No Information, No Gospel

I do not know a single person who claims that it is enough to only know about Christ. Every person I know who professes to be a Christian says that we must “believe in” the person identified by the doctrines We all agree that doctrine is not sufficient.

Preachers who presume to give us information about a difference between doctrine and person which they cannot explain. That “difference” can be deconstructed simply by pointing out that their difference is itself “information”.

So they have is a cheap rhetorical trick: they think if they say FIRST they have the person not the doctrine, then you don’t get to say that what they have is just as much doctrine as anybody else (or that their doctrine is wrong).

I do not hope to cure preachers of indulging in cheap rhetorical tricks. It is not sufficient to know about (and agree with) the deity of Christ to know Christ. But that does not change the fact that it is necessary to know something about the deity of Christ to know the person Christ.

The good news is not simply who Christ is but also what Christ’s finished activity did which obtained a righteousness for His elect. This righteousness is not simply Himself, as Christ always was. Christ came to do something, and He got it done. Christ died because of the sins of the elect.

I am not saying that it is sufficient to know about this. We know that a person who knows that Christ died only for the elect may not be elect. But it is necessary for the elect to know information about Christ’s death for the elect alone. This is not a condition of election. s God elected the elect before they knew the information or believed the information. But the gospel is news, the gospel is information.

Christ obtained a righteousness for the elect, not conditioned on the elect’s knowledge of that obtaining of righteousness. But the elect will learn that they need the righteousness which Christ obtained.

Before Christ obtained that righteousness, Abraham knew about that righteousness, and believed unto that righteousness. Romans 4 does not say that Abraham’s faith was a condition for the obtaining of righteousness, but it does teach that Abraham gave evidence of being justified by having faith unto that righteousness.

A person is not justified before God by placing her faith in Jesus, but by the righteousness obtained by Jesus. True faith has as its object the person who obtained a righteousness which is not faith but which is Christ’s death and resurrection.

God’s love for His foreknown sheep is election, and Christ’s righteousness is the reason those so loved are given faith in the gospel.

True faith comes by hearing the word of Christ but the word of Christ gives information about what He has ACCOMPLISHED by His sacrifice and His resurrection from the dead.

Arminian information sees faith as a contribution man must make, a condition man must fulfill, as something which makes the work of Christ (whatever that is or isn’t!) “real” and “effective” and “sufficient” for the one who meets that condition.

“Faith in the person without faith in the righteousness” is a religion that flatters humans in their ignorance of the gospel. It does not demand that the sinner know and submit to the gospel. It does not demand that the sinner repent of all false gospels. It lets every man say for himself if he “knows the person”.

To be seeking justification by the works of the law while claiming to “know the person” is to be under God’s curse. Escape from the curse comes only by the righteousness Christ obtained. There is really no good news apart from the proclamation of of what Christ Jesus DID as the God-man mediator.

Instead of pointing our consciences to the righteousness obtained by Christ which satisfies God’s law, the “person only” doctrine POINTS US AWAY FROM THAT RIGHTEOUSNESS. We are even told by certain preachers to stop emphasizing the past activity of Christ so that we can “know the person”.

When the doctrine vs person doctrine says that a man does not need to know about righteousness obtained in order to know that he is saved, the doctrine being taught is that Christ did not obtain for the elect a knowledge of righteousness obtained.

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14 Comments on “No Information, No Gospel”

  1. markmcculley Says:

    There are Christians of good intentions who emphasize a distinction between theoretical knowledge and practical Christian living. Or they may contrast head knowledge and heart knowledge, or use some other phrases. Such language is confused. It is quite true that non-Christians can understand Christian doctrine very well. The persecutor Saul understood Christian doctrine better than those whom he persecuted. The better he understood it, the more intensely he persecuted. The difference was that Saul consider the doctrines false and blasphemous, while the Christians believed them to be true. Hence, while we insist that understanding is indispensable, we also insist that belief or faith is so too.

    Some confused Christians are not satisfied even with faith, on the ground that James says the devils believe and tremble. They fail to note that James said no more than that the devils believe in monotheism. If they believe some other things also, James does not tell us what they are. Saving faith involves belief, a voluntary acceptance as true, of some other propositions as well. Gordon Clark, Lord God of Truth, p 44

  2. markmcculley Says:

    … the Scriptures make no distinction between the head and the heart, as if mathematics came from the head and faith from the heart. The Old Testament frequently contrasts the heart and the lips – sincerity versus hypocrisy – but the term heart, at least seventy-five percent of the time in the Old Testament, means the mind or intellect.

    Gordon Haddon Clark
    What Is Saving Faith — p. 55

  3. markmcculley Says:

    Desiring God recently published this from a revivalist jesuit— Good Theology Is the Only Path to God

    Now, I love theology, and you should, too. Paul’s one aim in life and ministry was to know Christ and him crucified (i.e. to know Christian theology), and he wanted to know God in Christ as truly and thoroughly as possible, with all of its implications for everything he thinks and says and does (1 Corinthians 2:2). You cannot read this man’s letters and not come to the conclusion that theology was his heartbeat. He lived to know as much about this unsearchable God as possible, and he was ready to die for those truths.

    Psalm 119 is a passionate love letter written to the revelation of God in his word. What we know about God from the Bible is unbelievably, inexhaustibly profitable for teaching, reproof, correction, training in righteousness, and life (2 Timothy 3:16; John 6:68).

    Without theology, you will not know God — literally and spiritually. So, this article is not meant to be a prohibition against theology — God forbid — but a caution and a warning about theology. Knowledge about God can replace an authentic knowing of him to our destruction, especially for the theologically refined and convinced. We all should want our theology to be not only true, but Spirit-filled and fruitful.

    The Best Readers Can Be the Worst Listeners

    The Pharisees fought Jesus at every turn. They doubted and even hated much of what he said and did, and tried again and again to trap him in a lie or inconsistency. They had read God’s word over and over again. They knew this book really well — or so it seemed — and yet they did not know the Word living, breathing, and speaking in front of them — the Word through whom all things were made, and without whom nothing was made that was made (John 1:3), the Word who became flesh and walked the earth (John 1:14), the Word who is the perfect picture of God, and who upholds the universe with the words of his mouth (Hebrews 1:3).

    Mark recounts one of these confrontations between Jesus and the so-called spiritual experts of his day. “The Pharisees and the scribes asked [Jesus], ‘Why do your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?’” (Mark 7:5). We know this was not Pharisaical humility and genuine curiosity (Matthew 12:14; 22:15). This was defiance — an attempt to undermine and shame the Son of God.

    They were so confident in their theology that they confronted the Christ himself. They tried to pin him down under the feather-weight and wading-pool-depth of their theology — the One who was the fulfillment and pinnacle of all the pages they had read. They challenged God’s own understanding of God. Their education and pride — their knowledge and confidence in their own system — had blinded them to the very image and voice of God. They knew so much about God, and yet knew him so little.

    “We have often loved what we’ve learned about God more than God himself.” Tweet
    Even the Literate Need to Learn to Read

    Jesus responds to their ignorant and murderous criticism with the very Scriptures they seem to know so well. “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me’” (Mark 7:6–7). Hypocrisy, according to Jesus, disconnects knowledge of God from true love for God. Hypocrisy is not just about disobedience to the Bible — the Pharisees would have been thought of as clearly “obedient” — but about disillusionment with the God of the Bible. You can know him and not know him. And that might be the most dangerous place in all the world — however comfortable, safe, and informed it may feel.

    Jesus goes on to say, “You leave the commandment of God” — an awful, terrifying condemnation — “and hold to the tradition of men” (Mark 7:8). You have traded the truth about God for images of the truth, manufactured by your own mind. You’ve loved what you’ve learned about God more than God himself. You’ve trusted your knowledge and obedience more than the mouth of God. “For the sake of your tradition you have made void the word of God” (Matthew 15:6).

    You Can Tithe Theology, Too

    So we should fear money when it leads our hearts and allegiances away from God. And we should fear our system of theology when it more subtly does the same. In our good disciplines of learning about God — reading, asking, listening, writing — we must take care to develop habits of treasuring and worshiping him, too. Be committed to having a right theology, but be as committed to having a relational theology — a growing, humble, and heartfelt intimacy with God. Do not simply search the Scriptures for soteriology, but search for salvation — the eternal life — that is only found in the flesh, blood, and person of Jesus Christ (John 5:39).

    Tithe your theology. Just like all money is God’s, all good theology is God’s, too — it’s all about him, all from him, and all for him. Still, we give ten percent or more of our money to declare week after week our gratitude, faith, and joy in God, even to say that it is all his. Likewise, we need rhythms of responding to God in worship when we learn more about him. Look for every opportunity to offer what you’ve seen about God back to him in prayer and worship.

    Stop, and pray God’s words about God back to him. Journal as a way of stimulating your heart over the things your mind is beginning to understand. Put the truths you’re learning on your lips for others to hear and love — share them with someone. The psalmist responded this way to knowing God and his love more deeply in Psalm 63: “Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you. . . . My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips” (Psalm 63:3, 5).

    We will never be truly satisfied by knowing about God. We need to know him. If that dichotomy doesn’t make sense to you, beware. Facts about God without feelings for him and fellowship with him — without a sense that you are God’s chosen, redeemed, and known son or daughter — will give you a false sense of God’s love and security. But facts about God can also draw you closer to him.

    You cannot serve both God and theology, but you can serve and love and treasure God with good theology.

  4. markmcculley Says:

    my standard diagnostic questions

    1. do you believe that anybody is justified without believing the gospel? do you think God’s sovereignty just means that God can and does save without any gospel? lots of “Reformed” do think this

    2. which part of the Arminianism is part of the gospel? and if they say, I don’t know anything about Arminianism, i answer–well, one basic idea of Arminians, which is most people you know think is that “jesus died for everybody”

    now, which part of “jesus died for everybody” is the gospel? Do you think that some people will perish (John 3:16)? Do you think that Jesus died for these people who will perish? How is it good news to say that Jesus died for people who perish

  5. markmcculley Says:

    Greg Fields thinks he knows for certain that nobody knows for certain

  6. markmcculley Says:

    p223, “Sola Fide and the Roman Catholic Church”, Faith Alone, Zondervan, 2015, Thomas Schreiner—“Someone may be saved by faith alone, even if they deny faith alone. In humility,.we must acknowledge that this matter is complex…On the other hand, if someone understands what he or she is rejecting in turning away from justification by faith alone, then such a person will not be delivered from the wrath of God. …Roman Catholics who share Augustine’s understanding of justification as transformation by grace belong to the people of God. However, matters are more complex than they first appear, for we cannot ignore the fact that 1600 years have passed since Augustine wrote…and the Roman Catholic Church has become less and Augustinian and espouse a view of free will.”
    Better then not to share any knowledge with all those in the Southern Baptist Convention who believe in “freewill”. If they are never told anything about election or faith alone or justification, then they won’t be able to be condemned for rejecting the truth. Since so many of them teach that the only sin God now counts is “rejecting Jesus”, surely we should not disturb their ignorant bliss by teaching them other doctrines for them to possibly reject. Don’t ask, and certainly, don’t tell…

  7. markmcculley Says:

    knowledge is not important

    Luke 1: 76 And child, you will be called
    a prophet of the Most High,
    for you will go before the Lord
    to prepare His ways,
    77 to give His people knowledge of salvation
    through the forgiveness of their sins.

  8. markmcculley Says:

    According to his own words, (“The same Jesus Christ who died and shed his blood for the sin of the whole world, all sinners at all times, everywhere, on the cross, for the forgiveness of sins.”) he has a false doctrine that portrays a counterfeit Christ.

    His Lutheran doctrine is that the old adam is the bad nature and that justification is continuing again and again every day and can be lost

  9. markmcculley Says:

    Since Christ’s name is righteousness, does this mean His person is His righteousness and not His work? Does this mean that the doctrine of incarnation defines Christ’s righteousness, and not Christ’s death on the cross?

    One soundbite says that “Christ’s person is Christ’s work and Christ’s work is Christ’s person.” Should we eliminate any distinction between Christ’s person and Christ’s work? Since Christ’s person is still happening, should we say that Christ’s work is also still happening? Is “eternal redemption” still happening so that Christ is still redeeming? (by analogy, some teach an eternal destruction that never actually gets done destroying.”

    there’s this person who did a work
    and before you know if that work was for you,
    you must know and agree with His doctrine
    of what He did

    if you don’t know what the person did,
    you know neither the person
    nor if that person
    finished anything for anybody

    commitment to the imperative
    to know the person cannot come
    before we know the indicative
    of what the Person got done

    the test of the exodus out of the false gospel
    is not our testimony that
    “we know the Person”
    the same Person everybody else in the crowd knows

    we are not called to a tragic imperative
    “to know the person” without knowing which person
    the sheep don’t follow the wrong
    person with the wrong doctrine

    they hated His doctrine
    so much they wanted His Person dead
    but that was a long time ago
    and now the Person comes into our hearts
    so let’s not worry about
    Him being Lord of our doctrine

  10. markmcculley Says:

    Abraham Booth, Glad Tidings

    p238 “According to fatalism, the word of truth having no influence, is of no use in regeneration, the salutary and important change being produced entirely without it..It is too hastily assumed that the mind is prepared to receive the light of spiritual knowledge before the truth have any influence on it.”

    p247 “Now the question is: Do the Scriptures lead us to conclude that the mind and the conscience are brought into the new state by an immediate divine energy, without the medium of either the law or the gospel? I think not. It is written: by the law is the knowledge of sin.

    p249 “For an ‘awakened sinner’ to be persuaded that regeneration is effected without the instrumentality of divine truth, is to give an injurious direction to his prayers and expectations.

  11. markmcculley Says:

    (sarcasm alert)

    If you reject their explanation (which exempts itself from being an explanation), then these “for you” preachers have an explanation for that as well. You must be “rationalistic” and have a moral problem with God’s raw sovereignty . Their ad hom accusation, the law of the explanation that there is no explanation, explains— you want to protect yourself from God and so that’s why you talk about propitiation. Unlike these folks who have agreed with God that they are the most foolish and therefore the least foolish, if you are still talking about propitiation, then everybody likes hearing about how the cross satisfies justice, people really like to eat up that stuff about God’s wrath, because anybody who talks about God’s wrath is still into “free will” and they think they control God’s wrath with their explanations. But the “for you” preachers are maybe not so popular because they bravely keeping telling people that God loves them? And since they have the courage not to have an explanation, they bravely talk out of both sides of their mouth—for you corporately, but also for you individually. For you, but not necessarily in decretal election, perhaps only in covenantal election, but these preachers are so brave that they don’t get into detailed explanations. And these preachers are so bold and so foolish that they transcend other people’s foolish doctrinal stuff, and stick with what’s “pastoral”. It wouldn’t be prudent for them to teach universalism. But it does not harm anybody if they keep saying “for you”, because surely nobody interprets that language in terms of free will.

    (end of sarcasm, I think)

  12. markmcculley Says:

    Liberal or conservative, most people assume a difference between the facts” and “the meaning of the facts” so that different Christians can give different explanations about Christ’s death. Now there’s even a stupid soundbite about the DIFFERENCE between “theology about the cross” and “theology of the cross”?

    No matter how scholastic and confessional most people are, they also have a theory about “experiencing the sacraments” without God teaching you “only one theory” about how Christ’s death was needed or satisfactory to God.

    No matter how scholastic and confessional most people are, they also have a theory about “experiencing the sacraments” without God teaching you a “theory” about how Christ’s death worked.

    Kant leads to Barth. The distinction between “fact and meaning” means that . “something has happened” apart from your “freewill”, so to Barth (and Van Til) this means we mere humans still don’t know how God thinks and why Christ died because of sins.

    Many of the “neo-orthodox” ar offended at what the Bible says about propitiation, so they talk about “theories”. For example, they explain, there’s one theory about propitiation and expiation. But then they clarify— the offense of the cross is that we don’t have an explanation—the offense of the cross is that God doesn’t have an explanation.

    If you reject this explanation (which exempts itself from being an explanation) these experience preachers being to wonder about how real your experience. Maybe you only want to protect yourself from God and that that’s why you talk about doctrines like election

    enry Mahan- There is a danger of talking more about salvation than about the Savior. There is a danger of preaching redemption and neglecting to preach the Redeemer. It could be that we know much about justification and little about Jesus Christ, his person and his work. One thing is certain, a man will arrive at right doctrine through Christ, but it is also possible for him to have orthodox doctrine and yet not know Christ. The gospel is not a collection of dry doctrines; it is the revelation of a living, merciful, and ever-present Lord.
    “Men and women are not going to come to hear you preach the doctrines of grace. But if needy sinners get wind of the fact that you are preaching the grace of Christ, they will give you a hearing. When you only preach to my head in facts so numerous and terms so tedious, you weary me, and forget that I am a human with emotions and a hungry heart! I laugh, I cry, I love, I feel, I sorrow, I doubt, I fear, and I need a minister with whom I can identify in all these, who has the message of God’s mercy; not cold, calculated creeds which ignore these human traits.

    “The Arminian cheerleader sings joyful hymns, weeps, laughs, rejoices, and calls for men to commit themselves to a movement with no message of hope nor assurance. The Calvinistic professor stands rigidly in his pulpit of pious orthodoxy, daring not to weep lest he be called emotional, daring not to laugh lest he be thought frivolous, daring not to call mourners or seekers lest he be called a free-willer, daring not to let people know him or get close to him lest he lose their respect and awe. Someone may find out he is only a sinner saved by grace.

    Lord, deliver me from having to listen to either one of them, and send me an Elijah of like passions who will minister to my heart and to my head — to the whole man.

    Jordna Cooper’s review of the neo-orthodox Luthern theologian Forde—“Forde moves off of Luther’s path by moving from God’s suffering apart from us and turns inward to our own subjective suffering.In his explinations of Thesis 21-23, He equates the suffering of Christ with Luther’s spiritual suffering and presents it as an example thus pointing to the spiritual suffering of all Christians by extension. Forde writes, “Because in actual suffering all theorizing is over. One enters into contention with God. Precisely in his rash protest over his suffering Job unwittingly speaks the truth about God.” And with that Forde downplays the objective Word that is subjectively applied to the sinner.

    Luther himself destroys this opinion with Heidelberg Thesis 23 where the law kills, reviles, accuses, judges, and condemns everything that is not Christ… including Forde’s angst. The contrast between Luther’s objective focus and Forde’s subjective focus appears to be very stark. Forde, in his effort to divorce spiritual experience from revelation as unknowable and a distorted construct influenced by rationalism, conveniently leaves off the end of the Book of Job where Job’s sufferings do not lead him to any concrete answers except that which God choses to reveal directly to him on a theological platter.

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