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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.]

Daily Bible Verse

Tuesday, July 06, 2021

An Open Letter to Pastor Chuck Parker Concerning Homosexual Ministers

 

Pastor Chuck Parker

Lexington Presbyterian Church  [https://www.lexpreschurch.com/]

246 Barr Road

Lexington, South Carolina 29072

 

 July 4, 2021

 

Dear Mr. Parker,

A few weeks ago I attended your morning worship services.  After service you and I had a private discussion at the front of the church as the others were leaving.  I must tell you that I was greatly offended by your response to my concerns about openly homosexual ministers being ordained in the Presbyterian Church America, although they profess to be “celibate”.  There is no way for me to either verify or falsify whether or not such homosexual men are actually celibate or not.  Therefore I think it is problematic to ordain men who may or may not be struggling to overcome their sinful desires.  Worse, they openly profess to be oriented to a homosexual predisposition, which contradicts what the apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11.  It is in fact unbiblical to identify with a sexual orientation that contradicts both Scripture and empirical science.  There is no scientific evidence to confirm the anecdotal evidence that homosexuals are born with that condition. 

The Bible, however, does say that all sexual sins arise from the sinful nature and total depravity.  Homosexuality is the result of idolatry and rebellion against God as well as the fallen nature of mankind.  (Romans 1:18-32).   I was pleased to hear that the PCA General Assembly recently voted to reject the ordinations of the homosexuals being pushed by Revoice in the PCA.  The vote was overwhelming.  Hopefully at the next general assembly the PCA will vote to change the Book of Church Order.  That being said I will not be attending your church or recommending your church again unless and until I hear you and your elders have repented of your promotion of Tim Keller, Revoice, and the ordination of homosexuals whether they be celibate or not. 

As you recommended I did go to the website where the position paper by Tim Keller, Kevin DeYoung and others is posted.  (https://pcaga.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/AIC-Report-to-48th-GA-5-28-20.pdf).  I carefully read the statement and it was troubling on several glaringly obvious points.  The first is that the paper presupposes that upholding the moral law of God, which is binding on all believers and unbelievers as the moral standard by which we are to live, is somehow “hurtful” to unregenerate elect and reprobate persons.  It also implies that the moral law of God and the Westminster Confession of Faith are somehow “legalistic”.  But legalism is defined by adding to God’s written word what cannot be logically deduced from the propositions in Scripture.  (WCF 1:6).  This is in and of itself an unbiblical proposition even according to the Westminster Standards.  Secondly, the paper presupposes that homosexual orientation is somehow the result of biological predispositions of the human body or chemical predispositions of the human brain.  However, the doctrinal standards hold that sinful predispositions are the result of a moral and spiritual inability due to the total depravity or total inability with which God cursed humanity after the fall of Adam.  Although the doctrine of total depravity generally refers to the extent of the corruption of the human nature and not necessarily to the degrees of wickedness of particular individuals, there are different degrees of the heinousness of particular sins.  (WLC 150-152).  The Westminster Confession clearly states that the moral inability of the sinful nature is not due to a natural inability but due to a total corruption of the human soul as composed of the intellect and the will and the emotions.  (WCF 9). 

Furthermore, the Westminster Larger Catechism does assert that there are different degrees of the severity of certain sins, including homosexuality, incest and bestiality.   (WLC 150-152).  Although even a small sin and the total depravity of the human soul is enough to condemn someone to eternal punishment for everlasting time after the final judgment (WLC 152), it does not follow that homosexuality is somehow equal to the sin of heterosexual adultery or fornication.  In fact homosexuality is called an abomination.  (Leviticus 18:22).  Furthermore, the Arminian ministries which have tried to cater to homosexuals in order to help them change have been miserable failures.  Exodus International no longer exists in the Orlando, Florida area because its leaders decided they could not change and went back to their homosexual lifestyles.  Unless a person is regenerated supernaturally by the Holy Spirit they will never change or struggle against their sinful thoughts and actions, both of which are sinful.

The idea that human behavior is determined by biology or genetics or brain chemistry has more in common with Thomas Hobbs or B. F. Skinner than with biblical Christianity or with the Westminster Standards.  Therefore, there is no excuse for homosexuals in regards to the anecdotal claims of having been born that way or that they cannot overcome their thoughts of same sex attraction.  As for the claim that even heterosexuals occasionally face opposite sex attraction is to essentially minimalize homosexuality as somehow less sinful than heterosexual attractions.  But the bottom line here is that lustful thoughts are sins no matter who has them.  It is one thing to lust and another to experience attraction to the opposite sex.  Basically it is a logical fallacy to gaslight heterosexuals by accusing them of struggling against sinful sexual thoughts while at the same time using that gaslighting to minimalize the severity of the homosexual sin of claiming by anecdotal evidence that homosexuals are unable to change their sexual orientation.

I fully agree with the following statement at the 48th general assembly:

“Officers in the Presbyterian Church in America must be above reproach in their walk and Christlike in their character. Those who profess an identity (such as, but not limited to, ‘gay Christian,’ ‘same-sex attracted Christian,’ ‘homosexual Christian,’ or like terms) that undermines or contradicts their identity as new creations in Christ, either by denying the sinfulness of fallen desires (such as, but not limited to, same-sex attraction), or by denying the reality and hope of progressive sanctification, or by failing to pursue Spirit-empowered victory over their sinful temptations, inclinations, and actions are not qualified for ordained office,” the amended rule states.

The amended rule will go to local church bodies for a vote before the second round of convention balloting next year following which the language would be placed in the PCA’s “Book of Church Order.”  (https://gospelnewsnetwork.org/2021/07/05/presbyterian-church-in-america-takes-first-vote-on-banning-ordination-of-openly-gay-men/)

I was also troubled by the position taken by Tim Keller on the evolution issue.  I believe in the doctrine of creation by divine fiat, not theistic evolution.  I heard things which you intimated that seemed to indicate that you do not accept the doctrine of creation by divine fiat.  The doctrine of theistic evolution opens the door to neo-orthodoxy and the irrationalism of Barthianism.  It also implies that Adam and Eve, Abraham and Moses and the patriarchs are not actual persons who existed in human history or salvation history but are instead typological archetypes representing etiological myths concerning the origin of moral evil and the moral law of God.  The doctrine of common grace has the tendency to subject Scripture to the philosophy of science instead of the doctrine of supernatural and special revelation.  The Bible is not subject to revision by some external authority such as textual criticism, empirical science, or human philosophies.  Science and secular philosophies are human centered and prone to the corruption of sinful thinking rather than a complete submission to the authority of God’s written word.  Science is always changing and never arrives at the truth.  (2 Timothy 3:7-9).

In regards to our discussion after service that day, I mentioned to you that I have an openly homosexual brother who recently joined the Roman Catholic Church.  That younger brother is a practicing homosexual.  He is not celibate as far as I know.  He is also HIV positive and has been so for several years.  He is on HIV suppressant drugs in order to extend his life.  You and other liberal Presbyterians think that you are extending grace and mercy to homosexuals but in effect what you are doing is accommodating to the secular culture and enabling homosexuals to continue in their open rebellion against God’s written word.  Your view presupposes that God is unable to regenerate homosexuals and cause them to repent.  (Acts 11:18).  There are no contingencies in God’s eternally immutable mind.  He is able to do exceedingly more than your finite view of God presupposes.  (Philippians 3:21).  You made your point when you asked me to leave without considering that you are in fact hurting those of us who stand on the biblical principles of God’s written word.

Until these issues are cleared up I will not be encouraging anyone to attend your services and will be recommending that they attend other more conservative Presbyterian or Baptist congregations.  Maybe you are not concerned with my opinion.  But remember that church membership works both ways.  I would never join a church that refuses to take a stand for the truth.  Also, I am posting this open letter to my blog at www.reasonablechristian.blogspot.com.  I am doing so because I believe that congregations and denominations are equally to be held accountable to the final authority of God’s written word, which is propositional and logical revelation.  (John 1:1, 9; 2 Timothy 3:16-17; John 10:35).

Sincerely yours in Christ,

 

Charlie J. Ray

Sunday, July 04, 2021

Is the Notion of a Homosexual Orientation Biblical?

 

WLC 150  Are all transgressions of the law of God equally heinous in themselves, and in the sight of God? A. All transgressions of the law of God are not equally heinous, but some sins in themselves, and by reason of several aggravations, are more heinous in the sight of God than others.

 

 

In a recent post at the Aquila Report I read the following nonsense which amounts to obfuscation and equivocation:

Orientation – There are some in the PCA who have argued that no Christian should say that they have a “homosexual orientation.” However this is contrary to the AIC report, which states:

“How then should we think of the language of sexual orientation? Insofar as the term orientation is used descriptively to articulate a particular set of experiences, namely the persistent and predominant sexual attractions of an individual, it can remain useful as a way of classifying those experiences in contrast to the experiences of the majority of other people. However, insofar as the term orientation carries with it a set of assumptions about the nature of that experience that is unbiblical (e.g., overemphasized rigidity, its normativity, etc.), then the terminology may require qualification or even rejection in some circumstances.”[13]

Given what I have stated above regarding PCA pastors’ teaching on the possibility and expectation of real change for believers who experience homoerotic temptation, we should assume that those leaders in the PCA who describe themselves as having a homosexual orientation are doing so in the first sense mentioned by the AIC.  (Tim LeCroy,  "Misconceptions About Homosexuality in the PCA".)

I do not have time to respond to all of the non sequiturs and red herrings in this propaganda piece.  However, I do wish to respond to the blatant disregard for biblical and confessional theology in this one paragraph. 

First of all, the argument presupposes that homosexuals are born with a homosexual orientation for which they are not responsible.  Not only does the Bible not teach this but it is also a politically charged ideology and not proved by any empirical science whatsoever that homosexuals or sexually confused impersonators of the opposite biological sex are born that way.  It would be difficult to demonstrate from empirical science that a biological brain or other physical biological predisposition to certain thoughts and behaviors are in fact determined by biology rather than psychological factors or environmental factors or even nurturing or propagandizing factors.  In fact, the only undeniable evidence we have is anecdotal or self reported evidence of homosexuals and gender dysphoric persons, not undisputed double blind research on an empirical basis.  

I know of no scientific journals that have published undisputed research that can substantiate the political ideology of the Marxist left in regards to the LGBTQ movement.  This is why I find it difficult to accept the massive revisionist movement of the progressive and Marxist left to restructure biblical and traditional family values in the political realm.  This is also why I am not a political libertarian because I believe that to tolerate evil in the culture at large undermines biblical Christianity as a whole and puts political pressure on churches and Christian denominations to accommodate with the dominant political ideology.  

The Bible clearly teaches that the reason there is homosexuality is mankind's rebellion against God and mankind's idolatrous views on sexuality.  (Romans 1:18-32;  1 Corinthians 6:9-11; Leviticus 18:22-23).  The idea that homosexuality and transgenderism are special exceptions to the general doctrine of total depravity does not follow from the biblical texts.  There are those who contend that homosexual sins are no worse than heterosexual sexual sins; they are plainly wrong.  And even if they were correct the sin of adultery is a very serious sin on par with any sin of lust or covetousness.  In fact, the 7th commandment ranks higher on the scale in the decalogue than either stealing or covetousness.  And the Old Testament plainly says that homosexuality is an abomination.  (Leviticus 18:22).

Anyone who is still struggling with sexual orientation or thoughts of adultery should be disqualified from ordained ministry.  This is just biblical teaching because sinful habits undermine not only the assurance of salvation but also the credibility of the person's profession of faith should those habits not be overcome through spiritual discipline and repentance.

As for the contention that homosexual orientation is no worse than other sins, the Westminster Larger Catechism clearly denies that all sins are equal.  The WLC states clearly that certain sins are worse and more heinous than other sins.  Even our judicial system renders some crimes worse than other crimes by increasing the severity of the penalties for certain crimes as compared with others.  Although one sin is enough to merit eternal punishment, the severity of certain sins warrants a much stronger response in regards to church discipline than other sins:

WLC 150  Are all transgressions of the law of God equally heinous in themselves, and in the sight of God? A. All transgressions of the law of God are not equally heinous, but some sins in themselves, and by reason of several aggravations, are more heinous in the sight of God than others.1

WLC 151  What are those aggravations that make some sins more heinous than others? A. Sins receive their aggravations 1. From the persons offending:1 if they be of riper age,2 greater experience or grace,3 eminent for profession,4 gifts,5 place,6 office,7 guides to others,8 and whose example is likely to be followed by others.9 2. From the parties offended:10 if immediately against God,11 his attributes,12 and worship;13 against Christ, and his grace;14 the Holy Spirit,15 his witness,16 and workings;17 against superiors, men of eminency,18 and such as we stand especially related and engaged unto;19 against any of the saints,20 particularly weak brethren,21 the souls of them, or any other,22 and the common good of all or many.23 3. From the nature and quality of the offence:24 if it be against the express letter of the law,25 break many commandments, contain in it many sins:26 if not only conceived in the heart, but breaks forth in words and actions,27 scandalize others,28 and admit of no reparation:29 if against means,30 mercies,31 judgments,32 light of nature,33 conviction of consciousness,34 publick or private admonition,35 censures of the church,36 civil punishments;37 and our prayers, purposes, promises,38 vows,39 covenants,40 and engagements to God or men:41 if done deliberately,42 wilfully,43 presumptuously,44 impudently,45 boastingly,46 maliciously,47 frequently,48 obstinately,49 with delight,50 continuance,51 or relapsing after repentance.52 4. From circumstances of time53 and place:54 if on the Lord's day,55 or other times of divine worship;56 or immediately before57 or after these,58 or other helps to prevent or remedy such miscarriages:59 if in publick, or in the presence of others, who are thereby likely to be provoked or defiled.60

WLC 152  What doth every sin deserve at the hands of God? A. Every sin, even the least, being against the sovereignty,1 goodness,2 and holiness of God,3 and against his righteous law,4 deserveth his wrath and curse,5 both in this life,6 and that which is to come;7 and cannot be expiated but by the blood of Christ.8 (WLC 1:150-152 WCS)

I could post links to the proof texts given in the Larger Catechism but I will leave that to the reader.  The Bible clearly teaches that some sins are worse than others:  

13 These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God. 14 And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us: 15 And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him. 16 If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life for them that sin not unto death. There is a sin unto death: I do not say that he shall pray for it. 17 All unrighteousness is sin: and there is a sin not unto death. 18 We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not; but he that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not. (1 Jn. 5:13-18 KJV)

Will the Presbyterian Church in America General Assembly revoke the ordination of so-called celibate homosexual men?  There appears to be some hope but I am unsure that that has happened or will happen:  Will the PCA General Assembly Disqualify Homosexual Ministers? However, a subsequent article seems to be reporting that the PCAGA did in fact disqualify homosexual ministers from ordination with the PCA:  PCA Bans Homosexual Ministers:  Defeats Revoice Movement.  




 

 

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Dr. Gordon H. Clark: Free Will, God's Will, and Good Works

It is God’s mere good pleasure; it is just because he wanted it so; it is nothing other than his sovereign decision, that we do what we do and will what we will.

 

Gordon H. Clark. Predestination (Kindle Locations 1713-1714). The Trinity Foundation. Kindle Edition.

 

Dr. Gordon H. Clark, Free Will, God’s Will, and Good Works

 

There is much confusion in regards to Dr. Gordon H. Clark’s views on several theological and philosophical topics.  In fact, the reason Dr. Clark is still so controversial even decades after his death was that he insisted that God is Logic and that theology cannot be divorced from rational thinking and the law of contradiction.  He, like John Calvin, insisted on following reason as far as possible in resolving apparent contradictions when we are thinking theologically and doing exegesis of the Holy Scriptures.  It is not pleasant to involve oneself in controversial debates but such debates cannot be avoided if we are to obey the injunction in Holy Scripture to study to show ourselves approved unto God as workmen who need not be ashamed and who rightly divide the word of truth.  (2 Timothy 2:15 KJV). 

In this post I will briefly refute two positions that came to my attention during the past week as I was reading theology and listening to podcasts.  The first controversy I want to address was brought to my attention by Thomas Juodaitus of the Trinity Foundation.  In response to my previous blog post on the issue of once saved always saved Mr. Juodaitus reminded me of Dr. John Robbins’s footnote number 9 in the chapter on free will in Dr. Clark’s book, Predestination.  I was not unaware of Robbins’s remarks here but was never pressed to respond previously.  So in response to Mr. Juodaitus I will answer the objections raised by John Robbins here.

The second controversy is related to the Trinity Foundation’s positions taken on justification by faith alone but the source is Dr. R. Scott Clark of Westminster Theological Seminary, California and his blog and podcast entitled The Heidelblog.  (See:  R. Scott Clark:  Law/Gospel)  Many modern day theologians emphasize justification by faith alone as the main emphasis of the Protestant Reformation and propose that this is the single most important issue that caused the division between the papists and the Protestant reformers.  Of course, the true story is that the Protestant Reformation is much more complicated than that. 

Be that as it may, I will first briefly refute John Robbins’s contention that Dr. Clark misspoke when he said, “Let us be quite clear on the fact that the Bible does not teach salvation by faith alone.”  [Dr. Gordon H. Clark.  Predestination.  1985.  2nd Edition.  (Unicoi:  Trinity Foundation, 2006).  P. 85].  First of all, it is hard to understand how Robbins could be so completely confused about what Clark was saying here.  Only by ignoring the immediate context of the remark could Robbins get this so wrong.  And further, if one has read Dr. Clark extensively, it is hard to comprehend how anyone could misunderstand what Clark meant here.   Clark was not saying that salvation or justification is by meritorious good works or that the elect have libertarian free will that somehow causes our salvation by the power of the human will to overcome total inability or by the power of the will to overcome total depravity of the human nature and the total corruption of the image of God. 

But before I go further let me quote Robbins in his own words to show how he either deliberately or unintentionally misrepresents what Dr. Clark said in the immediate context and the context of the entire book on predestination:

 

From here to the end of the paragraph Dr. Clark errs in two ways. First, the Bible emphatically teaches salvation by faith alone: “Your faith has saved you; go in peace” (Luke 7:50). “Those by the way side are they that hear; then comes the devil, and takes away the Word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved” (Luke 8:12). “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). “And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Acts 2:21). “Who will tell you words, by which you and all your house shall be saved” (Acts 11:14). “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved” (Acts 16:31). “That if you shall confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus, and shall believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead, you shall be saved” (Romans 10:9). “By which also you are saved, if you keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless you have believed in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:2). “For by grace are you saved, through faith” (Ephesians 2:8). “…it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe” (1 Corinthians 1:21). “…them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved” (2 Thessalonians 2:10). “God has from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth” (2 Thessalonians 2:13). “But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul” (Hebrews 10:39).

We see in these verses that justification is not an aspect of salvation on a par with other aspects, but is so identified with salvation that the terms are interchanged repeatedly. To be justified – to be declared righteous because of the imputation of Christ’s perfect righteousness – is to be saved. All else – sanctification, good works, glorification – flow from that.

Second, Dr. Clark errs when he says that sanctification “consists of works which we do” and “of external actions initiated by internal volitions” and that “we do the things that produce sanctification.” All these statements are in error. Sanctification is the work of the Holy Spirit; it is not something we do, nor is it the result of something we do. Question 75 of the Larger Catechism asks, “What is sanctification?” and answers: “Sanctification is a work of God’s grace….” In the Westminster Confession of Faith, the chapter on Sanctification is separate from and precedes the chapter on Good Works. To show that sanctification is the work of the Holy Spirit, not of ourselves, it cites such verses as 1 Corinthians 6:10: “…but you are washed, you are sanctified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.” John 17:17: “Sanctify them through your truth: Your Word is truth.” Ephesians 5:26: “That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the Word.” 1 Thessalonians 5:23: “And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly….” Good works neither are sanctification nor do they produce sanctification. Good works are an effect, a result of sanctification by the Spirit.

Dr. Clark knew all this, for in his book Sanctification, he wrote, “Chapter 13 of the Westminster Confession emphasizes the fact that we are sanctified by God, not by our own efforts; an imperfect obedience to the moral law is a result of that sanctification, not the cause of it.” He concludes his book with the words of Christ from John 17: “Sanctify them by your truth. Your Word is truth.”  [John Robbins’s editorial footnote number 9].

 

Gordon H. Clark. Predestination (Kindle Locations 2068-2094). The Trinity Foundation. Kindle Edition.

 

Robbins should have been more careful in his definitions.  First of all,  there is nothing in the Bible that even remotely suggests that justification by faith alone is the doctrine from which all other doctrines flow.  In fact, the Bible is the beginning axiom of Christianity, not the doctrine of justification by faith alone.  Furthermore, the Bible does not teach that good works can be divorced from the Christian faith.  In fact, the Bible over and over again affirms that good works are a necessary result or fruit of a true and lively faith.  A tree is known by the fruit it produces.  Good trees produce good fruit and bad trees produce bad fruit. 

As an illustration of this let me share something I know from my experience of growing up in central Florida.  Many people do not know that the cultivation of orange trees is a complicated matter for farmers.  The orange trees in most commercial orange groves are not naturally occurring trees.  To produce the best fruit and the most ardent trees the best producing orange sprouts are grafted on to wild growing roots which are better able to support the upper part of the tree.  This seems to be an ancient practice that dates even back to the apostolic era where the apostle Paul uses the illustration of grafting olive trees.  (Romans 11).  One of my neighbors actually had a tree in their yard that had several different grafted fruit branches on the root stock.  The tree produced oranges, navel oranges, tangerines, and grapefruit and all from the same tree.  One of the jobs necessary for orange grove management is pruning.  The reason being that often the same tree that produces good fruit will also have sour branches that produce sour oranges that are unacceptable for juicing or for eating.  These sour branches, though few in number, must be pruned out, otherwise if there are too many sour oranges mixed in with the harvest the juice plant could reject the entire load of oranges being delivered to the plant.  A sour orange tree must be cut down, though it the root stock could be useful for grafting purposes.  In the same way, a true Christian is one who produces mostly good fruit, not sour oranges.  There may be bad sprouts coming from the trunk of the tree that need to be sawed off and pruned away.  But a tree that produces nothing but sour fruit is cut down and burned.

In contradistinction to Robbins’s contention that justification by faith and salvation by faith are interchangeable terms, I contend that the two are not exactly interchangeable at all.  That is because salvation is a total order of graces given by God by divine sovereignty.  Robbins should have known better.  Saving faith initiates the Christian life but saving faith is impossible without regeneration because the sinner is so enslaved and blinded by sin that he or she is unable to extricate himself or herself from spiritual death, unbelief, and habitual sin.  Therefore, the main issue for the Protestant Reformation was the doctrine of God’s sovereignty and out of that one doctrine the other doctrines naturally flow.  Robbins errs in that he thinks that faith justifies us.  He says:  “To be justified – to be declared righteous because of the imputation of Christ’s perfect righteousness – is to be saved.”  He infers here that we are justified because of our faith.  But he is leaving out the step that matters most.  Faith is impossible without regeneration.  (John 3:3-8;  Ephesians 2:1-5 KJV).  Salvation by faith as implied by John Robbins would mean that faith is not really an instrument by which justification is imputed to the believer but rather that faith itself causes God to declare the sinner righteous.  This is far from the truth.  Justification was first of all an eternal decree by God in the timeless mind of God apart from created time and the created universe.  (See:  Abraham Kuyper.  The Work of the Holy Spirit:  Eternal Justification.  [Vol. 2, Ch. 6. Section XXXII]  Dr. Clark recommends Kuyper’s 3 volume work in the chapter on justification in his book, What Do Presbyterians Believe?).   Regeneration is the cause of faith, not the other way around.  In the same way, faith does not cause justification.  Justification causes faith!  That’s because it is God by His sovereignty who decreed it all and causes it all.  Justification is also eternally decreed, although justification was accomplished on the cross and it is by the means or instrumentality of faith that the efficacious work of the cross to propitiate the wrath of God against sinners is imputed to sinners. 

Moreover, salvation is not a one time event that occurs at the moment of conversion and the effectual call.  No, salvation as a process begins at the moment of the monergistic work of God in effectually calling the elect sinner out of darkness and into His marvelous light.  The Christian life and living the life of faith is synergistic in that God causes the newly regenerated Christian to cooperate willingly with God in working out his or her salvation.  This is different from the Arminian insistence that not only does the Christian have the power to overcome sin by a libertarian free will made possible by a generic, common, and prevenient grace given to all individuals without exception, but that the Christian also has the power to persevere in faith by the same libertarian free will.  The biblical and Calvinist view, however, is that God causes it all, both the monergistic regeneration and the subsequent monergistic perseverance in faith and the synergistic process of progressive sanctification whereby the Christian struggles against sin and seeks to live a life of habitual obedience, though not perfect obedience. 

Robbins secondly takes Clark out of context when he insists that Clark says that we save ourselves by our own efforts.  Nothing could be further from the truth since Clark over and over again insists that God has only one will and that that will is God’s eternal predestination.  What Clark is saying is that God causes the sinner to work out his or her own salvation.  In fact, Robbins neglected to quote what Clark says in the immediately following paragraph:

 

. . .God works in us – that is clear enough. But the verse is more definite and tells us two things God does in us. First, he so works in us that we do the things that produce sanctification. God works in us so that we sing a psalm, or comfort the sick, or apprehend a criminal, or preach the Gospel. These are things we do because God works in us to do them. But there is something preceding this doing on which the doing depends. We would do none of these things if we did not first will to do them. Now, the verse clearly states that God not only works the doing in us, but he first works the willing in us. God works in us both to will and to do.

Other verses, such as Ephesians 1:11, previously quoted, said that God works all things universally. This verse states in particular that God works our own willing. It is clear, therefore, that man’s will is not free, but is directed by the working of God. And to conclude with a reminder, both this verse and those that say God works all things add, “of his good pleasure.” It is God’s mere good pleasure; it is just because he wanted it so; it is nothing other than his sovereign decision, that we do what we do and will what we will. In many discussions on free will, after quoting and explaining a dozen or more verses, and after having met stubborn opposition to the Reformation doctrine, I have often said, “Well, then, you give me the verses on which you base your idea of free will.” This challenge usually produces a blank stare. No verses are needed, they say. Everybody knows he is free. In other words, these people who have studied no philosophy are unaware that they are repeating Descartes to the effect that it is impossible even to conceive of a more ample freedom than that of the will of man, and almost quoting his very words, “We have such a consciousness of the liberty and indifference which exists in ourselves that there is nothing we more clearly or perfectly comprehend.” Thus they unwittingly try to impose a secular philosophy on the Bible.

 

Gordon H. Clark. Predestination (Kindle Locations 1706-1720). The Trinity Foundation. Kindle Edition.

 

I previously noted that Clark insisted that the purpose of justification is to make us good.  That quote comes from pages 135-136 of the book, What Do Presbyterians Believe?  (See: The Reformed Doctrine of Assurance of Salvation as Expounded by the Westminster Standards: A Clarkian Scripturalist Response to Once Saved Always Saved).  Sadly, I do not have time to read as widely as I would wish.  However, I finally discovered where Clark got that idea and it comes straight from Augustine and John Calvin.  The answer is that John Calvin highlights Augustine’s Retractions in his debate with the papist Pighius over libertarian free will versus the bondage of the will and the sovereignty of God in his book, The Bondage and Liberation of the Will:  A Defense of the Orthdox Doctrine of Human Choice Against Pighius).  Robbins’s apparent error is that he implicitly agrees with libertarian free will since he insists that saving faith causes salvation, not that God causes saving faith and that God causes us to work out our salvation by causing us to willingly cooperate with God’s will and to do what God commands us to do.  Even Augustine prayed that God commands what he will command and Augustine then petitions God to grant us the ability to obey those commands.  This prayer is what sparked the debate between Augustine and Pelagius and his followers.  Calvin insists that it is God who causes it all and Clark agreed fully with this:

 

And what about the fact,* which Pighius himself later acknowledges when he has been snatched away by his own dizziness to another place, that Augustine teaches the following? Not only that the conversion of the ungodly, his progress in the good, and his perseverance right to the end depend upon the gift and grace of God, but that this grace has not been §401 offered to all. Also that we cannot attain it either by our own desire or by our own endeavour, but it is bestowed by the good pleasure of God alone on those whom he himself wills.226 Having let slip these admissions, he is first compelled to make an open break with Augustine, and he then shows how, without denying the grace of God, the arguments which kept Augustine in perplexity should be answered. Namely by saying that conversion is the gift of God, but only those are converted who merit it by their free choice. Perseverance [he says] is likewise the gift of God, but depends no less on man; and each is in fact paid as a reward for earlier merits.227 In this way, with a couple of words, he extricates himself from all difficulty. But if he hopes that his readers’ eyes can be blinded by such obvious, stupid nonsense, then he is fooling himself overmuch. I at any rate have decided to refute it by doing no more than bring it out into public view, since no one will be so obtuse and stupid as not immediately, at first glance, to recoil from such great absurdity.

 

Calvin, John. The Bondage and Liberation of the Will: A Defence of the Orthodox Doctrine of Human Choice against Pighius. Ed. A. N. S. Lane and Richard A. Muller. Trans. G. I. Davies. II. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1996. Print. Texts and Studies in Reformation and Post-Reformation Thought.  P. 240.

When Dr. Clark says that sanctification consists of works that we do he qualified that statement by pointing to the fact that God causes the sanctification that consists of the works that we do and that it is God Himself who causes us to will to do those things.  So either Robbins was being disingenuous or he had an agenda because he did not really believe that struggling against sin in the Christian life was necessary for assurance of salvation.  If so, then for all practical purposes Robbins agreed with the once saved always saved position.  The evidence for this is how Robbins singles out the portions of the Westminster Confession of Faith that emphasize the imputed sanctification of the cross rather than the progressive sanctification also emphasized in the Confession.  Robbins cites the Larger Catechism question 75 as if Clark did not agree with it!  But this is an argument from silence since I know of nowhere that Clark disagrees with it.  In fact, Clark wrote an entire chapter on sanctification in What Do Presbyterians Believe? and nowhere does Clark even remotely suggest that salvation originates with libertarian free will or man’s own power to cause himself or herself to obey or even to persevere.  But to refute Robbins I will give the appropriate sections of the WCF chapter on sanctification which unequivocably assert that sanctification is more than just an imputed righteousness:

 

 

 

CHAPTER XIII. Of Sanctification

 

THEY who are effectually called and regenerated, having a new heart and a new spirit created in them, are farther sanctified really and personally, through the virtue of Christ’s death and resurrection,(a) by his word and Spirit dwelling in them;(b) the dominion of the whole body of sin is destroyed,(c) and the several lusts thereof are more and more weakened and mortified,(d) and they more and more quickened and strengthened in all saving graces,(e) to the practice of true holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.(f)

II. This sanctification is throughout in the whole man,(g) yet imperfect in this life; there abideth still some remnants of corruption in every part;(h) whence ariseth a continual and irreconcilable war; the flesh lusting against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh.(i)

III. In which war, although the remaining corruption for a time may much prevail,(k) yet, through the continual supply of strength from the sanctifying Spirit of Christ, the regenerate part doth overcome:(l) and so the saints grow in grace,(m) perfecting holiness in the fear of God.(n)

 

 

Westminster Assembly. The Westminster Confession of Faith: Edinburgh Edition. Philadelphia: William S. Young, 1851. Print.

 

In short, Robbins completely ignores what chapter 13 of the WCF plainly says and instead just quotes the proof texts from footnote (a).  The other sections of the WCF chapter 13 clearly show that sanctification is a progressive process with many starts and stops along the way.  I leave it to the reader to check the other proof texts as these are easily accessible to anyone with a copy of the Edinburgh edition of the Confession.  It would be very strange indeed if Dr. Clark were as ignorant of the Bible and the Confession as Robbins implies.  In fact when Clark says that sanctification consists of works that we do it cannot mean what Robbins says it means and Robbins is either confused, disingenuous, engaging in sophistry, or he is very ignorant and unable to read what Clark affirmed in the direct context of that remark.  This leads me to believe that the other graces are a mere afterthought for Robbins and that his real position is probably once saved always saved.

My second point of this blog post is that justification by faith is not necessarily the hinge on which everything turns.  In fact, Calvin and Luther both insisted that the hinge on which everything turned was the doctrine of the bondage of the will.  Not only is the will in bondage to sin, as Calvin emphasized, but the will is also subject to God’s sovereign will in providence.  Dr. Clark insisted that the fall of Adam was not due to mere permission but that Adam himself had no free will prior to the fall.  It was God’s will that Adam would fall because the fall was predetermined by God’s sovereign will.  As Dr. Clark said in the question and answer section following his audio lecture on Predestination in the Old Testament, before the fall Adam was determined to think only good thoughts.  After the fall Adam was determined to think both good and evil thoughts.  (See:  Predestination in the Old Testament.  Sermon Audio.  The question and answer session begins at the end of the one hour lecture.  I cannot find the exact point where the remarks are made on permission at the moment.  I will look for it later.)  For Dr. Clark the doctrine of predestination is only less important than two other doctrines, namely the doctrine of Scripture and the doctrine of the Trinity.  That’s because chapter one of the Westminster Confession is on the doctrine of Scripture or Sola Scriptura and the doctrine of God as Trinity is chapter 2 of the Confession.  In short, Clark agreed with both Calvin and Luther that predestination was the most important doctrine, even above the doctrine of justification by faith alone. 

But R. Scott Clark insists that the law and gospel distinction and the doctrine of justification by faith alone is more important than the doctrine of predestination.  He said so in a recent Heidelblog podcast.  In fact, his dialectical theology in regards to the law and gospel is allegedly drawn from his knowledge of reformation theological history and Bullinger's and Beza’s theology.  I regret that I have not read these two theologians but I highly suspect that since both of them predate Hegelian philosophy and neo-orthodoxy that there is no dialectic between the law and gospel, though there are definitely disjunctive aspects of the two.  Unquestionably the purpose of the moral law is to reveal us as sinners.  (Romans 3:20; 7:7; Galatians 2:16; Acts 13:39).  But without the law there is no need for the promises of gospel.  Before a person can understand his need to be saved by the gospel he needs to understand that he is a miserable sinner.  This is impossible without the law.   Furthermore, the law tells the Christian how he is to live by faith and by thankfulness for his salvation. 

But to the point, there is ample evidence that both Calvin and Luther placed the emphasis on God’s sovereignty in salvation precisely because of predestination and the bondage of the will to both sin and to God’s sovereign mercy.  Man’s will is subject to God’s unconditional election precisely because man’s will is enslaved by sin and unable to free itself from sin.  Furthermore, as Gordon H. Clark pointed out, man’s will is not free from God’s predestination.  Although man makes volitional choices as a free moral agent, if a man shoots his wife, it was God’s will.  Calvin insists that God is the ultimate cause of the fall and of mankind’s bondage to sin because God is the remote cause of everything.   (See Calvin’s Institutes 3:23:3).  The hinge upon which everything turns then is God’s sovereignty.  God is not the proximate cause of man’s sins as individuals but God is definitely the remote cause of everything.

Luther likewise emphasizes the sovereignty of God over man’s will:

 

Sect. IX. — THIS, therefore, is also essentially necessary and wholesome for Christians to know: That God foreknows nothing by contingency, but that He foresees, purposes, and does all things according to His immutable, eternal, and infallible will. By this thunderbolt, “Free-will” is thrown prostrate, and utterly dashed to pieces. Those, therefore, who would assert “Free-will,” must either deny this thunderbolt, or pretend not to see it, or push it from them. But, however, before I establish this point by any arguments of my own, and by the authority of Scripture, I will first set it forth in your words. 

Martin Luther.  The Bondage of the Will.  “The Sovereignty of God.”  Section 9.

 

Notice here that Luther nowhere mentions the doctrine of total depravity.  His emphasis is on God’s absolute predestination.  Luther by this one statement demolishes every form of semi-pelagianism, including the semi-pelagianism of modern Lutherans.  Furthermore, Luther insists that Erasmus alone has hit the target:

 

In this, moreover, I give you great praise, and proclaim it — you alone in pre-eminent distinction from all others, have entered upon the thing itself; that is, the grand turning point of the cause; and, have not wearied me with those irrelevant points about popery, purgatory, indulgences, and other like baubles, rather than causes, with which all have hitherto tried to hunt me down, — though in vain! You, and you alone saw, what was the grand hinge upon which the whole turned, and therefore you attacked the vital part at once; for which, from my heart, I thank you.  

Luther, Section CLXVIII.

While it is true that Luther said that the church stands or falls with the doctrine of justification by faith alone, it is inseparable from Luther’s views on the sovereignty of God and the bondage of the will to God and the bondage of the will to sin.  Modern Lutherans reject both, apparently.

 

Calvin likewise insists that the entire debate with Pighius, like the debate between Augustine and Pelagius, hinges on the sovereignty of God in salvation:

 

However,* [Pighius] thinks that he has in the first book [addressed] to Valentinus an excellent text to establish this combination of free choice and grace which he advocates. There commands from Scripture are quoted which, while they limit free §359 choice, do indicate that it is present in man; and then others are contrasted with them, which show that whatever things are required of us are gifts from God.83 I have already84 described, as honestly as I could, what that whole contrast signifies, that is, its purpose and its components. It consists of two parts: that people sin of their own accord when they sin, and by their own movement of the will, and therefore it is fruitless to divert the blame elsewhere. And that, when they are guided by the Spirit of God to the good, their will is not thereby excluded, since grace consists precisely in the turning of their will to love and seek the good. Then, having shown that man acts voluntarily both in good works and in bad, [Augustine] begins to debate the nature of the will itself, what power it has of itself, and also the effectiveness of grace. [He says] that the will is certainly by nature always evil, so that it can do nothing but obstinately resist the righteousness of God. Only by grace does it become good, and that in such a way that it then necessarily loves and follows the righteousness to which it was previously averse (ch. 15).85 What of us? Do we exclude the will by preaching of grace? Pighius must therefore put on some other disguise if he wants to deceive even those of ordinary intelligence. For it cannot escape anyone’s attention how closely Augustine’s thoughts and words are in agreement with ours when he writes like this.

But it is now high time to yield a place to Pighius’s hallowed definition,86 so that it may appear the more clearly with what justification he engages the universal church in conflict with us,* so as also to claim its support for himself. Before he reveals his own views on the subject itself, seeing that in this discussion the treatment of the grace of God is of the utmost importance,* he does list the different meanings of the expression. But he introduces nothing which had not been carefully noticed and taught by our people long ago, although he subsequently shows his gratitude in the worst possible way. And yet, so that you may see what an expert theologian he is, whenever he inserts some idea of his own, he corrupts and spoils by his own padding things which elsewhere had been finely spoken.

Then he [Pighius] turns to an explanation of the corruption of our nature which flowed from the fall of the first man,* as beyond any doubt the whole dispute hinges on knowledge of this.

 

Calvin, John. The Bondage and Liberation of the Will: A Defence of the Orthodox Doctrine of Human Choice against Pighius. Ed. A. N. S. Lane and Richard A. Muller. Trans. G. I. Davies. II. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1996. Print. Texts and Studies in Reformation and Post-Reformation Thought.  Pp. 182-183.

 

I cannot do a careful and academic study because of time constraints.  However, I hope this will put to rest the dialectical assertions of R. Scott Clark and the improbable assertions by Robbins that Dr. Gordon H. Clark had contradicted himself.  It is easily demonstrable that it is not so by the great body of Clark’s work and also by the writings of Augustine and Calvin’s use of Augustine in his dispute with Pighius.  For Calvin and Luther the doctrines of predestination and the bondage of the will were central to their theology, not the doctrine of justification by faith alone, as important as that doctrine is.  But for Gordon H. Clark the order of importance of these doctrines is the descending order of the chapters in the Westminster Confession of Faith.  The doctrine of the trinitarian God and the doctrine of God's eternal predestination therefore were more important than the doctrine of justification because to emphasize that doctrine above the rest is to give place to semi-pelagian thinking which was anathema to Luther, Calvin and subsequently to Dr. Gordon H. Clark in the twentieth century.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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