Posted tagged ‘the gospel’

Two Tolerant Soundbites Examined

July 19, 2010

Consider these two soundbites from a tolerant Calvinist: “People like to
ask this silly useless question: does a person have to believe in the
sovereignty of God to be saved. If God isn’t sovereign, nobody is going to be saved. So what difference does the question make?

“People ask this question: can a person with Arminian faith already be in a state of salvation? Faith doesn’t save. Neither Arminian or Calvinist faith saves. So what difference does the question make?”

Do not be fooled by these two soundbites. Notice that the speaker has not answered either question. Though we agree that only the sovereign God can save, do we believe that God is “so sovereign” that God can save a person without at the same time causing that person to believe in His sovereignty?

The speaker avoids the question. He has not answered it, even though we might infer his answer from his describing the question as “silly and useless.”

Though we agree that faith does not save, if we agree that salvation
results in faith, then is it not good and proper to ask what’s the object
of a saved person’s faith? When God saves a person, does God make what that person believes to be different than it was before?”

Romans 6:17–“But thanks be to God, that you were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed.”

More Reformed that I Used to Be, or the Gospel?

August 10, 2009

The Reformed mainline often has an either/or mindset. Either what we left, or what we are now. It does not seem to occur to these relativists that a third alternative is possible. The truth is that there are many false gospels, many ways to be lost, and just because you have rejected one wrong way does not mean that you now believe the true gospel.

When one has abandoned the scoldings of “first legalism” (no wine or TV) for the moral pep talks of “the discipleship in a confessional community” preachers, one has only exchanged one form of moralism for another.

The Reformed person who used to be a fundamentalist now thinks that grace means that theological doctrine doesn’t matter when it comes to saved and lost. In a covenant where grace is conditional but not merited, it’s not helpful to judge individuals saved or lost based on the evidence of their gospel doctrines.

Unless we tell all people without exception, without respect of persons, that God demands a perfect righteousness and that God provided this righteousness only for the elect, then we still have a man-centered legalistic cult. It may be a happier kind of cult. But it still is not submissive to God’s gospel.

But I don’t see that the covenant people are given grace to meet the conditions? And in the PCA lite (as opposed to Reformed Baptist) set of conditions, it all begins with the Chuck Swindoll idea that God does not demand righteousness but only the faith to “not-perform”. As the old blues song goes, “start stopping”…!

Where the old legalism said that it was saved because it out-performed others, the new legalism claims to have done it the right way now, and to have performed not-performing where others were still trying to perform. But in neither case is the finished for the elect performance of Jesus Christ even in the picture.

Why R. C. Sproul is Baffled

June 25, 2009

Sproul wrote the preface to James White’s The Potter’s Freedom (which has the easy job of proving that Geisler is a fool, but also has some good exegetical stuff, especially in Hebrews and particular atonement).

Sproul begins his preface: “I often find myself baffled as I consider the state of the church in our day.” Sproul ends his preface: “It seems that while we are all born Pelagians, most of us are reborn as semi-Pelagians. That is, we come into the kingdom as Arminians.”

That of course explains Sproul’s bafflement. He has a wrong assumption, that Arminians are Christians. I am not saying that God cannot save an Arminian. I am saying that God saves His sheep from being Arminian. Their ceasing to be Arminians is not why they are saved. But those who have been saved have ceased to be Arminians, or else they are not saved.

One problem is the “us” here. Sproul thinks he’s an “evangelical”. Evangelicals are unsaved. I am not part of any “us” which is “reborn as semi-pelagians”. That “us” is headed to destruction unless they are converted to the true gospel and to the true Christ.

Sproul still tolerates Arminianism because he still believes the lie of Arminianism. If you know him, please talk to him about the gospel. In the meanwhile, what about YOU: how much do YOU still believe the lie of Arminianism?

Think about it. “Reborn”. Who does the birthing? God does. Does God birth us with a lie and keep us in that lie? When that lie denies the very righteousness of God?


What Did You Learn When You Claim to Have Been Converted?

June 25, 2009

Question: what new doctrine did you learn from the Scripture that convinced you that you had never heard the “true gospel” before?

“>mark: I could say that all the Bible is new to me. I could say seeing that the Galatian heretics were five pointers. I could say Hebrews 9:14 on “dead works”, or I Peter 1:22-25 on conversion and regeneration. But in the interests of time, let me give you several verses from Romans.

First, Romans 1:17, I saw that the gospel reveals more than “sovereign grace”: it reveals a “righteousness”. Before when I said that freewiller Mennonites I had joined were saved by sovereign grace, I was teaching grace but not righteousness. I was saying that sovereign grace would save people even if those people continued all their life not to believe the gospel. I made the gospel a license for rebellion against the gospel.

Grace would save them even if they didn’t submit to the doctrine of substitutionary atonement. (It is quite common now for Mennonites to reject “penal atonement” in any form: even the plain clothes conservative Mennonties do it.)

Next: Romans 3:18: no fear before either eyes. I was busy teaching “no performance, no fear”. I know now that God will not deny Himself in saving sinners. I learned that God is so perfect that His demand for a perfect righteousness cannot be satisfied except by what happened outside of us at the cross, and that God will not save those who won’t submit to that truth. The only ones who submit to that truth are those whom God causes to submit to it.

>Next: Romans 6:17-20. How can I talk about that in short space? The context is Romans 5: we are not first condemned for our sinful conduct but by imputation of Adam’s sin. Even so, in Romans 6, we are not saved by OUR BETTER LIVING. We are saved by imputed DEATH: the elect for whom Christ died also died with Him, and we must reckon on this as the only condition of salvation.Next: Romans 7:5-6. I learned that you cannot use works to get assurance because works done without assurance are not pleasing to God. In John 3:17-20, the Pharisees like Nicodemus got assurance from their works. But the light of the gospel exposes our “good works” as sins.

>Next: Romans 8:13. “Put to death the deeds” includes putting to death assurance by works and blessing by works. Before I had read this text only in terms of morality. Certainly we are to be moral. But morality can be done in the flesh: in the context of Romans, preaching the gospel to yourself every day is essential in “mortification”. So I can no longer use Romans 8:13 to create doubt and legal fear in Christians. Nor James and I John.

“>To doubt that you are saved because of what you did or didn’t do is to take the focus off of what Christ did. While we need to be warned of a “dead faith”, it is not “double talk” for me to deny that assurance is from the cross and not from our “mortification”. Living by the gospel is confidence in the gospel. So I can agree that Christians have sinful doubts and degrees of assurance, but I no longer think that we get assurance ALSO by works.

“>Goodness! Next text will be my last for now: Romans 10:1-3. I saw that Arminians and Calvinists who would not submit to the righteousness of God (but only to grace and no performance), ALSO inherently were trying to “establish their own righteousness”. They were “neonomians”.

“> While I spent all my time talking about “new covenant”, I failed to see the main thing: God demanded one performance–the only solution to my lack of performance was the death of Christ. Our faith does not satisfy God. Death in hell does not satisfy God. But the death of Christ satisfies God. Those imputed with that death will be saved. Those who don’t know or submit to that gospel won’t be saved.

We must learn to have our perspective agree with God’s perspective. It is not true from  that faith is the difference between saved and lost. Faith in the false gospel leaves people lost. Faith in the true gospel is a result of the righteousness, the death of the cross for the elect.

We can’t know that we are elect before we believe the gospel (no matter how much “repentance” we produce) But we can know, and must know that the difference between saved and lost is not faith, but the righteousness revealed in the gospel. We can and must know that Christ established a righteousness for the elect (without knowing we are elect!) by God’s imputing their sins to Christ and that God imputes the death of Christ to the elect (without knowing yet if we are elect )

>Arminians say that we need to know that we were involved in the imputation. So they then say that everybody was imputed with the death, but that the death does nothing unless the sinner does something.

“>People are lost because of sins even if they never hear of Christ. But those who hear of Christ but deny that Christ’s death is what saves also deny Christ and are condemned for that sin also. This includes the Galatian heretics who believed in the resurrection and in particular redemption.

“>The context of John 3:17-20 is Nicodemus. Before I was converted, I was like Nicodemus; he was sincere and moral but only regeneration can cause a man to bring his “good deeds” into the light and call them dung.

> Question: You re-write you conversion history every time you change your doctrinesmark: no. I do not “reinterpret” my old conversion. I repudiate that old conversion as more wicked than the immorality of the non-religious. I changed Gods. Before I was an idolater who insisted on my own standard of who was saved and lost. I was not submitted to God . I took sides with myself against God.

“> I am not “re-narrating” my conversion. I am denying that I was converted when I trusted the Arminian gospel.

“>We dare not be contemptuous of “doctrine” and “theology”. Knowing God is learning to honor His glory in His every attribute; universal atonement dishonors every attribute of God. We are saved as long as believe the gospel. If we do not continue to believe the gospel, we were never saved.

“>Question: must a person wait until he is absolutely sure of salvation before he starts to obey the clear precepts of God’s word?

>mark: We cannot do our duty without assurance, cannot acceptably work without assurance. Those who say duty can be done without assurance must ignore what Heb 9:14 and Romans 7:5-6 say about “fruit unto death”.

;”>I do not have “absolute” assurance. Assurance has degrees, and depends on Bible study and attention to the gospel. But the difference between assurance by works and assurance by the gospel is not a matter of degree, but a matter of kind. Those two kinds of assurance are in competition. Assurance by works tries to say that the ground of the gospel is not works but that the ground of assurance IS…works.

“>I John 3 explains that Cain murdered Abel because Cain’s doing his duty was not accepted. He could not do his duty because he was not justified. Without faith it is IMPOSSIBLE to please God.

“>Thus we must oppose the “modesty and humility” that lacks assurance and says “I don’t doubt God but doubt me”. When you say that, then you must still think “me” has something to do with saving you. Glory only in the cross.

Election causes to believe, but Election not the Gospel?

June 25, 2009

Ephesians 3:9-11 –to make all (even gentiles) see what is the fellowship/union of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ. To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places would be known by the called out elect the manifold wisdom of God According to the permanent purpose which He decreed in Christ Jesus our Lord

Ephesians 2:4-5 –But God, who is rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved us, even when we were dead in sins, has quickened us together with Christ…

We often hear the phrase “election is not salvation” so that “election is UNTO salvation”. Or that “election is not the gospel” but that election is what causes people to believe the gospel. In this essay I want to criticize these often-stated contrasts. Of course the word “salvation” can be used in different senses.. But if the denial that “election is not salvation” is saying that the righteousness Christ earned is not for the elect until the elect believe, it makes no difference if you say that the righteousness was earned only for the elect or also for others besides the elect: In any case, it is not the righteousness which is the cause of believing. The effect of this is that Christ’s work of obedience is not the ONLY cause of salvation, so that the work of the Spirit in the sinner causing the sinner to believe becomes not a result but a condition of Christ’s work.

This false gospel will end up not glorying in the cross but putting the Spirit’s work in the sinner in the determinative place. And this false gospel, in which Christ‘s work is not the cause, will also say that “election is not the gospel” but only that which makes sinners believe the gospel.

The texts I have quoted from Ephesians will not support leaving election out of the gospel and salvation. For us to think about these verses, let us first think about time. Another common denial is that God knows about or cares time. Instead of saying that God is both outside time and inside time, the typical procedure is to deny that God is concerned with order and sequence and time.

For example, it is taught by some that people are regenerate a long time before they know or believe the gospel. Many Calvinists  teach that the sheep are no longer under God’s wrath even while these sheep now continue in ignorance of the gospel. In other words, they teach that wrath is removed at regeneration and that continued unbelief of the gospel is not a manifestation of God’s wrath.

Other Calvinists deny God’s concern with time in order to teach that God’s wrath is never ever on the elect. When I point out that this logic would deny the reality of the Trinitarian wrath of God satisfied by the God-man, the response is that we do not understand God’s relationship to time.

This kind of thinking is common: “we cannot understand God’s relationship to time, therefore your understanding of God’s relationship to time is incorrect, and our understanding of God’s relationship to time is correct.” And this affirmation is founded on another: “we cannot understand God’s relationship to sin, therefore reprobation is conditioned on sin, instead of sin being a result of reprobation.” I want to discuss this last statement in some detail, but I will give you a more correct third view right now.

It is wrong to say that reprobation is conditioned on sin: both those elected and those reprobated are sinners–if sin were the cause/condition of reprobation, then all sinners would be reprobated. The reason for reprobation is like the reason for election. God’s justice is no less sovereign than God’s grace.

If we were only thinking about God’s  sovereign justice, then there would be no reason for either election or reprobation. But the texts in Ephesians remind us that there is more to know about God than His sovereign justice: His glory is also revealed in His sovereign love and in His sovereign wrath. To know His name is to know Him as the one who has mercy on some and who hardens others.

I deny that reprobation is conditioned on sin. But this does not mean that I think that sin is conditioned on reprobation, so that God only makes sinners (ordains and predestines them to sin) in order to reprobate them. As a more consistent supralapsarian, I teach not only that sin is included in God’s purpose (so that God is not REACTING to sin, not even logically) but also that God’s very first concern is to manifest His glory in discriminating between sinner and sinner, so that election in Christ from the beginning is an election of sinners and so that reprobation outside Christ from the beginning is a reprobation of sinners.

God does not wait for sinners to sin, and then decide to pass some of them by. In the very purpose to elect and to reprobate for His glory, God determines to elect some sinners and reprobate some sinners.

BOTH election and reprobation from the outset have God as their subject and sinners as their objects. God’s choice is the first thing. Sin is not the first thing, and then God reacts. Neither is creation the first thing, and then God reacts. Sin is necessary if God is to choose between sinners. Only because of God’s choice to choose between sinners, does God ordain sin.