When Justification By Faith Alone Isn’t

As the Federal Vision pressure cooker builds and the likelihood that the entire Louisiana Presbytery will be wiped from the PCA for their twice failure to rightly deal with the gross heresies of FV magnet, Steve Wilkins, the blogosphere has started to get inundated by a new wave of amateur Federal Vision apologists fresh from Moscow (Idaho, of course). The great thing about these neophytes to the FV wars is that they’re not nearly as circumspect or as skilled at deception as their teachers. Consequently, they express and defend their neoliberalism and false gospel in terms that even the most determined fence sitter can’t ignore (assuming there can be any left at this late date).

As an example, recently over at Greenbaggins(es) blog comments Pastor Gary Johnson served up this revealing quote from CREC FV minister and teacher Richard Lusk (former assistant pastor of Wilkins’ Auburn Avenue Presbyterian Church, PCA, in Monroe, Louisiana):

“Initial reception of the white garment is by faith alone; ongoing possion[sic] of the garment is MAINTAINED by faithful obedience…Their ‘whiteness’ before the Father’s throne is due solely to his death and resurrection. In this sense, the robes stand for initial justification. BUT this forensic justification cannot be seperated[sic] from the GOOD WORKS that MAKE THE SAINTS WORTHY OF THEIR NEW APPAREL. In others words, the poetic imagery points in the same direction as the theological prose of Paul (Rom.2:13) and James (2:14ff): those who will be vindicated in the end are those who have been faithfully obedient”

To the above I remarked that Lusk’s quote “is another in a long list of amazingly, openly heretical, anti-Christian statements coming from the FV men.” I then asked how can any man calling himself a Christian embrace such a man or even call him brother? Adding, “It constantly amazes me that any of these men are allowed to preach and teach in any Christian denomination. They belong to Rome heart and soul.”

In response to my only slightly veiled swipe at the otherwise excellent PCA FV Committee Report which for some reason assumes Federal Visionists like Rich Lusk above are our brothers in Christ, Wilsonista and Christ Church member Jeff Moss rushed to Lusk’s defense:

Now here’s the heart of the Lusk quote: “Initial reception of the white garment is by faith alone; ongoing possession of the garment is maintained by faithful obedience…Their ‘whiteness’ before the Father’s throne is due solely to his death and resurrection. In this sense, the robes stand for initial justification. but this forensic justification cannot be separated from the good works that make the saints worthy of their new apparel.”

In turn, what amazes me is how some of these Reformed apologists denounce paraphrases of Biblical passages as false teaching or heresy. Doug Wilson talked about apostates having been sanctified by the blood of the Covenant, and he was loudly criticized for this perversion of Reformed theology — but it turned out that he was quoting Hebrews 10:29. Now read the following statements and compare them to Lusk’s quote above:

“Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready.’ And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.“

“I have not found your works perfect before God. Remember therefore how you have received and heard; hold fast and repent…. You have a few names even in Sardis who have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with [Christ] in white, for they are worthy. He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments.”

Both of these are taken directly from the words of Christ and of the Apostle John in the book of Revelation. Now, Pastor Lusk says that “ongoing possession of the [white] garment is maintained by faithful obedience,” and that “the good works…make the saints worthy of their new apparel.” Compare these quotes with the words of God quoted above, and then tell me why you think Christians should be ashamed even to call Lusk a brother.

Of course, the heart of the Lusk quote is just as Pastor Johnson quoted him and with emphasis so no one could miss it:

“Initial reception of the white garment is by faith alone; ongoing possession of the garment is MAINTAINED by faithful obedience…”

Neither the writer of Hebrews or John in Revelation teach any such thing and that the ongoing possession of the “white garment” – the imputation and covering of Christ’s active and passive obedience – is maintained on the condition of our faithful obedience. The Scriptures nowhere teach the two-tier scheme of justification advanced by these shameful heretics and false teachers.

Like their brothers in Rome, the FV use Scripture as nothing more window dressing to prop up their false doctrines and create the illusion, for the willfully gullible, that these men are even remotely Christian.  So, in order to keep the ball of relevant anti-Christian Lusk quotes rolling, I shared this other gem previously cited on this blog:

Discipleship is not mere morality; it is a matter of what the apostle Paul calls the “obedience of faith” (or “faith’s obedience”; Rom. 1:5, 16:26). Faith and obedience are not two separate ways of relating to God, as though we had faith for justification and works for sanctification. Rather, faith-filled obedience is the holistic, full-orbed response to God’s grace that the gospel calls for and calls forth, by God’s Spirit. The obedience of faith is nothing less than eschatological life – the life of the new age, the life of the world to come, already experienced in some measure by virtue of our union with the resurrected and glorified Christ. The church, as a community of disciples, living under the sign of the cross and in the power of Christ’s Spirit, is a signpost pointing ahead and above to the world to come. The church, in short, is a colony of heaven on earth, living the life of the future in the present (Phil. 3:20-21). Most of our talk about the Christian life (and the church!) is far too mundane; we must envision grasping once again Paul’s eschatological consciousness that declares to the church body, “The new age has come! You are a new creation! Live accordingly!”

To this Wilsonita Moss replied:

What exactly is your objection to these statements? Do you believe, contra Lusk, that faith and obedience are “two separate ways of relating to God”? If so, then how would you relate to God in faith without obedience, or in obedience without faith?

While evidently not clear to Moss, what should be clear to every Christian is that Lusk conflates and confuses justification which is by belief alone apart from works with works, including works of obedience (evangelical or otherwise) done in sanctification. As the Confession makes clear Christians are justified because of Christ’s finished work completely outside of us and we are accounted as righteous “not for any thing wrought in [us], or done by [us], but for Christ’s sake alone: not by imputing faith itself, the act of believing, or any other evangelical obedience, to them as [our] righteousness; but by imputing the obedience and satisfaction of Christ unto [us] . . . .”

In contrast to the biblical and Confessional idea of justification, the logical and necessary distinction between justification and sanctification is completely obliterated in Lusk’s “eschatological consciousness.” In Lusk the message of the gospel is changed from a call to believing a message to “live accordingly.” If any man fails see any problem with this, my guess is there is a lot of purple robes and funny hats are in their future.

Undeterred, Moss continues to try to defend his friend Lusk’s anti-gospel of salvation by faith and works in a way that can only make those in the Roman church-state stand up and cheer; by appealing to James 2:

“But someone will say, ‘You have faith, and I have works.’ Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works” (James 2:18).

These are not two different ways of relating to God. There is one way of faith and obedience, faith that produces obedience, obedience grounded in faith.

The problem for FV men, as well as those trapped in the blood soaked abattoir of Rome, is that James is not arguing that works done by faith are necessary component or condition of justification or that works make faith “alive” or any such thing, but rather works are the result of the complete justification already received by belief alone. Works provide the evidence by which we — not God — may distinguish and judge genuine faith from the feigned (i.e., dead) variety. Our works of obedience contribute precisely nothing to our standing before God either now or in the Parousia. Again, in his New Age newspeak of “eschatological consciousness” Lusk transforms the message of the gospel from believe the truth and live to “live accordingly.” Lusk conflates and confuses faith and obedience, justification and sanctification, and in his scheme faith and works function as synonyms.

Moss confirms this false gospel of Lusk with the help of his mentor, pastor and teacher Doug Wilson, by providing this revealing commentary on James:

These are not two different ways of relating to God. There is one way of faith and obedience, faith that produces obedience, obedience grounded in faith. Is it possible that the hymn got it right?…”Trust and obey, trust and obey, for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus.”

“For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also” (2:26).

Here’s how the analogy works (and I’m grateful to Doug Wilson for pointing this out):

Body:Spirit::Faith:Works

that is,
body = faith
spirit = works

Faith without works is dead. Works without faith are dead, too. The body and the spirit belong together.

Here is the clincher. Lusk, like Moss’ pastor Doug Wilson, fails to understand the nature of belief or its relationship to works. These men think believing means doing and have simply redefined faith to include works. This is precisely how these charlatans can look you straight in the eye and affirm justification by belief alone while denying it at the same time. That’s because in their minds there is no such thing as belief alone.

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8 Comments on “When Justification By Faith Alone Isn’t”

  1. Machaira Says:

    “Initial reception of the white garment is by faith alone; ongoing possion[sic] of the garment is MAINTAINED by faithful obedience…Their ‘whiteness’ before the Father’s throne is due solely to his death and resurrection. In this sense, the robes stand for initial justification. BUT this forensic justification cannot be seperated[sic] from the GOOD WORKS that MAKE THE SAINTS WORTHY OF THEIR NEW APPAREL. In others words, the poetic imagery points in the same direction as the theological prose of Paul (Rom.2:13) and James (2:14ff): those who will be vindicated in the end are those who have been faithfully obedient”

    Sean,

    Had you not given the name of the author of the preceding quote, I would have thought that I was reading from the 6th session of Trent.

  2. magma2 Says:

    It is truly amazing that this kind of overt Romanism can even be up for debate, and is being debated within supposedly Reformed and Christian churches. On justification, Trent at least was honest in its rejection of the biblical doctrine. These men have improved on Rome in that they can, and with all sincerity, say they affirm justification by faith alone by simply redefining what they mean by faith. Even more diabolically clever is that they have used the traditional tri-fold definition which most seminarians accept in knee jerk fashion and hardly seem to notice the switch. Hopefully I’ll have a little more on that shortly God willing.

  3. Mark T. Says:

    Hi Sean,

    Over at Green Bagginses, some of the FV idiots have made hay out of the “brothers” line. I haven’t bothered to correct them precisely because for them it’s a point of manipulation and they’re not interested in correction. Anyway, for what it’s worth, here’s the statement straight from the PCA report: “The committee also affirms that we view NPP and FV proponents in the PCA as brothers in Christ.” (page 3, line 13 of the pdf)

    The qualification “in the PCA” clearly excludes all non-PCA members, which includes Rich Lusk, among others. Lusk bailed out of the PCA when he tried transferring from Louisiana Presbytery to Evangel Presbytery. Patrick Poole’s comments at Green Baggins earlier this year give a good summary of Lusk’s flee from accountability: here, here, here, here, and
    here.

    And I still remember when I read your line about “stolen minutes” I almost wet my pants. No one stole the minutes and if you look carefully at Wilson’s words you’ll see the dougspeak. He implies theft but he doesn’t say it because he knows it’s not true. But that’s a point for another thread.

    Hopefully this comment will pass with all the links.

  4. rgmann Says:

    “The committee also affirms that we view NPP and FV proponents in the PCA as brothers in Christ.” (page 3, line 13 of the pdf)

    Well, I, for one, do not consider NPP and FV proponents as “brothers in Christ,” whether they are in the PCA or not! Let them publicly repent and repudiate their false and heretical doctrines, and I’ll be glad to change my mind. Until that takes place, I must consider them enemies of the one true gospel of God’s grace.

  5. Machaira Says:

    Well, I, for one, do not consider NPP and FV proponents as “brothers in Christ,” whether they are in the PCA or not!

    Yes, it is difficult to say the least. Especially when you read things like the following:

    This summer I baptized a woman the same day that she professed faith. I organized a venue and did it in the afternoon so that she could receive the blessings of justification and the Spirit as soon as possible, in accordance with the apostolic pattern revealed in Acts. – Roger du Barry (a.k.a., Curate) – Green Baggins, Rescuing The Absolute Negative – post # 276

    http://greenbaggins.wordpress.com/2007/12/13/rescuing-the-absolute-negatives/#comment-41182

  6. magma2 Says:

    Good thing the PCA report is not binding or evidently we’d all have to leave. 😉 That du Barry quote is truly amazing. These men are in the wrong denomination (or I might be but just haven’t figured it out). I am optimistic about the PCA though. I couldn’t always say that, but the SJC’s action against the LA Pres gives me some hope.

  7. timharris Says:

    The thing that amazes me the most about the FVers is this refrain, “we’re just appealing to the Bible; we’re just saying what the Bible says.” As if the papists made no appeal to the Bible during the Reformation! Not to mention the audacity of implying that Reformed exegetes just haven’t really read their Bibles.

  8. Machaira Says:

    Tim,

    You’re absolutely right. On Monday of this week I downloaded the 2003 FV conference. I’m about two thirds of the way through and I can tell you that that is their constant gripe.


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