Taking One To The Face

Posted October 21, 2017 by Sean Gerety
Categories: Uncategorized

punch

John Piper’s departure from the central doctrine of the Christian faith even justification by belief alone has a long history, but the recent flurry of articles and rebukes and counter-rebukes has been particularly interesting.  If you haven’t been following this debate and actually have a life off the Internet and social media, here is a good list of articles on the subject that provide a some of the debate trajectories.  Frankly, and regardless of what you might think of John Piper, this ongoing debate is a good thing.  As Paul wrote in his letter to the Galatians; “… if we or even a well-respected evangelical rock star should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, let him be accursed!”

There are a few other articles that are not on the above list that I think are noteworthy, specifically Rachel Miller’s “Back To the Reformed Confessions and Catechism” and Philip Comer’s “Piper, ‘Final Salvation’ and Reformed Baptists.”  The latter is particularly good because the author draws an analogy of chocolate ice cream mixed with dog poop that leaves the appropriate bad taste in the mouth.

Of course, all the salvos haven’t been going in one direction. There has been a lot of incoming mortars too from the legions of Piper’s defenders.  Probably the most noteworthy and visible have come from PCA pastor Mark Jones writing at The Calvinist International.  Jones does an impressive job of quote mining various Reformed theologians throughout history to create the impression that Piper’s doctrine of initial justification by faith alone and final justification by faith and works has a long Reformed pedigree.  However, my favorite part about Jones’ piece is that he begins by asserting that if you don’t agree with him then you’re an intellectual dolt in desperate need of a theological spanking.  Must be the Dale Carnegie technique:

… if you write blog posts taking issue with Piper on this particular topic, but claim to be Reformed, you probably need to spend some time getting theological training and then, after that, publishing via peer-reviewed journals, books, etc., before you can be taken seriously. And even then, it’s possible that you could have such a built-in bias against someone that you’d find a problem with them for saying “Jesus loves sinners.”

Ouch!

Jones’ most recent volley was to challenge one of Piper’s most well-known critics, Westminister Theological Seminary in California professor, R. Scott Clark to a debate.  Jones even promises to fly down to beautiful Escondido on his own dime and debate Clark “on his own turf.” If nothing else, Jones is a scrappy fellow. What I particularly liked about Jones’ gauntlet was that it begins by reminding everyone once again of just how smart he is:

I believe my own writings on the Puritans, Christ, and Reformed orthodoxy are fully consistent with the Westminster Standards. The Westminster Standards are documents I have given my Christian life to studying and trying to master as far as I am able. I do not take a single exception, which my Presbytery can confirm.

And, yes, the above link to his “writings” on his own Amazon page was included in his original piece and it is a very impressive collection by any standard. Needless to say, Jones isn’t shy about self-promotion.

Yet, almost missed in all the chest thumping and resume writing was a comment by John Lewis buried at the bottom of Jones’ initial defense of Piper’s doctrine of salvation by faith and works. Lewis, who identifies himself as “a very young Christian, 70 years old, saved at the age of 61,” notes that Piper (and Jones) have “took something not all that difficult … and made it quite confusing.”  Thankfully, someone who didn’t miss Lewis’ comment was Chris Gordon, a pastor at the Escondido United Reformed Church, writing on a blog called The Gordian Knot. Gordon delivers one of the most stunning rebukes of a fellow pastor that I have ever read.  Here is just a taste:

Mark Jones has made this all the more clear for us; good works are necessary for your salvation. As Dr. Jones says, Zanchius said it, Mastricht said it, Goodwin said it, Owen said it, Twisse said it, and Ursinus said it. This is not difficult, if you are going to take issue with John Piper, you “need to spend some time getting theological training and then, after that, publish via peer-reviewed journals, books, etc., before you can be taken seriously.”

And, according to Jones, if you are not “thoroughly acquainted” with the plethora of past distinctions between things like dispositiva (that’s Latin), the right versus the possession in the necessity of good works for salvation, then “you have no business writing” (or speaking I assume) on this topic.

If that isn’t enough to shut it down, it gets even better. Now Dr. Jones has proposed a disputation with Dr. R. Scott Clark. He will fly down to Escondido on his own dime and debate these fine distinctions for the good of the church. Since things have reached a “hysterical pitch” the disputatio will be the solution. If not, then people should stop tweeting and be called out for questioning anyone who says that good works are necessary for salvation.

If I had the space and time, especially observing that this month we celebrate the 500th year anniversary of the Reformation, this would be a good moment it interject the story of Martin Luther. The little known Augustinian monk who questioned Rome who said good works were necessary for salvation, and after a series of disputationes, he was put on trial, excommunicated, his works burned, and he was threatened to “go to the flames” since he had no business questioning the theological giants and the church. But I digress.

But, the crux of Gordon’s castigation is the confusion Jones has sown in the minds of Christ’s sheep, specifically in the mind of 70-year-old John Lewis.  I also encourage you to read the exchange between Chris Gordon and Mark Jones in the comment section to his blog.

My one criticism of this scathing and excellent piece is that instead of encouraging a debate with R. Scott Clark, Gordon pleads with Jones to “fly on your own dime to see John Lewis and pastorally help him since now he is confused about these matters.”  Adding, “We are always forced to more clarity as pastors when we are looking at real, dying people and explaining salvation to them. ”

While I can understand pastor Gordon’s sincere and heartfelt concern for one of Christ’s precious and now confused sheep, it seems to me that Jones has done enough damage to the body of Christ already.  My advice to Jones is to shut up stay home.

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John Piper – Heading For the Cliff

Posted October 11, 2017 by Sean Gerety
Categories: Uncategorized

pied-piper-of-fake-news

John Piper has doubled down on his doctrine of justification by faith and works.  John Robbins first alerted the world about Piper’s rejection of the law/Gospel distinction in his review of Piper’s abysmal Future Grace back in 2002.  Today, Tim Shaughnessy and Timothy Kauffman, the team over at Bible Thumping Wingnuts, have raised the alarm again citing a very recent piece where Piper answers the question, “Does God Really Save Us by Faith Alone?”  Anyone familiar with John Robbins’ review of Future Grace should not be surprised that Piper answers this central question of the Christian faith in the negative. Piper writes:

In justification, faith receives a finished work of Christ performed outside of us and counted as ours — imputed to us. … In final salvation at the last judgment, faith is confirmed by the sanctifying fruit it has borne, and we are saved through that fruit and that faith. (emphasis Wingnuts)

It is important to understand that Piper is not talking about some future reward bestowed on believers on the day of judgment (see Mathew 25:23 and 1 Corinthians 3:11-15). It’s also not as if Piper is saying that we are saved so that we might do good works as Paul explains in Ephesians 2:10.  Piper is crystal clear.  We do good works so that we might be saved.  Our eternal blessedness hangs in the balance. Adding the word “final” to salvation doesn’t change the math. Belief or faith starts the process of salvation but works done through faith finish it.  Piper attempts to draw a distinction between being accounted as righteous through belief in Christ alone in justification and being made fit for heaven on the basis of our works.  But, what good is the justification we receive through belief in Jesus Christ’s finished cross-work if our salvation ultimately rests on our works as well? What has Jesus’ life and death really accomplished? It seems for Piper Jesus only enables us to be saved.  He didn’t accomplish it.  For that, we must all do our part.  I am hard pressed to see the difference between the Roman Catholic doctrine of justification by faith and works with the one being advanced by Piper … as the Wingnuts correctly explain.

On Hurricanes, Karma and the Providence of God

Posted September 15, 2017 by Sean Gerety
Categories: Uncategorized

If you don’t already subscribe to Steve Matthews’ blog, Lux Lucet, you definitely should.  A great mix of politics, religion, and theology. – SG

Lux Lucet

HurricaneSurvivalGuide“I don’t believe in instant Karma but this kinda feels like it for Texas. Hopefully this will help them realize the GOP doesnt (sic) care about them.” Thus tweeted sociology professor Ken Storey shortly after Hurricane Harvey had ravaged Texas. This raises the question, just what were the sins of Texas that called for such dreadful punishment? Apparently, it was the voters of Texas’ decision to support Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election. Shortly after his unfortunate tweet, Storey was fired from his teaching position at the University of Tampa.

As a Christian, I reject the mechanistic concept of Karma. But I do find it supremely ironic that, even as I write this post, Hurricane Irma is ravaging the gulf coast of Florida, the very region where the city of Tampa is located and, presumably, where Ken Storey makes his home. But unlike the good professor, I take…

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Reflections on the Christian Apologetics of Gordon H. Clark – E. Calvin Beisner

Posted August 31, 2017 by Sean Gerety
Categories: Uncategorized

cal

[This paper was originally delivered as a lecture at an apologetics conference at Branch of Hope Orthodox Presbyterian Church, Torrance, California, October 23, 2015.]

I’m going to focus today pretty exclusively on Gordon Clark’s epistemology. Clark believed Christian apologetics must address not only matters of theological prolegomena (the existence and nature of God, the inspiration and authority of Scripture, the historicity of Biblical persons and events, especially of Jesus Christ and His bodily resurrection, etc.) but also the implications of the Christian faith—that is, the teaching of Scripture on—every aspect of human life, private and public, personal and social. For he believed that Scripture does have implications for all aspects of life, and that because it does, it is important to defend those implications against attacks just as it is to defend what most would see as its more prominent doctrines. He wrote over 40 books (including a systematic theology the manuscript of which was only discovered in about the last year, which his grandson now hopes to get published and which I expect I shall read with great relish), many articles, and many lectures, addressing every branch of philosophy, plus history, various divisions of natural science, economics, ethics, politics, and more, and though I personally find everything he wrote fascinating, it would be impossible to treat the broad spectrum of his thought even tolerably, let alone well, in a single short lecture.

For this lecture, therefore, I think it most profitable to confine ourselves to his epistemology, which is probably the aspect of his thought that has been the most divisive in broader Christian circles because of his presuppositionalism, and in narrower Reformed circles because of his disagreements with and critiques of the epistemologies of Herman Dooyeweerd and, more prominently and importantly in American Reformed circles, Cornelius Van Til.

I will not try to document all or even many of my descriptions of Clark’s thought by specific quotations from his work. I’ve written this lecture as one who studied Clark intently for about fifteen years, from the late 1980s to the early 2000s, but whose attention has for the last dozen years or so been on quite different matters. So instead what I’ll give you here is more what I as a serious student of Clark perceive on reflection at some distance to have been the most important epistemological lessons I learned from him. It is entirely possible, therefore, that some of what I say might more accurately describe his impact on my thinking than his own thinking per se. If that is so, it won’t be the first time a great thinker’s disciple has succumbed to some revisionism—not even the first time for a disciple of a famous Reformed presuppositionalist.  Read the rest of this post »

Repenting of Nothing

Posted June 13, 2017 by Sean Gerety
Categories: Doug Wilson, Heresies

Dragon-Lady

Last night a friend messaged me letting me know that supporters of Doug Wilson are claiming Wilson is no longer affiliated with the Federal Vision and to continue to label him as a Federal Visionist is unwarranted and generally not nice.  I admit that was news to me and frankly nothing could make me happier to learn that Wilson has rejected the central tenets of this aberrant, deadly and anti-Christian theology and has now embraced the unvarnished truth of the Gospel. His scales have been removed, hallelujah!  However, being generally skeptical of sudden conversions, although knowing from Scripture that they can and do occur, I asked for some proof or a link recounting Wilson’s road to Damascus moment.  So my friend sent me a link to a piece on Wilson’s blog titled; Federal Vision No Mas.  Encouraged by the Roberto Durán surrender reference, I read the piece.

Reading it I had the sense that I had read it before.  Turns out I did, albeit secondhand on Lane Keister’s Greenbaggins blog.  Lane wrote that Wilson “is not retracting his theology. He is retracting what he would call or label his theology.”  The sum total of Wilson’s conversion is that he no longer identifies with the Federal Vision.  Given that we live in an age where a man can “identify” as a woman or even a reptile, Wilson seems to think he can slither away from the Federal Vision while still affirming its theology.  Sorry, Doug, it doesn’t work like that.

Explaining why he no longer wants to identify with the Federal Vision Wilson writes:

Everybody knew (or thought they knew) what that phrase [Federal Vision] represented. Since I certainly owned the phrase, albeit with modifiers, and lots of energetic typing, what happened was that I was thought to be owning what people knew as this. But the more I typed that, the more it made people’s heads hurt. So one of the few things I have been successful at doing is persuading a number of people that I am a sly fellow, and one who bears close watching. Heretics are slippery with words, and since I have spent a lot of time trying to grease this particular piglet, I must be a heretic.

While I can certainly understand why a heretic wouldn’t want to be known as one, and I suspect that particular epithet has started to hurt Wilson’s bottom line hence his feigned mea culpa, the irony is that he continues to use an almost endless stream of slippery words to explain why and how he is no longer a Federal Visionist; none of which are very convincing.  Pay close attention to just some of Wilson’s slippery words:

This is because—I am now convinced—it is not the case that there is this thing called federal vision, with how much of it you actually get wired up to a dimmer switch. I believe it is a false analogy to say that I am a 7 on this switch, and Jim Jordan, say, is a 9.

Coming to this recognition does not mean that I am now disclaiming all commonality with my friends in the federal vision, even over against what many other believers in other traditions believe. Lutherans and Baptists both believe in the deity of Christ and in justification by faith alone—but Lutherans are still Lutherans all the way down. The same goes for Baptists. Baptists are Baptists all the way down. A federal vision advocate is FV all the way down. I am something else all the way down, and I believe that the terminology is getting in the way of making important distinctions.

So the views I hold to are a different kind of thing from what is represented in the common understanding of the federal vision, and the differences involved are connected to everything. They are a different kind of thing, not a lesser amount of the same thing. Thus when I speak of the objectivity of the covenant—which I will still continue to do—this is not a lite version of what someone else might mean by it.

Wilson says he differs from Federal Visionists like James Jordan “all the way down,” but at the same time continues to affirm “commonality” with his FV friends to include his so-called “objective” view of the covenant where the magic waters of baptism in conjunction with the mystical mumbling of some quasi-priestling-pretend-Protestant renders a person “elect” if only for a time.  But that commonality doesn’t stop there. Wilson assures his readers; “I would still want [sic] affirm everything I signed off on in the Federal Vision statement ….”  So, Wilson continues to affirm the Joint Federal Vision Profession but no longer wants to be considered a Federal Visionist?  Huh?  Not sure how that’s supposed to work.

While there are a number of problematic things with the FV statement, including the affirmation of covenantal nomism, the one thing that has always stood out for me was their description of saving faith:

We deny that the faith which is the sole instrument of justification can be understood as anything other than the only kind of faith which God gives, which is to say, a living, active, and personally loyal faith. Justifying faith encompasses the elements of assent, knowledge, and living trust in accordance with the age and maturity of the believer.” (JFVP, p. 6, emphasis mine)

Not to unpack all the slippery words above or revisit how they have been used by defenders of the FV, most proficiently by Wilson himself, PCA pastor Wes White sums up their view of saving faith this way:

Now, notice that last phrase, “personally loyal faith.” Here’s how dictionary.com defines loyalty:

1. The state or quality of being loyal; faithfulness to commitments or obligations.
2. Faithful adherence to a sovereign, government, leader, cause, etc.

They tried to slip one past us by using the word “loyal” instead of “faithful,” but it means basically the same thing. Faithfulness to commitments and faithful adherence, according to the Federal Visionists, is included in the “sole instrument of justification.” This is justification by faithfulness, justification by obedience, and justification by works. This is a rejection of the sola fide of the Reformation.

Rather than affirming the so-called “objectivity of the covenant” and the Joint Federal Vision Profession which was authored by Wilson, he should reject and renounce these things.  That is what he needs to retract and not some nonsense about not taking his “responsible” and “fair-minded” critics like “Rick Phillips, Cal Beisner, and Richard Gaffin” more seriously and apologizing for lumping them in with the “irresponsible ones” (I’m sure he has people like yours truly in mind). Or, complaining that Peter Leithart’s “end of Protestantism” project is something he can’t go along with.  None of that matters and none of that is enough to separate him from the house he built.

God said through Jeremiah: “Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots? Then also you can do good who are accustomed to do evil.”  Wilson may not be happy with the long-term (financial?) consequences from his long association and defense of the Federal Vision, but he has no more ability to wipe this stain from his character than the “transgender dragon man” can repair his forked tongue with super glue or remove his tattooed scales with Palmolive and a dish rag.

 

Scripturalism and the Cessation of Continued Revelation

Posted May 3, 2017 by Sean Gerety
Categories: Theology

faithhealer

In his voluminous online writings Cheung calls cessationism (1) blasphemy, (2) heresy, (3) false doctrine, (5) unbiblical, (6) Satan’s ultimate protection, (7) the master heresy, (8) evil and dangerous, (9) incompatible with Christianity, (10) more dangerous and destructive than the heresies of the charismatics, (11) demonic, (12) a counter-Christian religion, (13) the reverse Gospel, (14) an anti-Apostolic cult, (15) the cessation of faith in God, (16) as serious and sinister as any heresy, (17) the great apostasy, (18) transgression, (19) not a doctrine to be argued about but a sin to be repented of, (20) amounting to preaching another Gospel, (21) one big middle finger in the face of Jesus, (22) among other heresies embraced by the Reformed tradition, (23) polytheism, (24) heathenism, (25) a revival of ancient polytheism and heathenism, and (26) the easiest and laziest of fake religions.

Source: Scripturalism and the Cessation of Continued Revelation

Bible Thumping Wingnuts

Posted April 27, 2017 by Sean Gerety
Categories: Uncategorized

Bible-Thumping-Wingnut-Logo

Yep, that’s their name and this is their interview of Doug Douma, author of the new Gordon Clark biography:  CLICK HERE

 


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