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Evangelicals believe their Faith-Alone Gospel (FAG) to be ironclad. However, like the Death Star, this formidable foe hides several fatal flaws. Those possessing the plans to the Death Star are able to expose such flaws and not only destroy it, but the evil Evangelical empire that has used the FAG to destroy countless lives.

The plans to the Death Star = The FAG message:

Salvation is earned through perfect obedience to God’s Law. Since however this is humanly impossible, salvation requires that we put faith (alone) in the God-man Jesus Christ, who not only died to pay for our sins, but lived to fulfill our obligation of obedience. God therefore imputes to those who put faith in Christ, both His propitiatory death, and the merit of His perfect life. As a result, the Christian is afforded a justification that requires no duty to the Law. Christians obey only as a consequence of their regeneration and the indwelling Spirit.

The 3 fatal flaws revealed in the Death Star’s plans (i.e., FAG):

1. The Merit of Perfection

“Salvation is earned through perfect obedience to God’s Law. Since however this is humanly impossible, salvation requires that we put faith (alone) in the God-man Jesus Christ Who not only died to pay for our sins, but lived to fulfill our obligation of obedience. God therefore imputes to those who put faith in Christ, both His propitiatory death, and the merit of His perfect life.”

1.1. Everything the Evangelical believes about salvation hinges on the above assumption, that God saves based on merit. In this case, the merit of Christ’s perfect obedience that has been imputed (or reckoned) to us.

1.2. Where does this assumption come from?

The Evangelical’s merit-based system (of salvation) has three primary influences:

1.2.1. Roman Catholicism

Though Martin Luther and the other Protestant Reformers rejected Rome’s belief that human beings could eventually get to heaven by their merit, they assumed the merit-based system of salvation to still be valid (i.e., the soteriology taught in the Bible). The only merit however acceptable to God was the merit of perfection, and only Christ possessed it.

1.2.2. Luther’s Law-Gospel Dichotomy and Approach to Scripture Luther saw the Bible divided into two categories: Law and Gospel. The Law designates what God requires. It demands the merit of perfection: a standard we cannot meet. Gospel on the other hand, designates what God provides (in Christ) and promises us grace and forgiveness. The Law kills us by showing how miserably we fail to perfectly keep it. This is its purpose and how it should be used so that the gospel – or good news that Jesus has paid and perfectly obeyed, can grant us life through the salvation it graciously gives us by faith.

“The entire Scripture of God is divided into two parts: commands [Law] and promises [Gospel]1…The Law is the Word in which God teaches and tells us what we are to do and not to do…but after…the Law has done this work and distressful misery and poverty have been produced in the heart [because we cannot do it perfectly], God comes and offers his lovely, living Word, and promises, pledges, and obligates himself to give grace and help, that we may get out of this misery… This divine promise of his grace and…forgiveness [salvation]…is properly called Gospel.” – Martin Luther (Freedom of the Christian and Sermons)

1.2.3. The Protestant doctrine known as the Covenant of Works

According to Reformed theologian, Louis Berkhof, the Covenant of Works doctrine did not exist until the second generation of Protestant reformers (e.g., 16th -17th century theologians: Olevianus, Cloppenburg, Coccejus, Witsius), and became prominent only after its mention in the Westminster Confession of Faith (1646-1648). Prior to this, such teaching was unknown either in the Early Church or the Scholastic period that followed (9th-15th century). In mentioning this doctrine, the WCF also provides a succinct and clear understanding of what it teaches, which is a system of salvation predicated on the merit of perfection.

“The first covenant created with man was a covenant of works, wherein life was promised to Adam; and in him to his posterity [all human beings after him], upon condition of perfect and personal obedience” (VII.2)

1.3. That modern Evangelicals or proponents of the faith-alone gospel do indeed think of salvation in terms of merit – or earning one’s way to heaven is attested to in their writing:

1.3.1. R.C. Sproul (Reformed theologian and scholar, founder of Ligonier ministries)

“In the final analysis we see that we are saved by works. You say, ‘Wait a minute. I thought we taught justification by faith alone?’ Yes, but justification by faith alone means justification by putting our faith in Christ alone because Christ alone has fulfilled the covenant of works. We are still saved by works, but we are saved not by our works, but by the works of Christ.” – R.C. Sproul (Sermon: Saved by the Works of Christ)

1.3.2. Jon Bloom (staff writer for desiringgod.org)

“Jesus, in his Sermon on the Mount, made this statement (‘Be Perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect’, Matthew 5:48) as the impossible culmination of the (fallen) humanly impossible standards of what it means to not sin in anger, lust, divorce, swearing oaths, and retaliation, as well as what it means to love our enemies. But just before he launches into this ‘perfection’ section of his sermon, Jesus gives us a clue to what he means: ‘Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them’ (Matthew 5:17). Jesus came to perfectly fulfill on our behalf God’s demand on us for perfection.”

1.3.3. Lee Ann Trees (former Dean of Women at Westminster Seminary, CA)

“We must keep God’s laws perfectly because his nature requires it, but none of us is able to do it. Without God’s intervention, we are all under condemnation. Yet, this is not the end of the story! Because we are no longer deserving of heaven, due to our own tainted nature and works, God in his love and mercy sent his Son from heaven to us…He lived the perfect life we should have lived (but failed to), and he redeemed us (something we couldn’t do for ourselves) by offering himself up as the perfect sacrifice for our sins. It is by God’s grace alone—through faith in Christ alone—that we have peace with God and enter into his presence. If Jesus, the Son of God, humbled himself to serve us, why should we think our pride-filled works could ever grant us access to God?”

1.4. Salvation as merit-based is also at the core of Evangelical evangelism and preaching:

1.4.1. Evangelism (example): Ray Comfort and Kirk Cameron’s “Way of the Master” Evangelism. Evangelism begins by asking a person if they believe they are a good person. If they say “yes”, then that person is queried with regard to their obedience to the 10 commandments (e.g., have they ever lied?). The person is then told God’s standard for getting to heaven is perfection. Since they have failed to perfectly keep the ten commandments, they have only earned hell. Jesus is introduced as the perfect Law-Keeper and the One they must therefore put faith in if they want to get to heaven.

1.4.2. Preaching (example): the “Redemptive-Historical” (or “Christ-Centered”, “Gospel-Centered”) preaching of Ephesians 6:1-3.

God calls children to perfectly obey their parents. The bad news is however, because they are sinners, they miserably fail their parents and fall under God’s condemnation. What are they to do? Remember the good news of Jesus, Who like them was once a child and on their behalf perfectly obeyed His parents. By having faith in Him, every child can have the comfort of knowing that God views them as fulfilling His righteous commands -including the command to obey their parents.

1.5. What makes believing that God’s system of salvation is merit-based a fatal flaw?

1.5.1. The Bible nowhere teaches salvation as meritorious.

No biblical support exists for the Covenant of Works2 or that God ever saw salvation as something that must be earned through perfect obedience to His commands. In addition, it must also be considered that if such a system did exist, then the Bible’s storyline before the time of Christ, paints a picture of God that is worse than Hitler. The establishment of the Law meant God was setting His beloved people up for failure (Lev 18:5, Deu 30:16; Eze 20:11; Luk 10:28 -“Do this and you will live” = Be sinlessly perfect in your obedience and you will possess eternal life). The history of the Jew’s brutal punishments and exile must now be read as the example of what happens when people fail to keep God’s impossible standard. It becomes the story of God the monster, who through the overt oppression of His unreasonable demands makes His people the victims of His hideous atrocities.

1.5.2. The Bible nowhere teaches that we mut possess sinless perfection or perfectly obey God to get to heaven.

When the Bible uses the word “perfect” to refer to sinful humans, it never carries the idea of sinless perfection. Instead it communicates faithfulness to all of God’s (known) commands. In this respect, the Bible identifies plenty of people as “perfect” [ תָּ מִ֥ים ] who are at the same time, sinners (See KJV: Noah – Gen 6:9; Job – Job 1:1, 8, 2:3; Asa – 1Ki 15:14; the men of Israel making David king – 1Ch 12:38; all those faithfully devoted to Israel – Psa 64:4; Pro 2:21; In this sense consider also Mat 5:48 “perfect” – same word [τέλειος] found in 1Co 2:6; Col 1:28; Jam 1:4 texts which teach this character trait can be achieved by believers. Again, it refers to faithfulness in all areas or completeness as in spiritual maturity).3

1.6. What (then) does the Bible teach as God’s system of salvation?

The Bible teaches marriage as God’s system of salvation. Like marriage 1) we (as the bride) gain a saving relationship w/Jesus (as the bridegroom) by grace through faith -or a vow of fidelity/allegiance/loyalty (expressed in a covenant sign – e.g., circumcision, sacrifice, baptism – 1Pe 3:21), 2) we maintain that vow through faithful obedience to God’s commands (i.e., like a faithful wife, we submit to our husband in everything) (Mat 28:18-20).

1.7. How do we use the merit of perfection to expose and destroy the Death Star (FAG) and the evil Evangelical empire?

By asking Evangelicals the following 4 questions:

1.7.1. Did you know that the foundation of the FAG is merit-based?

1.7.2. Can you show me in the Bible where God teaches that salvation is merit-based or requires the merit of perfection?

1.7.3. If by “perfect” the Bible means perfect obedience, then why are certain people in the Bible referred to as “perfect” though they were clearly sinners and demonstrated only faithful obedience to God’s commands? IOW: Is it possible that what this word means and what God actually requires (w/respect to obedience) is something other than perfection?

1.7.4. If you believe salvation is merit-based (salvation requires perfect law-keeping), then doesn’t that make your God worse than Hitler since those Jews who were mercilessly killed by God under the Old Covenant for not keeping the Law were – like those killed by Hitler, helpless victims since it is impossible to be perfect?

1 Luther’s close associate Philip Melanchthon is more explicit, “All of Scripture is either Law or Gospel.” (Commonplaces)

2 It is important to point out that Hosea 6:7 makes clear that God did establish a covenant with Adam. However never are we told that this covenant was merit-based – or as the Covenant of Works doctrine teaches, that the perfection they were supposed to demonstrate while under this covenant would eventually culminate in God’s offer of eternal life. This kind of fiction functions much in the same way as that used by con artists. It is always the foundational or initial assumption that proves to be most critical and most false. Once however accepted as true, the job of the con artist becomes easy, just stay consistent with the accepted assumption and not only will it become more believable but there is also little chance of it being discovered.

3 For further study see God and Human Wholeness: Perfection in Biblical and Theological Tradition by Kent Yinger