Archive for November 2011

Did Christ Die For Everybody But Not for Anybody’s Sins?

November 18, 2011

In Taste and See (Multnomah,1999, p325), John Piper endorses the conditional false gospel. “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 that, if you believe, the death of Jesus will cover your sins. Now, as far as it goes, this is biblical teaching.”

Piper then goes on to disagree with Arminians for not teaching that Christ died to purchase faith for the elect. But he does not disagree with Arminians about propitiation and substitution and punishment. Piper’s false gospel does not teach that Christ was specifically punished for the elect alone. It still only has a punishment in general, to be assigned later to those who believe.

But can we call Piper an Arminian, since he does insist that Christ also died for the elect to give them something extra that He will not be giving the non-elect? It does not matter what we call Piper’s false gospel, if we see that it misses being gospel

The false gospel fails to report that Christ was punished specifically for the elect, and thus it will be heard every time as saying that there was enough punishment done to Christ to save even people who will nevertheless end up being punished.

Thus, even though it has punishment, this false gospel is not about punishment that REPLACES punishment for all whom Christ intended to save. We might call it “respresentative” punishment but we cannot call it “substitutionary” punishment. We could call it “penal” justice but with the qualification that no specific person’s sins were ever legally transferred to Christ. Indeed, the false gospel denies that any specific penality (let alone guilt) for anybody sins was transferred to Christ until “faith causes justification”.

The false gospel says that Christ died for everybody (but the fallen angels?) but it denies that this punishment was for the sins of anybody in particular. So “dead for you” means that now you have an open door, an opportunity to do something with Christ’s death which will lead to your salvation. And the false Spirit taught by the false gospel supposedly will help the elect to believe this false gospel.

They Want Us To say that the Atonement was Already Our Justification, Because They want to Delay the Atonement Until Our Justification

November 15, 2011

The accusers of John Owen claim that those who teach substitution only for the elect should agree that the elect can go free before they are converted and believe the gospel. They want to put those who teach effective atonement in that box, so they can then deny that the death of Christ is the effective difference between saved and lost.

This is not only a tactic against definite atonement. This is what many “Calvinists” have sincerely come to believe—if the cross has no efficacy to set free before faith and without faith, then the cross has no legal efficacy by itself. They locate the efficacy, the reality of “atonement” not in propitiation, not in Christ’s bearing the sins of the elect, but only in the efficacy of “regeneration” and an “union with Christ” which is not legal but is instead transformation by the Spirit.

These folks don’t think there’s any “double jeopardy” until after a person has been married to Christ by faith. Then, and only then, they say, could you say that two persons were dying twice for the same sins of one person. So “union with Christ” comes to mean that you can stop counting, that you can stop talking about imputation when you talk about the justice and righteousness of God.

These folks have confused the accomplishment of atonement with the application of the atonement.Not only have they minimized the legal application of the atonement, they have collapsed accomplishment and application into one, as if there were no atonement before justification.

Thus the attempt to put John Owen in a box. Either say that the justification was at the atonement, or agree with them that the atonement is not until the justification.

And thus they stand in front of churches, elect and non-elect (covenant children and non-covenant children), and teach everybody that “Christ is dead for you” . But according to them, that “died for you” doesn’t necessarily mean that Christ has died to propitiate God for your sins.

Wittmer’s Response to Rob Bell–What Did Christ Really Do for Those Who Won’t be Saved?

November 14, 2011

Christ Alone, Edenridge Press, 2011 (preface by Michael Horton)

Among the Arminian “evangelical” answers to Rob Bell’s popular book Love Wins, Michael Wittmer’s Christ Alone was one of the better written and more focused reflections. Dr Wittmer has written several other books in recent years, not least Heaven is a Place on Earth. Wittmer probably would not describe himself as an Arminian, and might even think of himself as some kind of Calvinist. But his theology shows the false hope of any “gospel” which claims that Christ died for all sinners but then makes the salvation of sinners depend on something else besides Christ’s death.

Since I have already agreed that Wittmer would not think of himself as an Arminian, I want to keep that label on hold and have you hear Wittmer for yourself. On p 138, he summarizes: “We stand in God’s courtroom, guilty for Adam’s sin and for our own, awaiting God’s just sentence of condemnation. But before the sentence can be read, the Son of the Judge steps forward and announces that he wishes to be damned to hell in our place. Contrary to Bell, this Son is not rescuing us from his evil Father, for it was the Father who sent the Son to save us. Neither is this a bipolar God who loves unrepentant sinners while they are alive and then switches gears at their death…God is just, so he will punish those who die under his wrath. But he lovingly sent his Son to bear His wrath in their place.”

What should we say to this summary? Should we label Wittmer an Arminian for saying that the Son bore God’s wrath for those who will end up dying under God’s wrath? Should we ask why Michael Horton is endorsing this false Christ and this false gospel? Should we comfort ourselves at the fact that Wittmer is not a Barthian or an universalist, and that he teaches conversion, and a transition from wrath to God’s favor?

My response to Wittmer is very much the same as his to Bell. This is “not enough gospel”. (p146) If the cross does not add anything to the non-elect but more wrath, then for the non-elect the death of Christ is no gospel at all.

I wish Wittmer could hear his questions to Bell come back to himself. On p 147, Wittmer concludes: “if there is no looming threat of wrath and hell, then there is little for God to do except be generally kind to everyone.” I agree with this logic. Not even the elect are born safe, except in the decree of God. The wrath of God abides even on the elect until they are justified by means of Christ’s death. Even the elect need to hear and believe the gospel. But I want to think about that phrase “for God to do”.

What does God need to do? What has God done for those who are saved that God has not done for those who will not be saved? Since Wittmer is an “evangelical” and does not think of himself as an Arminian, he does not speak of what Christ has done for the elect and what Christ has not done for the non-elect. (Even though the Confessions to which Michael Horton subscribes speak of that difference, in his preaching that difference is given no attention.)

Evangelicals want to stick to what they can agree on. Sin and wrath are real. God really had to do something about this if anybody would “possibly” be saved. Whatever it was that Christ did was done for all sinners. This is why I am asking evangelicals like Wittmer to listen to themselves when they talk back to Rob Bell.

Listen: p146–“If the cross doesn’t add anything that we couldn’t already learn from Jesus’ life and ministry, and if Jesus’ words and deeds don’t tell us anything we couldn’t already learn from nature, then forcing Jesus to go to the cross seems to be a genuine case of divine child abus…The God of Love Wins (title of book by Rob Bell) doesn’t win because the stakes are so low that there is little for him to win.”

So what’s the difference between the God of Wittmer and the God of Rob Bell? First, since wrath is real, there is something to win and something to lose. Second, the God of Wittmer, who dies for all sinners, even those on whom God’s wrath will ultimately abide, does win some. And plus, on top of that, even the ones the God of Wittmer loses, God attempted to win, because Christ died for them.

Or as evangelical Lewis Sperry Chafer explained the message: Christ died for all their acts of sin, so they won’t die for any acts of sins, but many of them will die for their “attitude of sin”, since they thought they were too good to need what Christ did for them. Since they think they don’t need what Christ did for them, then Christ’s death won’t do anything for them.

Both Wittmer and Bell have pointed to the possibility of “divine child abuse”. Bell is Socinian enough to put grace in competition with justice, and to deny that there is any real forgiveness if Christ had to die for God to forgive. Wittmer is not a Socinian, and thus suggests that Bell’s Christ had no reason to die.

But what was the point of Christ dying for the non-elect? Wittmer is very clear that he thinks that Christ did die for everybody. Wittmer is very very clear that he thinks that not everybody will be saved. Even though Wittmer is not at all clear about elect and non-elect, he does not tell us the point of Christ dying for those who will not be saved.

What did Christ “really do”? If Christ died the same for those who will be saved as Christ died for those who won’t be saved, what in the end did Christ “really do” even for those who will be saved? Certainly Christ’s death was not decisive for salvation, but in what way does Wittmer think Christ really did anything for all sinners, as one step (needed along with others) to a rescue from His wrath?

If God was going to change the hearts of some sinners, and cause them to be born again, and that was going to save them, why was it necessary for God the Father to give the Son to die? If the Son dies to take away wrath for everybody, but the wrath is not taken away, what did the Son’s death “really do”?

Like most evangelicals, Wittmer has a “strings attached” gospel, a “however” gospel. Instead of telling the truth to everybody that God doesn’t love everybody, he thinks the responsibility of everybody depends on God having loved everybody and Christ having died for everybody.

I do not disagree with him about the need to preach the gospel to everybody. I do not disagree with him about the terrible condition of all sinners who do not hear and believe the gospel. I disagree with him about what the gospel is. Here’s his explanation (p138): “However, if we fallen creatures don’t accept God’s love, either because we think we are too good to go to hell or because we think God is too good to send us there, then we will learn too late, that our false assurance of safety is the very thing which has made us unsafe.”

No, Mr Wittmer, we were born unsafe, we started out lost, and the false Christ you preach has made nobody safe. The false Christ you preach is an idol, somebody you say really did “something” but that “something” depends on our attitude to make it work.

This is a yes and no complicated “bait and switch” gospel. You are not safe. But Jesus really needed to die for you all to make you all safe. And God loves you, and Jesus really died for you. But. Still you are not safe yet.

No wonder Rob Bell accuses the false god of evangelicalism with being one who changes from love to wrath when his love in unrequited. Yes, there is an objective legal transition from wrath to favor when God’s elect are justified and adopted in history, but God’s love for the elect had no beginning and God never loved the non-elect. But Wittmer promises everybody a deal, an offer: if we change our attitude and agree that God is right to have wrath toward us, and agree that we need Christ to die for us, then……what?

Either Christ already died for us or not. Wittmer is assuring us all that Christ already died for us all. And he wants to tell us that this death “really did something”. If we come knowing that we are sinners and needing to be saved, if we come with the right attitude, “then we will find that we have a merciful and holy God, an advocate who justly emptied all the wrath our sins deserved, but who in mercy poured it out upon himself.” (p138)

But what about if we don’t come with such a right attitude? What about if we come like Rob Bell comes? Well, Christ already died and His death already really did something. But we can’t say what that was. Even though God emptied all the wrath on the Son, still there seems to be some more wrath left for many for whom Christ died.

Now we could get philosophical about if this is the same wrath which was for our sins which was already emptied on Christ, or if it’s new wrath not about our acts of sins but our wrong attitude in what we do with what Christ did for us, but in any case, it’s still wrath and what did Christ’s death really do about it?

Surely Christ’s death was not to condemn anybody because, as Wittmer has explained, we all already started out condemned. Perhaps Wittmer would tell us that Christ did something extra for those who will be saved, that it had “multiple purposes”, and that it purchased the new birth for some. But in any case, we are left with the question of those who will not be saved. Wittmer is still an “evangelical” and so he is sure that Christ died and really did something for these folks. But what?

Romans 8:32–“He that spared not His own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things.”

What About the Legal Fears of Some of the Galatians? Were they Arminians?

November 11, 2011

”If you were operating out of legal fear instead of gospel motives, how then do you know you were justified all along?”

How do I know I am elect and now justified? Because I believe the gospel. Did my believing the gospel cause justification to happen? No! Did God’s imputation of Christ’s death to me result in me believing the gospel? Yes.

Even those who were born Jewish were not born converted. But many who have not yet repented of Arminianism still claim to now be converted to the Lord Jesus Christ.

So what shall we think about saying that ” I was born justified, or I was justified but did not know the gospel”, or “I believe it now but I don’t repent of what I believed then” or saying that “I know that I believed the gospel even though all that time I was operating out of legal fear”?

Just because a Peter says he was operating out of legal fear doesn’t mean that he was. Maybe he wasn’t. Well, you could say, he sure got bad results, since he ended up betraying the Lord three times. That’s why he messed up so bad, because of his legal fears.

But we all still sin. We are still all getting bad results. The justified elect are still habitual sinners. They are still not doing so well in morality, when they are measured by God’s standards for morality.

Christians are the people who are not operating out of legal fear. We can’t be saying– they are Arminians but Christians who need to be instructed. We can’t be saying: those elders are operating out of legal fear, but they are still gospel believers.

There’s an in and out. Ecclesia: called out, gathered together here from there, separated by doctrine. The question is: what is the gospel, and do you believe it?

The gospel is not that you are elect (or that I am). Not: God loves you. Not: God loves me. But: God loves as many as are believing the gospel of Christ’s death for the elect.

The gospel can’t tell you that you are elect until you are believing it already. If you confess yourselves as still being motivated by legal fear, then how has the gospel made you to submit to the Lord and His doctrine?

Either God is pleased with you or not. How do you know? Are you believing the gospel? You need to know this before you try to please God. You can’t please God if you don’t already please God. And you don’t please God yet if you haven’t believed the gospel yet.

We talk about legal fear of God to lost people who are not born justified.

Am I saying that we get lost and saved again every time that we fall into legal fear? No. Am I saying that we never are motivated by legal fear? No. But no Christian is still an Arminian. And no Christian should be addressed as though they were still Arminians. But plenty of people listening to us should be addressed as Arminians. Many who listen are still Arminians, still lost in their sins.

We do not threaten Christians with the idea that they are still Arminians. We confront Arminians with the idea that they are not Christians

When a person is operating out of legal fear, that person may have a very dutiful prayer and Bible reading life, but it’s all an abomination to God, dead works coming from a dead person.

If You Don’t Talk About Election, Then You are Not Teaching “Not by Works”

November 9, 2011

According to Romans 4:5, faith alone is “not works”. The point of faith alone is “grace alone”.

“To the one who does NOT work but trusts Him who justifies the ungodly, it is counted as righteousness.”

And according to Romans 9:11, we cannot say grace alone without saying “for the elect alone”.

“Though they were not yet born and had done nothing good or bad-in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of His call.”

I want you to see the connection between “not because of works” and election. When evangelicals attempt to leave out the “for the elect alone” and discuss the gospel without talking about election, then mostly all they can do is say “not because of works but because of faith alone”.

Even if you believe the false gospel that Christ died for every sinner, “Reformed evangelicals” will tell you that God effectually called you to believe that heresy.

Of course they won’t tell you it’s heresy, but in select groups (for examples, conferences that charge you big dollars) they will explain a more educated and precise view of things which you might want to add on to what you already believe without needing to repent of a false gospel.

Before you believed in a faith alone gospel, and now you still believe in a faith alone gospel but now you know that the faith came from God.

Galatians 3: 8, “ And the Scripture, forseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel to Abraham….

Faith is hearing produced by God by means of the gospel. The power is in the true gospel, not a false gospel. I Corinthians 1: 18, “for the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved, IT is the power of God.”

The true gospel needs to be proclaimed to all sinners (and not just those who have the bucks to get into Reformed conferences). The gospel is only good news for the elect, but we don’t know who the elect are until they have believed the gospel.

It is not enough to talk about calling and election, if election is simply to make sure that some sinners have faith alone. If the object of the faith alone is a false gospel which says that Christ loves everybody and desires to save everybody but that faith is some kind of condition of this salvation, then this faith alone is not in the true Christ but is instead in faith alone.

“Faith alone” is not the condition of justification, but to see that, we need a message which tells us about God’s election.

Romans 1:16, “the gospel is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.” Evangelicals understand this as teaching that salvation is conditioned on faith alone. Evangelicals don’t understand the gospel.

Election is God’s idea. This idea goes along with the idea of not works. Romans 9:11: “In order that God’s election might continue, not because of works.”

Romans 11: 5, “So too at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace. But if it by grace, it is no longer by works; otherwise grace would be no more grace.”

Doesn’t the apostle Paul understand that you can say “not by works “ without talking about election? Why doesn’t he just say: “by faith and not by works”? Why does he bring in this idea of a remnant? Paul writes about election in order to explain what he means by faith. Paul does not regard faith as a substitute for works.

God imputes the righteousness revealed in the gospel to a person justified by the gospel. The “it” which is imputed by God to Abraham is the obedient bloody death of Christ Jesus for the elect alone. The righteousness of God obtained by Christ is imputed unto the elect alone.

God is One of the Parties in God’s Just and Legal Conflict with Sinners

November 7, 2011

Romans 3:3 What if some were unfaithful? Does their faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God? 4 By no means! Let God be true though everyone were a liar, as it is written, “That you may be justified in your words, and prevail when you are judged.” 5 But if our unrighteousness serves to show the righteousness of God, what shall we say? That God is unrighteous to inflict wrath on us? (I speak in a human way.) 6 By no means! For then how could God judge the world? 7 But if through my lie God’s truth abounds to his glory, why am I still being condemned as a sinner? 8 And why not do evil that good may come?—as some people slanderously charge us with saying. Their condemnation is just.

I know some Calvinists (I was one of them) who think it is enough to say that God is sovereign. In this emphasis, sometimes they even project their own ego onto God, and sound like they think of themselves as sovereign also.

But the truth of the gospel is not only God’s sovereignty but also God’s righteousness. This means that the gospel is not only about the justification of the elect sinner but also about the justification of God.

I have no use for the “freewill theodicy”. But that does not mean that I am dismissive of efforts to justify God. To justify God does not of course mean that we make God just. Rather, it means that we declare that God is just.

When God justifies an elect sinner, it’s not only God’s sovereignty that declares the sinner just. God is justified in justifying the elect sinner because 1. Christ died because of the imputed guilt of that elect sinner and 2. God then righteously counted (constituted) that elect sinner to legally share in that death. Because of these two facts of history, God is justified in justifying elect sinners.

It doesn’t seem fair. It doesn’t look just. The elect sinners go free. Christ, who did not sin, died. This is why we are tempted to say that the whole thing is only about God’s sovereignty and then tell people to shut their mouths and ask no questions.

But the Bible itself does not take that attitude. The Bible tells us how God thinks. The Bible justifies God.

Romans 9 does not only ask: “who are you to talk back to God”. Romans 9 explains that it is inappropriate for that which is made to sit in negative judgment on the maker. That which is made is instead to make the positive judgment that God has the righteous right to harden as many as God hardens.

Romans 6 deals with the objection that God justifying sinners will cause sinners to rationalize their sins, so that they not only say that their sins were predestined but also that they say that more sins result in more grace.

The Romans 6 answer is that grace is either grace or not. There is not more or less grace, but either grace or no grace. More sin does not get the elect more grace, because all those God justly justifies have all the grace any other elect person has. If you have grace, then you are justified from sin, and if you don’t have grace, you are a sinner “free from righteousness” (6:20).

While unbelievers trust in God to help them to sin less, those who have been delivered to the gospel know that there are only two kind of sinners, —guilty sinners and justified sinners .

The theodicy of Romans 3 announces that God is true even if every man is a liar. We justify God because God has revealed Himself. And God has revealed that God is more than sovereign. God’s words reveal God to be Righteous and Just. And God’s word is justified in history by what God did when Christ gave Himself up to death on the cross because of the imputed guilt of the elect.

We were wrong: God was right and God is still right. God prevails, but it is not only a matter of “might makes right” or “sovereignty always wins”. We have no right to make a negative judgment on God, since it is God who will be making a negative judgment on many sinners. But we are called to make a positive rational judgment about God’s justice.

What God pleases to do is right. And there is no better proof of that than the way God justifies elect sinners. The wisdom of the cross shows God’s righteousness. It is just for God to not only let elect sinners go free but also to give them faith and all the other blessings of salvation.

Yes, it is grace to these sinners, but still it is just for God to do it, because of what Christ did in his obedience even unto death. As Isaiah 53 explains, the righteous servant will be satisfied. God will be just to Christ. And God is just to justify elect sinners for the sake of Christ.

Psalm 116:11—“I said in my alarm, ‘All mankind are liars’” Not only is God justified, but sinners are condemned. We see this in Romans 1:25 . All of us have been people who “exchange the truth for a lie”.

It is idolatry to only know a God who is sovereign. The true God is also righteous. It is unbelief and rebellion to deny that God is just. Psalm 51:4-6—“Against you have I sinned and done what is evil, so that you are justified in your words and blameless in your judgment..Behold you delight in truth…” Two things go together: God tells the truth, we are false.

The gospel is good news for the elect, but not without also being first bad news. You can call it “law before gospel” if you wish. But part and parcel of justifying God (and trusting God’s true gospel) is taking sides with God against our-selves. We can’t both be right. God is right, and we are wrong. If God is right, then we are wrong.

If we ever get to thinking that God is only being sovereign but not being fair to us, then we show not only that we are wrong but also that God has not yet called us by the gospel to the truth. We should not only confess that God is going to get God’s way, that God is going to win. We need to learn to confess that the way God acts and judges is just. We make a positive judgment about God. That is a result, and not a condition of God having justified us.

God is true. God is God. To reject the righteousness of God (His attribute, not only Christ’s saving work and gift) is to reject the true God. Romans 3:3 tells us that God’s faithfulness proves that God is the true God. Isaiah 42:3—“He will faithfully bring forth justice.” Isaiah 45:19—“I did not speak in secret, in a land of darkness. I did not say to the seed of Jacob, seek me in vain. I the Lord speak the truth. I declare what is right”.

Getting in a dispute with the true God shows us just how dumb we become! The irony every time is that our lies, rationalizations, self-deceptions only result in the truth of God being more declared. And then, when we try to say, “well at least our falsehoods are making God look more faithful”, we are brought face to face with the fact of Romans 3:5—God is the righteous judge of us. God is not only “the boss of us”, because God is judging us and will judge us.

God takes sides with Himself. God takes sides against sinners. And the only sinners that God justifies are the elect who God has placed into the death of Christ.

God is not some neutral arbitrator. God is one of the parties in God’s lawsuit against sinners. The God we have offended by being sinners (exchanging truth for idolatry) is the God who will judge all sinners.

Daniel Fuller vs John Calvin’s “Faith Seeks Life Not Found in Commandments”

November 5, 2011

Calvin (p 575 Battles, Institutes 3:2:20— “Faith properly begins with the promise, rests in it, and ends in it. For in God faith seeks life: a life that is not found in commandments or declarations of penalties, but in the promise of mercy, and only in a freely given promise. For a conditional promise that sends us back to our own works does not promise life unless we discern its presence in ourselves.”

Dan Fuller (p 81, The Unity of the Bible) “In commenting on Genesis 2:17 -do not eat from that tree–Calvin said, `These words are so far from establishing faith that they do nothing but shake it.’

Dan Fuller: I argue, however, that there is much reason for regarding these words as well suited to strengthen Adam and Eve’s faith…In Calvin’s thinking, the promise made in Genesis 2:17 could never encourage faith, for its conditionality could encourage only meritorious works. `Faith seeks life that is not found in commandments.’ Consequently, the gospel by which we are saved is an unconditional covenant of grace, made such by Christ having merited it for us by his perfect fulfillment of the covenant of works.

Dan Fuller responds to Calvin: “I have yet to find anywhere in Scripture a gospel promise that is unconditional.”

More from Daniel Fuller’s Unity of the Bible (p310): “If Abraham was not declared forgiven until ten years later, was he still a guilty sinner when he responded positively to God’s promises in Genesis 12:2-3 and also during the following years up until 15:6?”

“Calvin gave a meaning to the use by James of the word justification which is not supported by the text…He argued that for James, `justify’ meant the `declaration’ rather than the `imputation’ of righteousness.”

Calvin (3:17:12): “Either James inverted faith and obedience–unlawful even to imagine–or he did not mean to call him justified, as if Abraham deserved to be reckoned righteous. What then? Surely, it is clear that he himself is speaking of the declaration, not the imputation, of righteousness.”

Back to Fuller (p313): “Paul would have agreed with James that Abraham’s work of preparing to sacrifice Isaac was an obedience of faith. He would have disagreed strongly with Calvin, who saw obedience and works as only accompanying genuine faith…The concern in James 2:14-26 was to urge a faith that saves a person, not simply to tell a person how they could demonstrate their saving faith…Calvin should have taught that justification depends on a persevering faith, since he regarded Abraham as already justified before Genesis 15:6.”

And then Daniel Fuller quotes Jonathan Edwards: “We are really saved by perseverance…the perseverance which belongs to faith is one thing that is really a fundamental ground of the congruity that faith gives to salvation…For, though a sinner is justified in his first act of faith, yet even then, in that act of justification, God has respect to perseverance as being implied in the first act.”