The Battle For Salvation: A Brief Critique of the Traditionalist’s Statement on Salvation 

THe battle for salvation

Recently the Traditionalist sect of the SBC put forth their own statement of faith, contrasting it against the Calvinist sect. As a Calvinists I disagree with the Traditionalist on several points, and most of our differences don’t hinder our relationship too much. However, there is a very problematic article in the statement. My desire is to address the problem with grace, in hopes that my Traditionalist brothers and sisters will reconsider the severity of this article.

In Article Two, entitled “The Sinfulness of Man”, is written:

We affirm that, because of the fall of Adam, every person inherits a nature and environment inclined toward sin and that every person who is capable of moral action will sin. Each person’s sin alone brings the wrath of a holy God, broken fellowship with Him, ever-worsening selfishness and destructiveness, death, and condemnation to an eternity in hell.

We deny that Adam’s sin resulted in the incapacitation of any person’s free will or rendered any person guilty before he has personally sinned. While no sinner is remotely capable of achieving salvation through his own effort, we deny that any sinner is saved apart from a free response to the Holy Spirit’s drawing through the Gospel.

This post presents several very severe doctrinal issues. First, We affirm that, because of the fall of Adam, every person inherits a nature and environment inclined toward sin and that every person who is capable of moral action will sin. Some will say that I’m arguing over semantics, but saying we are “inclined” to sin skirts around the main issue: the deadness of the heart. Paul says we are “dead in our trespasses and sins”. If you are dead, you aren’t “inclined” to not breathing, you actually don’t breathe.

The London Baptist Confession of Faith articulates it well by saying:

They being the root, and by God’s appointment, standing in the room and stead of all mankind, the guilt of the sin was imputed, and corrupted nature conveyed, to all their posterity descending from them by ordinary generation, being now conceived in sin, and by nature children of wrath, the servants of sin, the subjects of death, and all other miseries, spiritual, temporal, an eternal, unless the Lord Jesus set them free. (6.3)

When Adam sinned, he plunged all of mankind into death with him. Christians, we are not simply “inclined” to sin, we are born into sin, a state that is utterly abhorrent to God and apart from His saving grace we will continue in sin.

Lastly, We deny that Adam’s sin resulted in the incapacitation of any person’s free will or rendered any person guilty before he has personally sinned. The biggest problem here is that it denies both the Federal Headship of Adam and original sin.

First let’s tackle Federal Headship. What is meant by the term “Federal Headship”? In layman’s terms it simply means that in the Garden of Eden Adam represented us, he stood in our place. We see this most clearly in Romans 5:12-21. Shai Linne said it best when he said “one player commits a foul, the whole team gets penalized”. Adam, as our Federal Head, was our representative; he acted on our behalf. Therefore, when he sinned we all sinned (Romans 5:18,19).

Denying the Federal Headship of Adam has implications concerning the atonement of Christ. If Adam didn’t represent us then Christ wasn’t our representative. If Adam’s guilt wasn’t imputed to us, then Christ’s righteousness isn’t imputed to us. This is exactly what Paul meant when he said “by one man’s disobedience…so by one man’s obedience…” If we follow the Traditionalist’s thought here, and begin with everybody being guilty only by their own sins then logically only their death would satisfy God’s wrath. As you can see, being born guilty in Adam is actually good news! Because we are dead in Adam because of his sin, through Christ’s atonement we are made alive because of Christ’s death!

Now, let’s look at Original Sin. If one denies the Federal Headship of Adam then the logical next step is to deny original sin. Without Original Sin humans are born at worst in a neutral state, and at best in a state of perfection. Article Two states very clearly that the articulators of the document (and the signees as well) believe that humans are born into some sort of innocence until they commit their first sin. This is in direct opposition to Psalm 51:5. How could David say he was “brought forth in iniquity” if he was born innocent?

In conclusion I want to make one final argument, not merely for Federal Headship and Original Sin, but for a robustly Reformed view of Soteriology. The Traditionalist Statement is inconsistent. As the wise saying goes, “you can’t have your cake and eat it too”.

On the one hand the Traditionalist Statement over and over again pushes for the innocence of man, and the freedom and ability of man to choose God, but then states “We affirm that when a person responds in faith to the Gospel, God promises to complete the process of salvation in the believer into eternity.” Salvation is either wholly of God or wholly of man; synergistic salvation is antithetical to Biblical soteriology.

On the other hand, the Calvinistic understanding of salvation presents a coherency. Beginning with the total depravity of man, God is then the initiator of salvation by electing sinners unconditionally. In light of the unconditionality of election, Christ’s atonement is perfectly applied and completed by atoning for the sins of the elect. Because Christ accomplished his mission to save those that the Father chose, the Grace He provides is irresistible. Because God is the initiator of salvation and because His grace is irresistible, the regenerate sinner is secure in Christ and will undoubtedly persevere.
If you are a Traditionalist, I ask that you consider the implications of your statement concerning salvation. This isn’t simply a secondary issue like eschatology, this is the Gospel.

Soli Deo Gloria!

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LNT RoundTable #1: Dispensationalism and Covenant Theology

Chance and I sat down with Late Night Theology contributors, Jay Sawrie and Dylan Justus to discuss Covenant Theology and Dispensationalism.

Response to WWUTT’s ‘What the Orthodox Church Believes?’

Response to WWUTT

[The following views do not necessarily reflect those of my colleagues at Late Night Theology.]

By way of introduction, I would just like to state that this is not a point by point refutation of everything in the video, it is simply a response. While there are some points that I do refute, my main objective is point out the absurdity of someone who is Reformed accusing another Christian group of believing that “no one should interpret Scripture apart from Church tradition.”

We view Scripture through a lens, it’s inevitable. When we were introduced to the Bible we were given glasses to read with. The “prescription” for those glasses might change with our continued study of Scripture and Church tradition, but we never lose glasses because if we lose our glasses we lose our ability to understand Scripture.

In Acts 8, Philip asked the eunuch, “Sir, do you understand what you’re reading?” And the eunuch gives a profound answer – “How can I unless someone guides me?” We must admit, like the eunuch, that Scripture cannot be understood apart from someone guiding us.

Ugh. These guys are crazy.

“They’re still a Roman Catholic knock off.”

Nope. More like the Roman Catholic Church is a Eastern Orthodox knock off.

“They believe that salvation is process of faith-works and partaking in the sacraments.”

Yeah, well, whatever. Luther still believed in purgatory. Obviously, the Orthodox are wrong when it comes to this issue, but whenever you have verses like John 6:54-56 and 1 Peter 3:21, can you really blame them for not wanting to ignore those texts and just say that they’re metaphorical? Here’s the thing, their tradition and interpretation of Scripture has been consistent over the last 1800 years or so. I would say that you can’t just readily dismiss a tradition that is that close to Jesus in space and time.

“The Orthodox Church believes that the sacraments literally become the flesh and blood of Christ.”

The video compares their position to the Roman Catholic position of Transubstantiation. That’s inaccurate because the Roman Catholic Church teaches that transubstantiation is the method by which the elements are transformed into the actual body and blood of Christ whereas the Orthodox Church believes that the elements become the body and blood of Christ, but they’re not sure how. It is literally a mystery to them, which is something that I can appreciate because we have this tendency to want to KNOW EVERY FREAKING JOT AND TITTLE of Christianity when it is CLEAR from Scripture that some things are just a mystery.

According to Colossians 3, we’ve died and our lives are hidden in Christ. Who we are will be revealed at the day of Christ (Colossians 3:4). Guess what? It’s a mystery.
It seems like we’ve tried to overthink Christianity to death where there’s no mystery involved in it anymore.

As I mentioned earlier, they simply don’t want to dismiss passages like John 6:54-56, and Luke 22:19, where Jesus POSSIBLY implies that the bread is His body and the wine is His blood.

“Though the Orthodox Church believes the Bible is the Word of God, they believe the Church is equal in authority, and that no one should interpret the Bible apart from Church tradition.”

Ummmmm….. Calvinists who are steeped in the Reformed community do the same damn thing with their confessions so they DO NOT have any room whatsoever to talk about this issue. As matter of fact, let me reword their statement and see if it sounds familiar – “Though Reformed Christians believe the Bible is the Word of God, they believe their confessions (1689 LBCF, 1646 WCF, Three Forms of Unity, etc.) are equal in authority, and that no one should interpret the Bible apart from these confessions.” Yep. That sounds more accurate.

“The Orthodox Church prays for the dead and believe that it is possible for salvation to occur after death.”

No. They do, in fact, pray with the dead, not to, and not for the dead. They pray with the saints, and often they ask saints in Heaven to pray for them because, to them, those saints are just as alive as you and I are, they just so happen to be in closer proximity to Jesus than we are. So, asking a saint to pray for them is no different than asking you to pray for me.

Also, they do not believe repentance is possible after death. John Karmiris, a Eastern Orthodox theologian, states, “Death terminates the moral development of man; any further evolution is rendered impossible, and retribution begins.” Clearly, they do not believe repentance and salvation are possible after death.

At the end of the video, the narrator says that it’s possible for someone to come to saving faith in an Eastern Orthodox church, but if they’re going to grow in the grace the knowledge of Christ then they need to leave. I think that’s a load of bullcrap, and at this point in my life, I’d rather send a new convert to a Eastern Orthodox congregation than any congregation that teaches that iconography of Jesus is a violation of the 2nd commandment (assuming I had to pick between the two), and there’s my rant.

A Mental Buffet // 21 Apr 2017

Mental Buffet

Some reading material for the eager mind and the hungry soul.

Evangelicals, Heresy, and Scripture Alone – Matthew Block

“…Christians seem to think saying Sola Scriptura is the ultimate authority somehow means it is my personal “solo” reading of Scripture that is authoritative. They reject the witness of the Church down through the ages in favor of a personal, private understanding of Scripture (which is not at all what the reformers meant by the term “Scripture alone”). Consequently, we see that many Evangelicals deny that the historic Church’s creeds and confessions have any relevance today. In fact, the 2016 report indicates that 23 percent percent of Evangelicals believe “there is little value in studying or reciting historical Christian creeds and confessions,” while a further 9 percent are unsure.

Because they privilege their own personal understanding of Scripture over the historic witness of the Church, it’s not surprising that Evangelicals deny that their congregation should have any meaningful authority over them: For example, 57 percent denied that their local church should have “the authority to withhold the Lord’s Supper from me and exclude me from the fellowship of the church.” In other words, Evangelicals believe the Bible is authoritative; and that authority is mediated by individual believers, rather than the church (even though the Bible explicitly says that authority is to be exercised by the church—e.g., Matthew 18:15-17, 1 Corinthians 5:11-13, Titus 3:10-11, etc.)”

 

How to Lose Your Freedom – Steve Brown

“You can focus on rules, regulations, propriety, and programs for righteousness; or you can focus on Christ and your relationship with him.”

 

Teaching a Calvinist to Dance – James KA Smith

“While presenting labyrinthine theological sermons in monotone from his pulpit, the Puritan preacher witnessed strange manifestations, convulsing bodies, and shouts and yelps among his congregants. But Edwards the Reformed theologian was discerning enough not to write this off, but to say, “There’s something of the Spirit in this.” In Pentecostal spirituality, the Calvinist conviction about the sovereignty of God is extended to worship in a way that makes us open to and even expectant of the sovereign Lord surprising us.”

How Fights Over Trump Have Led Evangelicals to Leave Their Churches – Washington Post 

“The two groups you’d expect were more likely to leave: Trump supporters who felt their clergy didn’t support him (represented by the red line on the left), and those who felt cool toward Trump but thought their clergy strongly supported him (represented by the blue line on the right).

This finding might help explain why evangelical clergy appear to have had little to say about Trump in their churches this fall. It’s very likely that they were concerned about alienating some of their flock.”

A Mental Buffet // 13 Apr 2017

Mental Buffet

[This was supposed to go up yesterday, but you know… stuff happens… deal with it.]

Some reading material for the eager mind and the hungry soul.

Here’s how you can match your Myers-Briggs personality type to a patron saint

“Church of the Resurrection, an Anglican Church in Wheaton, Ill., has created the following graphic to illustrate how the different personalities of patron saints correspond with Myers-Briggs personality types. Are you St. Francis or perhaps St. Joan (of Arc)? Check it out.”

 

Steve Brown, Etc. – Outside the Camp with Garth Cross

“Join Garth Cross on Steve Brown, Etc. for a discussion of his book, Outside the Camp: A Former Pastor Looks at the Church from a Distance. Hear the laments of sin and shame, broken community, and people in pain. Then listen as God responds with his radical grace.”

 

5 Reasons I’m a Calvinist – Stephen Altrogge

“Calvinism doesn’t have a fantastic reputation, at least in some circles. Some people feel like it focuses more on theology than on loving people. Others have had really bad experiences with Calvinists. And some people think it runs counter to the beautiful free offer of grace found in the Bible.

But what if someone who is not a jerk (at least most of the time) could talk about Calvinism in a way that didn’t make you want to smash your computer?”

 

 

Late Night Theology, Episode 1: Of Buses, Grace, and Liberals

This is the first episode of Late Night Theology, where I am joined by my good friend, Tom Ellinson to discuss his big yellow bus that he is converting to an RV. We’re also going to talk about Tullian Tchividjian and his return ministry as well as the reasons why pastors turn to liberal ideology.

Links

  1. The Freedom in Losing it All – Tullian Tchividjian
  2. Sermon: Magnificent Intervention – Tullian Tchividjian
  3. Talk: He Gave Us Stories – Andrew Peterson

Momentary Affliction and a Merciful Savior

But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us. …For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure, because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal. ” – 2 Corinthians 4:7, 17-18, NRSV

“So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us.” – 2 Corinthians 5:17-19, NRSV

Let’s get one thing clear. I suck at being a Christian. I love Jesus with all my heart. He’s my best friend. I call upon Him as Savior everyday and I pray for Him to be my Lord, and I try to submit myself to what He wants for my life, but sometimes I just blow it. If I weren’t a Calvinist, I would say that I’ve lost my salvation two or three times in the last week. The struggle that I have is real and one of the reasons I believe God allows me to have these struggles is so that I can help others who have similar problems.

You see, this whole sanctification thing is from now until we die. We’ll never be perfect until we stand in the full presence of Almighty God in Heaven. Until that moment, God continually draws us to Himself. He beckons us into a beautiful relationship with Him. And this life is full of ups and downs, unexpected turns in the road, and sometimes we lose our way. Sometimes we make bad decisions. The good news though is that Jesus didn’t lay any terms and conditions in a negotiation with the Father before He came. Jesus didn’t look at God and say, “Now Dad, I’m only going to atone for their sins if they never blow it or mess up again from the moment of their conversion.” That conversation never took place. As a matter of fact, I don’t even believe there was any negotiation because Jesus humbly submitted Himself to the Father’s will.

Spurgeon said, “God came here in human form, not bound to be obedient; but “being found in fashion as a man, he became obedient”; obedient to his own law, and fulfilled every jot and tittle of it. He was “obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” And his obedience is ours, if we believe.” So you see, Jesus was perfectly obedient because He knew we wouldn’t be. He knew we were sons of wrath and disobedience when He saved us, and then He made children of the light.

Now, I’m a secure child of God, but there are days when it feels like the darkness will not lift and I have gone too far and Jesus, in all of His love and mercy, reminds me of the atonement that He secured for me over 2,000 years ago on an old rugged cross. My sins, my mess ups, my mistakes, my depression, my habits, and hangups were nailed to the cross and Jesus had already declared His victory over them.

So if you’re reading this and you’re having one of those days, remember He’s not done with you yet. He loves you and He still says to us, “Neither do I condemn you, go, and sin no more!.”