I am reliably informed that Professor Clark is not interested in a public debate. That is fine. He is not obligated to debate me. I was hoping to use the occasion to bring clarity and unity to the Reformed churches on these important matters.
Professor Clark’s minister, Rev. Chris Gordon, wrote a post asking me to meet John Lewis, a man who had left the following comment after one of my posts:
Dear Dr Mark Jones. Just to quote, “But, if you have a problem with Piper, I ask: do you also have a problem with literally hundreds of other Reformed theologians who have said precisely the same thing? Zanchius, Mastricht, Goodwin, Owen, Twisse, Ursinus, etc., are all wrong if Rachel Miller is right….think about that! End quote.
Well Martin Luther was one person, and he took upon the entire Roman Catholic Church. Think about that! I am no theologian, I’m a very young Christian, 70 years old, saved at the age of 61, when I came to understand the selfless act and blood sacrifice of my Lord and savior Jesus Christ, and I follow no one except Him and Him alone. It is by faith in that one act, it is by my understanding of the criminals on either side of Him, the one who acknowledged Christ and rebuked the other criminal. The one who asked Jesus to remember him, he who also deserved eternal death, and yet was spared. It is then further my understanding of 2 Thess:2-13 and I will quote John Calvin here “Thus we must contemplate the Judgments of God upon the reprobate in such a way that they may be, as it were, mirrors to us for considering his mercy towards us. For we must draw this conclusion, that it is owing solely to the singular grace of God that we do not miserably perish with them” end quote. The key wording here for me is “ the singular grace” of God. I have absolutely no gripe with John Piper at all, except to say that methinks he took something not all that difficult (to quote you) and made it quite confusing, and I’m wondering how Martin Luther would have responded? Both his article (John Piper) and your response has given me much to meditate upon. Thank you. John Lewis.
Rev. Gordon asked me, “Will you please meet John Lewis?” (Please read the comments if you read the post).
Well, actually, I have been in touch with John Lewis. And, it gives me great pleasure to say that I will be flying down to Cape Town in December and will, Lord willing, meet John personally. That is where he lives, and he is as eager as I am to meet up. I anticipate we’ll have a nice conversation. I plan to give him a couple of my books, especially Faith.Hope.Love, which tries to put these complicated matters into layman’s terms for all in the church to understand (see esp. ch. 6). I trust Rev. Gordon will acknowledge that I am doing my best to fulfill his request. I offered to fly to WSCal to debate Dr. Clark, but in Cape Town I only plan to try to work through these issues (if indeed he has any).
As for those who have watched this discussion on good works & salvation, please note that I firmly believe, with all my heart, that we are as justified as we will ever be when we first believe. We cannot ever lose our justification. When Christ returns we will enter heaven based purely on the imputed righteousness of Christ. Along the way to heaven we will do good works that God has prepared for us in advance to do. These works are not optional (Rom. 8:13), but they do not have the merit to justify us before God. They are simply the path we walk on to eternal life. I agree entirely with Zacharias Ursinus in his commentary on the Heidelberg Catechism on good works.
If anyone thinks this is objectionable, then that is their own right to think so. But, brothers, why should we not try to find unity where possible? That was my intention regarding John Piper, and I believe that we should try to find common ground where possible, not cause division when there is no need. We not only need to have a clear conscience about our theology, but also how we have understood those whom we disagree with. I pray especially that Seminary students take this to heart.
5 replies on “A Brief Wrap-Up”
Well said, brother!
Thank you for this. I appreciate very much that you plan to help Mr. Lewis, who was the heart of my concern.
Justification by faith alone. “We cannot ever lose our justification. When Christ returns we will enter heaven based purely on the imputed righteousness of Christ.” Amen! Amen! dear brother.
Yet, I hope that by seeking to not be confusing we will not be afraid to speak, preach and teach using Scriptural language. If we prefer to use confessional language over Scriptural language we are not heading in a good direction. We are not clearer because we use language that we prefer. If we can only restrict ourselves to language that we believe is clear, we are not handling Scripture rightly. We are clear when we use the language of Scripture.
Dear Dr Mark,
I appreciate your comments and the effort that you are taking to meet and help Lewis. Pastor Chris Gordon’s and your pastoral concerns for Lewis is truly commendable. I thank God for both of you. Even in my own life, my pastors’ patient teaching and admonishment have helped me tremendously in understanding and applying accurately the doctrines of the Reformed faith.
So often, I witness so much heat and antagonism in blogosphere that attacks upon brethren is couched in the name of the defense of the truth. I feel very ashamed of myself as a Reformed Christian, for I see the same tendencies within myself. As Thomas Brooks once wisely wrote, “The second remedy against this device of Satan is, To spend more time in comparing of your internal and external actions with the Rule, with the Word, by which you must be judged at last—than in comparing of yourselves with those who are worse than yourselves.”
And in my personal opinion, I sense that there might have been a misreading and misunderstanding of John Piper. To qualify my statement, I am not well-read regarding Piper’s works, nor do I support everything that Piper teaches. I have disagreements with Piper on several issues. At first, I was taken aback by Piper’s article, but when my pastor directed me to read your article, it helped to clarify some of my initial misunderstanding of Piper. Furthermore, my training in discourse analysis (I am a researcher on this issue in a local university) has warned me that there could be occasions whereby people may use the same words but have different meanings. As a result, people speak past each other. And misunderstandings arises. That is what I sense in this whole controversy, which should not have been a controversy in the first place.
In view of the heat and antagonisms on blogosphere, if we claim that truly we are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, and that good works are evidence of a true and lively faith, then surely we would want to follow the ninth commandment out of love and gratitude, and not to merit our salvation. Yet, surely, to follow God’s commandment out of love and gratitude is not an option either.
Once again, I thank you for taking the effort to bring clarity to the confusion surrounding the doctrine of justification and sanctification.
John Owen | ἀδόκιμος
“Men may be really saved by that grace which doctrinally they do deny; and they may be justified by the imputation of that righteousness which, in opinion, they deny to be imputed: for the faith of it is included in that general assent which they give unto the truth of the gospel, and such an adherence unto Christ may ensue thereon, as that their mistake of the way whereby they are saved by him shall not defraud them of a real interest therein. And for my part, I must say that notwithstanding all the disputes that I see and read about justification (some whereof are full of offense and scandal), I do not believe but that the authors of them (if they be not Socinians throughout, denying the whole merit and satisfaction of Christ) do really trust unto the mediation of Christ for the pardon of their sins and acceptance with God, and not unto their own works or obedience; nor will I believe the contrary, until they expressly declare it.”
Owen, John. The Life and Works of John Owen (55-in-1) (Kindle Locations 46501-46507). . Kindle Edition.