Denying hell is unwanted progress. Evidently, the progressives that went further didn’t know when to apply the brakes. Having abandoned clear biblical teaching in one area, they found that if they continued updating their doctrine, they would progressively become better friends with the world.
Franklin Graham On Newshub
Newshub’s slanted take on Franklin Graham’s “God Loves You” tour has had the mainstream church upset for the last few days, and with good reason.
In typical fashion, Newshub called upon a progressive lady “pastor” to give her angle on Graham’s work and, of course, she declared he had Christianity all wrong.
According to her, New Zealand doesn’t need saving. Hell and punishment do not exist. God accepts all things (except for Trump voters, apparently). And we (she said, speaking for all New Zealanders) are not old-fashioned bible-believing Americans. Therefore, Graham should just go home.
The Church’s Reaction and Non-reaction
The progressive Church has come under fire because of this. And rightly so. Such a clear and shameless rejection of biblical revelation proves that these progressives are not Christian. They deny the Master who bought them.
But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves. (2 Peter 2:1)
But while some things the lady “pastor” said were very upsetting to all, her claim to be a pastor went by like it was nothing.
I’m old enough to remember when women preaching was the issue that separated progressives from the mainstream. Feminism was the engine that drove “progress” back then. Now women preaching – a position not held for 1900 years of church history – is mainstream and acceptable. The concrete has dried on those doctrinal renovations, and the church happily stands on the old progress we made.
But denying hell is unwanted progress. Evidently, the progressives that went further didn’t know when to apply the brakes. Having abandoned clear biblical teaching in one area, they found that if they continued updating their doctrine, they would progressively become better friends with the world.
You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. (James 4:4)
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By Kevin DeYoung — 9 months ago
Faith is believing that we were born one way but can be born again another way. Anyone can be found, if only he will admit that he’s lost. Christianity is the hope of the world for those who have no hope in themselves. The fundamental story of the world is not the story of good guys and bad guys, or of oppressors and the oppressed, but of sinners and a Savior.
The story of Holy Week reminds us of the story of the world. And as the Passion of Christ tells the story of the world, it reminds us of our story as well.
We are sinners in need of a Savior.
Not theoretical sinners. Not “nobody’s perfect” sinners. Not “we all make mistakes” sinners. Real sinners—inside and out. Dead in our sins and trespasses (Ephesians 2:1), desperately sick (Jeremiah 17:9), enslaved by passions and pleasures, being hated and hating one another (Titus 3:3)—that kind of sinner.
In need of a real Savior. Not a myth or a metaphor. Not a better version of ourselves. Not a hero of our own making. We need a man like us, and we need a God utterly unlike us. We need a genuinely historical person who transcends history. An eternal Son born in the fullness of time. A dying sacrifice who does not stay dead.
By Tom Hervey — 5 months ago
In other words, faith justifies, and the various “other saving graces” that accompany it come into view in sanctification with its operation of the Spirit in which he “infuses grace” per Larger Catechism Q. 77. It is not an accurate summary to say that there is an infused habit of faith that is first passive in justification but then subsequently active in sanctification, when the confessions appealed to actually distinguish between the saving grace of justifying faith (Q. 72) and the other saving graces that accompany it (Q. 73; Conf. 11.2).
Credo, the organ of the movement to normalize scholasticism among evangelicals, has pursued an interesting career as of late. When it has not been praising the alleged glories of Platonism, giving space to people who regard the Reformation as a tragedy to be lamented, or interviewing the presidents of organizations whose faculty and contributors include female pastors, it has found time to cast aspersions at contemporary evangelicals for “cutting ourselves off from Thomas” and suffering, as a consequence, “from a theology that looks more modern than orthodox.”
Of particular interest is an article by J.V. Fesko asserting that the acceptance of Thomas Aquinas is a sort of litmus test for whether one may be deemed a bona fide Protestant. To be told that we are under obligation to embrace any Romanist in order to be considered Protestant is intriguing enough, but to hear that we must do so concerning the preeminent medieval scholastic and the man whom Protestants have historically understood to be among the foremost expositors of those ideas which so corrupted the Western church that she fell into that ‘Babylonian captivity’ from whence part of Christendom escaped only with great suffering – well, that makes for quite a large pill to swallow. To think that those who have justified our murder and commended the religious veneration of images of Christ and of his cross should be rejected as false teachers is, on Prof. Fesko’s view, only enough to make us “self-professed Protestants,” and such assertions are only so much “noisy din” and engaging in “cancel culture theology.”
Central to Prof. Fesko’s assertions is his belief that previous generations of Protestants employed a “nuanced approach to the thought of Aquinas” in which, for example, they “excised the problematic teachings of infused righteousness as it relates to justification but retained Thomas’ teaching on infused habits for the doctrine of sanctification.” As evidence Prof. Fesko says that John Owen “took a nuanced approach to Aquinas’s doctrine of justification,” especially as regards the concept of an infused habit of righteousness. He quotes Owen’s The Doctrine of Justification by Faith as proof when it speaks of “an habitual infused habit of Grace which is the formal cause of our personal inherent Righteousness,” but which is yet distinct from the “formal cause” of our justification, the imputation of Christ’s righteousness.
The edition Prof. Fesko has quoted is available here. Owen mentions Thomas a single time and says this:
It is therefore to no purpose to handle the mysteries of the Gospel, as if Holcot and Bricot, Thomas and Gabriel, with all the Sententiarists, Summists, and Quodlibetarians of the old Roman Peripatetical School, were to be raked out of their Graves to be our guides. Especially will they be of no use unto us, in this Doctrine of Justification. For whereas they pertinaciously adhered unto the Philosophy of Aristotle, who knew nothing of any Righteousness, but what is an habit inherent in our selves, and the Acts of it, they wrested the whole Doctrine of Justification unto a compliance therewithall.
Such strong language and complete rejection can hardly be called taking a “nuanced approach to Aquinas’s doctrine of justification.” When Prof. Fesko, commenting upon the passage he had quoted, then asks:
How does Owen hold the concepts of imputed and infused righteousness together? How does he blend this Thomist category of the infused habit of righteousness together with the Reformation teaching of justification by the imputed righteousness of Christ?
We may fairly reply that he doesn’t: the passage from Justification by Faith Fesko quotes proves that Owen and other Protestant theologians vigorously distinguish between imputed and infused righteousness. It is noteworthy as well that the word “infused” appears a mere two times among Justification by Faith’s approximately 208,000 words. “Imputed” appears 305 times and “imputation” some 429 times. The notion of an infused habit is not prominent, then, by any stretch of the imagination; if anything, it is, as the context of the excerpt Fesko quoted also shows, a mere passing thought, at least in this particular work.
Curiously, Fesko does not answer his own question with a further appeal to Owen’s works but by shifting to the position of the Westminster Assembly (which Owen did not attend). To this end he appeals to the Westminster Confession (11.1-2, 14.2) and Larger Catechism (Q. 77), and he believes he finds in them “the language of infused habits” which “the divines continue to employ” in Q. 75 of the Larger Catechism, which speaks of the sanctified as “having the seeds of repentance unto life, and all other saving graces, put into their hearts, and those graces so stirred up, increased, and strengthened, as that they more and more die unto sin, and rise unto newness of life.” Prof. Fesko believes that the description of Questions 75 and 77 (“in sanctification his Spirit infuseth grace”) “sounds a lot like Aquinas’s doctrine of justification as the believer increases in righteousness, but the difference here is that this growth does not factor in justification, which rests entirely upon Christ’s imputed righteousness.”
Before proceeding to Prof. Fesko’s other remarks in this section, let it be noted that in B.B. Warfield’s analysis of the Westminster Assembly and its products there is a single reference to Aquinas, and even there on a point of logic and regarding the completeness of Scripture. That work is not an absolute catalogue of the minutes, admittedly, but if Aquinas were such a large presence in the thought of the Westminster divines we might expect that to show in a work such as Warfield’s. In addition, note that the phrase “habit” appears nowhere in the Westminster Confession or Catechisms and that “infuse” (in its various forms) appears in the Westminster Confession a single time in 11.1, cited by Prof. Fesko, in which it is said that “Those whom God effectually calleth, he also freely justifieth: not by infusing righteousness into them, but by pardoning their sins” (emphasis mine). Returning to Prof. Fesko’s remarks, he ends the paragraph in question by saying this:
In justification the infused habit of faith is passive but in sanctification it is active. What Aquinas conflates Owen and the Westminster divines distinguish. Even though they distinguish justification and sanctification, they nevertheless maintain they are inseparably joined together.
While we are on the topic of conflation, note carefully Prof. Fesko’s words (especially his first sentence) and how they compare to those of the passages he cites and his earlier statements. Larger Catechism Question 77, the only Westminster statement to positively employ the language of infusion, says that in sanctification the Spirit infuses grace, not a “habit of faith.” Sanctification follows justification, so the grace that the Spirit is said to infuse then is distinct from the faith which factors in justification.
This is proved as well by Westminster Confession 11.2, quoted previously by Fesko, which says that “Faith . . . is the alone instrument of justification; yet is it not alone in the person justified, but is ever accompanied with all other saving graces.” In other words, faith justifies, and the various “other saving graces” that accompany it come into view in sanctification with its operation of the Spirit in which he “infuses grace” per Larger Catechism Q. 77. It is not an accurate summary to say that there is an infused habit of faith that is first passive in justification but then subsequently active in sanctification, when the confessions appealed to actually distinguish between the saving grace of justifying faith (Q. 72) and the other saving graces that accompany it (Q. 73; Conf. 11.2). (The question of when, and to what extent, faith is best described as passive or active is one we will not engage here.)
And as for the fact that the Westminster divines and Owen distinguish what Aquinas conflates, it may be asked how exactly that proves anything for Fesko’s case. That the respective parties have different perspectives upon sanctification and justification has nothing to do with the question of whether the former got a concept of infused habits from the latter.
Fesko also appeals to the Canons of Dort’s explicit mention of faith as being infused. Yet here too the question arises as to whether the similarity in terms between Aquinas and Protestants arises because the latter are borrowing from the former: perhaps Dort’s divines borrowed the concept of infused faith unknowingly or got it from other sources? That is an academic question which we have neither the space nor the inclination to answer here, but whether or not Fesko’s basic assertion is correct, he fails to make the case in this article. Such evidence as he provides is circumstantial at best and can be sufficiently explained by other theories absent further evidence. Mere coincidence or reception from other sources is at least as probable on the thin evidence (if such it is) that Fesko gives here. When he states that Owen, Dort, and Westminster “plied Aquinas’s insights” he is therefore coming to a conclusion that is not warranted and which other material in his sources makes seem highly doubtful. Consider again Owen’s mention of Aquinas above, as well as the fact that the Synod of Dort also rebuked the Franeker professor Maccovius for his use of the Romanist scholastics Suarez and Bellarmine.
Fesko asserts two benefits of “the concept of an infused habit.” First, “infused habits help us distinguish between natural human ability from [sic] those abilities given by the grace of God in salvation.” But one can do such a thing without the concept of infused habits, for example by saying that natural morality is a result of God’s common grace, whereas sanctification comes from his saving grace. It is not clear that the language of infused habits does anything that cannot be done just as well otherwise. When Fesko states that “acknowledging that a capacity for holiness and righteousness is infused is another way of saying that it is the gift of God” we can reply: ‘why not just say that a capacity for righteousness is the gift of God, then, and spare your readers the scholastic terminology and the confusion it is likely to engender?’
Second, Fesko claims that “the infused habit of faith establishes a conceptual context for a theology of virtue,” to which the same objections apply. One can simply say that true virtue pleasing to God is his own gift and arises because of our new nature in Christ and the operations of the Spirit in us as we work out our salvation.
In conclusion, consider the sheer absurdity of Fesko’s position. He belittles his living brethren for the sake of trying to lay claim to the heritage of a dead Romanist who would regard him as a heretic who should be put to death. In this we see a fine example of how theologians have a bad tendency to get carried away in their speculations and researches, and how they tend to lose sight of the practical matters entailed in serving Christ. Be very careful whom you read, dear reader, for “bad company ruins good morals” (1 Cor. 15:33) and “much study is a weariness of the flesh” (Ecc. 12:12). You do not need to tackle Aquinas’s many words (the Summa Theologica in PDF is over 9,400 pages) or his excruciating prose, nor sift through his various erroneous doctrines in order to be a faithful servant of Christ, whose yoke is by contrast light and easy (Matt. 11:28-30), and whose word is sufficient for all you need in order to know him and to abound in virtue (Ps. 19; 119; 2 Tim. 3:16-17; 2 Pet. 1:5-8).
Tom Hervey is a member of Woodruff Road Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Simpsonville, S.C.
 Summa Theologica, IIaIIae Q.11, Art. 3
Summa Theologica, IIIa, Q. 25, Art. 3 and 4
 “Infusion” appears 25 times, but often while discussing the position of Rome.
 The Westminster Assembly and Its Work by B.B. Warfield, p. 206, quoting the position of George Gillespie expressed in one of his writings.
H. Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, Vol. I, p. 181
By Bill Muehlenberg — 3 months ago
I am talking about normal Christians who do have a working mind. It is a sin for them not to use it. Sure, some folks might be smarter or brighter than others – maybe even have higher IQs and the like. But that is still no excuse. Some Christians will just have to work harder at this and put more effort into it. This is true of all areas of life. In Christ we are to grow and mature in all spheres.
The English humourist P. G. Wodehouse once said: “Some minds are like soup in a poor restaurant—better left unstirred.” On a more serious note, the renowned English Christian John Stott said this: “Knowledge is indispensable to Christian life and service. If we do not use the mind that God has given us, we condemn ourselves to spiritual superficiality and cut ourselves off from many of the riches of God’s grace.”
Yet my title may concern some folks. ‘Wow, did he just say it is a sin not to think? Yes I did. And in this case I am writing to a Christian audience. ‘So where do you get that in the Bible?’ some might ask. Hey, easy as. You might recall that someone helped us greatly in this regard.
A lawyer came to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” Wow, the greatest commandment. So it is a very good thing indeed that Jesus answered him. He said: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:34-40; also found in Mark 12:28-34 and Luke 10:25-8 – all appealing to Deuteronomy 6:4-9).
So there you have it: the greatest person who ever lived is asked what is the greatest commandment. Every single one of us should stand up and take notice. Loving God with the totality of our being is the answer. And that includes using the mind that God gave us.
It is with the mind of course that we think, as well as reason, question, evaluate, discern, judge, test, reflect, remember, and ascertain. Clearly, if we refuse to think and if we refuse to use our minds, then we have just violated the greatest commandment there is. And that my friends is sin.
Why this article?
I have written often about this issue before, so why bring it up again? Well, often my circumstance can dictate what I write about. And often what I go through can come in waves or clusters. For example, if I write a piece on dealing with hatred and persecution, it might be because I just received a whole bunch of ugly and vile comments or hateful emails in the space of a day or two.
In this case I came upon 6 or 7 rather extreme cases of Christians who clearly seem not to be able to think. Some really outrageous and stupid remarks or comments all came my way in a very short period of time, so I felt the need to once again write on this topic. As I said on the social media the other day:
One of the great sins I see today in the Christian church is the blatant refusal of far too many believers to obey the greatest command of Christ: to ‘love God with all our minds…’ The number of utterly stupid, uninformed, ignorant and just plain idiotic comments I see almost daily on my website and on the social media does my head in. It makes me want to weep. I want to ask God for his forgiveness for the way we misrepresent him and drag his name in the mud with our brainless and reckless remarks and beliefs. Lord, forgive us! Please Lord, let your people think!
As to the recent batch of comments that came my way, I best not go into much detail about them. However, it can be said that some of these were so appallingly bad, so moronic, and so off base, that you really have to wonder what some believers have lodged between their two ears. I cringe when I see some of these remarks. How can some believers be so clueless and so brainless?
Worse yet, some of these Christians actually seem to delight in and are proud of their ignorance and foolishness and lack of understanding. One of these folks said to me, “Also i like to keep it simple”. That much was clear. But there is a big difference between being simple and being simplistic.