Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Machen, Jones, Quotes and Questions...

Pulling quotes is hardly the best way to make comparisons when it comes to evaluating theology. And it certainly can give an inaccurate picture, so I'm open to that criticism on that score. But after reading Mark Jones' book, Antinomianism, I did come away with some concerns as to the template he is operating with when it comes to explaining how redeemed sinners live the Christian life. To what degree and in what way was Jesus Christ's life on earth the template or example for our sanctified living? What parallels are we to draw between Christ's sinless walk as the Lamb of God and ours as miserable offenders who by grace have trusted in him for salvation - an "It-is-finished" salvation secured by his shed blood and perfect obedience under the law for those whom he came to save.  Consider the quote comparisons below as a way to initially highlight some points in need of clarification and further inquiry.

J. Gresham Machen from his book, Christianity & Liberalism:
According to modern liberalism, in other words, Jesus was the Founder of Christianity because He was the first Christian, and Christianity consists in maintenance of the religious life which Jesus instituted. But was Jesus really a Christian? Or, to put the same question in another way, are we able or ought we as Christians to enter in every respect into the experience of Jesus and make Him in every respect our example? Certain difficulties arise with regard to this question…
But there is another difficulty in the way of regarding Jesus as simply the first Christian. This second difficulty concerns the attitude of Jesus toward sin. If Jesus is separated from us by his Messianic consciousness, He is separated from us even more fundamentally by the absence in Him of a sense of sin…
Once affirm that Jesus was sinless and all other men sinful, and you have entered into irreconcilable conflict with the whole modern point of view…
The religious experience of Jesus, as it is recorded in the Gospels, in other words, gives us no information about the way in which sin shall be removed.
Yet in the Gospels Jesus is represented constantly as dealing with the problem of sin. He always assumes that other men are sinful; yet He never finds sin in Himself. A stupendous difference is found here between Jesus’ experience and ours.

Mark Jones from his book, Antinomianism:
Christ is our mediator, our union with him means not only that we must be holy (i.e., necessity), but also that we will be able to be like him (i.e., motive)…
In other words, whatever grace we receive for our holiness first belonged to the Savior (John 1:16)…
How and in what power was Christ made holy? And what relation does his own pattern of holiness have to his people?…
He, like us, relied upon the Holy Spirit for his holiness (Isa. 11:2)….
Since Christ was rewarded for his good works, his people can rejoice that they too will be rewarded for their good works. In this way, the role of good works and rewards finds its Christological basis, which is crucial to any discussion of applied soteriology…


  1. On p 6, Jones writes that “Melanchthon changed his mind and agreed that the gospel alone was able to produce evangelical repentance…He came to a ‘Reformed’ view of the gospel, which included the whole doctrine of Christ, including repentance…” For Jones, the “full gospel” is not about a distinction between law and gospel “defined narrowly as pure promise”, but instead has conditions and sanctions

    Since our duty is not based on our ability, the soundbite from Augustine (give what you command, and command what you will) is wrong if we understand it to say that Christians now CAN obey the law (or if it is used to imply that God now lowers the standard of the law to the level of what we in the new covenant are now gifted to do).

    It is often the case that God does NOT give us to do what God commands. The law is not the gospel, grace is not the law, and the ability to keep the law is not grace. It’s still too late for justified sinners to keep the law in order to sanctified. Those who are already saints are commanded to obey the law.

  2. The Bible's distinction between law and gospel does not deny the function of law to command, but as antithesis it also does not confuse the justification of Christ (by deaath satisfying the law) with the assurance of justification of Christians.

    The distinction between law and gospel agrees that Christians are agents commanded to obey, but it refuses the idea of “cooperation” in which we have the Spirit’s agency in us enabling our agency. Mark Jones can call this 100% God and 100% man all he wants but the math still adds up to synergism.

    Jones argues those who don’t agree with him haven’t read and understood the puritans and the antinomians. He also argues that he has a better “more robust” Christology. “Good works were necessary for Jesus if he was to be justified…. good works are likewise necessary for our salvation–though, unlike the case with Jesus, not for our justification.” (p 76) Jones claims that those of us with a “justification priority” have reduced the gospel to justification, but he has reduced substitution only to Christ’s impetration (ignoring the imputation of the substitution) and has introduced synergism and our obeying the law into the application and assurance of final salvation.

    1. Thanks, Mark. You're moving the ball down the field by unpacking the implications that are in Jones' book.

  3. -Jones --1. It must be something that is not owed. 2. It should proceed from the powers of those who deserve it. 3. It must be of use to him of whom someone thinks that he deserves something. 4. The reward must not be greater than the merit. Thus, Adam clearly could not merit (eternal) life, and neither could Israel merit typological blessings (e.g., land)

    It's time to study again Lee Irons on Merit

    1. I just finished reading his essay on Merit in the Kline festschrift. Have you read it? I plan on going back to it with the Jones' definitions in view...