N.T. Wright, leading proponent of the New Perspective on Paul. HT: Pastor John Keller Blog
On Sunday, January 31, 2016, Pastor Joe Troutman introduced to the adult Sunday School class the recent theological movement among some modern liberal theologians called the New Perspective on Paul and how it pertains to the doctrine of justification.
Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.(Romans 5:1-2 ESV)
Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith–just as Abraham “believed God and it was counted to him as righteousness”? (Galatians 3:5-6)
Westminster Shorter Catechism, Q&A #33:
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I guess it had to happen someday. Turns out it did this past summer. Megachurch pastors tend to accept invitations to places where there are TV cameras, and that’s exactly what happened in this case. Tullian’s message of “radical grace” has reached the first family of the Trinity Broadcasting Network. While in many ways, this is an example of worlds colliding, I figure if Peter Lillback can accept an invitation to Glenn Beck’s TV show a few years ago with the intention of making sure the gospel is clearly communicated on his air, then why not Tullian on TBN? The world’s largest Christian television network could do a lot worse, and has built an empire on doing just that.
For those unaware, Tullian Tchividjian is the grandson of Billy Graham and the pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. He is a favorite among the New Calvinists and is notorious for his popularization of the Lutheranesque “law-gospel distinction” which is taken by many to his right, myself included, as repeating the mistakes of historic antinomianism in some of his rhetoric and in his application of the otherwise valid hermeneutic pioneered by the Protestant Reformer. Among Tullian’s influences are Steve Brown (RTS Orlando and Key Life) and the theologians associated with Modern Reformation magazine and The White Horse Inn radio show. While I believe Tullian when he says he affirms the Reformed teaching on the third use of the law , I also believe his critics when they say his rhetoric smacks too much of historic antinomianism (read about that here). Tullian’s intention is to minister to those burned by legalism, and I’m all for that, even if he may be pushing the envelope of Reformed theology further to the left than I think he should.
But I like Tullian in small doses. Few and far between. It has been a while since my last dose of Tullian, so I am prepared to have a good attitude about his appearance on TBN to promote his recent book One Way Love. Besides, it would be inconsistent of me to criticize him for accepting an invitation to speak on Word of Faith turf, since the seeds of Reformed theology were planted in my own mind when Michael Horton appeared on TBN to promote his very first book originally entitled Mission Accomplished (now Putting Amazing Back Into Grace) while still a student at the Bible Institute of Los Angeles (BIOLA). The difference between Horton’s and Tullian’s appearances is that the latter they post on YouTube, while the former they immediately erase, cancel the talk show that featured him, and have the host reassigned to a job behind the scenes. This reaction was due to the fact that Horton was a known critic of the Word of Faith heresy who would go on to edit The Agony of Deceit. My hope is that Tullian’s interview will likewise plant and water the seeds of Reformed theology and the true gospel of Christ among today’s regular TBN viewers.
While Tullian admits to being a one-sermon preacher, his message that Christ kept the law perfectly and earned eternal life for those who believe and so frees us to gratefully, though imperfectly, respond to his amazing grace with love toward our neighbors is one we need to be reminded of on a daily basis. In fact, it is this “preach the gospel to yourself daily” notion that motivated me to put “Daily Evangel” on the building in the background of my picture of Captain Headknowledge. We need the Evangel of the free grace of God in Christ every day, and may it spur us on to love and good works, though we’ll never do them as well as Jesus did them for us.
I’ve added a link to the top of my sidebar to the right. It links to Post Tenebras Lux, the website of Dr. Thomas R. Browning, Assistant Pastor of Grace Community Presbyterian Church in Fort Worth, Texas. At his site is a lecture series about the life and ministry of Martin Luther and the story of the beginning of the Protestant Reformation. It is the month of October now, and Luther nailed the historic 95 Theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany on October 31, 1517, so it is time to begin gearing up to commemorate the Protestant Reformation, which was the providential way “How Christ Restored the Gospel to His Church.”
“The Christian Curmudgeon” was a member of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) since its founding. He recently left the PCA for his own reasons and is now ministering in the Reformed Episcopal Church. In the past few weeks, you may have noticed that The Aquila Report has posted two articles expressing the growing concern over the state of the PCA. In light of this, The Christian Curmudgeon has written a very helpful post characterizing the various theological and practical trajectories represented by the first generation of the PCA. The point being that the PCA was never intended to be a strictly confessional Reformed denomination. This sheds light on how they got into the chaotic state they are in today. Read his informative post, “I Don’t Have a Dog in this Fight, But That Doesn’t Keep Me From Having an Opinion.”
The following post was originally written in 2007. I thought maybe it would be a good time to post something edifying about Noah in light of the recent unpleasantness.
“This is the genealogy of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, perfect in his generations. Noah walked with God. And Noah begot three sons: Shem, Ham and Japheth. The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence. So God looked upon the earth, and indeed it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth.” Genesis 6:9-12
The God who promised to send the Seed of the Woman to crush the Serpent’s head (Genesis 3:15) gave Noah the faith to believe this promise. God was the ultimate basis of Noah’s righteousness. The way in which the Seed of the Woman would crush the Serpent’s head, destroying Satan’s power through sin over God’s chosen, had not yet been revealed. Noah did not know how God’s promised Seed would save him from sin, he just believed that he would. As we study through the Old Testament, we’ll learn that God reveals his plan to save sinners progressively, a little bit at a time.
Our lives are like that. We set goals, but we don’t know everything we’ll need to do yet, or what will happen to us before we reach our goal, but these details become clear to us day by day. This is the way it works with the history of God’s work of redemption from sin. First we learn the big picture: God had announced his plan to send Someone to defeat the great enemy of our souls; then, bit by bit, who this Someone is, and how he’s going to defeat this enemy slowly became clear to people like Adam, Seth, Enoch and Noah one detail at a time. A few of these details are revealed to us in the righteous life of Noah.
By his grace, God promised to deliver Noah from the flood of judgment which he and the entire world deserved (Genesis 6:18), and Noah believed God’s promise, so one of the factors of Noah’s righteous life was faith. This faith in God’s promise was the basis for Noah’s righteous life, but it was not his faith that saved him, it was the gracious, promise-keeping God who chose to save him that was the ultimate basis of his righteousness and his salvation. Noah was a righteous man because God made Noah a righteous man.
The other factor that adds up to righteousness for Noah was his obedience to God’s commands. God gave Noah very specific instructions to build an ark (Genesis 6:14-16), what size to build it, what to build it with, how to build it and how many of the various beasts, birds and bugs to gather into the ark (Genesis 6:19-20). The testimony of Moses was that Noah obeyed all that God commanded him to do (Genesis 6:22). Yet this obedience by itself did not earn for Noah his status as a righteous man. Remember he was righteous by God’s grace through the faith granted to him by God (see Ephesians 2:8-9) with which he believed the God of the promise of salvation from sin, Satan and the flood. Noah’s faith was the root of Noah’s obedience. Noah’s obedience was the fruit of Noah’s faith. Therefore Noah’s faith evidenced by his obedience was what Moses was talking about when he wrote that Noah was a righteous man (Genesis 6:9).
God saves us the same way. All of us were born with Adam’s guilt legally imputed to us (Romans 5:12-14) by virtue of the fact that Adam represented us in the covenant with God which he violated when he ate the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 3; cf. Hosea 6:7). In addition to this, we were born, having inherited a corrupt human nature that wants nothing but sin (Romans 3:10-18), unable to do anything (Romans 8:7) that will please him (Hebrews 11:6) and save ourselves. As things stand, we deserve death and an eternity of suffering the wrath of God.
But out of the mass of condemned humanity, a remnant finds favor with God (Genesis 6:8; cf. Romans 11:5-7). Because of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection for sinners, God looks on this remnant with grace and gives them the faith (Acts 13:48; 18:27) to trust the work of Christ that is preached to everybody (Mark 16:15). We then rely on his grace to give us the obedience with which we show our thanks and love for the work of Christ on the cross (John 14:15). So we learn how God saved us in the Bible, and we also learn how to respond to this good news in grateful love by learning the commands of God—because true faith works by love (Galatians 5:6). That’s how we can be remembered as a righteous man or a righteous woman after our story has been told, just like Noah, by a God-given faith in Christ that obeys God’s commands.
Listen to Lutheran Church Missouri Synod minister, Dr. Rod Rosenbladt, talk about what drove Luther’s hammer…
There he goes again… 🙂
73. Q. How doth faith justify a sinner in the sight of God?
A. Faith justifies a sinner in the sight of God, not because of those other graces which do always accompany it, or of good works that are the fruits of it, nor as if the grace of faith, or any act thereof, were imputed to him for his justification, but only as it is an instrument by which he receiveth and applieth Christ and his righteousness (John 1:12; Philippians 3:9; Galatians 2:16).
Who will become a child of God? The one who is “in Christ.” Who will get “into Christ”? The one who receives Christ by faith, or, according to the original Greek, believing “into” him. John writes, “But to all who did receive him, who believed in (literally, “into”) his name, he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12).
Faith which places the sinner “in Christ” is not merely an acknowledgment that there was a historical figure named Jesus of Nazareth who embarked on an itinerant ministry which lead many first century Jews to conclude that he was the Anointed One (“Christ”) proclaimed by the Old Testament prophets. Faith in Christ does begin with such knowledge, even assenting to the truthfulness of such a proposition, but it must also result in a willingness to rest on the righteousness which Christ is proclaimed in the gospel message to have earned by his flawless observance of the law of Moses which has at its heart the moral law of God, confessing that by one’s own observance of God’s law he will not be able to earn for himself the same kind of inherent righteousness. As Paul writes in Galatians 2:16:
“yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law, but through faith in Jesus Christ. So we also have believed in (again, “into”) Christ Jesus in order to be justified by faith in Christ, and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.”
So being found in Christ depends on having the righteousness of Christ which comes from God, and having the righteousness which comes from God depends on faith. In Philippians 3:9 it is written, “and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith.” So we see that when faith is imputed as righteousness, faith is not the thing that makes a person inherently righteous, but rather it is simply what the Westminster Divines call in Q&A #73 of the Larger Catechism, “an instrument by which he receiveth and applieth Christ and his righteousness.”
Q. 73. How doth faith justify a sinner in the sight of God?
A. Faith justifies a sinner in the sight of God, not because of those other graces which do always accompany it, or of good works that are the fruits of it, nor as if the grace of faith, or any act thereof, were imputed to him for his justification (Romans 4:5; 10:10); but only as it is an instrument by which he receiveth and applieth Christ and his righteousness.
Believing is not a good work. It earns nothing. If there were such a thing as a righteous person other than Jesus Christ, there would be no need to impute his righteousness to him. For this hypothetical person who earns righteousness by his own good works, having Christ’s righteousness imputed or credited to him would be superfluous, redundant, and unnecessary.
Christ did not come to call those who think their righteousness is good enough. God did not send his Son to die for those who never come to admit that they deserve to die because of their sin. In Romans 4:5, Paul describes God as “him who justifies the ungodly.” The ungodly one who despairs of his inability to earn righteousness by his good works is the kind of person whom God justifies, or declares righteous in his sight.
In this same passage, Paul explains that “his [the ungodly person’s] faith is counted as righteousness.” This is the biblical doctrine of imputation, and Paul elaborates on it in the rest of his sentence which concludes in verses 6 -8: “… just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts [imputes] righteousness apart from works: ‘Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count [impute, KJV] his sin.’” As you see, the Bible teaches that while a man’s faith may in one sense be “imputed,” or “counted” as righteousness, in a greater sense, what is really going on is that Christ’s righteousness is being imputed to the ungodly believer–the righteousness of Christ is counted as the righteousness of the ungodly believer. It is a careless misreading to interpret the Bible as teaching that God imputes faith to the ungodly; rather, God imputes the righteousness of Christ to him.
What, then, is the source of this faith by which we are justified by the imputed righteousness of Christ? “For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved” (Romans 10:10). In the song, “Rock of Ages,” Christians sing, “Nothing in my hand I bring/Simply to the cross I cling.” It is not the work of our hands by which we are justified, but the gracious gift of faith which emerges from a regenerate, spiritually living heart which has been newly freed from sin and empowered to rest on the finished work of his righteous Savior who has been crucified and risen for him. We may be justified by a righteousness that is not our own, but that righteousness is received by a faith that is very much our own, graciously enabled by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Answer #73 of the Westminster Larger Catechism, then, further denies that the faith by which he is justified was not imputed to him—it was not the faith of another, but his own faith which arises by God’s grace from his own regenerate heart. His faith is the fruit grown on the good tree of his own regenerate heart.
A. Faith justifies a sinner in the sight of God, not because of those other graces which do always accompany it, or of good works that are the fruits of it (Gal. 3:11; Rom. 3:28), nor as if the grace of faith, or any act thereof, were imputed to him for his justification; but only as it is an instrument by which he receiveth and applieth Christ and his righteousness.
Faith is the means which God has ordained for the elect in order that he may declare them righteous in his sight. Man, unfortunately, assumes he must perform, to achieve a perfect score when it comes to keeping God’s moral law. In this assumption, he is sadly mistaken. Paul writes in Galatians 3:11, “no one is justified before God by the law, for ‘The righteous shall live by faith.’” Later in his great exposition of the gospel in his epistle to the Romans, Paul echoes this truth when he writes, “For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law” (Romans 3:28).
In keeping with this Pauline distinction between faith and the law, the framers of the Westminster Standards of 1649 write in their Larger Catechism, “Faith justifies a sinner in the sight of God, not because of those other graces which do always accompany it, or of good works that are the fruits of it…” (Westminster Larger Catechism, Q&A #73). Here they write that good works are the fruit of faith, not the condition the elect must meet so God will declare them righteous in his sight (justify them). The catechism answer also denies that the other graces that accompany faith are the way we receive God’s justifying declaration of righteousness. For example, graces such as hope, love, joy, or any others are excluded, along with good works, as the basis on which faith justifies the sinner.
In short, faith does not justify because of good works; rather, good works are the result of justification by faith alone.
Many of you may have already seen this viral video originally posted by The Resurgence website. A co-worker told me about it and it linked (at that time) to The Resurgence. At that point it had three million views. By the time I got home Friday morning and pulled it up again (about four hours later), it had six million views! Now it’s plateaued at over seven million. It’s effective, because it’s edgy. It’s edgy because it features a misdefinition of the word “Religion.”
Watch the video, before we move on:
Another friend of mine shared it on his Facebook page, with a lengthy discussion in which I just had to participate. Here’s what I wrote:
This forty-something Republican is down with most of this. But the “semantic” issue is that by “religion” he does mean legalism, but I’d like to submit that he’s also talking about hypocrisy. But I guess if he used the right words, it wouldn’t have been nearly as edgy and would have gotten a couple million fewer views on YouTube. At first I thought he was coming too close to advocating “don’t go to church, be the church” like Barna’s “Revolutionaries,” but I rewatched it and retained his clarification about “loving the church” which I suppose means he doesn’t advocate dropping out. He’s just, again, challenging legalism and hypocrisy.
Fortunately, a trained professional has now written a lengthy and helpful critique, which is not uncomplimentary, about this latest YouTube phenomenon. Kevin DeYoung, co-author of Why We Love the Church: In Praise of Institutions and Organized Religion (2009?, Moody Publishers) writes “Does Jesus Hate Religion? Kinda Sorta, Not Really.” Here’s DeYoung’s comments on the poet’s misleading use of the word “religion,” how religious Jesus was, and how religious he wants his followers to be:
More important is Bethke’s opening line: “Jesus came to abolish religion.” That’s the whole point of the poem. The argument—and most poems are arguing for something—rests on the sharp distinction between religion on one side and Jesus on the other. Whether this argument is fair depends on your definition of religion. Bethke sees religion as a man made attempt to earn God’s favor. Religion equals self-righteousness, moral preening, and hypocrisy. Religion is all law and no gospel. If that’s religion, then Jesus is certainly against it.
But that’s not what religion is. We can say that’s what is has become for some people or what we understand it to be. But words still matter and we shouldn’t just define them however we want. “Jesus hates religion” communicates something that “Jesus hates self-righteousness” doesn’t. To say that Jesus hates pride and hypocrisy is old news. To say he hates religion—now, that has a kick to it. People hear “religion” and think of rules, rituals, dogma, pastors, priests, institutions. People love Oprah and the Shack and “spiritual, not religious” bumper stickers because the mood of our country is one that wants God without the strictures that come with traditional Christianity. We love the Jesus that hates religion.
The only problem is, he didn’t. Jesus was a Jew. He went to services at the synagogue. He observed Jewish holy days. He did not come to abolish the Law or the Prophets, but to fulfill them (Matt. 5:17). He founded the church (Matt. 16:18). He established church discipline (Matt. 18:15-20). He instituted a ritual meal (Matt. 26:26-28). He told his disciples to baptize people and to teach others to obey everything he commanded (Matt. 28:19-20). He insisted that people believe in him and believe certain things about him (John 3:16-18; 8:24). If religion is characterized by doctrine, commands, rituals, and structure, then Jesus is not your go-to guy for hating religion. This was the central point behind the book Ted Kluck and I wrote a few years ago.
The word “religion” occurs five times in English Standard Version of the Bible. It is, by itself, an entirely neutral word. Religion can refer to Judaism (Acts 26:5) or the Jewish-Christian faith (Acts 25:19). Religion can be bad when it is self-made (Col. 2:23) or fails to tame the tongue (James 1:26). But religion can also be good when it cares for widows and orphans and practices moral purity (James 1:27). Unless we define the word to suit our purposes, there is simply no biblical grounds for saying Jesus hated religion. What might be gained by using such language will, without a careful explanation and caveats, be outweighed by what is lost when we give the impression that religion is the alloy that corrupts a relationship with Jesus.
Update: Poet Jefferson Bethke responds on his Facebook page to those using his video to “bash the church”:
If you are using my video to bash “the church” be careful. I was in no way intending to do that. My heart came from trying to highlight and expose legalism and hypocrisy. The Church is Jesus’ bride so be careful how you speak of His wife. If a normal dude has right to get pissed when you bash His wife, it makes me tremble to think how great the weight is when we do it to Jesus’ wife. The church is His vehicle to reach a lost word. A hospital for sinners. Saying you love Jesus but hate the Church, is like a fiancé saying he loves his future bride, but hates her kids. We are all under grace. Look to Him.
Ask him a politically-charged question about biblical sexual morality.
It’s good that Joel was able to get what he’s bound to believe out of his mouth. He would do well to work toward not only believing these things, but also ministering these truths in the way Paul advised Timothy in 2 Timothy 4:1-5, which reads,
I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.
For the record, according to Joel Osteen, he believes that the Bible teaches the following:
“You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination” (Leviticus 18:22).
“If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination…” (Leviticus 20:13).
“…and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error”(Romans 1:27).
“…just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire” (Jude 1:7; cf. Gen. 19).
But this next passage shows Joel should have also qualified his initially reassuring assertion to Oprah that “I think [homosexuals] will [go to heaven].” He does clarify that “they need forgiveness of their sins,” but this was an attempt to evade putting the two together until Oprah had to pull it out of him in uncertain terms. In this, he sounds nothing like the apostle Paul, whose inspired assertion is much clearer:
“Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Corinthians 6:9-10).
Fortunately for homosexuals who repent and for Joel Osteen, Paul goes on in verse 11 to proclaim:
“And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:11).
It is the desire of every loving, right-minded Christian that the homosexuals should, by the grace of the Spirit of God,
- believe the good news of forgiveness through the sinless life, atoning death and enlivening resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, and so be justified through faith alone…
- repent of his sins, including the sin of homosexuality…
- be washed clean in the waters of baptism…
- learn to obey all that Christ taught, including his and his apostles’ teachings on sexual morality. Or, as Paul put it above “[be] sanctified.”
Short of this, the regrettable fact remains that the homosexual, as well as the sexually immoral, the idolater, the adulterer, the thief, the greedy, the drunkard, the reviler and the swindler, among other kinds of sinner, will not inherit the kingdom of God.
Happy Reformation Day! October 31, 2011 marks the 494th anniversary of the legendary event considered the spark that ignited the Protestant Reformation when Augustinian monk, Martin Luther, nailed the Disputation on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences(commonly known as the 95 Theses) to the door of the castle church in Wittenberg, Germany in 1517. In the years that followed, Luther lead the movement to reform the church’s understanding of what the Bible teaches about the doctrine of justification by God’s grace alone, received through faith alone, in Christ alone, according to Scripture alone, to the glory of God alone. The Lutheran tradition would build on Luther’s work on justification, and they placed it at the center and starting point of all of the benefits of the redemption purchased
by Christ for his people. But biblical reformation of soteriology didn’t end with Luther and the Lutherans. The Reformed movement also grew alongside of the Lutheran movement, and while both were co-belligerents against the Roman doctrines of justification and the other benefits of redemption in Christ, they differed on the most biblical way to systematize these truths.
Friday on the Reformed Forum’s podcast, Christ the Center, Camden Bucey, Jim Cassidy and Jeff Waddington interviewed Dr. Lane Tipton, the new Charles Khrae Professor of Biblical and Systematic Theology at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Dr. Tipton was allowed two hours to spell out the differences between the Lutheran and Reformed approaches to justification and many current issues related to this essential aspect of Protestant theology, such as whether Dr. Michael Horton’s academic work on the subject is moving Reformed theology toward a more Lutheran, and therefore,according to Dr. Tipton, semi-Pelagian doctrine of justification. Listen to the podcast at this link.
I was introduced to Reformed theology by Michael Horton’s materials and the Lord used his parachurch ministries Christian United for Reformation (CURE) and the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals (ACE) and the White Horse Inn radio show to gradually bring me around to embrace it. I will certainly be looking forward to a future Christ the Center program in which Dr. Horton responds to Dr. Tipton’s characterization of his work on justification and the other benefits of redemption in Christ. More public dialogue on this ought to take place, IMHO. At this point, Dr. Tipton’s case sounds convincing and more in line with the Reformed confessions and catechisms, as opposed to Dr. Horton’s efforts to, as I once heard him state on the air, build a kind of ecumenism between Reformed, Lutheran and Anglican traditions. I can see how some synthesis may be taking place in that effort. But what do I know?
Reformata, Semper Reformanda!