what is the gospel?

Donn Arms has an excellent article on the topic, “Gospel Indicatives/Gospel Imperatives”. In it he calls for us to use the term ‘gospel’ in exactly the same way the New Testament uses it. I say a hearty ‘Amen’, to that. Be sure to read this one. The New Calvinists won’t like it, but it is absolutely right on… and coming from an “Old” Calvinist, I guess… but not ‘olde’!



  1. Keith says:

    The “Sonship Theology, New Calvinism, Gospel Sanctification, Christian Hedonism” guys are a long way from quietism or contemplatives — unless Arms is using some idiosyncratic definition of these terms.

    Clearly establishing and reminding oneself of the motivation and power for sanctification is not the same thing as saying sit there and do nothing.

    Sounds like Arms needs to either more precisely identify his opponents or else get to know them better.


  2. Arlyn Ubben says:

    Thanks for the link to the article. I have seen the confusion in students who have been taught by the New Calvinism approach. So, we sit around preaching the gospel to ourselves and somehow that is to help. Now, we will certainly understand the gospel better the more we grow in our faith, but we need to go beyond reviewing the gospel on a daily basis in order to grow.

    Once I have a road map in my hand, I do not need to continue to get new roadmaps, I need to follow the one I have (God’s Word) to reach the destination which God has planned beforehand for me ( sanctification), that I should walk in it.

    • Hi Arlyn

      Exactly. I find the New Calvinist approach to be disturbingly similar to the worst of the Keswick approach.

      @ Keith

      Clearly you need to read more widely if you don’t know what Arms is talking about.

      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  3. Keith says:

    I’ve read quite a bit of the “sonship, new calvinism, gospel sanctification, and Christian hedonism” stuff. I know the stuff that Arms claims to be talking about.

    What I’m saying is that Arms is either naming the wrong names, or he doesn’t know what he’s talking about — hasn’t really understood the guys he’s opposing, or hasn’t really understood quietism, or both.

    If Arms and you think like Mr. Ubben above, you haven’t understood what is meant by “preach the gospel to yourself”. If you and Arms think that the guys Arms has named are like Keswick, you haven’t understood them.

    Find a real quietist and see what he thinks about John Piper — the modern leader of Christian Hedonism (following Jonathan Edwards and C.S. Lewis). Piper’s full of resolutions (like Edwards) and activism.

    The sonship course was developed by Jack Miller for missionary training. It wasn’t developed for people who intended some sort of protestant monasticism. And, Gospel Sanctification is just an updated version of sonship.

    Have you read any of these for understanding — not just to gather quotes for polemics?

    “New Calvinism” is too broad and ill defined a term. Are there some who might be called “New Calvinists” who are quietists and contemplatives. Sure. Do many find some things to appreciate in quietism or contemplative spirituality. Sure. Nevertheless, the specific groups Arms named aren’t best described as quietist or contemplative or Keswick.

    For a real good explanation of this stuff you should read “Holiness by Grace” by Bryan Chapell, the president of Covenant Seminary. This book is rich in Scriptural teaching. And, it does the best job of making clear what these groups are getting at.

    In a nutshell, they’re saying, the fuel to keep pressing on in progressive sanctification is the knowledge that we are already totally accepted by God in Christ. We don’t get in by grace and then have to stay in by effort. When one understands how secure he is because of the gospel, it enables the ongoing repentance, perseverance, and spiritual discipline of progressive sanctification.

    This approach is nothing like the every Sunday how to get saved message version of “preaching the gospel.”

    Seriously, one of the early advocates of “Preaching the Gospel to yourself” was Lloyd-Jones. Quietist? Contemplative?

    Another proponent is Jerry Bridges, long a leader in the Navigators. The Navigators, quietist, contemplative?

    Clearly you and Mr. Arms need to read more widely or more carefully.


    • Whoo, boy, Bridges? No thanks. What a nutbar. A complete fatalist.

      And Piper is exactly who I mean in complaining about the new approach.

      I’ve read enough of Piper to have no desire to read any more.

      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  4. Keith says:

    Having no desire to read more and thinking they are nutjobs is entirely different from establishing that they are quietists and contemplatives as Arms claims.

    Unless of course for fundamentalists it’s considered ethical to throw out any old accusation when you disagree with someone.

    Also, you either don’t know what a fatalist is, or you don’t know Bridges.

    Oh, and you forgot to slam Lloyd-Jones.


    • Oh, come on, Keith. Anyway, who is claiming the New Calvinists are quietists and contemplatives? There is a distinct difference between what Adams and Arms teach about sanctification and what the NC crowd teaches. I happen to agree with Adams and Arms on this point.

      I’ve read Bridges. Not impressed.

      Anyway, I’m not really interested in arguing the point. The post is merely meant to link to an article that I think is worthy. You don’t agree. Nothing new there.

      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  5. Keith says:

    Who is claiming the New Calvinists are quietists and contemplatives? Don Arms!

    Here’s a quote, caps added, from the article you are supposedly agreeing with:

    “Those who have resurrected this QUIETIST or CONTEMPLATIVE view of sanctification are identified by a number of labels these days—Sonship Theology, New Calvinism, Gospel Sanctification, Christian Hedonism.”

    I didn’t post because “I don’t agree”, I posted to point out a factual error. But, that doesn’t seem to matter. Like you say, nothing new there.

    • Ok, point taken.

      Sorry for the delay in posting this. I somehow didn’t notice it in the queue till just now.

      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  6. Keith says:

    Try reading “Holiness by Grace”, I think you’ll like the writing/approach, even if you end up not agreeing with the total argument/point.


  7. d4v34x says:

    I have to say having read alot of the secondary sources (i.e. bloggers who like the new Calvinists), some of there rhetoric sounds somewhat quietist/keswick. Unfortunately, I can’t provide links because this was an occassional impression I had a few times over the last year reading this or that.

    On the other hand, Andy Naselli, who knows a thing or two about Keswick, wrote (somewhere ) that there are some (many?) similarities between the reformed view of sanctification and Keswick, so perhaps this shouldn’t surprise.

  8. d4v34x says:

    Hrm, some of their. Not there. :eyeroll:

  9. Tommy says:

    Don, I’m curious to hear your view of this “new” approach which focuses so much on the gospel (its not really new). I’m not talking about counseling, just in general. Care to elaborate?

    • The biggest problem I have with the idea of “gospel-centered” sanctification is that it seems too mystical and dependent on mere meditation on the ‘facts of the gospel’ as the means of sanctification. Peter Masters has a good article available at the Metropolitan Tabernacle or Sword and Trowel site critiquing John Piper on this point.

      The second problem I have with this approach is it reduces the essential doctrines too narrowly. There are essentials over which we must contend that are not specifically gospel related.

      I don’t have time to elaborate more than that right now. You might find some articles here that touch on the issue in more detail, check the categories in the Archives. I’ll probably write more at some point in the future. It is a recurring theme these days.

      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  10. Tommy says:

    Thanks for the response. I will look for your upcoming articles. Can you direct me to the article by Masters? I looked but could not find it.

    • Here is one article that touches on it. The other article might not be available on the web any longer. I think it might have appeared in this issue of S&T: Sword & Trowel 2007, No. 1. Don’t know if you can still get that one.

      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  11. Tommy says:

    That article didn’t really seem to touch much on Gospel-centered living and sanctification. I will stay on the look out for yours. Have a good day.

    • Too bad. I couldn’t find the specific article I was thinking of either. I’ll write to them and see if it is still available.

      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3