True Faith

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The division that just took place was doctrinal.

That is denied by many.

It often is in the history of church reformation.

Take J. Gresham Machen’s suspension, for example. “Was Dr. Machen’s trial a fair one? Ecclesiastical lawyers maintain that no question of doctrine is involved. In the more adequate view there are doctrinal differences which run into the heart of the entire problem”.1

Instead of listening to today’s “ecclesiastical lawyers,” we must examine the evidence.

That evidence is clear. There are “doctrinal differences which run into the heart of the entire problem.”

The PRC, by official decision, made a conscious choice as to which doctrine would be its own.

It did not do that by adopting a “three points” of false doctrine.

That day will come, but not soon. Shrewd behavior will keep that at bay for many years.

That was driven home at the recent meeting of Classis East.

A matter was brought to the floor that had to do with a protest against the sermon by Rev. VanOverloop that taught conditional fellowship that is not all of grace.

A motion was made to condemn as heretical the statement that explicitly taught conditional fellowship.

It was apparent that the classis was opposed to the motion. There was no appetite to label the statement heresy, not because it wasn’t heretical but because it would reflect poorly on the man who had originally preached it.

One delegate expressed outright that the classis must guard Rev. VanOverloop’s reputation.

As it came closer to the time for the chairman to call for the vote, the clerk of Classis East pointed out that if they were to fail this motion it would look like they were unwilling to call the statement heresy. The motion would need to be withdrawn so there would be no evidence that it had existed or that the classis was unwilling to call it heresy.

So political maneuvering and wrangling ensued that had nothing whatsoever to do with the glory of God’s name and God’s truth but had everything to do with preserving the reputation and name of man.

It is this type of shrewd thinking that will keep false doctrine from being officially adopted by the broader assemblies of the PRC.

But the PRC did make a conscious choice as to which doctrine would be its own, and they did this by never disciplining the teacher or defender of the lie and by repeatedly disciplining those who exposed the lie and defended the truth.

The membership of the PRC has been making that choice consistently over the last five years as well by slandering the defenders of orthodoxy and defending the men who taught, tolerated, or defended error.

So is there a doctrinal difference between the new church and the PRC?

To use the words of Luke 16:26, there is a “great gulf fixed” between them.

The difference was put into stark relief on Sunday, March 14, 2021.

In the providence of God, two ministers preached on the same Lord’s Day. One minister is the Professor of Dogmatics in the Protestant Reformed Seminary. The other minister was recently deposed from the PRC for rebuking her for her errors.  The transcripts are found here and here. You can watch each sermon here and here.

The sermons were on Lord’s Day 7 of the Heidelberg Catechism.

Q. 21     What is true faith?

A. True faith is not only a certain knowledge, whereby I hold for truth all that God has revealed to us in His Word, but also an assured confidence, which the Holy Ghost works by the gospel in my heart; that not only to others, but to me also, remission of sin, everlasting righteousness, and salvation are freely given by God, merely of grace, only for the sake of Christ’s merits.”

The Lord’s Day deals with faith. True faith.

According to Ursinus, the Lord’s Day has to do with “justifying” faith.

How else do dead sinners receive “remission of sins, everlasting righteousness, and salvation” if not through justifying faith?  

Where would each pastor lead his flock?

The Lord’s Day itself is not unclear.

 How are you assured of your salvation? “Only for the sake of Christ’s merits.”

“Only” means to the exclusion of everything else.

It would take work to use this Lord’s Day to rob the flock of their assurance.

Which is exactly what Prof. Cammenga did.

Twenty minutes into a sermon on a Lord’s Day that never mentions works, Prof. Cammenga went there. “Scripture and the Reformed Confessions teach that though faith assures of salvation, that faith is confirmed by a life of good works.”

He took a Lord’s Day that teaches pure gospel, and he dragged his congregation to the law.

“What he’s [Peter, in 2 Peter 1:10] describing is a life lived in obedience to God’s 10 Commandments. God uses that in order to confirm in us the assurance of our election and salvation.”

Reader, I ask you, where in this Lord’s Day does it mention the law? Where does it introduce man’s works? Where does it mention man’s obedience?

It does not.

Why, then, would a minister go to man’s works in a Lord’s Day that never mentions them?

L.D. 7 is clear when it teaches us that salvation and the blessings of salvation (“assured confidence”) “are freely given by God, merely of grace, only for the sake of Christ’s merits.”

Prof. Cammenga corrupts this clear instruction on faith when he preaches, “Although God works the assurance of faith under the preaching of his word, we are active in this whole matter of the assurance of faith. God does not drop assurance out of the sky on us, and now we have it forever, can never be taken away from us, and we have nothing to worry about as regards this matter of the assurance of our faith, but God’s people are active, busy in this whole matter of the assurance of their faith.”

This type of corruption has taken place before.  

“So it is for us. We see. We look at our good works in the same way. Never of any value to make me be declared righteous before God, but always of help in finding and maintaining assurance that God has justified me through Christ and Christ alone” (Overway, Justified by Faith, L.D. 23, 6/8/14).

Synod 2018 condemned that theology.

“If we are truly justified by faith in Christ alone, then true faith cannot look to its works to help find or maintain the assurance that is found in Christ alone…Good works have a proper place and function in the Christian life but they do not function as helps for finding and maintaining assurance of our justification” (2018 Acts of Synod, 69).

Prof. Cammenga’s theology in this sermon is the same as that condemned by Synod 2018.

This may help to explain why Hope Church could never extricate itself from this error. Prof. Cammenga was appointed in 2018 to a committee to help Hope “understand and implement the decisions of Synod 2018” (church visitors’ report to the March 17, 2020, meeting of Classis East).

Fourteen miles from where Cammenga preached his sermon, another sermon was preached on true faith.

This is what was taught there about the “assured confidence” of Lord’s Day 7:

“This confidence is the assurance that salvation is for me, that God’s grace is for me, though I am wholly unworthy of it, though I have forfeited every gift that God may give to me, and though I deserve to be cast into hell for my sin. God has revealed in his word his love in Jesus Christ, and God, by the Spirit of Christ in my heart, works that assurance that this salvation is mine.”

“There’s your assurance, and there’s mine—not that you’ve done enough but that the Holy Spirit, who is God, is sovereign and powerful to give you this assurance and work this assurance by the gospel in your hearts.”

“The second implication of the truth that faith is assurance is that your assurance and mine does not depend on how good you are and does not depend on your working. It has nothing to do with your working.”

One pastor faithfully taught the Lord’s Day and brought his flock to Christ and kept them there. The other took his flock to the law and kept them there.

One preached God, as revealed in Jesus Christ. The other preached man.

The doctrinal difference was stark and obvious.

In only one of those churches was the “pure doctrine of the gospel” preached (Belgic Confession, Article 29).

25 thoughts on “True Faith

  1. Another pastor faithfully preached the “pure gospel” from the book of Galations that we were privileged to hear this past Lord’s Day.

    Here is an excerpt from the sermon entitled “Sowing and Reaping”:

    “…Now, there is something I need to interject here before we go any further. One of the things that surprised me as I listened to sermons and read commentaries on this text was that none of them referenced the gospel here. They emphasized that the principle of sowing and reaping is “inviolable”, i.e., we always reap what we sow and in precise relation to what we sow. They insisted that this is a non-negotiable, immutable law of the spiritual world.

    The problem with that sort of blanket definition is that it doesn’t leave any room for the gospel. None of the sermons I listened to or commentaries that I read brought up the gospel! That’s a very big problem. Paul cannot mean to say something here at the end of the letter to the Galations that would ignore everything else he’s said in the letter! The gospel is actually the incredibly good news that, at the most fundamental level, in Christ, we don’t reap what we sow – we reap what He’s sown! The message of the gospel is that God does not treat us as our sins deserve or reward us according to our iniquity! In Christ, He deals with us according to His steadfast love and mercy.

    Consequently, if the gospel is true and we are in Christ, our life is not determined by a strict law of sowing and reaping. The primary principle of Paul’s life was not the principle of sowing and reaping but the principle of “faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave His life for me”.

    Have you ever faced some trial, some heartache, some loss in your life and thought – God is punishing me for my past sin? This is just payback. How many of you don’t have secret fears about the future because you are certain that, at some point, you are going to have to pay for your past sin? At some point you are going to reap what you’ve sown?

    Friends, that’s karma – not Christianity. I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating. Our lives are not driven by the cold law of consequences but by loving Fatherly providences. There is not an immutable relationship between your present circumstances and your past sin. The relationship was broken when Christ died in your place! He nailed the cold consequences of your sin to the cross. He reaped the bitter harvest of our sin – all of it! We reap the glorious harvest of His righteousness. All of it. I’m not saying that sin does not have consequences for a believer. It does! But it is not a strict relationship and every consequence of our sin that God does allow into our life is a loving providence intended for His glory and our eternal good.”

    This is gospel assurance applied to the hearts and lives of God’s people.

    We’ve noticed that it is not always “what” is preached in sermons, but what is “not preached” that makes all the difference!

  2. If this is where we are at in the PRC today, what will only one generation from now look like? A Professor of the Seminary openly taught this off the pulpit to a church
    with some 400 or more members; ought we not be on high alert to what is being taught behind the door of his classroom? Who then brings about this suspicion? The Professor himself.
    There has been enough evidence that the denomination has preached false doctrine. Shall we continue to defend the position of these men and minimize these errors to our own peril? There is likely more outrage to this blog bringing attention to the grievous behavior taking place in the PRC than there is for the error being authoritatively taught as God’s truth and for the respecting of persons that has been taking place. Let us no longer minimize error coming off the pulpit or the behavior within the leadership and assemblies of the denomination of the Protestant Reformed Churches. We need to know what is taking place because we make confession of our faith in this denomination, baptize our children in this denomination, and send them into the catechism classes taught by men in this denomination. We must insist that we examine ourselves regularly as the body of Christ. Are we truly able to admit when we are wrong? A whole remnant of our brothers and sisters left because their consciences were seared. Do we care we have a broken arm now? We are not whole. A part of our church family has fled for the sake of having peace within their souls. So what did we do about it? Told them they were sinners. Did we even hear them? Did we really? If anyone must ascertain blame then let’s go back to the very beginning of this controversy, and then to the middle of the controversy several years later. But may we refrain from judging our brothers and sisters from what took place as a final result *OF* the controversy. I fear we will repeat this situation all over if we don’t look at this from a different perspective.
    Where we hold our church membership matters. To us now, and to our children and grandchildren tomorrow! Let us insist on addressing these persisting problems now before we become immune to them. For God’s glory and not of our own.

  3. Honest question. What do you make of Canons V, Article 10 which Cammenga referenced? Assurance springs from faith, testimony of the Holy Spirit, and “a serious and holy desire to preserve a good conscience and to perform good works”? That last part seems questionable in regards to what we learned through this controversy. This would seem to be erroneous unless we say the desire is different from the good work itself, but I’m not sure how you separate the two. Interested in your take on this. Thanks for posting the sermon transcripts and I appreciate you taking the time to do this blog.

    1. Hi Martin, thanks for your question and the encouragement regarding the blog.

      I wonder if you are on to something when you highlight the word “desire.” How can that be anything but faith? You seem to have given some thought to that idea. Have you developed it all to where you would be willing to share it?

      To Canons 5/10, I found Hoeksema’s commentary on this article to be very helpful (The Voice of our Fathers).

      Readers of this blog can study that for themselves and the proper explanation of this article, that “the Spirit of adoption is the HOLY Spirit” and the work of that Spirit “is such that its inevitable fruit is the production of a sanctified and holy child of God, a saint.” In other words, this assurance will not be felt as one walks in a hardened, unrepentant state. But to point out the inevitable fruit of the child of God and a believer’s witnessing of that inevitable fruit is a far cry from stressing that man is “active” in this assurance.

      Prof. Cammenga goes far beyond pointing out the “inevitable” fruit.

      Where he ought to be pointing the listener to Christ, he points them to their works. Time and again he lists out the works of the believer, points the believer to those works, and says, if you see these works, “then know, know with the assurance of a true faith that you are a child of God.”

      Contrast that sermon with this statement of Hoeksema:

      “The moment that this assurance becomes in any sense and in the least degree the work of man, at that moment it is no more assurance. Assurance, if it is to be stable and sure, must be solely the work of God, independent of and unadulterated by any element of the work of man” (713).

      The Catechism says Christ alone.

      Hoeksema says Christ alone.

      Prof. Cammenga says something altogether different.

      1. Sorry for the delayed response, and to disappoint… I don’t have much to add. It seems redundant to say faith…and faith (although I can’t say I disagree). Wondering why they even include good works here when talking about assurance, since good works are only a fruit. Here it is talking about the source of our assurance, where it “springs from”, so why mention good works in this context at all without clarifying.
        If the desire is the aforementioned faith, this addition seems unnecessary in my opinion.

  4. “The two most important things in our holy religion are the life of faith and the walk of faith. He who shall rightly understand these is not far from being a master in experimental theology, for they are the vital points to a Christian. You will never find true faith unattended by true godliness; on the other hand, you will never discover a truly holy life which has not for its root a living faith upon the righteousness of Christ.

    Woe unto those who seek after the one without the other! There are some who cultivate faith and forget holiness; these may be very high in orthodoxy, but they shall be very deep in condemnation, for they hold the truth in unrighteousness; and there are others who have strained after holiness of life, but have denied the faith, like the Pharisees of old, of whom the Master said, they were “whitewashed sepulchres.”

    We must have faith, for this is the foundation; we must have holiness of life, for this is the superstructure. Of what service is the mere foundation of a building to a man in the day of tempest? Can he hide himself therein? He wants a house to cover him, as well as a foundation for that house. Even so we need the superstructure of spiritual life if we would have comfort in the day of doubt.

    But seek not a holy life without faith, for that would be to erect a house which can afford no permanent shelter, because it has no foundation on a rock. Let faith and life be put together, and, like two abutments of an arch, they will make our piety enduring. Like light and heat streaming from the same sun, they are alike full of blessing. Like the two pillars of the temple, they are for glory and for beauty. They are two streams from the fountain of grace; two lamps lit with holy fire; two olive trees watered by heavenly care. O Lord, give us this day life within, and it will reveal itself without to Thy glory.”

    C. Spurgeon
    Morning & Evening
    Sept. m

    1. Hi Todd, thanks for taking the time to submit this comment. Can you explain how you believe this quote from Spurgeon applies to the post or to the Lord’s Day in question?

  5. We as believers in the pew have forgotten to be like the Bereans. The Bereans received the word the Apostle Paul brought and searched the Scriptures daily to see “whether these things were so.” Paul was preaching to them from the Scriptures about Christ, that he Jesus, was the Christ promised in the Scripture. The Bereans then went and searched the Scriptures and discussed among themselves if these things were true. The Holy Spirit commends them in Scripture for doing so.
    It is ok for the believer to be as the Bereans and it is ok for us to discuss a sermon with each other. The preaching is public and is meant to be discussed among the sheep. Never to tear down the man who brings it, but to discern if it is of God and to build each other up in the word. It doesn’t matter if the man is dynamic and full of zeal, or if he is dry as dust, boring if you will, or if he reads his notes word for word, if it brings me the gospel of Christ crucified alone and brings God all glory it is of God.
    We as believers in the pew may never look at the man who is bringing the word, but only at the word that he brings. We must judge the word on the bases of Scripture and the Creeds. We must ask is Christ bringing this word, is this the word of God? Does it agree with Scripture? Does it agree with our Creeds? Does it humble me and make me see my need for Christ? Does it bring me to Christ and make me see my need for him and him alone for my salvation? Does it give God all the glory? The Spirit works in our hearts to discern the Word. The gospel purely preached is powerful and the Spirit applies that word to my heart and moves me to live a thankful life. Every single sermon, every Sunday must be Christ centered.

  6. Why are commenters not using their names? This new trend of online anonymity here and on other discussion platforms related to these issues is concerning. Be brave enough to put your name on it.

    1. Hi Tim, I can appreciate your comment about anonymity. In certain cases, I have allowed comments to stand that appear under a pseudonym, as long as I know who it is that is commenting. Some of those commenting are fearful for the backlash and abuse they would face if their name was published. I want to honor that as much as possible.

      1. I understand.
        I also think you have good intentions.
        I think there is a better way, however.
        Would it not be a great spiritual exercise for the fearful to pray for boldness and strength to endure what ever consequences they would face? Is it not a joy to suffer for Christ?
        Aren’t you enabling them in their fear by allowing pseudonyms?

      2. Perhaps. That is a danger we all face to fear the faces of men and to speak and act according to what man will think, and not according to the clear command of Scripture. Which of us isn’t guilty of the same response to Jesus that we read of in John 7:13, “Howbeit no man spake openly of him for fear of the Jews.”
        However, there is precedent for allowing anonymity to protect someone, so that is the principle I am following in allowing some individuals to remain anonymous.

  7. Thanks Elder Dewey for this post. I was advised not to follow your blog. Had I followed that advise, I would have not seen clearly the stark difference. It really is a matter of doctrine, and it was not an isolated one. It is widespread.
    I would have not seen more clearly the assurance that I embrace, that I own, this assurance is only through Christ, my Lord alone. What an awesome gospel!

  8. what does the 14 miles have to do with one man preaching who is a minister in GOD’S eyes and the other man is a deposed man from the office in GOD’S eyes you are following a man not GOD

    1. I disagree with your argument, which is ok, we can agree to disagree.

      But according to your logic, Hoeksema would not have been a minister in God’s eyes, because he was deposed. Which would call into question the existence of the PRC yet today.

      As regards following a man, I would contest that statement. If Rev. Lanning were to preach false doctrine, he would have almost the entire congregation lined up outside his door the next morning. That is loving the unadulterated and pure truth of God’s word, not following a man.

  9. Dewey,

    Throughout this controversy, and even now as I read the words of your blog, I am struck by one burning question that seems to overtake all else in my mind. The PRC (and I would assume the newly formed RPC) believe unequivocally that so called good works can only be performed by God’s grace. This is in direct opposition to false doctrines such as the well meant gospel offer of Abraham Kuyper of old. That being the case, for one to say that living a life in accordance to God’s law brings one closer to the Lord and bolsters his assurance should not be a controversial matter since we know that our ability to walk with the Lord is by grace alone and not our own ability. So is your assertion then that the PRC, and Prof. Cammenga above, teach man’s ability to serve God independent of grace and thus are not truly, totally depraved? If so, then that is a serious accusation indeed! I would leave you with a passage from the book of James that is quite clear about the place of works in the believer’s life:

    “What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him? If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God. Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only. Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way?For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.”
    – James 2:14-26

    1. Inexcusable amount of time from when you posted this comment (3/30) to my reply. I apologize.

      I appreciate the candor of your comment. It is helpful because it sheds light on where we stand on the key issues facing the PRC today. Your comment that living a life in accordance to God’s law brings one closer to the Lord and indeed bolsters his assurance is what Prof. Cammenga appears to be teaching today (along with the editorial page of the The Standard Bearer).

      I disagree with you that my life of obedience brings me closer to the Lord or bolsters my assurance. I agree with Bavinck who wrote, “Certainty is not an external additive to faith but is in principle integral to it from the start. It is not obtained by looking at ourselves but by looking away from ourselves to Christ and is grounded in the promises of God, not in changing experiences or imperfect good works.”

      In fact, strangely enough, you seem to disagree with Synod 2018, while I, who am no longer a member of the PRC, agree with it when it wrote, “If we are truly justified by faith in Christ alone, then true faith cannot look to its works to help find or maintain the assurance that is found in Christ alone” (69).

      The issue has never been, are these gifts given by grace or independent of grace. Apart from Rev. VanOverloop’s sermon where he taught conditional fellowship and divorced such fellowship from grace (“But He is establishing a condition that deals with communion. Not union. That’s grace. It’s all grace. Only grace. But communion – fellowship”) everyone who has ever taught an error has always shouted Grace, Grace, Grace at the top of their lungs. I can’t remember where I read it, but a man recently wrote that preachers wear out grace when they are promoting error. So no, I am not saying that Prof. Cammenga is teaching that these things are independent of grace.

      What I am saying, is he is trying to separate these good gifts from Christ.

      The issue facing the PRC is justification by faith alone. The PRC compromised it. For some, the response to such an error is more of an emphasis on man. I disagree. We need to hear more of the sufficiency of Jesus Christ and the sovereignty of God in salvation, and less about man’s responsibility.

      I would be careful about appealing to James to help us understand the proper place of works in a controversy on justification by faith alone. Rome appeals to James. As does Norman Shepherd.

      From Prof. Engelsma’s book, “Gospel Truth of Justification,” he writes, “All of the foes of the gospel truth of justification, Rome, Arminianism, the federal vision, and others, appeal to scripture against the truth of justification. The passage of scripture to which they appeal is James 2, particularly verses 14-26,” and then he goes on to quote those verses. He has an entire chapter that I think you will find instructive on “Paul and James.” In that chapter he explains the proper understanding of James 2 and the book of Romans.

      In fact, in Shepherd’s book, The Way of Righteousness, he quotes exactly the section of James that you do to defend his federal vision theology (see Rev. Nathan Langerak’s article in the April issue of Sword & Shield, “Revisiting Norman Shepherd”).

      Alex, I don’t accuse you of believing or promoting federal vision theology. But the confusion and error that reigns in the PRC today will lead the members, wittingly or unwittingly, to adopt and believe federal vision theology. And that is not only inexcusable for the ministers in the PRC to teach this and for the elders to allow it, but it will serve to the destruction of the PRC.

      The two men who were intent on warning the PRC of this exact error have now found themselves cast out of the PRC.

      1. Dewey,

        Many thoughts come to mind when I read your response but rather than take your response line by line, I will instead distill what I think are the most important items to address. First of all, you and I both know that your comment regarding my explanation of the place of works in the life of a believer is both taken out of context and a mischaracterization of the point that I was attempting to make. My point was to get back to the very root of the definition of good works – they come only through faith by grace from our Lord. How is it then that a clear work of the Lord profits us nothing in our conscious walk with him?

        I also take great offense to your comparison of my statement and use of James 2 to that of the Church of Roman and Federal Vision theology. I did not provide context to my quoting of scripture other than to say that it sheds light on the place of works in the believer’s life. Yes, scripture can be twisted to promote a false narrative but it is a straw man argument to throw out my use of that passage. It is also interesting to me that you used a quote from Prof. Engelsma as I too have a few taken from the book “Be Ye Holy”. On page 78, “sanctification, that is, a life of good works in obedience to the law, is an evidence of justification, of election, and of salvation. Prof. then goes on to quote James 2:14-26: “I will shew thee my faith by my works”(v.18). I ask you, what good is “evidence of justification” if not as encouragement in our walk and assurance of sanctification? It is readily understood that the desire for a life of good works does not and never could arise from the sin-blackened heart of the old man of sin. It is solely the merciful in-dwelling of the Holy Spirit in the heart of believers that inspires thankful obedience!

        Another quote that I think applies here is from page 93: “We have this wonderful holiness only in Christ. He not only earned it for us but He also gives it to us by the work of His Holy Spirit. The Spirit of Christ takes possession of us and grafts us into Christ by a true and living faith. We are one body with Christ. As Christ is Himself holy in the full manifestation of God’s holiness, so we, as His body, are holy with Him and receive His holiness as our own. We appropriate the holiness that we have in Christ by faith as we lay hold on Christ. We are assured of our holiness. This assurance of our holiness is a very real knowledge and it is crucially important in the life of the believer. Without this faith, the child of God can never know that he is victorious in his battle against sin.”

        Synod 2018 got it right when they posited that our works cannot assist us in our assurance of justification. But I agree with Prof. Engelsma that a life of good works in obedience to the law is an evidence of justification. I understand that only through Christ am I ever able to do anything right in God’s eyes. When I look back on my life and I see the times in which he upheld me in my faith despite my fragile, human nature, I am comforted because I know that this sanctification is evidence of my justification in Christ and that he will continue to lift me up in my faith and sanctify me until I come home to him.
        The PRC does not teach or preach justification by works. It has not and, by God’s grace, will not. The Federal Vision certainly does in so much that works are required for justification. In recent sermons, ministers of the PRC have made quite clear the denomination’s position on the role of works as it pertains to sanctification not justification and it sounds nothing like the theology of the Federal Vision.

        One last thing that I will add, your statement that you do not believe that,” Prof. Cammenga is teaching that these things are independent of grace”, but that,” he is trying to separate these good gifts from Christ”, I find to be a sort of nonsensical statement. How is it possible to both preach that our ability to perform good works comes from grace while also separating those good works from Christ whose sacrifice makes grace possible? Surely it would take some serious mental acrobatics in order to reconcile those two statements much less preach them to the masses. Either he (and the PRC at large) preaches that man is capable of good works absent of Christ or he does not. I don’t see an in between here.

      2. I don’t think I mischaracterized your point at all. You said that our good works bolsters our assurance. I disagree. I don’t think Christ’s work needs any bolstering from my work. You stated that your good works bring you closer to the Lord. I disagree. I don’t think Christ’s work brings me so close to the Lord, and then my works bring me closer. However, you are faithfully representing the PR view of salvation.

        As to Prof. Cammenga, it is very clear what he is teaching. Christ is not enough. I disagree. In fact, I agree with the Belgic Confession, Article 22, that “for any to assert, that Christ is not sufficient, but that something more is required besides him, would be too gross a blasphemy: for hence it would follow, that Christ was but half a Savior.”

        You state that the PR has not taught justification by works. Synod 2018 told us something different.

    2. Alex, saying that good works bolster our assurance is literally what Synod just decided that they don’t do. So quite frankly I’m surprised by your question and how you expected any other response from Dewey.

      “How is it then that a clear work of the Lord profits us nothing in our conscious walk with him?” That’s a different question and one worth contemplating. I for one don’t have that answer, but the distinction must be made that it’s not assurance aka faith, which is only in Christ, and adds to His work, etc.

      1. Martin,

        Again, I think you are missing my point in my initial post. I was relating our current controversy back to the very definition of good works which leads to my question of how good works can profit us nothing if they come from God. Personally, I think that this should be a part of the conversation. Grace, faith, and works are intertwined and any conversation about one must include the other. I realize now that I should have perhaps been more clear in my explanation.

        Simply put, I don’t understand how the PRC can be charged with preaching justification by works if they also preach that it is by faith through grace that the Spirit works in us to do good works. I truly don’t understand the premise of the argument because it claims that the PRC is teaching completely contradictory positions on the same subject.

        As a matter of clarity, I reiterate my belief as stated by Prof. Engelsma, “sanctification, that is, a life of good works in obedience to the law, is an evidence of justification, of election, and of salvation.”

  10. This is what is In GOD’s eyes:
    Gal 1:8-9” though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. 9 As we said before, so say I now again, if any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.”

    Belgic Confession Article 22: “for any to assert, that Christ is not sufficient, but that something more is required besides him, would be too gross a blasphemy: for hence it would follow, that Christ was but half a Savior.”

  11. Alex has asked a very familiar question: “How is it then that a clear work of the Lord profits us nothing in our conscious walk with him?”

    “What! Do not our good works merit, which yet God will reward in this and in a future life?”

    What you have not to contended with is the answer which the Catechism provides to your question: “This reward is not of merit, but of grace.”

    As you have helpfully noted, good works are grace to the people of God. The good works are graciously given them to perform. As man can never perform works which would be acceptable in the sight of God, it is Christ’s work of sanctification by which our works are found to be good and pleasant in His sight. The source is Christ, the power to accomplish them is Christ, and all the glory is given to Christ.

    So where does man get his cut? What does the housewife get for changing all those dirty diapers? Does not this gracious work of Christ done in man and through man entitle that man to something? Just a little? Assurance of his salvation, perhaps? The answer remains the same, “The reward is not of merit, but of grace.”

    I would also address this question, “So is your assertion then that the PRC, and Prof. Cammenga above, teach man’s ability to serve God independent of grace and thus are not truly, totally depraved?” What you have asked, and also spluttered against (“If so, then that is a serious accusation indeed!”) is in the fact the very thing being touted on the RFPA blog by Rev Bruinsma, as well as in sermons by other PR ministers who have said such things as, “To say you, child of God, are totally depraved is to place yourself on the road to antinomianism.” The very thing you assert to be a wild accusation of far-flung proportions is happening right underneath your nose.

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