John Robbins Quick Quote

john-robbinsMonty Collier posted an interesting video blog on YouTube and I liked John’s quote so much I wanted to post it here.  It would be hard to find a more succinct refutation of Richard Gaffin’s errant existential theory of union with Christ.


Not only do the Scriptures teach a forensic view of soteriology (law, covenant, sin, righteousness, guilt, condemnation. justification, pardon, and adoption are all legal terms), but the Scriptures are neither mysterious nor mystical. God’s Word is not nebulous or unintelligible. The unintelligible notion of existential and experiential incorporation into Christ is foreign to Scripture.

There is a sense, actually two senses, in which the phrase “united to Christ” may be accurately and Biblically used. Both senses are quite distasteful to proponents of Neo-medievalism. Believers are united to Christ intellectually and legally. Intellectually, because “we have the mind of Christ,” that is, believers think and believe the same propositions Christ thinks, the propositions he has revealed in his Word. Legally, because Jesus Christ is the legal representative of and substitute for his people, the federal head of his race, as Paul argues at length in Romans 5. What Jesus Christ did in his life, death, and resurrection is imputed to believers, as if they had done it, and their sins are imputed to him as if he had done them. Believers do not die with Christ “existentially” or “experientially,” but legally. They do not possess Christ’s perfect righteousness “in the inner man.” Christ’s righteousness is imputed, not infused. His act and righteousness are legally, not experientially, theirs. Their sins are legally, not experientially, his. Christ’s suffering and death are imputed to believers, and we are freed from the penalty of death for our sins. By substituting “existential” and “experiential” union with Christ for the Biblical doctrines of intellectual and legal union, Gaffin has fabricated an entirely un-Biblical soteriology. Tragically, he has been indoctrinating future pastors in this heterodox nonsense for at least three decades. – “In Christ,” John Robbins.

Explore posts in the same categories: John Robbins, Theology

30 Comments on “John Robbins Quick Quote”

  1. Gus Gianello Says:

    When I first came across this clarification of “union with Christ” in “Not Reformed at All” by Robbins & Gerety, it revolutionized my thinking and lifted a very heavy burden. I have been trying to intellectualize the faith since I was 17. I was excommunicated from a Charismatic church for having an “intellectual demon”. Every since “church” I have been in, I got into trouble because I tried to understand the Christian faith, and could not bring myself to accept “mystery” as a legitimate category of Christian thinking.

  2. Gus Gianello Says:

    2nd part.

    I have been a Charismatic, Dispensationalist, Arminian, Reformed Charismatic, Theonomist, and Christian Reconstructionist. As well as mainstream “Reformed”, and I have found that no matter which congregation I was in, I was always resented, envied and regarded with suspicious, because I questioned. I made lots of bad conclusions, lots of times I ended up on the wrong side of a theological controversy. And I always condemned myself, thinking that I had failed. But, honestly, after all these years, and after studying and rereading Clark and Robbins until I understood every single position, I realize that that I was not the problem. The problem was the visible church. I did not fail the church–I was always sincere, teachable and willing to repent if anyone could show me I was wrong. No one ever bothered trying. All they ever did was condemn me, villify me, and slander me. To this day, I cannot join a “truly” Reformed denomination because of the slander that has been spread about me–and there’s nothing I can do about it.
    Why say all this? I am not crying over spilt milk, I am illustrating a very salient point. That point is that John Robbins felt very little sympathy for people, he just told it for the way it was. His clear no-nonsense approach to the truth of Scripture, rescued me from more years of agony.
    Union with Christ is a metaphor, it is not experiential, it is legal and epistemological. And the above excerpt of Robbins bleakly points up the fact, that in Reformed churches from east to west today, you can spend years listening to illiterate men (and women) in the pulpit spouting existential nonsense–and get skewered for daring to question a “mytery”.
    Have any of you read Ridderbos? Pages and pages of dense Dutch nonsense. How about the supposedly laudable Bavink who in some parts of his books is one step from being clinically insane?

    My conclusion, sharply and without mercy cut out anything from your life that is not fully rational in the fullest biblical sense of the Word, and submit to no one who claims the authority to teach the self-contradictory. There is enough insanity in the world, without the church adding its own version of religious insanity. I believe the legacy of Augustine, the Reformation, Gordon Clark and John Robbins, and others who follow in their footsteps is to call the church back to biblical reasonableness. And I have concluded that no one has the right to call himself a leader or a Christian who espouses lunancy.

    Gus Gianello

  3. qeqesha Says:

    “I was excommunicated from a Charismatic church for having an intellectual demon”.
    Hk Hk Hk Hk !!! You sure have had a lot of fun, GUS!!!!

    Matthew 5: 11 Blessed are ye when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. 12 Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.


  4. Monty L. Collier Says:

    Thanks for posting this,Sean.

    Have you guys seen the following vid?

  5. speigel Says:

    If only more theologians were as clear and biblical as Robbins, then the church wouldn’t be in the mess it’s in now.

    Sean, I read the TR for April 2009 which you wrote. Thank you for your work and truly letting us now where some of these churches are going. I hope to read you new book soon.

    As to Monty Collier: I was interested in your videos. But when I tried to look up more information on you, I found you stating that you are a teaching elder at Geneva Dutch Calvinist Church in Kingsport, Tennessee. I am wondering if you could provide more info on the church since I can find nothing of it online but I am interested in learning more about your church.


  6. Sean Gerety Says:

    Thanks. I didn’t know the April TR was out yet? Do you work at the Foundation?

  7. speigel Says:


    Maybe in a different time and place I would have worked at the Foundation, but sadly I don’t. I receive hardcopies of the TRs from the Foundation monthly. Someone at the Foundation decided to include in the envelope Crampton’s TR (for March) and yours (for April) along with a book order list.

    April’s TR noted that it was an excerpt from your upcoming book. I like how the name of your upcoming book will follow Robbin’s previous work on the OPC. It’s really good to see the Foundation still going on. God bless their (and your) work!

  8. Monty L. Collier Says:

    Thank you for your interest. Geneva Dutch Calvinist Church(GDCC) is very small, currently meeting in the houses of its members. We have three families at this time. We chose to identify as Dutch Calvinist in order to clearly distinguish ourselves from apostate PCUSA, PCA, and OPC churches in our area. All of the PCA and OPC churches in our area are supporters (morally or financially or both) of the Federal Vision heresy. The Triple Unity and Westminster Standards are taught to all of our members.

    Let me now say something about the internet. Some professing to be Reformed have recently accused GDCC of not existing, because they could not find GDCC when they googled it. We at GDCC find this amusing. As you may already know, criteria for existence simply does not depend upon being located during a google search.

    You can obtain my email from any of my videos on youtube.
    Sola Fide,
    Monty L. Collier

  9. Monty L. Collier Says:

    Below is some info on GDCC.

  10. Tim Harris Says:

    We would have to look at each passage in context, however, “existential” in Westminster literature often identifies which of a three-fold distinction of redemption is being identified– the eternal decretal/covenantal, the historical accomplishment, and the personal appropriation in our time, the latter being identified as “existential.”

  11. Sean Gerety Says:

    Did you read Robbins’ entire piece Tim?

  12. Tim Harris Says:

    At the time no, but now I have. Same issue.

  13. Sean Gerety Says:

    Then I guess I can’t help you since I guess I have no idea what you mean by “Westminster literature” that so defines the term “existential.” However, Robbins remarks still stand since “the personal appropriation in our time” is still legal and intellectual. Which, for a Vantillian, I thought that would have been right up your alley, thinking God’s thoughts after him and all.

    I’m also hard pressed to see how any of this relates to Gaffin’s idea of existential union which intentionally overthrows the Reformed ordo salutis. Maybe we should stick with Gaffin’s definition and go from there.

  14. Ben Buskey Says:

    Great quote. I am dealing with this currently with a few guys at our church and will look up the whole TR. Thanks

  15. Eric Broch Says:

    “As you may already know, criteria for existence simply does not depend upon being located during a [G]oogle search.”

    Great point Monte!!! Further, just because the Government ‘establishes’ which is the true church through tax exempt status doesn’t mean it is; nor, is a seminary that has been accredited by the Government necessarily Christian.

  16. Eric Broch Says:

    Oh boy! Another cunning and nebulous term, ‘personal appropriation.’

    I guess the word ‘believe’ which God actually uses in the Bible has just gone out of style, and God’s base language is beneath people of our spiritual caliber. God is just not as spiritual as we’d like Him to be.

  17. ray Says:

    red beetle…. it’s been a while since I last seen a post from you … last time I think was on the or 5 solas website a few years back. Great to see your literature on line.

    Your website was the first time I could hear Gordon Clark rip Vantil and Frame and Shepherd on their philosophy and doctrine …

  18. Rev Dr Jan Grey Says:

    Monty Collier, I have read some of the stuff you put out on the net. I want to ask you a favour: Kindly give us a video where you yourself do “battle” with the likes of John Piper. We want to see what you look like. John Piper is out in the open … always available to comment on almost anything, a sincere learned “man of God”. Where have you studied? What formal, accepted Calvinistic education underwrite your views? Is it universally accredited? It takes more than just a faceless attack from out of the dark to convince serious readers … I hope so! I’ve always hated anonymous commentaries and I still do. Give me/us your repertoire as I am doing down below.

    Rev Dr Jan (John) Grey, Dutch Reformed Church of South Africa, Afrikaans Christian Church of Australia. Studied at the University of Pretoria: B.A. (T.H.E.D.); B.A. (Admission); B.D; Licenciate Theology and at the University of South Africa (UNISA) a worldwide correspondence University for D.Th. = Doctor of Theology. All exams are done orally by Lecturers and is followed up with a written/printed doctoral thesis.

  19. Steve M Says:

    Reverend Doctor Jan (John) Grey

    Above Monty wrote:

    “You can obtain my email from any of my videos on youtube.
    Sola Fide,
    Monty L. Collier”

    I emailed him and he answered, so I am not quite sure why you think him anonymous.

    I won’t say anything else here because I don’t have any degrees in theology, so nothing I could say would be of any value to you scholars.

  20. Sean Gerety Says:

    I confess I too am positively unimpressed by credentials and less impressed by Piper who is a very confused man and needs to retire before he does more harm to Christ’s church, but Monty doesn’t post here any longer. You’ll have to contact him elsewhere.

  21. Sean Gerety Says:

    As further proof of Piper’s confusion, delinquency, senility, take your pick, see the line up of the 2010 “Desiring God” conference. Not only is Federal Visionist shill Doug Wilson back, but it looks like he’s their main speaker.

  22. LJ Says:

    I am thinking of hosting a “Desiring Retirement” conference with Piper, Wilson, et al, as the guests of honor.

    Honorary degrees will be handed out to all who attend. So Sean here’s your chance! Steve M too 🙂 !!! In fact, I think I’ll get me one of them thar things.


  23. Hugh McCann Says:

    As being ‘ground of justification,’ union, schmunion.

    Dr Lane Tipton (an acquaintance back in our WSCAL days*) holds forth below Gaffinian union @ WTS.

    I note the upload dates of the following videos — that Tipton gets increasingly militant over time. (Don’t we all!:))
    May 26, 2009
    August 5, 2009
    January 25, 2011

    * Lane was then a member of the Van Til Society, and charitably chided me that I was a fundamentalist rationalistic deductivist.

  24. Hugh McCann Says:


    It’s the forthcoming 2012 D.G. PASTORS’ conference to which you refer. (W/ Wilson, Darrin Patrick, Crawford Loritts, Ramez Atallah, & Piper.) The nat’l conf hasn’t been posted yet.

    This year Pastors’ conf. had Joel Beeke, Francis Chan, Paul Miller, Jerry Rankin, & Piper.

  25. Sean Gerety Says:

    @ Hugh. That’s worse.

  26. Steve M Says:


    I don’t know why, but listening to Dr. Lane Tipton makes my skin crawl.

  27. Hugh McCann Says:

    Good quote from John Robbins correcting Gordon Clark:

    CLARK: “Let us be quite clear on the fact that the Bible does not teach salvation by faith alone. The Bible teaches justification by faith alone. Justification then necessarily is followed by a process of sanctification, and this consists of works which we do.” (Predestination, page 86)

    John Robbins, who was the editor of this 2006 edition of “Predestination” (published by the Trinity Foundation), inserted the following footnote refuting and correcting Clark:

    “9. Editors note: From here to the end of the paragraph Dr. Clark errs in two ways. First the Bible emphatically teaches salvation by faith alone: “Your faith has saved you; go in peace” (Luke 7:50). “Those by the way side are they that hear; then comes the devil, and takes away the Word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved” (Luke 8:12). “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16). “And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Acts 2:21). “Who will tell you words, by which you and all your house shall be saved” (Acts 11:4). “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved” (Acts 16:31). “That if you shall confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus, and shall believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead, you shall be saved” (Romans 10:9). “By which also you are saved, if you keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless you have believed in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:2). “For by grace are you saved, through faith” (Ephesians 2:8). “…it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe” (1 Corinthians 1:21). “…them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved” (2 Thessalonians 2:10). “God has from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief in the truth” (2 Thessalonians 2:13). “But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul” (Hebrews 10:39).

    “We see in these verses that justification is not an aspect of salvation on a par with other aspects, but is so identified with salvation that the terms are interchanged repeatedly. To be justified—to be declared righteous because of the imputation of. Christ’s perfect righteousness—is to be saved. All else—sanctification, good works, glorification—flow from that.

    “Second, Dr. Clark errs when he says that sanctification “consists of works which we do” and “of external actions initiated by internal volitions” and that “we do the things that produce sanctification.” All these statements are in error. Sanctification is the work of the Holy Spirit; it is not something we do, nor is it the result of something we do. Question 75 of the Larger Catechism asks, “What is sanctification?” and answers: “Sanctification is a work God’s grace…”. In the Westminster Confession of Faith, the chapter on Sanctification is separate from and precedes the chapter on Good Works. To show that sanctification is the work of the Holy Spirit, not of ourselves, it cites such verses as 1 Corinthians 6:10: “…but you are washed, you are sanctified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.” John 17:17: “Sanctify them through your truth: Your Word is truth.” Ephesians 5:26: “That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the Word.” 1 Thessalonians 5:23: “And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly…”. Good works neither are sanctification nor do they produce sanctification. Good works are an effect, a result of sanctification by the Spirit.

    “Dr. Clark knew all of this, for in his book “Sanctification,” he wrote, “Chapter 13 of the Westminster Confession emphasizes the fact that we are sanctified by God, not by our own efforts; and imperfect obedience to the moral law is a result of that sanctification, not the cause of it.” He concludes his book with the words of Christ from John 17: “Sanctify them by your truth. Your Word is truth.” (Predestination, pages 85-86)

    …The Bible alone is the infallible rule of faith and practice.

    {Thanks to Monty Collier for this!}

  28. Kevin Matthews Says:

    I listened to the video on August 5, 2009 and starting at 2.35 Dr Lane Tipto said “Justification attempts to expel the very person himself” that being Christ. And as long as you remain separate, meaning, not in union with Christ after you have been justified you rob yourself of all his benefits, as to say there is something we need to continually do or to form to experience that union. I thought scripture teaches us that nothing can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus. I thought our union in Christ is something that always remains because of what God has done in Christ in his justification for us.

  29. John Bradshaw Says:

    Thx Hugh for including the links to Tipton.
    It is good to have John Robbins’ clear exposition of Scripture to see the errors of such men as Tipton and Gaffin.

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