Breaking the ice and the legs of the Gospel

“Confessing Christ Boldly To Others” by J.C. Ryle

The wickedness of being ashamed of Christ is very great. It is a proof of unbelief. It shows that we care more for the praise of men whom we can see, than that of God whom we cannot see. It is a proof of ingratitude. It shows that we fear confessing Him before man who was not ashamed to die for us upon the cross. Wretched indeed are they who give way to this sin. Here, in this world, they are always miserable. A bad conscience robs them of peace. In the world to come they can look for no comfort. In the day of judgment they must expect to be disowned by Christ to all eternity, if they will not confess Christ for a few years upon earth. Let us resolve never to be ashamed of Christ. Of sin and worldliness we may well be ashamed. Of Christ and His cause we have no right to be ashamed at all. Boldness in Christ’s service always brings its own reward. The boldest Christian is always the happiest person.

J.C. Ryle

Expository Thoughts on the Gospels: Luke volume 1, [Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1986], 312. {Luke 9:23-27}.

 

Ryle’s piece reminds me of Bill Hybels’ “Walk across the room ice-breaker” approach, which seems to me very much like the “first make him a friend and then a client” approach.

The problem is that while you (the evangelist) and your unbelieving friend are skating on the thin ice of life (in the room?), the ice may suddenly break, and drown one or both of you. So, don’t take too long with the “ice-breaker” stage, or better still sock it to ‘em straight. But with, of course, patience and gentleness, as recommended by the Apostle Peter: “…but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense (apologia “reasoned argument”) to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15).

Oh shucks, does that mean I have to wait until someone asks me for the hope that is within me, does that mean that I can’t thump them – gently, naturellement – over the head with my Bible?

Well, sometimes, you’ll just have to wait Raphy,” my pastor tells me. “You might have to break a little ice sometimes. Break a leg.”

When non-Calvinists bring up (hopefully not too graphically) Calvinism, they are generally referrring to the the doctrine that “salvation is of the Lord.”—Jonah 2:9, that is, 100% of the Lord (see Charles Spurgeon).

 

Arthur Cunstance summarises the doctrine well:

 

“Men are not born again by human will, nor because of blood relationships, nor even because out of their own inner being they desire to be saved (John 1:12, 13). It is perfectly true that whosoever will may come, but it is also true that whosoever may, will come. We will to come only because God has graciously worked upon our wills to turn them about. We may come only because He has opened the way for us and in us, making it possible. Whosoever will, may come; and whosoever may, will come. When God makes it possible by converting our wills to seek his face, then we may come, and only then. At the same time, because of his sovereignty, once this turnabout has been wrought in us by his Holy Spirit, then the rest is certain, no matter how long it takes. We shall come.”

 

The question is: how much understanding of this doctrine is required to be a true Christian? Greg Fields is outraged by the “neo-gnostic Calvinism” (Fields’ term) assertion that without a comprehensive grasp of the Calvinist/monergist doctrine described by Custance above, no one can be saved. I shall examine Fields’ description of “neo-gnostic Calvinism” and compare it with Charles Spurgeon’s contrast between the “seed of the flesh” and the “seed of the promise.”

 

 

 

Before I get to Fields,

 

here is Arthur Custance’s pithy summary of

Men are not born again by human will, nor because of blood relationships, nor even because out of their own inner being they desire to be saved (John 1:12, 13). It is perfectly true that whosoever will may come, but it is also true that whosoever may, will come. We will to come only because God has graciously worked upon our wills to turn them about. We may come only because He has opened the way for us and in us, making it possible. Whosoever will, may come; and whosoever may, will come. When God makes it possible by converting our wills to seek his face, then we may come, and only then. At the same time, because of his sovereignty, once this turnabout has been wrought in us by his Holy Spirit, then the rest is certain, no matter how long it takes. We shall come.

 

 

In his “The Bane of Neo-Gnostic Calvinism, he writes:

 

“Who among us who have been illuminated by the Spirit of God to heartily embrace that exalted system of Pauline Theology commonly called “Calvinism” can forget the sublime joy experienced when these verities became manifest in our believing heart? For many of us grasping these truths or better, being gripped by these truths, was the real “second blessing” in our Christian pilgrimage. For me personally, sovereign grace teaching revivified my entire demeanor as a saint and delivered me from the morbid introspection engendered by Arminian, fundamentalist pietism. I have a passionate commitment to Calvinistic soteriology and am quite emphatic in my apologia for these truths that so exalt and glorify the grandeur of the Sovereign Triune Lord. Thus, it is with both sadness and reticence that I issue this urgent caveat regarding an extreme chimerical form of Calvinism that is spreading great mischief among the elect of God and dear souls seeking spiritual solace.”

 

This “extreme chimerical form of Calvinism” is the “heresy” (Fields) of the recent form of Calvinism called “Neo-Gnostic Calvinism.”(Greek neo “young,” gnosis “knowledge”).

 

The main tenets of this aberration of Calvinism, Fields says, involve primarily a comprehensive cognitive system of knowledge (gnosis) that must be firmly grasped and indoctrinated into before the professing Calvinist or seeking Arminian is truly considered “saved” by these ersatz-Calvinist “teachers”. The subtlety involved in this neo-gnostic Calvinistic soteriology is that they vigorously promote truths that any committed believer would commend. For example, they incessantly exhort all to focus on Christ’s imputation of Righteousness as being indispensable to one’s salvation. Of course this is true and this needs to be emphatically declared in our presentation of the gospel. Particular Redemption is stressed with great vigor. Again, a hearty amen to the vital importance of this great doctrine is in order. They clearly enumerate the “five points” with undiminished zeal. Again, I concur and wish we all would stress these great doctrines with the zeal demonstrated by these men.”

“If this was the focus and crux of what these men taught, I would be promoting their writings and encouraging all interested Calvinists to bookmark their websites and to participate in their e-group discussions. But, alas, these glorious doctrines are merely the frosting on the cake of their real agenda. After elucidating these verities they then go on to add to these truths a dogmatic unsubstantiated requirement for salvation that in effect nullifies all the peace and joy that should attend sovereign grace. They assert with bellicose intensity that unequivocally, all Arminians are lost because “Arminianism is a false gospel” and under the anathema of Gal. 1:8-9. They set the stage for this “leap of logic”, by describing the five points of Arminianism and showing how incompatible Arminianism is with the gospel of grace. Again, any thoroughgoing evaluation of Arminianism would demonstrate this to be true but they then use this evaluation to assert that all who have never yet grasped the doctrines of grace to be by default, Arminians, thereby validating their “lostness”. The insidious nature of their neo-gnosticism becomes manifestly transparent here. The major tenet of gnosticism was the acquisition of knowledge to achieve, N. B., salvation.”

(My underlining)

The first sentence of these two paragraphs is reiterated in the last sentence:

 

First sentence: “a comprehensive cognitive system of knowledge (gnosis) that must be firmly grasped and indoctrinated into before the professing Calvinist or seeking Arminian is truly considered “saved,”

 

Last sentence: The major tenet of gnosticism was the acquisition of knowledge to achieve, N. B., salvation.”

 

To summarise Fields’ criticism, as I understand it:

 

Fields agrees that the five points of Arminianism are imcompatible with the gospel of grace, and under the curse of Galatians 1:8-9. Here is the passage in its wider context:

 

[6] I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— [7] not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. [8] But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. [9] As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed (Galatians 1:6-9 ESV).

 

The Neo-gnostic Calvinist, says Fields, then uses this passage to infer by a leap of false logic that not only are all Arminians lost, but also those Calvinists “who have never grasped the doctrines of grace.”

 

I’m not sure whether Fields is position is that person can only be saved if he believes that salvation is 100% of the Lord (Calvinism, monergism), where the point of difference between Fields and “neo-gnostic” Calvinism is that the “neo-gnostic” Calvinist asserts that such a person can only be saved if he has a “a comprehensive cognitive system of knowledge (gnosis) that must be firmly grasped and indoctrinated into before the professing Calvinist or seeking Arminian is truly considered ‘saved.’” (Fields above).

 

I assume that the “seeking Arminian” is in the

  1. The first question is a difference in kind (Salvation as only of God versus cooperation with God), the other, a difference of degree (a Calvinist must have a deep understanding of what “Salvation is of the Lord” means).

    I was reading Spurgeon, who says that as one begins in faith so one ends. He says that if one thinks that one cooperates with God in salvation, then one has started “in the flesh,” and as one starts, one ends – in the flesh.

 

 

 

END

lipn and lamb four kinds of christian.

 

Confessing Christ Boldly To Others

The wickedness of being ashamed of Christ is very great. It is a proof of unbelief. It shows that we care more for the praise of men whom we can see, than that of God whom we cannot see. It is a proof of ingratitude. It shows that we fear confessing Him before man who was not ashamed to die for us upon the cross. Wretched indeed are they who give way to this sin. Here, in this world, they are always miserable. A bad conscience robs them of peace. In the world to come they can look for no comfort. In the day of judgment they must expect to be disowned by Christ to all eternity, if they will not confess Christ for a few years upon earth. Let us resolve never to be ashamed of Christ. Of sin and worldliness we may well be ashamed. Of Christ and His cause we have no right to be ashamed at all. Boldness in Christ’s service always brings its own reward. The boldest Christian is always the happiest person.

J.C. Ryle

Expository Thoughts on the Gospels: Luke volume 1, [Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1986], 312. {Luke 9:23-27}.

 

Ryle’s piece reminds me of Bill Hybels’ “Walk across the room ice-breaker” approach, which seems to me very much like the “first make him a friend and then a client” approach.

The problem is that while you (the evangelist) and your unbelieving friend are skating on the thin ice of life (in the room?), the ice may suddenly break, and drown one or both of you. So, don’t take too long with the “ice-breaker” stage, or better still sock it to ‘em straight. But with, of course, patience and gentleness, as recommended by the Apostle Peter: “…but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense (apologia “reasoned argument”) to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15).

Oh shucks, does that mean I have to wait until someone asks me for the hope that is within me, does that mean that I can’t thump them – gently, naturellement – over the head with my Bible?

Well, sometimes, you’ll just have to wait Raphy,” my pastor tells me. “You might have to break a little ice sometimes – and a leg.”

 

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