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Martyred for the Gospel

Martyred for the Gospel
The burning of Tharchbishop of Cant. D. Tho. Cranmer in the town dich at Oxford, with his hand first thrust into the fyre, wherwith he subscribed before. [Click on the picture to see Cranmer's last words.]

Collect of the Day

The Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany.
The Collect.

O LORD, we beseech thee to keep thy Church and household continually in thy true religion; that they who do lean only upon the hope of thy heavenly grace may evermore be defended by thy mighty power; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Daily Bible Verse

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Charismatics and Pentecostals Jump on Board the New Perspectives Bandwagon: A New Wind of False Doctrine

Amos Yong, a charismatic theologian at Regent University, in his book review of Don Garlington's, In Defense of the New Perspective on Paul: Essays and Reviews (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 2005), comments on Assembly of God scholar Frank Macchia's new book:

What I have observed is not that Renewal (by which I mean pentecostal-and-charismatic, broadly speaking) biblical scholarship has engaged the NPP--they might well have, but I am not as up-to-date in this area--but that pentecostal theologians and, especially, systematicians have made some recent proposals at least consistent with, if not presuming of, some of the basic NPP proposals as defended by Garlington. For instance, one of the main points in Frank D. Macchia's Baptized in the Spirit: A Global Pentecostal Theology (Zondervan, 2006) concerns the interconnectedness between the doctrines of justification and sanctification. For Macchia, the pentecostal theological emphasis on the Spirit means that justification can never be merely a forensic imputation of alien righteousness, but must also be a pneumatological impartation of the righteousness of Christ resulting in a transformed life. As an extension of this idea (although actually preceding Macchia's book by two years), pentecostal systematician Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen--although he prefers to call himself an ecumenical theologian--has argued in his One with God: Salvation as Deification and Justification (Liturgical, 2004) that justification is intimately tied in not only with sanctification but also with full salvation understood as glorification. More specifically, drawing from the new Finnish Lutheran scholarship that has unveiled an emphasis in the early Luther on salvation understood as linking justification and what the Eastern Orthodox tradition has called theosis (deification, or union with God), Kärkkäinen claims that such a holistic soteriology is consistent with the pentecostal pneumatological focus on the Spirit's work from conversion through to sanctification and final union with God in Christ. While both Macchia and Kärkkäinen interact with the NPP, they have done so (thus far) only in passing. Yet it is interesting to note that pentecostal systematicians are coming to similar theological conclusions as is Garlington, even if the latter approaches St. Paul from the intersection of an evangelical Reformed perspective and a covenantal monist hermeneutic arguably in the background of apostolic Christianity.

This raises the question of whether or not Renewal biblical scholars might also find in the NPP new approaches to the Pauline corpus that may open up uncharted paths of inquiry. I hazard to guess that engaging the NPP will lead to an expansion of the traditional Renewal focus on Luke-Acts so that Luke will be read together with Paul rather than either against Paul or only after bracketing the Pauline witness. The NPP, at least as interpreted by Garlington, seems congenial to Renewal sensibilities and commitments. Only the ongoing conversation will determine what else the NPP can offer not only to Renewal biblical scholarship, but also to the wider domain of Christian biblical interpretation. [Amos Yong: Book Review: In Defense of the New Perspective on Paul: Essays and Reviews: As appearing in the Fall 2007 issue of the PNEUMA REVIEW]


It is becoming increasingly obvious that the pentecostal/charismatic movement will latch on to anyone or any doctrine which will legitimize their "experience" in the eyes of the academic and theological world. First they grab hold of any liberal theologian who will endorse them, i.e. Harvey Cox, Jurgen Moltmann, Wolfhart Pannenberg, et. al., and now they are likewise jumping on the Federal Vision/New Perspectives on Paul bandwagon. Peter Althouse, a professor of theology at Southeastern University is an expert on Moltmann's theology, for example.

Amazingly, even John Wesley, the theological father of the wesleyan-holiness movement which gave rise to classical pentecostalism, would not have sold out justification by faith alone as his 52 Standard Sermons demonstrate. Wesley clearly upheld the distinction between justification and sanctification:


1. But what is it to be "justified?" What is "justification?" This was the Second thing which I proposed to show. And it is evident, from what has been already observed, that it is not the being made actually just and righteous. This is "sanctification;" which is, indeed, in some degree, the immediate fruit of justification, but, nevertheless, is a distinct gift of God, and of a totally different nature. The one implies what God does for us through his Son; the other, what he works in us by his Spirit. So that, although some rare instances may be found, wherein the term "justified" or "justification" is used in so wide a sense as to include "sanctification" also; yet, in general use, they are sufficiently distinguished from each other, both by St. Paul and the other inspired writers. [John Wesley, Justification by Faith, Sermon 5]


Yet we have Frank Macchia, a leading Assemblies of God scholar, committing the Roman Catholic error of turning justification from an imputed righteousness to an infused righteousness. The wickedness of sinful men never ceases to amaze me. The Wesleyan/Arminian theology of entire sanctification seems to inevitably lead to a denial of the very Gospel itself if this new trend in Pentecostal theology is any indication at all.

As Luther said, the doctrine of justification by faith alone and its forensic and imputed nature is the very essence of the Gospel by which a church stands or falls. By this definition then, Frank Macchia has publicly declared himself as a heretic who promotes the merits of an infused righteousness which is "a pneumatological impartation of the righteousness of Christ resulting in a transformed life." In other words, the new wind of pentecostal heresy is that righteousness and sanctification are no longer distinct, a distinction which even John Wesley acknowledged. Now, according to pentecostal theologians, justification is the righteousness of Christ "imparted" and "resulting in a transformed life." Apparently, Macchia is not the first to confuse sanctification with justification in the pentecostal camp since Yong also refers to Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen, who is apparently Finnish. Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen conflates justification with sanctification by appealing to the Eastern Orthdox doctrine of deification. If salvation is absolutely holistic, as Yong seems to favorably speak of the Finnish pentecostal theology, then a biblical and pauline emphasis on a forensic and imputed justification on the basis of faith--which is itself a divinely bestowed gift which enables belief, repentance and conversion--is thrown out. Instead we have the Holy Spirit infusing righteousness into the soul and in effect the doctrine of sanctification is lost or confused with justification.

Furthermore, I have to ask, is it any wonder that John Piper, another charismatic, is now endorsing Doug Wilson, who equivocates on justification in another area? That is, Wilson says that justification is "bigger" than the punctiliar imputation of justification of the individual who has faith. Wilson's doctrine is that at the final judgment, our "justification" is bigger than that and includes a "vindication" and an adoption of believers as sons of God, presumably based on how faithful they were to the covenant. This too is just another compromise of the doctrine of justification by faith and faith alone.

Even more alarming, Don Garlington's review of Piper's book, The Future of Justification: A Response to N. T. Wright. (Wheaton, Crossway, 2007) reveals that John Piper himself seems to have a tendency in this direction, which might explain why Piper is inviting Doug Wilson to speak at an upcoming Desiring God conference. While Garlington himself is an advocate of the New Perspectives on Paul, he correctly identifies at least two of John Piper's errors in his book against N. T. Wright. First, Piper seems to be saying that justification is completed in the final judgment:

In the Conclusion (184), Piper clarifies that the book’s title is intended to draw attention to where the doctrine of justification may be going, as well to “the critical importance of God’s future act of judgment when our justification will be confirmed.” [The Future of Justification: A Response to John Piper's Treatment of the New Perspective on Paul. A Review by Don Garlington].


Why do we need to have our justification "confirmed" in the final judgment if we are completely justified at the moment we are regenerated and effectually called to faith by the Holy Spirit? It is at this point of conversion and faith that we are completely righteous and completely justified by faith and by the imputation of Christ's righteousness to us. I will give Piper the benefit of the doubt but it seems that his view that justification by faith needs to be confirmed in the last judgment is an equivocation on the view that we are completely justified by faith alone.

Another problem in Piper is his unwillingness to say that N. T. Wright, and by implication Garlington himself, is a heretic:

". . . if Wright’s portrayal of the gospel is what Piper claims, then how could the former not be under the curse of Galatians 1:8-9, if his portrayal is so disfigured that it becomes difficult to recognize it as biblically faithful? Is that not, more or less, what Paul thought of the “other gospel” of his opponents in Galatia? Of course, Wright is hardly under the curse, but these are strong terms and, as we will see immediately below, Piper does not carry them through uniformly." [Garlington].


Of course, Wright is under the curse of Galatians 1:8-9 and so is Garlington! I would add to that list of outright heretics, Frank Macchia, who seems quite willing to say that our justification is an imparted and infused righteousness along the lines of the Roman Catholic doctrine of infused righteousness, and Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen, who likewise thinks that justification, deification/sanctification, and glorification are all indistinguishable parts of the "whole" soteriological transformation. This is nothing short of justification by works or merits on the part of man. One cannot see how this is different from semi-pelagianism and maybe even outright pelagianism since the New Perspectives on Paul waters down the doctrinal distinctions between Christianity and other religions. Is Jesus the unique Son of God who died for the sins of the elect or is He merely a Spirit-filled man who gives us an example and good advice on how to be saved? What would Jesus do? The real question is not what would Jesus do but what has Jesus done?

The implications of the New Perspectives and Federal Vision errors go beyond just the charismatic movement. How does this relate to the Anglican Communion and Evangelicals within the Anglican churches? It is telling that false bishops like Leonard Riches and Royal Grote of the Reformed Episcopal Church are quite willing to sell their Evangelical heritage down the river for the sake of union with Anglo-Catholics and other high churchmen who deny the doctrine of justification by faith alone and its forensic and legal declaration of an imputed righteousness (see 2 Corinthians 5:21). This is precisely why I think Michael Horton is not nearly so concerned about the doctrine of justification as an imputed righteousness as he pretends. Surely Horton would have mentioned the doctrine of justification by faith alone in The White Horse Inn interview with David Virtue about the formation of the Anglican Church in North America? How can Evangelical Anglicans like J. I. Packer and Gerald Bray ignore the implications of selling out the five solas of the Protestant Reformation to the so-called Anglican (read Lambeth) quadrilateral?

Sadly, with the advent of pentecostalism, the church growth movement, and now the NPP and FV errors we are seeing a mass apostasy into works righteousness before our very eyes. In my rector's sermon from Jonah 1:1ff this morning he said that when we see something wrong we ought to have the courage to speak out. Well, I'm speaking out--no more compromise. The Gospel is all of grace from beginning to end. To compromise with even "orthodox" Anglo-Catholics is to sell out the Gospel to a false gospel of idolatry, merits, and heresy.

3 comments:

Charlie J. Ray said...

The late Rev. John Robbins wrote an article about John Piper in the Trinity Review in 2002. You might want to read "Pied Piper." It is indeed an eye opener!

Charlie J. Ray said...

Unfortunately, I have come to see that Gordon H. Clark and John Robbins had a Neo-Nestorian view of the incarnation of Christ. I no longer endorse The Trinity Foundation for that reason.

Charlie J. Ray said...

Unfortunately, I have come to see that Gordon H. Clark and John Robbins had a Neo-Nestorian view of the incarnation of Christ. I no longer endorse The Trinity Foundation for that reason.

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