18
Jun
13

Who is the Liar?

Warning: Please don’t read this unless you are interested in knowing the truth.

Paul Dohse Sr. posted the following accusations against Calvinsts on his blog yesterday. This is a serious matter since he has accused us of sinning against God in Lying about our actual beliefs. Why don’t you be the judge about who is misrepresenting the truth.

“The Dirty Dozen: 12 Things That the Lying Calvinists Want You to Assume,”

1.Total Depravity pertains to the unregenerate only. No, they mean the saintThs also.
2. Sola Fide (faith alone) only pertains to Justification. No, it pertains to sanctification also.
3. Sola Scriptura (Scripture alone) means “alone” and not other “subordinate” truth that also has authority though “subordinate.” No, creeds and confessions also have authority; it is not Scripture “alone.” What does “alone” mean?
4. Solus Christus (Christ alone) only regards the way to the Father. Not so, Christ is the only way to understanding all of reality. This was the crux of Luther’s Theology of the Cross.
5. Progressive sanctification sanctifies us and is separate from justification. No, they say, “never separate” but “distinct.” Then why not call it “progressive justification”? Why not clearly say that we are sanctified by justification?
6. Election predetermines our eternity. No, the elect have to persevere. The perseverance of the saints is not a characteristic of the saved, it is something that the saints have to add to their faith to complete their justification. They call this, “already-but not yet.” The promises of God are “conditional.”
7. Proponents of synergistic sanctification are mistaken. No, Calvinists think they are lost and promote a false gospel.
8. Spiritual growth is about change. Absolutely not. Calvinists believe we experience manifestations of Christ as we live by faith alone.
9. The imputation of Christ’s righteousness is only imputed for our justification. No, they believe it is imputed to our sanctification as well.
10. We should learn what the Bible teaches and apply it to our lives. No, they believe we should look for the cross in every verse which results in Christ manifestations in the Spirit realm. They call this, “the imperative command is grounded in the indicative event.”
11. Calvinists don’t believe in absolution. Not so. Calvin believed Christians need a perpetual forgiveness of sins that can only be found in the church. Augustine and Luther propagated this as well.
12. Christ works within us. Only BY faith, and faith only exists in the object that it is placed in. Calvinists believe that when the work of Christ moves from outside of us to inside of us that it makes “sanctification the ground of our justification.” The contemporary doctrinal term for Calvinism is “the centrality of the objective gospel outside of us.”
If Calvinists want to deny this, have them explain to you what all of the aforementioned para-biblical expressions mean. If they don’t mean what is stated above, what do they mean? Perhaps there is a perfectly logical explanation for all 12.
paul

1. Total Depravity pertains to the unregenerate only. No, they mean the saints also.
On this point, I would agree with Paul D. that some, e.g., Tullian Tchividjian, have written that believers are still totally depraved.

What Paul has failed to reveal is the context in which Pastor Tchividijan made this statement and the way in which he defined the term as he was using it.
In my view, Pastor Tchividijan should simply have used the term “remaining sin.” I have written about this matter on my blog. I believe he is correct in stating that every facet of the human personality continues to be affected by sin. If that is all a person means by the term “total depravity,” I would have to agree that believers continue to be totally depraved. If defined as I have done in the following definition, then it is inaccurate to refer to believers as “totally depraved.”
Perhaps I can best define what I mean by total depravity by first stating the negative.
By “total depravity” I do not mean:
1. Sinners act as badly as they are capable of acting.
2. Sinners are incapable of deeds that are good in the sight of other people.
3. Sinners are incapable of rational thought.
4. Sinners are incapable of recognizing the logical relationship between cause and effect and design and designer.
5. Sinners have no consciousness of the existence of God and their guilt before him.
6. Sinners have no ability to understand the facts of the gospel and give mental assent to it.
7. Sin has totally destroyed God’s image in the unregenerate.
8. Sinners are incapable of acting morally. Not every unregenerate sinner is perverted and degenerate.
By “total depravity” I mean:
1. The nature of every person, in Adam, has been radically affected by the fall so that every person is, at heart, equal to every other person in estrangement from God. If one sinner acts better than another it is due to God’s common, restraining grace alone.
2. Sinful nature has radically affected every facet of the sinner’s personality. The result is that he does not think rightly about God and the gospel; he does not feel right emotions toward God and the gospel; and he does not make right choices with reference to God and the gospel. Every facet of the sinner’s personality is controlled by his sinful nature.
3. Though sinners are capable of understanding the facts of the gospel, they regard it as foolish and weak. They may know truth but do not welcome it (1 Cor. 2:14). They do not receive the love of the truth that they might be saved (2 Thess. 2:10).
4. Sinners are hostile toward God and the gospel. Whenever they are confronted with God’s self-revelation their response will always be to suppress it and turn from it. Sinners love darkness rather than light because their deeds are evil and everyone who does evil hates the light and does not come to the light lest their deeds should be exposed (John 3: 19-20). A person will never choose that for which he has no desire and to which he is totally averse.
To the best of my knowledge, this is the way Calvinists have consistently defined “total depravity.” Accordingly, most Calvinists would not refer to believers as “totally depraved.” What I would agree with is the idea that believers in a regenerate state have no ability to progress in sanctification independently. If God’s Spirit does not continue to prompt our desire to obey God and enable us to do so, we can do nothing.

2. Sola Fide (faith alone) only pertains to Justification. No, it pertains to sanctification also.
As I indicated in response to the first accusation, believers do not act independently in the process of sanctification. In reality, sanctification must be by faith since its goal is to please God. Hebrews 11: 6 informs us that, “without faith, it is impossible to please Him [God]. . . .” In fact, the entire chapter that has come to be known as “the faith chapter” deals with the obedience of Old Testament believers who, subsequent to believing God for justification, acted in obedience to God through faith.

How is it that believers are to account themselves truly dead to sin and alive to God if not by faith (Rom. 6:11)? How is it that believers are to feast on Christ, the true bread that came down from heaven, if not by faith (John 6:53-58)? Here, Jesus uses the present tense that indicates continuing action. The believer in Christ doesn’t eat once and then move on to his own efforts. He continues to feast on Christ as long as he lives. How are we to behold the Lord’s glory as in a mirror if not by faith (2 Cor. 3:18)? How are we to rest on God’s promises, and as a result prefect holiness in the fear of God, if not by faith (2 Cor. 7:1)? How are we to walk by the Spirit, if not by faith (Gal. 5:16)? Paul wrote, “For we walk [live our lives habitually] by faith not by sight” (2 Cor. 5:7). How are we to take up and put on the whole armor of God if not by faith (Eph. 6:11)? How can a person “joyfully accept the plundering of his goods, knowing that he has a better and enduring possession for himself in heaven,” if not by faith (Heb. 10:34)?

If the issue is whether believers are called, in the process of sanctification, actively to obey Christ, then, without controversy, sanctification is not by faith alone since it draws within its scope the believer’s acts obedience. What I would deny is that these acts of obedience can be rightly performed apart from faith. It is only through faith that we can produce the kind of obedience that pleases God. This is the clear teaching of Hebrews 11, the so called faith chapter.

3. Sola Scriptura (Scripture alone) means “alone” and not other “subordinate” truth that also has authority though “subordinate.” No, creeds and confessions also have authority; it is not Scripture “alone.” What does “alone” mean?

I am willing to concede that there are those of the Reformed persuasion who seem to follow their creeds in preference to the Scriptures. For example, the New Testament Scriptures reveal absolutely nothing about the practice of infant “baptism.” There is neither a command for nor an example of such a practice in the Scriptures; it is practiced because of “good and necessary consequences.”

Confessions have some “authority” in the sense that they inform us concerning the doctrines the Church has consistently held through-out the centuries. If someone has gathered wood for a campfire, it makes no sense to scatter the firewood and then try to collect it again. Believers throughout Church history have thought through critical issues and have left their findings on record for our instruction and edification. It makes no sense to ignore those conclusions. In a multitude of counselors there is wisdom. Still, if the doctrines set forth in those creeds and confessions cannot be drawn out of the Scriptures by sound exegetical methods, we must reject them. Our final authority in all matters of faith and practice must be the Scriptures.

4. Solus Christus (Christ alone) only regards the way to the Father. Not so, Christ is the only way to understanding all of reality. This was the crux of Luther’s Theology of the Cross.

Perhaps it will come as a shock to Paul, but Luther was not a Calvinist. That said, it is important to understand what Paul D. is talking about. In order to have that understanding, one would have to have a quotation from a Calvinistic confession that stated such a doctrine. It is not enough to show that some Calvinists teach this; he needs to show that this has been the historic view held by Calvinists.

I must confess I have difficulty addressing this accusation since I am not sure what Paul or the Calvinists he is citing mean by it. Nuclear physics is a reality. Do Paul and the Calvinists he cites mean Calvinists believe Christ is the only way to understand the mechanics of the material universe? If they do, I think they would have difficulty demonstrating that contention. There are many intelligent scientists who are ignorant of Christ yet understand the reality of the facts they deal with every day quite well.

It is a reality that if I turn the ignition key to my car, the engine will start. Must I know Christ to understand that reality? Obviously not!

If, on the other hand, by reality they refer to the reality behind the reality, that is a different issue. Neither the material universe nor the “natural” laws that govern it would have come into existence or continue d to exist apart from Christ. Though God has granted unconverted people the intelligence to understand how natural laws work and how elements of the created universe interact with one another, apart from Christ, there can be no clear understanding of the reality behind the reality. Paul wrote,

For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities-all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent (Col. 1:16-18).

Everything was created through him and for him. Everything coheres because of him. If he did not exist, none of the natural occurrences we have come to take for granted would continue. The writer to the Hebrews tells us that he bears the universe along by the word of his power (Heb. 1:3).

Additionally, the Word of God would be enigmatic apart from him. Prior to his incarnation, every type and promise of the Old Testament pointed forward to his first coming. By that, I do not mean that every verse of the Old Testament was about him. It is just silly to make such a claim. What I do mean is that the entire flow of history has been moving toward him and finds its fulfillment in him. His coming introduced the “end [goal] of the ages.” Everything prior to his coming looks forward to him. Everything after his coming looks back to his accomplishments. Every command of the New Testament finds its basis in his redeeming work. We are to do what we do because he did what he did. Every time we partake of the Lord’s Table, we look back to his death and forward to his second coming.

I want to make comment about the charge that we deny the Trinity by understanding Christ’s centrality. We believe “there are three persons in the godhead, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit; these three are one God, the same in substance, equal in power and glory.” (WSC). Please note especially that these three persons are EQUAL in power and glory. We would never suggest that one person of the godhead deserves more honor than another or deny that any person of the godhead was a lesser Deity than another.

What is clear in Scripture is that in the economy of redemption at times it is the function of one or more persons of the Trinity to focus attention on and bring glory to one person of the Trinity above another. For example, during the period we call Jesus’ humiliation, it was his clear mission to focus attention on and bring glory to his Father. He summed up his mission in these words, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. He has expounded the Father to us.

Since the giving of the Spirit on the day of Pentecost it has been the ministry of the Holy Spirit to bear witness to Christ and to exalt him. It is significant that Peter did not preach about the Holy Spirit on that occasion [Pentecost]. Instead, prompted by the Holy Spirit, his message centered on Jesus’ death, burial, resurrection, ascension and session at the Father’s right hand. It is his work to prompt us to confess that Jesus is Lord. We center on Christ in obedience to the Holy Spirit’s ministry.

5. Progressive sanctification sanctifies us and is separate from justification. No, they say, “never separate” but “distinct.” Then why not call it “progressive justification”? Why not clearly say that we are sanctified by justification?

The main reason we would not call progressive sanctification “progressive justification” is that these are two entirely separate matters. Apart from motivating our obedience, justification is completely distinct from sanctification. The only reason we say they cannot be separated is that they both result from the believer’s union with Christ. As a result of that union, all those for whose justification Jesus died, died with him to the dominion of sin and death. All whom he justifies, he also sanctifies. “Progressive justification” would involve a person being sanctified as the basis of his justification.

6. Election predetermines our eternity. No, the elect have to persevere. The perseverance of the saints is not a characteristic of the saved, it is something that the saints have to add to their faith to complete their justification. They call this, “already-but not yet.”
This statement poses an unnecessary either/or scenario. It would be like asking whether election makes our eternal destination certain OR must sinners believe the gospel. Of course the answer to such questions is “YES!” Justification is God’s judicial declaration about believers, all the conditions of which Jesus has satisfied. The saints can add nothing to his work to complete their justification. Jesus paid it all. We do not call this the “already/not yet.” An example of the already/not yet would be “In Christ we are ALREADY glorified because we are united to him who is glorified, but we are NOT YET glorified in our experience as we will be when he returns.”

7. Proponents of synergistic sanctification are mistaken. No, Calvinists think they are lost and promote a false gospel.

This would, of course, depend on the definition of “synergistic sanctification.” If, by this term, we understand the biblical truth that both the Spirit and the saint are involved in the process of sanctification, we don’t even believe it is errant, much less that those who propound it are promoting a false gospel. John Murray would be considered by most to be a Calvinist. This is what he wrote about what would generally be referred to as “synergistic sanctification.”

While we are constantly dependent upon the supernatural agency of the Holy Spirit, we must also take into account of the fact that sanctification is a process that draws within its scope the conscious life of the believer. The sanctified are not passive or quiescent in this process. Nothing shows this more clearly than the exhortation of the apostle: “Work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for his good pleasure” (Phil. 2: 12, 13). . .God’s working in us is not suspended because we work, nor our working suspended because God works. Neither is the relation strictly one of co-operation as if God did his part and we did ours so that the conjugation or coordination of both produced the required result. God works in us and we also work. But the relation is that because God works we work. All working out of salvation on our part is the effect of God’s working in us, not the willing to the exclusion of the doing and not the doing to the exclusion of the willing, but both the willing and the doing. And this working of God is directed to the end of enabling us to will and to do that which is well pleasing to him. . . .The more persistently active we are in working, the more persuaded we may be that all the energizing grace and power is of God.

8. Spiritual growth is about change. Absolutely not. Calvinists believe we experience manifestations of Christ as we live by faith alone.

There is no question that the Westminster Confession of Faith is a Calvinistic confession. In answering this accusation, I can do no better than to simply quote its statement on sanctification. The Westminster Theologians wrote:

1. They, who are once effectually called, and regenerated, having a new heart, and a new spirit created in them, are further sanctified, really and personally, through the virtue of Christ’s death and resurrection, by his Word and Spirit dwelling in them: the dominion of the whole body of sin is destroyed, and the several lusts thereof are more and more weakened and mortified; and they more and more quickened and strengthened in all saving graces, to the practice of true holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.
2. This sanctification is throughout, in the whole man; yet imperfect in this life, there abiding still some remnants of corruption in every part; whence ariseth a continual and irreconcilable war, the flesh lusting against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh.
3. In which war, although the remaining corruption, for a time, may much prevail; yet, through the continual supply of strength from the sanctifying Spirit of Christ, the regenerate part doth overcome; and so, the saints grow in grace, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.

I don’t know about you, but that sounds a great deal like growth and change to me.

9. The imputation of Christ’s righteousness is only imputed for our justification. No, they believe it is imputed to our sanctification as well.

The best way to answer this accusation is simply to say that it reveals Paul’s lack of understanding of justification and sanctification. Imputation belongs to a judicial realm and is only appropriate to justification. The concern of sanctification has nothing to do with imputation. Instead, it is concerned with the elimination of internal and external sin from the believer’s life. Justification is concerned with righteousness; sanctification is concerned with purity of heart and life. Justification is a legal declaration about the believer. God’s work in justification is totally outside the believer. God’s work of sanctification [progressive] is totally within the believer.

10. We should learn what the Bible teaches and apply it to our lives. No, they believe we should look for the cross in every verse which results in Christ manifestations in the Spirit realm. They call this, “the imperative command is grounded in the indicative event.”

Wrong again. Of course we believe in applying what the Bible teaches to our lives. It is only that we believe the Bible is more about what Jesus has done than it is about what we are doing. Our application of biblical injunctions is based on the reality that we have, by Jesus’ redemptive work, been set free from our bondage to sin. This is what we mean by imperative command being grounded in the indicative event. Indicative–You have been freed from your slavery—Imperative–Stop living like slaves.

11. Calvinists don’t believe in absolution. Not so. Calvin believed Christians need a perpetual forgiveness of sins that can only be found in the church. Augustine and Luther propagated this as well.

Of course, Calvinists believe in absolution as do Arminians and Semi-pelagians . Absolution simply means “an absolving , or setting free from guilt, sin, or penalty; forgiveness of an offense. What we don’t believe is that such absolution can be conferred by anyone but God.

As to Calvin’s teachings, one must understand that Calvinists are no more followers of Calvin than Arminians are followers of Arminius. Most Calvinists have greater disagreement with Calvin that agreement. For example, very few if any modern Calvinists would advocate burning heretics or witches. I know of few Calvinists who would advocate the wedding of Church and State [there are some Theonomists who would come close. Since our views of ecclesiology would radically differ from his, some of his statements concerning forgiveness in the church etc. sound strange to our ears. Remember that in Calvin’s construct, being outside the Church was to be an unbelieving heretic. Everyone who was a citizen of the city was also a member of the Church. The only kind of person who was outside the church had been excommunicated as an unbeliever. Thus, for him, forgiveness was to be found in the Church. For him, that would be the same as saying forgiveness belongs to believers [and in his case, probably to their covenant children].
Additionally, we always need to keep in mind the context in which Calvin wrote. His controversies and his opponents were not ours. Often his remarks, taken out of their historical context can sound strange to our ears.
The quotation to which Paul D. makes reference here is from Calvin’s Commentary on 1 John 1. It is as follows:

Secondly, this passage shews that the gratuitous pardon of sins is given us not only once, but that it is a benefit perpetually residing in the Church, and daily offered to the faithful. For the Apostle here addresses the faithful; as doubtless no man has ever been, nor ever will be, who can otherwise please God, since all are guilty before him; for however strong a desire there may be in us of acting rightly, we always go haltingly to God. Yet what is half done obtains no approval with God. In the meantime, by new sins we continually separate ourselves, as far as we can, from the grace of God. Thus it is, that all the saints have need of the daily forgiveness of sins; for this alone keeps us in the family of God.
By saying, from all sin, he intimates that we are, on many accounts, guilty before God; so that doubtless there is no one who has not many vices. But he shews that no sins prevent the godly, and those who fear God, from obtaining his favor. He also points out the manner of obtaining pardon, and the cause of our cleansing, even because Christ expiated our sins by his blood; but he affirms that all the godly are undoubtedly partakers of this cleansing.
The whole of his doctrine has been wickedly perverted by the sophists; for they imagine that pardon of sins is given us, as it were, in baptism. They maintain that there only the blood of Christ avails; and they teach, that after baptism, God is not otherwise reconciled than by satisfactions. They, indeed, leave some part to the blood of Christ; but when they assign merit to works, even in the least degree, they wholly subvert what John teaches here, as to the way of expiating sins, and of being reconciled to God. For these two things can never harmonize together, to be cleansed by the blood of Christ, and to be cleansed by works: for John assigns not the half, but the whole, to the blood of Christ.
The sum of what is said, then, is, that the faithful know of a certainty, that they are accepted by God, because he has been reconciled to them through the sacrifice of the death of Christ. And sacrifice includes cleansing and satisfaction. Hence the power and efficiency of these belong to the blood of Christ alone.
Please notice what he is arguing against. It is not that justification is a once for all declaration of the believer’s righteousness on the basis of Christ redeeming works. He is arguing against the sophists–
The whole of his doctrine has been wickedly perverted by the sophists; for they imagine that pardon of sins is given us, as it were, in baptism. They maintain that there only the blood of Christ avails; and they teach, that after baptism, God is not otherwise reconciled than by satisfactions. They, indeed, leave some part to the blood of Christ; but when they assign merit to works, even in the least degree, they wholly subvert what John teaches here, as to the way of expiating sins, and of being reconciled to God. For these two things can never harmonize together, to be cleansed by the blood of Christ, and to be cleansed by works: for John assigns not the half, but the whole, to the blood of Christ.

He is arguing not that believers must be justified every day, but that our justification is based not on the blood of Christ and our works, but on the blood of Christ alone.

We Calvinists believe in a perpetual forgiveness, not a repetitive justification. We do not believe we must be justified again every time we sin. We do believe that Jesus, in his intercessory ministry presents the efficacy of his once for all sacrifice before the throne of God’s grace for our perpetual forgiveness.

12. Christ works within us. Only BY faith, and faith only exists in the object that it is placed in. Calvinists believe that when the work of Christ moves from outside of us to inside of us that it makes “sanctification the ground of our justification.” The contemporary doctrinal term for Calvinism is “the centrality of the objective gospel outside of us.”

I will give Paul the benefit of the doubt here. I could accuse him of deliberately misquoting but perhaps he is just being sloppy. Perhaps I am mistake, but I believe the quotation to which he is alluding is from John Piper. Piper wrote, “When the ground of justification moves from Christ outside of us to the work of Christ inside of us, the gospel (and the human soul) is imperiled. It is an upside down gospel.”
Please note that Piper is talking about the GROUND or BASIS of justification. He is not discussing whether God works in believers. The issue is whether we are declared righteous because we are righteous, or because another’s righteousness is imputed to us. To suggest that God justifies us because we are righteous is to return to Rome. To use this quote to suggest that Piper believes God does not work in believers is disingenuous as best.
In our day there are many voices teaching many confusing and contradictory doctrines. How are we do discern what is truth and what is error? Let me close by making a few suggestions.

1. Examine everything in the light of Scripture.
2. Don’t trust anyone who refuses to define his terms.
3. Don’t trust anyone who is unwilling to provide quotations of his opponent’s position in context.
4. Read what is actually being said, not what someone tells you is being said.
5. If you are dealing with a confessional group like Calvinists, go to their confessions. Although confessions are not authoritative in the higher sense of that term, they can give you an accurate statement of their beliefs.
6. Don’t trust anyone who wants to tell you what you believe. If a person can’t state your position to your satisfaction before commenting on it, reject them.
7. Don’t trust anyone else’s research. Always search matters for yourself.

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3 Responses to “Who is the Liar?”


  1. June 18, 2013 at 5:58 pm

    Dohse continues to show he is not only in error about what he thinks he knows, he is lazy in forming his arguments. Straw men are easy to knock down. Anonymous straw men are all the more easy targets. This laziness is why Dohse does not examine the written arguments of any credible Calvinst. As Rick Warren selects from various translations to get the word or phrase that fits his argument, so Paul Dohse, Sr. picks various undocumented statements from myriad anonymous Calvinists so he can demonstrate his alledged rhetorical skill and knowledge of the Scriptures. From such, turn away.


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