New Calvinism is Biblical Counselling
Both new calvinism and Biblical Counselling were developed into what they are today from their combined beginnings in the 1970s at Westminster Theological Seminary (USA). One is not separate from the other; each one is an integral part of the other. From the same fusion of Seventh Day Adventist and calvinist beliefs at Westminster in the 1970s came both nouthetic counselling and Sonship Theology in the 1980s. Both were founded upon the same teachings and each one cannot exist without the other. From nouthetic counselling came Biblical Counselling and from Sonship Theology came new calvinism. And, today, new calvinism is Biblical Counselling.
New calvinism is traditional calvinism with the Seventh Day Adventist (SDA) doctrine of ongoing or daily justification added. The following from SDA sources demonstrate this.
In this regard justification and judgment should be conceived as integral elements of the ongoing movement of salvation-history.
“Seventh Day Adventists Believe …..”
Daily Justification. All believers who are living the Spirit-filled sanctified life (Christ-possessed) have a continuing need for daily justification (Christ-bestowed). We need this because of conscious transgressions and because of errors we may commit unwillingly. Realizing the sinfulness of the human heart, David requested forgiveness for his “hidden faults” (Ps. 19:12, RSV; cf. Jer. 17:9). Speaking specifically of the sins of believers, God assures us that “if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (1 John 2:1).
Also see The Seventh Day Adventist Connection to New Calvinism
Even Luther taught that justification was ongoing: On no condition is sin a passing phase, but we are justified daily by the unmerited forgiveness of sins and by the justification of God’s mercy. Sin remains, then, perpetually in this life, until the hour of the last judgment comes and then at last we shall be made perfectly righteous. (Luther’s Works Vol.34, p.167.)
Daily we sin, daily we are continually justified, just as a doctor is forced to heal sickness day by day until it is cured. (Luther’s Works Vol.34, p.191.)
Calvin appeared to vacillate on this matter somewhat, but did say, “Christ cannot be divided into parts, so the two things, justification and sanctification, which we perceive to be united together in him, are inseparable.” (Institutes Bk 3 Ch 11 Section 6)
Traditional calvinism generally assumes a once-off justification at regeneration, and that if you fell significantly into sin, it demonstrated that you weren’t actually one of God’s elect after all. If you were one of God’s elect, then you would not have fallen into significant sin. Significant sin then meant the likelihood of being removed from a calvinist church membership as not being qualified (that is, not demonstrating that you were one of the elect).
But mega-churches don’t get built quickly (if at all!) when chronic or serious sinners have to be removed from church membership lists. Having a doctrine that permits sinners to remain in membership is a bonus, especially if you are thinking of the bottom line on the church’s bank statement! So today we have new calvinism that permits the sinner to remain as one of God’s elect, subject to God’s grace being sufficient to overcome your sin. New calvinism teaches that if God, by grace, gives you the gift of repentance, then you are one of his elect. (Of course, if you’re not one of God’s elect, then you won’t repent, according to new calvinist theology. The calvinist God’s grace will not be made available to you!) No longer is there one major sin strike and you’re out!
New calvinism (Sonship Theology) basically says that if you are one of God’s children (sons), then no matter how much you fall into sin, God will always grant you sufficient grace to repent and be restored to righteousness. (That’s why so many new calvinist churches are called Grace churches!) One of God’s elect cannot commit any sin that would cause them to lose their salvation. If God by his grace grants you repentance for your sin, then you are still considered his child. (The new calvinist God wouldn’t grant repentance to any non-elect!) No sin can ever cause you to lose your salvation! If a sin did lose you your salvation, then you weren’t one of God’s elect in the first place. This is new calvinism in a nutshell. A big danger is that it can introduce perfection in holiness teachings. That is, you can sin as much as you wish, but repenting all the time, and you remain one of God’s elect; sin cannot seperate you from a holy God!
With new calvinism you could repent and be restored back into church fellowship again, because that repentance showed that God had indeed been gracious toward you in permitting you to want to repent. If you weren’t one of God’s elect, then God wouldn’t give you any grace and therefore you wouldn’t want to repent. A lack of repentance would demonstrate the lack of God’s grace in your life and therefore you could not be accepted as one of God’s elect. Only one of God’s elect would be granted repentance by the grace of God. This is the theology of new calvinism: that you only have to repent, confess and renounce your sin and everything is OK again.
New calvinism teaches that you have to be restored daily to justification (some prefer the term “righteousness” but mean “justification”) with God (as per that SDA connection) in order to demonstrate your perseverance in the faith as God’s elect. But unlike SDA doctrine, it also teaches that the responsibility for this perseverance rests upon God, not man. If you are one of God’s elect, he will provide ongoing repentance and restoration, ensuring that your justification as one of God’s elect will not be compromised by anything you can do. So, if we sin daily, God restores us daily by giving us repentance daily. Because the new calvinist elect cannot lose his salvation no matter what sin he commits (because God’s elect are supposedly prevented by God from committing anything that would lose them their elect status) then they remain justified until the end. The new calvinist elect of God cannot lose his salvation ever, no matter what your sin. Technically he cannot ever be unjustified!
Thus, the new calvinists teach that no matter what sin you might commit, you are effectively justified from every sin on an ongoing basis; such justification maintains the righteousness of the elect before holy God. The Gospel Coalition (of new calvinist leaders) sometimes states that it believes in a once-off justification, yet the following from their 2011 National Conference states otherwise.
As we sin daily, so he justifies daily, and we must daily go to him for it. Justification is an ever-running fountain, and therefore we cannot look to have all the water at once.
(Quoted from puritan William Fenner, by Ray Ortlund, Renewal Ministries, www.ortlund.net, The Gospel Coalition National Conference, 13 April 2011. Ortlund’s website states that he is a Council member with The Gospel Coalition.)
It is reasonable to assume that the Gospel Coalition believes in both a once-off justification when born again, and an ongoing justification (by God) to maintain our righteous status before a holy God.
Even the reformed writer John Murray says (in “Law and Grace”) apparently in support of an ongoing need to maintain our justification with God by persevering in holiness:
Law not only enunciates justice; it guards justice. It ensures that where there is righteousness to the full extent of its demand there will be the corresponding justification and life. ……
He (Paul) lists for us a catalogue of sins, thereby illustrating the unrighteousness which excludes from the kingdom of God—fornication, idolatry, adultery, effeminacy, sodomy, thievery, covetousness, drunkenness, reviling, extortion (I Corinthians 6:9, 10). His intent is to illustrate the character and conduct which identify those who have no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God (cf. verse 10), and he is saying in effect: ‘You believers have been washed and sanctified and justified, and you cannot play fast and loose with any wrongdoing; as heirs of the kingdom of God you must behave accordingly; you must appreciate the antithesis between the kingdom of God amid the world’. ……
It is one of the most perilous distortions of the doctrine of grace, and one that has carried with it the saddest records of moral and spiritual disaster, to assume that past privileges, however high they may be, guarantee the security of men irrespective of perseverance in faith and holiness.
So, whether you call it ongoing justification or ongoing righteousness, new calvinist teaching still comes down to the same thing: that sin should identify us as not being one of God’s elect, and therefore we should maintain our “cleanness” from sin to maintain our perceived position as one of God’s elect. New calvinism also teaches that if you are one of God’s elect, God will ensure that whenever you sin (no matter how badly), he will take responsibility for guaranteeing that your state of justification (or righteousness) is maintained (by his grace) until the end.
But how do churches actually implement this theology? It’s all very well to teach that we must repent daily so God can justify us daily, but how is this to be carried out in real practice in the church? How do we actually go to God daily for his justification? This is where Biblical Counselling comes into the picture. Biblical Counselling is the practical framework that puts the new calvinist theology into action. New calvinism (Sonship Theology) is the theoretical side of this theology, but Biblical Counselling is the actual practical application of this theology. In other words, new calvinism is Biblical Counselling, and Biblical Counselling is new calvinism. If you are a new calvinist church, you’ll need Biblical Counselling to implement your theology. If you have Biblical Counselling in action, then you are already implementing new calvinism. One implies the other; you cannot have one without the other!
Biblical Counselling assumes that you will sin, and when you do sin, you will confess it to your counsellor, who will counsel you back to restoration in the church. Catholic doctrine also teaches an ongoing need to repent and be forgiven through the confessional. If a catholic dies unjustified (because of unconfessed sin), then he can’t be justified and can’t be saved. (Purgatory is their back door to salvation!)
Both Biblical Counselling and the catholic confessional require that the church (via its representative – Biblical Counsellor or father confessor) be the adjudicator for the administering of forgiveness. It is the church in both cases that determines whether a person is sufficiently penitent to enable restoration back into the church fold again. In this way the church retains control over who may be restored (by God’s grace), and thus the church becomes the administrator of the grace of God. By this means the church may define what is acceptable via its acceptance or otherwise of a person’s repentance. And the church may also define who is and who isn’t of the elect of God, based upon their views of the person’s repentance and restoration.
The new calvinist church (through the Biblical Counsellor) therefore has some measure of control over what it is prepared to define as sin. That is, the church member toes the line according to the requirements of the church or else he is to be disciplined by the church for not conforming to Biblical Counselling recommendations. He may even be declared non-elect (effectively non-Christian!) and dismissed from church membership. In this way the theology of new calvinism may be reinforced. Biblical Counselling is effectively a means by which the church may define who is elect of God, and by which means they may reject as non-elect those who do not conform to the discipline of the church. New calvinism is Biblical Counselling and Biblical Counselling is new calvinism! Beware of this pernicious evil ever gaining a foothold in your church!
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