A Moment With Martin

Posted March 4, 2019 by Sean Gerety
Categories: Uncategorized

martin luther

I feel the terrors of hell and the nearness of death’s hour; but if I have Christ, I have come to the consummation, and neither death nor sin nor devil can harm me. For if I believe in Christ, I have fulfilled the Law, and it cannot accuse me. I have conquered hell, and it cannot hold me. All that Christ has is mine. Through Him we acquire all His goods and eternal life. Even if my faith is feeble, I still have the selfsame treasure and the selfsame Christ that others have. There is no difference. Faith in Him makes us all perfect, but works do not.

We might compare this to two persons who possess a hundred guldens. The one may carry them in a paper sack, the other may keep them in an iron chest. But for all that, both possess the entire treasure. Thus the Christ whom you and I own is one and the same, regardless of the strength or the weakness of your faith or of mine. In Him we possess all, whether we hold Him with a strong faith or a weak faith.

Martin Luther
Luther’s Works, AE 23:28,
Sermons on the Gospel of St. John,
John 6:29

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John Piper’s False Gospel

Posted March 3, 2019 by Sean Gerety
Categories: Uncategorized

piper

I get it that some people are enamored with John Piper and will go to any lengths to defend him.  However, what that reveals in these “defenders” is how little love and appreciation they have of the Gospel.  In fairness, and for some, the questions and objections raised by Piper are hard to discern because he couches them in flowery and pious prose and just enough sound doctrine to be persuasive. Where Piper completely comes off the rails is when it comes to justification by belief alone in contrast to what Piper calls “final salvation.”  In a sermon entitled “Faith Alone: How (Not) to Use a Reformed Slogan” Piper preaches; “Essential to the Christian life and necessary for final salvation is the killing of sin (Romans 8:13) and the pursuit of holiness (Hebrews 12:14).” Notice, the killing of sin and pursuit of holiness is not just a matter exclusive to our ongoing and progressive sanctification, but rather has an eschatological component on which our entrance into heaven on the last day rests.  Our works, done by faith of course, are the ground by which we enter heaven and pass through God’s judgment.

As astounding as it might seem at first to some, for Piper, being justified by faith alone gets no one into heaven. Works done by faith must be offered on the last day at God’s tribunal as evidence that our faith is genuine; that our belief is “saving.”  But what really gives him away, and lays the foundation for his nosedive into abject Christ-denying heresy is his misunderstanding and mishandling of James 2.  Piper argues:

James saw in his day those who were treating “faith alone” as a doctrine that claimed you could be justified by faith, which produced no good works. And he said No to such faith. He said it is dead: “Faith without works is dead” (James 2:17). It is like a body with no breath (James 2:26). It is like an energy with no effect (James 2:20), no completion (James 2:22). If there is justifying faith, it has works (James 2:17). So, he says, “I will show you my faith by my works” (James 2:18). The works will come from faith.

Paul would affirm all of this because he said in Galatians 5:6, “In Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.” The only kind of faith that counts for justification is the kind that produces love, that bears the fruit of love. The faith that alone justifies is never alone, but always yielding transforming fruit. So, when James says these controversial words, “A person is justified by works and not by faith alone (James 2:24), I take him to mean not by faith which is alone, but which shows itself by works.

The problem with all this is that James 2 nowhere deals with our justification before God. Rather, James 2 is a discussion of our justification before other men.  James is explaining the ways by which we can identify the true believer from the feigned variety.  Obviously, it’s not a foolproof method because I’m sure Piper can point to many seemingly good works and will point to them on that the last day along with all those other pretend pillars of the church Jesus mentions in Matthew 7:21-23 (for an excellent discussion of this passage in Matthew see John Robbins’ piece, “Justification and Judgment“).  James is not teaching that works done by faith are what makes faith “saving” or any such thing.  As O. Palmer Robertson explains in The Current Justification Controversy:

According to the Reformers, James does not say that works must be added to faith or included in faith as the way by which men receive God’s judicial declaration that their sins are forgiven. In their understanding, James is not even discussing the way to pardon from guilt, as is Paul. To the contrary, James is describing how a man may show his faith to be genuine (James 2:18), and how faith inevitably will come to fulness or fruition in good works (James 2:22).

According to Piper, a person justified by faith alone does not enter heaven.  Instead, justification by faith alone merely puts a person in a “position” from where their faith can produce the works necessary for “final salvation.”  Piper again:

Essential to the Christian life and necessary for final salvation is the killing of sin (Romans 8:13) and the pursuit of holiness (Hebrews 12:14). Mortification of sin, sanctification in holiness. But what makes that possible and pleasing to God? We put sin to death and we pursue holiness from a justified position where God is one hundred percent for us — already — by faith alone [emphasis mine].

Because if we try to put sin to death and to pursue holiness from a position where we are not fully accepted, not fully forgiven, not fully righteous in Christ, and where God is not one hundred percent for us, then we will be putting sin to death and pursuing holiness as a means of getting into a position where God is one hundred percent for us. And that is the Galatian heresy.

That is not the “Galatian heresy.”  Paul writes: “O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?” And, commenting on Galatians 5:6 John Calvin warned about snakes like Piper:

When you are engaged in discussing the question of justification, beware of allowing any mention to be made of love or of works, but resolutely adhere to the exclusive particle. Paul does not here treat of justification, or assign any part of the praise of it to love. Had he done so, the same argument would prove that circumcision and ceremonies, at a former period, had some share in justifying a sinner.

Sadly, and ironically, it is John Piper who is guilty of the Galatian heresy. He is explicitly and unequivocally teaching that we begin with the Spirit when we are initially justified by faith alone, but we are to perfect our faith in the flesh as we produce the works of faith from “a position where God is one hundred percent for us” in order to be finally saved on the last day. A grosser distortion of the Gospel would be hard to find even in Rome. 

For a deeper dive into Piper’s false gospel, below is a sermon and a podcast by PCA pastor, Patrick Hines. Give them a listen, but more importantly, share them far and wide.  

John Piper’s False Gospel

Response: John Piper’s Clarification

 

Tears of a Snake

Posted February 19, 2019 by Sean Gerety
Categories: Heresies

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is john-piper.jpg

Periodically I like to listen to podcasts when traveling on business or at the gym. Recently I came across a number of excellent podcasts by Tim Shaughnessy and Carlos Montijo at the Thorn and Crown Ministries website. On the site, you’ll also find podcasts by Timothy Kaufman, Steve Mathews, and Patrick Hines. I highly recommend you check them all out. From there I have listened to other podcasts by Patrick Hines on Sermon Audio. While at the gym yesterday I listened to Hines as he painstakingly went through an entire John Piper sermon on justification while providing rolling commentary. Aside from the fact that Piper very clearly and without any equivocation preaches a false gospel, what really struck me is how absolutely atrocious Piper is as a preacher. He is simply torturous to listen to.

I have clearly been blessed to have never listened to Piper preach before.  Admittedly, I have suffered through a few of his articles over the years along with reading his flowery The Pleasures of God and positively heretical Future Grace, but I had no idea he was so painful to listen to.  I’m sure it’s just me, but I have no idea why this man is such a popular speaker and preacher? He is inauthentic and his delivery, which is clearly contrived and orchestrated to deceive, ranks with the crassest televangelist.  I am actually irritated that I had to listen to him in order to get to Hines’ commentary. The fact that Piper believes that justification by faith alone is not enough to get a person into heaven but instead only puts them in a “right position” with God makes him a snake.  

If you’re in the mood for real pain, both aesthetically and theologically, check out Hines’ podcast in two parts below (*if you want to save yourself some suffering and just get to the meat of Piper’s errant theology and false gospel, I recommend skipping ahead to Part 2):

John Piper Response – Part 1

John Piper Response – Part 2

Gordon Clark: The Augustinian

Posted November 26, 2018 by Sean Gerety
Categories: Uncategorized

Check out this excellent study by Marco Barone, “Gordon H. Clark and Augustine of Hippo: An Overviewclark and dog.” I especially enjoyed this summary of Clark’s theory of knowledge in relation to secondary causes (the things which most people fixate):

“…one central point for Clark is that earthly pedagogical means are only secondary causes or occasional causes that God decreed to use in order to impart immediate knowledge. In this sense, every truth that we see, we see it in God. Clark builds on Augustine’s and Malebranche’s insights in order to develop his epistemological occasionalism according to which God is the ultimate cause of knowledge. Neither Malebranche[60] nor Clark[61]had any particular objection to the expression “secondary causes,” as long as it is made clear that these causes do not have any efficient power in themselves and that the ultimate and only effective cause of knowledge is God which immediately works through them. With “immediately,” our thinkers do not mean “right now,” but they mean without the mediation of a supposed efficient cause.”

The Myth of Natural Law

Posted August 15, 2018 by Sean Gerety
Categories: John Robbins, Theology

 

cap freedomI recently had a troubling exchange on a “Gordon Clark Discussion” Facebook page where a participant made the following statement:

Libertarianism’s axiom is the non-aggression axiom, which means it is never OK to initiate aggression against person or property. Christians ground this axiom as a principle in divine natural law … Anarcho-capitalism is simply the Bible consistently applied.

I wondered where someone could possibly get this idea, even asserting that Christianity has anything to do with “natural law,” much less someone on a Gordon Clark discussion group.  As it turns out it’s from a group calling themselves “Reformed Libertarians.” This became clear when another person posted a piece by Brandon Adams titled, “Natural Law: Greek or Hebrew?”  In his article Brandon positively extols the so-called “natural law” as normative, even Christian.  Brandon writes:

… there is disagreement over the content and source of natural law. Greek natural law and Isralite natural law are seeking to answer two different questions. Greek natural law asks “What is man’s good?” Hebrew natural law asks “What does God require of man?” The Christian is going to answer “What is man’s good?” with “Doing what God requires,” so there will be a great deal of overlap. But the two questions are distinct…. When we talk about the importance of natural law for a biblical political philosophy on this site, we are not at all endorsing the use of fallen man’s reasoning from the general principle of “seek what is good” to specific conclusions about civil government. Rather, we are simply referring to the fact that the precepts of the moral law are binding on all men from all time. There can be no appeal to natural law in distinction from revealed law in Scripture because the two are the same. Nothing can be deduced from natural law that cannot also be deduced from Scripture. (emphasis mine)

The idea that “natural law” and the revealed law in Scripture are one and the same is absurd. Calling one “Greek” and other “Hebrew” misses the point.  There is no natural law. And, the assertion that “nothing can be deduced from natural law that cannot also be deduced from Scripture” is demonstrably false.  There are any number of things that can be logically deduced from the vagaries of  “natural law” and the non-aggression axiom that cannot possibly be deduced from Scripture. One of the most glaring examples of this in Libertarian circles is Murray Rothbard’s argument defending the natural right of parents to starve their own children to death:

Applying our theory to parents and children, this means that a parent does not have the right to aggress against his children, but also that the parent should not have a legal obligation to feed, clothe, or educate his children, since such obligations would entail positive acts coerced upon the parent and depriving the parent of his rights. The parent therefore may not murder or mutilate his child, and the law properly outlaws a parent from doing so. But the parent should have the legal right not to feed the child, i.e., to allow it to die. The law, therefore, may not properly compel the parent to feed a child or to keep it alive. (Again, whether or not a parent has a moral rather than a legally enforceable obligation to keep his child alive is a completely separate question.) This rule allows us to solve such vexing questions as: should a parent have the right to allow a deformed baby to die (e.g., by not feeding it)? The answer is of course yes, following a fortiori from the larger right to allow any baby, whether deformed or not, to die.

Then “Mr. Libertarian” adds this reassuring parenthesis:

(Though … in a libertarian society the existence of a free baby market will bring such “neglect” down to a minimum.)

Now, listen, little Johnny, if Mommy and Daddy don’t starve you to death we can always sell you to the highest bidder so be sure to brush your teeth.  Sleep tight.

Isn’t the “libertarian society” wonderful.

If you study Rothbard’s horrific argument his conclusions logically follow from his premises inexorably. The inherent absurdity of the non-aggression principle is not lost on Matt Zwolinski writing at Libertiaranism.org, even if it is seemingly lost on those writing at the “Reformed Libertarian”:

It’s one thing to say that aggression against others is wrong. It’s quite another to say that it’s the only thing that’s wrong – or the only wrong that is properly subject to prevention or rectification by force. But taken to its consistent extreme, as Murray Rothbard took it, the NAP [the non-aggression principle] implies that there is nothing wrong with allowing your three year-old son to starve to death, so long as you do not forcibly prevent him from obtaining food on his own. Or, at least, it implies that it would be wrong for others to, say, trespass on your property in order to give the child you’re deliberately starving a piece of bread. This, I think, is a fairly devastating reductio of the view that positive duties may never be coercively enforced. That it was Rothbard himself who presented the reductio, without, apparently, realizing the absurdity into which he had walked, rather boggles the mind. – Six Reasons Libertarians Should Reject the Non-Aggression Principle

While there are many things attractive about Libertarianism to include its belief in limited constitutional government, the acceptance and adherence to Austrian economics as an approximation of biblical economics, and even the non-aggression principle if only as a crude measure to identify some examples of government overreach, what is troubling is there are a number of young Christian men, some even calling themselves Scripturalists, who don’t seem to realize that in their youthful infatuation with Libertarianism and the non-aggression axiom that they end up juggling two competing and mutually exclusive axioms.  That’s because the non-aggression axiom is grounded on “natural law” theory, whereas the precepts of  Christianity are grounded on the axiom of the Bible alone.  To confuse the two, or even to equate them, is a fatal error.  Besides, the very idea of natural law fails before it even starts, as Gordon Clark explains in his Essays on Ethics and Politics:

The theory of natural law commits a major logical blunder when it tries to deduce a normative conclusion from descriptive premises. No matter how carefully or how intricately one describes what men do, or what the provisions of nature are, or how natural inclinations function, it is a logical impossibility to conclude that this is or is not what men ought to do. The is never implies the ought. This criticism applies to all empirical theories.

John Robbins writing in Freedom and Capitalism calls this “Hume’s Gap.” As Robbins  explains:

Law is not something that can be discovered in nature; it must be and has been revealed by God. Christian law is supernatural law, not natural law. The phrase “natural law” itself is capable of so many interpretations that anyone who advocates nature law must expend a great deal of effort explaining what he means.

Ironically, Brandon Adams quotes this last sentence above in the introduction to his article yet didn’t seem to grasp its significance when he concluded that natural law and the law revealed in Scripture are one and the same. Which is weird since only a page later in the same chapter in Freedom and Capitalism Robbins argues;

One of the principle objections to any theory of natural law is that it fails to take into account the fact that nature is cursed and man depraved. Nature is not normative; it is abnormal.

The doctrine of total depravity and even the historicity of the Fall are things any group calling themselves “Reformed,” even “Reformed Libertarian” should positively affirm, yet any discussion of man’s fallen and cursed state is missing from Brandon’s examination of natural law in both his imagined “Greek” and “Hebrew” varieties.

So while there may be some superficial overlap with natural law theory and the non-aggression axiom with the Christian system when it comes to things like the command not to steal or murder, the similarities begin to break down in areas like suicide, infanticide, abortion, so-called “homosexual marriage,” the legitimacy of taxation, the role of government in the administering of justice, and the list goes on. Which makes sense, because if you start with different axioms you are going to end up with different systems, any accidental coincidence between the two notwithstanding.

Contrary to Brandon above, the appeal to natural law stands in stark contrast to the revealed law in Scripture and the two are mutually exclusive for the simple reason that there is no natural law.  As Robbins explains above the precepts revealed in Scripture are supernatural, not natural, and are not discoverable in any sense (no pun intended) by the study and observation of nature.  According to Robbins “natural law” is nothing but vanity and idolatry:

Is it not obvious that only Christianity can furnish a valid ethical system precisely because it does not proport to derive law from reason or experience? David Hume … has laid an ax to the root of all efforts to devise a valid system of ethics from human experience. It it not evident that we must go out of — or rather, Someone must break into — our world in order to give us law? Only propositional revelation — only commands from the Lawgiver — can provide us with the needed ethical guidance.  Gordon Clark has formulated the Christian ethical principle in four words: “God’s precepts define morality.” Jerome Zanchius wrote that God “did not therefore will such things because they were in themselves right and he was bound to will them; but they are therefore equitable and right because he wills them.”

Those professing Christians — the Romanists and the Arminans  — who believe that natural law theory is compatible with the Bible or is even taught in the Bible itself have not grasped the implications of the first two chapters of Romans. Paul there wrote that ‘when the Gentiles (who do not have the law) do by nature the things of the law, they are a law to themselves, showing the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness with them’ (Romans 2:14-15).

Romanists and Arminians illogically conclude from this passage that natural law theory is found in and sanctioned by the Bible. But Paul says that men suppress the truth in unrighteousness; they refuse to glorify God; they are ingrates, fools, and do not like to retain God in their knowledge. He is describing all Gentiles, that is, the natural law theorists, among others. So long as they are men and are the image of God, they are responsible for their actions. Men cannot, however, construct theories upon this innate information, for their intellects are depraved: “The carnal mind is enmity against God, for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be” (Romans 8:7). Could there be a better refutation of natural law theory than that? The Gentiles, Paul says, performed some of the deeds of the law, almost, as it were, by accident. They show the work of the law written on their hearts, Paul wrote. Thus many Gentiles have never murdered anyone. But while Aristotle may never have actually murdered anyone, he recommended abortion and infanticide, and attempted to prove the existence of a finite, ignorant, anchoretic god. While the Gentiles may perform the law, Paul does not say – he says the opposite – that they can advocate or expound the divine law.… Yet this suppression of the truth is overshadowed by the idolatry involved in elevating nature – or rather, Nature – to the position of lawgiver. Natural law theorists, rather than worshipping the Creator and obeying his law, worship the creature and attempt to discover her laws. Natural law theory is, in the final analysis, a form of idolatry. What has nature to do with law? Nothing. Law is God commanding.

 

Douma on Clark, Barth, and Van Til

Posted July 14, 2018 by Sean Gerety
Categories: Uncategorized

Here is a link to Doug Douma’s Gordon “Clark and Other Reformed Critics of Karl Barth.”  The piece is a sweeping and excellent review and analysis of Gordon Clark’s, Karl Barth’s Theological Method.  I say sweeping because in the review Douma doesn’t limit himself to Clark’s book or even other Reformed critics of Barth. Douma explains:

barthIn comparing Clark’s critique of Barth with those made by other Reformed theologians, especially Cornelius Van Til, I intend to demonstrate (1) that Clark’s critique can be differentiated from the others in the importance he places on proper logic, (2) that despite Van Til’s opposition to Barth’s theology, Clark had good reasons to contend that Van Til, in fact, fell into some of the same errors, and (3) that the Westminster Confession of Faith, which Clark subscribed to as an ordained Presbyterian minister, has proven to be a considerable bulwark against Barthianism.

I think the most important paragraph in the whole piece is this:

The problems here, as much for Van Til’s view as for Barth’s, include (1) the inability to distinguish between apparent contradictions caused by exegetical mistakes and apparent contradictions supposedly inherent in the Scriptures, (2) the destruction of any claim of Christianity’s superiority to other systems based on its demonstrated consistency, and (3) the destruction of the central biblical hermeneutical principle of comparing Scripture passages with other Scripture passages based on the assumption of non-contradiction. Van Til’s doctrine of paradox, like Barth’s, is destructive to the entire enterprise of exegesis and Christian doctrine.

Point 2 above is a particularly damning implication of Van Til’s apologetic that most people miss, yet a point that Vantilian James Anderson explicitly concedes in his Paradox in Christian Theology. Christianity has nothing to say in response to the inconsistencies of competing non-Christian systems. This is a major blow to Van Til’s presuppositionalism.

Another point Douma examines is that while Reformed confessionalism is a bulwark against Barthianism, Vantilianism fails because it is at odds with the WCF particularly WCF 1. Not sure why Van Til’s followers have trouble even identifying this since it is so painfully black and white.

Finally, I also appreciate this review because of how well Douma deals with and explains Clark’s criticisms and even his approval in places of Barth. I confess I found Clark’s book when I read it probably the most difficult one for me to get my mind around. I’m sure that part of the reason for my difficulty was due to my unfamiliarity with Barth and the other reason because I read it while on vacation in the Outer Banks (I’ve since learned to stick to crime novels and other light fiction while on vacation).

I should point out that Douma is currently looking to have his article published and warns that it may not be available on his blog for too long.  I hope he succeeds because it deserves a wider audience.

Scripturalism and the Cessation of Continued Revelation

Posted April 27, 2018 by Sean Gerety
Categories: Uncategorized

Lots of good citations and hard to find Clark quotes … but it does make the case.

A Place for Thoughts

Does Scripturalism allow for the possibility of continued revelation?

Outline
I. Definitions
A. The cessation of continued revelation
B. Scripturalism

II. Continued Revelation contradicted by:
A. The Westminster Confession of Faith
B. Clark’s own comments.
C. Clark’s disciples.
1. John Robbins
2. W. Gary Crampton
3. Robert L. Reymond

III. A Scripturalist Continuationist?

IV. The Incompatibility of Continuationism and Scripturalism
A. Response 1 and rebuttal – Something Other than Knowledge?
B. Response 2 and rebuttal – Knowledge in Heaven
C. Response 3 and rebuttal – Private Knowledge and Assurance

Conclusion

Does Scripturalism allow for the possibility of continued revelation?
I. Definitions
A. The cessation of continued revelation
The doctrine of cessation of continued revelation — that God has ceased revealing additional knowledge to man following the completion of the canon of Scripture — is an element of “cessationism.” Cessationism can also refer to (1) the cessation of all miracles and/or…

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