Theologies of Glory versus Theology of the Cross, Part Two: Moralism

garden

In Part One, I suggested that American religion can essentially be broken down into two expressions, moralism or spiritualism (or both). Granted, that is an over-simplification of sorts. But however vulnerable to a thousand qualifications, I think it is useful to use these categories to help clarify what the Gospel is by also talking about what it is not. In Part Two, I would like to look specifically at how moralism plays itself out.

When man is allowed to define his chief problem he will always, always come up with anything but his sin and its reconciliation as God declares it. “How does God reconcile us to Himself?” is not our natural question. This is because we simply weren’t built for such a question. We were built to graduate ourselves into eternal life. The Law is natural to us, but the Gospel is not natural to us. We would rather think, “How can we save ourselves?” We are hard-wired to fulfill the covenant of works. This helps account for the myriad of religions, philosophies, programs and general activities buzzing within our world. In our blindness we still naturally think we are to raise our hands and save ourselves through any host of activity. Thus, by nature, all of the world’s activities are not those that flow out of looking backward in gratitude for God’s reconciliation, but rather a forward bent to “get ourselves back to the garden,” as Matthews Southern Comfort famously put it.

And insofar as the natural mind is fixated on issues of morality and spirituality as ways to self-justification, Christian moralists and spiritualists are more than eager for this challenge, rushing headlong into the fray and agreeing with the wider assumptions in order “to further the Gospel.” This is seriously misguided. Instead of turning the assumptions on their ears and declaring the theology of the Cross, they gladly go with it, making not a little mess in the process.

The problem, a sinner may say, is his moral constitution. He thinks the problem is that he must be “changed,” that he must be made a good or better person. He turns his sights on all that is wrong and wanting about him and then seeks a way to either rectify or better himself. Christian moralists acquiesce to this false assumption. If the sinner would just gather up his resources and do what God says all would be well. After all, why would God demand righteousness if man wasn’t able in the first place? In other words, as the infamous Christian moralist and heretic Pelagius put it, “Ought implies can.”

Instead of simply believing the Gospel through a God-given faith, the sinner, evidently, must go further. A silent and muted belief just isn’t enough. Perhaps after having spent much energy on the fact that “salvation is not by works,” what’s given with the right hand is taken away with the left. The sinner must gather his inner resources, conjure up that crowned work itself called faith, raise his hand (sometimes literally) and perform, make a “decision to accept Jesus Christ as his personal Savior.” Very likely he must pray a prayer of one variety or another and trust in his own sincerity while doing so. He must beckon God out of His seat as if He were some sort of cosmic St. Bernard. Thus, from the very start he is taught that his faith is his own. This is over against both the Apostle’s teaching and our own confessions (Ephesians 2:8-9; Canons of Dordt, Third and Fourth Heads of Doctrine, Art. 10 and the subsequent rejections). Note how the tables are turned at every point. God does not grant faith, man conjures it up; man does not receive passively, he grabs with gusto; the sinner is not pointed to the work of Christ, he is pointed to his own sincerity.

This self-willed, externalist and ceremonial act is vital before proceeding with any further improvements. While a lot of Jesus-speak attends this sort of thing and may appear pious, something other than the Gospel is really going on here. Though the language may be employed, the main issue is not really the reconciliation of sin. Rather, kicked off by a naturalistic decision, the point is to set up a rigorous moral program which recognizes and affirms man’s own ability to rectify himself and to finally give the sinner moral suasion over his own life. God is simply there to assist the sinner in this task. Thus, here is Jesus to help get one’s act together. One is to look at how Jesus lived and try to model that. Remember, “What would Jesus do?” If one falls down at any point, that initial nod of approval is sought after again and one starts over. This is much akin to the old Roman idea best expressed in the analogy of the “bathtub of grace.” One gets himself loaded up with grace via the Eucharist, but there is a constant leak of sorts. The Eucharist becomes the sacrifice of Christ all over again to get the bathtub filled up once more. In contemporary forms one might hear terms like “backsliding.” And acts like “rededication’s” are the parallel to the old Roman re-sacrifice of Christ. It’s all about getting one’s moral battery re-charged. Often, in keeping with the high-octane pragmatism, the Sabbath itself is referred to as a way to get “recharged” for the week ahead. Christianity is of no use if not for making bad people good and good people better.

This moralistic model is very popular amongst those that are on the moral fringes of society: prisoners, drug addicts and wayward teens. Christian moralists are often found in these groups peddling an Erasmian gospel instead of proclaiming a Lutheran one to a diverse population. American moral religion laps up glorious stories about “changed lives” because it understands a moralized gospel of glory much better than one of the Cross. But just as being called out of the world and into the Church does not correspond with separatism, holiness is not mere morality. If we don’t at least recognize that these two things are not one and the same we have completely misunderstood the Gospel.

The moralized gospel is hard-pressed to recognize that moral rectification can be successful by any host of programs. But believe it or not, the Name of Jesus Christ need not be uttered for folks to straighten out their lives. Plenty of at-risk black youth have been morally netted by the Nation of Islam. If it’s moral reform one wants there are enough diverse models to go around, both religious and not. And inasmuch as the Christian moralist lines the faith up with all the other idols of moralism as a sort of “superior equal,” he is smug and arrogant to suggest that no other program can work like the Jesus program.

Of course, another larger problem is that many who are at once outside Christianity and also quite within the boundaries of morality rightly see that their morality is really no different than others, even most Christians. Both inside and outside the Church one sees an equal fare along the merely moral spectrum, no matter what sort of propagandist statistics are used to suggest Christians are better people. They easily put together that the world would not be a better place if it had more Christians in it. Christian belief, while it has a true sanctifying effect on the believer, is no more effective in moral rectification than anything else. That is because moral reform is not its task. More savvy unbelievers not on any moral fringe—and, by definition, if not on a fringe this means most unbelievers—rightly conclude that moral rectification is somehow not really the issue. They may watch friends convert into Christian programs of self-polishing but correctly hesitate themselves. Ironically enough, they are closer to the Gospel than they may think. Some of them may follow the flow chart to the Gospel. But others, having at once understood and misunderstood, likely see themselves exempt from the Gospel of Christ. So, they hop along, comparing themselves down to easy devils and handily declaring themselves fit. In relief, they are pleased with their rather ordinary morality and flip the page. Or they move on to the next option.

Part Three will take up this option called spiritualism.

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27 Responses to Theologies of Glory versus Theology of the Cross, Part Two: Moralism

  1. Greg says:

    Zrim,

    You hit the nail square on the head; no counter-sinking necessary!

    However, a few comments:

    “The sinner must gather his inner resources, conjure up that crowned work itself called faith, raise his hand (sometimes literally) and perform, make a “decision to accept Jesus Christ as his personal Savior.”

    Imagine that I gave you $100,000,000 in gold bullion. (Safer than $USD) If someone asked you, “How come you’re so rich?” you wouldn’t say, “On such-and-such a date I decided to accept $100,000,000 from Greg!” That you be a gross insult to your benefactor. But what is often said in response to “when were you saved?” is infinitely worse.

    Again to illustrate, if I told you that I was going to paint your house, wouldn’t you feel rather awkward NOT helping? We would all feel some obligation to contribute to the effort. Perhaps this, too, is connected to our being “wired for law”.

    Another rather comical observation: When at the end of a service a congregation is forced to sing 47 stanzas of “Just as I Am” and the minister has dictated that “every head is bowed and every eye is closed” (except his of course!), did you ever get the idea that the ceiling and the floor were closing in on you like in some Indiana Jones movie? Naturally, “responses” to the emotional duress contrived by the minister’s tactics are all attributed to the work of the Holy Spirit. But, ironically, if no one responds, then the minister feels as though he’s failed!

  2. Greg says:

    Oops! Missed something:

    “In other words, as the infamous Christian moralist and heretic Pelagius put it, “Ought implies can.”

    Triggered my recollection of a recent link from the Riddleblog:

    http://www.bpnews.net/BPnews.asp?ID=29318

    which included the surprising (at least to me) Pelagian assertion:

    “In Scripture God commands men to believe,” [Jerry] Vines [of Jerry Vines Ministries] said, asserting that God would not command people to do what they cannot do.”

    Not even an assertion of “prevenient” grace.

  3. mboss says:

    “American moral religion laps up glorious stories about “changed lives” because it understands a moralized gospel of glory much better than one of the Cross.”

    Ah, the joys of living in a testimony-obsessed culture. My “journey of faith” is so boring and unremarkable by this standard that some of my Evangelical friends might be are skeptical that I’ve been saved. “You mean you were baptized as an infant, raised in a Christian home, taught the faith, and later made a credible profession of faith?” “Yep.” “And…?”

  4. Chris Sherman says:

    Greg,

    You can come paint my house anytime. I probably wouldn’t offer to help, but I would offer you a beer or two.

  5. Zrim says:

    Greg,

    I always wondered this: when all those poor sinners go forward to the altar to fill their tub of grace again—you know, the same 8 people you see every Sunday—what are the legions of others who sit back in their pews really saying? I mean, the entreat is for any who are sinners. Does that mean those who refrain are free of sin, doubt, etc.?

    mboss,

    My evangie SIL tells the story of having a CRC boyfriend in high school. The poor, misguided young man clung to his baptism and church membership. Long story, short: it didn’t work out since he wasn’t a real Christian. She married a Xian radio DJ instead. I love that story.

  6. Zrim says:

    Chris,

    Gratitude comes in many colors, sometimes a dark ale.

  7. mboss says:

    Good stuff. It reminds me of my past and present experience as a participant of an “interdenominational” Bible study where answers to personal application questions sometimes morph into a game of “can-you-top-my-experience.”

    More to your main point, Zrim, Moralism and much of what passes as Christianity is all about striving to become holy/righteous rather than believing that we have already been declared holy/righteous.

  8. frankc says:

    Hello,
    my name’s Francis, and I minister out here in the east coast, and this is actually my first time responding to a blog, but i’ve been quite a lurker, and have to say, have been really loving the posts, both informative and enlightening…

    I just had to ask as i’ve been wondering myself every now and then…given the above, so what does sanctification look like?

    and if moral transformation is totally out of the picture, what would you make of the good tree bears good fruit, bad tree bears bad, etc, you know, changed heart, changed lives idea?

    thanks for the posts

  9. Greg says:

    Zrim,

    I guess we didn’t get “justified yet sinful”. Although we were one (we moved around a bit in the midwest so there were a number of them) of those “Bible-believing conservative GARBC churches” we really got little doctrine apart from law; and that was presently as a means of grace for our sanctification, despite not having been explicitly stated that way. If you had asked many (or maybe most) of us whether we were righteous or declared righteous, we would not have known the difference. In those same churches I’d expect that one poor presentation of the law has now given way to another — Law Lite: Same great burden with less than half the hell, fire and brimstone.

    (Also, we had completely mastered NOT knowing church history. We presupposed the necessity/requirement of mentally threatening invitations at the end of the “service” during which time the gospel (I need a much, much smaller font for that last word) was presented.)

    Anyway, in the minister’s efforts to throw the law at us, he just caused more sin — pride specifically. We loved the law — as it condemned that guy over there who had the real problem with ________. (“I hope you’re listening to him! We’re praying for you!”).

    Our REAL problem, I guess, was that we needed group therapy to realize that we were just in denial. Problem solved: now the minister speaks out of the book of Joel [Osteen].

    (I miss italics!)

  10. Zrim says:

    frankc said, just had to ask as i’ve been wondering myself every now and then…given the above, so what does sanctification look like?
    and if moral transformation is totally out of the picture, what would you make of the good tree bears good fruit, bad tree bears bad, etc, you know, changed heart, changed lives idea?

    To my mind, sanctification looks like the Decalogue; the law is the structure of our sanctification while the Spirit does his mysterious sanctifying work to transform (see, I can use the word) us into the image of Christ. I think we often want our fruit to be that which distinguishes us from unbelievers. But since pagans often outshine believers in their goodness, I think this is misguided. I think what should be understood as distinguishing us is that we are reconciled to God in Christ alone. That’s harder to see, but I think that’s the point of living by faith and not by sight.

  11. Chris Sherman says:

    I was thinking sanctification looked like the Beatitudes.

  12. Todd says:

    Greg and others,

    Greetings:

    Amen to all that has been said, but I would just temper these thoughts with the limited abilities and background for Christians to use precise language. As a pastor I need to remember this always or I end up over-correcting people and appearing nitpicky and obnoxious.

    For example, someone in my congregation may say, “The Lord told me…” Now, before I seek to correct their language, I need to discern what they are actually meaning. Sometimes that is just a poor way of saying, “The Lord taught me a good lesson this week.” As such I let the language go. The same with the repeated use of “sanctuary” for the room we worship in. That is so much a part of our culture that even Christians who know full well it is not a true sanctuary use the language out of years of habit.

    All this to say, just because someone says they were saved because at the age of twelve they gave their lives to Christ, or said the sinner’s prayer, doesn’t mean they are insulting God or taking partial credit for their salvation. It may just mean they have spoken this way for so long they are actually meaning something better and more Biblical, but just not know how to express it.

    So I think we need to cut evangelicals some slack
    when they speak like this until we are sure they understand and accept the implications of their words.

    Todd

  13. Zrim says:

    Todd,

    Welcome to the combox. With an entire extended evangie family steeped in imprecise language and practice, I hear you loud and clear. Years of good and civil familial relations between old school Presbyterians and revivalists depend upon the sort of discernment you suggest.

    BTW, I think “sanctuary” for the room in which we worship the one true God sure beats “fellowship hall” for the room in which we engage in common activity.

  14. Todd says:

    Zrim

    Good one! That would be a fun thread all of it’s own; evangelical catch phrases. Of course I can think of a number of poor ones the reformed used, so maybe not!

    Todd

  15. Greg says:

    Hi Todd,

    (you said,)

    “All this to say, just because someone says they were saved because at the age of twelve they gave their lives to Christ, or said the sinner’s prayer, doesn’t mean they are insulting God or taking partial credit for their salvation. It may just mean they have spoken this way for so long they are actually meaning something better and more Biblical, but just not know how to express it.”

    I agree (and echo Zrim in his response). However, as my own past and present anecdotal experiences coincide with the studies of Christian Smith (Soul Searching) and others, I fear that our shorthand for salvific truths combined with our general neglect of catechism in the home and church has resulted in churches filled with Christians who can’t articulate what they believe. While that isn’t a requirement for justification, it does, among other things, create a problem when it comes time for the sheep to evangelize, defend the faith, catechize, etc. Perhaps what is more tragic is that many have little or no interest in understanding what they believe; at least given their understanding of grace and faith.

    Regarding my illustration ($$$$ gold), I was seeking to point out just how shocking it is that we would use such shorthand phrases, when we claim by “grace alone”. I can imagine no other context in which we would devise an explanation for our receipt of any gift (especially a magnificent one) wherein even a modicum of credit falls back upon our acceptance of the gift rather than entirely to the grace of the giver; and this is infinitely greater than all other gifts combined that man has ever given. To me, simply shocking!

    Again, what I grew up understanding was that salvation was freely offered to all, but whether or not I was saved was entirely up to me and in my control, i.e., the drowning man whose thrown a life preserver. Christ made me savable and had foreknowledge of my decision. We believed that God would not violate man’s free will, but we prayed that he would do just that for our unsaved friends and relatives. How utterly contradictory!

    (I think the my dead horse is still dead, so I’ll stop.)

  16. Caroline says:

    Hello.

    I have a blog favorites category called “Confessionalists” into which I have plugged your blog. It seems whenever I go into blogs like yours I am always disappointed with the level of exposition. I miss a true balance of the doctrines of grace with the need for a good understanding of biblical piety.

    For instance this little lecture you have blessed us with today has the same glaring fault of so much of what comes out of the thought processes of you and your ilk. While I believe in justification by faith alone as much as you do, and that all of our salvation is of grace, I heartily disagree with your penchant to denigrate piety whenever you can and categorize every attempt to live a godly life as works righteousness and something to be cast off at all costs.

    This statement from your blog entry sums up the basic problem with your theology and which differentiates it from all the wonderful reformed leaders in our past: Calvin, Luther, Owen, Edwards, and on and on.

    Christian belief, while it has a true sanctifying effect on the believer, is no more effective in moral rectification than anything else. That is because moral reform is not its task.

    What is the sanctifying effect on the believer about which you speak. Please outline it. And why isn’t it effective to bring about growth in moral rectitude? Doesn’t grace from God result in holiness and doesn’t holiness in turn make immoral people moral? It is all of God but there is change isn’t there? This is where you people really lose me.

    Please take up and read anything by John Owen for one. I don’t think he would agree with you for one minute. He was very concerned that when people become Christians they are changed people, and the Holy Spirit in them strives after holiness on their part. I can remember hearing a White Horse Inn segment some time ago where I think it was Rosenblatt who said (ala Meredith Kline) that the beatitudes (and perhaps even the Sermon on the Mount although I am not sure he took it that far) only described our situation and didn’t command anything. How far off the rails is that kind of nonsense?

    I am so thankful I can go to people like Owen and Edwards for good exposition of what it means to live the Christian life. They were balanced in their presentation of the Calvinistic doctrines alongside striving after holiness, without which no one will see the Lord.

    Sincerely,

    Caroline

  17. kazooless says:

    Z,

    I really wanted to read this as soon as it came out and then interact, but I’ve been a bit pre-occupied for the last couple of days. My wife had surgery on her foot on Wednesday, and so I have been caring for her.

    Anyway, before I read any comments, I want to post my own now that I have read your post. I got all the way down to the last paragraph and it wasn’t until then that I found a statement that I didn’t quite agree with. So before I quote it and speak to it, I’ll tell you that I very much liked this article, and even thought of it as one I’d like to share with some of my fundamentalist dispensational friends. If this is your understanding of “moralism,” then I’ll hop on this band wagon with you and cry out “may it never be!” when it comes to preaching and living the Gospel. Really.

    When I first learned the doctrines of Grace (which was before I learned the other stuff you and I have wrestled with), I was flabbergasted. I didn’t know how to preach the Gospel anymore. So, I started reading to find out how the Gospel should be preached in light of these ‘new’ truths I had just learned. I read through the book of Acts at my pastor’s suggestion, and took note of every time that the Gospel was preached. I only found a couple of things in common, and they NEVER said something like “God loves you and died for you, and you have a God shaped whole in your heart, etc., etc., etc.”

    I found this book Tell the Truth and found that to be a great help as well. I also learned one way of telling the Gospel through Evangelism Explosion. It was so much different than the excrement that I had been taught and believing for so many years. It was like God had set me free all over again. Hallelujah!

    So, this post reminds me quite a bit of those early “reformed” years for me. Thank you.

    The one sentence that I am not agreeing with is this:

    Christian belief, while it has a true sanctifying effect on the believer, is no more effective in moral rectification than anything else.

    Maybe I’m not understanding exactly what you mean here, or you didn’t write it exactly the way you meant to. ?? Since I find that the sentiment of the whole article is agreeable to me, I’m thinking that I am just misunderstanding what you’re trying to convey here.

    So, what is this sanctifying effect on the believer that has NO moral rectification in the believer’s life? I mean, what does this sanctification look like to you? Surely it is more than just being “set apart?”

    WCF Chapter XIII
    Of Sanctification

    I. They, who are once effectually called, and regenerated, having a new heart, and a new spirit created in them, are further sanctified, really and personally, through the virtue of Christ’s death and resurrection, by His Word and Spirit dwelling in them: the dominion of the whole body of sin is destroyed, and the several lusts thereof are more and more weakened and mortified; and they more and more quickened and strengthened in all saving graces, to the practice of true holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.

    Ezekiel 36:22-27

    22 “Therefore say to the house of Israel, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD: “I do not do this for your sake, O house of Israel, but for My holy name’s sake, which you have profaned among the nations wherever you went. 23 And I will sanctify My great name, which has been profaned among the nations, which you have profaned in their midst; and the nations shall know that I am the LORD,” says the Lord GOD, “when I am hallowed in you before their eyes. 24 For I will take you from among the nations, gather you out of all countries, and bring you into your own land. 25 Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. 26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them.

    I only point these out to say that part of the Christian’s experience of sanctification surely is one that reflects a change in moral behavior, is it not? Isn’t walking according to God’s law and *not* sinning any longer “moral rectification” of some sort? Again, I completely agree with you that moral reform isn’t the task. The task is God reconciling His people to Himself. But it seems to me that part of the result of that reconciliation is the “sanctification” of the believer’s life, though imperfect as that confession says. And isn’t *part* of that “sanctification” a kind of “moral rectification?”

    Well, I’ve said and asked enough. I might catch up on these comments I skipped over now. Or, I might just go to bed now and read later. Either way, I’m looking forward to your response, as long as it is a since one. I really would like to understand your take on this.

    Thanks,

    Kazoo

  18. kazooless says:

    Zrim responded to Greg:

    I think we often want our fruit to be that which distinguishes us from unbelievers. But since pagans often outshine believers in their goodness, I think this is misguided

    I often find myself ashamed of my sin, my selfishness and thoughtlessness especially, when compared to many of the pagans that are in my life. I try to use those times to repent and ask God to clean me and strengthen me and help me to be like Christ and walk in love toward my neighbor. Oftentimes these pagans completely outshine me in this area, and are selfless and giving. It perplexes me.

    I also will think of the time when Christ said that the healthy are not in need of a doctor. I think of how I am part of a group of people that are the basest people that God has chosen to show His Glory in redeeming the weakest of men. And then I can just hang my head in shameful thanksgiving to God and my Savior. Thank you God for saving me, a sinner!

    kazoo

  19. kazooless says:

    Caroline,

    Looks like you and I are on the same page. I look forward to Z’s response.

    Beatitudes and Decalogue just isn’t really an answer. Seems to me that “decalogue” is also referred to as “the moral law.”

    Blessings,

    Kazoo

  20. Zrim says:

    Hi Caroline,

    I’m sorry you found this entry so repulsive and unhelpful, as well as this blog.

    One of the beauties of being a dim and lowly blogger and not a trained theologian, exegete, historian or apologist is that when folks say my reflections aren’t up to Reformed giants like Owen and Calvin it is odd. It’s a bit like blaming a diarist for not being John Updike. I never said I was. And if you have a problem with “ilk” like the WHI staff then there’s nothing I can say to help here.

    I will say that my point in the post is not that the Christian life is devoid of moral rectification, but that moral recitification is not its primary purpose; rather, if imperatives flow from indicatives, then the moral aspect of the Christian life is more a result of belief instead of being the point of belief. I wonder if you might tell me what you think the difference is between modern notions of self improvement and Christianity? And if Christianity makes immoral people moral then you have to consider your pagan neighbors as immoral. I think of them as opposed to Christ, but certainly not immoral. Very often they are better than me.

    Another beauty of blogging is that if someone doesn’t like what another has written he/she doesn’t have to read it. If Owen helps you better, great.

  21. Zrim says:

    Kazoo,

    Re the segment you found confusing, I suppose the same question to you: what is the difference between the sanctification of the Spirit and modern notions of moral (or to look ahead to my next post) spiritual self improvement? We can’t just throw Christianese all over these notions and call it good.

    Sanctification looks like the law. The law is the structure of our sanctification. The fruit of the Spirit is another image.

  22. kazooless says:

    Z,

    Your response to Caroline actually helped clarify your statement that I had a problem with. You said:

    I will say that my point in the post is *not that the Christian life is devoid of moral rectification,* but that moral recitification is not its primary purpose; rather, if imperatives flow from indicatives, then the moral aspect of the Christian life is more *a result of belief instead of being the point of belief.*

    (I put asterisks, because I noticed that my italics and underlines didn’t seem to show up in my former posts here for some reason. I put underlines around the areas surrounded by asterisks, so we’ll see if they show up this time)

    Anyway, then overall, (now don’t have a heart attack) we are in quite a bit of agreement, wrt this article as well! (How about that?)

    And to answer your question, there is quite a bit of *difference* between true sanctification of the Spirit (SOS?), and the modern SSI. I would say that it *may* look similar in many respects, but that is because we can only see the outward acts. But the law of God requires faith toward Him, genuine love toward Him and our neighbor (which includes the heart), absence of covetousness, humbleness, etc. There are many *unseen* things in a person’s life that could be said to fall within the categories of “moral/immoral.” So, there is a big difference. And, more importantly, a really big difference is the person’s right standing with God. It doesn’t exist within the person who is in the modern SSI, and so even though they might *look* more moral than you or me sometimes (and with me many time act more moral), they are hell bound and in great need of the Savior.

    To go back to your statement to Caroline, the imperatives follow the indicatives. I like this too. It is only because of who I am in Christ that the Spirit makes me alive toward Him and His law. I now want to (not perfectly, of course) obey Him and His law. And if we read the larger Catechism’s exposition of the decalogue, we will see a *small* part of it has us interacting with others (e.g. compelling others, protecting some from others, etc.). And I suppose that is where a *small* part of theonomy focuses, yet *that* is the part that is always vehemently disagreed with, and so everybody thinks that is *only* what theonomy teaches, and so the *theonomy disagreement* becomes/became blown way out of proportion. Really, when speaking about God’s law, as a theonomist, I am just asking “what are those imperatives that follow the indicatives?”

    Maybe that will help you understand me better, and give you some sense of our brotherhood and fellowship together.

    Do you think I answered your question satisfactorily?

    kazoo

  23. frankc says:

    Hi again,

    well I guess my question above may have provoked more…

    but just for some clarification for the above responses:

    Mr. Zrim, it’s not like you’re saying you don’t believe in “moral change” (among other things), if that is to mean something like obedience and faithfulness to God’s commands, (in your case the decalogue?), but rather, in “distinguishing” believers from non believers, moral “transformation/rectitude” may not be the best litmus test for genuine faith?

    I mean given natural law at work, as you might agree, plenty pagans out there seem morally just as good, or even better off…and after all if it’s the “heart” that counts, as the psalmist says, who can know it?

    Hence, I find myself back at a more confessional standpoint…

    I’m just not so sure about the decalogue being our “structure of sanctification”…

  24. Zrim says:

    Kazoo,

    I have no personal need to wrangle theonomy out of your hands. But, I just.don’t.get.it. I don’t get how you can agree with so much of what I am saying and still cling to this Reformed version of Fundamentalism and Methodism. I am honestly at a loss, it mystifies me. To me it’s like a man who forgets his image as soon as he turns from the mirror.

    Frank,

    Right.

    I use the “law as structure for our sanctification” because I once read RSC put it that way and it seemed to me good. I like it, and I’m sticking with it. All it means is that when we want to know how to be obedient in response to God we look to the revealed law of God. Don’t over think it, it really is that simple.

  25. kazooless says:

    Z,

    That’s okay. I think the fact that you “just.don’t.get.it.” is because you only know of it what the major opponents tell you of it, and then the wranglings you’ve had with people like me in contexts like this which isn’t the most conducive. I’d say that Rube gets it but still doesn’t adhere. There is room for us all in the Reformed camp. Some of us are 2K, and some of us are not. The former seems to be a stronger dare I say ‘more radical’ continuance of Lutheranism but with Calvin’s RPW & sacraments. The latter (the ones like me) would be the stronger dare I say ‘more radical’ continuance of what RSC calls “the theocrats,” but with a Van Tillian influence and a little more fine-tuned framework. But we both come from the same camp.

    I think your understanding of a theonomist to be like a Fundy or Methody is just mirroring what the opponents say, especially RSC. I am understanding his position on this more and more as I interact with him and am reading through his new book (RRC), but so far I become more and more convinced that his accusations are just mischaracterizations or wrongly inferred conclusions he’s come to. But, like I have said, I came from the fundy camp, I know what it is like to be one and think like one. I don’t anymore, and the accusation that theonomy is a calvinistic version of QIRC, I strongly think is just plain old inaccurate.

    Anyway, be that as it may, you and I are brothers, you’re stuck with me. 🙂 And, the fact you partnered up with a very good friend of mine, Rube, means that you’re stuck with me here as well as for eternity. 🙂 Let’s make the best of it, shall we?

    Blessings on you and yours,

    kazoo

  26. Zrim says:

    Kazoo,

    My first few years after conversion were spent in IFCA churches. I married into it. I know fundamentalism and moralism when I see it. The gateway for me into the Reformed tradition years ago was exactly the issues of the kingdoms. It was quite eye-opening to trip across folks with views like yours who also claimed Reformed.

    Like RSC just told you at his place, theonomy is in great tension with the Reformed tradition and is in competition with it. I know you want the tent to be expanded to include your views, but I, for one, would have to go back and tell my fundies they were right. But culture wars make me ill.

  27. Pingback: Theologies of Glory versus Theology of the Cross, Part Three: Spiritualism « The Confessional Outhouse

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