Looking for Heretics: Bernie Sanders and Religious Liberalism

A few day ago, Senator Bernie Sanders questioned Russell Vought’s beliefs regarding salvation. Here’s Vought’s questioned belief:

Muslims do not simply have a deficient theology. They do not know God because they have rejected Jesus Christ his Son, and they stand condemned.

Sanders didn’t like this belief. Here’s a bunch of stuff Sanders said to Vought and others as reported by Emma Green (see here):


“In my view, the statement made by Mr. Vought is indefensible, it is hateful, it is Islamophobic, and it is an insult to over a billion Muslims throughout the world,” Sanders told the committee during his introductory remarks. “This country, since its inception, has struggled, sometimes with great pain, to overcome discrimination of all forms … we must not go backwards.”



I understand that you are a Christian. But this country is made up of people who are not just—I understand that Christianity is the majority religion. But there are other people who have different religions in this country and around the world. In your judgment, do you think that people who are not Christians are going to be condemned?


And later Sanders concluded:


I would simply say, Mr. Chairman, that this nominee is really not someone who is what this country is supposed to be about,” Sanders said. “I will vote no.”


Sanders’ comments led a few pundits to decry the imposition of a religious test, something they deem to be unconstitutional. Another writer notes that this religious test is meant to ensure theological universalism (see here ), which sounds about right. But why is Sanders so interested in theological universalism? As I see it, Sanders’ test for theological universalism is used to further the eschatological and soteriological end of modern, progressive liberalism. Hear me out.

In the past, liberalism had been largely restricted to the political sphere: A politician and citizen can have his theological beliefs, whatever they might be, so long as he doesn’t screw around with another person’s natural rights or political liberties, or implement some form of unjust, political discrimination. Consequently, on this model, a president could be a Roman Catholic, believing that Protestants and Muslims are hell-bound, which could be a tolerated belief inasmuch as it didn’t lead him to mess around with natural rights and commit unjust acts of political discrimination. Now if God did send Protestants and Muslims to hell, while sending Catholics to heaven, then His action would be a discriminatory act toward some religious believers, but the regulation of admission into heaven is not within the jurisdiction of the liberal state, which thus puts the question about the propriety of that discriminatory act outside the scope of the state’s concern and competence. Thus, on this model, the liberalism of the state is restricted to the state – the particulars of salvation is God’s business. That’s the more traditional way of thinking about things.

But modern, progressive liberalism is something different and new. Its insistence of pluralism and resistance against discrimination expands beyond the public and the politician spheres, encroaching upon private belief and the theological domain. For the progressive liberal, the idea that the most perfect end of mankind (heaven) is reserved for Christians alone, while everyone else goes to hell, is repugnant – it is the greatest and most egregious act of discrimination imaginable, even if it were God’s choice. That cannot be permitted. The progressive liberal therefore extends the traditional imposition for the state not to discriminate to God Himself; hence, even the supernatural realm is subsumed into the liberal order. In this way, there exists an eschatological and soteriological project for liberal progressivists, one that is indeliby religious in character.

With this in mind, Sanders’ test for theological universalism makes better sense. For Sanders, the progressive liberal state must fight against all forms of discrimination, even that which might exist within the hereafter. Thus, if you’re a theological particularist, then you conflict with the religious presuppositions of the liberal state and its goal, becoming more of an obstacle to its end. And that is why Vought was tested for theological universalism – it’s the only theology consistent with Sanders’ progressive liberalism. In other words, Sanders tested Vought because Sanders wanted to see if Vought was a heretic, but not a heretic of any Christian faith. Sanders does not give a poop about conformance to Christian doctrine, after all. Instead, Sanders wanted to see if Vought was a heretic of liberal progressivism. And when that was confirmed, Sanders rejected him.

If my analysis is right, then the ideals of equality and non-discrimination are herein treated as gods, worshipped and imposed. So if the Constitution prohibits a state religion, as the liberals enjoy telling us, then maybe it is time they look at what’s evolving within their own ranks. Begin with Sanders.


  1. Although Sanders essentially mocks it, it really is the most important question that can be asked, “who is going to heaven, who is going to hell, and why?” And of course, as we would expect, the Creator has told us. Not on the individual level of course, but by God’s own stated requirements in the 66 Holy Spirit inspired books of the Holy Bible.

    Even a cursory examination of this question among the religions of the world discounts all non-Christian religions as viable options as their own internal stated requirements are self-refuting, contradictory, and logically incoherent.

    Then one examines the broader Christian landscape including the cults of Christianity such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, and Romanists, and on the basis of revealed Scripture is likewise able to set aside these systems of human merit and fleshly performance.

    Then one examines the remaining Biblical Christian groups and is able to further set aside a number of denominations which are essentially in agreement with Rome’s spiritually fatal soteriological errors, though differing in specifics.

    Then at last one is left with the remnant church Christ is building on earth over which hell cannot prevail, and from which flows salvation and blessing to the nations from the Triune One true and living God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit as He empowers His people to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ born of a woman under the Law who lived a perfectly holy and obedient life that fully pleased His Father, crucified, dead, buried, and resurrected on the 3rd day according to the Scriptures, and ascended to the Father with the promise to return bodily to earth one day to judge all flesh.

    Almost everyone is aware of John 3:16, but you never see anyone at a football game sitting in the end zone section waving a big placard with “John 3:18” emblazoned upon it.

    Sanders, along with billions others if missionary statisitcs are to be believed, is presently on course to end up in conscious eternal torments in hell, and his only hope is trusting in God’s provision for helpless, hopeless sinners – the man Christ Jesus.

    Sadly fallen humanity is unable to appreciate being told the truth because all are dead in their trespasses and sins, locked in spiritual darkness, and they hate the truth by nature. At least Sanders is honest about his unbelief and hatred of the truth. Many others delude themselves into thinking they’re going to heaven based on their processes Christian religion and piety when they’re actually on the way to hearing those fateful words from the lips of Jesus, “depart from me you workers of iniquity, I never knew you.”

    I suspect it’s less a result of liberalism than the logical outworking of consistent, hardened unbelief. Sanders is just saying what wicked people normally hide in their darkened hearts.

    Sad, but true.

  2. Vought should have just referred Sanders to John 3:36 and left it that. Let the Word speak for itself.

    CRD, everything you say is true except for the idea that the consequence of the fall is a sin nature. The curse of the fall is simply mortality, not hereditary sin. Once you realize that, it is even easier to separate the religious traditions of men from the the simple apostolic and biblical truth.

    • I’d love to hear a positive argument from Scripture for the position you’ve staked here.

      Simple question to kick things off, on your view *why* do humans die? *Why* are humans mortal?

    • The question should be what the scriptural evidence is for an inherited sin nature. People try to wrest Romans, particularly chapter 5, and that’s about it. Other than that, people cherry-pick a verse or two from Ephesians, maybe a couple verses from a psalm or two.

      The reality is that until Augustine, and especially for the first two centuries of the church, every notable father taught man’s natural ability to obey God. If you negate man’s natural ability to obey God because of the idea that the flesh is subject to sin, then you negate the entire Gospel, because sin becomes a calamity, not a choice. It renders genuine repentance impossible. Hence the “trust and receive” Gospel rather than the go and sin no more Gospel.

      Humans die because they are subject to the curse of death. This is because sin came into the world (not into our nature!) and God has expelled us from the garden, so we no longer have access to the tree of life. This is why it says in Revelation 22 that those who are found worthy of the Kingdom of God will have right to the tree of life.

      If you start with the flawed assumption that man is born a sinner, then you’ll have to twist the nature of redemption too. Redemption no longer is seen to be the release from the bondage of sin in this life (the scriptures teach ransom not substitution), but instead the absolution of punishment from all sins past present and future. The sin never stops! This is why people commonly teach that Christ saves from hell, rather than saying he turns us form our past sins. He came to destroy sin in this life, by showing us mercy for our past sins, and then empowering us to walk in holiness to him through a faith working by love. He has come to purify and renovate the human heart, not just give us a ticket to heaven. But if the heart isn’t purified by obedience to the truth in repentance, then the old man is never put to death, and people will remain in bondage to their sin.

      Trusting in a substition atonement (a transfer of righteousness, imputation, etc.), necessitated by the teaching of original sin, gives man an alternative to obedience. This is why in professed Christianity, the sin never stops in this life. It never stops because no one is told that they must repent by crucifying their passions and desires to be forgiven for their sins. The old man is never put to death, so the heart is never purified, and hence the idea of salvation becomes a matter of trusting in a provision, rather than the faithful obedience that leads to a manifest abiding in Christ.

      Catholics see that the Protestants are wrong: deeds matter. But Protestants rightly see that Catholics have all kinds of silly traditions and rituals and dogmas. The truth that both are in error, because they teach that man is saved in his sin, and it all goes back to the false teaching of original sin.

      Let me try to summarize because I wrote this fast, and there is a lot of false teaching to untangle:

      None of the early saints (people today call them the “church fathers”) until Augustine taught that Romans 7, for example, was speaking of a redeemed believer. Paul is speaking in the historic present tense, which means that he’s telling a narrative about someone who is still living under the bondage of sin. But as Paul says in both Romans 6 and Romans 8 (and also in other epistles besides Romans) the Christian is set free from the bondage of sin, and has become a slave to righteousness. So the wretched man of Romans 7 is not the redeemed Christian, but the sinner who has not yet been redeemed. In a homily on Romans 6 and 7, John Chrysostom, a fourth century saint, explains everything I just alluded to: the curse of the Fall is mortality (not a sin nature), sin is a choice not a condition, Christ commands heart purity and virtue, and it is not possible to be redeemed while in your sins, since redemption means that you’ve been freed from sin!

      Romans 6 is teaching how to be set free; Romans 7 is teaching why we need to be set free; Romans 8 it teaching the result of being set free. Paul is simply teaching exactly what Christ taught everywhere, most notably in John 8 where Christ says that he who sins is a slave to sin, but the one who has been set free is free indeed.


      Centuries and centuries of human theology has complicated and obscured the simple teaching of Christ by strengthening sin. But God is not trying to confuse anyone. His commands are simple and they are not burdensome, but redemption can only take place when there is a willing and honest heart, just as Christ taught in the parable of the sower. I wish you the best in seeking Christ. If people think that the sin can never stop, they will never try. But praise God, all things are possible through Christ.

  3. One more thing, this point directly on your question regarding mortality. Why has God made us mortal?

    As I say above, that is the curse of the fall. It is a punishment for sin’s having entered into the world through Adam and Eve. We have been ejected from the garden, so, as men of dust, we no longer have access to the tree of life.

    When God’s creation was corrupted by the entrance of sin, it needed to be redeemed by being cleansed of evil. So, in a way, making us mortal is actually in a way an act of mercy. Once we come to love God and hate evil, this world is not a place that we love; no one who is truly born again would ever want to live in this world forever! It is evil and full of suffering and sorrow, and it is run by Satan.

    So the fact that we are fated to die is in a way a good thing, because it means that we can use our short time here on earth to please God and love our neighbor, knowing that if we run our race of faith here on earth well, we can have a right to the kingdom of God. And that is great! I wouldn’t want to have to live in this evil world forever.

    Anyway, the point is that the fact that we are born mortal is rich with meaning in all sorts of ways, but the scriptures themselves and the apostolic faith for centuries until Augustine are clear that we did not inherit a sin nature at birth.

  4. Interesting approach, and as you correctly point out, not novel but ancient. For me, I enjoy reading much of what the church fathers have to say, but of course one must keep in mind they are not inspired and in many cases they are much less reliable than many modern commentators.

    The’re worth reading for gleaning some insights and perspectives, but they are just products of their era, and have no authority. After all the best of men are men at best.

    I want to read you as charitably as possible, but my initial take is perhaps more than a bit troubling to be very frank with you. It *seems* to me that you are dabbling in a form of a very ancient error. I hope I’m wrong.

    I’m not questioning that Christ has redeemed you, after all if perfect theology were a prerequisite to salvation, then none would be saved. What does concern me spiritually however is that it *seems* that based on your responses above you *may be* dabbling in a form of self-righteousness / works-righteousness, which thing can be a mark of one being outside of God’s grace as outlined in numerous Pauline epistles.

    For example: “His commands are simple and they are not burdensome, but redemption can only take place when there is a willing and honest heart, just as Christ taught in the parable of the sower.”

    I don’t believe I cherry-picked this statement out of context, in fact it seems to be the distillation of the theme running throughout your lengthy and thoughtful reply, to wit fallen man is a sinner because he sins (due to his environment, in which there is sin “out there” having entered into the world at the Fall), *not* that he sins because he’s a sinner (by nature, endemic, “in him” having entered into man’s very nature at the Fall).

    You clearly recognize this as your polemic is for the former and against the latter. But it’s not clear how far you’ve worked out the theory of man’s natural ability in the light of Scripture, because you don’t explicate that. That only makes sense at this point because this is really a development of the original question, as is often the case when discussing such matters.

    My earlier questions about death were intended to flush out this point. I actually agree with much of what you said there. Can you even imagine a fallen, corrupted world filled with immortals? It would be hell on earth.

    My primary concern, which may be unfounded, is the degree to which your position as I read it in the light of Scripture undermines the free grace of God as outlined throughout the Bible, but as seen most clearly in the New Testament. It sounds to me like you’re saying something along the contours of:

    “Fallen humanity doesn’t need a new heart given graciously by God because he is a slave to sin and is in fact dead in his trespasses and sins needing to be born again by the will of God in Christ being found in Him without a righteousness of his own, but rather standing clothed in the robes of the righteousness of Christ alone; instead fallen man needs to exercise his natural ability to cooperate with God in order to bring about heart renovation to obey and love God and keep his commands to put sin to death in order to be found pleasing in His sight, and thus be declared righteous before Him.”

    I think we can agree that one of these things is not like the other. One represents divine accomplishment in Christ, and one represents human achievement. One represents Spirit and one represents flesh. One represents grace, and one represents works. There are two different covenants represented here, and one of them abides under God’s curse. This is the whole point of Paul’s epistle to the Galatians. This is spiritually serious stuff.

    And just to be clear, I’m no antinomian. I fully affirm the many Biblical commands for good works and for bearing fruit for Christ. A true Christian will be marked by a hatred of sin, a love for Christ and his fellow man (believer and unbeliever alike) and a desire for true holiness and heart obedience to God.

    Again, I want to read you as charitably as possible, and I’m not asserting that you are blatantly stating man is saved by his own good works, through his efforts to obey God and keep His commandments, but this implication *does* seem to be a not so subtle feature of your responses above as I read them.

    Soli Deo Gloria!

  5. CRD,

    Just read your response. Im at work right now, but when I get home I’ll write something to address the grave and works issue. It all fits together!

  6. Okay, I’m back.

    I’m going to do my best to present this as clearly and concisely as possible. I’m glad you’re interested; almost everyone I meet really couldn’t care less about this. Most people’s eyes glaze over, or they get irritated and shut down and won’t listen, so I praise God that I can hopefully say something that will stick with you. God is seeking people with honest and willing hearts, so I hope what I say will be of help to you!

    I’m going to do my best not to bombard you with scriptures and instead present things systematically, though if you want scripture for anything I do say, I will be happy to provide it. I am glad that you don’t want to waste time quoting church fathers at one another. My reason behind originally mentioning them was mostly rhetorical; when people hear my understanding of the Gospel, it sounds so ridiculous and heretical to them that I’ve learned one way to get people to stop and listen is to mention that all I’m saying is what the early believers taught and had learned directly from the apostles and their direct disciples.

    Okay, what is grace?

    The professing church system often defines it as “unmerited favor.” People think that it somehow covers them; past, present, and futures sins are all forgiven in advance. This is why many people will say things like “we are under grace, not under the law” or “we are saved by what Christ has done for us, not anything we do.” This is also why people will say things like “If I could stop sinning, then I wouldn’t need Jesus” or “If I could stop sinning, then I could save myself” and so on. On this way of understanding things, Christ’s atonement is being understood as a substitution–this wasn’t taught until Anselm. Prior to that, people taught ransom, which is the word used in the scriptures.

    Hence, on the standard view today, salvation in Christ is a positional affair; one trusts or believes that Christ has died for our sins, and we receive forgiveness on that basis. This is what most people mean by faith. There are different formulas and methods for how each of the churches teach this is supposed to go, but in essence, that is what it boils down to: the sinner is saved by grace, which for them means that Christ’s death on the cross blots out all of your sins. In sum, God forgives us based on our decision to “receive” Christ. We are saved in our sins.

    But that is not what the scriptures teach. The scriptures teach that grace teaches us to deny worldly lusts and to live soberly and godly in this present age. Grace is what empowers us to live a life that is pleasing to God. Grace is the mercy and remission of our past sins (Rom 3:25), a washing and renewing of our hearts and minds that purges us (Heb 9:14) of our past sins, so that we are clean and pure. It is not about entering into a position with Christ, it is about entering into a manifest abiding in him (John 14; 1 John 3), whereby we are transformed (Rom 8:1; Rom 12:2).

    But this only happens through a true repentance. That is why everything turns on man’s natural ability. Until people understand that sin is what we do rather than who we are by birth, and that the old man of sin was created by our own free choices through years of disobedience, then the sinning will never cease. Sin is a free choice that we make, not a nature or a fate. Over time, however, after years of doing so, sin becomes normal to us and it puts us in bondage. For many people, it becomes so bad that the very idea of ever truly stopping sounds impossible! That is why so many professing Christians get trapped languishing in the shadow world of the sin/confess cycle. Because they never put the old man to death in repentance (Gal 5:24; Col 3; Eph 5), they are never freed from the bondage of sin, so they never receive the washing and renewing of the new birth.

    What, then, is salvation?

    Christ came to free us from and forgive us of our sins (Matt 1:21; Acts 3:26), but that can only happen when we choose to meet God on his terms. And that means that we have to empty ourselves of guile and empty ourselves of our excuses and truly come to him in brokenness with the rebellion in our hearts put to death. If that does not happen, the sin will never stop, and God does not forgive sin when we are still in the active commission of it. How can he cleanse us from all sin and wash away our past sins when we still have no intention of stopping? Obviously that can’t work, which is why man must do his part.

    When Paul talks about works, he means the sacrificial and ceremonial customs of the law of Moses. He is not talking about deeds done in faith. As Paul says, faith upholds the law (Rom 3:31) because it works in a pure heart (Matt 5:8) through a faith working by love (Gal 5:6). Paul himself makes it clear that we will be judged by our deeds (Rom 2), and that we will be disqualified from the kingdom if we commit the sins unto death (1 Cor 6:9; Gal 5: Col 3: Eph 5), which is why he says that we will reap what we sow (Gal 6). That is why, for the born again Christian, our struggle is not against sin per se, but against temptation. The bondage of sin of has already been broken in repentance and the subsequent redemption! We have already put to death the passions and desires that had been given over to sin, and through the blood of Christ, we have been washed and renewed. We become slaves to righteousness (Rom 6), because sin no longer has dominion over us. But that can only happen when man comes to God with a truly broken and contrite spirit, having emptied his heart of all guile, and truly resolved to no longer rebel against God. Until that purging takes place (James 4; 2 Corinthians 7:10), the heart will remain impure, the power of sin will still have dominion over one, and there will not be any redemption, because one has not really come clean with God.

    The doctrine of original sin necessitates substitution atonement, which in turn negates the imperative of a real repentance, which in turn leads people into a “trust and receive” false salvation, which in turn leaves them trapped in sin, rather than finally be freed and redeemed from it. In other words, the salvation never takes place, because they remain carnal and sold under sin! There is still no new birth and new man in Christ because the old man was never put to death. The heart remains impure, the sinner remains double-minded, and there is no true victory over sin, the flesh, and the devil.

    So, we are saved by grace, which means that it is the blood of Christ that reconciles us back to God. That is the free gift of salvation. But for that to happen, there must be a genuine repentance where we turn from sin and empty ourselves of all guile and wickedness, so that we can truly be born again and live a life of holiness. If the willful sin does not cease in repentance, it will never cease, because the heart is still in rebellion and mind divided, and that is why so many professing Christians live in sin and excuse sin, and think that sin is still normal for someone truly redeemed. It isn’t, but because they have been told that they don’t have to cease from sin, the true wonder of redemption that is meant to completely transform and renovate us here now in this life never takes place.

    Here is a very good teaching that summarize the issue of grace:


    There is nothing more humbling and horrifying and terrifying when one realizes that sin is unnatural, that the sin must stop, that the only reason it has not yet stopped is simply because one hasn’t really wanted to stop, and that hell will be the consequence of not stopping. The fear of the Lord comes upon one, and then one understands how great the power of darkness truly is, and how shameful one has become by living so long in deception and rebellion. But this is also the great miracle of salvation, because even in this terrible place, the mercy of God is there, and it is possibly to be washed and cleansed and made new, and to have a fresh start in Christ! It is truly wonderful, but sadly so few people every come to know it, because they don’t want to truly part from their sin.

    Christ has come to set each of us free from the slavery we have sold ourselves into, but he can’t override our wills if we want to languish in darkness.But it is possible to truly come into the light, and to have a life of joy, with a clean conscience, with the real knowledge of God’s wonderful kindness and mercy, with victory over sin, and a newness of life that is holy and pure and innocent, rather than wicked and shameful and unclean. Praise God for that!

    When you find this great redemption, the world will hate you, and many people will abandon and resent you, but it is great to truly be at peace with God, knowing that this world is passing away, but if we do the will of God, we will abide forever in him…

    I wish you the best in your seeking, and if you want me to clarify anything, I would be happy to try.

    • Thanks for taking the time to interact, TSI. Your further reply reinforces your prior comments, and confirms what I thought you were saying earlier.

      I’d recommend a thorough, prayerful study through Paul’s epistle to the Galatians. I truly believe your understanding of the Biblical concepts of grace, faith, sin, salvation, the Gospel, and the Person and work of Christ are defective to the point of representing a corrupted version of Christianity.

      I don’t say this lightly, or with malice, but with fear and trembling and humility. The system you’ve outlined above turns on human performance, which is to say works. A system of human merit (works) is anathematized (cursed) not once but twice by Paul in Galatians.

      The true Gospel is scandalous and offensive. Your gospel is user friendly and appeals to the religious moralist, the modern-day Pharisee. It’s less Biblical Christianity and more Moralistic-Therapeutic Deism. “Get good to get God”. That’s not the message of true salvation according to the Scriptures.

      Further the Christ you describe is sort of an accessory. Maybe a necessary accessory, but just an accessory nonetheless. We need Him to get us so far, but it’s up to us to do the rest. He’s a potential Savior for anyone and everyone, but an actual Savior to no one, at least no one who hasn’t done his part.

      That’s just not the Christ of Scripture. Think about it this way:

      The Father sent the Son into the world to bear the penalty of God’s just wrath for:

      i.) all the sins of all people
      ii.) some of the sins of all people
      iii.) all of the sins of some people

      If option i.) then we have universalism, all the sins of all people are remitted and there remains no condemnation for anyone because Christ suffered and died (for our purposes here either ransom or substitute theory works fine)

      If option ii.) the we have universalism of another kind, as everyone will be damned and cast into hell forever because their sins remain

      If option iii.) we have Biblical Christianity where God had a purpose in Christ to redeem a people by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, to the praise and glory of God alone. And who is the “some people”? The Bible tells us it is all those who believe (John 3:16), believers from every kingdom, tribe, tongue and nation who are brought from spiritual death to life according to God’s plan (Eph. 2) and according to His will and not according to the will of man (John 1:12-13).

      Jesus says no man may come to Him except for those whom the Father draws to Him, and He (Jesus) will raise them up (all the Father calls to Jesus) on the last day (the final resurrection to eternal life). This is not a general call, or else we’re back to universalism again, this is a particular call that God makes to His people, His sheep who hear His voice and follow Him. Others don’t hear His voice and don’t follow Him because they are not a part of His flock.

      This is the basic Gospel, Christ Jesus came to seek and save His lost sheep, and He has done, is doing, and will do that until the last one is found. Notice His sheep aren’t looking for Him or rescuing themselves, He’s looking for them and rescuing them.

      I’m afraid you’ve gotten things precisely backward. Like the foolish Galatians.

    • Hi CRD,

      Just a few thoughts in response to your most recent reply.

      The issue of “works” is a huge stumbling block for most people. In Galatians, Paul is warning them against being brought under the law in terms of the ritual sacrifices and washing and dietary restrictions and circumcision and so forth. Paul is not teaching that we can disobey God by violating the moral laws. As he says elsewhere,like in the Romans passages I referenced, faith upholds the law, because love is the fulfilling of the law. If you are walking in true faith, then by definition you are walking in the Spirit, which means that you have put to death sin, so you are no longer transgressing the law.

      Those who commit such sins listed in 1 Corinthians 6 and Galatians 5 and Ephesians will not inherit the kingdom of God–Paul is speaking to born again Christians there, who are under grace. The “works” he is talking about are the rituals and washing and dietary customs and so forth; this is exactly what was sorted out in the Jerusalem council in Acts 15. We are not saved by those kinds of works of the law. and they are no longer necessary anyway, since we are walking in the power of the Holy Spirit which is a higher form of righteousness anyway. When we are truly under grace, we are out of sin.That just is what redemption means.

      The gospel that Christ and the apostles preached is repentance for remission of past sins, not trust and receive.

      No one taught substitution until Anselm, and no one taught penal substitution until Aquinas and the Reformers.

      Redemption is the release from bondage and the washing and renewing of the spirit and mind; it leads to heart purity and a morally upright life with a deep connection with Christ. That doesn’t happen under satisfaction theory because the sin never ceases in repentance, because people are under the deception that it is unnecessary and impossible to cease from sin anyway.

      As for the question of the elect, I didn’t know you were a Calvinist. John 6 is a stronghold, but Luke 10 and John 5 specifically say that the Son quickens who he wills. It also says that Christ, in being lifted up on the cross, is drawing all men to him. That is why God has commanded all men everywhere to repent; he hasn’t died for a select few, who has died for everyone, but he cannot force them to come clean and turn from their sin and receive his mercy.

    • One more point, this one focusing specifically on the nature of the atonement.

      Christ didn’t come to “bear the penalty for the Father’s just wrath.” That is what Luther and Calvin and other Reformers taught, but that is an invention of men. The scriptures teach that Christ is our example, not our substitute. This modern theological way of looking at salvation makes salvation positional and forensic. As a result, true salvation never takes place, because people remain in their sins, constantly trying to defend sin.

      The scriptures teach the opposite. Time and again, all the way back into the Old Testament, it is said that Christ would come to release us from the bondage of sin–and that is exactly what the scriptures say all the way into Acts and the letters of Paul, Peter, James, and John. As I think Isaiah said, we have sold ourselves for nothing into bondage, and we will be redeemed without money. Each of us has gone astray by choosing to disobey and live for our sin. That was our decision, and there is nothing we can do to obtain mercy and forgiveness for that apart from the cleansing and washing available through the blood of Christ. Christ has the power to purge our sins, and that is what makes the new covenant truly marvelous. But how can we be washed clean and purged when we are still unclean and still sinning?

      That’s a blatant contradiction, but satisfaction theory is premised on trying to explain it away.

      Christ did not pay off a sin debt or suffer the wrath of God for us. If he had, then, just as you say, we would have universalism. That’s why Calvin, following Augustine, invented the idea of the elect being preordained by God before the foundation of the world, as if this meant that God has always already picked the winners and losers. But even limited atonement doesn’t solve the problem for satisfaction theory.

      If Christ’s atonement is sufficient to pay off God’s wrath, then why do the scriptures teach that the wrath of God has still not yet come upon the sons of disobedience? That’s what it says in Romans and Ephesians, and Peter says so too. That means God would be punishing the same sins twice.

      But none of these unnecessary theological dilemmas and paradoxes arise in the first place if you understand that the new covenant is not based on satisfaction or substitution. Righteousness is not something transferred or something we receive; it is what we do–1 John 3. Christ has come to turn us from our sins and purge them (Matt 1:21; Acts 3:26; Heb 9:14), so that, having been shown washed clean in coming to his mercy seat in brokenness, we can walk in freedom, living a life of holiness with victory over sin. What else could it mean to be a new creation and a new man?
      That’s exactly why Christ says what he does in John 8: “Go and sin no more.” The sinning should and must stop in repentance or else salvation cannot take place.

      If you’re still sinning and carnal, then you are not a new man. You’re still the old man, but this time with a fancy theology to try to justify it!

      This is what satisfaction theory does: it gives man an alternative to obedience, and lets him think that he is safe in his sins, even when the scriptures are clear that sin leads to death.

      This is why Christ came to turn us from our sins and destroy sin in our lives, and he does so by the mercy and remission of our past sins when we meet his conditions by truly repenting. That is what redemption is. It is entering into a covenant with God that leads to a manifest transformation and regeneration in the person’s character and conduct through the power and grace of God. But if the repentance never takes place, the sinning never stops, the heart is never purified in obedience to the truth, and the new man is never put on, because the old man is still alive. In short, no redemption takes places because we haven’t entered into the covenant, because our heart is still in rebellion against God.

      That is the peril of satisfaction theory’s turning salvation into a positional or forensic decree rather than a manifest and experiential reality. This is also why I started by focusing on the issue of original sin. The sin nature heresy necessarily leads to satisfaction theory, which in turn negates redemption, because it does away with the mercy of the new covenant. Rather than people actually coming out of their sin and being born again in Christ, they “trust” that they have been saved, even though they’re still in their sins. They think they are saved, but they aren’t.

      It is very simple: if Christ came to turn us from our sins, but you are still in your sins, then how are you saved? The answer is obvious: you haven’t been.

      The modern Gospel has reversed the Bible. Rather than repentance for remission leading to purity of heart and a faith working by love in a new man who walks in the Spirit with victory over sin and the world, people are being taught that they only need to trust and receive, and then live the rest of their lives in a carnal sin/confess cycle of ruin where they’re never really dead to sin and alive to God.

      And it all goes back to original sin and the teaching of natural inability; once you’ve assumed that man is born a sinner and doesn’t have the ability to obey God before he’s regenerated, you end up in the mess that Calvinism has.

      But everything works perfectly when you recognize that man is not born a sinner, and that he is able to obey God. God wants all men to be saved, and he is willing to extend mercy to them and forgive them of their past sins if they will simply humble themselves and really come to him with a broken spirit and a willing heart to finally obey him from a heart working through love.

      But God cannot force people to do that, which is why unfortunately so many people will perish in their sins. That is not God’s wish, but even God himself cannot force a person to want to be righteous and holy. It is a matter of every individual’s own free choice. Mercy and newness of life in Christ is available to everyone, but few seek it, because the way is narrow and it requires effort. That is why Christ himself told us to strive to enter and to overcome. We have to choose between God and sin.

      And that is exactly what Paul says: “All those who name the name of Christ depart from iniquity” (2 Tim 2:19). If you’re still in your iniquities, you aren’t saved. And the idea that the sinning can never stop, and that it needn’t stop, and that man doesn’t have the natural ability to stop, leads to exactly what we see: a completely lawless society where no one takes any responsibility for themselves or cares for others.

      Satisfaction theory caters to that lawlessness because it is premised on the idea that man is not truly accountable to God for his actions. Most people today mock the idea of God, and some people who call themselves Christians believe that God has given them a license to sin. I don’t really see the difference.

    • Thanks TSI, I’m at camp with kiddos from our church this week, so I’ve not been online much, but it’s raining today!

      Your further and highly detailed response, the best I can tell, was a really long defense of the same thing I’ve been pointing out that you’re saying, which you keep saying in different ways: man works his way to salvation.

      That’s just a perversion of grace, and a sub-Biblical understanding of the Gospel. I am glad that you’re willing to interact, and I’ll labor to develop a fuller reply as time allows.

      Question, do you claim to be without sin? In other words, do you live a sinless life?

  7. P.S.

    To bring this discussion back to the original post: the reason why Vought didn’t stand up to Sanders is because he doesn’t have the power of God truly working through him, because Vought is obviously still carnal with divided loyalties.

    Could you imagine one of the apostles or early saints giving a weak response like that? Read the Acts and see how true men of God spoke to the people and the kind of testimony in Christ they had. That is the power of God! Until a person fulfills his own obedience, he won’t be able to testify to the truth. And that is exactly why Sanders was able to run over Vought; in his heart, Vought knows that he’s a hypocrite, still in his sin, so he couldn’t in good conscience rebuke Sanders. Sad. And that is exactly why unbelievers rightly dismiss professing Christianity; they see the hypocrisy, because the professed believers have no true testimony of God’s power in their lives.

    Obviously, I am on the “right” of the political spectrum when it comes to moral issues, but until people on the political “right” actually start walking righteously in true holiness and purity, they will never be able to speak out against the hypocrisy and general degeneracy of today’s political “left.” If we want any political reform at a societal level, people have to come clean with God individually. Otherwise, we will be left where we are: with nothing but empty rhetoric and the same sad steady decline into the abyss we are currently witnessing in this country and all around the world.

    Imagine if Vought had fulfilled his own obedience and been able to make a true stand for the truth. Sanders would have been left speechless and put to shame, but it didn’t happen because our political system (and general society) is full of people languishing in darkness with divided loyalties, totally lukewarm. And we wonder why things are getting worse…

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