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 Second Sunday in Lent.

The Collect

ALMIGHTY God, who seest that we have no power of ourselves to help ourselves; Keep us both outwardly in our bodies, and inwardly in our souls; that we may be defended from all adversities which may happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Collect from the First Day of Lent is to be read every day in Lent after the Collect appointed for the Day.

Daily Bible Verse

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Pyromaniacs: Open Letter to Michael Horton

Unfortunately, some particular Baptists don't think the Law/Gospel distinction is important or that doctrine matters. What really matters is that you have some sort of behavioral change. (See Frank Turk's article at Pyromaniacs: Pyromaniacs: Open Letter to Michael Horton). I guess the morality gospel trumps the Gospel of Jesus every time in the mind of the self-justifying Pharisees. Unfortunately, Frank Turk does not understand the systematic nature of the Reformed confessions and standards as a whole. He would rather proof text out of context and create straw man arguments that prove the Reformed faith is "antinomian". It really goes to show how deeply ingrained the Anabaptist worldview is in the United States. As R. Scott Clark pointed out recently, it is a reflection of a rejection of authority of any kind and an overemphasis on individualism over and above any confessional commitments within a congregational or denominational setting.  (See:  Sister Aimee and the Anabaptist Nation).

What is especially amazing is that Turk thinks the hortatory subjunctive somehow escapes the classification of "Law" as in the Law/Gospel distinction. He says:

The first is a general complaint: I think you fellows have taken the right-minded theological distinction "Law and Gospel" too far; you have made all of human life and God's interactions with man into either an imperative or an indicative — missing the point that some things in life (especially in the Christian life, and in Christian theological anthropology) fall under the subjunctive mood.

For example, Hebrews 12:1 says, "Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God." Now, I realize that the hortatory subjective is a way to "command one's self" as they say, but let's recognize something here: that kind of command is not external or decreed but in fact internal and voluntary, speaking to a willingness and not merely to submission to some exterior force or authority. Here the writer of Hebrews — someone we must agree is not a pelagian or syncretist or closet Roman Catholic or any sort of denier of the Gospel — really says, "somehow we can relate to the life of faith, and relate to Christ himself, and want to do what the faithful have always done."

There is much to be gained from the Law/Gospel, imperative/indicative distinction in Scripture, but not everything is resolved by it. And one of the things which is not resolved by it is what manner of people the Gospel makes us - which is actually part and parcel of the Good News.

There are several problems with Turk's position here. The one that immediately jumps out, however, is his understanding of the subjunctive mood. He seems to not be aware that the hortatory subjunctive is indeed a command as almost every Greek grammar I consulted indicates. It is not a reflexive command back to one's self, as Turk thinks.  Rather it is a command to others.  It's not expressed in the singular but the plural. In other words, the hortatory subjunctive is still an expression of the Moral Law and does not therefore escape the Law and Gospel distinction:

160. The Hortatory Subjunctive. The Subjunctive is used in the first person plural in exhortations, the speaker thus exhorting others to join him in the doing of an action. HA. 866, 1; G. 1344; B. p. 209; WM. p. 355; G.MT. 255, 256.
Heb. 12:1; diV u`pomonh/j tre,cwmen to.n prokei,menon h`mi/n avgw/na, "let us run with patience the race that is set before us."
1 John 4:7; avgaphtoi,( avgapw/men avllh,louj, "beloved, let us love one another."

(See: Syntax of the Moods and Tenses in New Testament Greek, by Ernest De Witt Burton).

What part of "doing an action" does Turk not understand? Anything in Scripture associated with "doing" is "Law". That is not to say that the Reformed position or the Lutheran position is antinomian. It is simply an insistence that justification is always and forever based and founded upon faith alone and not upon any action that we take or "do". Another example of a Greek grammar that says the hortatory subjunctive carries an imperatival force is:

a. Hortatory Subjunctive (a.k.a. Volitive) [let us]

1) Definition

The subjunctive is commonly used to to exhort or command oneself and one’s associates. This use of the subjunctive is used “to urge some one to unite with the speaker in a course of action upon which he has already decided.” Since there is no first person imperative, the hortatory subjunc­tive is used to do roughly the same task. Thus this use of the subjunctive is an exhortation in the "first person plural". The typical translation, rather than "we should" . . . is "let us . . . ."

On five occasions, the first person singular is also used in a hortatory way. The force is akin to asking permission for the verbal action. "Let me" or "per­mit me" brings out its meaning. The key to the singular hortatory usage is the presence of a;fej (“permit” [aorist imperative of avfi,hmi]) or the adverb deu/ro (“come”) preceding the subjunctive.

(See: Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, by Daniel B. Wallace, p. 464).

You will note that both of the above grammars indicate that the hortatory subjunctive is a command and Wallace further particularizes by telling us that when the verb is used in the first person plural it is a command. This is true because Greek has no other way to express the imperative in the first person since "there is no first person imperative". In short, this is precisely where Frank Turk misses the boat. He proposes a third option to avoid the category of Law, hoping to sidestep the Law/Gospel distinction. Instead he falls into the trap of confusing Law with Gospel. While it is good to avoid antinomianism, the Reformed position is clearly not antinomian simply because it insists on the Law/Gospel distinction.

A further problem with Turk's view is this comment:

. . . but let's recognize something here: that kind of command is not external or decreed but in fact internal and voluntary, speaking to a willingness and not merely to submission to some exterior force or authority.
I guess by that comment that Turk also rejects the doctrine of Sola Scriptura since the Bible is an exterior force or authority that is outside of our inward experience?  This is a perfect example of Anabaptist thinking.  Basically the individual justifies himself through his own experience.  It is subjectivism carried to the extreme.  This sort of thinking is precisely what Michael Horton was refuting in his book, Christless Christianity.  The description below the video at that link says,

Christless Christianity guides the reader to a greater understanding of a big problem within the American religious setting, namely the creeping fog of countless sermons in churches across the country that focus on moralistic concerns and personal transformation rather than the theology of the cross.

I could not agree with Horton's assessment more.  R. Scott Clark talks about this as well in the discussion about Sister Aimee at the Reformed Forum.

Not only is Turk's article a straw man argument against the Reformed position but Turk's understanding of Greek grammar leaves much to be desired. For a better understanding of the Law/Gospel issue you might want to listen to this edition of The White Horse Inn: Law and Gospel. If you doubt that Michael Horton is not an antinomian, you might want to read the Heidelberg Catechism: Lord's Day 32-45. Ironically, Turk claims to be a "reformed" Baptist. I found it amusing that at the bottom of the page there is this disclaimer:


The opinions expressed in this blog do not necessarily represent the views of all contributors. Each individual is responsible for the facts and opinions contained in his posts. Generally, we agree. But not always.

Unfortunately, having "strong opinions" does not necessarily coincide with having true, right or accurate opinions on the matter. Baptists cannot bind each other's consciences because they do not accept creeds or confessions. It's no wonder that they cannot reach any consensus among themselves. But then, the Reformed denominations cannot enforce their own confessions of faith as the current situation with the Federal Visionists illustrates. And who could forget the divisions within Anglicanism?

[To view the above Greek terms you will need to download and install the Bibleworks Greek fonts.]


John D. Chitty said...

Boy, you don't talk about strong opinions, you just voice 'em!

Calvinistic Baptists are confessional, even if their confession is a credobaptistic revision of a congregationalist revision of a presbyterian revision of the 39 Articles.

If you wanna see not accepting creeds and confessions, you should have seen the Independent, "Fundamental" (Ana-)Baptists I used to worship with. They have "Articles of Faith," and such, but I often wondered if they ever consulted them. I'd hear them refer to them during ordination services, but that's about it. No effort was ever made to hold any pastor or member accountable to them that I saw, but that's not the report I get from a "Reformed Baptist" whose church adopted the London Baptist Confession a few years ago.

Well, there was the time when, just before I completely Reformed, I confessed to my IFB pastor that I no longer believed the KJV was inspired, but was subject to the text from which it was translated, and he later told me he knew he should have kicked me out of the church for that, but out of concern for the rest of my family, he tolerated my presence--because, you know, he's so magnanimous!

Anyway, all of us confessionalists still have feet of clay, even if we have corporate confessions. And I for one am glad Jesus died for my feet of clay!

Frank Turk said...

I am utterly convinced, Charlie, that you have not read my post. I can prove it.

You say this as your opening statement:
Unfortunately, some particular Baptists don't think the Law/Gospel distinction is important or that doctrine matters. What really matters is that you have some sort of behavioral change.

Yet I say this clearly in paragraph 9:
The first is a general complaint: I think you fellows have taken the right-minded theological distinction "Law and Gospel" too far; you have made all of human life and God's interactions with man into either an imperative or an indicative — missing the point that some things in life (especially in the Christian life, and in Christian theological anthropology) fall under the subjunctive mood.

Why would I call the Law/Gospel distinction a "right-minded theological distinction" if my purpose was to deny that it was "important"?

The only explanation is that you didn't read what I said there for your own purposes - whatever they may be.

May those purposes be a blessing to you as they are your own.

Charlie J. Ray said...

You're so obsessed with your own level of personal holiness that you have forgotten Reformed theology 101:

Article XIV
Of Works of Supererogation
Voluntary works besides, over and above, God's commandments which they call Works of Supererogation, cannot be taught without arrogancy and impiety. For by them men do declare that they do not only render unto God as much as they are bound to do, but that they do more for His sake than of bounden duty is required: Whereas Christ saith plainly, When ye have done all that are commanded to you, say, We be unprofitable servants. (See Luke 17:10

Article 14, 39 Articles of Religion.

Only Christ is without sin: Article 15

So unless you're claiming to be sinless, your level of sanctification is irrelevant unless you have first been justified by faith ALONE. AND unless your righteous is still imputed AFTER conversion, none of your good works mean a thing. Salvation is ALL of grace PLUS NOTHING.

Article 13

See Romans 3:23; 1 John 1:8-9; Psalm 143:2.

Those who attempt to justify themselves by works of the law--EVEN AFTER CONVERSION--are obligated to keep the whole law as their means of justification (Romans 10:1-4; Galatians 3:10-11; Romans 3:21-23).

You add nothing to what Jesus did on the cross, not even your own efforts at santification.

Charlie J. Ray said...

Apparently you didn't consult any Greek lexicons, Frank. Wallace clearly says that the hortatory subjunctive is the only way to express an imperative in the Greek language when you want to express it in the first person. First person plural is an imperative. That is Bible. So you're confusing Law with Gospel with your alleged 3rd category, which is really just Law restated in another way.

There is no such thing as pushing the Law/Gospel distinction too far. Your position is really no different from the semi-pelagianism of Rome or of the Anabaptists. My quote from Calvin on Osiander's confusion of righteousness with an inner spiritual transformation proves you don't have a clue as to what the Protestant Reformed position actually is.

Let me quote Calvin again:

5. But as Osiander has introduced a kind of monstrosity termed [essential righteousness] , by which, although he designed not to abolish free righteousness, he involves it in darkness, and by that darkness deprives pious minds of a serious sense of divine grace40 [07 407 French “Que les poures ames ne sauroyent comprendre en telle obscurit√© la grace de Christ;”—that poor souls cannot in such obscurity comprehend the grace of Christ.] ; before I pass to other matters, it may be proper to refute this delirious dream. And, first, the whole speculation is mere empty curiosity. He indeed, heaps together many passages of scripture showing that Christ is one with us, and we likewise one with him, a point which needs no proof; but he entangles himself by not attending to the bond of this unity. The explanation of all difficulties is easy to us, who hold that we are united to Christ by the secret agency of his Spirit, but he had formed some idea akin to that of the Manichees, desiring to transfuse the divine essence into men.40 [08 408 French, “C’est, que l’ame est de l’essence de Dieu;”—that is, that the soul is of the essence of God.] Hence his other notion, that Adam was formed in the image of God, because even before the fall Christ was destined to be the model of human nature. But as I study brevity, I will confine myself to the matter in hand. He says, that we are one with Christ. This we admit, but still we deny that the essence of Christ is confounded with ours. Then we say that he absurdly endeavors to support his delusions by means of this principle: that Christ is our righteousness, because he is the eternal God, the fountain of righteousness, the very righteousness of God. My readers will pardon me for now only touching on matters which method requires me to defer to another place. But although he pretends that, by the term essential righteousness, he merely means to oppose the sentiment that we are reputed righteous on account of Christ, he however clearly shows, that not contented with that righteousness, which was procured for us by the obedience and sacrificial death of Christ, he maintains that we are substantially righteous in God by an infused essence as well as quality. Institutes, Book 3, chap. 11, sect. 5.

Charlie J. Ray said...

@John, yes but when push comes to shove the Baptist has to go with his individual conscience and he can't quote the London Baptist Confession 1689 as authoritative.

Turk doesn't get it. His view is simply subjectivism. The only real way to have any discipline in a church is through preaching the word, the right administration of the sacraments and a faithful preaching of the Gospel every week. The Gospel is not LAW. The Gospel reminds us that the LAW damns the most righteous Pharisee in your church:

"Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. 19 Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 21 "You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.' (Matthew 5:17-21 ESV)
You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:48 ESV)

Like the Arminians these super holy "particular" Baptist want to lower God's standards so they can appear to have kept them perfectly. The Law is bad news for Pharisees. Unless they can attain absolute sinlessness they are doomed to hell.

If the Law doesn't make you feel like a miserable sinner, then you don't understand the Law.


Charlie J. Ray said...

. What is your only comfort in life and in death?

That I, with body and soul, both in life and in death,[1] am not my own,[2] but belong to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ,[3] who with His precious blood[4] has fully satisfied for all my sins,[5] and redeemed me from all the power of the devil;[6] and so preserves me[7] that without the will of my Father in heaven not a hair can fall from my head;[8] indeed, that all things must work together for my salvation.[9] Wherefore, by His Holy Spirit, He also assures me of eternal life,[10] and makes me heartily willing and ready from now on to live unto Him.[11]

[1] Rom 14:7-9; [2] 1 Cor 6:19-20 [3] 1 Cor 3:23; Tit 2:14 [4] 1 Pt 1:18-19 [5] 1 Jn 1:7, 2:2; [6] Jn 8:34-36; Heb 2:14-15; 1 Jn 3:8 [7] Jn 6:39-40, 10:27-30; 2 Thes 3:3; 1 Pt 1:5; [8] Mt 10:29-31; Lk 21:16-18; [9] Rom 8:28; [10] Rom 8:15-16; 2 Cor 1:21-22, 5:5, Eph 1:13-14; [11] Rom 8:14


2. How many things are necessary for you to know, that in this comfort you may live and die happily?

Three things:[1] First, the greatness of my sin and misery.[2] Second, how I am redeemed from all my sins and misery.[3] Third, how I am to be thankful to God for such redemption.[4]

[1] Lk 24:46-47; Rom 7:24-25; 1 Cor 6:11; Tit 3:3-7; [2] Jn 9:41, 15:22; Rom 3:9-10; 1 Jn 1:10; [3] Jn 17:3; Acts 4:12, 10:43; Gal 3:13; [4] Mt 5:16; Rom 6:13; Eph 5:8-11; Col 3:17; 1 Pt 2:9-12

John D. Chitty said...

I agree that they overdo the emphasis on sanctification, and that it comes too close to at least appearing to confuse it with, or add it to justification.

PuritanReformed said...


one minor point: the hortatory subjunctive is not merely first person plural; it also includes the first person singular ("Let me x").

Charlie J. Ray said...

Thanks, PuritanReformed. I'll check that out. I'm sure you're correct.

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