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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.”

“Man’s relationship to God in creation was based on works. What Adam failed to achieve, Christ, the second Adam, succeeded in achieving. Ultimately the only way one can be justified is by works.” – R.C. Sproul (Getting the Gospel Right)

2. The Imputation of the Active Obedience of Christ

“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.” “If Christ had only earned forgiveness of sins for us, then we would not merit heaven. Our guilt would have been removed, but we would simply be in the position of neutrality. For this reason, Christ had to live a life of perfect obedience to God in order to earn righteousness for us. He had to obey the law for his whole life on our behalf so that the positive merits of his perfect obedience would be counted for us. Sometimes this is called Christ’s ‘active obedience’ while his suffering and dying for our sins is called his ‘passive obedience.’” – Wayne Grudem (Systematic Theology)

The “Skywalker Shot” w/respect to the merit of perfection and the imputation of the active obedience of Christ: (Gal 2:21).

3. One-stage justification, the consequence of works and a monolithic view of the Law.

“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.”

3.1. The third fatal flaw of the Evangelical (or those holding to the FAG) is the belief that justification exists not in two stages (1. initial justification: gain by faith alone; 2. final justification: maintain by faith and faithfulness) – the biblical view, but rather that it exists only in one (gain by faith alone and remain by faith alone). Works (or obedience) are simply the result (or “consequence”) of this one-stage justification and the Spirit’s fruit in the believer’s life.

3.2. Westminster Seminary (CA) professor, R. Scott Clark, confirms “one-stage justification” to be the historical position of Evangelical Protestantism (in contrast to some of Evangelicalism’s most popular past and present pastors):

“The magisterial Protestant churches (i.e., the Lutheran and Reformed) and their theologians did not speak of, teach, or confess a “two-stage” doctrine of justification… One of the principal sources of the doctrine that we are initially justified by grace alone (sola gratia), through faith alone (sola fide) but that by good works we are ‘maintaining a right standing with God’ (Piper, 1999), that ‘you are not saved through faith alone’ (Desiring God, 2017), ‘that final salvation in the age to come depends on the transformation of life’ (Bethlehem Baptist Elder Statement) was the English pastor and theologian Richard Baxter (1615–91). He is most remembered for his pastoral work in Kidderminster, which he described in his book, The Reformed Pastor (1656)1… The Reformed churches confessed ‘faith is only the instrument by which we embrace Christ, our righteousness’ and ‘And faith is the instrument that keeps us in communion with him and with all his benefits.’ The Reformers were well aware of the medieval doctrine of “get in by grace, stay in by works.” The orthodox Reformed in the 16th and 17th centuries rejected that doctrine in favor of ‘get in by grace, stay in by grace’ (as it were).”– R. Scott Clark (“Richard Baxter’s Initial and Final Justification”, Heidelblog)

3.3. R. Scott Clark’s reference to Richard Baxter and John Piper reveals the confusion that exists over justification within Evangelicalism. Piper has been vocal about his belief in a “two-stage justification” since 1999 in various sermons or written forms of communication:

“Works are not acceptable in the moment of initial justification. But when James affirms ‘justification by works’ he means that works are absolutely necessary in the ongoing life of a Christian to confirm and prove the reality of the faith which justifies..…For James, ‘justification by works’ means maintaining a right standing with God by faith along with the necessary evidence of faith, namely the works of love.” (“Does James Contradict Paul?”, 1999 Sermon)…The stunning Christian answer is: sola fide—faith alone. But be sure you hear this carefully and precisely: He says right with God by faith alone, not attain heaven by faith alone. There are conditions for attaining heaven, but no others for entering a right relationship with God. In fact, one must already be in a right relationship with God by faith alone in order to meet the other conditions (Foreword to Tom Schreiner’s book: Faith Alone – The Doctrine of Justification: What the Reformers Taught…And Why It Matters, 2015)…These works of faith, and this obedience of faith, these fruits of the Spirit that come by faith, are necessary for our final salvation. No holiness, no heaven (Hebrews 12:14)…In justification, faith receives the finished work of Christ performed outside of us and counted as ours—imputed to us…In final salvation at the last judgment, faith is confirmed by the sanctifying fruit it has borne, and we are saved by that fruit and that faith…So, we should not speak of getting to heaven by faith alone in the same way we are justified by faith alone. Essential to the Christian life and necessary for final salvation is the killing of sin (Romans 8:13) and the pursuit of holiness (Hebrews 12:14).” (“Does God really save us by faith alone?”, 2017 Sermon)…Present justification is based on the substitutionary work of Christ alone, enjoyed in union with him through faith alone. Future justification is the open confirmation and declaration that in Christ Jesus we are perfectly blameless before God. This final judgment accords with our works. That is, the fruit of Holy Spirit in our lives will be brought forward as the evidence and confirmation of true faith and union with Christ. Without that validating transformation, there will be no future salvation (“The Justification Debate: A Primer”, 2017).”

3.4. Piper recently re-affirmed his belief in final justification – or the need to maintain our initial justification through obedience by tweeting: “justified by faith alone? Yes. “finally saved” by faith alone? No.

3.5. Piper’s view is shared by other popular Evangelicals, including Norman Shepherd, Douglas Wilson2, Rich Lusk, Tom Schreiner and Mark Jones.

3.6. In Shepherd’s “Thirty-four Theses on Justification in Relation to Faith, Repentance and Good Works” (1978) 3 he states,

“Thesis 21: The exclusive ground of the justification of the believer in the state of justification is the righteousness of Jesus Christ, but his obedience, which is simply the perseverance of the saints in the way of truth and righteousness, is necessary to his continuing in a state of justification (Heb 3:6, 14).Thesis 22: The righteousness of Jesus Christ ever remains the exclusive ground of the believer’s justification, but the personal godliness of the believer is also necessary to his continuing in a state of justification in the judgment of the last day (Mat 7:21-23; 25:31-46; Heb 12:14).Thesis 23: Because faith which is not obedient faith is dead faith, and because repentance is necessary for the pardon of sin included in justification, and because abiding in Christ by keeping his commandments (Joh 15:5, 10; 1Jo 3:13, 24) are all necessary for continuing in a state of justification, good works, works done in true faith, according to the law of God, for his glory, being the new obedience wrought by the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer united to

1 Baxter said, “We are justified by sincere obedience to Christ, as the secondary part of the condition of our justification; is evident also from these following Scriptures: Mat 12:37; Mar 11:25-26; Luk 6:37; Mat 6:12, 14-15; 1Jo 1:9; Act 8 :22; Act 3: 19, 22; 1 Pe 4:18; Rom 6: 16; 1 Pe 1: 2, 22.” (Thesis 77). Clark comments, “Baxter rejected the Protestant account of grace and works in favor of the medieval view that when Paul says “works” he means the Mosaic religious ceremonies [or clean laws) and not our good works). He rejected the Protestant understanding of grace (favor earned for us by Christ) and works (our good works).

2 For support see Wilson’s “The Objectivity of the Covenant” (2003) and his adherence to Federal Vision whose fourth tenet (The Necessity of Obedience and Good Works to Final Salvation) states, “The Bible teaches justification by faith and the necessity of a Christian life of obedience and good works to final justification, the declaration we hope one day to hear: ‘Well done, thou good and faithful servant.’”

3 Though able to defend his position biblically, Dr. Shepherd, a professor at Westminster Seminary (PA) since 1963 was dismissed in 1982 for his theses.

Christ, though not the ground of his justification, are nevertheless necessary for salvation from eternal condemnation and therefore justification (Rom 6:16, 22; Gal 6:7-9).”

3.7. In 2015, Mark Jones took the time to write an article not only supporting Piper’s position, but also its agreement with historical Reformed doctrine:

“I’ve been told that some folks are taking issue with John Piper…who agrees with [Tom] Schreiner, we are ‘right with God by faith alone’ but we do not ‘attain heaven by faith alone.’ He adds that ‘there are other conditions for attaining heaven.’ Based on what I believe is a charitable and straight-forward reading of Piper, there is not a single word in his Foreword [to Schreiner’s book]that seems out of place in terms of the basic Reformed approach to justification, salvation, and conditionality. Piper affirms strongly and clearly that works do not contribute to the acquisition of salvation. But Piper also wants to affirm that good works should be considered necessary for the obtaining of salvation4. I fail to understand how this idea isn’t present in literally dozens of Reformed luminaries from the Early Modern period. As Francis Turretin says: ‘This very thing is no less expressly delivered concerning future glory. For since good works have the relation of the means to the end (Jn. 3:5, 16; Mt. 5:8); of the ‘way’ to the goal (Eph. 2:10; Phil 3:14); of the sowing to the harvest (Gal. 6:7,8)…of labor to the reward (Mt. 20:1); of the contest to the crown (2 Tim. 2:5; 4:8), everyone sees that there is the highest and an indispensable necessity of good works for obtaining glory. It is so great that it cannot be reached without them (Heb. 12:14; Rev. 21:27).’ Again, Piper says we do “not attain heaven by faith alone” and Turretin speaks of the ‘Indispensable necessity of good works for obtaining glory’. I don’t see why we can’t agree that they are saying essentially the same thing; and, indeed, if they are, what is the problem? For those who have trouble grasping how Piper can affirm that justification is by faith alone, but that entering glory is not by faith alone, we must keep in mind the well-known distinction between the right to life versus the possession of life. Herman Witsius makes a distinction between the right to life (i.e., acquisition) and the possession of life. The former is ‘assigned to the obedience of Christ, that all the value of our holiness may be entirely excluded.’ However, regarding the latter, ‘our works…which the Spirit of Christ works in us, and by us, contribute something to the latter.’ Similarly, Petrus van Mastricht once wrote: “in so far as God, whose law we attain just now through the merit alone of Christ, does not want to grant possession of eternal life, unless [it is] beyond faith with good works previously performed. We received once before the right unto eternal life through the merit of Christ alone. But God does not want to grant the possession of eternal life, unless there are, next to faith, also good works which precede this possession, Heb. 12:14; Matt. 7:21; 25:34-36; Rom. 2:7, 10.’ Is there anything in Piper’s Foreword that could not have come from the pen of Witsius or Turretin or Boston or Ball or Owen or Rutherford or Mastricht? I’m having trouble understanding what the problem is both biblically and historically. In fact, I can point to works by authors in the Reformed tradition who have stated the matter perhaps a little more strongly than Piper does (e.g., Mastricht, Davenant). It seems one would have to have a built-in bias against Piper – perhaps because of his relationship to Daniel Fuller or perhaps for some other reason – to raise questions about the orthodoxy of his Foreword. And, let’s be honest, it is a serious thing to raise questions about the orthodoxy of someone on this point. It isn’t like we’re talking about complementarianism. Piper speaks of good works as necessary for attaining heaven. Reformed theologians have spoken of good works as necessary for possessing heaven. In my mind, that’s the same thing. And, quite frankly, I think that’s the better approach rather than causing unnecessary division where there really doesn’t need to be any. In sum, as Piper says, ‘there are other conditions for attaining heaven’. Or, by someone else: ‘The New Testament lays before us a vast array of conditions for final salvation. Not only initial repentance and faith, but perseverance in both, demonstrated in love toward God and neighbor…Holiness, which is defined by love of God and neighbor…is the indispensable condition of our glorification: no one will be seated at the heavenly banquet who has not begun, however imperfectly, in new obedience.’ And if you don’t like that last quote, you can take it up with Michael Horton [R. Scott’s colleague at Westminster Seminary, CA]. But I happen to agree with it completely.” (“In Support of John Piper”, Reformation 21)5. 3.8. Consider also Jones’ remark, “Good works are necessary for salvation, but not for justification.” (“A Critique of Jesus + Nothing = Everything”)

3.9. Rejection of this two-stage understanding is the reason many of Evangelicalism’s other popular figures (e.g., Phil Johnson) immediately accuse anyone espousing the necessity of works (or obedience) to salvation to be Roman Catholics or the Galatian Judaizers6. They fail to understand there exists a third option to understanding the relationship of works (or obedience) to justification: 1) Roman Catholicism: F+W=J, 2) Evangelical/FAG: F=J+W, 3) Covenantal Nomism/Marriage Covenant Gospel: F=J1 (Rom 3:28); F+W=J2 (Heb 12:14; Jam 2:24; Rev 20:11-15; Rom 2:6-11).

3.10. That being said, admitting to a “two-stage justification”, one that makes obedience necessary to heaven, is the minority position within Evangelicalism. And for good reason. Though it is the biblical position, it betrays the message communicated by the FAG. If salvation ultimately requires more than faith, then it cannot be said to be by “faith-alone.”

3.11. Those Evangelicals (e.g., Piper, Schreiner, Jones) who adopt the two-stage position, attempt to preserve their faith-alone position by placing works (or obedience) in the category of consequence (i.e., they are the inevitable result and evidence of saving faith and/or the Spirit). Such attempts however do not do justice to how the Scripture communicates those works (or obedience). Rather Scripture communicates that:

3.11.1. We (not the Spirit) are the ones responsible for producing works (obedience) as the essential component to (not evidence of) faith and other necessary condition for securing final justification (2Pe 1:5-11; Jam 2:14-26 w/1:19-2:1, 8-13//The question being answered: Can faith alone “save” [v14]? The answer is “No. It requires also our [not the Spirit’s] works [v18 “my works”]. IOW: “faith by itself [alone] is dead…useless” [v17, 21, 26]. Our “works must accompany our “faith” to secure [final] justification [v24]) 7.

3.11.2. We can fail to produce them and forfeit our justification/salvation (Gal 5:19-21; Eph 5:1-6).

3.12. A major impediment to the Evangelical’s ability to discern the biblical gospel (or see the flaws in the FAG) is their monolithic view of the Law (i.e., the NT term refers to the entirety of God’s OT Law [never a subset]– especially those passages [seemingly] calling for its abrogation – e.g., Rom 10:4).

3.13. Deeper biblical analysis reveals the necessity of division or making a distinction within the Law between “works of the Law” (ceremonial/clean laws) and the Moral Law (all other commands). SEE Luther’s cap argument (Jam 2:24 w/Rom 3:28): 1) Whatever James is referring as works is different from whatever Paul is referring to as works. 2) The works James refers to are necessary to salvation (Jam 2:24) whereas the works Paul refers to are not necessary for salvation (Rom 3:28). 3) The works referred to by James are related to the Law (Jam 2:1-13 is the context for Jam 2:14-26; See also Jam 1:19-27) and the same is true for the works referred to by Paul (Rom 3:28 “works of the law”). 4) Conclusion: [4.1.] Since both James and Paul are referring to works related to the Law and yet only those works referred to by James are necessary for salvation, there must be a distinction in the Law (at the very least, a bipartite distinction: laws no longer needed for salvation versus laws that remain necessary for salvation). [4.2.] Any person not making such a distinction in their understanding of the Law (especially when reading Paul or James) – or interpreting Paul as against the entirety of the Law as necessary to salvation (e.g., Evangelicals), is grossly misinterpreting their bibles (e.g., FAG Evangelicals)8.

Closing Contemplation:

“Silence is consent; and we must speak to this issue when we are able. After extensively reviewing the work of (Antinomian) John Biddle, a rather exasperated John Owen said: ‘I am weary of considering such trash.’ Yet Owen did so because he loved Christ and his church. However painful it might be, ministers and theologians in our circles must deal with these issues, sometimes publicly if they are able, because of how many of Christ’s sheep are being influenced by this defective theology. If we do not, perhaps our silence really is consent.” – Mark Jones, (Antinomianism)

4 Herein lies the crux of many of the Evangelical’s problems (and continual embrace of the false FAG): the failure to recognize the non sequitur created by saying works are not necessary for the acquisition of salvation while equally admitting the necessity of works to the obtaining of salvation. 5 In conjunction with the previous words, Dr. Jones makes the following observation in his book, Antinomianism, “As someone with some scholarly acquaintance with post-Reformation Reformed theology, particularly in the area of Puritanism, I have been dismayed at some of the theology that passes as reformed, when in fact it has corollaries to seventeenth-century antinomianism.” 6 Phil Johnson recently tweeted against NEWPRO (who holds to a two-stage justification): “Your doctrine & behavior are genetically identical to the heretics who hounded the apostle Paul. Re-read Galatians. It was written to answer the exact doctrinal error you’re pushing.”

7 Evangelicals (e.g., James White) make Jam 2:14-26 about works as evidence of faith. Though they do function in that way (v18), the main thrust of James’ argument is their essential nature as an additional component to salvation. If evidence were apostle’s focus, then his argument in verse 17 becomes nonsensical: why is “faith by itself” deemed to be “useless” (or nonexistent) simply because it possesses no (ostensible) evidence of works? The nature of something’s existence is not dependent on evidence. Only in the epistemological sense is such an argument relevant (e.g., a murder that possesses no evidence identifying a killer does not mean no such person exists). In addition, White inserts a spurious definition of δικαιοῦται [“shown to be justified” v. “justified”] (vv21, and 24-25) to support his claim and avoid the instrumentality of works proven by the conjunctive (parallelism) that follows. See The God Who justifies by James White. 8 Historical and scholarly support for such distinctions: “We must bear in mind that common division of the whole law of God published by Moses into moral, ceremonial and judicial laws.” (John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book 4); “Paul could discern distinctions within God’s law which set certain commandments apart as applicable to all Christians, while others were irrelevant. This is tantamount to the division between the moral and the ceremonial law. Augustine introduces a distinction between the moral and the symbolical [clean/ceremonial] precepts of the law: ‘For example, Thou shalt not covet is a moral precept; Thou shalt circumcise every male on the eighth day is a symbolical precept.’ By symbolical precepts Augustine clearly means what would later become known as the ceremonial law…” (J.F. Bayes, The Three-Fold Division of the Law)