John Robbins Quick Quote

Posted August 3, 2019 by Sean Gerety
Categories: Uncategorized

john-robbins

I have been thinking this week how the knee-jerk reaction to Gordon Clark’s simple definition of faith and saving faith is often misconstrued as some sort of “easy-believism.” For Clark, belief is the assent to an understood proposition. Saving belief is the assent to the understood propositions of the Gospel. What differentiates the two is not some additional psychological disposition or state of mind wrought in the believer thereby making the one saving and the other not. Instead, the difference between genuine saving belief from the non-saving very ordinary and ubiquitous variety (everyone believes an untold number of things from the mundane to the profound), is the meaning attached to the declarative sentences believed, or, simply, the propositions themselves. This isn’t to say that the one who understands and assents to the propositions of the Gospel won’t evidence their beliefs by their actions ala’ James 2, they will. Rather, it is to say that the act of believing itself is what saves a man and unites him to Christ as “the alone instrument of justification” and not the accompanying life the believer will necessarily lead — or struggle to lead — as a result.

In the answer to the question “What is Justifying Faith” the Westminster Confession Larger Catechism 72 makes this crystal clear.

Here is what Q. 72 says:

Justifying faith is a saving grace, wrought in the heart of a sinner by the Spirit and word of God, whereby he, being convinced of his sin and misery, and of the disability in himself and all other creatures to recover him out of his lost condition, not only assents to the truth of the promise of the gospel, but receives and rests upon Christ and his righteousness, therein held forth, for pardon of sin, and for the accepting and accounting of his person righteous in the sight of God for salvation.

Now, consider the following explanation Dr. Robbin gave to Alan Strange in a letter he submitted to the OPC’s New Horizons magazine which they refused to publish:

Question 72 does indeed have a contrast in mind, but it is not contrasting assent with “receiving and resting,” as Dr. Strange mistakenly supposes. There are two reasons Dr. Strange’s contrast cannot be correct.

First, “receiving and resting” are figures of speech, and “assenting” is literal language. “Receiving and resting” mean “assenting.” Dr. Strange has made the common theological error of taking a figure of speech as literal. Incidentally, that is why he fails to offer any definition of “receiving and resting” that differentiates them from assent. In fact, they are not different, but metaphorical expressions of the literal word, “assent.”

The second reason that Q. 72 is not contrasting “assenting” with “receiving and resting” is that the authors of the Westminster Standards have a different contrast in mind. Reading the Standards with subjectivist presuppositions, Dr. Strange supposes they are contrasting differing psychologies of faith (assent vs. receiving and resting), when they are actually contrasting the truths believed. Psychology was not on the minds of the Westminster Assembly, but making clear what truths had to be believed in order to be saved was. Dr. Strange forgets that the word “faith” has two distinct meanings, one objective and one subjective. The Standards are contrasting belief in the “promise of the Gospel,” that is, in the truth of eternal life, with belief in the “righteousness [of Christ] for pardon of sin, and the accepting and accounting of his person righteous.” They are making clear that the sinner must not only believe in (assent to) salvation from sin and eternal life (which they call the “promise of the Gospel”), but that he must also believe in (assent to) the imputed righteousness of Christ in order to be saved. Their concern is that the proper object of faith is believed, not that some undefined and nebulous mental state must be added to belief in order to make it efficacious. Their message is that belief in eternal life and pardon from sin is not saving faith, but to that must be added belief in Christ and his righteousness as the sole means of obtaining eternal life.

The Westminster Standards clearly teach that the object of faith, Christ and his imputed righteousness, not our subjective mental state, is what saves us. Dr. Strange, like so many today, reads the Westminster Standards with his subjectivist glasses on, and thereby misses and misrepresents what they teach.

Therefore, Dr. Strange is completely wrong when he asserts that “Clark is clearly not within the Reformed tradition in defining faith itself as knowledge and assent alone.” Not only is Clark clearly within that tradition, but he is also the most accurate reporter of what Scripture teaches about saving faith. All your readers should read his book for themselves. [emphasis mine]

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The Justification That Doesn’t Justify

Posted July 10, 2019 by Sean Gerety
Categories: Uncategorized

thirsting

There was a time when perhaps John Piper could be given the benefit of the doubt when it came to how sinners can stand justified before a righteous and holy God. I recall in 2002, long before the Piper/Wright debates, when John Robbins’ scathing review of Piper’s book Future Grace came out there were howls across the internet decrying Robbins for attacking such a prominent, respected and faithful Christian pastor and teacher. After all, in his review, Pied Piper, Robbins wrote:

Piper proclaims: “I am hard pressed to imagine something more important for our lives than fulfilling the covenant that God has made with us for our final salvation” (249). Consider his words carefully. Piper does not mean that the work of Christ in perfectly fulfilling the covenant on behalf of his people is the most important thing he can think of for our final salvation; he says that we personally, or as he says, “experientially,” fulfill the covenant on our own behalf, and that our fulfillment of the covenant is the most important thing for our final salvation. We ourselves “fulfill the covenant that God has made with us for our final salvation.” Furthermore, keep in mind his description of “future grace”: “the heartstrengthening power that comes from the Holy Spirit…is virtually the same as what I mean by future grace.” Therefore, if we fulfill the conditions required of us, if we obey the covenant, then God will give us “the heart-strengthening power that comes from the Holy Spirit,” and we will be saved. This is not the Gospel. It is a pious fraud.

While others have been very slow in identifying the false gospel of John Piper, Robbins was more than a decade ahead of the game (he often was) and was grossly reviled and dismissed at the time and since because of it.

I mean, people will sometimes ask wasn’t Piper the man who confronted and successfully challenged N.T. Wright over the doctrine of justification? Wasn’t Piper the champion of the historic Reformed doctrine of justification over against the New Perspectives novelties of Wright? Well, was he? I’ll admit I may have read one or two pieces by Piper and Wright at the time of their public debate and controversy, but as I’ve mentioned elsewhere I have never cared very much for Piper or paid him that much attention. I’ve always found his writings obscurant, flowery and overly effeminate. Not my cup of tea.

However, according to a short summary of their debate published in Christianity Today, while there are differences between Piper and Wright to be sure, when it comes to the question of how one gets into heaven, what CT categorize as”Future Justification,” the two men are eerily similar and are even in agreement.

Piper:

Present justification is based on the substitutionary work of Christ alone, enjoyed in union with him through faith alone. Future justification is the open confirmation and declaration that in Christ Jesus we are perfectly blameless before God. This final judgment accords with our works. That is, the fruit of the Holy Spirit in our lives will be brought forward as the evidence and confirmation of true faith and union with Christ. Without that validating transformation, there will be no future salvation.

Wright:

Present justification is the announcement issued on the basis of faith and faith alone of who is part of the covenant family of God. The present verdict gives the assurance that the verdict announced on the Last Day will match it; the Holy Spirit gives the power through which that future verdict, when given, will be seen to be in accordance with the life that the believer has then lived.

Given the above Piper is hardly the champion and hero of the historic Christian faith even in his conflict with N.T. Wright. When it comes to the question of how can a sinner get into heaven Piper and Wright are basically on the same page which makes their other differences merely cosmetic. Let’s face it, if justification by faith alone is not what gets you into heaven and only makes “final justification” possible, then Luther and the entire Reformation were wrong and Rome was right.

Today, and particularly after the sermon Piper preached in 2017 entitled, “Faith Alone How (Not) to Use a Reformed Slogan ,” only the willfully blind Piper fan-boy (or someone who similarly believes in justification by faith and works) can defend Piper much less identify him as a faithful Christian pastor and teacher. Not that Piper has said anything new it’s just that he has rarely been quite so clear and unambiguous. Piper has left no more cover for his defenders to hide behind. As previously discussed on this blog (and by others like Tim Kaufman, Tim Shaughnessy, Carlos Montijo, Patrick Hines who have all extensively documented, discussed, and unpacked Piper’s false gospel and the implications of Piper’s use of the unbiblical and false theological category, “final salvation”), Piper does not believe all who are justified go to heaven. The justification which occurs when a person first believes only changes a person’s “position” relative to God from where final salvation/justification is merely possible. To survive God’s judgment on the last day and attain “final salvation,” works must be accompanied by this faith if one can ever hope to enter into heaven. A man will be called to point to his works done in Christ’s name and not to Christ alone in order to enter heaven.

Piper proclaims:

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.

It’s on the basis of faith plus works by which a believer will attain “final salvation.” We don’t enter into eternal rest and perfect fellowship with God on the basis of Christ’s work alone accomplished outside of ourselves on a cross almost 2000 years ago. It’s the fruit of sanctification that God works in us by faith that is the basis for our admittance into heaven. Piper is crystal clear and emphatic; “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.” So much for salvation by faith alone.

According to Piper justification which occurs by faith alone is a completely different theological category from how one gets into heaven. Piper insists, “we should not speak of getting to heaven by faith alone in the same way we are justified by faith alone.” Well, of course, we should speak of getting to heaven in the same way we are justified because to be justified is what gets you into heaven. That’s exactly what the word justification encompasses. Jesus said; “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. (John 5:254)” And, again in John 3:36a He says; “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life ….” There is no future judgment of the believer. According to Jesus justification is a present as well as a future reality for all believers. Eternal life is something the believer already possesses. The problem with Piper is that he doesn’t believe it. Piper is proclaiming to all who will listen that Jesus Christ’s perfect life and sacrificial and atoning death is not enough to get anyone into heaven. Tragically, we already know how that turns out for people like Piper and those who follow him (see Matthew 7:22,23)

Piper provides a justification that doesn’t justify.

With all that said, I recently came across a piece by Richard Phillips, “Five Arguments Against Future Justification According to Works” (part1, part2). Interestingly, Phillips is writing in response to N.T. Wright and any number of the five arguments apply equally to Piper (I know, how ironic). However, I was really struck by his third argument since it is an argument I haven’t seen raised in response to Piper “future salvation” but one I also think is devastating to his false gospel.

Argument #3: Believers will not stand for judgment on the basis of their own works. Even while acknowledging that our sins have already been judged at the cross, some will argue that we must still be justified by our good works. Their key passage is Romans 2:6-13, where Paul speaks of “the doers of the law” being justified (2:13). Reformed theology has classically regarded this passage as describing how religious people hope to be justified apart from Christ. In chapter 1, Paul wrote of the condemnation of pagan idolaters, but in chapter 2 he addresses the religious Jew. Paul warns them against the idea that the law – the Torah – saves them, because one is saved not merely by possessing the law but by keeping it. If you are trying to be justified by the law, Paul says, then you have to do it, not merely possess it. John Calvin explains of Romans 2:13: “The sense of this verse, therefore, is that if righteousness is sought by the law, the law must be fulfilled, for the righteousness of the law consists in the perfection of works.” [7] This is why Paul proceeds to make the point that “None is righteous, no, not one” (Rom. 3:10), and “by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin” (Rom. 3:20). The point of Romans 2:6-13 is to show those who seek to be justified by their works that they will have to keep the law perfectly, which Paul then shows they cannot hope to do. Given its clear context, Calvin comments on Romans 2:13, “Those who misinterpret this passage for the purpose of building up justification by works deserve universal contempt.” [8]

According to the vision of final judgment in Revelation 20:11-15, it is only those outside of Christ who will be judged according to their works. John says, “I saw the dead, great and small standing before the throne, and books were opened” (Rev. 20:12). The question is, “To whom does John refer when speaking of ‘the dead’?” On a simple reading, we might assume that he means everyone who had previously been dead prior to their resurrection, that is, all persons who ever lived. But on more careful consideration, we should realize that those who are resurrected to death are only those who are resurrected for eternal condemnation. Jesus noted two categories of persons resurrected in the future: some will be raised “to the resurrection of life,” whereas the wicked will rise “to the resurrection of judgment” (Jn. 5:29). Now, John says in the Revelation, “the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done” (Rev. 20:12). Here is the final judgment according to works, by which every man and woman outside of Christ will give an account before his holy judgment seat. But John mentions another book, by which those who are raised to life are justified: “If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire” (Rev. 20:15). By necessary inference, some are judged by their works and thrown into the lake of fire, and others are not condemned because their name is in the book of life.

Future judgment according to works thus involves only those whose names are not written in the book of life. Elsewhere in Revelation, this book is described as “the book of the life of the Lamb who was slain” (Rev. 13:8). It is not just the book of life, but the book of the life of Christ: the life granted to those named in the book comes from Christ through his death. Moreover, as Revelation 17:8 says, those names were written in the book of life “from the foundation of the world.” Thus we err in thinking that believers as justified on the basis of their own works, when the Bible insists that eternal life is grounded on Christ’s atoning death (contrary to N. T. Wright’s denial of solus Christus, see above), and that its recipients are determined according to God’s eternal predestination. Thus, those named for eternal life are those whose justification is based not on their own works but on the works of Christ. Those raised to death are judged according to their works; those whose names are written in the book of Christ’s life are not judged: as Jesus taught, whoever believes “does not come into judgment” (Jn. 5:24). Revelation 20:10-15 therefore shows two different categories of persons who are judged by two different standards (book of their own works vs. the book of the life of Christ), which results in two different eternal destinies. Thus judgment according to works is a future that only those outside of Christ must face.

A Great Way to Help a Great Organization

Posted May 2, 2019 by Sean Gerety
Categories: Uncategorized

amazon smile

I suspect many people who have read this blog over the years have benefitted from the work of the Trinity Foundation.  I know I have.  Without them, it is highly doubtful that any books by Gordon Clark would still be in print.  Plus, their Trinity Reviews provide a wealth of free material not to mention their huge selection of mp3 lectures that you can stream or download for free offered at their site.  In fact, I just downloaded the last three lectures today from Collection 7: Introduction to Christian Philosophy Thinking Biblically by John Robbins dealing with the World, the Flesh, and the Devil this morning to listen to while at the gym.  For those who are unfamiliar, not only was John Robbins the former president of the Trinity Foundation he also was an amazing mind and a great teacher who is greatly missed. (If anyone has never listened to a lecture by John Robbins or has been hesitant to even consider doing so since you’ve been told John was a big meanie or something silly like that, I highly recommend it.  You will be well fed).

Well, a couple of months ago I found a great way to support the ongoing work of the Trinity Foundation but I wanted to make sure it actually worked first before I posted it here. Even better you can recruit Jeff Bezos to help support the work of the Foundation by simply making all your Amazon purchases through Amazon Smile (smile.amazon.com).  Just add Trinity Foundation (be careful to choose the one located in Unicoi, TN and not some other organization with the same name) as your designated charity.  The only caveat is that you have to make sure you go to the Amazon Smile site and not the normal dull Amazon site to make your purchases.

My hope is that if enough people add Trinity Foundation to their Amazon Smile we could see the entire Gordon Clark signature series finally completed.

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

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

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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.”


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