Infused vs. Imputed . .
How important was the Reformation?
In 1994 the ecumenical document Evangelicals and Catholics Together was signed by leading Protestant and Catholics leaders recognizing common goals and aspirations in America, affirming the need to work together and minimize divisive theology to mitigate American cultural decline. Many popular Protestant leaders signed and agreed to be equally yoked with Rome in the enterprise. They included Pat Robertson of the 700 Club, Jesse Miranda, head of the Assemblies of God, Tim LaHaye, Chuck Colson and others. While some approved of the effort, many were critical. This was followed in 2009 by a document called The Manhattan Declaration where yet more pressure was applied to bring "the wayward brethren" (Protestants) back to work in a common yoke to save America, again at the expense of deep doctrinal differences. Again in March of 2014 Episcopal Bishop Tony Palmer attended a national meeting of the Word of Faith movement, imforming the Charismatic attendees that the Lutheran Church had signed an agreement with Rome, and that "the Reformation was over". He was met with thunderous applause, and then delivered an emotional video message from pope Francis to those in attendance and the Evangelical Charismatic world at large. The leader of the meeting, Kenneth Copeland initiated prayer "in the spirit" for the pope after the video, celebrating what God was doing to bring Christian unity. It is significant that Rome chose this particular branch of Christianity to make this incursion. Many of Martin Luther's struggles were with the "enthusiasts", his term for the Pentecostals of his day, who were all about the moving of "the spirit" and disdained Luther's studied translations and Bible adherance as "letter" opposed to the "spirit". Charismania (not true biblical Spirit manifestation) is today still the weakest link in biblical Christianity, primarily because of it's willingness to go "outside the lines" of scripture into mysticism, subjective experience and emotion.
Practical Issues in the 1500's . .
The issues of the Reformation some 500 years ago were not insignificant. They were not about the color of church carpets, tithing or the timing of the rapture. They were fighting for salvation. How does one receive eternal life? What is the way to heaven? How can one be made righteous before God? These were the issues- life and death - of the Reformation. Was righteousness, the indispensable qualification for heaven, as Luther claimed, imputed, that is reckoned to the account of the believer in Jesus before the bar of heaven by simple faith in Christ, or was it infused, as was claimed by Rome, by cooperating with God in good works, which Rome defined, to have no assurance of final acceptance with God?
The truth is that Catholics had as much sin in their lives as the Protestants they denigrated. All have sinned (Romans 3:23), and all still sin (1 John 1:8) if scripture has any say. Had the Council of Trent (convened between 1545 and 1563) concluded that righteousness was imputed as the Protestants claimed, the beseiged Catholic system would have become pointless. Rather Rome and her Jesuit defenders doubled down and issued a series of doctrinal "laws" called canons which damned virtually every doctrine the Reformers had espoused. Many Arminian leaders, Catholics included, viewed the Protestant claim of simul justus et peccator (simultaneously just and sinful) as theological fiction or worse, deadly error, in spite of the obvious fact that every human seeking justification is without question simul justus et peccator. The fight was really for the power to define the qualifications for eternal life. By 1618 the Dutch National Synod was forced to meet to consider the complaints of 46 preachers and two leaders of the Leyden state college who later became known as the Remonstrants, who like Erasmas of Rotterdam represented the Catholic, Arminian view. The Reformed apology to the Catholic’s five doctrinal complaints is known today as Calvinism’s five points.
The Wesley Boys in the 1700's . .
John Wesley, born in 1703, is credited as founding, along with his brother Charles, and George Whitefield, Methodism and strangely, Pentecostalism, which to this day is immersed not only in the “hyper-emotionalism" of Wesley’s meetings, but the “entire sanctification" he espoused. In 1729 he led the Holy Club at Oxford and by 1738 had started his own outdoor preaching ministry covering Great Britain, North America and Ireland. He appointed untrained, unordained evangelists to care for the crowds that responded to his preaching. George Whitefield (an elder friend) and Wesley eventually became estranged over Wesley’s promotion of Arminianism as opposed to the Reformed view. Whitefield begged Wesley not to publish a pamphlet denouncing predestination because he would be compelled to oppose him openly. Wesley published and the rest is history. Like most preachers today Wesley despised the doctrine and viewed it as an impediment to holiness. Echoing Erasmus’ cry to Luther, “Who then will amend his way?” and the apostle Paul’s anticipated fleshly response of Romans 9:19, “Why doth he yet find fault?”, Wesley derided the Reformed view of imputed righteousness, believing it
John Wesley's striving for entire sanctification tragically came back to haunt him in later years. His fight against Antinomianism, lawlessness, was admirable. Like many he warned against too much grace, thinking it paved the way for sin. Though allowing for human failure he insisted that entire sanctification was achievable through a "second work" that would cleanse away the "remains of inbred sin", though even by his friend's accounts he retained to his death much of his own inbred sin. Even after his wife's departure amid accusations of adultery, his famous persecution of Augustus Toplady, his bitter breach with his old friend George Whitefield and a multitude of other sins easily verifiable by any unbiased researcher, John Wesley is held up as the finest example of a Christian worker of all time for all he accomplished. But Christianity is more than crossing "land and sea to make one proselyte" (Matthew 23:15). It is better for the left hand to not "know what thy right hand doeth" (Matthew 6:3). Christian ministry follows grace, never precedes it. Grace (undeserved favor) by definition can never be earned or demanded. If grace must be deserved, or earned, it is not grace at all, but payment for services rendered. I can take years to learn this. Perhaps Wesley, like most of us, learned it too.
In a letter to his brother Charles in 1766, Wesley, now in his '60's confessed "I do not love God. I never did. Therefore I never believed, in the Christian sense of the word. Therefore I am only an honest heathen" (Quoted in Stephen Tomkins, John Wesley, A Biography [Oxford: Lion Publishing 2003). To remain consistent with his life-long teaching of holiness this is what he had come to. I personally don't believe that he never loved God. Perhaps he didn't. But every true believer can understand why he would say something like that. Whitefield had warned him and pled with him for years to not stray from the reformed faith. Paul tells us in Romans 7 that the old sin nature still lives in every believer and is "not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be". Wesley's search for holiness blinded him to this fact just as our own can. Every child of God knows exactly the despair that culminates in the pitiful cry of Romans 7:24, O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?
There is an insightful story about John Holland, a friend of the Wesley that every failing child of God can identify with. A man named William Holland who had returned from america to London, records in his diary of May 17th, 1738 how he was 'providentially directed to Martin Luther's Commentary on the Epistle to the Galatians'. He continues:
"I could scarcely feel the ground I trod upon". Can you remember that feeling dear saint? Can you remember the day, O happy day, when Jesus washed your sins away? There is no feeling like the peace that floods the heart of the new believer. It is precisely this spontaneous, effervescent freedom that makes Christianity so contagious, and ironically a misplaced quest for holiness that makes it so repugnant. The freedom of God's forgiveness produces the power we need in this dark hour to bring all the Lord's sheep home. Holiness is the gift of another, even the imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ to the account of the believer. When Wesley says that such a notion is "neither reconcilable to reason" he is right, for the scripture says that the things of God are "spiritually discerned" and that the things of the Spirit of god are "foolishness" to the natural man. If, as Wesley says, God cannot "judge that I am righteous or holy, because another is so" then no Man can be saved, including John Wesley.
Charles Finney in the 1800's
Wesley's statement sounds hauntingly like that of another revered evangelist that appeared nearly 100 years later, Charles Grandison Finney, a figure revered still for his mass evangelistic campaigns of the early 1800's. But how many people have actually read Finney? Michael Horton of the White Horse Inn gives this account of Finney:
Finney's doctrine of Justification rested on a denial of the doctrine of Original Sin, held by both Protestants and Catholics. His teaching echoes that of Pelagius, the 5th century heretic who was condemned by more church councils than any other person in church history. Now, if you believe that every unregenerate human born has the inate power to choose good or evil, that he has libertarian free will, you will naturally arrive at his next revelation:
If every new human born has the power to to please God or not, Christ died for nothing. If there was no fall in Eden, no unfathomable, horrific collapse in the nature of Adam and his wife to poison the DNA of humanity, neccessitating a coming savior's death, Christ died for nothing. If Christ, as Finney claimed, died for no one's sins "other than his own" ( I thought Christ was sinless), we are dead in our sins, and there will be no Man in heaven, save the Father and the Son. If we could have chosen all along, as Finney said, to not sin, why did Christ have to die? To give us a fresh start? What about our sins after our conversion? Why must we be born again? These are not unimportant questions. These are matters of life and death.
What's the Point?
Why Charles Finney is one of the biggest "Christian" heroes of the last 150 years is likely due to the large evangelistic campaigns he held, mostly in the southeast of the state of New York, what he and others have called the "burned over district". Today many evangelists want to emulate Finney's "success". They would be wise to study Finney a little closer before taking the plunge. Finney, the full-blown Pelagian did not believe in imputed righteousness. He didn't believe Christ died for my sins, or his sins for that matter. How can his teaching be called Christian?
Most folks view those who discuss these issues as troublemakers. These issues are a matter of life and death, but only if the scriptures are a matter of life and death. If it's all simply a matter of getting together in a building with a bunch of people that love each other and sharing a common ritual that gives meaning to life . . don't the Eagles or the Rotarians do that? Doesn't a bar or tavern do that? If its a matter of stained glass and folding hands and beautiful music and mystery . . don't the Buddhists or the Scientologists do that?
John Wesley's viewed Luther's commentary on Galatians, like Rome before him and Finney after him, as an attack upon God's law (and upon his own works) and hated it. His reaction was identical to the Jews of Paul's day and all religionists to the present. He felt Luther was advocating lawlessness. Let me ask a final question;
What assurance did Pelagius have? What did he do with his sins? What does Rome do with her sins? Since there was no confirmation from heaven as to when the believer had done enough to be accepted, she invented Purgatory, a doleful place of torture where the remaining dross of sin would be purged from the faithful. How long would you be there? No one knows. Then Luther came and boldly said "nonsense! We have assurance of salvation only in the righteousness of another, even in Christ." What assurance did Wesley have after admitting he "never loved God"? Scripture says "For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all" (James 2:10). It only takes one sin to go to hell, for that one sin breaks all the law of God. What assurance did Finney have if Christ "could not have died for anyone's sins other than his own"? Who died then for Finney's sins? How will anyone of us find heaven if it takes one sin and the standard is perfection? There is a beautiful secret; the standard is perfection, and you don't have it. It is the perfection of another, credited (imputed) to the account of all who believe. "For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous" (Romans 5:19). Hallelujah! We are made righteous by the obedience of One. "By the which will we are sanctified (hag-ee-ad'-zo; to make holy [Strongs G37]) through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all" (Hebrews 10:10). And again, "For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified" (Hebrews 10:14). Yes, the righteousness that carries you and I all the way to heaven is imputed, is given freely along with the faith to receive it. It doesn't get any better than that! (see article here). And we are promised that they who do hunger and thirst for righteousness, "shall be filled". We are daily transformed into the image of God's son as we abide and rest in His wonderful work and love, as Christ himself is formed in our hearts. This was the cry and prayer of Paul, that Christ would be formed in us and dwell in our hearts by faith! Hallelujah! God forbid that we should ever preach lawlessness, but Paul was accused of this too, along with Jesus, Luther, Calvin, Whitefield, Spurgeon and many others.
All these and an innumerable multitude including you and I are utterly without hope save a singular continuum-altering event that took place on a small knoll east of Jerusalem 2000 years ago, where The Only One who came down from heaven, who "knew no sin" but was made "sin for us". There is here a schism no man can cross, "a great gulf fixed" (Luke 16:26), where "whosoever hath, to him shall be given" and where "whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath". If God's standard "be ye perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect" means to be personally in thought and action sinless, no one crosses Heaven's portal, save the Father and the Son. No one has made it there yet, and I'm pretty sure, at least looking at myself and those I know, no one is likely to.
I am not over-simplifying. If Justification is a matter of God doing his part and our doing "our part", and God's "part" cannot be repeated, guess whose part remains . . . and guess whose part is the only part that can change the outcome? Exactly. Luther said all this 500 years ago when he warned: "For if the article of justification be once lost, then is all true Christian doctrine lost" Those who try to dismantle the Reformation jeopardize their own peace, if not their own salvation. Christianity makes a unique claim in earth's history, that God loves his own and has provided "himself a lamb for a burnt offering" (Genesis 22:8), that He alone did the work and paid the fee for all who trust in Him. Lose that, and Christianity ceases to exist. Think about it
‘hindered the believer’s motivation for sanctification, which he held to be “the ability to cooperate with God, and thereby to prosper and grow in grace” (Kenneth J. Collins, The Scripture Way of Salvation, 1997, p. 154). Wesley’s insistence upon the cooperation between God and man in salvation was the reason why he held that substitutionary atonement led to imputation and ultimately to antinomianism. Regarding Matthew 5:20, Hervey commented,"How must our righteousness exceed that of the Scribes and Pharisees? Not only in being sincere, but in possessing a complete righteousness, even that of Christ.” Wesley retorted, “Did our Lord mean this? Nothing less. He specifies in the following parts of His sermon the very instances wherein the righteousness of a Christian exceeds that of the Scribes and Pharisees” (Letter to James Hervey, Oct. 15, 1756). Wesley believed that Christ’s atonement was the beginning of sanctification, making it possible that we might actually become righteous. Maddox writes, “For Wesley, the value of justification was precisely its contribution to the highter goal of sanctification - our recovery of the Likeness of God” (Responsible Grace, p. 172). Wesley’s denial of imputation led him to a confused view of justification and sanctification. as Daniel Crowe appropriately asks, “Which came first in Wesley’s ordo salutis, justification or sanctification?” (Wesley on Justification). Wesley held a view that was similar to that of Rome, which teaches that salvation is dependent on God’s grace combined with Christian works. Wesley’s sermon “Justification by Faith” vividly displays his low view of justification:
"Least of all does justification imply, that God is deceived in those whom
he justifies; that he thinks them to be what, in fact, they are not; that he accounts them to be otherwise than they are. It does by no means imply, that God judges concerning us contrary to the real nature of things; that he esteems us better than we really are, or believes us righteous when we are unrighteous. Surely no. The judgment of the all wise God is always according to truth. Neither can it ever consist with his unerring wisdom , to think that I am innocent, to judge that I am righteous or holy, because another is so. He can no more, in this manner, confound me with Christ, than with David or Abraham. Let any man to whom God hath given understanding, with this without prejudice; and he cannot but perceive, that such a notion of justification is neither reconcilable to reason nor Scripture". (Why John Wesley Flopped On the Atonement, Joel Tiegreen, Sabbatismos.com)
"I carried it round to Mr. Charles Wesley, who was sick at Mr. Bray's, as a very precious treasure that I had found, and we three sat down together, Mr. Charles Wesley reading the Preface aloud. At the words, 'What, have we then nothing to do? No, nothing! but only accept of Him who of God is made unto us wisdom and righteousness and sanctification and redemption, there came such a power over me as I cannot well describe; my great burden fell off in an instant; my heart was so filled with peace and love that I burst into tears . . . My companions, perceiving me so affected, fell on their knees and prayed. When I afterwards went into the street, I could scarcely feel the ground I trod upon". (http://www.graceanglicancalgary.ca/#!galatians-11-5-sermon/cezz)
"Whenever he sins, he must, for the time being, cease to be holy. This is self-evident. Whenever he sins, he must be condemned; he must incur the penalty of the law of god . . . If it be said that the precept is still binding upon him, but that with respect to the Christian the penalty is forever set aside, or abrogated, I reply, that to abrogate the penalty is to repeal the precept; for a precept without penalty is no law. It is only consel or advice. The Christian, therefore, is justified no longer than he obeys, and must be condemned when he disobeys; or Antinominism is true . . In these repects, then, the sinning Christian and the unconverted sinner are upon precisely the same ground. (Systematic Theology P.46)
Finney believed that God demanded absolute perection, but instead of that leading him to seek his perfect righteousness in Christ, he concluded that:
. . .full present obedience is a condition of justification. But again, to the question, can man be justified while sin remains in him: Surely he cannot, either upon legal or gospel principles, unless the law be repealed . . But can he be pardoned and accepted, and justified, in the gospel sense, while sin, any degree of sin remains in him? Certainly not (p. 57)
With the Westminster Confession in his sights, Finney declares of the Reformation's formula "simultaneously justified and sinful". 'This error has slain more souls, I fear, than all the universalism that ever cursed the world.' For, "Whenever a Chrsitian sins he comes under condemnation, and must repent and do his first works, or be lost' (p. 60)
"The first thing we must note about the atonement", Finney says, "is that Christ could not have died for anyone else's sins than his own. His obedience to the law and his perfect righteousness were sufficient to save him, but could not legally be accepted on behalf of others". That Finney's whole theology is driven by a passion for moral improvement is seen on this vey point; 'If he [Christ] had obeyed the Law as our substitute, then why should our own return to personal obedience be insisted upon as a sine qua non of our salvation?' (p. 206). In other words, why would God insist that we save ourselve by our own obedience if Christ's work was sufficient? The reader should recall the words of St. Paul in this regard. 'I do not nullify the grace of God; for if justification comes throught the law, then Christ died for nothing.' It would seem that Finney's reply is one of agreement. The difference is, he has no difficulty believing both of those premises." (http://www.modernreformation.org/default.php?page=articledisplay&var2=625)