Wanting a Title

I’ve been urged to fish or cut bait. Well, actually the slogan was the equivalent one associated with an outhouse. So, leaving that to your imagination, in reality I’ve been told to publish or perish.

In the context of an article I read recently which contained in so many words an admonition to make your life count for the Lord’s kingdom I want to bring out some clarifications in that regard.

If asked the question “do you want your life to count for the Lord’s kingdom” what would you say? I say I’ll get around to it as soon as I quit beating my wife. How can I say I don’t want my life to count? But conversely how can I say I do – there seemingly being not much going on in these parts, in that regard?

So I appeal to the lawyerly instinct to parse, dice, recast and in all other ways reformulate the phrase so as to arrive at the following acquittal of my slackerly ways and hopefully end up smelling like a rose.

To wit: What is meant by the “Lord’s kingdom”? I wanted to take a timeout and re-read Ridderbos’ The Coming of the Kingdom but my publisher has deadlines so I had to skip that. The short answer is that whenever you see the phrase Kingdom of God you’ve got to find out whether you’re dealing with a W2K view or an E1K view.

In my defense, and to the surprise of no one who has been briefed on the basics of W2K, I offer:

Exhibit A:

Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.

Exhibit B:

Now concerning brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another, for that indeed is what you are doing to all the brothers throughout Macedonia. But we urge you, brothers, to do this more and more, and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may live properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one.

(NOTE: I am using culture to designate everything and anything outside the visible church). These two passages are remarkable for two things. First, imperatives to preach the gospel in the secular – cultural – realm are absent. Let’s set that aside for another discussion at another time. But secondly, imperatives to impact the culture in any kind of way (other than praying for the DOW industrials) are absent. How could these pre-eminent ambassadors, these authorized mouth-pieces of God, have skipped such a clear opportunity to remind the church of the cultural mandate? Is this an argument from silence? Hah! It seems more like an argument to remain silent.

Exhibit C:

And Abram journeyed on, still going toward the Negeb. Now there was a famine in the land. So Abram went down to Egypt to sojourn there, for the famine was severe in the land. When he was about to enter Egypt, he said to Sarai his wife, “I know that you are a woman beautiful in appearance, and when the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘This is his wife.’ Then they will kill me, but they will let you live. Say you are my sister, that it may go well with me because of you, and that my life may be spared for your sake.” When Abram entered Egypt, the Egyptians saw that the woman was very beautiful. And when the princes of Pharaoh saw her, they praised her to Pharaoh. And the woman was taken into Pharaoh’s house. And for her sake he dealt well with Abram; and he had sheep, oxen, male donkeys, male servants, female servants, female donkeys, and camels. But the LORD afflicted Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai, Abram’s wife. So Pharaoh called Abram and said, “What is this you have done to me? Why did you not tell me that she was your wife? Why did you say, ‘She is my sister,’ so that I took her for my wife? Now then, here is your wife; take her, and go.” And Pharaoh gave men orders concerning him, and they sent him away with his wife and all that he had.

This exhibit C is really where the W2K view begins to come into its own. Whereas the first two exhibits point out the absence of a cultural mandate (Genesis 1:26ff notwithstanding) this exhibit is a demonstration of natural law. General revelation reveals two basic things. First, God’s glory. Second, his holiness. How so? The first is obvious. “The heavens declare etc.” The second is that God reveals his law to every person without exception. See Romans 1:18ff. (Which, by the way is why the 10 commandments don’t need to be placed in any courthouse in the land). Why is this pertinent to the discussion? Color me ignorant of what so-called Christian cultural transformation really is but it seems to me that what’s going on in that agenda is an attempt to inculcate law abiding by those that can’t do it upon those that already have the law but who also can’t do it.
I can’t buy into the notion that he will return to a kingdom (not just a church who keeps the law but to a secular unbelieving culture that also measures up) that by dint of great effort will eventually be somehow worthy of his return. The return of Christ to a church without spot wrinkle or blemish can only refer to that imputed righteousness which is the believer’s by faith alone.

Furthermore, the secular realm is a suitable candidate for the task of, to use one popular example, bringing about “justice” in society. As mentioned, the secular realm is equipped with the law no less than the church. Second, God by means of his common grace has instituted the state (secular culture in its most developed expression) with the mandate to execute justice – due process. It therefore seems not a little condescending for the church (or individual Christians, sinners all, if you prefer) to presume to lend a hand, help out a little, across the border.

It is not the job of the church, qua church, nor of Christians as Christians with some Christian mandate to function in the kingdom of this world in any capacity with the goal in view of preparing it for Christ’s return.

I close with Exhibit D: “My kingdom is not of this world“. And I provide a snippet of Ridderbos’ commentary The Gospel of John p. 595:

“However much worldly government might want to serve justice, peace and liberation, it cannot remove the sin of the world because it has no power over the hearts of human beings. Accordingly, the place and the calling of the Christian community in the world are determined by its differences. As citizens not only of this world but also of Jesus’ kingdom, Christians are concerned with the struggle for justice and righteousness, even in the political and social senses of those words, and that not only for the benefit of the church but also for the well being of the world. But the meaning of their existence as the church in the world does not lie there. The primary focus of their attention and message is otherwise. It is not found in what unites it with the world but in what distinguishes it from the world.”

Here I conclude with this: what unites the church with the world is law. What distinguishes it from the world is gospel. W2K tracks with these two.

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47 Responses to Wanting a Title

  1. Echo_ohcE says:

    If by making my life count for the kingdom you mean I should be about the Lord’s work, then so be it. I am and I will.

    But here’s my qualifier: if by making my life count for the kingdom you mean it’s somehow my responsibility to usher in the kingdom, no and no.

    If you mean that I should allow (for lack of a better word) myself to be used of God, to be a tool in his hands for his good pleasure, then ok, great.

    But if you mean that it’s up to me to figure out the secret will of God and bring it about, if you mean that I’ve got to bring the New Jerusalem out of heaven – then no. Absolutely not.

    God is the builder of his kingdom.

    I can preach the Word, but even in so doing, I am not building the kingdom, per se. God is building his kingdom, and using me to do it.

  2. Zrim says:

    Somebody pass this man some TP (for the implication-impaired, that is a hint at the actual imperative to Bruce to publish…but it wasn’t by this contributor who exhibited more patience)!

    What a way to begin, Bruce, golf calp. You had me at “Ridderbos.”

    One point I would like to elaborate on:

    “Color me ignorant of what so-called Christian cultural transformation really is but it seems to me that what’s going on in that agenda is an attempt to inculcate law abiding by those that can’t do it upon those that already have the law but who also can’t do it.”

    This notion of “inculcating law”…I have come to try and distinguish between what I call objective-transformationism (modern) and subjective-transformationism (post-modern). The former one might associate with the old-school Liberalism or the Religious Right, inasmuch as they think and speak in terms of laws, institution, mandates, etc. They want the institution to be “changed.” The latter tends to eschew the former (see Keller’s “The Missional Church”) and it may be here that we W2Kers agree. But before we are done congratulating them, out pops more of the same thing only in different dress. They want to not so much transform the institution but the individual within the institution. And the agenda seems to be the same: change the world. They just do it differently.

    The genius of this latter is that it appeals to the burned over sense of many Americans that religious movements to better the world come and go and leave poor sinners and their world quite let down and not a little skeptical, as well as in the same place as they were when they began. The subjective forms appeal to our already natural American piety that religion is of the heart, the inward life and shows little sign of effecting burn out. But in the final analysis, it is simply another version of the very notion that “the Gospel has obvious implications for this world and translates easily into one’s own set of notions as to how this world out to shake out.” The other side of a skewed coin, if you will.

    This subjective transformationalism, isofar as it eschews the modern and more objective kind, is akin to saying, “We don’t need laws, we need to make people better!” Try convincing your local magistrate of this and he will wonder what you have been smoking. The spirit of Calvinism is properly sober and realistic about human nature and recognizes such appeals as highly idealistic and based upon wishful thinking about human nature, no matter if it is Xian human nature or non-xian human nature, since they are both the same.

    Nice work.

    Zrim

  3. Zrim says:

    Echo,

    I am thinking back to something you said recently around here on a related post when you tried to make the fulcrum between believers and non- to be the heart (you had me going to church and joe unbeliever going to some bar to meet some fluzzie, like all of them do, I guess was my inferring or your implication, I can’t decide which). I replied to you but you never replied back…

    What do you make of Bruce’s implication (and my argument) that the heart, since it is desparately wicked, is not the fulcrum:

    “…but it seems to me that what’s going on in that agenda is an attempt to inculcate law abiding by those that can’t do it upon those that already have the law but who also can’t do it.”

    In my reply to your heart-fulcrum suggestion I also said that this is exactly the line of argumentation, or at least the assumptions of, the post-modern, subjective-transformers who point to the inner life as that which distinguishes us from the unbeliever…over against, say, the objective declaration of God in our justification outside of us without any regard to our inner wherewithal (indeed, contra that very thing).

    Zrim

  4. Rick says:

    Now I really feel like a boy amongst men.

    is E1K, ‘Eastminster One Kingdom?’ If so, funny.

  5. Zrim says:

    And everyone remember that there is something, evidently, that can be called C2K…Covenanter 2 Kingdom: the Covies believe in two kingdoms, but the wheels fall off after that, as they talk about the “mediatorial reign of Christ,” which is Covie-speak for, “the nations should kiss the Son,” which is a principled version of “Christian Nation.” It is not long before a C2Ker like Chellis at DRC will begin to champion Christendom, etc. Interestingly, he also speaks like a subjective-transformer in his eschewing of olden-day, modern forms and sounds a lot like Keller in his “inside-out” approach to transformation. Old with old, in with a newer version of the old, I guess.

    In other words, they agree with W2Kers that there are two kingdoms, but differ with us as to how the two kingdoms are ruled, etc. They will end up accusing us of saying that “Christ doesn’t reign over the LHK.” Fooey. Double fooey.

    I have two employees. I supervise the janitor differently than I supervise the contract bidder, but I still supervise them both, and neither one has much to do with the other.

    Sure is nice weather here in Amsterdam, Echo.

    Zrim

  6. RubeRad says:

    If asked the question “do you want your life to count for the Lord’s kingdom” what would you say?

    In an .mp3 I recently downloaded from WSCAL (this one?) Steven Baugh declared (and defended) that the biblical meaning of “Kingdom of God” is roughly equivalent to “The Age to Come” — or its leakage into this Age via the already/not yet of God’s promises. (In particular, his point was to demonstrate that Heb 2:5-9 (by virtue of its relationship to Ps 8) is more about man’s dominion than about Christ’s).

    So in light of 1 Cor 3:10-15, I’ll say yes, I want as much of my life as possible to count in the age to come. Or, in light of a C.S. Lewis quote I can’t find, so I guess: “We brush up against eternity every time we come in contact with another person”. In light of this quote, evangelism would “count for the Lord’s Kingdom” as it brings in the elect.

  7. RubeRad says:

    I can’t buy into the notion that Christ will return to a kingdom (not just a church who keeps the law but to a secular unbelieving culture that also measures up) that by dint of great effort will eventually be somehow worthy of his return.

    Neither can I, and hopefully neither can any thoughtful transformationalist/postmillenialist. The farthest I can walk down the road of postmillenialism toward their “Golden Age of Christendom” is: if God so wills that the number of the elect will dominate the world population when Christ returns, then the extent to which the Holy Spirit sanctifies the church through ordinary means and marks of word, sacrament, discipline, and prayer — to that extent conversely the secular kingdom will grow smaller, less necessary, and less relevant, to a limiting point of being completely trivial.

    But I wouldn’t call that cultural transformation, but rather cultic supplantation of culture. Effective church government would supplant the need for secular courtroom justice, and diaconal ministry within the church (such as we have already discussed in the Outhouse) would obviate secular administration of social justice.

    This is not to say that the Church would be ruling the earth in place of secular kingdoms. The point I’m trying to make is that the more effective the church is in its gospel ministry, assisting the believer in the individual transformation which is also known as sanctification, the more the world as a whole will be transformed — as a trivial side-effect of being filled with Christians who have been transformed by the gospel; not as the direct effect of the Church expending its energies to that end.

    (And note that I am Amil, because I don’t see the Bible predicting such an overwhelming expansion of the Church in this Age, so it’s all kind of a moot point…)

    I’ll stop here, because I sense that Zrim is about to explode…

  8. Zrim says:

    I guess I read Bruce to be implying that there is an implication in the question itself, one that seems tricky.

    Instead of yes, we might answer, “It does…what is your point?”

    I wonder if behind such questions is the same Gnostic, Keswikian set of assumptions that break believers into two groups: the defeated and the victorious, the carnal and the spiritual, etc.

    I recall my wife, a born and bred believer, expressing lament way back that she didn’t have a “great testimony” like me, that she had always been a Christian. I recall thinking how awful a system is that results in a covenant child thinking such horrid things. Don’t worry, I never once was tempted to assume the front and center podiums to brag about myself (AKA personal testimony)—I have always rather blended in amongst the crowd and recite the Creed together than give into the super-star system.

    This ties into my post earlier on the perpetuation of faith (sorry, Bruce, I don’t mean to hijack you but hope to help make the point): Hart writes in Deconstructing Evangelicalism:

    “Christianity of the evangelical variety has historically struggled with the question of succession. How does the conversion experience become a model for nurture? Countless evangelicals converts, having left behind a life of sin and irreligion, face a difficult task when thinking about passing on the faith to their offspring. Do they encourage their children to pursue the life they did, one of rebellion followed by the ecstasy of regeneration, so that their sons and daughters will come to genuine faith? Not likely. Much more common is the decision to rear their children in the beliefs and practices of the faith, even when such instruction and nurture flatly contradict the model of the conversion experience. After all, turning to God’s mercy is much easier after a life of drugs and sex than it is after a wholesome upbringing of church attendance, family devotions, and Bible memorization.”

    Of course, as insightful as this is, it is a bit vexed as my irreligious upbringing was hardly immoral and it is laughable to suggest that my pre-Christian life was any more rebellious than my wife’s (probably less). But the point remains: we should challenge any notion that we are parsed up into gradations of spirituality that result in class systems. If you believe and are a member of the Church, your life counts in the Lord’s kingdom.

  9. Zrim says:

    Rube,

    I am still picking bits and pieces of me up from your whole notion that unbelieving marriages are not legit.

    Sanctification is not the same as transformation. (And I hope you don’t throw the “transformation of your mind” onto the table.) These two words could not be further apart, so your synonymous use of them sends me picking up my limbs again.

    Also, your “optimistic” amillinarianism presumes too much and begins to read to me like “pessimistic” postmill’ism. If you hold out the illusions of grandeur that actually think it possible that the “church might supplant secular courtroom,” then why has it not happened yet? We’ve had over 2,000 years to to do it. Something tells me we were never meant to, and that is why. Or, maybe we need more innovation like we see in Keller to form the Gospel Coalition to finally help us figure out how to actually do this.

    And if it is possible that “Effective church government would supplant the need for secular courtroom justice,” what’s wrong with saying “…that the Church would be ruling the earth in place of secular kingdoms”? This is very confusing to me.

    Even the Son Himself wondered, “Shall the Son of man find faith on the earth when He returns?” Sounds like He doesn’t foresee such an effective and virile Church, to say nothing of one so effective that they are actually supplanting the courts!

    Excuse me, I have to find my mouth. I know it’s here somewhere. I need it to take a couple of Xanax so I don’t explode any further…

    Zrim

  10. RubeRad says:

    Sanctification is not the same as transformation.

    Sure it is: Justification is not a transformation (declaration of righteousness, not making one righteous), but “Sanctification is the work of God’s free grace, whereby we are renewed in the whole man after the image of God, and are enabled more and more to die unto sin, and live unto righteousness.” Sounds like transformation to me.

    your “optimistic” amillinarianism

    To clarify (I thought I already did). That “optimistic” amillenarianism is not mine. I don’t believe that that transformation of the world will occur, because I don’t believe that God has willed for the elect remnant to grow to dominate the earth. But since I don’t know God’s will fully, then IF God does will for that much of the earth to be elect, and IF the Holy Spirit uses the church so that they become more and more sanctified, only THEN would those side-effects happen in the world.

    We’ve had over 2,000 years to to do it. Something tells me we were never meant to

    I agree. To repeat again (I guess that’s necessary in the Outhouse), all of the above is merely conditional on God’s will being not as I understand the Bible to tell us.

  11. Bruce S. says:

    At bottom I seemed to have asserted that t-ism is none other than inculcating law on those (institutions?) outside the church. What I want is a t-ist to come along and address whether or not I am right. I don’t think the sanctification category applies to t-ism. Although within the church whether or not sanctification is like transformation is a worthwhile subject to pursue. But it doesn’t fit in a t-ism discussion.

    In fact, the suggestion that sanctification is in any way what t-ists have as a goal is one that I think they would deny as well.

    I think that what you’ll get when you pull back the covers off a t-ist is mono-covenantalism. Conflating law and gospel results in E1K by means of terms such as “new kingdom ethic” which seems to give credence to the idea that the God of Promise speaks with a forked tongue.

    I need some coffee. Is there room service in the outhouse?

  12. Zrim says:

    Rube,

    My point about sanctification/transformation is that the latter tends very much to be understood in terms of the culture of the therapeutic, etc. So when we use these terms interchangably, we betray just how much we have been persuaded by “the spirit of the age.” When transformation is used, 9 times out of 10 I hear the stuff of self-improvement, psycho-babble, moralism, etc., where one may very well expect to see his final “transformation” before his dying day.

    Try these on for size, and note the italicized language:

    BC Article 24

    “In the meantime, we do not deny that God rewards our good works, but it is through his grace that he crowns his gifts. Moreover, though we do good works, we do not found our salvation upon them; for we do no work but what is polluted by our flesh, and also punishable; and although we could perform such works, still the remembrance of one sin is sufficient to make God reject them.”

    HBC Question 62. But why cannot our good works be the whole, or part of our righteousness before God?
    Answer. Because, that the righteousness, which can be approved of before the tribunal of God, must be absolutely perfect, and in all respects conformable to the divine law; and also, that our best works in this life are all imperfect and defiled with sin.”

    WCF, XIII (Of Sanctification)
    “II. This sanctification is throughout, in the whole man; yet imperfect in this life, there abiding still some remnants of corruption in every part; whence arises a continual and irreconcilable war, the flesh lusting against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh.
    III. 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 does overcome; and so, the saints grow in grace, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.”

    It all comes down to what sort of lens one has when reading these words, as well as your quote. What are the presuppositions employed to understand just what is meant? This takes a lot of honesty and reflection, I think. I used to mistake my sanctification as being a glorified process of self-improvement, moral or spiritual. I used to glibly use those same terms interchangeably. But confessionalism gradually hit me between the eyes and I have come to understand that they are more antonyms than they are synonyms.

    With regard to how clear you claim to have been…you said, after speaking to the postmill stuff, “But I wouldn’t call that cultural transformation, but rather cultic supplantation of culture.” I still don’t know what the difference possibly could be. I feel like I am with my wife trying to understand the difference between beige and not-so-beige. I guess I don’t have the level of sophistication that insists it makes all the difference in the world.

    With regard to your litany of “if’s,” I don’t understand what use that sort of speculation really is. It seems a lot like actually expecting the Lord’s return today. For my part, I would rather be found with my head down and about my business.

    Zrim

  13. Zrim says:

    Bruce,

    I disagree. While I understand your post to concentrate on the stuff of cultural transformation (and it is good stuff), you have also see that this discussion also has versions of personal transformation, and that it is at least tangetically relevant. Thus, discussions of sanctification are, in point of fact, very relevant to all of this.

    After all, who else can truly transform the world except those who are themselves transformed? Read enough of the Keller-ites and it becomes fairly obvious that they are consistent enough to at least imply this. And I think it makes a lot of sense.

    I know of only One of us Who was able to say that He was indeed better than all the rest (contra any of us) and could change the world because of His perfection. Yet, His agenda had nothing to do with changing the world even as He saw fit; He was offered the world when He joined the tempter in His 40 days, while the latter promised to give it to Him. You can’t change what is not given to you. Instead, He opted to wait for His Father to give it to Him. What marks t-ism of all kinds, both social and personal, is impatience, lust, and arrogance. Yet even he would could claim perfection opted not to.

    Zrim

  14. Echo_ohcE says:

    Zrim,

    I have to admit that I really don’t know for sure what you’re trying to say. So forgive me if I botch it.

    I think what you’re saying is that the difference between an unbeliever and a believer is not the condition of their heart, but whether or not they have been declared righteous by God in Christ by grace alone through faith alone.

    I think that’s what you meant here:

    Zrim said: “In my reply to your heart-fulcrum suggestion I also said that this is exactly the line of argumentation, or at least the assumptions of, the post-modern, subjective-transformers who point to the inner life as that which distinguishes us from the unbeliever…over against, say, the objective declaration of God in our justification outside of us without any regard to our inner wherewithal (indeed, contra that very thing).”

    Echo: Assuming that I have understood you correctly, which I think I might have but am not sure, then my response is this: what I was implying in the other post (and forgive me for not getting back to it, this blog moves too fast for me to keep up with it), was not that what distinguishes me from an unbeliever is simply the condition of my heart.

    Rather, what I was trying to point out is that the distinction between my works and the works of the unbeliever is a matter of the motives behind the works, the condition of the heart.

    What makes me a believer rather than an unbeliever is well, belief, which is why we use those terms. And of course, belief, or rather, the fuller word faith (which is more than mere belief) lays hold of the merits of Christ, and God responds by declaring us righteous by the imputation of Christ’s meritorious righteousness. So yeah, fundamentally, justification or lack thereof is what distinguishes the invisible church from everyone else.

    However, the works of the regenerate person are distinguished from the works of the unregenerate person in the condition of the heart behind it.

    For example, given the reality of sanctification taking place in my heart through the preaching of the Word and the effectual work of the Spirit to renew my heart utilizing that Word, I have no qualms saying that the regenerate do have a real, tangible righteousness.

    In other words, while all our works remain tainted with sin, nonetheless, they are righteous to a degree. Do they FULFILL the law of God? No. Can these works withstand the judgment of God? No. But are they distinguished from the works of the unbeliever? Yes.

    As believers, we desire to obey God. So we try to obey him. This condition of our hearts is fundamentally different from the condition of the heart of the unbeliever, which Paul expounds so well in Rom 1:18ff.

    The unbeliever is constantly seeking to find ways to manifest his rebellion toward God. They invent ways of disobeying. They hate God so much that their entire life is dedicated to disobeying the law of God, however they can, as much as they are able. This is the meaning of their lives.

    The believer is different. While we still have a sinful nature, that’s not the only nature we have as believers. We also have a Spiritual (sic) nature. “I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.” We are not entirely equated with the sinful nature anymore, as we were before we were regenerate.

    Now there is a law waging war in us between the seed of Adam and the seed of Christ. We are like a joined Cain and Abel in one person, and Cain is always seeking to put Abel to death.

    And why did Cain kill Abel?

    “We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous.”
    (1John 3:12 ESV)

    Now how can it say that Abel was righteous? Does it mean that he was only righteous forensically through the imputed alien righteousness of Christ? No. It says his DEEDS were righteous. That’s why Cain hated him so much that he killed him.

    This is why so many in the OT are referred to as “righteous”. This does not only speak of imputed righteousness, but also of righteous deeds.

    Now, this does not mean, in any way at ALL that somehow our justification, God’s declaring us righteous, has anything at all to do with our works.

    No, but rather, the faith that justifies also sanctifies.

    There is no such thing as a person who is justified but not also being sanctified.

    This is what James is talking about when he says that justification is by faith and works. He is not talking about our justification before God. He is not talking about our legal status before God. Rather, the way he is using the word is “shown to be justified”. We show ourselves, not to God but to the world, to be righteous by our works.

    In other words, there is a real righteousness that comes out of the believer, seen in his deeds, due to the ongoing process of sanctification.

    We have to be careful with the doctrine of total depravity in the regenerate. Yes, our sinful nature remains totally depraved, but there is more to us than the sinful nature. The Holy Spirit, God himself, dwells in us. I no longer live but Christ lives in me. If Christ lives in me, and Christ is therefore to a degree reflected in my deeds, we must not at all describe total depravity to him and his indwelling presence in us. Not only this, but we cannot deprive any depravity to him at all.

    Yet we are united to him. So who I am is someone with two natures. One is Adam’s nature, one is Christ’s nature. Adam lives in me and so does Christ, and this is who I am.

    Do I fulfill the law? No. But I do obey it to a degree. The difference is in my desires.

    Christ talks about desires as being sin. Remember he says that even if you look at a woman lustfully you have already committed adultery with her in your heart. The condition of the heart matters. My sinful nature wants to commit adultery, while my Spiritual nature of Christ does not. My sinful nature wants to do far worse things than this, let me assure you, but I don’t do them because Christ is overcoming my sinful nature, little by little.

    Ok, I think I’ve said enough, I’ll just wait for your objections or questions or whatever.

  15. RubeRad says:

    My point about sanctification/transformation is that the latter tends very much to be understood in terms of the culture of the therapeutic, etc.

    True, and what I meant was to redirect to a proper notion of transformation (like I also tried to redirect to a proper notion of “a life counting for the Lord’s kingdom”). Surely you agree: if there were lots more elect Christians, and all elect Christians were more sanctified, one side-effect would be that the world would be a better place. But of course, we here at the Outhouse all realize that making the world a better place is not the goal or mandate of the church.

  16. Zrim says:

    Hi Echo,

    I think you get me, yes. But I cannot say that I read your response and find that you clarify for me:

    “What I was implying…was not that what distinguishes me from an unbeliever is simply the condition of my heart.

    Rather, what I was trying to point out is that the distinction between my works and the works of the unbeliever is a matter of the motives behind the works, the condition of the heart.”

    I realize you tried at length to flesh this out, but I am still confused. Is it the condition of the heart that distinguishes or not?

    Nevertheless, I get that we as believers have two natures at war whereas the unbeliever doesn’t have this war. But I am quite squeamish about the idea that we are to go to this reality in order to distinguish each other. It is a subjective approach and not a properly objective one. As a Calvinistic confessionalist who talks about forensic justification, I would tend to emphaize that.

    In a similar way, when it comes to matters of assurance, I would think we would actually look to Christ outside of us rather than diving inward to examine how we measure up. Your apparent subjective-inner life approach to distinguish un/believers seems very much akin to inward modes of assurance for the individual. And as one seems to foster more doubt than assurance, the other seems to foster more arrogance than humility.

    Zrim

  17. Zrim says:

    Hi Rube.

    “Surely you agree: if there were lots more elect Christians, and all elect Christians were more sanctified, one side-effect would be that the world would be a better place.”

    Short answer: No! This is exactly the point! I don’t agree, and contra your statement, this is precisely the point of Calvinism: you cannot be a consistent Calvinist and say anything remotely close to this; you have reversed Calvinist understanding. No wonder we are viewed as arrogant.

    Longer answer: Sorry, but I surely do not agree. This is something I anticipated you might say, as I hear hear it a lot in similar discussions with others. But this presupposes some things I take issue with in Echo as well: we do not transcend our humanity in ways unbelievers don’t simply by virtue of our faith.

    Grand Rapids has a lot of Xians in it, but it is no better a place than one that doesn’t have over 404 pages of church listings in the yellow pages. Your assertion assumes that Xians are better people than non-Xians. I know you may very well recoil at such a statment, but I cannot conceive of any other implication. I suggest you reflect on just why you think I would automatically agree with that statement. What are your presuppositions?

    I have been a Xian almost as long as I haven’t, and I am no better than anyone else, believing or not; personally I recoil at notions of the world being pre-dominated by the likes of me. True, as Rosenbladt recently said, it is often the case that others see your sanctification better than you do. But I like to think that I have a more sane and soberly high view of personal sin, one that actually compels me to assume that the world would, in point of fact, NOT be any much better simply because I grace it with my presence.

    I am sorry, Rube, but I find your statement to breed more arrogance than this Calvinist is at all comfortable with…and the more I convert into confessionalism (short hand for faithful biblical witness), the more I find statements like these quite alien to it and actually part of the problem.

    “But of course, we here at the Outhouse all realize that making the world a better place is not the goal or mandate of the church.”

    Yes, I agree, that is not the goal. But not only does this view zig as American religion by and large zags, I truly wonder how your above assumptions jibe with it. In other words, if this is not the goal, why do we go around saying “Naturally, the world would be better if it was pre-dominated by Xians”? Worth pondering…

    Zrim

  18. Bruce S. says:

    These threads are “prone to wander, Lord I feel it”. So, I wanna skip back to this:

    Bruce,

    I disagree.

    What are you in disagreement with? Is it this:

    In fact, the suggestion that sanctification is in any way what t-ists have as a goal is one that I think they would deny as well.

    What are you saying? Are you saying that the cultural mandate/t-ism has sanctification of the unregenerate in mind? Or what? I think a definition [from you] of t-ism is mandatory at this point or we won’t have any hope of getting anywhere. No?

  19. Zrim says:

    Bruce,

    My phrase is, “I hate trying to squeeze myself into these damned haloscan boxes.”

    Let me try to explain myself:

    I read you to be saying that sanctification is not relevant to this discussion (Rube brought that up, not me). So when I said I disagree I only meant to say that I think it is. You eventually get into the questions of sanctification when you have these discussions.

    But maybe Rube jumped the gun? I dunno.

    So…I didn’t disagree with anything in your post-proper, I thought it was great.

    A definition, eh?

    Well, maybe I could try and go back to my original response to you? My point there was that I discern two different kinds of transformationalism. One is more old-school as it looks to institution. It doesn’t emphasize so much the converting of sinners as it has concerns to make sure the rules, laws and institutions are “godly.” No, I don’t think it really has the sanctification of the unregenerate in mind. If anything, it takes the “outside-in” approach maybe. That is to say, make the institutions or the culture “Christian” (whatever that means) and it might somehow trickle down to the individual.

    The new school versions, such as you find in Keller (poor Tim, he gets over-used…but it works, so I do it) or more neo-Kuyperian expressions, may look like they are more about the conversion of sinners, but the point/goal is still to make the world a better place. It still gets away from confessionalism’s goal which is simply the conversion of sinners to be reconciled to God FOR ITS OWN SAKE.

    What is at root of both versions of social t-sim, as well as personal t-sim, is simply self-improvement. But confessionalism’s goal is not that, but the reconciliation of sinners to God for its own sake. T-sim of any variety seems to think that something greater exists than that. It’s a function, I think, of an assumed Gospel (something WHI and MR have recently begun to take up) that says, “Yes, yes, converted souls are nice and we begin there. But we have to convert that into a cash-value of either social or personal improvement.” Confessionalism just says, “Huh?”

    I dunno, that help any?

    Zrim

  20. RubeRad says:

    you have reversed Calvinist understanding

    I don’t understand how this relates to Calvinism. What are you saying is the forward Calvinist understanding?

    Your assertion assumes that Xians are better people than non-Xians.

    No, my assertion is not keyed on Christian vs. non-Christian; it is keyed on More Sanctification vs. Less Sanctification. And More Sanctification in the world means Less Sinnin’. So what I’m asserting is that if the Church were larger, and each church member were more Sanctified (and the nonelect failed to compensate with increased sin production), there would be a significant net decrease of sin in the world.

  21. Bruce S. says:

    Yes that does certainly help. I would next like to hear you differentiate between sanctification and personal improvement. Social improvement I think I get.

    Re Keller, I am unfamiliar with him and his agenda. So whatever it is that he (or his school) is doing is news to me.

  22. RubeRad says:

    “Yes, yes, converted souls are nice and we begin there. But we have to convert that into a cash-value of either social or personal improvement.”

    OK, zrim call the bomb squad, because I’m about to explode you again. Yes, that sentiment you put in whoever’s mouth is wrong. You are correct that “reconciliation of sinners to God for its own sake” is critical. But it doesn’t stand alone. Faith alone justifies, but justifying faith is never alone. A correcter statement would be “Yes, yes, converted souls (justification) is critical; but we can’t stop there. We have to follow that up with sanctification.” To do otherwise is to fall into the trap of the Evangelicals, who focus on bringing people in, at the expense of ministering to those who are already in.

    I know you want to avoid therapeutic language like the plague, but is not sanctification ‘personal improvment’?

  23. RubeRad says:

    It looks like Zrim needs to draft a fresh post on what he thinks about sanctification. How is it distinct from “less sinnin'”, and why wouldn’t wholesale “less sinnin'” have a transformative effect?

  24. Zrim says:

    Rube,

    What does this NOT have to do with Calvinism, is th better question.

    You have reversed Calvinist understanding by assuming a high view of the nature of sinful saints, converted as they may be.

    I am not sure I should say much more without becoming merely repetitive. I would say a more “forward” reading of Calvinism has a low view of man’s nature, converted or not.

    As to your “more sanctified, less sinning” formula, I am…amazed. The Church is huge. How much bigger can She get? What makes you think She is so small? I get the feeling you are working with an over-simplified model of irrelevant hypotheticals that also assume way too much. You actually sound like the Transformers I know who say stuff like, “All we gotta do is make people Christian, then everything will be all right.” Well, the church is full of Christians and I would say things are far from all right. Why would the world be any diferent? We have fracture, gossip, sexual sins, slander, cheating, lying. Oh wait, it is the Christian version of all those things so I guess it is more sanctified.

    “More sanctified”? What does that mean? Old cradle-believer Mr. VanVanderVan might be able to claim being “more sanctified” than a new convert, but he sure as shootin’ looks the same as everyone else. We all can only hope but for the slightest advancement in this age, Rube, one hardly even discernible for the most part. What is all this “more sanctified” language and speculation that tempts folks to actually think they might be able to best another believer? I make a lot more room for believers just getting by…makes for a lot less super-saintism and relieves poor sinners to finally realize they are as bad as Calvinism teaches.

    Zrim

  25. Zrim says:

    Bruce,

    “I would next like to hear you differentiate between sanctification and personal improvement.”

    So would I. I am still working that out myself, Bruce. I know that when I hear Horton say this all the time I “know” what he is talking about. I used to drink heavily at the font of Wayne Dyer, so I like to think I know self-improvement speech when I hear it, no matter who is doling it out.

    I think we might be quite helped by a theology of the Cross over that of glory, the program of God and the program of the sarx. Think about the difference between consuming word, bread and wine every week versus doctrines of self improvement, religious or not. I think thr factthat we don’t readily see a world of difference between these terms testifies to just how much the spirit of the age pre-dominates.

    Zrim

  26. Zrim says:

    Rube,

    “You are correct that “reconciliation of sinners to God for its own sake” is critical. But it doesn’t stand alone. Faith alone justifies, but justifying faith is never alone. A correcter statement would be “Yes, yes, converted souls (justification) is critical; but we can’t stop there. We have to follow that up with sanctification.” To do otherwise is to fall into the trap of the Evangelicals, who focus on bringing people in, at the expense of ministering to those who are already in.”

    You are speaking too a devoted HBCer. I know justifying faith is never alone (guilt, grace, gratitude). But my point is that truly converted souls naturally are inclined to sanctification; indicatives naturally compel imperatives, etc.

    My words (convert for its own sake) were a figure of speech meant to make a point, not to literally make the case that there is no such thing as the Xian life. How awful to fall into the Evangelical trap of antinomianism! Ppart of why I think the Reformed tradition is superior is its category for Christian life, etc. Ours if a life of response, though, Rube. Many nod in agreement when I say that but I mean it; it is more than a polite sentiment. The Christian life is complete response (imperatives) to a declared Gospel (indicatives).

    The fact that we often use words like sanctification and self-improvement analogously (…ahem…”How is it distinct from “less sinnin’”, and why wouldn’t wholesale “less sinnin’” have a transformative effect?”) only shows that we don’t really believe the Xian life is one of response…

    Zrim

  27. Zrim says:

    Maybe Rube needs to draft a post on why he thinks sanctifgication is the same as self-improvement?

    So Dr. Phil or Wayne Dyer should be enlisted to re-write WCF, XIII (Of Sanctification), since there is no real difference?

    Or maybe tell me why “keep ’em pure” silver rings for our kids or WWJD bracelets are so probelamtic. And, please, by-pass the faddish nature of these things and tell me why they are contra the HBC’s entreat to live a life of response. By-pass the gang-bangs on seeker-senitivity and explain to me why these things are such a big deal if you make anry a distinction between the lingo of self-improvement and the language of sanctification.

    Zrim

  28. RubeRad says:

    We all can only hope but for the slightest advancement in this age, Rube, one hardly even discernible for the most part.

    So we can hardly discern a tree by its fruit?

    What is all this “more sanctified” language and speculation that tempts folks to actually think they might be able to best another believer?

    I don’t want to be comparing one against another, or hold out you or me or anyone (but Christ) as a benchmark for others, but how about YOU today vs. YOU before? Are you any more sanctified today than you were X years ago? Are you enabled any more to die unto sin? Are you bearing any harvest of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, or self-control? And if you are, do you think nobody around you notices, or receives any knock-on benefit?

  29. Zrim says:

    Rube,

    “So we can hardly discern a tree by its fruit?”

    Recall that line I repeated by Rosenbladt: others will more readily discern your sanctification than you. You’d have to ask those around me what they discern, I suppose. All I really care about is that I am in good standing in the true Church, not that I can discern little nuances of personal advancements, etc. My point is really that Calvinism seems to teach that we actually should always view ourselves as always in want of more because we perceive ourselves as truly sinful creatures. I am suspicious of believers who perceive something advancing in themselves. I take that as a bad sign.

    Me now versus me then? I guess what I just said still stands. I am a member in good standing in the visible and true Church. That is enough for this sinner. Until I come under discipline, I figure I am doing just fine. I would say that it is necessarily true that I have advanced in my sanctification, but I sure don’t see much of it, and I am fine with that. Actually, that I don’t see much of it tells me I have a correct grasp on the nature of my sinful nature, and seems to me to indicate more spiritual health than those who like to say they see themselves getting better and better. Sorry if that sounds too confident, but I am speaking honestly and wanting to drive my point home…

    Zrim

  30. Bruce S. says:

    I’ve been scouring the Outhouse walls for some time now and for the life of me can’t find HBC anywheres.

  31. Zrim says:

    Bruce,

    Consarnit! Sorry, the HB catechism…Rube (snap, snap) add that to the Graffiti, would you, good chap?

    Zrim

  32. RubeRad says:

    OK, it now says “HC or HBC”. If HBC is the acronym that y’alls actually use, I’ll conform to that, and take HC out. Also, unless you really think Bible Church Fundamentalism is going to take off, I vote to scratch that out of the graffiti wall to avoid confusion with Belgic Confession of Faith

  33. Echo_ohcE says:

    Zrim,

    I’m not saying that how to distinguish PEOPLE is by heart condition, but how to distinguish WORKS.

    I’m not saying, how can we tell the difference between a Christian and a non-Christian, but rather defining the difference between Christian WORKS and the works of non-Christians. I’m not distinguishing people, but works.

    Amen to your emphasis on justification, amen to your emphasis on looking to Christ for assurance rather than looking inward at our fruit. But I have to add that while Christ is our PRIMARY assurance, our works also serve as secondary assurance to us too. This is a difference between the Three Forms and the WCF.

    The Three forms talk about assurance based solely and entirely on Christ’s objective work for us, saying that assurance is of the essence of faith.

    Meanwhile, the WCF describes an assurance that is not essential to faith based on the evidence of the Spirit’s work in our hearts. The WCF does not deny that there is a primary assurance based solely on the objective work of Christ that IS of the essence of faith, rather they are saying that the mature Christian will have a more robust assurance of faith, as he sees the fruit of the Spirit in his own life.

    I, like Calvin, affirm that if you look at yourself, you’ll see a lot of sin and will tend to get discouraged. That’s why we must not lose sight of Christ, not even for a minute. However, 1 John 3 (e.g., vv.10-15) demands that we take note of the Spirit’s work in our lives, and recognize that God is truly at work within us, and rejoice and be assured because of it. But as a wise man recently said, the fruit of the Spirit in us should serve as SECONDARY evidence for assurance, not PRIMARY. The Primary basis for assurance must be in the objective work of Christ.

    And in fact, John goes on in 1 John 3:19-20 to say that if we look at our hearts and find only condemnation for sin, then we may assure ourselves by knowing that God is greater than our heart.

    So let us not demand that we choose between either looking to Christ OR to the fruit of the Spirit in our lives for assurance. One is primary, granted, and I find this distinction to be VERY important, but that is not to throw out the other. In both cases, we are looking to the work of Christ, either in the flesh outside of us or by his Spirit in us. Both are God’s work.

  34. Echo_ohcE says:

    Zrim,

    You said: “I would say a more “forward” reading of Calvinism has a low view of man’s nature, converted or not.”

    I too now would like to see what you would say in defining sanctification. You seem to be denying that believers are capable of any righteousness at all. That just seems to be the implication of what you’re saying.

    Please tell me I’m wrong and affirm that you do believe that believers, true believers, can actually perform deeds that are in some measure righteous, that they are capable of some measure of obedience, and the reality of this is called sanctification.

    This is NOT to deny that everything we do remains tainted with sin. But believers are capable of some measure of obedience.

    Oh – now I went on to read some more of your posts, and I’m glad I hadn’t submitted this one without further comment, because you did go on to talk about Christian life, etc, which would moderate how I’m perceiving your view here. Nonetheless, I’ll leave the above comments, and allow you to distinguish yourself from the position I described.

    Nevertheless, I also went on to read this that you said: “I am suspicious of believers who perceive something advancing in themselves. I take that as a bad sign.”

    I am suspicious of your comment here. While it seems that on the one hand, you want to affirm that Christians are capable of some measure of obedient response to God, yet on the other hand, you seem to want to deny this in practice.

    What gives? What you are giving in theory you are taking away in practice, it seems to me.

    Once again I’d refer you to 1 John 3:10-15. Oh, alright, I’ll just paste it in here.

    “By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.
    For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous. Do not be surprised, brothers,that the world hates you. We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death. Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.”
    (1John 3:10-15 ESV)

  35. RubeRad says:

    Just to give the new confession pages a workout, here is where you can find a relevant statement on Assurance. And this statement from WCF 19.6 is provocative: “The promises of [the Law], in like manner, show [the regenerate] God’s approbation of obedience,and what blessings they may expect upon the performance thereof: although not as due to them by the law as a covenant of works.” So in what sense may the regenerate expect the blessings of the law upon the performance thereof?

  36. Echo_ohcE says:

    Rube,

    They are using the term “law” covenantally. They are referring to temporal blessings given according to common grace for obedience to natural law.

    So for example, if you don’t lie, you’ll be blessed because people will know you to be honest, and therefore will want to do business with you, that sort of thing.

    Oh, but maybe you object, saying that this section is addressing BELIEVERS only, the regenerate only. Well, had you quoted the entire paragraph:

    Although true believers be not under the law, as a covenant of works, to be thereby justified, or condemned; yet is it of great use to them, as well as to others;

    It is of great use to them (true believers) as well as to others (unregenerate).

    Natural law. Temporal blessings.

    So now I would express complete confusion as to what you think 19.6 and chapt 18 have to do with each other.

    However, I must point out that in pointing people to chapt 18, on Assurance, you did point people to exactly what I was referring to, so bravo. I just don’t understand what 19.6 has to do with it.

  37. Echo_ohcE says:

    PS When I said “covenantally” above, I just noticed that that was ridiculously unclear. But put it into the context of the covenant of common grace. (Gen 9)

  38. RubeRad says:

    what you think 19.6 and chapt 18 have to do with each other.

    Nothing in particular, but the statement in 19.6 has a lot to do with Zrim’s notion that we shouldn’t expect any temporal benefits.

  39. Zrim says:

    Echo,

    “You seem to be denying that believers are capable of any righteousness at all…Please tell me I’m wrong and affirm that you do believe that believers, true believers, can actually perform deeds that are in some measure righteous, that they are capable of some measure of obedience, and the reality of this is called sanctification.”

    You are wrong. I affirm alll that. And it looks like you did go on to read my words on the Christian life, one of repsonse, etc.

    “I am suspicious of believers who perceive something advancing in themselves. I take that as a bad sign.”

    “I am suspicious of your comment here. While it seems that on the one hand, you want to affirm that Christians are capable of some measure of obedient response to God, yet on the other hand, you seem to want to deny this in practice.”

    Your second hand deceives you, as it seems to be taking away what the previous one gave. It is not so much that I am “denying a measure of obedience” as much as it is a matter of emphasis. I have already admitted in this string somewhere that I heartily affirm the Christian life, sanctification, etc. I talked about how indicatives compel the imperatives, etc., etc. What your suspicision actually betrays, I think, is an assumption that says, “Because one is capable one ought to be able to perceive easily.” I think that is quite faulty. Your problem with what I have said, I think, shows the problem of of our time insofar as in shows just how introspective and pietistic we really are. You conclude that perhaps I have no category for the Xian life, and I find this odd. My point is actually not that there is no category, but in how we approach that category. You want to be introspective, I say we need to be examined by the church.

    I know, I know, next you will be calling me a Lutheran. But there are worse things in the world, I suppose. I was at a time attracted to Lutheranism, but I found it quite absent any category for the Christian life, etc. That is actually what kept me from the Wittenburg trail. What i discovered in the Reformed tradition was actually a correct, biblical balance between God’s sovereingty and human responsiblity. We Calvinists get mis-read all the time for being some sort of determinists, etc. But I think if you read it correctly, you actually find that we place a proper emphasis on human duty to the declared Gospel upon us. What won the day for me was this very fact; I make a very big deal out of the “life of response, the life lived in gratutude, the life lived as a response to grace.” I don’t mean this as a polite tip-of-the-hat to grace, but as the only category for proper Xian living. I take Xian living very seriously and find that no other tradition gives us the means by which to understand it than that superior one called the Reformed tradition, as it best witnesses to the biblical text with regard to the question, “How thren shall we live?” since that is an inevitable question. So being charged with making no place for it seems really weird to me: how can someone who affirms Xian duty to this extent be also charged with “denying obedient response”? The only thing I can think of is that operating on your part is actually a pietistic assumption that demands not so much Christian duty but but an inward inspection of things like fruit of the Spirit, etc. I discern in you and Rube more Evangelicalism in this way than confessionalism. I loook to the covenant community to affirm my sanctification, not myself.

    What is more ironic is that I am likely the lone, diaconal voice in my own Reformed church calling for a recovery of church discipline in certain matters. I get befuddled looks as to why certain cases need to be handled as if we really believed in sanctification and the befitting behaviors of believers, as if we really believed 1 Cor. 5. How can I be accused of wanting to “deny this practice” when I want a return to the third mark of the true church instead of glorified therapy?

    It comes down to a matter of what lens we are employing to read something like the fruit of the Spirit. I call mine more churchly, yours more individualistic and pietist. I say discipline the wrong-doer (1 Cor. 5), where you might say to heap up “pastoral care” and therapeut him endlessly with glorified introspection.

    zrim

  40. Zrim says:

    Echo,

    “So for example, if you don’t lie, you’ll be blessed because people will know you to be honest, and therefore will want to do business with you, that sort of thing.”

    So why do I get kicked in the teeth when I do what is right sometimes and get away with my sin other times?

    Much as I am a fan of natural law as a W2Ker, how are we to account for counter-intutive experiences as both believers and non-, do you think?

    “…the statement in 19.6 has a lot to do with Zrim’s notion that we shouldn’t expect any temporal benefits.”

    When did I say that, or was it an implication of something I said maybe? I am trying to make the distinction a matter of perception with regard to sanctification. I hav ealready admitted that it is necessarily true that I advnace in sanctification. My point is simply a matter of perception. And my point still stands that it is proper that I actually perceive very little but that others perceive more in me than myself.

    Does a “member in good standing of a true and visible church” mean much to you guys, or is it a nice ceremonial status that is really eclipsed by my own spiritual navel-gazing?

    Zrim

  41. RubeRad says:

    Does a “member in good standing of a true and visible church” mean much to you guys

    Given the lack of the third mark (which you note), it certainly means less than it should.

    Echo’s pointing out how WCF 19.6 is a statement of common grace has given me much to think about. I also appreciate your desire to avoid quantifying your own sanctification, but I think you go too far in shutting down any discussion of sanctification will affect of individual believers, and those they live among. Absolutely, setting up those effects of sanctification as the goal of the church is idolatry; but the solution is not to pretend they don’t exist.

    If believing that at least some of God’s promises to the Christian are temporal makes me an optimistic amill, then sobeit.

  42. Zrim says:

    Rube,

    If I have overstated things, mea culpa. I have really only endeavored to make a point here.

    I have no desire to “shut down discussions” on personal sanctification, etc. And I don’t perceive in my purview anything resembling a conclusion that “they don’t exist.”

    My point is to shift the usual line of thinking in our day from the more individualistic to the more churchly. I realize that requires a hefty shift in thinking and may very well be perceived as “going too far.” But that in itself I find instructive and interesting.

    Moreover, I resist the usual temptation to simply “split the difference” and say both approaches to perceiving our sanctification are equally valid. There is the notion of “equal with distinction” and “equal without distinction.” I tend to think it highly American to adopt the latter approach to things. Again, I think we ought to note the wisdom in making priority and emphasis. Just as our tradition under-emphasizes the evangelism of those “afar off” and emphasizes the instruction of its own and ought not be mistaken to have “no category for evangelism,” I think the best of our tradition actually emphasizes the objectivity of the churchly approach over against any inward inspections with regard to our sanctification and assurance.

    I am ready to be accused of going too far. Indeed, I welcome it because I think it means someone is listening and is being challenged as to their more Evangelical ethic yet subsuming beneath.

    I, too, “[believe] that at least some of God’s promises to the Christian are temporal.” I just don’t make as much fuss over them as I do my good standing in the true and visible church.

    Zrim

  43. Zrim says:

    Bruce,

    I can’t help but wonder if we have wandered off point. But to reiterate how I think the question of sanctification becomes relevant, peruse this short discussion had over at DRC. It was just a couple short hops before I was asked about sanctification. It surprised me, but it was out of this exchange that I began wondering why it was that even when some eschew transformationalism like Chellis I find myself cheering until I hit this same sentiment Rube expresses: the wworld will be transformed if we just make people Xians…and I can’t help but feel something is still wrong.

    What is especially interesting to note about Chellis’ words is that he seems to think the Gospel hasn’t “taken root” in China. Whatever could he mean? Is he implying that it has here in America or the West? His wild championing of Christendom and the West otherwise make me think so. But if pointing to cultural “success” is the proof, are we really comfortable with the whole picture and claiming the Gospel is the cause of it? Can we really take the whole thing (including everything from Britney Spears to open elections and due process) and say, “Look what we can do? Don’t you want the Gospel as well?”:

    “But then I ask myself the question. What if the gospel takes root in China? Will China remain unchanged? Will its culture not be… transformed? Not on the basis of politics, but through the inpact of souls who have been ordered according to the standards of a Christ and His law.”

    So, it isn’t through the outside-in approach from old-school transformationism, but rather the inside-out approach. That is to say, convert people and “China will be changed.”

    “Will its culture not be transformed”? That is just what Rube asks. It may seem intuitive that “the more Xianity/xians, the better the place will be.”

    Again, though, consider Little GRusalem (Grand Rapids, MI). We have a church every 2.4 miles. It could be said safely that there are more Xians than not here. Yet, as nice a place as it is, I find it no better or worse than any other city I have been. How exactly has GRusalem been “transformed”? Are we simply left to speculate that it is better than other cities, making ourselves slaves to the statistics game or just an unreliable and biased intutition? I have nothing against intuition, but mine seems to suggest that GRusalem, at th eend of the day, has made no strides beyond any other place in the world.

    Chellis seems to suggest that the litmus test is if a culture looks like ours (West, liberal democracy, etc.) then we can say the Gospel has “taken root.” Isn’t that odd? By that measure, we might say that John and Paul were a collosal failures. He also implies that there must not be very many Xians in China, yet our church has missionaries over there who have good reports, etc. Are they simply lying to us? I doubt it.

    Chellis hears Liberalism in Transformational lingo and he shudders. And rightly so. But that simply betrays his mere Conservatism, as if it is somehow more friendly to the Gospel. He seems to still bat at that boogey-man the Liberal who surfaces with a cultural set of values contrary to his own with regard to limited government, etc. For such a historical scholar as he, I would expect he knows that the Xian Liberals could also be heard saying, “Just make ’em Xian like us and all the chips will fall nicely into place. After all, Xians are the best people in the world!” I know it will sound harsh, but, just like the classic American Liberal is better at being a cultural Liberal than Christian, Chellis equally reveals how to be a better conservative Republican than Christian.

    Zrim

  44. Echo_ohcE says:

    Zrim,

    My tone is calm when I say: I’d appreciate it if you’d stop calling me a pietist. I didn’t put you into some heretical category when I objected to your language and asked your position. Please do me the same courtesy. I’m greatly displeased by your charge, which is terribly unfounded.

    Further, the charge that I’m not confessional is also unfounded, because your only basis for saying this is that I advocate self examination as a means for greater assurance, rather than only letting the Church judge me and tell me whether or not I should think of myself as a true believer. Besides the fact that the view you advocate is not present in ANY of the reformed confessions, I have lots of tools to bring to bear against your position.

    Let’s look at the Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter 18:

    1. Although hypocrites and other unregenerate men may vainly deceive themselves with false hopes and carnal presumptions of being in the favor of God, and estate of salvation (which hope of theirs shall perish): yet such as truly believe in the Lord Jesus, and love him in sincerity, endeavoring to walk in all good conscience before him, may, in this life, be certainly assured that they are in the state of grace, and may rejoice in the hope of the glory of God, which hope shall never make them ashamed.

    Echo: notice that it says that those who are seeking to be obedient may assure themselves that they are in the state of grace. Which one of my elders would venture to assume that everything they see as outward must certainly be sincere and not hypocritical? None of them would. They don’t know if I’m a hypocrite or not. They can’t know. Only I know that.

    This sincerity of heart is crucial to discerning whether or not you are actually exhibiting the fruit of the Spirit, the graces offered in salvation. After all, as Paul says in Romans 8, the flesh CANNOT submit to the law of God.

    “For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot.”
    (Romans 8:5-7 ESV)

    So if you find in yourself that you are not wholly hostile to God, but are actually “endeavoring to walk in all good conscience before him,” then you may “be certainly assured that they are in the state of grace, and may rejoice in the hope of the glory of God, which hope shall never make them ashamed.”

    Again, this hope is offered to those who “truly believe in the Lord Jesus, and love him in sincerity, endeavoring to walk in all good conscience before him”. Only I can judge that about myself. Only me. Only I know if I’m a hypocrite or if I’m sincere.

    WCF 18 continues:

    2. This certainty is not a bare conjectural and probable persuasion grounded upon a fallible hope; but an infallible assurance of faith founded upon the divine truth of the promises of salvation, the inward evidence of those graces unto which these promises are made, the testimony of the Spirit of adoption witnessing with our spirits that we are the children of God, which Spirit is the earnest of our inheritance, whereby we are sealed to the day of redemption.

    Echo: Look at this! The Westminster divines said that an infallible assurance of faith is founded on 3 things.
    1. The divine promises of salvation
    2. The inward evidence of grace
    3. The inward testimony of the Spirit

    Now how on EARTH can my elders tell if I am hearing the inward testimony of the Spirit? Only I know. And what about inward evidence of grace? Why did they use the word “inward”? Does this have anything to do with the heart condition of 18.1, namely sincerity and truly believing and endeavoring to obey?

    Once again, 1 John 3, and actually the bulk of this whole epistle, states this in no uncertain or unclear ways. For example:

    “By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.”
    (1John 3:10 ESV)

    Echo: and of course, I am competent to look at myself and determine whether I am practicing righteousness or not, because I know if I have love or not. Do I need the elders to tell me if I love my brothers?

    “We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death.”
    (1John 3:14 ESV)

    Echo: do I know whether or not I love my fellow Christians, my brothers? Or do I need elders to tell me the condition of my heart? Actually, who is the only one in the world who knows if my love of the brothers is sincere? Only I do.

    “Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us.”
    (1John 3:24 ESV)

    Echo: John is telling us how we can KNOW we abide in God and he in us, namely by discerning whether or not we keep his commandments. Let us not suppose that John is demanding PERFECT FULFILLMENT here, because he’s not. But he has already defined what he means by distinguishing loving the brothers from murdering the brothers, in the previous part of the chapter (see vv.10-15). He says that we should love one another and not be like Cain who murdered his brother for being righteous. He is not saying that only those who perfectly obey the law know that God abides in them, rather, he makes it very clear what he means in v.23:

    “And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us.”
    (1John 3:23 ESV)

    Echo: only I know if I love anyone. People can look at outward appearances, but they cannot look on my heart. I know more about my heart than my elders do. I don’t know it perfectly as God does, that would be a foolish presumption, but I do know whether or not I am sincerely seeking to obey God by believing in Christ and loving my brothers. My elders cannot truly discern me from a hypocrite. I can.

    But the Westminster Confession of Faith is just getting warmed up! It goes on in chapter 18:

    3. This infallible assurance doth not so belong to the essence of faith, but that a true believer may wait long, and conflict with many difficulties before he be partaker of it: yet, being enabled by the Spirit to know the things which are freely given him of God, he may, without extraordinary revelation, in the right use of ordinary means, attain thereunto. And therefore it is the duty of everyone to give all diligence to make his calling and election sure, that thereby his heart may be enlarged in peace and joy in the Holy Ghost, in love and thankfulness to God, and in strength and cheerfulness in the duties of obedience, the proper fruits of this assurance; so far is it from inclining men to looseness.

    Echo: First, it talks about the Spirit enabling us “to know the things which are freely given [us] of God”. What is that saying but that the Spirit helps us to discern HIS fruit in our lives and in our heart? This is exceedingly clear from the context of the rest of this chapter of the Confession.

    But it goes on to say that this self examination is not just something we might want to consider engaging in, but actually goes so far as to call it a DUTY for EVERYONE. They make it abundantly clear that this is what Peter means when he talks about making our calling and election sure. It means to seek our own assurance of salvation. Part of that entails being obedient for the sake of conscience.

    And they go on to say that even this will lead to greater obedience. It sure seems to me like what they’re saying is that the work of the Spirit in us is part of the object of our faith, and this faith yields the fruit of obedience.

    But again, John helps us appropriately balance these concepts by reminding us that:

    “By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him; for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything.”
    (1John 3:19-20 ESV)

    So when we examine ourselves, and we discover sin, and we find that our heart condemns us, we can reassure ourselves that we are in fact of the truth, that is, born again, knowing that God is greater than our heart, who says, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Rom 8:1)

    Zrim, it appears to me that you have swung the pendulum too far in the opposite direction, that you have overreacted against “evangelicalism.” Where did you get this notion that self examination is pietistic and examination by elders is confessional? This is quite the false dichotomy you have set up! But what’s worse, you made it up on your own. This is not a view taken by any of the reformed confessions. I don’t know how you’ve managed to take for yourself the authority to declare what is confessional and what isn’t! You are adding to the Reformed Confessions all by yourself! And your view is contrary to the abundantly clear passages of Scripture:

    “Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup.”
    (1Corinthians 11:28 ESV)

    And if that wasn’t clear enough for you:

    “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!”
    (2Corinthians 13:5 ESV)

    It does NOT say let the elders examine you, it says examine YOURSELF. The Greek is exceedingly clear. He is telling them all to engage in self examination. Your view directly contradicts this as well as the Westminster Standards and others I have mentioned, yet you say that your view makes you confessional, and mine makes me a pietist.

    You are clearly absolutely, 100% wrong. And I count it a real shame that you have forced me to be so clear and uncompromising and ungentle. You left me no choice by your harsh rhetoric.

    My view is that of the Westminster Confession of Faith. How can I not be confessional? This view has been around since the 1640’s and has been confessed by Presbyterians ever since. When did pietism come about? Was it before or after? Were the Westminster divines pietists Zrim, or did pietism come about in Germany among the Lutherans at least a hundred years later?

    Now, as I have already said, there is some difference between what the WCF says here and what the HC says on these matters, so I don’t ask you to agree with the WCF. But you ought to relent on your charges of pietism and non-confessionalism. And frankly, you ought to agree with what I’ve said here, because I’ve used Scripture to make my point at least fairly clear.

    But even if you can’t agree with me, you ought to at least abandon the view that ONLY the church can judge us. We are called to examine and judge ourselves, which judgments must be tested against Scripture and those of our elders.

    If you want to argue for the superiority of the HC’s stance on the issue of assurance, be my guest, but you had better interact with the texts I have cited and explain how I have mishandled them and how the Westminster divines mishandled them. Any other approach is simply unacceptable.

    There is no support for your view about exclusive elder-judgment. None. But you’re welcome to try.

  45. Zrim says:

    Echo,

    Yeow. Talk about over-reacting. My, my. I have never set myself up as any sort of authority, etc. I actually make every effort to be clear that I am just another yahoo in the Church. I think we have been through this before.

    I think my words were more like, “I discern in you a form of pietism,” instead of a bare-knuckled charge of “being a pietist.” At least, I tried to be deliberate enough to stay away from a form of name-calling.

    Most of your response has basically been “They don’t know if I’m a hypocrite or not. They can’t know. Only I know that.”

    So are you? And, how do you know? I always come up short when I ask those questions. Calvin said we all die with an unbeliever in us. I find such an admission of great pastoral value and take comfort that I am allowed to ‘fess up to my sin and great hypocrisies, etc. You, however, seem to imply that I am my own final judge. In you, I hear an alter call coming, or another chance to rededicate myself. I see your temp rising at that implication since you likely have been trained to ostensibly deny revivalism, but, if the emphasis is indeed upon me and it’s not a churchly one, what is so wrong with a nervous bench?

    Also, in case you by-passed my comments to Rube who also seems to infer that I intend to wipe away any internal category (!), I have already made the concession that I am not setting up an either/or dichotomy in which there is absolutely no place for individual inspection, etc. What I am intending is a shift of emphasis from the individualistic to the more churchly, that’s all. It is interesting that even when a such a shift of emphasis is suggested, one gets blasted with both barrels. Methinks I hit a nerve. My sense of such a response is that it again betrays just how much pietism has won the day, even amogst those who would claim the Reformation. The Reformation was a battle on two fronts, you know, Rome and the fanatical pietsists who, as Luther said, “think they have swallowed the Holy Spirit, feathers and all.”

    I’m sorry, Echo, but I still discern in your words a hefty dose of emphasis on the inward life, introspection, willing and running, etc. I appreciate that this may make your blood boil. But I am confused as to just why. There are plenty of Reformed in my geographical area who gladly take the collar of “experimental Calvinist” or “Reformed in the pietist tradition.” At the top of your response you imply that pietism is heresy. Tsk-tsk. Another instance of the H-word being misused so as to make its meaning meaningless. I don’t consider pietsism “heresy.” It’s quite mis-guided, etc. but heresy? Much as I hate it, I stop short of invoking mere slander against it.

    We could go back and forth all day on the sources you cite and foth-lipped charge me to address. It comes down to the lens we each use. You should know that, being up to here in seminary-ism. The FVers use the forms to make their case, as do the Covies when they tell us no government is legitimate unless it “kisses the Son.” Hyper-Calvinists and Theonomists do the same thing. And the beat goes on. Much as it is good to set my beer on to watch TV, I don’t need the flat spot on my pinhead to get much flatter. So I decline your offer to to make my case via your stipulations, a bout I am bound to lose.

    But, I do highly recommend the recent WHI broadcast on “Faith and Assurance.” Near the end (actually, all the way through), Horton makes the case for the emphasis to be placed on the objectivity in assurance. True, he goes to word and sacrament; but I think it’s the same ground one might use to also make the case that those things are within the countours of the church so a churchly emphasis in sanctification seems consistent. Again, what this translates into is that, while I have no problem an individual perceiving his good works, etc. (while as Riddlebarger says it is the most wobbley of the legs, I think that is well within the Reformed purview), I don’t emphasize it. Like I told Rube, I, too, “[believe] that at least some of God’s promises to the Christian are temporal.” I just don’t make as much fuss over them as I do my good standing in the true and visible church. I don’t deny the leg, I just don’t know why you’d lean on the weakest leg on your chair? Have you ever read Llyod-Jones on assurance? Yikes. He politely tips his hat to objectivity then goes on at length to lead the sinner inward. And I think it is that sort of emphasis that characterizes broad Evangelicalism, as well as those influenced by it no matter the banner above their threshold. I have a piety that is the reverse of that.

    I do not perceive one’s good standing as a mere ceremonial or necessary evil (that is an Evangelical take) while he busies himself with looking inward. I say that if he is at peace within the true, visible church, he is good to go. Why is that so bothersome to you?

  46. Echo_ohcE says:

    Zrim,

    Your reply is dishonest and unnecessarily inflammatory. You first try to back away from your charges of pietism, only to reassert them. You did not reply to what I said, but only cited something Horton said and Riddlebarger.

    And then we get more anti-Evangelical rhetoric. I’m not an Evangelical. You are not debating an Evangelical. You are debating an adherent of the Westminster Confession of Faith, and a seminary student who has actually studied under Michael Horton, the man you quote.

    So quit talking about the silly pietists and Evangelicals, quit talking about how you smell their stench on me, and deal with what I have said. You have not honestly interacted with what I have said, but continue to tell me that I smell like a filthy Evangelical.

    You, sir, are out of line with your debate tactic. It is dishonest and inflammatory. You are forming my thoughts into whatever image you like. You don’t understand what I’ve said, you don’t understand what the WHI was saying – which program I just listened to last night for the SECOND time – and you keep pitting me against what they were saying.

    You want me to just say that the work of the Spirit in us is the third leg of the stool, and then just say that that’s tricky and then move on?

    I will not simply say it’s tricky and move on. I don’t believe it’s tricky. The WCF makes it crystal clear. It’s tricky for you 3 forms folks because your standards don’t address it particularly.

    But you haven’t even admitted that the passages of Scripture I so laboriously put before your eyes and interpreted for you have any value at ALL!

    You have not acknowledged that what I was saying bears any resemblance to Scripture. You have not acknowledged that what I was saying bears any resemblance to the WCF, a document you ought to at least recognize as orthodox. All you have said I resemble is Evangelical pietists.

    You are out of line. My reaction is not an overreaction. You’re quite right, you’re making my blood boil. I find it astonishing that you knew that would happen and yet still responded in the way that you knew would have that effect. Now you’re deliberately tempting me to respond in anger. Thanks. Your response is so helpful on so many levels.

    This conversation is over.

  47. Zrim says:

    Echo,

    Wait, how do you know I am being dishonest? I thought only I can know my own heart.

    Seriously, though, shouldn’t you be out on a ledge somewhere? If I had a dime for every time you signed off a blog exchange with “this conversation is over” or a derivative thereof…I’d have a lot of dimes. You are one angry set of pixels.

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