| Essential Gospel Elements|
It's been a while since I've been able to post anything on here. I hope to bless everybody with a fruitful discussion Eli and I have had recently. We are having a discussion on issues regarding the gospel, righteousness, and the law. This arose out of a discussion we were having over a certain individual who adheres to a "moral government" view of the Scriptures, which we believe to be complete and total error. This letter is one extracted from a much broader context, which I have no hope in attempting to replicate here. I have changed the name of the individual we are talking about.
Sorry for the delay in responding. I've been pretty busy and haven't had much chance to respond.
Indeed, in Jack's theology, "grace and mercy" is merely talk. Indeed, without believing in imputed righteousness, that is all grace and mercy can ever be. Paul's understanding of grace is entirely built upon the framework of what Christ did for us on the cross and in His resurrection. The same goes with his understanding of "faith." In his theological system faith is really reduced to mere mental assent, "I believe the Bible." That's dead creedalism really, and that's all that a moral government theology can offer. But Scriptural faith is something beyond this mental assent, rather, it is grounded in a radical trust, that what "God said He is also able to perform," just as Abraham "believed God" in regard to the promise made to him concerning Isaac. Abraham truly had to "trust in God" to bring about what he himself could not: the issuing of life from a dead womb.
Abraham could obey God all he wanted, but no amount of obedience or repentance could bring this act about. Only God could, who calls "the things that are not" into being. Abraham's faith, which serves as a model of saving faith, is a faith that brings an end to self. It's a complete and wild abandonment to the God who created the heavens and the earth, and raised Jesus Christ from the dead. It's a taking of Him at His word, and trusting Him in His power to come through just as He said. It's a faith in the God who acts on our behalf, doing for us what we cannot in anyway do ourselves. Abraham tried to do for himself, but that simply resulted in the birth of Ishmael. Indeed, until the very end, even after Abraham obtained his Isaac by faith, was put in a place where Isaac could only be kept by faith: Abraham put Isaac on the altar believing even should he kill him, God would raise him up. This, I believe, is a precious type of how our salvation comes through faith, and is maintained by God through faith, and faith alone, and is not in anyway by works. Abraham had no plan B for Isaac, he only had God to trust.
In accordance with Deuteronomy and the teachings of Paul, I believe God raises up false prophets to test us, and ultimately expose our own condition and show us where we are missing it. False prophets can only allure those who already have ears that can be itched. Moral government proponents such as Jack, I believe show us even how we as evangelicals have lacked. Even though Jack is not teaching a "cheap grace" or "easy believism," his "gospel" message is plagued with the same problem you find in the church today. His gospel doesn't give you anything to actually believe in, or trust God for. His preaching, like the preaching of so many others, is merely an attempt to get you to buy into a soteriological plan for salvation. As important as that is, such is not gospel preaching, and such never gives anybody something tangible to actually have faith in. As the old saying goes, you are not justified by believing in justification by faith, but you are justified by faith.
Faith in what? As Paul says so clearly in Romans 10:9-10, "If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved." How many preachers out there, who lead sinners in a prayer, ever brought these sinners to this crucial point? How many out there have repented of their sins BECAUSE they were convinced that Jesus is the Lord, and that GOD RAISED HIM FROM THE DEAD? Rather, we have an evangelical Christianity where people have come to God without even believing and trusting in this great message, that God raised a dead man named Jesus from the dead. If you examine Jack's moral government theology, or most evangelism programs out there, including such great ones as "Evangelism Explosion" or "The Way of the Master," you will find all these are all horribly lacking in this department. Most of these programs out there are mainly geared to convince people that they are hell deserving sinners who need to repent of their sins, because the Jesus who died for those sins is coming back soon. Really, that's no different than what Jack does. Some simply offer a difference doctrine of assurance than Jack does. But either way, neither truly brings one to "faith."
I'm convinced there will be a lot of people who wake up in hell one day who believed Jesus Christ died for their sins, and prayed the sinners prayer. I cannot ever speak on this topic enough, as it is near and dear to my heart. Maybe we can talk again by phone sometime so I might better convey to you my understanding and passion in this. I believe I have spoken to you about it before. But honestly, I believe we as evangelicals have made salvation into nothing more than what Jack has made it into. It's a mingling of "faith" and works. Jack teaches you have to mingle faith plus works to be saved. This is clear error. But when we as evangelicals say "believe and say this prayer..." it seems escape our notice that we have done nothing different. Jack's assured he's probably going to heaven because he is going to obey God the rest of his life. Many evangelicals are convinced they are going to heaven because they prayed the sinners prayer one time, and meant it from the heart when they did. I fail how to see these gospels are different?
If the gospel message is not centered in convincing the sinner that they must believe and trust in the risen Lord Jesus Christ alone for their salvation, then it is not the gospel. The gospel message is that Jesus Christ, the son of God, who was crucified for our sins, was brought back to life after three days, and will come again soon. But this Jesus, who was risen, and will come again soon, can and will utterly save sinners who put their trust in Him for a salvation that He alone can give. And He can only do that, because He is alive in bodily form. If this is not our understanding, and if this isn't our message, then God is reduced to a mere abstract cosmic deity. But when we assert that God was incarnate in Jesus Christ, and raised Him from the dead, God is no longer something for philosophers to debate about. Rather, He is somebody tangible, who actually has intervened in history, and can intervene in our lives.
Regarding "the new perspective," I have to admit that I'm still coming up to date on it. I had started reading N.T. Wright's "Justification" that he just released that seeks to dialog with those who are critical of his system. I must say, there are indeed some very bad errors in that system, though, I can't say I've yet fully grasped what it is he's trying to say. He seems to be circling around what he wants to say, but never gets around to saying it. Though it is clear he doesn't truly believe in a foreign righteousness that comes through imputation. And though he says he believes in imputed righteousness, he definitely doesn't see righteousness as something that can actually be imparted to us. As a side note, I must say, some of what he says is absolutely excellent, and I would commend to further studying, especially since he seems to, interestingly enough, embrace a Ben Israel perspective in regard to his eschatology of the Jews, especially in regard to the messianic claims of Christ. But, he should be taken with a great grain of salt, as it is obvious not all is well in Kansas with him, and I clearly do not fully grasp his theology.
Concerning the issue that Jack takes up, asserting the false (though common) dichotomy between the moral and ceremonial aspects of the law: Romans 7 very clearly teaches that we have died to the law-- ALL of it. The law is an all or nothing deal. Romans 7 also clearly links that the law we have died to, includes the moral law, not just the ceremonial regulations. For Paul says in that chapter, "the law says you shall not covet." It is this very law he says we died to, and had to die to, so that we could obtain the freedom and life that is in Christ, and be joined to Him. So long as we marry ourselves to the law, and seek to "obey" it, we will forever remain it's slave, and as a result, a slave to our sinful flesh, being unable to set our mind on God. Yes, we are to "obey" God, and we definitely should not be breaking any of His commandments. But, this issues out of participation in the divine life, as being led by the Spirit of God, not even the moral letter of the law.
We are "keepers" of the law, not because we seek to perfectly obey it, but rather, because of the changed nature in us naturally keeps it. We know very well only one man ever perfectly obeyed the law, and that was Christ. The law, Paul told Timothy, is made for sinful men. It is made for murderers, adulterers, and drunkards. Murderers, adulterers, and drunkards need a law that says "don't do that," because men by their fallen nature, they WANT to do those things, because they are sinners. But we who have received a new nature, as new creations, as saints of God, don't need a law that says "don't do those things," because, by our regenerative nature, we don't WANT to murder, commit adultery, or get drunk. Thus, unless we choose to give into the lusts of our flesh, we will not carry out the lusts of the flesh. Which is why we must give heed to the Spirit (not the law!), and set our mind on the things of the Spirit, so that we obey the Spirit. We thus, "keep" the law through the new nature that has been created in us, not out of a sense of moral obligation, let alone as a means of salvation.
Forgive me if this e-mail is a little choppy. I didn't get to sit down and write it in one sitting and make it as smooth as I could in response to your points.
Many blessings to you. I hope to hear from you soon.
| 2009/8/19 1:37||Profile|
| Re: Essential Gospel Elements|
I'm pretty busy lately, but sounds like a fruitful discussion, and with Eli, one of the brightest SI brothers. God bless it you both!
| 2009/8/19 1:40||Profile|
| Re: |
In his theological system faith is really reduced to mere mental ascent, "I believe the Bible." That's dead creedalism really, and that's all that a moral government theology can offer.
I researched to see if moral government really taught that faith was nothing but mere mental ascent and this is what I found Charles Finney taught. Finney taught moral government theology didn't he?
He taught that faith was not a state of the intellect nor a state of the emotion but was a state of the will! The moral government theology that Finney taught was certainly not like Jack's mental ascent. Maybe Jack should read Finney on faith? Can you send this to him?
[b]CHARLES FINNEY SAID ABOUT FAITH:[/b]
"Both the state of the intellect and the state of the sensibility just expressed are implied in faith, though neither of them makes any part of it. Faith always begets a realizing, state of the sensibility. The intellect sees the truth clearly, and the sensibility feels it deeply, in proportion to the strength of the intellectual perception. But the clearest possible perception, and the deepest possible felt assurance of the truth, may consist with a state of the utmost opposition of the will to truth. But this cannot be trust, confidence, faith. The damned in hell, no doubt, see the truth clearly, and have a feeling of the utmost assurance of the truth of Christianity, but they have no faith" Charles Finney
"I. WHAT EVANGELICAL FAITH IS NOT.
The term faith, like most other words, has diverse significations, and is manifestly used in the
Bible sometimes to designate a state of the intellect, in which case it means an undoubting persuasion, a firm conviction, an unhesitating intellectual assent. This, however, is not its evangelical sense. Evangelical faith cannot be a phenomenon of the intellect, for the plain reason that, when used in an evangelical sense, it is always regarded as a virtue. But virtue cannot be predicated of intellectual states, because these are involuntary, or passive states of mind.
Faith is a condition of salvation. It is something which we are commanded to do upon pain of eternal death. But if it be something to be done, a solemn duty, it cannot be a merely passive state, a mere intellectual conviction. The Bible distinguishes between intellectual and saving faith. There is a faith of devils, and there is a faith of saints. James clearly distinguishes between them, and also between an antinomian and a saving faith. "Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Yea, a man may say, thou hast faith, and I have works: show me thy faith without thy works, and I will show thee my faith by my works. Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness; and he was called the friend of God. Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only. Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way? For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also."James ii. 17-26. The distinction is here clearly marked, as it is elsewhere in the Bible, between intellectual and saving faith.
One produces good works or a holy life; the other is unproductive. This shows that one is a
phenomenon of the intellect merely, and does not of course control the conduct. The other must be a phenomenon of the will, because it manifests itself in the outward life. Evangelical faith, then, is not a conviction, a perception of truth. It does not belong to the intellect, though it implies intellectual conviction, yet the evangelical or virtuous element does not consist in it.
2. It is not a feeling of any kind; that is, it does not belong to, and is not a phenomenon of, the sensibility. The phenomena of the sensibility are passive states of mind, and therefore have no moral character in themselves. Faith, regarded as a virtue, cannot consist in any involuntary state, of mind whatever. It is represented in the Bible as an active and most efficient state of mind. It works and "works by love." It produces "the obedience of faith." Christians are said to be sanctified by the faith that is in Christ. Indeed the Bible, in a great variety of instances and ways, represents faith in God and in Christ as a cardinal form of virtue, and as the mainspring of an outwardly holy life. Hence, it cannot consist in any involuntary state or exercise of mind whatever.
II. WHAT EVANGELICAL FAITH IS.
Since the Bible uniformly represents saving or evangelical faith as a virtue, we know that it must be a phenomenon of will. It is an efficient state of mind, and therefore it must consist in the embracing of the truth by the heart or will. It is the will's closing in with the truths of the gospel. It is the soul's act of yielding itself up, or committing itself to the truths of the evangelical system. It is a trusting in Christ, a committing the soul and the whole being to him, in his various offices and relations to men. It is a confiding in him, and in what is revealed of him, in his word and providence, and by his Spirit. The same word that is so often rendered faith in the New Testament is also rendered commit; as in John ii. 24, "But Jesus did not commit himself unto them, because he knew all men." Luke xvi. 11, "If, therefore, ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches?" In these passages the word rendered commit is the same word as that which is rendered faith. It is a confiding in God and in Christ, as revealed in the Bible and in reason. it is a receiving of the testimony of God concerning himself, and concerning all things of which he has spoken. It is a receiving of Christ for just what he is represented to be in his gospel, and an unqualified surrender of the will, and of the whole being to him." Charles Finney
| 2009/8/19 2:13|
| Re: |
Interesting and telling quote from Finney. He does talk about faith as trust, which is good. But, Finney nor Jack are trusting Christ for their salvation. In the salvation they teach, Christ is but a mere part of an equation, of which they play a part of, at obtaining salvation. And so long as the truths of imputed righteousness and a substitutionary atonement are denied, as both do, one cannot possibly trust in Christ alone for salvation. Unless one recognizes they are saved "because of the obedience of the One," and the salvation that such obedience obtained on their behalf, then faith will always be reduced to a mere mental assent, no matter how much one swears otherwise.
| 2009/8/19 6:30||Profile|
| Re: |
I noticed that you didn't back up any of your accusations with actual quotes from Finney. I have Finney's Systematic Theology on my computer now as a PDF document. I did some word researches to see what I could find in relation to what you had said.
Interesting and telling quote from Finney. He does talk about faith as trust, which is good. But, Finney nor Jack are trusting Christ for their salvation.... then faith will always be reduced to a mere mental assent, no matter how much one swears otherwise.
[b]FINNEY ON FAITH[/b]
By the assertion, that the Holy Spirit, or the Spirit of Christ, is received by faith, to reign in the heart, it is intended, that he is actually trusted in, or submitted to by faith, and his influence suffered to control us. He does not guide and control us, by irresistible power or force, but faith confides the guidance of our souls to him. Faith receives and confides in him, and consents to be governed and directed by him. As his influence is moral, and not physical, it is plain that he can influence us no farther than we have confidence in him; that is, no farther than we trust or confide in him. Charles Finney
Faith lets God into the soul to dwell and reign there. Faith receives, not only the atonement and mediatorial work of Christ as a Redeemer from punishment, but it also receives Christ as king to set up his throne, and reign in the heart. Faith secures to the soul communion with God. Charles Finney
faith that is the condition of justification, is the faith that works by love. It is the faith through and by which Christ sanctifies the soul. A sanctifying faith unites the believer to Christ as his justification; but be it always remembered, that no faith receives Christ as a justification, that does not receive him as a sanctification, to reign within the heart. Charles Finney
"The truth is, beyond all question, that sanctification is by faith as opposed to works. That is, faith receives Christ in all his offices, and in all the fullness of his relations to the soul; and Christ, when received, works in the soul to will and to do of all his good pleasure, not by a physical, but by a moral or persuasive working. Observe, he influences the will. This must be by a moral influence, if its actings are intelligent and free, as they must be to be holy. That is, if he influences the will to obey God, it must be by a divine moral suasion. The soul never in any instance obeys in a spiritual and true sense, except it be thus influenced by the indwelling Spirit of Christ. But whenever Christ is apprehended and received in any relation, in that relation he is full and perfect; so that we are complete in him. Charles Finney
And so long as the truths of... a substitutionary atonement are denied
[b]FINNEY ON THE ATONEMENT[/b]
the atonement is the governmental substitution of the sufferings of Christ for the punishment of sinners. It is a covering of their sins by his sufferings Charles Finney
That Christ's sufferings, and especially his death, were vicarious, has been abundantly shown
when treating the subject of atonement. I need not repeat here what I said there. Although Christ owed perfect obedience to the moral law for himself, and could not therefore obey as our substitute, yet since he perfectly obeyed, he owed no suffering to the law or to the Divine government on his own account. He could therefore suffer for us. That is, he could, to answer governmental purposes, substitute his death for the infliction of the penalty of the law on us. He could not perform works of supererogation, but he could endure sufferings of supererogation, in the sense that he did not owe them for himself. The doctrine of substitution, in the sense just named, appears everywhere in both Testaments. Charles Finney
In the salvation they teach, Christ is but a mere part of an equation, of which they play a part of, at obtaining salvation.
[b]FINNEY ON JUSTIFICATION [/b]
UNDER A GRACIOUS DISPENSATION, A RETURN TO FULL OBEDIENCE' TO MORAL LAW IS NOT DISPENSED WITH AS A CONDITION OF SALVATION, BUT THIS OBEDIENCE IS SECURED BY THE INDWELLING SPIRIT OF CHRIST RECEIVED BY FAITH TO REIGN IN THE
SALVATION BY GRACE DOES NOT DISPENSE WITH A RETURN TO FULL OBEDIENCE AS A CONDITION OF SALVATION.
There is a class of scripture texts which have been quoted by antinomians in support of the doctrine, that salvation is not conditionated upon personal holiness, or upon a return to full obedience. It has been found very convenient, by many who were lovers of sin, and never conscious of personal holiness, to adopt the idea of an imputed holiness, contenting themselves with an outward righteousness imputed to them, instead of submitting by faith to have the righteousness of God wrought in them. Unwilling to be personally pious, they betake themselves to an imputed piety. Because the scriptures declare, that men are not saved by works of the law, they infer, that a return to that state of love required by the law, is not even a condition of salvation. The texts above referred to, are such as these. "Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified."Gal. ii. 16. This, and sundry other passages that hold the same language, are grossly misunderstood and misapplied by antinomians. They merely declare, that men are not justified and saved by their own works, which of course they cannot be, if they have committed even one sin. But they do not intimate, and there is no passage rightly understood that does intimate, that men are saved or justified upon conditions short of personal holiness, or a return to full obedience to the moral law. Again: James wrote his epistle to establish this point. Grace cannot save by dispensing with personal holiness, or a return to full obedience to the law. Grace must not only pardon, but secure personal holiness, or the soul is not fitted, either for the employments or enjoyments of heaven. It is naturally impossible for grace to save the soul, but upon condition of entire sanctification. Charles Finney
I have tried to understand the subject of justification as it is taught in the Bible, without going into laboured speculations or to theological technicalities. If I have succeeded in understanding it., the following is a succinct and a true account of the matter: The Godhead, in the exercise of his adorable love and compassion, sought the salvation of sinners through and by means of the mediatorial death and work of Christ. This death and work of Christ were resorted to, not to create, but, as a result of the merciful disposition of God, and as a means of securing the universe against a misapprehension of the character and design of God in forgiving and saving sinners. To Christ, as Mediator between the Godhead and man, the work of justifying and saving sinners is committed. He is made unto sinners "wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption." In consideration of Christ's having by his death for sinners secured the subjects of the Divine government against a misconception of his character and designs, God does, upon the further conditions of a repentance and faith, that imply a renunciation of their rebellion and a return to obedience to his laws, freely pardon past sin, and restore the penitent and believing sinner to favour, as if he had not sinned, while he remains penitent and believing, subject however to condemnation and eternal death, unless he holds the beginning of his confidence steadfast unto the end. Charles Finney
And so long as the truths of imputed righteousness... are denied
[b]FINNEY ON IMPUTED RIGHTEOUSNESS[/b]
The doctrine of a literal imputation of Christ's obedience or righteousness is supported by those who hold it, by such passages as the following: Rom. iv. 5-8."But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputed righteousness without works, saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin." But here justification is represented only as consisting in forgiveness of sin, or in pardon and acceptance. Again, 2 Cor. v. 19, 21. "To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him." Here again the apostle is teaching only his much-loved doctrine of justification by faith, in the sense that upon condition or in consideration of the death and mediatorial interference and work of Christ, penitent believers in Christ are forgiven and rewarded as if they were righteous." Charles Finney
| 2009/8/19 17:05|