Why Complementarianism Can’t Be a “Gospel” Issue

For those who have not been following this discussion, here is a quick rundown as a preface to my point.

On August 16, 2012 Denny Burk posted a Gospel Coalition video on his blog in which he noted that Tim Keller suggested that complementarian account of male-female relations is “‘indirectly’ a gospel issue.” Carl Trueman replied at Ref21 by raising questions. He has two concerns. First, that the Gospel Coalition isn’t a church and it is the church that has been commissioned to preserve the truth:

For the full range of Christian truth to be preserved, one needs not only a commitment to orthodox doctrine but also a biblical structure for its maintenance and preservation.

Second,

if complementarianism is a gospel issue, then I think one is really saying that it is a matter which touches directly on the credibility or coherence of a simple profession of faith by an ordinary believer and one should act consistent with that view.

Anthony Bradley and Justin Taylor have been trading tweets about this and Justin points us to a post by Lydia McGrew who writes:

Perhaps Trueman would have less rhetorical purchase if TGC had some other name. As things are, the issue keeps being framed as “Is complementarianism a Gospel issue?” Now, any philosopher will cry, “Distinguo!” at this point. It should go without saying that it depends on how one defines “gospel.” Was abolition a gospel issue? Is abortion? What about wife-beating? One could make an argument that they are “gospel issues” on one definition, and one can easily imagine legitimate non-church Christian organizations that come together around those issues in cultures where the issues are current and relevant. If anything, one could argue that complementarianism is more intimately bound up than those issues are with the church’s own faithfulness to God’s plan for its own activities. It would be impossible in this day and age for any parachurch organization to convey a broad vision of church ministry without addressing the issue of women’s ordination. And it is entirely understandable that an organization that exists to help churches : “[reform their] ministry practices to conform fully to the Scriptures” and that opposes “theological and moral relativism,” as TGC’s “about” statement says, should end up addressing the effects of egalitarianism/feminism in both the church and the home.

Definitions and Problems

Let’s define our terms briefly. Complementarianism is an account of male-female relations , which, as the name suggests, stresses the complementary roles that males and females have in creation and redemption. It stands in contrast to egalitarianism, which seems to wipe out differences inherent to creation and divine intention. It also stands in contrast to patriarchal views, which tend to view male-female relations hierarchically.

Here’s a brief discussion from the old Heidelcast (Are there limits to male headship?). Watch the TGC video for yourself here.

The other term to be defined in this discussion is “gospel issue.” This is not an expression that occurs in the Reformed confessions nor is it a term that occurs much (to my knowledge) in the Reformed tradition.

An (online) search for a definition of “gospel issue” suggests both the difficulty of defining it and the problem with making complementarianism a “gospel issue.” The first result of the search was Denny Burk’s post. The second, however, was a post explaining how “The Gay Movement is a Gospel Issue.” According to Bay Area First Baptist, “Life is a Gospel Issue.” According to Russell Moore, a Southern Baptist theologian, “Racial Justice is a Gospel Issue.” According to Wesleyan theologian, Kevin Scott, “Care of Creation” is a “gospel issue.”

We all know that words are, in large measure, defined by their use. From its use we can infer that a “gospel issue” is one that is essential to a right understanding and practice of the Christian life for those who believe the gospel. If this is what the expression means then, for confessional Protestants, the expression itself is inherently problematic. It seems that the expression “gospel issue” is a rhetorical move to lend urgency, moral, and spiritual significance to a given point of view. Perhaps Keller and Burk mean to imply that there is a logical connection between complementarianism and the gospel but teasing out that connection would be a job (see below).

Distinguo (I Distinguish)

I agree partly with Lydia McGrew. We do need to make a very important distinction. Complementarianism, homosexuality, racial justice, and ecology, are matters of Christian ethics, sanctification, i.e., matters of the Christian life and that makes them significant but to call any of them a “gospel issue” runs the risk of confusing two vitally important but quite distinct elements of the Christian faith: law and gospel.

As used by Scripture, gospel typically refers to the announcement of the Good News that Jesus has been raised from the dead as a vindication of his righteousness and for the justification of sinners. It also refers to Jesus’ return and it is sometimes used in a broad sense of the message of sin and salvation. Almost without exception, the NT usage of gospel refers to the objective accomplishment of redemption for us in Christ. In the expression “gospel issue” as it is being used in the various discussions above there seems to be virtually no reference to the objective accomplishment of redemption for us but rather the focus seems to be upon the application of redemption to us and particularly to the doctrine of sanctification.

In Scripture there are gospel issues. Paul confronted the Galatians and the Apostle Peter himself over a “gospel issue.” There were Judaizers who had infiltrated the Galatian congregation, who were preaching a message of acceptance with God through faith in Christ and sanctification (as they defined it). As a consequence, there was division in the congregation between Jew and Gentile and the Apostle Peter would not sit at table with Gentiles. Paul seems to have regarded Peter’s behavior as a gospel issue (See Galatians 1-2). After Paul called him out, however, Peter repented and arguably articulated his now corrected view at the Jerusalem Synod (Acts 15).

The second great difficulty with making complementarianism a “gospel issue” is that, as we’ve seen, there can be no end of the list of “gospel issues.” My results came from one page. Who knows how many other “gospel issues” there may be? Potentially there are as many “gospel issues” as there are significant questions in the Christian life.

Complementarianism cannot be a gospel issue, not because it is not true or important. It seems to be a more biblical approach than either egalitarianism or patriarchalism but singling out this view or the others that have been labeled as “gospel issues” seems somewhat arbitrary.

Reformed Christians have ecclesiastically sanctioned summaries of Scripture, the Reformed confessions, and they have a great deal to say about the Christian life and priorities in sanctification. We might be on firmer ground if we said that one of them, e.g., the Christian Sabbath or biblical worship a “gospel issue.” At least then there would be some ecclesiastical weight behind the claim.

Even then, however, making a particular aspect of sanctification a “gospel issue” is problematic. Is it true that someone who disagrees with the Reformed view of the Sabbath has denied or infringed upon the gospel? How many at TGC hold and teach the Reformed view of the Sabbath? How many of them hold and teach the Reformed view of worship (e.g., Westminster Confession of Faith, chapter 21)?

As passionate as I am about the Sabbath and biblical worship as defined by the Reformed churches I cannot see how we can call them “gospel” issues without unintentionally confusing the free grace of God in Christ and the moral consequences of that grace.

The gospel is the paramount issue for the Christian: Jesus Christ obeyed, died, was raised, and is ascended at the right hand of the Father. He has conquered the Evil One, sin, and hell for all those to whom he has given the grace of faith, who, by his Spirit, through faith (WSC 30) are united to him, to whom all his righteousness has been imputed, who are accepted by God as righteous. That is good news for sinners. That the Christian faith entails obligations as a matter of grateful, Spirit-wrought, obedience is not in question. What is in question, however, is the wisdom and truth of using the gospel as a way of leveraging a discussion in Christian ethics.

UPDATE 25 SEPTEMBER 15:35

Darryl Hart has a helpful postscript to this discussion. He reminds us that there are ways in which and versions of “complementarianism” that may not be amenable to Reformed and Presbyterian types. He writes:

The logic of hierarchy and patriarchy is not something that I am going to defend, myself. The little missus and I have reached a level of concord that most observers would call an egalitarian arrangement. I have no stones to through from the windows of my glass house. I do have the shield of two-kingdom theology, though, which allows me to have my cake (egalitarianism of a kind at home) and eat it too (hierarchicalism and patriarchy of a kind in the church) Read more»

 

    Post authored by:

  • R. Scott Clark
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    R.Scott Clark is the President of the Heidelberg Reformation Association, the author and editor of, and contributor to several books and the author of many articles. He has taught church history and historical theology since 1997 at Westminster Seminary California. He has also taught at Wheaton College, Reformed Theological Seminary, and Concordia University. He has hosted the Heidelblog since 2007.

    More by R. Scott Clark ›

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31 comments

  1. While agreeing in principle with Trueman and Clark a very significant point in this discussion is the question of “ministry.” Is there a connection between “the ministry” and the gospel? If so, and this would of course include the apostolic office, then the question of women in the ministry, i.e. ordained ministry, would be very significant. This is probably a subset of the issue of complementarianism, but it needs to be addressed in the larger discussion of the gospel.

    • I dunno, we’re not Donatists over here. The question of women as elders does not impinge on the validity of the gospel proclaimed: so the lady pastor in a CRC could proclaim Christ crucified and risen, and that would be the true gospel she’s preaching. By contrast, the liberal male pastor who denies the resurrection isn’t proclaiming the true gospel. So women-as-elders is not a gospel issue in that sense.

      Perhaps you might say that it’s about credibility. I can kind of see that, but: (1) credibility doesn’t quite warrant the rather strident term ‘gospel issue’; (2) what stretches credibility will vary from time to time and place to place; and (3) what stretches credibility in our culture may go against what Scripture teaches. It’s arguable, for example, that churches which refuse to ordain women may be less ‘credible’ in the eyes of secular Westerners — but that doesn’t mean we should back down!

      In all, I don’t see how ministry can be (whatever is meant by) a ‘gospel issue’.

    • Raymond,

      Surely there’s a connection between the gospel and ministry–the former comes to us via the latter but we have to construe the relation in a way that doesn’t make the ministry into the gospel. I think we agree here. Philip and Zrim have a point.

      We need to be content to let male-female relations be matters of ethics, church polity, etc. That doesn’t diminish them. I understand that there is a tendency in some circles to diminish the importance of issues by saying “It’s not a salvation issue.” That seems like a cheap way out of the problem. Problem x may or may not be a “salvation” issue but the question remains, what does the Scripture say? Agreeing that x is not a “gospel issue” or a salvation issue doesn’t release us from reading, marking, learning, and inwardly digesting (to borrow a nice phrase) the teaching of Scripture.

  2. I love Denny Burk and have a great respect for his linguistic skill in Koine. He does, however, have a fundamentalist history with regards to his background and previous employer however which leads him to Conflate Law and Gospel.

  3. Trueman seems to think inerrancy is a gospel issue and has to argue that some may be egalitarians and inerrantists. While inerrancy is surely a very important preservator of the gospel, can it be placed on the level of issues which if denied amount to denial of the gospel?

  4. Bingo, Philip. Do complementarians of the TGC variety consider that privileging gender roles in relation to gospel orthodoxy (as opposed to sacraments, as in second mark, ahem) might suggest Rome is closer to a true church than previously thought–does it get any more male-led than the RCC? If so, does that give any pause?

    But whenever the topic is raised, I also generally wonder if anybody notices how the conversation is necessarily only about sex. The Bible does demarcate what kind of males are also fit for office (and thus which are unfit). It may add classist insult to feminist injury, but might it be better to say the taxonomy is elitism v. egalitarianism?

  5. Robert,
    “Let our churches be the authority on doctrine”

    Which church? Or, which Church? I am not sure that that is the point. I think (part of) the point is that we need to be careful to avoid confusing theological, nay Biblical, issues with gospel issues. When I hear (or read) gospel issue, I assume an issue that presents a threat to the integrity of the gospel in proclamation and/or reception. Personally, I draw a serious distinction between “issues” that affect gospel witness.

    For example, male headship in marriage, to use one outworking of the complementarian position, wouldn’t affect the proclamation of the gospel or its reception, but it certainly would affect gospel witness (see Eph 5:22-32). In my view, however, gospel proclamation, while able to be weakened in principle by egalatarianism, cannot be weakened in power.

    A gospel issue, in my view, has to be an issue that strikes at the vitals of the gospel message (e.g., virgin birth, active obedience, passive obedience, penal substitionary atonement, triune nature, resurrection, etc.).

  6. What is the Gospel? I think Jeremiah Burrough’s does a bang up job defining it.

    Jeremiah Burroughs…. Gospel Conversation.

    The good tidings concerning Christ, for so the word “gospel” in the Greek signifies nothing else but the good tidings…. All mankind was lost in Adam and became the children of wrath, and was put under the sentence of death…. God has thought upon the children of men. He has provided a way of atonement to reconcile them to Himself again. Namely the Second Person in the Trinity takes man’s nature upon him and becomes the Head of a second covenant, standing charged with man’s sin, and answering for it by suffering what the Law and Divine Justice required. He made satisfaction and kept the Law perfectly, which satisfaction and righteousness He offered up unto the Father as a sweet savor of rest for the souls of those that are given to Him.

    And now this mediation of Christ is, by the appointment of the Father, preached to the children of men, of whatever nation or rank, freely offering this unto sinners for atonement for them, requiring them to believe in Him and, upon believing, promising not only a discharge of all their former sins, but that they shall never enter into condemnation, that none of their sins or unworthiness shall ever hinder the peace of God with them, but that they shall, through Him be received into the number of sons. They shall have the image of God renewed again in them, and they shall be kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation. These souls and bodies shall be raised to the height of glory that such creatures are capable of. They shall live forever, enjoying the presence of God and Christ in the fullness of all good. This is the gospel of Christ. This is the sum of the gospel that is preached unto sinners.

    Gospel Conversations pp. 4,5

    The Gospel includes more than just our justification. It also includes our sanctification and glorification. Some theologians today remove the Good News (Gospel Truth) of our Sanctification and future Glorification from the Gospel.

    • Randy,

      I agree that gospel can be used in a broad sense and in a narrow sense. If you would read some of the things I linked in the post you would see that I’ve addressed that concern.

      It would be easier to discuss things with you if you would read more carefully and react more slowly. If you want to know why I don’t spend a lot of time submitting to your demand that I answer this question and then answer that question it is because you have a pattern of not paying attention when I do write or do answer. In that case I figure, “what’s the point? Unless I say what he wants to hear/read he doesn’t pay attention anyway.”

  7. Just got on Dr. Clark. I am sorry but I read the law and gospel link above and it seems to do the same thing this blog post did. I don’t see anything that would lend the reader to understand the sum of the Gospel. I see my comment is still in moderation mode. I am pretty sure you have seen it. I will patiently await your response.

    • I will patiently wait for you to learn how to read a text according to authorial intent.

      Your job is to answer my objection to making everything (the environment etc) a “gospel issue.” If everything is a “gospel issue” then the “gospel” means “whatever I say it means” and if that’s so then it means nothing. The core sense of the word “gospel” has to refer to the announcement of the good news of Jesus’ life, death, resurrection, and ascension.

      You still haven’t addressed that basic problem except to say that I don’t understand the broad use of the word “good news” in the NT. I point you to a link (and I could point you to a more detailed article in Covenant, Justification, and Pastoral Ministry) where I accounted for the fact that Paul does use the word “gospel” more broadly and still you miss the point.

      Of course it is used more broadly but no where is it used in the NT in the sense in which it is being discussed here. Nowhere does the NT make this or that a “gospel issue.”

      You provide me with no incentive to continue discussions.

      ps. check your email.

  8. “I will patiently wait for you to learn how to read a text according to authorial intent.”

    Yes, I agree. Thanks for your patience Dr. Clark. I am trying to understand the situation. In light of your article I thought I was responding by saying I disagree with what I perceived to be a truncated view of the Gospel.

    The Gospel has a definition and that is why I referenced Jeremiah Burroughs. He is clear and concise I believe. If we take into account that Sanctification is a part of the Gospel of the Kingdom of God then the issues that are being addressed fall under the Authority and reign of Christ. That includes how we look at the issue you are discussing here. How does the King see these issues in His Mediatorial Capacity is very relevant in my estimation. How does he define it and by what Authority does he define it? According to Philippians 2 it is because of His person and work. I believe the same foundaton is spelled out in Colossians 1 and mentioned also in Philippians 3. He paid a price to that enables him to subject all things unto Himself.

    (Col 1:19) For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell,
    (Col 1:20) and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.

    (Php 3:20) But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ,
    (Php 3:21) who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.

    So I think I am trying to address your authorial intent but maybe I am still missing the point. I checked my gmail but it must be slow today. If I am missing your intent then I apologise. You seem to be the only person who has accused me of this. I haven’t had that much trouble communicating and understanding others before. I might not agree with some people but I think I have tried to read things from the persons perspective and their reason for writing or communicating. I did learn that at Indiana University when I took Communications. I did very well in the class.

    • But Randy, you’re assuming an awful lot. You’re assuming what you have to prove:

      1) That there is only ONE view of the mediatorial kingship of Christ

      2) That ONE view follows necessarily from the passages you cite

      3) That ONE view entails a certain definition of the gospel which my post transgresses.

      As it happens I’m reading an essay by David McKay, “From Popery to Principle: Covenanters and the Kingship of Christ,” in which argues that what became the “orthodox” covenanter view was originally the Romanist view and that the original construction of the mediatorial kingship of Christ distinguished the way Christ is mediatorial king over the church from the way he rules over that sphere outside the church.

      Thus, if McKay is right, your first premise is severely weakened and all the others collapse.

      You still haven’t answered MY question: if complementarianism is a “gospel issue” then how do we not make all the other things about which we care into “gospel issues” and thus lose the gospel?

  9. Let me think about your question a bit Dr. Clark. I think I have an answer but I want to do what you recommend and think about it for a bit.

    I don’t understand what you are translating to me from David McCay. Is this David McCay the Pastor I know from here in Indy?

    • I’m saying that you’re assuming a great lot and those assumptions are in doubt. If the premise of your criticism is false or in doubt maybe you should hold your fire until you’re on firmer ground.

    • Dear Randy,
      The article that Dr. Clark is referring to was published in the Dr. Wayne Spears festschrift “The Faith Once Delivered” by P&R in 2007. Dr. Spears taught church history and currently still is, although he is retired, at RPTS. I don’t know what he thinks precisely from David McKay’s (not McCay) article. I am a member of the Lafayette RPC and am of the current opinion that while the mediatorial kingship of Christ is biblical that there is much confusion within the RPCNA about what the doctrine has to say to the 21st-century post-Christendom world that we live in. While some at WSC might be wrong about precisely how to understand the Noahic Covenant, I believe that WSC might have better grasp on the Bible when it comes to the relationship between the church as a divine institution ruled by Christ as redeemer and other institutions which are ruled by Christ as their sovereign Lord.

      To see more about the Noahic Covenant differences look at The Whole Counsel of God, Volume I by Dr. Richard C. Gamble chapter 16 and compare with Dr. VanDrunen’s Living in God’s Two Kingdoms pgs. 78 – 88, or Michael Brown and Zach Keele’s book Sacred Bond chapter 4. I do think that while Dr. Gamble does account for all the biblical data in his book about the Noahic Covenant than either Dr. VanDrunen or Brown & Keele that Dr. Gamble doesn’t account for the aspect of common grace that Dr. VanDrunen and Brown & Keele write about. Recently in the RPCNA we have just started looking at this without theonomic blinders on and I don’t think the conversation is really getting off on the right foot so to speak.

  10. Nathan,
    Let’s hook up. It sounds like you are developing a postmodern philosophical basis for your understanding of things. I admit that I forgot about this conversation. I actually clicked on an H in my bookmarks bar to see where it led. I forgot about the Heidelblog post actually. I found out that Jim McMahon was Dr. McKay’s roomate in Seminary. We talked about this a bit last September. No conclusion. Jim and I are meeting tomorrow. I will show him this. Very providential that clicked on this tonight.

    Concerning your comment about WSC having a better grasp. From what I hearing you say you are making the same distinctions that George Gillespie made in Aaron’s Rod. We can discuss that. I will look you up and see if we can meet for our mutual edification.
    I will show this to Jim and find out what McKay is saying. I completely forgot about this and now that I have a tablet I can show Jim first hand.

    Contact me Nathan.
    Randy
    I am at 2nd RP in Indy. If you don’t find me first I will try and find you. Be Encouraged.

    • Dear Randy,
      I look forward to hearing the results of your lunch conversation. I do not doubt that Dr. McKay holds to the Mediatorial Kingship of Christ over the Nations and I would find it hard to believe that Dr. McKay agrees with everything – if anything – written by the faculty of WSC on this issue. The point is that Dr. McKay’s article raises a historical point that I don’t think many in the RPCNA currently acknowledge.

      Dr. McKay, in my judgement, in both his article and his address to RPTS make it clear that he is doing the research of a historical scholar and does not reach any conclusions about the modern state of the Mediatorial Kingship of Christ doctrine in light of his research. I know Dr. Hart has and clearly Dr. Clark have come to some conclusions about Dr. McKay’s paper.

      I have heard both of Dr. Richard C. Gamble’s lectures on Two Kingdom theology and have found them to be so vague that they are almost totally unhelpful. They bought more heat than light on any kind of a fruitful discussion the RPCNA might have in this dialogue.

      Dr. McKay might actually have some more helpful remarks on shaping some sort of more constructive response based on his comments in book “The Bond of Love” about and against Theonomy.

  11. Nathan, I am not sure why you are bringing up Theonomy. I am not sure I know anyone in the RPCNA who holds to Theonomy.

    What point do you believe Dr. McKay is bringing up that many in the RPCNA don’t understand. I admit that I don’t have any knowledge of the article and I would like to have.

    Jim had to cancel today. He evidently has caught something. The Flu is taking a big toll upon this area. It is pretty bad. I know two elderly people who are in the hospital right now due to it. He went to the Dr. yesterday.

    I am on my tablet right now and won’t be able to really communicate well. I will later on tonight. Can you lead me to a link or something that I can read that will help illumine me to what you are pointing to by Dr. McKay. Yes, I am familiar with Dr. Spears. Dr. Michael Lefebvre took his place here as Pastor of Christ’s Covenant Church. I also know he is working on this topic also. His Doctoral work was in Near Ancient Eastern Law.

    As a side issue this might interest you.
    http://www.puritanboard.com/f54/van-drunen-begat-helm-logical-step-neo-two-kingdoms-movement-77430/

    • Dear Randy,
      I am sorry to hear that the flu has affected your friend. It’s pretty bad all over the U.S.A. speaking broadly. My reason for bringing up Dr. McKay’s treatment of Theonomy is that Dr. McKay does a fair job of showing what Theonomists believe and then concisely refuting Theonomy by showing that it reinterprets WCF 19.4 in a way that actually denies the plain wording of any document at any time. It’s a very funny footnote to read.

      I wish that what you said about Theonomy not being a problem within both the past and present of the RPCNA was true, but I know because of both the founding pastor of the Lafayette congregation – Rev. Ray Joseph – and some more recent teaching which was by a member in congregation that was subsequently dealt with by the current session of Lafayette, that some RPCNA members and pastors have found a certain affection for Theonomy by wrongly associating it with the Mediatorial Kingship of Christ over nations.

      Be that as it may, my point in bring up Dr. McKay’s treatment of Theonomy was to say that I would think Dr. McKay in light of his historical research on the way the Covenanters have expressed the Mediatorial Kingship of Christ in the past up until now could do a better job of constructively helping the RPC figure out how to evaluate the Two Kingdoms than Dr. Gamble has in his two public lectures so far. Dr. McKay gave Theonomy a fair reading in his book, but wound up refuting it. I would be interested in see him interact with the doctrine of the Two Kingdoms because I think he would demonstrate the ability to also give it – Two Kingdoms – a fair hearing as well. I don’t know what his conclusions would be; but I think he would do a better job than Dr. Gamble has so far in his two lectures on the topic.

      The audio for Dr. McKay’s address at The Westminster Confession Into The 21st Century where he addresses his paper is available on the 2007 CD through the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. However, like Dr. Clark said just read Dr. McKay’s paper and/or listen to the address.

      Thank you, Dr. Clark for allowing Randy and me to go back and forth on this issue on your blog, because this really is quite a rabbit trail from your actual post.

  12. Dr Clark

    The historical component in your 2005 Law and Gospel link has been very useful and I now ask for your help in identifying some of the more subtle forms of ongoing encroachment (corruption) into the gospel your article warns about. I apologise it this is not the best thread for that.

    Most of the churches I am concerned about vociferously maintain justification solafide but on sanctification they might take one of the following approaches

    i. You should work at holiness (confessing when you fail) otherwise it must be doubted whether you are a true Christian
    ii. You should work at holiness out of gratitude
    iii. You will want to work at holiness out of gratitude
    iv. You are now in God’s family; the family way is to x, y, z
    v. Be what you are in Christ
    vi. Become what you are in Christ
    vii. You now want to obey the law
    viii. You ought now to want to obey the law; it is good for you as a handbook
    ix. The call to love God and your neighbour – is that so objectionable?
    x. Galatians is really about ADDITIONS to the law (smoking, dancing etc). We don’t ban those; we are more mature than the Galatians or Judaisers

    I want to avoid being or seeming an antinomian (ie that the law is no longer a standard), and I want to acknowledge that the last third of most of Paul’s letters, and of course much of Jesus’ teaching contain commands/exhortations. But at the same time I want to stand against subtle judaising (as usefully defined in your article)

    Galatians seems key. If you take it to be about justification (as these churches do), then they can answer the judaisers with solafideism but nevertheless go on to introduce a pronomianism/neonomianism within sanctification in an insidious way.

    If one takes Galatians to be about a wrong approach to living out the Christian life (ie sanctification), then Paul is saying that some of the approaches listed above are so dangerous that they could, if such were possible, lose you your salvation. (The warnings is Hebrews would be doing the same for a different audience)

    Can you kindly guide me as to which of the ‘approaches’ above might be more or less indicative of judaising?

    PS – also have you, elsewhere, commented on Phil 2 v12 and its apparent support for synergism, and in particular the correct meaning/nuance of the word ‘work out’?

  13. Sorry Nathan, I have been overly busy. Nothing unusual. Michael Cope just came down from Lafeyette and spent the evening with me. He goes to Immanuel. It would be nice to sit across the table and talk with you.

    Scott,
    I would love to read it. So I just looked it up and paid the dollar for it from here.
    http://www.reformedresources.org/alliance-events/from-popery-to-principle-covenanters-and-the-kingship-of-christ/

    You said…. And I am not sure I have the time to really delve into this but I will try…..
    You still haven’t answered MY question: if complementarianism is a “gospel issue” then how do we not make all the other things about which we care into “gospel issues” and thus lose the gospel?

    This might be irritating but I am going to ask you a question and answer it. Did not all things become subject to Christ and did not he receive all exousia based upon what he did according to Philippians 2:7-11. I am not assuming anything outside of the scripture am I? He did receive all authority and that was given to him based upon his Person and Work. Not just his person. Am I misunderstanding something here?

    • Randy

      RSC can speak for himself but I read his opening article as making it clear that ‘gospel issues’ relate to law, gospel, faith, works, justification, sanctification etc. Thus complementarianim is an important but not gospel issue, as is the environment

      Are you not both agreeing on this?

      Would you not both agree that Millennialism (Pre/Post/A) is not a gospel issue? One can rejoice that Jesus is coming again without the faintest idea or possibly interest in when and accompanied by what

      Forgive me for butting in

    • Randy,

      it is irritating because you don’t ever actually seem to read anything I write in reply or anything I’ve actually written about these issues. Of course Christ is Lord over all things. How many times have I written that on the HB? How many times have I explained that? That’s not the question. The question is HOW HE ADMINISTER’S HIS SOVEREIGN LORDSHIP.

  14. Hi Richard,

    Is this RT?

    The Gospel has to do with reconciliation. That is more than just a justification issue wouldn’t you say? It also has to do with all of life even after our regeneration per sanctification. Am I misunderstanding anything concerning that so far? We are headed toward a conversation that considers the extent of His rule. The Kingdom of God is a gospel issue, right?

    Dr. Clark,

    I admit freely that I have read very little of what you have written on the Hiedelblog. I am not a blog chaser. I fully understand that Christ is Lord over all things as you are saying just based upon his person. In ‘Aaron’s Rod Blossoming’ Gillespie noted the differences and noted that he disagreed that the extent of the Mediatorial Reign of Christ was over all but he noted that Christ was Lord over all just based upon His Person. That is on page 97 I believe.

    Does that sound correct to you? The reason why I am asking that question is because it seems like the reason for the foundations might be important. Why did God give Christ a Kingdom and what is the extent of that Kingdom? Those questions seem to be prior things that need answered first before we understand how he administers His sovereign Lordship. That is why I am making the distinctions I am making concerning Person and Work in relationship to His rule.

    Yes, I fully and slowly read your replies and comments Scott.

    • Randy,

      The blog is free. There’s a search function. There are categories on home page which allow you to see things organized by topic. I’ve even explained how to use google site search. Check it out. I’ve written a couple of books and lots of articles. There are links on the HB to bibliographies of all that stuff.

      I only know about Christ’s dominion what I read in Scripture. I don’t think it is a mystery. He is God the Son who has always ruled the nations and he is God the Son incarnate under whom the Father has placed all things. He has made the civil magistrate his minister in his providence. At Sinai he entered into a temporary, national, typological covenant with Israel. That national, temporary, typological covenant expired with the crucifixion. I think that’s the explicit teaching of WCF 19.

      1. God gave to Adam a law, as a covenant of works, by which he bound him and all his posterity to personal, entire, exact, and perpetual obedience, promised life upon the fulfilling, and threatened death upon the breach of it, and endued him with power and ability to keep it.

      2. This law, after his fall, continued to be a perfect rule of righteousness; and, as such, was delivered by God upon Mount Sinai, in ten commandments, and written in two tables: the first four commandments containing our duty towards God; and the other six, our duty to man.

      To what does “this law” refer grammatically and logically? The word “this” is a demonstrative pronoun. It has a reference. The reference is to the law that God gave to Adam, as described in 19.1 and chapter 7. What happened to that law? It was delivered on Mt Sinai. To whom? Israel.

      3. Beside this law, commonly called moral, God was pleased to give to the people of Israel, as a church under age, ceremonial laws, containing several typical ordinances, partly of worship, prefiguring Christ, his graces, actions, sufferings, and benefits; and partly, holding forth divers instructions of moral duties. All which ceremonial laws are now abrogated, under the new testament.

      What was given at Sinai was the moral law. Why this note? To make clear what was said in 19.1 and 2. The moral law was given to Adam before the fall. It was re-stated after the fall at Sinai. In addition to this was given ceremonial laws and these laws have been “abrogated.” This was part of the response to Rome, which had re-instituted the ceremonies.

      4. To them also, as a body politic, he gave sundry judicial laws, which expired together with the State of that people; not obliging any other now, further than the general equity thereof may require.

      Like the ceremonial laws, the civil laws were also temporary, unlike the moral law which is permanent in its substance. That law has “expired…with the [Israelite] state.” All that remains is general equity, which is essentially natural law.

      5. The moral law doth forever bind all, as well justified persons as others, to the obedience thereof; and that, not only in regard of the matter contained in it, but also in respect of the authority of God the Creator, who gave it. Neither doth Christ, in the gospel, any way dissolve, but much strengthen this obligation.

      Finally, the permanence of the moral law is made explicit, the denial of which is antinomianism.

      For these reasons, it’s clear that, after the crucifixion, God has entered into no covenants with any national entities. “Expired.” Thus, I agree with those who see Christ’s mediatorial kingship as referring to his dominion over his church. He is clearly Mediator of the church and of believers. He is also King and exercises his kingly dominion over other spheres, beyond the church, in his general providence. This account fits the NT and confessional witness best.

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