Sunday, January 30, 2011

Homo-bigots set to drive Christians destitute

If one wants to know the depths of bigotry and depravity the homosexuals are capable of, look at this case in the United Kingdom.

Christian hotel owner Hazelmary Bull has certainly had her faith tested to the limit this week. ... In a landmark ruling, which will have far-reaching implications for many Christians in Britain, Judge Rutherford ordered the Bulls to pay civil partners Martyn Hall, 46, and Steven Preddy, 38, £1,800 each in compensation for refusing to allow the couple to stay in a double room at their hotel.

The gay couple, IT workers from Bristol, sued the Bulls for £5,000 in damages under the Equality Act (Sexuality Orientation) Regulations 2007, after they were turned away from seven-bedroom Chymorvah House, near Penzance, in September 2008.

The Bulls argued that, as devout Christians, they let their double rooms only to heterosexual married couples and that their beliefs prevented them from allowing same-sex couples to share a double bed - although gay couples could stay in single or twin rooms.

This week, however, the judge ruled that the Bulls’ actions amounted to direct discrimination, on the grounds of sexual orientation, as there was ‘no material difference between marriage and civil partnership’.

Their lives are now in turmoil. Hazelmary is adamant that she and Peter will not compromise their religious beliefs, despite the court ruling. As a result, they have two options - face prosecution again by refusing to book double rooms to gay civil partners, or close the business.

And if they close the business, which is already in debt, then they can’t afford to stay in their home.

[more]

Last I heard, if homosexuals were to do their perverse sexual acts at home or even in hotels, nobody would do anything to them. Yet we can see here the hatred and bigotry the homosexuals have against any who do not want to take part in their perverse lifestyle.

It is not enough to "tolerate" the sodomites. No, what these bigots want is that everyone must join them in celebrating their perversion. If you refuse to celebrate their perversion, they will sue to force you to do so.

If that doesn't sound like fascism, nothing is. And that is why we must not give even an inch to the homosexual agenda. These people will not settle for anything less than domination over society. If any of them claim to be working for freedom and toleration, that is a lie. Their only interest in to promote intolerance of any who do not celebrate homosexuality, in the name of "tolerance" of course.

Do pray for the Bulls as they face persecution for their faith.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Grace, the URCNA and Joseph Prince

What do these three have in common? Answer: Nothing. Yet if one were to read former reformed charismatic Jonathan Koh's blog post, one would have thought that they all promote Gospel grace.

The recent furore over charges of Antinomianism has caused Dr. Micheal S. Horton to respond over at the White Horse Inn blog. In this post, Horton defended the Reformed orthodox teaching of the Law-Gospel Distinction. Horton maintained that antinominanism is a perverse distortion of true biblical teaching and he denied that he or the White Horse Inn ever taught it. He maintained that the way to address Antinomianism is not more law but more Gospel. As Horton wrote,

What’s striking is that Paul answers antinomianism not with the law but with more gospel! In other words, antinomians are not people who believe the gospel too much, but too little! They restrict the power of the gospel to the problem of sin’s guilt, while Paul tells us that the gospel is the power for sanctification as well as justification. ... The ultimate antidote to antinomianism is not more imperatives, but the realization that the gospel swallows the tyranny as well as the guilt of sin. It is enough to save Christians even in their failure and not only brings them peace with God in justification, but the only liberation from the cruel oppression of sin. To be united to Christ through faith is to receive everything that we need not only to challenge legalism but antinomianism as well.

All of these are truly biblical, in context of the overall Gospel message. This is important when we look at Jonathan Koh's horrendous distortion of Horton's post.

On his blog, Jonathan Koh wrote:

They say history repeats itself. And it’s true in this matter of grace, antinomianism and legalism. When people accuse New Creation Church and Joseph Prince and other grace-based preachers of “antinomianism”, guess what – it’s happened before. Down the centuries, people have come up on different sides in the Reformed tradition on these matters. And even as I speak, things are hotting up in the blogsphere [sic] and in the Reformed world. People (many Reformed Christians themselves) are challenging some Reformed Christians (like Michael Horton) on the way they preach the gospel and grace. Too much grace, they say. Gotta beware of antinomianism. Same charges that have been thrown at Pastor Joseph Prince and many others.

The problem here boils down to context, context and context. Koh is wrong in his assertion, which we shall see in a moment.

Micheal Horton is a pastor in the URCNA (United Reformed Churches of North America) down at Santee (Christ URC). One thing about the URC churches is that they have some sort of fixed liturgy, and they do not use the liturgy they use merely because they like it. Rather, they have a fixed liturgy because they think that their liturgy reflects their doctrines. Therefore, their liturgy by and large reflects their functional theology.

It is with this in mind that I would like to look at the liturgy of a URC church which I have visited. While Oceanside URC is not Christ URC, I do not think there is much of a difference between the two confessional churches.

Oceanside URC's liturgy for Oct 24, 2010 A.M. service

Call to Worship
Invocation - Ps. 124:8
God's Greeting - Rev. 1:4-5
Song of the Month (from proposed Psalter Hymnal)
Reading of the Law (responsive reading)
Summary of the Law
Confession of Sin (Individual and Corporate Confession)
Ps. 51:10-12 (a cappella)
Declaration of Forgiveness (by the minister)
- Short responsive lines -
Song (Ps. 63)
Morning Prayer
Offering
Scripture Reading
Sermon
Lord's Supper
Song (Ps. 96)
Song
Benediction

As we can see, the first use of the Law (for conviction of sin) features prominently in the liturgy. This is in fact the common tradition of all Reformed and [Confessional] Presbyterian churches that I have attended so far. The Law is read, there is a period of examination and individual repentance, followed by corporate repentance of sins for the whole congregation. Oceanside URC follows up with a declaration of forgiveness based upon the Gospel, while in the OPC there is the declaration of forgiveness followed by the reading of the Gospel.

The Law-Gospel distinction in the Reformed and Presbyterian circles therefore has both elements of the Law and the Gospel, not the Gospel alone. Horton being a URC minister has this idea of the Law Gospel Distinction in mind, whereby the first use of the Law is applied every Lord's Day followed by the salve of the Gospel.

Prince's idea of grace - Antinomianism

In his blog post, Koh attempt to link Horton and Prince together. Having read Prince's first book, Destined to Reign, I am astounded that such a comparison can even be attempted.

Unfortunately, I do not have my copy of the book with me; it is with my friend Joel Tay who is rather busy at the moment. So no page numbers will be given.

According to Prince, we should not think about sin. In fact, the Holy Spirit is stated not to convict us of sin but of righteousness. The way to be sanctified is to NOT think about sin but about righteousness. In point of fact, Prince even gave us a formula for not sinning. This is done by repeating the phrase "I am the righteousness of God in Jesus Christ" like a mantra over and over again.

One does not have to read far to see that what Prince is advocating is the Word of Faith teaching of Positive Confession, this time applied to salvation. Prince does not tell people to confess their sins. In fact, he counsels just the contrary and says that only Satan convicts people of sin and believers should not think of sin. Salvation therefore is all about not thinking of sin but speaking to oneself positive confessions of one's own righteousness.

We can see therefore the big gulf between Prince's teaching and what Horton advocates. The difference between true antinomianism (in Prince) and false charges of antinomianism is the presence of the proclamation of the Law in its first use. The URC, as with all Reformed and Presbyterian denominations, proclaim the Law. We believe that the Holy Spirit is the one who convicts men of sin, and that the Law is necessary (in its first use) for believers. The Gospel is given only after the Law has done its work, never apart from it.

Also, we believe in the continuing validity of the Law in its third use (for telling us how to live according to God's will). While we glory in the Gospel and God's grace, we do not therefore nullify the Law in our lives. The Gospel in this sense of sanctification is the impetus and motivation for our loving a godly life, yet without being the judge of our salvation. After we have strived to live according to the Law (in its third use), we continue to return to the Gospel as our only hope and the only way we can be saved.

All this of course is alien to the teaching of Joseph Prince, who is a true Antinomian. Contrary to the assertions of Jonathan Koh therefore, there is nothing Prince has in common with Horton and Reformed orthodoxy. We believe in the ministry both of the Law and of the Gospel in the lives of Christians. The Confessional Reformed recognize our continual sinfulness and wickedness before God, continually confess our sins, and turn to the Gospel always for the joyous message of God's forgiveness offered to us in the person of Jesus Christ.

Truly, how different is our sorrow and our joy from the false peace offered by Prince.

RedBeetle and the problem of Frank Turk

One aspect of Frank Turk's attack on the "discernment mafia" is his idea that "the focal point and center of discernment should be in the local church." That has always been his mantra in his attacks on the "discernment mafia". The problem is: What happens when the person doing the discernment not only is in a local church, he is the pastor of said local church?

Turk's attack on believers of course has no impact on Pastor Ken Silva. However, let's assume that Turk does not have Pastor Ken in mind. Alright, so in the interest of refuting once for all Turk's rationale for his ridiculous crusade against believers, I will choose the worst case scenario as a reductio ad absurdum against his position: Red Beetle aka Monty Colliar.

So who is Red Beetle? It is to my regret that I have linked one video from his channel (which will however remain). Since that time, I have seen some of his other videos and have cringed when I looked at them, for reasons which are self-evident as seen below.

Red Beetle aka Monty Colliar is a "Teaching Elder at Geneva Dutch Calvinist Church" (Source). In Reformed terminology, a teaching elder is basically the same as a pastor. Red Beetle therefore qualifies for the "discernment ministry" according to any criterion Frank Turk has came up with. Involved in a local church? Check. Elder? Check. Pastor? Check. For all intents and purposes, Red Beetle more than qualifies according to Turk's list of qualifications for doing discernment.

Yet, when one actually looks at Red Beetle's videos, it is hard for one not to be astonished. Shock would probably be a more appropriate emotion for some people I guess. Red Beetle tells us that we should not have any non-Christian friends, attacks Paul Washer and John MacArthur as teaching heresy, and he attacks R. Scott Clark for his view of the Church, to which Dr. Clark repudiated his nonsense. It is hard to think of any person who is more out of touch with biblical teachings and the teachings of the Creeds and Confessions, not to mention his seeming inability to comprehend the words of others.

The problem with Frank Turk is that his unbiblical criteria mean that schismatics like Red Beetle qualify for the "good discernment crowd" while others who are true followers of Christ are disqualified as they are not pastors, elders, and some may not even have a church home due to the fact that there are no Reformed churches near them! How inane can it be when afflicted Christians are penalized for not being able to find a biblical church while fools pastoring their own churches are considered to be qualified based solely upon Turk's criteria?

As a baptist, Turk has no right to assert that Geneva Dutch Calvinist Church is not a proper church. After all, Baptists are all autonomous. They have no idea of ordination and most certainly no presbytery or synod or any of such governing bodies. Turk can of course appeal to Scripture and the Gospel, but those seem to be strangely absent in his present criteria of what makes for being part of the "good discernment crowd".

As stated, Turk is a hypocrite. It is time for him to be called to account for his attack on Christ's flock in demonizing those who are concerned about the Church as "heresy hunters", "watchbloggers" etc. Instead of using the Gospel as the criteria for judging truth and error, he creates his own unbiblical criteria to be used in bashing those who disagree with him, not a very Gospel-centered action I might say.

Are some of the people out there "doing discernment" wrong, even Pharisaic? Probably. So should we have the idea to go out and club them with Turk's criterion of "It's the Church, stupid!"? True shepherds will love the flock, and not attack those who are wounded. Our criteria for distinguishing between sheep and goats, between sheep and wolves, is the Gospel and the Gospel alone.

May God cause the under-shepherds of the flock to continue to care for them gently, not roughly; tending to the wounded and feeding the lambs.

P.S.: Monty Colliar can call himself a "Clarkian" all he wants, but as a semi-Clarkian I do not recognize him as a Clarkian, and will even question whether he can be even qualified to be called a Christian.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

A Response to Frank Turk's Open Letter (ADD)

Assignments have been done on my side, and immediately after I am done we have Frank Turk writing an open letter to Mike Horton regarding the latter's tendency towards promoting Antinomianism. If not for the fact that Turk has been wearing the Anti-discernment hat again, this time blaming the White Horse Inn (WHI) of creating this "monster", I guess I might have let it pass as I have many other things to do.

Turk's letter is an interesting piece to note, for it clarifies the difference between a Reformed and an Evangelical view of Law and Gospel. Perhaps in no other piece so far is the difference between the two views set out this clearly.

In this post, I will respond to Turk's open letter according to various topics, and show where Turk is in error.

Frank Turk and the "Discernment mafia"

The first thing we would want to look at the issue of the "discernment mafia". Since the publishing of Tim Challies' article attacking discernment ministries as doing evil as entertainment, Frank Turk has been on a crusade to attack "watchbloggers". Instead of discerning, Turk suggests that we should be involved in a local church and submit to the elders who are the ones who are to teach sound doctrine.

Now, of course there is nothing wrong with being involved in a local church. In fact, all believers should be in a local church. That is not the issue. The issue is whether discernment and blogging are to be done by non elders/pastors. Oh wait, the issue isn't even about that. After all, Pastor Ken Silva is a pastor.

The fact of the matter is that Frank Turk is a hypocrite. In that previous post, he says that "the focal point and center of discernment ought to be in the local church" (Emphasis his). Well, THAT particular post of his is NOT situated in the context of the local church. So much for consistency. So what exactly is wrong with "watchbloggers"? Well, I guess it is because the "watchbloggers" are not doing their discernment ministry Turk's way.

Fast forward to yesterday and Turk's open letter to Horton. What do we find in his open letter? In his open letter, Turk wrote:

What I am not talking about is people who are doing the legitimate work of elders who are accountable in their local churches, who are usually elders, and who display openness and transparency about their character and ministry by not hiding behind an alias or an internet nickname. What I am talking about is the avalanche of people who populate the internet via discussion boards, blogs, and social media who frequently demonstrate all the love and real compassion of a rock through one's window. They are people who, on paper, make a sound confession of faith, down to the mint and the cumin, and wouldn't know what to do if their Hindu neighbor invited them to a birthday party on Sunday morning — or how to turn the other cheek in order to make a foothold for the opportunity to share the Gospel. They usually don't attend church because they can't find one which is up to their doctrine snuff, and the reason is that they have made themselves into a private magisterium. They have never said or written anything for which they would apologize or reconsider because they have never been wrong.

So it seems that Turk's beef with the "discernment crowd" is that 1) they are not elders in their local church, 2) they do not display openness and transparency online, 3) they demonstrate all the love and real compassion of a rock through one's window.

In response to Turk's complaints, I agree with reason 2. Reason 3 is a blanket condemnation which is furthermore subjective. Furthermore, I don't think we need to look far to see Frank's own snarkiness, so that becomes a moot point. As for reason 1, is Turk an elder or pastor in any church, and if so, which church? That would be truly an interesting fact to know. After all, if Turk is not an elder or pastor, he frankly is a hypocrite in this regard. (No pun intended)

Almost comically, Turk then practically demanded that Horton rebuke the "discernment crowd" because they use the Reformed lingo of the Law Gospel distinction and are passionate about a new reformation. If that isn't Guilt by Association, nothing is. Presumably, Horton is held responsible for the conduct of people he hardly knows.

The worst part about this section of Turk's Open Letter is the insinuation that the Law Gospel Distinction is a distinctive WHI and Hortonite teaching. Nevermind that this is classic Reformed orthodoxy going back to the 16th century at least. Nevermind that there are other Reformed Christians who have no relation to Horton or WHI or even WSC who hold to these classical Reformed distinctives. Horton is the bogeyman for all the problems Evangelicalism has with the rise of the "discernment mafia". Before we go deeper into fantasy world, perhaps we should remind ourselves that Horton is a mere professor not a ruler who controls the actions of anyone who uses the language of classic Reformed orthodoxy.

The subjunctive mood?

Having had Greek classes, Turk's pontification on the subjunctive mood being a third mood distinct between the indicative (Gospel) and imperative (Law) left me speechless. Since he mentions the New Testament, it is a legitimate assumption that he is referring to the subjunctive mood in koine Greek as found in the Greek New Testament. Well, technically speaking of course he is right. There is also the mood called the optative as well, and who can forget the infinitive? And of course, we can count the participle as a separate "mood" as well I guess?

The problem here is that when the Law-Gospel distinction is expressed in term of the indicative versus the imperative, we are not talking about verbal moods (or tenses). We are rather grouping everything into "do" and "done". Subjunctive as such can function both ways, depending on the context. A hina plus a subjunctive for example can be a mere factual statement (purpose/result clause or content), but a hortatory subjunctive ("Let us __") has a volitional force of "Do".

Turk is therefore in error at this point.

Gospel as transformative or declarative?

The core problem with Turk is his view of the Gospel. Classical Reformed orthodoxy teaches that the Gospel is good news period. The Gospel is proclaimed to sinners of what Christ has done for them. Over and over, the Scriptures starts with proclaiming the Gospel, and then proclaim the law (in its third use) as how we ought to live in light of the Gospel. In epistles like Romans, the model is Law (first use), then Gospel, then Law (third use).

According to Turk, the Gospel must be seen as something that God has done for us which results in "the advantages of declared righteousness". Therefore, the Gospel itself is transformative. Whereas the Reformed position is that the Gospel is declarative, Turk and I suspect many Evangelicals think of the Gospel as transformative. Therefore, it is the Gospel that must transform lives, which brings us to the next point.

Confusion of Justification and Regeneration

Turk's view of the Gospel confuses justification and regeneration. Justification is a forensic declaration by God that a sinner is considered right before God. In justification, there is no actual change in the sinner, which is after all why it is called forensic! To say that the Gospel is transformative is to say that justification as a process creates sanctification. But that is the error of Rome and all Semi-Pelagianism. Justification does not create sanctification. Justification is a separate process altogether apart from works, so how can we smuggle works into the backdoor?

The problems lies in the confusion of justification and regeneration. In regeneration, the Spirit of God starts the process of sanctification in the believer's life. In Reformed orthodoxy, regeneration is the basis for both sanctification and faith. Faith logically results in Justification. Yet regeneration is neither justification or sanctification. Sanctification follows justification temporally not because the "Gospel transforms sinners", but because the same Spirit that gives faith unto justification also is in the process of sanctifying sinners. The Gospel is God's instrument to evoke justifying faith, but justifying faith and sanctification are two different things, much less the Gospel and sanctification.

Turk's failure to understand this probably comes because of the problems inherent in both sides of the Lordship Controversy. As Dr. R. Scott Clark remarks:

It is not surprising that there is a backlash from some non-confessional evangelical quarters regarding the use of the law. It’s been this way since at least the start of the so-called “Lordship Controversy” in the late 1980s. One of the features of that controversy was its disconnection from the Reformation. Both sides appealed to the Protestants but both sides ignored the Protestant confessions where all of this is worked out exquisitely and briefly.

Turk is thus in error as he reveals that he does not understand the relation between the Gospel, faith, justification, regeneration and sanctification.

Means of Grace versus Spiritual Disciplines

The last point is a relatively minor point in the dispute, but we can see in here a problem with modern Evangelicalism with its failure to understand the means of grace. Turk shows this in his denigration of the sacraments as "the Gospel is made the centerpiece alone on the table". Besides the failure to understand the Gospel as declarative not transformative, it is illuminating that Turk and fellow Evangelicals do not think highly of the sacraments. Yet, we know that the whole spiritual discipline movement a la Richard Foster and Dallas Willard have been gaining steam. So to come and receive from the Lord what He has ordained to be tokens of His love for our comfort (the means of grace) is not looked on as being important. Yet, to do unbiblical "disciplines" such as lectio divina, contemplative prayer etc. somehow is very "spiritual". I think the Bible does talk about such an attitude:

Now the rabble that was among them had a strong craving. And the people of Israel also wept again and said, “Oh that we had meat to eat! We remember the fish we ate in Egypt that cost nothing, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic. But now our strength is dried up, and there is nothing at all but this manna to look at.” (Num. 11:4-6)

Just as God gave the Israelite manna from heaven, yet the Israelites were not content with what God had provided and lusted after the food of Egypt, so too modern Evangelicals are not content with the provision of God's grace through His appointed means, but crave after "spiritual experiences" and follow their spiritual lusts to indulge in "spiritual disciplines", of which God has not thought fit to inform us of.

Is it no wonder that God is not in any of these "disciplines"?

Conclusion

In conclusion, Frank Turk is in error in his view of the Law and the Gospel. We should reject his advice as being not in line with Scripture, and his attack on "watchbloggers" as being extremely hypocritical. While I am sure he has good motives, he is blind to his own faults and we will see if he takes correction. Since he claims that the "watchbloggers" have "never said or written anything for which they would apologize or reconsider because they have never been wrong," we will see if he lives consistent with his position, or live otherwise. Amen.

Addenum:

It seems that Frank Turk's bone of contention is with Horton's "pastoral theology", not his "confessed theology". Go figure!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Gospel for Christians by Tim Keller

While Tim Keller has his faults, credit is given when credit is due. In this post over at Reformaton Theology, the centrality of the Gospel for Christians is well stated by Keller.

It is very common in Christian circles to assume that “the gospel” is something just for non-Christians. We presume that the gospel is a set of basic “A-B-C” doctrines that Christians do not need to hear or study once they are converted. Rather, they should move beyond the gospel to more “advanced” doctrines. But the great declaration of the gospel of grace in Galatians was written to believers who did not see the implications of the gospel for life-issues confronting them. Paul solves the disunity and racial exclusivity not with a simple exhortation to “be better Christians.” but by calling them to live out the implications of the gospel. So Christians need the gospel as much as non-Christians do. Their problems come because they tend to lose and forget the gospel. They make progress only as they continually grasp and apply the gospel in deeper ways.

[cont]

Sunday, January 16, 2011

W. Robert Godfrey: Machen, Christianity and the Church

Audio—here

The last address is by our president W. Robert Godfrey, and he talks about Machen and his view of the institutional church, which according to Machen is the most important institution.

Quoting 1 Tim. 3:14-16, Godfrey has three points for us on the importance of the church. Firstly, the Church supports the truth by confessing the Truth. Secondly, the Church supports the truth by contending for the Truth. Thirdly, the Church supports the truth by comforting with the Truth.

We confess the truth. The Church must always confess the truths of God which she is entrusted with. If you don't build a hospital, somebody else might. If you don't build a school, somebody else might. But if the church doesn't preach the Gospel, nobody else will. We therefore must always confess the truths of the Gospel and proclaim them to all.

In light of the need for confessing the truth, Christian Education is crucial. In this light, there is a desperate need for biblical Christian pastors who are faithful in handling and teaching God's Word.

The Church contends for the Truth. In order to confess the truth, we must at the same time maintain that that which is false is not of the truth. In this light, we must not let kindness or niceness cause us to betray our loyalty to Christ and His Gospel. We must not yield even one inch on what the Gospel is, and refuse to compromise any part of that which Christ has entrusted to us and to His Church.

Paul in 1 Tim. 1:18 tells Timothy to wage a good warfare. Christian pastors and leaders therefore are similarly commanded by God to wage a good warfare in contending for the truth. For truth cannot be rightly taught unless it is set in opposition to error. In this light, it is humorously remarked that we should have a polemic red-letter Bible, whereby all polemical passages in Scripture are marked out with red letters. It is guessed that the Bible would be full of such passages both in the Gospel accounts and the epistles, with the reddest of them all probably being the Epistle to the Galatians.

Lastly, the Church supports the truth by comforting with the truth. Sadly to say, this is not easy. On the liberal side, true comfort is impossible. The slogan "God is the solution to your problem" is not only vacuous, but wrong. God cannot be the solution to any problem because God Himself is the problem for sinful human beings. Because of sin, we humans are alienated from God and face His Wrath against our sin. How can God be the solution when He is the problem?

We must be both loving and faithful. We must be faithful to the truth yet we should not be so "hard" that we cannot comfort those who are broken with the truth of the Gospel. The Church is to be therefore both loving and faithful, knowing that our main business is to bring souls to Christ.

David VanDrunen: Machen and Ethics

Audio—here

Dr. David VanDrunen continues with his lecture on Machen and Ethics. He starts off with the question: What is the relation of theology to ethics?

According to Machen, Christian living is based upon a message, fact and doctrines. From the sermon on the mount, we can see Jesus is the new legislator. Therefore, there is an intricate relation between theology and ethics.

The link between theology and ethic can perhaps be seen clearly in the reality between theological conservatives and theological liberals. During Machen's times, it was conceivable that theological conservatives and theological liberals unite together over social issues. Yet 75 years later, the liberals have drifted so far away from biblical moorings that uniting theological conservatives and liberals over social issues have become next to impossible. The Liberals have no biblical foundation for biblical ethics, and therefore the erosion in their principles has been nearly absolute. Now we have liberals promoting homosexual "marriage" and other such abominations, issues which the older liberals long since dead would probably be appalled at.

The fact of the matter is that any talk about ethics and especially biblical ethics is impossible without agreement on the fact of sin. Sin is perhaps the largest elephant in the room in discussions on ethics, yet it is routinely ignored to our detriment.

The ethics of the Christian life is faith working through love.

VanDrunen continued with pointing two issues in ethics which the Liberals fail at. The first one is honesty, and the second liberty.

Theological liberals especially in Machen's day were dishonest. In fact, they can only survive by dishonesty and lying. On their ordination, they have pledged to uphold the confessional standards of the Church, yet by their preaching against and believing contrary to the confessions, they lie. Although the standards of the Church states that those who do not believe the confessional standards of the Church are to resign and let their views be examined by the Presbytery and larger church bodies, these liberals do not do so but instead continue in the ministry and attack the standard they have promised in their ordination vows to uphold.

On the issue of liberty, Liberalism in politics is bound up with a certain form of utilitarianism and socially it moves towards socialism. Civil liberty however is a by-product of true Christianity.

The last form is ecclesiastical liberty, which is the liberty of church members not to be bound by the church on issues not pertaining to faith and practice. Here VanDrunen brings in the two-kingdom theory. The Church has no right to bind her members to support any specific social and political agenda. This does not of course mean that the church should not take a position on certain social issues (i.e. abortion is wrong etc), but specific policies are matters of wisdom not of revelation, something which VanDrunen clarified in the question and answer session, and therefore the church cannot bind members to support any one agenda but rather leave it to the members who should decide based upon the wisdom God has given them.

John V. Fesko: Machen and the Gospel

Audio—here

Dr. John V. Fesko is currently the academic dean at Westminster Seminary California. His talk is entitled Machen and the Gospel. He structured his talk under three sections: 1) the nature of the battle, 2) What Machen believed about the Gospel, and 3) Its abiding relevance for us.

In the beginning of the 20th century, a 7-volume study on missions was commissioned by John Rockefeller. The results of that study was the promotion of the Liberal missiology that 1) All religions lead to God, 2) Christianity has the fullest truth; other religions have a part of the full truth, 3) Missions therefore is about loving people and showing them that Christianity gives them the fuller truth compared to the truths they already have. The one volume summary of the series remained relatively obscure until it was promoted by a prominent media person (the Oprah of that time) upon which it was widely disseminated.

It is against the Liberal gospel as seen in that book that Machen responded to. While Liberalism is all about life (practical living), Machen claimed that Christianity first and foremost is build upon a message and upon doctrine. This doctrine then produced life, and without this doctrine so-called Christian living is impossible.

Machen belonged to the Reformed tradition which traces itself back formally to the Reformation [and materially to the Apostles, but that is for another time]. The Reformers re-discovered the Gospel in a time of darkness, and this Gospel impacted many for Christ.

So what is this Gospel? The Gospel which Machen believed is the full Gospel consisting of the imputation of our sin to Christ and Christ's righteousness to us. Adam as our representative head failed the probation in Eden and fell from his state of original righteousness. In him we too fell and are borned into this world sinful and under the wrath of God. We are helpless to save ourselves and were destined for hellfire. But God from eternity has chosen a people for Himself, and has sent His Son to be a propitiation for our sins, so that through Christ we are able to be saved. In Christ's suffering and death He paid the punishment that should be justly meted out to us. Through His life, He merited the righteousness that He can give to His people by imputing it to them. In other words, Christ died the death we should have died and lived the life we should have lived so that we can be saved from the wretched state we have inherited from Adam.

Machen therefore rejected the false gospels of his time. He rejected mysticism and pantheism as gospels. He similarly rejected general morality as there is no such thing as general morality, unless one wishes to agree that killing Jews in Nazi Germany during Hitler's reign was morally correct. Biblical morality he rejects as the Gospel because the Law only terrifies and cannot save. Synergism is the Galatian heresy and therefore wrong, as is salvation by character. The only Gospel that saves is salvation by grace alone through faith alone.

Fesko goes back to the idea of Christ's righteousness. Quoting Rom. 5:18-19, he says that it is no use for Christ to suffer in order that we are placed back in the same state as Adam in the garden of Eden to be tested a second time. We not only need Christ to pay for our sin but we need Him to bring us to heaven with His robes of righteousness. Turning to Gal. 3:12, we are reminded again that the Law is not of Faith. Salvation is therefore about faith, not works. Whereas Liberalism is about the imperative and is thus law, Christianity is about the indicative of the Gospel.

Fesko continues with one pertinent case whereby Machen and the Gospel is important today. Mark Noll's book Is the Reformation Over? has been answered in the affirmative. However, is that really the case? Fesko asked us to consider the following statements from the 2nd Vatican Council:

... But the plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator. In the first place amongst these there are the Mohamedans [i.e. Muslims], who, professing to hold the faith of Abraham, along with us adore the one and merciful God, who on the last day will judge mankind. Nor is God far distant from those who in shadows and images seek the unknown God, for it is He who gives to all men life and breath and all things, and as Saviour wills that all men be saved. Those also can attain to salvation who through no fault of their own do not know the Gospel of Christ or His Church, yet sincerely seek God and moved by grace strive by their deeds to do His will as it is known to them through the dictates of conscience. ...

(Second Vatican Council, Lumen Gentium, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Chapter 1, section 16)

Again the most relevant portion:

... But the plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator. In the first place amongst these there are the Muslims ...

Is the Reformation really over? From the teachings of the 2nd Vatican Council, it is clear that the Reformation is far from over. In fact, as 2nd Vatican promoted the heresy of inclusivism, it can be seen that the Council of Trent was even more orthodox than 2nd Vatican.

In this light, the Gospel and its defence is still and is even more relevant today. We must therefore remain vigilant and valiant for the truth.

Joel E. Kim: Machen and the Bible

Audio—here

The first talk on Saturday morning, the second day of the conference, was by Prof. Joel E. Kim. I have gotten my free registration for the conference by volunteering as a student volunteer to help out in the event, so I was about 5 minutes late for this talk.

What was Machen's view of the Bible, and what relevance does it have today? In his talk, Prof Kim starts by outlining the academic conditions of that time. As knowledge increased in light of the Scientific and Industrial Revolution, there has been an increasing specialization of all fields of knowledge, even in theology. The idea of academic theology as being divorced from the church and from dogmatism (i.e. creedal and confessional formulas), and the idea of the academic circle came into being. The historical-critical method was being increasingly embraced by theologians and schools studying theology, a development that led to uneasiness among conservatives in the church.

The discipline of academic theology came to embrace certain core values, namely 1) the idea of probability, 2) the idea of analogy, and 3) methodological naturalism.

The first idea of probability is defined as that everyone must begin with methodological doubt. Nothing can be taken as certain and everything must be proven before it can be embraced as truth. This extends to everything, including the Bible, doctrines and creedal formulas.

The second idea of analogy is that all historical events must be analogous to present modern day events and therefore scientifically testable. This in other words is the philosophy of Uniformitarianism applied to the field of theology. Whatever happened in previous times must happen by the same processes that happen in present times, and therefore we can scientifically test the truth claims in the Bible.

The third idea is that of methodological naturalism. Everything that happens must happen through natural processes. The supernatural is therefore by default ruled out as being not possible.

Against the growth in such apostate "theology", Machen challenged Liberalism and the historical-critical method. This is done through the following: Machen defended the Bible as supernatural history and states that the Gospel as history is foundational. Against the Liberals, Machen questioned why is there doubt that the New Testament is a historical document. It seems strange that a supposed historical method fails to take into account the historical value of the New Testament as a strongly validated historical document. In this light, Machen charges that his critics are not the unbiased seekers of the truth that they claim to be. Rather, they are blinded by their presuppositions and are not using the historical method in their research, instead they are letting naturalism dictate their research. Machen claimed that using the historical method without preconceived philosophical bias would show that a supernatural account of events in Scripture is much more likely than naturalistic ones. As an example, Kim used the event of the conversion of Paul. The naturalistic explanations all fail to adequately explain how someone who is well-trained in Judaism and who breathed out murder threats against Christians could suddenly make a 180 degree in life and outlook. Another example was the boldness of the apostles. None of the naturalistic explanations could explain why the disciples of Jesus could suddenly become so bold in proclaiming that Jesus is the Christ to the point of dying for it. The mass hallucination explanation is insufficient to explain the event, as if hallucinations are strong enough to turn cowards into those willing to die for them.

In his opposition to modernism, Machen was rather unique in his time—an anomaly. Most Fundamentalists were anti-intellectual and show little understanding of the issues. Machen however understood Liberalism, had a sharp mind and yet oppose it.

In his controversy with the Liberals, we can see Machen's view of Scripture. Scripture is both divine and human, and both aspects of Scripture must be taken seriously. Fundamentalists tend to so emphasize the divine that there is little if any human element stated to be in Scripture. Yet Scripture is clearly written by humans with their own characteristic styles and at times no overt guidance of the Holy Spirit can be seen as they write it. The human writers of Scripture are thus not amanuenses of the Holy Spirit! It cannot be overstated that Luke when writing both Luke and Acts did not sit in his room waiting for the Holy Spirit to suddenly and mystically impart Scripture into his mind, but he got out, did his historical research and then put his research findings into what we come to know as the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles.

Scripture as supernatural history, both divine and human — Machen's relevance to us in his view of Scripture can be summed up in this. We must continue to have this view of the Scriptures, and therefore treat the text of Scripture as what it is—supernatural history.

D.G. Hart: The Perennial Machen

Audio—here

The second talk on Friday night is by Elder Darryl G. Hart, who prefers to title his talk The Prennial Problem with Machen. As a historian, Hart deals in this talk with the person of J.G. Machen in relation to conservative Christianity.

The key question that Hart deals with is whether Machen was a Presbyterian or simply a conservative Protestant with Presbyterian stripes. Quoting historians George Marsden and Mark Noll, the conservative image of Machen has been that Machen was arguing for a generic "mere Christianity". Hoever, is that so?

Hart's thesis is that we should read Machen's book Christianity and Liberalism in his ecclesiastical context. The writing of the book was precipitated by opposition to unionism and ecumenism within the PCUSA at that time. The book therefore was Machen's attempt to tell non-Presbyterians why the controversy he was engaged in happened. Machen does of course concede that certain evangelical truths were most vital, but that does not mean that other truths are not.

To prove his point, Hart points to two places in Machen's book whereby the opposition to some form of "mere Christianity" can be seen. The first place is Machen's last chapter about the church and the importance Machen placed on the visible institutional church, something about which many Fundamentalists would not be able to subscribe to. The second lies is his arguments against the liberals that they are cannot in honesty subscribe to the orthodox creeds and confessions. While most certainly applicable to the liberals, in force it applies equally to the anti-intellectual Fundamentalists with their anti-creedalism.

The kernel versus husk approach to Machen's book ignores his other works and struggles in life and is therefore in error. Machen never intended to stand on a platform of "mere Christianity" to critique modernism. Rather, Machen was standing on the platform of Christianity as understood within the Presbyterian tradition. It is not a compliment to Roman Catholicism such that it is within the pale of Christian orthodoxy, as Timothy George thinks it is, when he said that Romanism was more orthodox than Liberalism. Rather, it was an insult to Liberalism that even Romanism with her false gospel was more orthodox than it.

Hart closed with the doctrine of the church as he sees it as Machen's most vital difference with Fundamentalism and Evangelicalism. He has posted his closing statements on his blog, which we shall quote at length and end this review as follows:

The other part of THE BOOK’s last chapter on the church that deserves attention is the doctrine of the spirituality of the church. This conviction continues to be misunderstood, and is often denounced as a cover for Christians and churches who want to forsake their obligations to contribute to social well-being. To be sure, this doctrine became prominent among Old School Presbyterians at a time when American Christians debated slavery and the U.S. Constitution. But it was a teaching that extended back before the nineteenth century and tapped Augustine’s remarkable insights into the differences between the city of God and the city of man. What the spirituality of the church taught Machen especially was that the church was a spiritual institution with spiritual means for spiritual ends. Because of salvation’s fundamentally spiritual character, believers could not identify the fortunes of the kingdom of God with the empire of Rome or the industrializing republic of the United States.

This was the insight that prompted Machen’s conclusion to THE BOOK. The solution to the crisis over liberalism, as he argued, was for the churches to “face the facts, and regain their integrity while yet there is time.” This needed to happen immediately because so many of the denominational bureaucracies were under control by official either modernist themselves or indifferent to it. Another solution was to form new churches because the existing works could not satisfy “the fundamental needs of the soul.” Whatever the solution, he wrote:

There must be somewhere groups of redeemed men and women who can gather together humbly in the name of Christ, to give thanks to Him for His unspeakable gift and to worship the Father through Him. Such groups alone can satisfy the needs of the soul. At the present time, there is one longing of the human heart which is often forgotten – it is the deep, pathetic longing of the Christian for fellowship with his brethren. . . . There are congregations, eve in the present age of conflict, that are really gathered around the table of the crucified Lord; there are pastors that are pastors indeed. But such congregations, in many cities, are difficult to find. Weary with the conflicts of the world, one goes to Church to seek refreshment for the soul. And what does one find? Alas, too often, one find only the turmoil of the world. The preacher comes forward, not out of a secret place of mediation and power, not with the authority of God’s Word permeating his message, not with human wisdom pushed far into the background by the glory of the Cross, but with human opinions about the social problems of the hour or easy solutions of the vast problems of sin. Such is the sermon. And then perhaps the service is closed by one of those hymns breathing out the angry passions of 1861 . . . Thus the warfare of the world has entered even into the house of God. And sad indeed is the heart of the man who has come seeking peace. Is there no refuge from strife? . . . . Is there no place where two or three can gather in Jesus’ name, . . . to forget human pride, to forget the passions of war, to forget the puzzling problems of industrial strife, and to unite in overflowing gratitude at the foot of the Cross? If there be such a place, then that is the house of God and that the gate of heaven. And from under the threshold of that house will go forth a river that will revive the weary world.

The church as the house of God, the gate of heaven, a place for weary souls seeking refuge from the conflicts of this world through the cross of Christ – that is actually what the spirituality of the church begins with and it is precisely how Machen concluded his important book.

Christianity and Liberalism Revisited conference audio

The audios for the recently concluded Christianity and Liberalism Revisited conference are now out, as follows:

Christianity and Liberalism Today by Micheal S. Horton

The Prennial Machen by Darryl G. Hart

Machen and the Bible by Joel E. Kim

Machen and the Gospel by John V. Fesko

Machen and Ethics by David VanDrunen

Machen, Christianity, and the Church by W. Robert Godfrey

Q&A

Friday, January 14, 2011

Mike S Horton: Christianity and Liberalism Today

[Disclaimer: This is my summary AND commentary on Dr. Horton's talk, not just a recount of the talk itself, of which viewers can see it when the video files are up on the WSCal website.]

Audio—here.

It has been almost a century since the rise of liberalism, a movement that Dr. John Greshem Machen exposed as being another religion altogether in his book entitled Christianity and Liberalism. In the last century, liberalism has been slowly dying, as seen in the free fall decline in the membership of "mainline denominations." Or has it?

In his talk entitled Christianity and Liberalism Today, Dr. Michael S. Horton takes up the theme of Machen's most famous book, and shows us that liberalism is far from dead. In fact, it is very much alive ... within professing Evangelicals! Like yeast in a dough of bread, liberalism has metastasized throughout Evangelicalism, rendering the churches sick. While outwardly all seems well, yet the body is desperately sick, and Dr. Horton in this lecture of his reveals the true ghastly image of the churches to us.

Horton arranges his talk of the state of Christianity today into two sections: a sociological analysis section and a theological analysis section. Sociologically, Horton quotes Barna research data and research done by sociologists like Christian Smith to show the beliefs and attitudes present in so-called "Evangelicals" (which in cases like Barna merely mean people who assent to certain propositions such as "My relationship with God plays an important role in my life" [certainly nothing Christian about that proposition] and "I have a born-again experience" among others like them). Not surprisingly, the belief of American Christianity has little if anything to do with true Christianity. The term "Moral Therapeutic Deism" has been coined to describe the phenomenon, which is defined as being the belief that 1) God created the world; 2) God wants people to be good, nice and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and most world religions; 3) The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself; 4) God does not need to be particularly involved in one's life except when needed to resolve a problem; 5) Good people go to heaven when they die.

Perhaps more shocking than this is the analysis of sermons in supposed conservative Evangelical churches. A sociologist took samples of sermons preached in the supposed conservative Southern Baptist Convention and compared it with sermons preached in mainline Presbyterian churches, and there was essentially no difference in the sermons preached. Oh sure, there were some differences all right. For example, the Evangelical sermons when preaching on the parable of the Prodigy Son made the younger profligate son the great sinner. The sins which conservatives deemed evil are imputed to the younger son who partied all day, get drunk, watched pornography etc. In the mainline churches, the wicked son was the older son who was just like the Pharisees in being judgmental and not loving. Yet despite the surface differences, what the sermons basically amount to are messages like "You need to change your life", "Stop sinning" etc.

In both cases, Christianity is defined as being about life transformation and sin is redefined. The younger son is not "sinning," but rather he is fulfilling good desires in a wrong way. He is not living up to his potential, or his way is so much less satisfying than God's way, which is to say that if only he lived God's way, he would be happier and more satisfied, or so it is claimed. For modernists, the fault of the older son however must be remedied by emphatizing with sinners and loving and welcoming them into our fellowship.

Sin in American Christianity [and in fact in many parts of the world influenced by the West] is always about others; it is always others that sin, not ourselves. Conservatives blame the liberals and liberals blame the conservatives. So everyone sinned and also no one sinned!

Part of the rise of Moral Therapeutic Deism comes in the recent idea of "authenticity." Everyone must find their own inner innocent child (whatever that is supposed to mean) and be free to be ourselves and be "vulnerable."

In all this, the Gospel message disappears. Horton shared anecdotes (earlier on) of friends who visited supposed evangelical churches on Easter and discovered that there was no Gospel message preached in the service on EASTER. There was no reading of the Law, no confession of sins or anything of that sort, so they reasoned that probably at least in the sermon they would get the Gospel message. Unfortunately, it didn't happen. The Easter messages went along the lines of "4 ways to improve your life" or something like that. All that was preached is the law of Do's and nothing of Christ's Gospel of what He has Done for us.

After this cultural analysis, Horton proceeds on to the theological analysis.

The two main heresies that are prevalent in American Christianity [and many parts of the world too] are variants of Pelagianism and Gnosticism. Pelagianism basically believes in the essential goodness of man and that Man can save Himself. Semi-Pelagianism believes that God take some steps while Man take some steps, a position best expressed in the statement "God helps those who help themselves," a statement which I may add is nowhere to be found in the Bible. Gnosticism on the other hand believes in salvation by knowledge, which in ancient times refer often to secret knowledge.

Together, a variant of these two heresies is formed which deny that we are created good but are now fallen, and that we are helpless to save ourselves.

Pelagianism broadly speaking can be seen in the teachings of people like Norman Vincent Peale and Robert Schuller and all self-esteem, self-help movements. The idea that we can save ourselves can be found in many other religious movements like the New Age movement for example. Revivalism with its mechanical idea of conversion from the times of Charles G. Finney imbibes deeply at this toxic well, and through Finney the heresy of Pelagianism infects Evangelicalism as a whole. After all, if revival is only the result of the proper use of means, then salvation and conversion can be engineered by man and conversion is merely man's choice to "decide" for Christ.

Gnosticism in its broader sense has become the default stance even within Evangelicalism. The typical American, and typical Evangelical, is "spiritual but not religious." Christianity is defined as a relationship and not a religion (as if the two are mutually exclusive). Gnosticism thus manifests itself in the privatization of religion as being that of inner experience. Every person (in Evangelicalism every converted person) has a unique mystical relationship with God that is true because it just must be. While in apologetics, he may be interested in history and the Jesus of history, the Evangelical existentially has no need for the Christ of history, for Christ "resides in his or her heart." The loci of Christianity is not outside us, but inside us. What this means is that each one becomes his or her subjective judge and arbiter before God, and thus is the center of all things spiritual. The divorce of salvation from ecclesiology is as such another sign of gnosticism, as if the church is basically an add-on to the Christian life. So we have supposed Christians being consumers of spirituality and seeing little if any need for the institutional Church, believing that their [subjective] relationship with God is sufficient.

Such an error can also be seen in statements like "Our lives will preach better than anything we say," or we can quote the supposed quote from Francis of Assisi "Preach the Gospel at all things and where necessary use words." The gnostic element is evident in such falsehoods. Instead of proclaiming an external word of the Gospel, the idea of Christianity as inner experience lies behind the lie that our lives are better witnesses than the proclaimed Gospel. Yet the Scriptures are very clear that is is only the [external] Word of God that creates faith (cf Rom. 10:17), not the sharing of our inner experiences.

In light of all this, how should the Church respond? Horton ends off in saying that not to address sin and guilt in capitulation to the zeitgeist is pastoral cruelty. After all, God is not interested in how your "personal relationship with God" feels like, or that you are a reasonably good person. The only thing that matters is belief in the true Gospel, and if we fail to proclaim that Gospel and substitute it for false gospels that are not the Gospel, then the souls of many will be damned. God is not interested in your inner experience of Him and how close you feel to Him. In fact, Scripture makes it clear that Christ is not interested even in how many miracles you have done in His name! (Mt. 7:21-23). You can feel anything you want, do anything you want and say anything you want, but ultimately what matters is whether you have believed the Gospel and be saved. You can call God "Daddy", claim that you are under grace not law, call yourself the King's kids, and still go to hell! The Gospel is outside of us, God is apart from us. Shall we dare to dictate to the sovereign God that He must conform to our spirituality and supposed relationship status we have with Him?

As ministers of the Gospel and as His Church, we must proclaim the Gospel and nothing but this external Gospel of the Word outside of us. This is the only pastoral loving thing to do.

Christianity and Liberalism Revisited conference

I have been busy recently with a ton of school work. Anyway, the Christianiy and Liberalism Revisited Conference is ongoing, and you can see the lectures via live-streaming. As I have volunteered to help out (as a student volunteer) in the conference, I have free registration for the conference. I will be blogging some summaries of the lectures here albeit not live.

Monday, January 03, 2011

Reformation Italy

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

Do support the efforts of Pastor Andre Ferrari in prayer.

The danger of mixing Law and Gospel OR Why we need the Covenant of Works

Over on the Ligonier website, Jason Stellman has written an article over the necessity of Reformed theology in embracing the Covenant of Works. As he wrote,

This idea that the original Edenic covenant was a conditional covenant of works, and that Adam had to fulfill its conditions in order to gain the stipulated reward, can be a jagged pill to swallow for many Reformed folks. After all, doesn’t this all sound so legal? Where’s the grace in all of this?

Ah, but this is precisely the point! As I mentioned above, the legal nature of the Edenic covenant actually protects the graciousness of the gospel that would be proclaimed later on.

To make the pre-Fall covenant in Eden and not of works is the error of all Mono-covenantalists. Whether they are Barthians, Federal Visionists, or PRCA makes little difference — the only difference is how consistent they are in bringing their denial of the Covenant of Works to its logical conclusion.

In the best case scenario, even if it was possible to somehow totally disconnect Adam and Christ such that one can somehow say that "Christ merited salvation for the elect through His works" while denying that Adam was under a Covenant of Works and thus denying the typology between the two (cf Rom. 5:12-18), the issue of the Fall then becomes a big problem. Why did the Fall happen? If it is agreed that Adam transgressed a law, and the Edenic covenant is supposed to be a gracious covenant, then law and grace are not antithetical to each other. Salvation by grace therefore is not antithetical to the idea of a condition of staying in the covenant or "state of salvation" by works/obedience/faithfulness. This results in the error of what I generically call Monocovenantal Legalism.

On the other hand, if it is denied that Adam transgressed a law, then the Fall is either not real or not sinful, perhaps a natural development of growth like what the Gnostics taught. That is paganism.

There is however a third way of trying to solve the problem, exemplified in the PRCA. That is to agree that Adam transgress a law, but then to say that transgression does not break the covenant because the covenant is defined as a relationship or a bond of friendship and love, and is thus unconditional. Therefore, while Adam sinned and brought death into the world, yet the covenant relation between God and His people is not broken and cannot be broken. This error I generically call Monocovenantal Antinomianism, which we will see why.

In this scheme, the horror of the Fall is minimized. This is not to say that the PRCA treats the Fall lightly, but because it is treated as being merely quantitatively different from post-lapsarian sin and iniquity. Whereas in the Reformed system, the Fall is qualitatively not just quantitatively different from post-lapsarian sin and iniquity. Adam sinned under a Covenant of Works in the Reformed scheme, whereas for the PRCA Adam sinned under a gracious covenant.

This brings us to the related doctrine of Creation. If God can only relate to creatures on the basis of grace and wrath (ie there is no "neutral" state), then Man must be created in constant need of grace in order to live in God's favor. The patristic and medieval (and Roman Catholic) idea of donum superadditum would be utilized here. Grace perfects [defective] nature, not renews it.

Both of these would tend to trivialize sin. Instead of seeing sin as alien to nature, it is taken to be an evil that pertains to nature. Those within this "covenant" (as defined by the PRCA) therefore tend to minimize sin as being natural while still fighting it as part of the nature versus grace contest of the ages. Such tendencies are what make the system considered "Antinomian", not necessarily in practice but in doctrine[1].

Having rejected the biblical idea of covenant, it will be indeed interesting to see to what extent the PRCA will move towards Eastern Orthodoxy with its similar idea of covenant as relationship. While certainly more needs to be read up, it seems to me that the destination of Monocovenantal Antinomianism does not seem to be Roman Catholicism as much as Eastern Orthodoxy.


References:

[1] See for example Peter Toon's description of Doctrinal Antinomianism, in Peter Toon, The Emergence of Hyper-Calvinism in English Nonconformity, 1689-1745 (London, UK: The Olive Tree, 1967). Available online at http://www.anglicanbooksrevitalized.us/Peter_Toons_Books_Online/History/hypercal1.htm. Accessed on Jan 3rd 2011.