If you want to understand the differences between Arminian, Reformed and Lutheran Theologies, read the following book:
That is all.
If you want to understand the differences between Arminian, Reformed and Lutheran Theologies, read the following book:
That is all.
Tullian Tchividjian wrote a book called, “Jesus + Nothing = Everything”. I have taken a look at it on Amazon to see if it would be an interesting read. I began to look at the comments to see what others said about this book.
I looked at the lowest scores and saw that my former pastor, Michael Fabarez had critiqued the book. His criticism was a clear example of conflicting theologies. His comments attacked the type of sanctification Tullian proposed. Pastor Fabarez employed scriptural ‘proof texts’ to refute the non-‘biblical’ view of sanctification that Tullian was supporting.
To understand why Pastor Fabarez did this, one needs to explore the foundation of his thinking. He is completely invested in Lordship Salvation theology.
Lordship Salvation theology teaches that from beginning to end, our faith works synergistically with God’s grace in obedience so that we can be Holy Christians. The presupposition is that we have enough good in us to say yes to God by making a decision for Him. Our will has the ability to say yes to God. In fact, the human will is seen as a sort of ‘neutral agent’ or even a positive, sinless agent in relation to God. Thus, the synergy of human will and God’s demands in Scripture continues throughout the Christian life.
The reformers of the 16th century dealt with similar theologies. Luther used the term ‘Semi-Pelagian’ to characterize the Roman Catholics who held this view. Calvinists had to confront Arminians who held to the synergistic model, as well. Lordship Salvation may appear to be evangelical, but this is an illusion. It is nothing more than a re-hash of the medieval ‘divine spark’ theology of the Roman Catholic Church.
With such a strong faith in human will, it is also a rejection of the biblical concept of total depravity as seen in the letters Paul wrote to the Colossians and Ephesians. What can this mean, ‘And you were dead in your trespasses and sins’ (Eph. 2:1) or, ‘And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses’ (Colossians 2:13). Neither of these verses supports the idea that we have the smallest ability to ‘repent and believe’ by an act of will.
The other significant issue is that of sanctification. This is where Lordship Salvation proponents really dig in their heels. Sanctification is a matter of total surrender and obedience to the commands in Scripture. The Reformed call these ‘imperatives’. These imperatives fit into a model of biblical interpretation.
Lordship Salvation adherents interpret their Bibles more than literally, however, they interpret their Bibles literalistic-ally. That is, everything, even poetry, analogies, metaphors and parables are bent into shapes they were never meant to hold. Anything that is not a command or directive is seen as secondary to the life of the believer.
Scripture is used aggressively within the church and against those outside of Lordship Salvation. Instead of examining the hermeneutics one uses, adherents simply assert, “the Bible says it”. Context, original purpose, audience, and the overall narrative of Scripture are minimized for the argument one makes from a single verse.
And, the overall narrative is misunderstood, as well. It is a narrative of Law as lord. It is important to remember that there was a 400+ year span between Abraham (faithful) and Moses (thus, the giving of the Law) when faithful people had no Law.
It is also lost in the discussion that Christ perfectly fulfilled the Law for you. Instead, the emphasis is on the ability one has to repent, believe, and obey. In short, Lordship Salvation is an invitation to centering your belief on … yourself. The reformers called it, ‘incurvitas en se’, or ‘being curved in on oneself’. It is the perfect theology for the self-centered people of our present-day culture. You are still in control. No need to be crucified and resurrected, just dusted off and shined up a little. No need for Jesus, just a strict moral adherence which will make you right as rain. The ultimate goal is the binding of the will to God’s commands.
The Law is not used properly in such a hermeneutic. Instead of being a mirror by which one sees his/her own sin, the Law is tailored and pacified into achievable goals to live by, instead of the raging lion that reveals our total sinfulness.
Contrary to Lordship Salvation’s foundational belief about the human will, the will is neither neutral nor good. Jesus says so in Matthew 23:37 and in John 5:40. Contextually, the latter verse is addressed to the ‘religious’ people of Jesus’ day (read Pharisees) who “… search the Scriptures, because you think that in them you have eternal life …” However, they missed the point, “… and it is these that bear witness of me” (emphasis mine).
To believe that the will is somehow entirely sanctified after one repents and believes is to deny the reality of sinfulness. It is to say that when we sin, it is not sin, but just a mistake.
It is no wonder Pastor Fabarez must aggressively attack Pastor Tchividjian’s book. He isn’t just fighting for his ideas, he’s fighting to keep the Old Man (read ‘Old Adam’) in control. He’s fighting to keep the Old Adam alive. He’s fighting to keep the Holy Spirit’s work of magnifying Christ out of his church. He’s fighting to continue being god, as are all those who hold to Lordship Salvation.
When I was in high school, I worked as a stage hand one semester. I was in the background, helping to move stage elements. We changed backdrops, moved furniture, and moved props.
We got to see everything back there. The audience, though, was unaware of anything but what they saw in front of them.
This is true for our view of the world, too. Most people are largely unaware of what “backdrops” are behind their thinking. It’s too much work to figure it out. It’s more fun just to watch the play.
Our view of the purpose of the Bible is also influenced by our background beliefs. Everyone comes to it with beliefs/perspectives of what it’s about. And, if they don’t have any prior experience with it, they soon become aware that it talks a lot about commands, God, promises, war, sex, death, resurrection, angels and other “religious stuff”.
This helps to explain the differences in denominations. If you go to a church, you probably accept their “backdrop” explanation of the purpose of the Bible.
But, is it correct? Have you ever considered that conservative Christians (not talking politically here) have legitimate and valid differences concerning the purpose of the Bible?
One of the current “backdrops” is called “Lordship Salvation”. It assumes that the Bible is a book of rules that we must follow perfectly otherwise we are not true disciples. Christians in these churches assume that their church is “Biblical”. They assume that Christians in other churches are weak or disobedient. They assume this because this is the result of what they believe about the Bible and the Christian life.
Where does this belief come from? Why do people believe that once they “receive Jesus” or “repent and believe” (as the Lordship Salvation camp would say), they must “get to work”, “live obediently” and “put your nose to the grindstone”? Why does the Christian life return to me and my works?
Simple. This is the theology of the Old Adam. It is a theology that denies the Lordship of Christ. The Old Man denies that Christ is “the founder and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2). He denies John 6:28-29 which the disciples ask, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.” The Old Adam denies Hebrews 10:10 which states, “By this will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.”
And in so denying that these verses are for Christians, the Old Adam denies Christ, Himself. The Old Adam replaces Jesus with his own works, effort and obedience. The Old Adam works to keep himself alive rather than submit to the crucifixion of Jesus as both the one who births faith in us and feeds faith through the means of grace.
The Old Adam is busy keeping himself as god. He is his own lord. He lives a blasphemous life.
And because of the extreme moral demands of Lordship Salvation, Christians under this theology can go only three directions:
In the first option, they can become self-righteous, arrogant about their relationship with God, and in denial about the depth of God’s demands on their lives. This person is willing to judge others harshly and never examine his/her own life in light of the “full thundering” of the Law. They become deeply judgmental, lacking any love.
In the second option, the Christian of sensitive conscience is thrown into despair about their salvation. Martin Luther, the great reformer, fell into this camp when the terrors of Roman Catholic theology scared him into a monastery to find peace. Eventually, these Christians will either leave the church, or have their faith shipwrecked. Some of these people become hopeless and becomes agnostics/atheists because of the lack of mercy in these church bodies.
In the third option, they can remain superficial, never taking any of it seriously, and covering up with a false edifice.
There is a fourth option, however. Along with many other who have escaped the clutches of Lordship Salvation, I encountered a completely different backdrop when I read Martin Luther. Because I had lived in both the first and second options, Luther’s Bondage of the Will was like a key to open the prison door I lived in.
His view was that we begin and end with Christ when it comes to the Christian life. In Biblical terms, that means that Jesus retains His lordship as the Alpha and the Omega. We are to come to church to hear “Christ crucified” rather than the “ten steps to overcoming sin”.
This is a theology of reception. It is a theology that believes that God is at work on and in us, and that it is His pleasure to do so.
It is a theology that views the Scripture as the manger in which we find the Christ-child. He is the heart of its meaning, purpose and proclamation. Read Hebrews. Is it about you or about Jesus? Read the Gospel from Matthew, Mark, Luke or John. Is it about you or Jesus?
And, having this “cross theology” also means that we interpret the Bible as being Law or Gospel. This means that God’s demands reveal our inherent sinfulness, but God has provided His own Son to fulfill ALL of these demands and cleanse us from ALL sin. Even the sin of trying to be your/my own God.
Why does He do this? Look at Romans 3:
21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
Acts 4:12 states; “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.” No other name, not even your own.
To the Glory of His Holy Lordship, Amen.
“Put your nose to the grindstone”
“Pull yourself up from the bootstraps”
We may have heard these phrases when we were in school from our teachers or our parents. They were attempting to get more “out of” us. For most kids, this doesn’t work, because they are already trying as hard as they can.
As we grow into adulthood, however, there is no one looking over our shoulder to “keep us in line”. In a sense, we are free.
For me, this began in college. At first, I screwed around and didn’t put much effort into my studies. Eventually, though, I went out of state and really excelled at the university I was attending. I was internally motivated to succeed.
It’s rewarding to get good grades.
There are many people who believe that the Christian life operates on the same principle. If I do X, then I am living like a Christian and being sanctified. If I don’t, then I am not being sanctified.
Only one problem … it is a rejection of Jesus Christ.
One of the things I tell people when I discuss this topic is that if your work sanctifies you, then you are stealing the glory from Jesus who is the “author and perfecter of faith” (Hebrews 12:2).
Here is why I reject the idea of self-sanctification:
1. It is anthropocentric at its core. That is, it rejects Christ’s work in favor of my own. This is also idolatrous.
2. It is antinomian. This means, a person who uses the commands of Scripture to sanctify themselves is actually minimizing the depth of God’s Law.
3. It is a return to R.C. beliefs on infusion of righteousness.
4. It falsely divides Justification from Sanctification (two big “churchy” words). I will quote from Gerhard Forde who wrote that sanctification is “the art of getting used to . . . justification.”
But, most Christians will not prefer this answer. They would rather go to their church for the purpose of self-improvement. They want to have something to do. They become their own Holy Spirit, and their own “project”.
This is called “being curved in on oneself”
At the end of Matthew, we see two groups at the end before the Throne of Christ. Here is the interaction He has with the righteous ones:
34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
Were they aware or unaware of their works? Were these works the effort of private morality, or public service?
So, at this point, you have a choice. Is the Christian life a “DIY” thing, or is it a “He does it all” thing”?
I believe the latter. Why? Because He is the Author and Perfecter of faith, and He will not share His glory with anyone. I am His work, from start to finish. You are too, whether you believe it or not.