Mark Daniel Calls Guilt-Sharing “Judicial Role-Play”

Mark Daniel’s sermon entitled “Absolute Substitution”: “What is sinful flesh? It is flesh where sin is present. Sinful flesh is flesh where it has sin in it. Sinful flesh is flesh contaminated by sin. Well, now, you ask, I don’t understand how Christ could be the Son of God, pure and holy, and yet be contaminated by sin.”

Mark Daniel goes on to affirm the mystery of it all: if we could understand it as information, then we would be God and none of us is God, but when Daniel speaks, he does speak as God has spoken, etc.

I doubt that Daniel has read Edward Irving, Karl Barth, or Cranfield about ” the likeness of sinful flesh” (Romans 8:3) but the denial that Christ made sin by legal imputation is a not a new heresy.

I could ask questions, but the “made sin is real” guys don’t want to risk any “information” answers about how Christ could go from being without sin to having sin in his flesh, and this before any legal imputation of sins.

Was “sinful in the flesh in Christ’s nature or in His person? Was it only the humanity? Is Christ’s supposedly “being made sinful” something separate from his person? But these guys think that doctrines about the person of Christ will only decrease worship of Christ. If you knew more about Christ, then you wouldn’t worship Him?

Mark Daniel: “All I’m trying to say is that God did not cut a deal with Christ, where they did role play. It wasn’t judicial role-play. “
Please notice that I am not questioning the sincerity of his motives. Mark Daniel is much like the Roman Catholics who called imputation a “mere legal fiction”. Though they do not completely dismiss God’s declarations, they assume that legal guilt sharing is impossible and that justification is analytic. When the leper is no longer a leper, then and only then will God declare a person not to be a leper. Only after Christ is “really made a sinner”, will Mark Daniel and Don Fortner accept that then -after the made really–Christ legally bore the sins of the elect.

The denial of “made sin” by legal imputation leads to a false gospel in which God gives people a new nature, and replaces sin in the flesh. This false gospel claims that being made sin by legal imputation is fake.

I am reminded of Luther’s illustration of the dung covered by the snow. The Romanists wanted something more real—they wanted God by grace to turn the dung into gold. Luther, not believing that what God did in Him would be any part of justification, asked about what happens when the gold turned back into dung!

Back when I was lost, I very much believed in the sovereignty of God, so much so that I told myself that God did not bother about justice and righteousness. I told myself that the matter of salvation was only an internal matter to God, in which God did anything God wanted. If God wanted to forgive people, God could do that. (Back when I was lost, I said that) God did not need to be just in forgiving, that God had no need to be BOTH just and justifier. I was open to the Socinian claim that, if God demands punishment for guilt, even if from Himself, then that is not forgiveness.

I am not accusing Mark Daniel of denying that God has a nature, or of equating justice with sovereignty. I don’t want to assume that you the reader, or that Mark Daniel, has gone down the same wrong paths I went down.That being said, I do have a serious objection to what Daniel teaches in this sermon (and in other sermons). Mark Daniel is denying that God can or will justify the wicked. Because Mark Daniel is denying that God can or will legally impute sin to anybody without that person being first “really made sin” before and apart from legal imputation.

Like the papists who cried “legal fiction”, Mark Daniel is saying that Christ must be “made sin in the flesh actually” before there can be any imputation of guilt. In paralell to this, his false gospel says that the righteousness we become must be “real” (which to him means not legal), and only then can there be legal imputation.

Two more quotations from the sermon by Mark Daniel. You can get a tape or a transcript of it from Eager Avenue Baptist Church. “You see, a judicial substitution is INSUFFICIENT…now understand me, I’m not putting down the judicial aspect. He gained a judicial standing but that standing, that part of His substitution, was insufficient to give me life and to give me liberty, to give me freedom from my sins.”

Mark Daniel IS putting down the judicial aspect. What’s the necessity of the judicial aspect to Mark Daniel? If Christ is made sin before the imputation, and without the imputation, what’s the point of then adding the “judicial aspect”?

If he’s saying “more than legal”, he could answer some questions by explaining what he does mean by “legal.” He claims not to be denying or putting down the legal.

So why would legal imputation of the guilt of the elect after Christ is already made sin by “more than imputation”, why would that even be still important to Mark Daniel?

The last quotation from Mark Daniel: “On the cross, Christ actually became as sinful as I. Something He had never been, could not have become, and did not want to happen, and prayed for that it might let it pass, and yet became a reality in his very being.”

“Something”. And if you ask questions about what that something was, then you show yourself to be a “rationalist”. These guys don’t explain or give reasons. They only proclaim, and we are supposed to swallow it.

Beware of implicit faith. Don’t put any of these preachers up on a pedestal where you believe what they believe but you don’t know what they believe and they can’t be bothered to explain what they believe. If they won’t answer questions, don’t listen to them.

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3 Comments on “Mark Daniel Calls Guilt-Sharing “Judicial Role-Play””

  1. markmcculley Says:

    Justification is not only a matter of knowledge communicated and revealed to us but is real and objective in God’s mind. We really were born under the wrath of God, and it’s not only that we think so. And that’s what we need to tell lost people: not only that they need to be born again, not only that they need to know something (both those things are true) but also that imputation is so real and so legal and so objective before God that when Jesus Christ was imputed with the sins of the elect, that meant that Jesus Christ really had to die in time and space for those sins.

    History is not pretend, not a show. History is God’s actions. And even though justification is not an act God does in the elect sinner, justification is nevertheless an act that has effects in reality so that when God declares a ungodly person to be righteous, the result is life and all the other blessings of salvation.

  2. markmcculley Says:

    Robert Letham—I will focus my comments on chapter 4, which addresses the question of what kind of humanity the Son of God assumed. The thesis is that for Christ to identify with us in our fallen condition, it was necessary for him to have a fallen human nature. By assuming humanity in its fallenness he redeemed it from where it actually is, otherwise he could not have saved us in our actual state as fallen human beings. This is akin to the teachings of Edward Irving and Karl Barth, as well as Torrance.

    There are a range of problems with the claim. At best, it entails a Nestorian separation of the human nature from the person of Christ. The eternal Son—the person who takes humanity into union—is absolutely free from sin but the assumed humanity is fallen. If that were to be avoided, another hazard lurks; since Christ’s humanity never exists by itself any attribution of fallenness to that nature is a statement about Christ, the eternal Son.

    The authors do not consider biblical passages that tell against their views. Romans 5:12–21, crucial for understanding Paul’s gospel, is not mentioned. If Christ had a fallen human nature it is unavoidable that he would be included in the sin of Adam and its consequences. In short, he could not have saved us since he would have needed atonement himself, if only for his inclusion in the sin of Adam.

    The authors state that Christ assumed flesh “corrupted by original sin in Adam” (p. 116, italics original). He took a humanity “ruined and wrecked by sin” (p. 119), “corrupted human nature bent decisively toward sin” (p. 121). He healed the nature he took from us (p. 117). In this they acknowledge that a sinful nature and original sin are inextricably linked and that Christ himself needed healing. Such a Christ cannot save us for he needed saving himself.

    Christ’s healing of human nature happened from the moment of conception (p. 121–22). He was without sin. Thankfully this obviates the problem mentioned in the previous paragraph but simultaneously it destroys the argument for it means Christ’s humanity was not entirely like ours after all.Christ does not identify with us to the extent of being a sinner, has “a peculiar distance” from our own performance, does not follow our path, and has an “estrangement from us” due to his obedience (p. 122–23).

    Throughout, the authors oppose the idea that Christ took into union a nature like Adam’s before the fall. However, this is not the only alternative. Reformed theology has taught that Christ lived in a state of humiliation, sinless and righteous but with a nature bearing the consequences of the fall in its mortality, its vulnerability and its suffering—but not fallen. Furthermore, the NT witness is that the incarnation is a new creation, the start of the new humanity, not a re-pristinization of the old. Christ is the second Adam, not the first.

    • markmcculley Says:

      Sam Storms–Reformed theologians have not always agreed on what this imputation entails. Charles Hodge (Systematic Theology [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1970], 2:149-256) defines imputed sin as consisting simply of the obligation to satisfy justice, i.e., the exposure to punishment on account of Adam’s sin (the reatus poenae). John Murray (Imputation), in contrast to Hodge, argues that the reatus poenae, or obligation to satisfy justice, may be imputed only on the grounds of a logically antecedent culpa or demeritum. He concludes his response to Hodge by noting that “Reformed and Lutheran theologians [historically] did not conceive of the reatus of Adam’s sin as imputed to posterity apart from the culpa of the same sin. And this is simply to say that the relation of posterity to the sin of Adam could not be construed or defined merely in terms of the obligation to satisfy justice (reatus poenae) but must also include, as the antecedent and ground of thatreatus, involvement in the culpa of Adam’s transgression” (p. 84).

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