Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Justification is a Friend to the Heart and to Holiness

Many have charged the doctrine of imputed righteousness of producing an antinomian spirit.  If, it is reasoned, there is nothing left for the believer to do in order to inherit eternal life, then there is no motive for holy living.  Therefore this doctrine can't possibly be the correct doctrine regarding our justification.  Sure we must believe, they say, but we must continue to be righteous in order to maintain our right standing with God.  However, the shoe is on the other foot.  It is a denial of imputed righteousness that actually produces the antinomian spirit.
A couple of questions must be asked at this point.  1)  What type of righteousness does God demand from the christian?  2)  Can that type of righteousness be achieved by a christian?  To the first, it is clear that they only type of righteousness that God will accept is a perfect one.  He is holy and cannot look upon even the slightest whisper of unrighteousness with approval (Hab. 1:13).  To accept a less than perfect righteousness is to profane His name and to deny His glory (2 Tim. 2:13).  Secondly, it is clear that a mere mortal cannot achieve this.  Even if we were to grant that all sins are put away with at the type of conversion to Christ, and that the slate is clean moving forward, all the works of righteousness that we perform are continually shot through remaining corruption.  "All our righteousness is as filthy rags" Isaiah 64:6.  Filthy rags is not a currency that God recognizes.  Only the spotless righteousness of Jesus Christ imputed (credited) to the believer at the moment of faith and repentance.  A denial of this produces an antinomian (anti-law) spirit.  It denies part of God's law (i.e. that part that demands perfect obedience) and replaces it with it's own standard (i.e. a standard that accepts imperfect and corrupt obedience).  A denial of imputed righteousness produces antinomianism in the form of legalism.  However to accept imputed righteousness is to find all the reason we need to pursue holiness from the heart.   We are freed from comparing our selves amongst ourselves for the righteousness that God demands and instead we look to Christ.   Herman Bavinck remarks on this point:

"To correctly assess the benefit of justification, people must lift up their minds to the judgment seat of God and put themselves in his presence.  When they compare themselves with others or measure themselves by the standard that they apply to themselves or among each other, they have some reason perhaps to pride themselves in something and to put their trust in it.  But when they put themselves before the face of God and examine themselves in the mirror of his holy law, all their conceit collapses, all self-confidence melts, and there is room left only for the prayer: "Enter not into the judgment with your servant, for no one living is righteous before you." (Job 4:17-19; 9:2; 15:14-16; Ps. 143:2; 130:3), and their only comfort is that "there is forgiveness before you, so that you may be revered." (Psalm 130:4)   [Herman Bavinck Reformed Dogmatics Vol. 4 Holy Spirit, Church, and New Creation (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic 2008) pg. 204

Monday, September 29, 2014

It is More Difficult to Disobey Than to Obey

It is a vain charge that men bring against God's law, that it is rigorous, sever, and difficult.   Besides the fact that this contradicts Jesus' own testimony that "My yoke is easy," and that "My burden is light," it also contradicts plain reason and experience.  Is it not more difficult to be vicious, covetous, violent, cruel, than to be virtuous, charitable and kind?  What does Satan and the world engage us in, but those things that are full of molestation to the soul and hazardous to the body?  Is it a sweet thing to continually combat against our own conscience, and resist our own reason, and to always argue against inward voice, as we do when we sin?  What does God require of us but to "do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?"  Micah 6:8   Those things work to the honor of God and the welfare of the world, and the security of our own souls, and are easier to practice than acts of disobedience.  Do not men disown God when they walk in ways hedged with thorns, wherein they  meet with the arrows of conscience, at every turn, in their sides; and slide down to an everlasting punishment, sink under an intolerable slavery, to contradict the will of God;  when they prefer a sensual satisfaction, a violation of their reason, gnawing cares and weary travels BEFORE the honor of God, the dignity of their natures, the happiness of peace and health, which might be preserved at a cheaper rate?  No, it is far more rigorous and sever and difficult to disobey rather than obey.

[adapted from Stephen Charnock's The Existence and Attributes of God Vol. 1 (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House Publishing, Reprint 1979] pg. 111-112

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Is Your Church a "Third Way Church?"

If you have not heard this phrase yet, it has become the new nomenclature for "churches" that have refused to be either gay affirming nor gay denying, but instead have discovered a third way in which neither of these positions is adopted.   If that sounds problematic from the beginning, you are thinking rationally.  Only by embracing multiple instances of double speak can one walk away after hearing this position thinking it is anything but completely absurd.  This is yet another sign that both post-modernism and the "new tolerance"have made a mockery of rationality and Christian ethics.  Recently Ken Wilson of the Ann Arbor Vineyard has embraced this ludicrous model in his blog found here.  The problem with this position, other the the clear Biblical calls to repentance and holiness, is that it is intellectually dishonest.  Which is the nice way of saying that pastors who embrace this position are liars and are seeking to make merchandise of the sheep.  They are the ones who Paul warned us about in Acts 20:29-30 "...after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves men will arise speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them."
The fact of the matter is that there cannot be a third way.  It defies all logic.  The basic claim borrows on a principle that if carried to it's end would deny it's existence. It says that "we don't have to be gay affirming(so that we don't offend real Christians), nor do we have to be gay denying(so that we don't offend the world)."  It seeks to create an atmosphere of radical non-confrontational non-judgmentalism. Yet, ironically, in doing so it is judging the two other positions as being incorrect, which violates it's own principle. If it were sane in any possible world to embrace a third-way philosophy, then it would also be sane to embrace a fourth-way philosophy which would claim that it is "...neither gay denying(way 1) nor gay affirming(way 2) nor is it gay denying nor gay affirming(way 3), BUT instead it is a church that is gay denying and gay affirming." But then of course there could be the fifth way which adopts the archaic "don't ask don't tell" policy that was dumped by the military.  Or for that matter the 6th way where gender is completely denied as an ontological reality.
It is sad that such an argument against third way even has to be made.  Any non-judgemental stance towards sin is an endorsement and acceptance of the sin.  This is unavoidable.  When Eli of old tried to embrace a third-way with his two sons Hophni and Phinehas, God dismantled his family (cf. 1 Samuel 2:27ff).  This type of theology is the epitome of man-centered absurdity.  Even the radical liberal Tony Jones who is wrong on probably 95% of his theology agrees that no third way is possible.
My wish is this, that churches(and by that I mean the small hand full of men that are on the leadership team) would simply show their cards.  If they are going to embrace the culture's deviant lifestyle as a viable path to holiness, then let them be men and do so.  They who walk the fence on this issue are cowards.  If you are under a leadership team that is unwilling to declare their position because they are in "process,"you can be certain that they are just waiting for the wind of culture to show them the way they should go.  Those type of men are not leaders, nor are they interested in the glory of God; they are  are pawns of Satan, and are deceiving others in order to pad their bank account.
"If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain." 1 Tim. 6:3-5