Sunday, September 30, 2012

Tim Keller - What is the gospel?

There are numerous NeoCalvinists in evangelicalism who claim to be preaching salvation by sovereign grace. Such men make regular, firm, and absolute declarations regarding the abject depravity of man. On that much we can agree, but when taken alongside the totality of their teachings on the doctrine of salvation, we find them contradicting this fundamental precept they so readily "affirm." Of what value is the notion of total depravity if, in the final mix, it is cast aside in one's ordo salutis or relegated to an unknowable mystery?

I recently came across a YouTube video of Tim Keller answering the question - What is the gospel? While there is much in brother Tim's statement that we would affirm, there is also a very explicit example of the self-contradictory nonsense that defiles the "gospel" of NeoCalvinism. Speaking of the saving grace of God Keller says, 
"I only get it WHEN I ADMIT that I am a moral failure." (Tim Keller, emphasis mine)
This statement posits an act of repentance and faith as the prerequisite or co-requisite to obtaining eternal life. As such it denies that regeneration precedes faith in time (I John 5:1), a fundamental precept of salvation by sovereign grace.

Simply stated, if man in his natural state can "admit" that he is a moral failure as a means of obtaining eternal salvation, then man is not totally depraved. The NeoCals are in abject darkness on this Nicodemian point (John 3:3). While most if not all of them will academically affirm that regeneration precedes faith (I John 5:1), upon closer inspection, they relegate this ordering to a logical rather than chronological matter, and subsequently admit that they believe that regeneration and faith are simultaneous events. A common defense of the NeoCal position is to say that while they do affirm that regeneration precedes faith, that it is impossible to exegetically support the notion that these two are separated in time. To such a view we offer up the following:
  1. There are numerous verses in the New Testament that explicitly teach that regeneration precedes the act of faith in time. (John 1:12-13, 3:3, 5:24, 8:47, I Corinthians 2:11-14, Titus 3:5, I John 5:1, etc.)
  2. Both regeneration and the exercise of faith are events in time. All events in time are either ordered or simultaneous. Events that are ordered are not simultaneous, and events that are simultaneous are not ordered.
  3. The verb tenses employed in passages such as I John 5:1 clearly place regeneration as an event in time prior to the exercise of faith. "Whosoever believeth (present tense) that Jesus is the Christ is born (perfect tense - past completed action) of God." To say then that the assertion that regeneration precedes faith in time is "impossible to exegetically support," is an utterly unsubstantiated position. That regeneration precedes faith in time is the exegetical position. As such it is both unassailable and revealed in the scriptures with clarity, provided one is willing to set aside the spectacles of theological presupposition that have been so firmly affixed between the spiritual eye and this biblical truth by the purveyors of nonsense theology in which so many of God's children have been liberally marinated.
  4. It is a remarkable thing indeed when the "exegetical defense" of one's belief in the simultaneity of regeneration and faith is founded upon a hermeneutic that ignores verb tenses. This sounds an awful lot like a form of Capitalism that intends to achieve its ends through the abolition of the right to private property. 
It follows then that establishing the biblical precept that regeneration precedes the act of faith in time is of vital importance to God's people everywhere. It completely obliterates the NeoCalvinistic paradox that man's salvation is "all of God, and yet man is responsible;" a notion so patently self-contradictory as to be comical if it were not for the grotesque confusion it visits upon God's people.  

Salvation by sovereign grace teaches that only a regenerate man can sincerely and spiritually "admit" that he is a moral failure. Such men, the poor in spirit who do hunger and thirst after righteousness (Matthew 5:3-6), are already in a blessed state (Matthew 5:3-6) because an unregenerate man does not have such convictions of spirit (I Corinthians 2:11). Neither does the unregenerate man feel that he is "laboring and heavy laden" under the burdens of the conviction of his unrighteousness before a holy and perfect God. (Matthew 11:28) Such men are already in possession of eternal life, but they need to hear the gospel so that they may find rest in the telling of what their savior did for them (I Corinthians 15:3-4) and join with God's people in discipleship, service, and obedience to the Lord Jesus Christ.

Until the NeoCals understand that regeneration precedes the act of faith in time, they will find themselves hog-tied in unscriptural contradictions which breed confusion, doctrinal instability, and vexation of spirit among the flock of God.

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