Open Letter to Michael Horton Pyromaniacs

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jason d

Puritan Board Freshman
Horton responded here:

The Fear of Antinomianism - White Horse Inn Blog

...some of you are asking for a more specific response to Frank Turk. A number of charges were laid against WHI, all in the spirit of brotherly concern. We appreciate the time that Frank took to write his six page letter, the 300 comments that it generated, and the interest that you are taking in the ongoing dialogue. But none of the WHI hosts has ever said that the Bible only has indicatives and imperatives. And none of us has said that once you’ve said “Law & Gospel,” you’ve done your exegesis. Nor are we responsible for antinomian statements from people who listen to WHI (any more than Frank Turk is responsible for all the comments made after his blog post). We’re simply saying, with the Reformers and the confessional Reformed as well as Lutheran theologians through the ages, that Law and Gospel summarize the “two words” of that one Word that God has revealed to us. There is narrative, poetry, wisdom, instruction, dialogue, parable, and other genres, but the most basic distinction to make when reading and proclaiming God’s Word is the one between Law and Gospel. This is not only Luther, but Calvin, Bullinger, Ursinus, Perkins, Owen, Bavinck, Berkhof, Hodge and Murray. Just as preaching “Christ crucified” doesn’t mean simply repeating the phrase, “Christ crucified,” but interpreting the whole of Scripture in the light of Christ, bearing in mind the distinction between command and promise is not just a matter of parroting the words, but of making sure that we don’t turn promises into commands and commands into promises. There is a lot more that we have to bring to our study of Scripture, but when we get that wrong, everything is confused.
 

Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
I can honestly say, as a more general note, that these recent threads have grieved me, and have strongly turned me off from internet discussion boards as a fruitful medium of conversation.
I fully agree and am bothered by the way this thread has led to a great deal of confusion. Every time this subject is raised it brings out the typical "bird dogging" that I am growing weary of.

This thread was supposed to be about Frank Turk's Open Letter and the whole kitchen sink has been brought in. Whether or not the 3rd use of the Law is a relevant topic of discussion at large in the context of the 3FU or the Westminster Standards is irrelevant to Frank's argument. His open letter stands or falls on the basis of his confession, such as it is, and needs to be evaluated in that light.

Marrow Man noted early on a thread of discussion that might have been fruitful when he asked how Frank Turk's specific form of dispensationalism viewed the Law and what a "3rd use" would look like in comparison.

Now this thread has degenerated into a bunch of rabbit trails that have little or nothing to do with the subject at hand as the author of the Open Letter subscribes neither to the 3FU, Westminster Standards, nor the LBCF. There may be those that agree symptomatically with the Open Letter but the real topic of discussion would be getting behind the author's own understanding of the Law vis a vis Horton's.

I split out this thread to another discussion on Law and Gospel: http://www.puritanboard.com/f48/law-gospel-65775/

Please keep this focused on the OP.
 

Marrow Man

Drunk with Powder
Marrow Man noted early on a thread of discussion that might have been fruitful when he asked how Frank Turk's specific form of dispensationalism viewed the Law and what a "3rd use" would look like in comparison.
I would like someone to comment along these lines and see if we can pursue the discussion in this area.
 

WAWICRUZ

Puritan Board Freshman
The Frank Turk guy's main argument hinges on his "subjunctive" mood treatment, which he sees has been left out in the Horton Gang's emphasis on the imperative and the indicative. It's basically a straw man, since the indicative is precisely why the subjunctive fuels the implementation of the imperative. Turk would do well to heed a fellow, though much informed, Baptist, D.A. Carson: Underdog Theology: D.A. Carson on a Species of Perfectionism

What does Calvin say about grounding the assurance of salvation on one's good works?

"Now if we ask in what way the conscience can be made quiet before God, we shall find the only way to be that unmerited righteousness be conferred upon us as a gift of God. Let us ever bear in mind Solomon's question: "Who will say, 'I have made my heart clean; I am pure from my sin'?" [Prov. 20:9]. Surely there is no one who is not sunken in infinite filth! Let even the most perfect man descend into his conscience and call his deeds to account, what then will be the outcome for him? Will he sweetly rest as if all things were well composed between him and God and not, rather, be torn by dire torments, since if he judged by works, he will feel grounds for condemnation within himself? The conscience, if it looks to God, must either have sure peace with his judgment or be besieged by the terrors of hell. Therefore we profit nothing in discussing righteousness unless we establish a righteousness so steadfast that it can support our soul in the judgment of God....For no one can ever confidently trust in it [one's obedience—M.H.] because no one will ever come to be really convinced in his own mind that he has satisfied the law, as surely no one ever fully satisfied it through works....First, then, doubt would enter the minds of all men, and at length despair, while each one reckoned for himself how great a weight of debt still pressed upon him, and how far away he was from the condition laid down for him. See faith already oppressed and extinguished!...Therefore, on this point [assurance—M.H.] we must establish, and as it were, deeply fix all our hope, paying no regard to our works, to seek any help from them...For, as regards justification, faith is something merely passive, bringing nothing of ours [not even repentance and a determination of the will to obey—M.H.] to the recovering of God's favor but receiving from Christ that which we lack" (Institutes, 3.13.3—5, cited in Michael Horton, Christ the Lord, p. 52—53).
A good question to ask Turk is: How much good works is enough to secure assurance of salvation?
 

WAWICRUZ

Puritan Board Freshman
PC,

Turk may indeed believe that, but he adds the qualifier that the justified must necessarily bear fruit, so therefore the assurance of one's salvation, for him, must be buttressed by the presence of good works. I think this is the meat of his argument, for which he criticizes Horton, i.e. Horton and the Gang's lack of emphasis on "fruits." But then even Calvin (see quote above) sees the precarious nature of basing one's assurance of salvation on the presence of good works since the manifestation of good works is prone to ebb and flow (Romans 7).

---------- Post added at 02:24 PM ---------- Previous post was at 02:03 PM ----------

I think Turk's weakness is his appeal to an abstraction of what the justified must possess in terms of attributes and properties for the label to stick.

Whereas, the Reformed consensus is that the "just shall live by faith," with faith defined as noticia + assensus + fiducia (no works there), Turk seems to prefer the following, "the just shall live by faith and prove their faith by good works." But then how much good works is enough to prove a state of justification?

The soundness of the indicative + imperative paradigm is that the knowledge of who you are in Christ as founded upon His person and work (indicative) is precisely the gratitude-producing impetus to obedience (imperative).
 

mvdm

Puritan Board Junior
PC,

Turk may indeed believe that, but he adds the qualifier that the justified must necessarily bear fruit, so therefore the assurance of one's salvation, for him, must be buttressed by the presence of good works. I think this is the meat of his argument, for which he criticizes Horton, i.e. Horton and the Gang's lack of emphasis on "fruits.".
Warren,

It appears Turk is thinking along the lines of our Reformed confession, i.e., Heidelberg Q&A 64 which tell us "it is impossible for those grafted into Christ by true faith not to produce fruits of gratitude" and Q&A 86 which tells us that "we do good so that we may be assured of our faith by its fruits, and so that by our godly living our neighbors may be won over to Christ."
 

WAWICRUZ

Puritan Board Freshman
Agreed, Mark.

I fully concur with the secondary, subjective basis for the assurance of salvation, i.e. fruit, but you would notice that Turk's critique centers on his perceived undue place of primary that the indicative-imperative paradigm holds, the latter being precisely the dynamic that produces grateful obedience.
 
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jayce475

Puritan Board Freshman
In the light of these debates, could someone help me with understanding how biblical John MacArthur's "lordship salvation" position is (and where it really stands w.r.t. our different camps, Hortonite or otherwise) and whether it is related to what Frank Turk is saying?
 

WAWICRUZ

Puritan Board Freshman
Horton's book, "Christ the Lord," helped me a lot in understanding the "Lordship Salvation" controversy. The book was specifically concocted for the purpose of addressing the issue. In fact, Horton mentions in the book that MacArthur graciously accepted Horton's correction of the former's conflated view of justification and sanctification.

I blogged about it here: Underdog Theology: Calvin on "Lordship Salvation"
 

jayce475

Puritan Board Freshman
Horton's book, "Christ the Lord," helped me a lot in understanding the "Lordship Salvation" controversy. The book was specifically concocted for the purpose of addressing the issue. In fact, Horton mentions in the book that MacArthur graciously accepted Horton's correction of the former's conflated view of justification and sanctification.

I blogged about it here: Underdog Theology: Calvin on "Lordship Salvation"
Yes I have read the book but no I have not found it all that helpful. I cannot interact with your blog because that's not what this thread is about and my book is stuck in my home country. From what I do remember, Horton did say explicitly in the book that MacArthur's view of law and gospel was erroneous and he did draw quite a strong line between what is law and what is gospel, making me think that that may be quite related to the discussion at hand. So what I am trying to ask if anyone is able to place MacArthur's "erroneous view" of law and gospel in the context of these discussions and whether Frank Turk's view is near to that of MacArthur. I am not asking about assurance of salvation, which has been discussed ad nauseum in past threads. I think there was consensus that there are both subjective and objective aspects to assurance.
 

R. Scott Clark

Puritan Board Senior
MacArthur's view, as articulated in the Lordship Controversy and reflected in The Gospel According to Jesus and the like isn't much different from Norman Shepherd's. This is the problem with the whole controversy. Confessional Reformed people should say: a pox on both your houses. The Zane Hodges ("easy believism"; walk the aisle, pray the prayer, ex opere operato view) is antinomian because it denies the moral necessity of the third use of the law, the moral necessity of fruit as evidence, the moral necessity of sanctity in the justified. MacArthur, however, because he isn't a confessional Protestant (and he will tell you so) but a biblicist, didn't have the categories by which evaluate the Zane Hodges view properly. He reacted by doing as many have been wont to do, by trying to make sanctity essential to justification. Since that time, I'm told, he has said more orthodox things but he has never, to my knowledge substantially revised what he published in the Gospel According to Jesus.

The confessional Reformed view, taught in the Three Forms and in the Westminster Standards is that justification is by trusting in the finished work of Christ alone AND that those who believe and are united by the Spirit to Christ, will produce fruit as evidence of their justification. Those who are united to Christ must seek to conform their lives to the moral law of God, not as a condition of acceptance with God but as a consequence of having been freely accepted by God for Christ's sake.

Everyone should read the two essays by Paul Schaefer in Christ the Lord. They are the single best treatments of the controversy.

Tragically, there has been something of a confluence between the Shepherdites (justification through faithfulness) and MacArthurites, such as Frank Turk, via Doug Wilson. The latter is quite the Wilsonite and I've heard more than a few Shepherdites pledge allegiance to MacArthur, as if we had a side in the Lordship Controversy.
 

jayce475

Puritan Board Freshman
MacArthur's view, as articulated in the Lordship Controversy and reflected in The Gospel According to Jesus and the like isn't much different from Norman Shepherd's. This is the problem with the whole controversy. Confessional Reformed people should say: a pox on both your houses. The Zane Hodges ("easy believism"; walk the aisle, pray the prayer, ex opere operato view) is antinomian because it denies the moral necessity of the third use of the law, the moral necessity of fruit as evidence, the moral necessity of sanctity in the justified. MacArthur, however, because he isn't a confessional Protestant (and he will tell you so) but a biblicist, didn't have the categories by which evaluate the Zane Hodges view properly. He reacted by doing as many have been wont to do, by trying to make sanctity essential to justification. Since that time, I'm told, he has said more orthodox things but he has never, to my knowledge substantially revised what he published in the Gospel According to Jesus.

The confessional Reformed view, taught in the Three Forms and in the Westminster Standards is that justification is by trusting in the finished work of Christ alone AND that those who believe and are united by the Spirit to Christ, will produce fruit as evidence of their justification. Those who are united to Christ must seek to conform their lives to the moral law of God, not as a condition of acceptance with God but as a consequence of having been freely accepted by God for Christ's sake.

Everyone should read the two essays by Paul Schaefer in Christ the Lord. They are the single best treatments of the controversy.

Tragically, there has been something of a confluence between the Shepherdites (justification through faithfulness) and MacArthurites, such as Frank Turk, via Doug Wilson. The latter is quite the Wilsonite and I've heard more than a few Shepherdites pledge allegiance to MacArthur, as if we had a side in the Lordship Controversy.
Dr Clark,

Yes you have restated what was in the book. How about MacArthur's view of the law and gospel, at least w.r.t his position at the time of the controversy? And, from your understanding of what he has said before, in his view, is "repentance" (the change of the will towards God) the gospel, the law, or both? And in your view, is "repentance" the gospel, the law, or both? And is his position by any chance anywhere close to those of us who do think that the gospel can be lived since salvation includes sanctification? There was a revised edition on the book "The Gospel According to Jesus" in which MacArthur apparently attempted to improve his clarity of his language based on feedback received. I've only ever read the revised edition of it, so I'm not entirely sure of the changes between the two. Pardon me if it's one question too many, address as you deem fit.

By the way, it's not really the MacArthurites' fault that FVs "pledge allegiance" to them, is it?
 

WAWICRUZ

Puritan Board Freshman
Yes I have read the book but no I have not found it all that helpful. I cannot interact with your blog because that's not what this thread is about and my book is stuck in my home country. From what I do remember, Horton did say explicitly in the book that MacArthur's view of law and gospel was erroneous and he did draw quite a strong line between what is law and what is gospel, making me think that that may be quite related to the discussion at hand. So what I am trying to ask if anyone is able to place MacArthur's "erroneous view" of law and gospel in the context of these discussions and whether Frank Turk's view is near to that of MacArthur. I am not asking about assurance of salvation, which has been discussed ad nauseum in past threads. I think there was consensus that there are both subjective and objective aspects to assurance.
It's a shame that you didn't find it helpful.

Also, the issue of assurance of salvation definitely plays a major role in the "Lordship Salvation" controversy and the present one since conflating justification and sanctification in the obsessive "fruit-hunting" of both controversies always "rocks the boat" assurance-wise.
 

jayce475

Puritan Board Freshman
It's a shame that you didn't find it helpful.

Also, the issue of assurance of salvation definitely plays a major role in the "Lordship Salvation" controversy and the present one since conflating justification and sanctification in the obsessive "fruit-hunting" of both controversies always "rocks the boat" assurance-wise.
I bought it hoping that it will help me understand Lordship Salvation better, but both my pastor and I ended up with the conclusion that it wasn't that helpful and we still don't see that much of an issue with MacArthur's position. Maybe I have looked into the controversy 20 years too late, but I see none of the "obsessive fruit-hunting" anywhere, at least nothing beyond Matthew 7:17. Answer the question at hand if you will, lest we turn this into a Lordship Salvation thread.
 

Pilgrim

Puritan Board Doctor
The fourth absurdity is thinking that because someone listens to WHI, that Horton has some sort of personal responsibility for their actions. Does the Turk take responsibility for the jerks who link to Pyro articles?
While I think Frank Turk has a point with regard to what appears to be some sloppiness in some of the transcripts that he posted, I also suspect that the unaccountable watchbloggers he is trying to make Horton own are at least as influenced by the aggressive polemics of Team Pyro through the years than they are by WHI. Just Saying.

---------- Post added at 07:56 PM ---------- Previous post was at 07:39 PM ----------

Please correct me if I am wrong, but aren't the Pyromaniacs dispensationalists? :scratch:

The reason I ask is because if that is so, it just adds another layer to the law/gospel critique, and as such is not really a Reformed critique of the position.
Dan Phillips and Phil Johnson are dispensationalists, but based on some posts on the law a few months back, Phil is at least as "leaky" a dispensationalist as MacArthur is. He definitely doesn't take the classic dispensational view that the law is done away with and seemed to articulate something like the Third Use.

As for Frank Turk, if I recall correctly, he posted somewhere that he was actually Amil, although that doesn't equate to being covenantal of course. He's also a fan of Doug Wilson whereas Phil is decidedly not.

Frank's post seems to be animated by a disdain for TR's (a term I've seen him use before, if not in that discussion) who dot all the I's and cross all the T's properly but who he perceives as having glaring shortcomings in their practice if not their doctrine.

Tom Chantry, a confessional Reformed Baptist pastor, posted several times in the comments and was in close agreement with Frank's concerns regarding the alleged overemphasis on the law/gospel distinction.
 

Andrew P.C.

Puritan Board Junior
Tom Chantry, a confessional Reformed Baptist pastor, posted several times in the comments and was in close agreement with Frank's concerns regarding the alleged overemphasis on the law/gospel distinction.
Just out of curiosity:

What does this particular reformed baptist have to do with the discussion?
 

Pilgrim

Puritan Board Doctor
Tom Chantry, a confessional Reformed Baptist pastor, posted several times in the comments and was in close agreement with Frank's concerns regarding the alleged overemphasis on the law/gospel distinction.
Just out of curiosity:

What does this particular reformed baptist have to do with the discussion?
Marrow Man had written that because the Pyros aren't confessional or covenantal that the post "is not really a Reformed critique of the position" and I was pointing out that a Confessional RB pastor had written in agreement with Frank's post. That may not technically make Frank's post a Reformed critique of the position, but it really doesn't matter because there are numerous Reformed critiques of the position, some of which have been cited in this thread.
 

hrdiaz

Puritan Board Freshman
Having attended a "seeker-sensitive" church, I know what antinomianism is first hand. Inversely, having attended a cult that called itself Reformed Baptist but taught salvation by believing AND obeying, I know what legalism is first hand. In both instances, men like R. Scott Clark, Mike Horton, and Rod Rosenbladt greatly helped me in understanding the Law/Gospel distinction, and helped me understand how both churches were confusing Law and Gospel.

The Lord in His mercy used the work of these men to pull me out of the seeker-sensitive church, as well as the spiritually, psychologically, and emotionally abusive cult. I have greatly benefited from their work and think that Turk's article is just plain off the mark.

I don't know about Turk, or anyone who thinks he has a valid cause for concern, but I daily relish in the fact that all of my sins have been forgiven, that Christ has robed me in His perfect righteousness, that the Father is pleased with His Son and, therefore, is my loving Father and not my Judge. Doesn't every true child of God look to Christ more than he looks to himself? Isn't this what David does all throughout the Psalms? Isn't this what Paul does at the end of Romans 7? Isn't what regenerate men who know that they are vile sinners who even at their best deserve eternal damnation and not even the faintest hint of God's approbation for their sorry attempts at living righteously....isn't that what they do?

In all honestly, I don't know if antinomianism is really the thing we should be worrying about, seeing as we are naturally prone to establishing our own righteousness over and against the righteousness of Christ.

-h.
 

Marrow Man

Drunk with Powder
Dan Phillips and Phil Johnson are dispensationalists, but based on some posts on the law a few months back, Phil is at least as "leaky" a dispensationalist as MacArthur is. He definitely doesn't take the classic dispensational view that the law is done away with and seemed to articulate something like the Third Use.

As for Frank Turk, if I recall correctly, he posted somewhere that he was actually Amil, although that doesn't equate to being covenantal of course. He's also a fan of Doug Wilson whereas Phil is decidedly not.

Frank's post seems to be animated by a disdain for TR's (a term I've seen him use before, if not in that discussion) who dot all the I's and cross all the T's properly but who he perceives as having glaring shortcomings in their practice if not their doctrine.

Tom Chantry, a confessional Reformed Baptist pastor, posted several times in the comments and was in close agreement with Frank's concerns regarding the alleged overemphasis on the law/gospel distinction.
Thanks for answering my question, Chris. Very helpful.

Tom Chantry seems to be a good guy, and I've enjoyed the couple of Banner of Truth books I've read by him. Since he adopts a confessional position on Sabbath observance, I'm going to assume that he is not New Covenant in his Baptist theology. I do not say that to slight anyone, but only that if we are operating in different categories with how one views law and gospel, that is obviously going to create some problems. You have a variety of views in moving between Lutheran, Reformed, Dispensationalist, and New Covenant.
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
Minor Clarification: Tom Chantry is not Walt Chantry, of BoT authorship... A father-son relation, I believe. Both would be considered Ref.Bapt.
 

AThornquist

Puritan Board Doctor
There is much discussion here about MacArthur's view of Lordship salvation that has peaked my interest. My home church is MacArthurite and is in agreement with MacArthur on the issue of Lordship salvation and I have never heard the advocacy of justification through faithfulness. In fact, I have only ever heard exactly what I hear from most orthodox Reforming folks: we are justified by faith alone but that faith bears good fruit. You know, like what the Bible plainly says.
 

Backwoods Presbyterian

Puritanboard Amanuensis

PuritanCovenanter

Moderator
Staff member
I did appreciate how he said God uses the law as he will. The Holy Spirit applies it as He will. It even hardens. I forgot about that point.
 

mvdm

Puritan Board Junior
Agreed, Mark.

I fully concur with the secondary, subjective basis for the assurance of salvation, i.e. fruit, but you would notice that Turk's critique centers on his perceived undue place of primary that the indicative-imperative paradigm holds, the latter being precisely the dynamic that produces grateful obedience.
Fruit is objective as well.
 
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