith of Jesus Christ. (Gal 2:16)’. The particle is adversative (Matt 12:4; 24:36; Mark13:32; John 17:12; Rev 9:4; 21:27) from the opposition of faith and works, which displace each other.”

Saving grace is the grace which is undue the sinner.

Debating the New Perspective As Distraction from Adam’s Sin Imputed and from the Elect’s Sin Imputed to Christ

January 13, 2011

A focus on “the active obedience” can become a distraction from the death, the righteousness. The death and resurrection of Christ is what is imputed. To make something else be imputed can only get our eyes off that.

Theologically I have no big problem saying that Christ’s life also is imputed. But I am still looking for texts, not only for what Reformed tradition says. And yes, this question makes me uncomfortable. because Shepherd and federal vision and NT Wright deny the active obedience.

But to tell the truth. I think the debate about the active obedience being imputed is a a distraction from three big things.

1. It’s a distraction from Adam’s sin imputed to humans. Wright does not have any place in this theology for original sin as Adam’s original guilt. Who does? We should be talking about that more.

2. It’s a distraction from the sins of the elect being imputed to Christ. This is the main thing. This is more important even that saying that Christ’s death is only for the elect or saying the Christ’s death is effective to save all for whom He died.

I didn’t see this when I was lost. Of course it’s true that, if God only imputed the sins of the elect to Christ, then Christ only died for the elect (and that this death is effective). But we need to think not only about Christ’s successful death but also about God’s righteousness and the justice of Christ’s death.

Focusing on “active obedience” can sometimes distract from this. Because lots of folks who get heated up about the new perspective never talk about Christ’s just death for the elect only.

3. It’s a distraction from the truth that justification is not conditioned on faith as its instrumental cause. After all these folks like John Piper fight with Wright about faith not being the “active obedience”, then they turn around and say that God counts the faith (the apology) as the righteousness, and teach that the righteousness is “appropriated” by the condition of faith.

So, on the one hand, I don’t want to be a distraction by debating “active obedience as vicarious law-keeping” (or by debating if there was a “covenant of works” with Adam. ) I want to take sides with these folks against the new perspective. But on the other hand, most of these folks don’t believe in Christ’s just death only for the elect. If they did, they would teach it.