Posted tagged ‘thanksgiving’

Piper Calls Thanksgiving a “Debtor’s Ethic”

December 23, 2014

John Piper, the Debtor’s Ethic, Future Grace— “the Israelites are at their best, though, what is notable about them is not their gratitude, but THEIR FAITH: And Israel saw that great work which the LORD did upon the Egyptians: and the people feared the LORD, and BELIEVED the LORD, and his servant Moses. Exodus 14:31 To contrast, when Moses behaved badly and struck the rock with his staff, this was his reprimand: And the LORD spake unto Moses and Aaron, Because ye BELIEVED ME NOT, to sanctify me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore ye shall not bring this congregation into the land which I have given them. Numbers 20:12 The LORD doesn’t say that this is because they weren’t grateful enough….”

Daniel Fuller (The Unity of Faith, p 313): “Paul would have agreed with James that Abraham’s work of preparing to sacrifice Isaac was an OBEDIENCE OF FAITH. Paul 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.”

Mark McCulley asks– How could we possibly give thanks, when the future hangs in the balance and depends on our future acts of faith?

John Piper—the Bible rarely, if ever, motivates Christian living with gratitude…Could it be that gratitude for bygone grace has been pressed to serve as the power for holiness, which only faith in future grace was designed to perform?… some popular notions of grace are so skewed and so pervasive that certain biblical teachings are almost impossible to communicate. For example, the biblical concept of unmerited, conditional grace is nearly unintelligible to Christians who assume that unconditionality is the essence of all grace.

Piper—… “the conditional promises of grace are woven all through the New Testament teaching about how to live the Christian life. “If you forgive men for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you” (Matthew 6:14). “Pursue…sanctification without which no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14)…I find that Biblical thinking behind these kinds of conditional promises is uncommon in the minds of Christians today. Some popular conceptions of grace cannot comprehend any role for conditionality other than legalism.”

Gaffin: In the matter of sanctification, it seems to me, we must confront a tendency, within churches of the Reformation to view the gospel and salvation in its outcome almost exclusively in terms of justification. The effect of this outlook, whether or not intended, is that sanctification tends to be seen as the response of the believer to salvation. Sanctification is viewed as an expression of gratitude from our side for our justification and the free forgiveness of our sins, usually with the accent on the imperfection and inadequacy of such expressions of gratitude.

Gaffin: Sometimes there is even the suggestion that while sanctification is highly desirable, and its lack, certainly unbecoming and inappropriate, it is not really necessary in the life of the believer, not really integral to our salvation and an essential part of what it means to be saved from sin. The attitude we may have — at least this is the way it comes across — is something like, “If Jesus did that for you, died that your sins might be forgiven, shouldn’t you at least do this for him, try to please him?” With such a construction justification and sanctification are pulled apart; the former is what God does, the latter what we do, and do so inadequately. At worst, this outlook tends to devolve into moralism.

Like Daniel Fuller . Gaffin accuses others of being “Galatianists” who teach sanctification by works instead of by faith, and then himself turns our works into that which is a part of our “faith”, because our works are 100 % caused by God’s work in us. Like John Murray, Gaffin insists on defining “justified from sin” (Romans 6:7) as a definitive ontological breach with the power of sin so that we work. He simply assumes that freedom from guilt before the law (as a covenant of works”, as some like to say) is not an adequate motive or basis for the indicative “sin shall not have dominion”

And Gaffin does this while accusing those with “justification and gratitude” priority with teaching a Galatianist “sanctification by works” ! Gaffin puts “union” before both justification and sanctification, and his defacto definition of “union” is the Holy Spirit’s presence and work in us, and in this way gives first place to Christ’s indwelling present and future presence. Why give thanks for the past when now (in this new age) you CAN (and will) obey in a way Adam could not?

Thanks for the Person, or Thanks for the Works, or Thanks for the Benefits?

November 22, 2012

Some folks accuse  us of  loving Christ’s work more than His person.  Of course we answer that , if you don’t know what Christ’s work was, then you don’t know Christ the person.  They also accuse of loving the benefits we get from Christ more than we love Christ HImself. These accusers say that  the solution is to put “union” with the person (the Benefactor who blesses) before the receiving of the blessings.  But in their solution, they themselves put faith in Christ before “union” with the person.   Faith is in the person, we are told,  the presence of faith in us,  we are assured, is the indwelling of Christ in us.

And it’s not only Dan Fuller and John Piper who tell us that gratitude is not the right motive, and that we should instead put our faith in the future grace of God enabling us to work with motives of faith. Richard Gaffin sounds much the same note:

Gaffin: In the matter of sanctification, it seems to me, we must confront a tendency,  within churches of the Reformation to view the gospel and salvation in its outcome almost exclusively in terms of justification.  The effect of this outlook, whether or not intended, is that sanctification tends to be seen as the response of the believer to salvation. Sanctification is viewed as an expression of gratitude from our side for our justification and the free forgiveness of our sins, usually with the accent on the imperfection and inadequacy of such expressions of gratitude.

Gaffin: Sometimes there is even the suggestion that while sanctification is highly desirable, and its lack, certainly unbecoming and inappropriate, it is not really necessary in the life of the believer, not really integral to our salvation and an essential part of what it means to be saved from sin. The attitude we may have — at least this is the way it comes across — is something like, “If Jesus did that for you, died that your sins might be forgiven, shouldn’t you at least do this for him, try to please him?”

Gaffin: With such a construction justification and sanctification are pulled apart; the former is what God does, the latter what we do, and do so inadequately. At worst, this outlook tends to devolve into  moralism. I hope, too, not to be misunderstood here. Surely our gratitude is important. How could we be anything but grateful for the free forgiveness of our sins? That note of gratitude, whether or not explicit, is pervasive and unmistakable in Paul . No doubt, too, all of our efforts as believers are, at best, imperfect and flawed by our continuing to sin. BUT Paul sounds a different, much more radical note about sanctification and the good works of Christians. Sanctification, first of all and ultimately, is not a matter of what we do, but of what God does.

mark: Sounds good, does it not. Gaffin goes on to define what God does in us, which is to enable us to work by faith. Gaffin does not call this  “synergism” or even “reciprocity” (even though some of his disciples do) Gaffin explains it with his old “monergism” formula, which is a “comptatiblist” 100% God and 100% man. Like Dan Fuller . Gaffin accuses others of being “Galatianists” who teach sanctification by works instead of by faith, and then himself turns our works into that which is a part of our “faith”, on the basis that our works are caused by God’s work in us. Gaffin insists on defining “justified from sin” (Romans 6:7) into a definitive ontological breach with the power of sin so that we work. And Gaffin does this while accusing us of choosing justification over sanctification!  He does thus by putting “union” before both justification and sanctification, but then explaining that the Holy Spirit’s work in us (regeneration and sanctification) has priority over Christ’s atonement, since he assumes with the majority that the Spriti gives us Christ, instead of Christ giving us the Spirit.

Perhaps we need to think more about the continuity of  persons before and after regeneration (or corruption). Some of us are suspicious of any gospel which makes its “reality” to be ultimately about what God does in us, either in the new birth or habitually.  Say what you want about our new ‘faith disposition”, we know we are still sinners. Others of us (Gaffin, Tipton, Piper, Fuller)  are suspicious of any gospel which puts all the emphasis on gratitude for Christ’s work outside us for us.

I am aware of a long philosophical history of talking about infusion and impartation.   I do not want to discount the wonderful news that God gives the elect a new heart to understand and to keep believing the gospel. Regeneration assures us that the justified, despite their continuing sins, will never stop believing the gospel . “I John 3:9, “No one born of God sins, because God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot sin because he has been born of God.”

I John 3:9 is not only saying that the justified elect cannot be charged with the sin of not believing the gospel. Of course it is true that Christ died as a result of being imputed with the elect person’s sins in not believing. But Christ also died in order to give the Spirit to the elect so that the elect would abide in the gospel, and the gospel would abide in the elect. When I deny that the Spirit gives Christ or that the Spirit unites to Christ, I am not denying that Christ gives the Spirit or that the Spirit gives the elect person a new heart.

But I disagree with John Calvin that the Holy Spirit must join the elect to Christ’s person before they are imputed with Christ’s righteousness.  Here’s the famous (Barth, Torrance, Gaffin) quotation from Calvin (3:11:10): “I confess that we are deprived of justification until Christ is made ours. Therefore, that joining together of Head and members, that indwelling of Christ in our hearts—in short, that mystical union—are accorded by us the highest degree of importance, so that Christ, having been made ours, makes us sharers with him in the gifts with which he has been endowed.. We do not, therefore, contemplate him outside ourselves from afar in order that His righteousness may be imputed to us but because we put on Christ and are engrafted into His body—in short because he deigns to make us one with Him.”

Of course you can say this is all much about nothing, but Calvin seems to think it is very important, and so do the academics   who seem to write every essay so that they can get to that quotation. They quote 3:11:10 often, as that which trumps anything else Calvin wrote.

As long as Christ is outside us, they say, His righteousness is not yet imputed to us, therefore faith in Christ comes before justification.  Of course all agree in theory that there is an eternal election, but there’s hardly any need to ever talk about the sins of the elect having already been imputed to Christ before His death.  The important thing “Gaffin has in common with Arminians (who he defends as his brothers and sisters) who don’t believe in election is that they both agree that faith is the condition of union with Christ and that this union with Christ is the condition of justification.

Berkhof  (systematic, p452)

“It is sometimes said that the merits of Christ cannot be imputed to us as long as we are not in Christ, since it is only on the basis of our oneness with Him that such an imputation could be reasonable. But this view fails to distinguish between our legal unity with Christ and our spiritual oneness with Him, and is a falsification of the fundamental element in the doctrine of redemption, namely, of the doctrine of justification. “

“Justification is always a declaration of God, not on the basis of an existing (or future) condition, but on that of a gracious imputation–a declaration which is not in harmony with the existing condition of the sinner. The judicial ground for all the grace which we receive lies in the fact that the righteousness of Christ is freely imputed to us.”