Posted tagged ‘practical syllogism’

Lutherans Have an Eternal Life that They Can Lose

November 21, 2013

A Lutheran: Some people really do have eternal life before they lose it. I guess I have never doubted this, and it has always been something I have had some concern about— making shipwreck of my faith, not just being “faithless” but disowning him.

mark: So when you say “eternal” life, you are thinking in some qualitative way, not of a life that necessarily continues forever? It seems to me that there is a distinction to be made between now having “eternal life” and that time on the last day when God will raise up the justified elect and give them immortality. But isn’t “eternal life” now the verdict declared already of “immortality in the age to come”? Isn’t it the verdict that a person will not come into the judgment?

John 5:2 4 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.

And so the Reformed question: how can a person who has passed from death to life, then pass back to life? What is the practical difference between accusing the Reformed of not knowing if they have life (or if they now believe) and a Lutheran saying: I know I believe now, but that does not mean I will keep believing. I know I have eternal life now, but it might not be eternal forever, it might not be life forever.

1. I don’t see how Lutherans have escaped the Reformed problem–how can you really know that you even really believe now? You go to church? Well, Reformed people do that also. 2. It’s the old Cromwell question. Supposedly he relied on a syllogism on his death bed–if I believed once, then I cannot lose my justification, and I know that I believed once, therefore….

But there are problems with that
1. He’s believing in his belief. He’s looking at himself believing, not at Christ.

2. So Lutherans think the solution is to get our eyes off of themselves, off of the question if they are believing, and think to do this by telling everybody that they all are justified, before believing.

3. But it does not work for more than a moment, because Lutherans (at least those who are not universalists) also say that they can’t be sure that they themselves (previously justified) will keep believing and will keep the “eternal life” they once had.

4. So they have come around to the same place as the Reformed–—are you believing now? And you can’t prove it with your living, since that attempt is not believing.

5. So what was the difference? It was the gospel, the object being believed. The Reformed say, you are not justified apart from believing, not justified before believing. (And I agree with this, even as I insist that God’s imputation of Christ’s righteousness is before new birth and faith.) But the Lutherans tell us— believe that you are justified, instead of believing to be justified.

I am not making this complicated. The differences are more complicated than I have shown. For one thing, the word “justification” is being used in more than one way. For a second thing, Lutherans seem to agree that we need to keep believing in order to stay justified.

But, even in this case, in the tomorrow and the day after that, the object of faith is not the same gospel. “Believing that you are justified” is not the gospel. The gospel is not the Velveteen Rabbit, in which what we believe makes something real. Reality does not disappear because you don’t believe in it. If we are justified before faith in the gospel , then ignorance of the gospel and absence of faith in the gsopel does not make justification disappear.

So if we want to avoid Barthianism or universalism, if we agree that those who do not believe the gospel are not justified, then we had better stop telling people that they are justified before they believe the gospel. And we certainly should stop telling people that they have passed from death to life, if we need to also tell them they can now pass from life to death.

But if we run away from Lutheran “objectivity”, do we end up in a Jonathan Edwards place where he says that God’s justification is conditioned on “future grace” (future acts of faith created by God in us)? I hope not. I certainly know that many Reformed persons are now in this place––they hate “eternal security” more than any Lutheran does. They put perseverance first every time over God’s preservation because they despise the idea of “once justified, always justified.”.

I don’t know enough about Lutherans to know the differences (except between no wrath ones like Forde, vs conservatives). But I do know that not all Reformed are alike. Not all Reformed rely on a practical syllogism which is looking at the I who is believing, and saying, well that’s God also, since it’s God the Spirit working in the I. No, not all Reformed are like that.

Lutherans can’t solve their assurance problems by saying that Jesus even died for those who perish And Reformed people can’t solve their assurance problems by saying that water is a “seal” about justification being conditioned on faith. Those who have that kind of water are in no better place than others without the water but are hearing the gospel.

The question still comes down to–—what is the gospel? Do we look at a verse in Acts and say, all you need to say is “Jesus is Lord” and nothing else should or needs to be said, even if you think that a person is saved by doing what the Lord tells you to do? But the gospel does not make faith a condition of election, because the gospel tells us that faith is a result of election.

And that gospel does not tell you or anyone that they are elect. That gospel tells us that “all for whom Jesus died will be justified.” If you don’t like definite particular effectual atonement, you don’t like the gospel. And if you don’t like the gospel, then you might want to say it’s a gnostic idea that almost nobody knows or believes.

John 6:37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. 40 For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”

No Balance, Christ’s Work or Your Works

November 29, 2012

2 Peter 1: Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ,To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ: 2 Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.3 His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, 4 by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. 5 For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, 6 and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, 7 and godliness with brotherly love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. 10 Therefore, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall.

With its emphasis on “knowledge” and “calling”, 2 Peter One reverses legalism by commanding us to examine our works by making our calling and election sure. Those who know Christ are commanded to become effective They are not commanded to become fruitful in order to find out if they know Christ (or are known by Christ).

But  many  assume a “practical syllogism” in which assurance of calling is based on our works. To do that,they attempt to isolate one verse and ignore the context, which begins in the very first verse with the idea that faith is given because of Christ’s righteousness. They makes their works of faith the assurance. In effect, their assurance of Christ’s atonement is only as good as their confidence in their own works.  Their “faith” turns out to be assurance in works, not assurance in Christ’s atonement. Because it can’t be both. There is no “balance” in this “sola”.

By what gospel were we called? Was it the gospel of “characteristic obedience” or was it the gospel of “Christ paid it all for the elect”? Legalists are trying to follow Christ as Lord without first submitting to salvation only by God’s perfect and sufficient alone righteousness.

We do not work to get assurance. We must have assurance before our works are acceptable to God. But many puritan “experimental” Calvinists, along with the Arminians, think of faith as the “condition” that saves them.. Yes, they disagree about the cause and source of faith, but they both are way more concerned about the condition faith leaves you in than they are in the object of faith.

Though the true gospel knows that the justification of the ungodly does not happen until righteousness is imputed and faith is created by hearing the gospel, the true gospel also knows that it is the righteousness ALONE (apart from the works of faith created) which satisfies the requirement of God’s law. (Romans 8:4)

The experimentalist wants to say that her imperfect works are the evidence of Christ’s work in them. But way too often this moralist does not test her works by the gospel doctrine of righteousness. As Hebrews 9:14 and Romans 7:4-6 teach us, that a person not yet submitted to the righteousness revealed in the gospel is still an evil worker, bringing forth fruit unto death. Those who work for assurance not justified, and any assurance they have is a deceit.

Indeed, unless we are universalists or fatalists (some Primitive Baptists are both), we cannot avoid the search for evidence. But we need to see that the evidence is submission to the gospel, which involves knowledge about election, imputation and Christ’s satisfaction. It is a waste of time to talk about “obedience to law as evidence” unless a person knows what the gospel is. A person who finds evidence in works shows that they don’t know what the gospel is.

Moralists stress the nature and quality of faith, but not the righteousness COMPLETED by Christ which should be the only object of faith. It is Christ (not us) who satisfies God’s law.

There are many false gospels and only one true gospel. The only way not to be self-righteous is to know that the law demands perfect righteousness and that the gospel proclaims how Christ satisfied that demand for the elect. One certain result of the righteousness earned by Christ is that the elect will believe this gospel and not any false gospel.

Legalists thank their false god for enabling them to keep meeting the conditions so they won’t be “broken off the covenant”. The workers who came before the the judgment in Matthew 7 were sure that they had satisfied the conditions. They do not deny that election is the reason that they meet the conditions to stay in and to be sure. But instead of pleading Christ alone who got done a perfect righteousness, they also plead something else.

These moralistic theonomists have flattered themselves about their obedience being acceptable. But those for whom Christ died will came to repent of that false gospel.

Scot Hafemann (p60): “ Sandwiched between what God has done for us and what God promises to do for us in the future, we find the commands of God for the present as the necessary link between the two.” This false gospel makes everything conditional, not on Christ, but on us—- if you do enough right, then God promises not to break you off…

II Peter 1—add works to get assurance?

August 10, 2012

Those puritans who advocated “the practical syllogism” read II Peter 1 as teaching that we must add works and virtues to our lives in order to gain and maintain assurance. But II Peter 1 teaches that we have to make our calling and election sure in order to even know if our added works and virtues are acceptable and pleasing to God.

In other words, we need to think about what gospel it was by which we were called. Were we called by a gospel which conditioned our end on our having works and virtues? Or were we called by the true gospel which says that we must be accepted by God in Christ’s righteousness before we can do anything good or acceptable to God?

The legalists  are careful to say that their works are the evidence of Christ’s work in them. Nevertheless, most legalists do not test their works by the gospel doctrine of righteousness. Most legalists think you can be wrong about the gospel doctrine, and nevertheless still show off your salvation by your works and acts of piety. In other words, legalists (like Paul Washer) raise doubts about those who don’t “try more effort”, but they don’t have these same doubts about “sincere and hard-working” Arminians and Roman Catholics.

Peter, a servantand apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ: 2 May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.

3 His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, 4 by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. 5 For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, 6 and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, 7 and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. 8 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. 10 Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. 11 For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”