History Repeats Itself in the Churches of Christ.

Just now I finished reading an insightful, scholarly article by John Mark Hicks titled “K. C. Moser and Churches of Christ: an Historical Perspective”. It is published on Abilene Christian University’s “Restoration Quarterly” section of their website. You can read it here. I have always enjoyed and appreciated bro’ Hick’s writing due to his attention to detail, documentation, and yet easy readability.

This post might be of particular interest to Church of Christ folks and especially preachers and teachers. Others might find this historical feast by bro’ Hicks very interesting as well.

Hicks paints a word picture of a church movement shaped by particular men, the periodicals they published and wrote for, and the schools where they were educated and where they taught. My intention is not to repeat what John Mark Hicks wrote but to point out one man who had a penchant for swimming upstream in the river of Church of Christ tradition/theology and made a mark on the Restoration Movement Churches that is still present today.

The man was K. C. Moser. Evidently he was the first real “change agent” in the Churches of Christ. Way back in the 1930’s he recognized that the gospel of Christ was being compromised and substituted by a “plan of salvation” that leaned very heavy on what man should do to be saved and little on the person and work of Christ.

On December 1, 1932, Moser published an article in the Gospel Advocate entitled “Preaching Jesus.” To preach Jesus, according to Moser, is to proclaim him as the Son of God who bears the sins of the world as a sin-offering to God. Consequently, when Philip encountered the Eunuch, he “preached not a plan, but a man.” Moser was concerned that the conditions of salvation were preached “apart from their reference to the atonement.” “When this is done,” he argued, “the conditions of salvation become pure law and salvation is based on mere works.” As a result, grace is voided.

Moser’s first book, “The Way of Salvation” bore this interesting subtitle. “Being an Exposition of God’s Method of Justification Through Christ.” It was the first of his many written works that proved to be very troubling and disturbing to many of Moser’s brothers in the Churches of Christ. He was roundly criticized by many of them. He was branded a “traitor” and as a “Baptist in sheep’s clothing”.

Moser advocated for preaching the “man” (Christ Jesus) rather than the “plan”. As Hicks points out, for many Moser and others who agreed with him, helped to move the focus of salvation away from “ecclesiology back to Christology” Moser’s commentary on Romans was his most important work. “The Gist of Romans” was perhaps the pinnacle of all Moser did. in Hick’s article the following appears.

During this time, he wrote his thematic commentary on the book of Romans entitled The Gist of Romans It was first printed in 1957, with a second edition in 1958.(53) The book’s theme reflects the emphases of Moser’s writing over the past three decades. His concern was still legalistic preaching and the subtle legalism to which it gives expression. His purpose was to give “an exposition of the fundamental doctrines of salvation through Christ” as they appear in Romans. He was set for the “defense of the cross” as opposed to the defense of the “conditions of salvation, or some theory.”(54) The preacher, according to Moser, must not only know what to tell someone to do to be saved, he must first understand what salvation is. Only when one understands the “fundamental doctrine of the atonement, of grace, and of faith” can anyone be a gospel preacher.(55) Moser feared that many of his preaching brothers did not truly or fully understand the doctrine of salvation by grace through faith. He was not alone in his fear. G. C. Brewer had expressed similar fears. He was concerned that many were preaching a creed instead of Christ, and “too many us instead of trusting in Christ, depend upon working out our own salvation as though this means that we should achieve it by works of merit in this life.”(56)

Moser and Brewer, two men who had shared the burden of proclaiming the gospel of grace, both feared the context of the mid-1950s. Both saw the danger of legalism; both saw the need for trusting in Christ alone for salvation. The 1960s, with the turmoil of the “Man or the Plan” controversy, saw a brotherhood coming to conscious reflection on the doctrine of grace and a renewal of the doctrine of “God’s righteousness” as the ground of salvation.

Those are pretty plain and pointed concerns and they exist today. Fortunately, Moser and Brewer, and others of their contemporaries who shared their views of gospel grace are not alone. Men like Cecil Hook, Ketcherside, Edward Fudge, Leroy Garrett and several who are currently preaching in churches of Christ, like Moser, are contending for the historic gospel of Christ just as these men have. I could name several here but will not.

Enter Anglican Bishop and theologian N.T. Wright and the “New Perspective on Paul”. Wright, was shaped partially by his predecessors, Lutheran theologian Krister Stendahl, E.P. Sanders and James D.G. Dunn. It was Dunn who first coined the term “The New Perspective on Paul”. While N.T. Wright does not wholly agree with the others who began this movement (Wright said “there are probably almost as many ‘new perspective’ positions as there are writers espousing it – and I disagree with most of them”) He agrees with them that the historical understanding of justification and righteousness as espoused by K.C. Moser is wrong.

Many of my friends have very passionate opinions in their wholesale agreement with N.T. Wright’s version of the so called “New Perspective…” But, I contend none-the-less that in the end what they are buying is a modern version of a works based theology of salvation, though very, very subtle. I think it is very telling that those groups which have been most accepting of the NPP are Roman Catholics, Orthodox churches, and Churches of Christ.

Due largely to the influence of Bishop Wright, it is becoming increasingly popular for church of Christ ministers to forsake the historic version of the work of Christ for sinners that Moser advanced in favor of this “new perspective”. The idea that based wholly upon the worth and work of Jesus Christ a sinner can be justified instantly and be assured of eternal life is frequently substituted by the theory that only at the end of one’s life can a person finally be decisively declared eternally safe by God.

The most obvious problem with the latter view is that it assumes God doesn’t know the end of a man’s life until the end of a man’s life. It assumes that God can’t know if a person will remain faithful until he has been faithful. God does know. He knows the end from the beginning.

These words spoken by the Apostle Paul (who Wright assumes we have misunderstood for some 1500 years) stand in stark contrast to Wright’s theory.

38 Let it be known to you therefore, brothers, that through this man forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, 39 and by him everyone who believes is freed from everything from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses (Acts 13:38-39)

Wright contends that Paul did not have in mind the Law of Moses when he mentioned that man is not justified by “works of the law”. I ask, What did Paul have in mind in the passage above?

A gospel is not the true gospel unless there is hope for the wicked. If wicked sinners can not have their sins removed, if they can’t have eternal life, if they can’t count of being resurrected from the dead, if they can’t live without guilt, that version of the gospel is not good news.

When Paul spoke of the “works of the law” in Romans 3 and in Galatians 2 and 3 he meant exactly what he did in Acts 13 above. The passage in Galatians 3 is as clear as can be.

For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” (Galatians 3:9-10)
How anyone can miss this is a wonder. Is there any doubt that Paul had in mind the “Book of the Law” when he said “works of the law” in the same breath? Yet the “New Perspective on Paul” insists that is not what Paul intended.
Those who rely on their own morality, their own faithfulness, even in part for their salvation are guilty of relying on “another gospel”. Once more, hear Paul’s words.
Let it be known to you therefore, brothers, that through this man forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and by him everyone who believes is freed from everything from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses (Acts 13:38-39)
This is the gospel in a nut shell. “…through this man forgiveness of sins in proclaimed”. “By Him everyone who believes is freed from everything from which you could not be freed by the Law of Moses”, or by good works, or by covenant faithfulness. Christ alone is the hope of sinners!

18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written,

“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”

20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. 22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

26 For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. 30 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”
(1 Corinthians 1:13-31)

Paul’s version of the gospel offered up Jesus Christ as our righteousness, our redemption, and our sanctification. Jesus the God man, the suffering servant who bore the sins of us all and made it so that God can be just and justify the ungodly. Paul insisted that a gospel different than the one he preached was “another gospel” which was really “not another”, it was only a lie. That is still true. I’ll go with Moser on this. Subtle or not subtle, a modified gospel is not good news at all.

32 comments on “History Repeats Itself in the Churches of Christ.

  1. What any others were for, we are against. That makes us autonomous and being that was our goal.
    Still today, others are a denomination and we are not is what is preached around here, somehow, almost every Sunday. its gotten beyond a teaching and has become an obsession among the older Christians as their numbers decline.

  2. Pingback: DO YOU THINK MIGHT MAKE RIGHT? — PART 2 | Citizen Tom

  3. What is the “historic” view? Wright and others are rejecting a lot of things that came up 1000-1500 years after Christ and are actually trying to get to the historic (as in 1st century) view by actually reading the extra biblical literature of how the Jews understood their own faith, rather than reading Paul through the lens of what the Reformers and others interpreted the Old Testament to mean and what implications that has on how you read Paul.

    I am curious how you would back up the statement that Wright is about works righteousness. I would be stunned to read that in Wright’s own words because Wright has said exactly the opposite on multiple occasions. Here are some examples,

    “Many people, including many supposedly ‘Pauline’ Christians, would say, off the cuff that at the heart of Paul’s teaching is ‘justification by faith’. What many such people understand as the meaning of this phrase is something like this. People are always trying to pull themselves up by their own moral bootstraps. They truth to save themselves by their own efforts; to make themselves good enough for God, or for heaven. This doesn’t work; one can only be saved by the sheer unmerited grace of God, appropriated not by good works but by faith. This account of justification owes a good deal both to the controversy between Pelagius and Augustine in the early fifth century and to that between Erasmus and Luther in the early sixteenth century.

    In the present chapter I shall suggest that this popular view of ‘justification by faith’, though not entirely misleading, does not do justice to the richness and precision of Paul’s doctrine, and indeed distorts it at various points. I shall then suggest a more appropriate way of connecting Paul’s ‘gospel’…and the full Pauline meaning of ‘justification’. Briefly and baldly put, if you start with the popular view of justification, you may actually lose sight of the heart of the Pauline gospel; whereas if you start with the Pauline gospel [laid out in chapter 3] itself you will get justification in all its glory thrown in as well.” – Wright, What Saint Paul Really Said, 113-114

    That is an excellent book and one that I would highly recommend you read if you haven’t already.

    “In his pre-Christian belief, Israel’s God was indeed going to act one day to restore all things and to rescue his people, and the people who would inherit the ‘age to come’ would be marked out in the present by their possession of, and keeping of, Torah. That, as I have argued elsewhere, is substantially what Paul the Apostle looks back on as ‘justification by works’: the marking out in the present, by Torah, of those who would be vindicated in the future. But the cross and resurrection of the Messiah, and the transforming gift of the spirit, launching the creator’s new world, and new humanity in advance of the final ‘end’, indicated to Paul that there was a radical problem with this way of looking at things – the same radical problem, indeed, that we have seen all along, namely sin and death. If the Messiah’s death and resurrection really did unveil the age-old plan of the covenant God, revealing in action his world-restoring faithfulness and justice, that ‘justification by works’ was ruled out.” – Paul and the Faithfulness of God p 760

    Just some quotes to consider as you shape your own views on these things. I hope that is helpful brother.

    • Matt, you and I are not going to agree on this anytime soon it seems. I simply disagree with Wright’s idea of what justification is and what it means to individuals. I believe sinners are justified freely (and completely) based wholly upon the finished work of Jesus alone. Present justification includes future justification just as certainly as one who now has eternal life will have it in the future. Below is a quote from Piper from his book The Future of Justification with which I agree.

      “. . . there is a misleading ambiguity in Wright’s statement that we are saved not by believing in justification by faith but by believing in Jesus’ death and resurrection. The ambiguity is that it leaves undefined what we believe in Jesus’ death and resurrection for. It is not saving faith to believe in Jesus merely for prosperity or health or a better marriage. In Wright’s passion to liberate the gospel from mere individualism and to make it historical and global, he leaves it vague for individual sinners.
      Piper also says, “Believe the gospel of Jesus’ death and resurrection” has no content that is yet clearly good news. Not until the gospel preacher tells the listener what Jesus offers him personally and freely does this proclamation have the quality of good news. My point here has simply been that from Acts 13:39 it is evident that one way Paul preached the gospel was by saying, “By him [namely, Jesus] everyone who believes is justified from everything from which you could not be justified by the law of Moses.” Of course, it is Jesus who saves, not the doctrine. And so our faith rests decisively on Jesus. But the doctrine tells us what sort of Jesus we are resting on and what we are resting on him for. Without this, the word Jesus has no content that could be good news. . . .
      If the gospel has no answer for this sinner, the mere facts of the death and resurrection of Jesus are not good news. But if the gospel has an answer, it would have to be a message about how the rebel against God can be saved—indeed, how he can be right with God and become part of the covenant people. I do not think Wright needs to marginalize these essential and glorious aspects of the gospel in order to strengthen his case that the gospel has larger global implications.” (pp. 86-89)


      • I am not really certain why you are not just quoting Wright himself. Piper? You are aware he us a Calvinist. I would live to see you dialog with Wright’s work rather than talk around it. Can you at least respond to the quotes I gave you and whether or not you hold to your position that Wright believes in works righteousness?

      • OK, here are some quotes from N T Wright:

        “Paul has . . . spoken in Romans 2 about the final justification of God’s people on the basis of their whole life.” -Paul in Fresh Perspective, p. 121

        “Present justification declares, on the basis of faith, what future justification will affirm publicly (according to [Rom.] 2:14–16 and 8:9–11) on the basis of the entire life.” -What Saint Paul Really Said, p. 129

        “This declaration, this vindication, occurs twice. It occurs in the future, as we have seen, on the basis of the entire life a person has led in the power of the Spirit—that is, it occurs on the basis of ‘works’ in Paul’s redefined sense.” -“New Perspectives on Paul,” 260

        Every time he says it I disagree. I’m not angry with him or you, I simply disagree.

        I understand that Wright’s views find more favor with people from traditions weighted heavily by the idea that final salvation is a cooperative effort by man and God, a view I also disagree with.

        You are a big fan of Wright and defend him. Great! I disagree but respectfully so and with Christian charity.


      • Royce,

        If you don’t mind, I would like to supply the context of those quotes because they are stripped out of context and miss the whole point of what Wright was saying. I also think it is important to quote Wright rather than quote Piper quoting Wright, which is what it seems to me has happened here. So if you don’t mind, I would like to send you the context of all three of those quotes so that you can see what Wright is actually saying here rather than relying on Piper’s interpretation of Wright to color your view of Wright’s position.

      • As I have told you once already, that’s fine.

        If it’s that important to you just send whatever you want and I’ll OK it. I’m pretty sure it’s a bigger deal to you than anyone else.


  4. I’ve been struggling with whether I’m saved or not. I don’t remember my thoughts from 35 years ago when I was baptized. I have wondered for the past few months if I was baptized as a “work” for which I thought God would owe me heaven or as an acceptance of and trust in the forgiveness offered by God through the blood of Christ.

    • What matters most in my view is this. Are you today trusting in Christ the best you know how? I know many people who were baptized two or more times because they expected that event to give them something only Christ can give. If you have all your trust in Jesus Christ you can stop your worry.

  5. Quote #1 (from Paul in Fresh Perspective, 121).

    “Paul has already spoken in Romans 2 about the final justification of God’s people, on the basis of their whole life. This will take place at the end, when God judges the secrets of all hearts through the Messiah. The point of justification by faith is that, as he insists in 3:26, it takes place in the present time as opposed to on the last day It has to do with the questions, ‘Who now belongs to God’s people?’ and ‘How can you tell?’ The answer is: all who believe in the gospel belong and that is the only way you can tell – not by who their parents were or how well they have obeyed the Torah…or whether they have been circumcised. Justification, for Paul, is a subset of election, that is, it belongs as part of his doctrine of the people of God.

    And of course, this does not mean, despite the many efforts to push the conclusion this way, that it has nothing to do with sinners being saved from sin and death by the love and grace of God. The point of election always was that humans were sinful, that the world was lapsing back into chaos, and that God was going to mount a rescue operation. That is what the covenant was designed to do, and that is why ‘belonging to the covenant’ means, among other things, ‘forgiven sinner.’ The point is that the word justification does not itself denote a process whereby, or the events in which, a person is brought by grace from unbelief; idolatry and sin into faith, true worship and renewal of life. Paul,clearly and unambiguously, uses a different word for that, the word ‘call’. The word justification, despite centuries of Christian misuse, is used by Paul to denote that which happens immediately after call: ‘those called he also justified (Rom 8:30). In other words, those who hear the Gospel and respond to it in faith are then declared by God to be his people, his elect…they are given the status dikaios, righteous, within the covenant.” – 121-122

    So is N.T. Wright correct? He is basing this on Romans 2:5-9 which says,

    “5 But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed. 6 God “will repay each person according to what they have done.”[a] 7 To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. 8 But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger. 9 There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile; 10 but glory, honor and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. 11 For God does not show favoritism.”

  6. I think this is what is happening here is that Wright is calling certain parts of what has traditionally been called “justification” and saying that isn’t what Paul says justification is about…instead Paul puts those parts under “calling”. Then people get all bent out of shape that Wright doesn’t teach certain things that are plain in the Bible when he actually does…he just thinks Paul thought of certain things we have traditionally put under justification under calling. So you and Wright agree more than you think you do. You just have to read what Wright is actually saying. Often you have to read a few hundred pages to sort out what he is doing.

  7. Second quote you had above was this

    ““Present justification declares, on the basis of faith, what future justification will affirm publicly (according to [Rom.] 2:14–16 and 8:9–11) on the basis of the entire life.” -What Saint Paul Really Said, p. 129”

    Here it is in context,

    [Wright quotes Romans 3:21-31] then writes,

    “This paragraph tends to be read either as though it simply expounded a law-court scheme of justification, with the bits about Jews and Gentiles as essentially an aside, or as though it were really all about the inclusion of Gentiles within the people of God, with the law-court material as a side-issue. Either way, the obviously covenantal material in verses 24-26, which we studied in the previous chapter, is regularly dismissed…

    To approach this passage as I have done, however, sets up a context in which these false distinctions can be avoided. The passage is all about the covenant, membership in which is now thrown open t Jew and Gentile alike; therefore it is all about God’s dealing with sin in the cross and resurrection of Jesus, because that was what the covenant was intended to do in teh first place. The law court takes its proper place as the metaphorical means through which the covenant purposes of God are fulfilled. Once we fully grasp the nature of Pauline covenant theology, the fears that some have expressed, that a ‘covenantal’ reading of Paul will do away with a proper theology of sin and the cross, are shown to be groundless. The purpose of the covenant, which was to deal with the sin of the world, has been accomplished in the cross of Jesus Christ the Lord.

    ‘Where then in the boasting?’ asks Paul in 3:27. ‘It is excluded!’ This ‘boasting’ which is excluded is not the boasting of the successful moralist; it is the racial boast of the Jew, as in 2:17-24. If this is not so, 3:29 (‘Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not of Gentiles also?’) is a non-sequitur. Paul has no thought in this passage of warding off a proto-Pelagianism, of which in any case his contemporaries were not guilty. He is here, as in Galatians and Philippians, declaring that there is no road into covenant membership on the grounds of Jewish racial privilege.

    Within this context, ‘justification’ as seen in 3:24-26 means that those who believe in Jesus Christ are declared to be members of the true covenant family; which of course means that their sins are forgiven, since that was the purpose of the covenant. They are given the status of being ‘righteous’ in the metaphorical law court. When this is cashed out in terms of the underlying covenantal theme, it means that they are declared, in the present, to be what they will be seen to be in the future, namely the true people of God. Present justification declares on the basis of faith, what future justification will affirm publicly (according to 2:14-16 and 8:9-11) on the basis of the entire life. And in making declaration (3:26), God himself is in the right, that he has been faithful to the covenant; he has dealt with sin and uphold the helpless; and in the crucified Christ he has done so impartially. The gospel – not ‘justification by faith’, but the message about Jesus – thus reveals the righteousness, that is, the covenant faithfulness of God.” (p.128-129)

    Wright is saying that Christ does justify in the present as he fulfills his covenant promises through his death and resurrection to forgive us of our sins. Nothing objectionable there. You can see that Piper pretty much ignored the context here about present justification and left Wright out to dry as if Wright only believes we are justified at the end.

  8. Royce,

    I will readily admit that I myself have not read any works on the New Perspective, either Wright or Piper. But I am aware of the debate and I have tried to discover at least some background on the debate. I have read some other N.T. Wright.

    Your conclusion that the New Perspective and N.T. Wright are embracing a form of works based righteousness is not how I have understood Wright or the New Perspective.

    Royce and Matt,

    On the same day Royce posted this entry, Jay Guin began his series reviewing Wright’s new two volume work on Paul and the faithfulness of God. I left a similar comment on that post. Perhaps this discussion can be fleshed out more fully as a series in New Wineskins. It would be interesting to see some discussion on this topic and how we in the restoration movement make sense of it and understand it. It might be helpful for those of us who have a surface level familiarity with the New Perspective but who don’t really have time to get into it.


  9. A few observations….

    I have a disagreement with N.T. Wright concerning his explanation of the biblical doctrine of “justification”. He understands if to be more about eschatology than soteriology. I simply disagree. There is more, but this is enough to make my point.

    In a forum on Facebook, when I failed to jump on the Wright bandwagon it was if I had blasphemed. Many were sure that if I had only read all of Wright’s books and heard all of his lectures I would certainly agree with everything he has said, so I only disagreed because I am ignorant.

    John Piper is not the only human (other than me) to disagree with some of Wright’s conclusions. He is however the most outspoken critic, even writing a book saying how he disagrees.To his credit, how many authors do you know who were thoughtful enough to submit the manuscript of a coming book to the one being criticized because they wanted to represent that person’s views honestly and fairly? John Piper, while disagreeing strongly, has been extremely gracious and kind in his written remarks and while speaking of N.T. Wright personally. And, to be fair, Wright has responded in like

    By his own admission Wright disagrees with most of the New Perspective writers before him and with about 100% of the Christian thinkers and writers for the past 1500
    or so years. He has made himself an island of truth in the vast sea of New Testament theology.

    That old out-dated and wrong gospel that changed my life forever well over 50 years ago is still holding out hope to the hopeless and giving eternal help to the helpless. So
    allow me to wallow in the bliss of my ignorance please. It makes me happy.

  10. I really enjoy reading Wright and Piper. The problem I have with both of them is Calvinism (more with Piper than Wright but still both of them to some degree). I also have a hard time reading Piper when he seems to have a man-crush on Reform movement heroes of the past and just can’t go a paragraph without citing them like they were on level with scripture (not saying he believes that…just saying it sounds like that some times). We certainly don’t need to idolize either of them or think anyone is anathema because they disagree with a particular human being.

    What got me to jump in was it seemed Wright was being mis-characterized here and continues to be in your last comment…As far as the old time Gospel is concerned, I haven’t ever read anything in Wright that disagrees with it. He believes Jesus is Lord. He believes salvation is a free gift of grace. He believes salvation comes by faith, not by works. He believes that sin is lethal and that Jesus’ brought salvation through the cross and empty tomb. Just saying justification has a present and future/final component does nothing to disagree with the old time gospel that I am aware of.

      • I apologize. Shouldn’t have said that. Piper is at his best talking scripture. I just get frustrated with him when he mentions Edwards over and over again like he is Gospel. Probably the same way you feel when you hear people talk about Wright 🙂

      • Royce,

        Just a note to apologize for my slowness in responding to you. I’m not ignoring or disrespecting you. Rather, I’m dealing with a set back regarding my surgery recovery, am taking a load of antibiotics, and find myself badly nauseated and in pain. (This too shall pass.)

        I’ve been trying to write here and in other places, and it’s just not in me. I have to rewrite everything 10 times, and even then, I’m not very coherent. But I’ll surely get better and rejoin the discussion.

        Again, my apologies.

  11. Royce, Matt, and Brian,

    If I follow Royce correctly (and I may not), he appears to be contrasting Wright (who is not a Calvinist) with the Calvinist view of the perseverance of the saints (POTS). He also accuses Wright of works salvation, but this is an accusation made routinely by Calvinists against anyone who rejects POTS.

    However, I’m truly lost as to what this has to do with Moser, whom I do not understanding to advocate POTS.

    If Royce’s logic is that the only way to avoid a works salvation is to accept POTS, then I guess a whole lot of us must appear to teach a works salvation — including the author of Hebrews (and Paul, in my view).

    I’m about halfway through Wright’s Paul and the Faithfulness of God, and he clearly teaches that Paul’s references to “law” are generally references to the Torah, although at times ironically (“the law of Christ”, “the law of the Spirit of life”).


    Piper has not been an unfair critic of Wright, but anyone who insists on reading through a Calvinistic lens will disagree with Wright, as Wright refuses to get drawn into 16th Century theological disputes and instead diligently tries to re-read Paul afresh as he would have been read in the First Century. And to do that, we have to drop our Calvinism, Arminianism, Moser-ism, and any other -isms newer than about 50 AD.

    Two excellent introductions to Wright’s views on Paul would be Justification and What St. Paul Really Said. Justification was written in response to Piper’s criticism of Wright. I’ve not read Piper’s criticism of Wright, but I’ve read a lot of Piper — and I think he’s great pastorally but I find his theology poorly reasoned.

    I’m not a Calvinist but I do not disrespect that point of view or those who hold it — so long as they’ll not damn me for my views. I don’t think for a minute that Calvinism damns (despite being, in my view, error) but it deeply concerns me when I hear Calvinists accuse those who disagree of preaching another gospel and being damned, as though the “gospel” is POTS or double predestination or whatever — truly making a human inference into a salvation issue.

    There are those in the Calvinist camp who would go so far as to equate TULIP with “gospel” and so damn all non-Calvinists — Wright, Moser, and all — as teaching another gospel because it’s not salvation by faith unless we accept POTS. I disagree. I see no reason for Arminians to damn Calvinists — or vice versa — and pray for the day that we can discuss such topics viewing one another as brothers in Christ.

    • Wow, I hardly know where to begin. First Jay, not one time ever have I put forth or defended the doctrine of Perseverance of the saints. I do believe in the promises of God and the perseverance of the Holy Spirit. If I can’t trust God’s clear promise that the gift of the Holy Spirit is the guarantee that in the future even my body will be saved and I’ll share in the promised inheritance with Christ and my siblings, then why should I believe other promises? Either God’s guarantee is good or it isn’t to be trusted.

      If I’m wrong about Wright I apologize in advance. Today, I disagree with his redefinition of justification. The idea that for some 1500 years theologians and preachers have all been wrong about what Paul preached until brother Wright came along to set us straight doesn’t sit well with me. Yesterday morning I shared with a small group a devotional from Isaiah 53. Those words sounded very similar to Paul’s teaching. My plan is to share that story with those God puts in my path. Christ was without sin yet was punished, “crushed” for sinners, and by that man many are accounted righteous.

      Interestingly, in those dark years while Christians groped in ignorance about what Paul really said, God continued to save hundreds of millions of people all across the world after they heard the flawed version of the gospel of grace.

      I must go to work now, not enough time to say more…. BTW, I love and respect you men very much.

  12. The fact is the new perspective is much more historic than Luther’s. The new perspective is the perspective of the first 3 centuries of the church, the pre-Augustine perspective. And there is nothing legalistic or works salvation about it. Its based on the view that the gospel actually changes lives rather than that we are born totally depraved and stay that way after being saved, which is the view of Augustine and later Luther and Calvin. When they say justification by faith alone or grace alone or any number of such slogans, all they really mean is justification without the gospel having any power to morally transform. Paul himself teaches that we (Christians, he doesn’t write epistles to pagans) will all stand before the judgement seat of Christ to be judged on what we have done. Not on perfect church attendance and other such works that some indeed do make into a sort of I don’t even know what to call it. But the idea in Paul clearly is about morality. Paul also teaches that we must work out our own salvation (Phil 2:12) not because we can do it all alone but because God is working in us (Phil 2:13). The Calvinist/Augustinian/Lutheran message is that you can’t work out your own salvation because God is NOT working in you. Any kind of work is all of you to them because they deny that God ever works in us. God either does it all, or we do it all, to hear them tell it. They reject and categorically deny Phil 2:13 that as we work out our salvation God is working in us. They pretend that Paul saying “God worketh in you” means God does it all himself alone and therefore we should sit on the eazy chair and do nothing. But quite the contrary, Paul uses this assurance that God is working in us to spur us to action, not to make us rest in a lazy faith alone. And this is where they go wrong. By faith and not by works to Paul does not mean anything like the faith alone of Protestantism at all. It means something more like what the church of the first three centuries taught and what Pelagius was trying to teach although Augustine refused to understand and then ran him through the mud. Read Pelagius’ commentary on Romans, available on Amazon.com, and you will see he didn’t teach what he was accused of, and that his interpretation of Paul fits with what Paul says better than Augustine’s nonsense interpretation that we have no freewill and cannot believe until zapped by grace. Pelagius taught grace, but grace to him meant something active in the Christian life day to day, not some magic zapping at the beginning that enabled belief.

    • You are so far out in left field I was reluctant to post your comment or reply. Your characterization of the Calvinist position is shockingly untrue.

      • My “characterization” of Calvinism is spot on….but all you Calvinists know how to do is constantly bemoan that nobody properly understands your false doctrine but the so-called elect. So go ahead and bemoan all you want. Not like I haven’t heard it a million times from a million other omniscient Calvinists who know everything.

      • Davidbrainerd2, why don’t you do some study and learn what Calvinists actually believe rather than spout of untruths concocted by people who don’t know what they are talking about? I suggest John Piper, Matt Chandler, or David Platt.

        Since you major on generalities it might shock you to know that I am not a Calvinist and have never claimed to be one. I do try to study the Bible and not skip over passages that don’t prop up my presuppositions. Maybe you should too.


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