Mark Jones on Justification and Sanctification: An Archive (Updated August 2019) / by Shane Anderson


Stirred by controversy: why I’ve posted this archive.

Certain influences on Reformed social media have confused many people about the Reformed doctrines of Justification, Good Works, and Sanctification and have mobilized social media mobs who display little understanding of our biblical, Reformed, confessional heritage.

It is common to hear those influenced by that sectarianism (mostly originating with the distinctive perspectives R. Scott Clark and Westminister Seminary California) describe various evangelicals as “heretics”, people who “don’t understand the Law/Gospel distinction”, or “neonomians” and “nomists.” Many times you will hear it said of faithful Christian preachers, “He doesn’t even preach the gospel!” And very often these discussions are conflated with the controversies surrounding the “Federal Vision” and its distinctive range of views… and so with this sectarian party perpetually pouring fuel on this fire, Reformed social media is not marked by true knowledge promoting true piety, but by rampant anger and ignorance breeding ungodliness. This movement appears now (2019) to be coalescing with those who promote so-called “social justice”, “victim-advocacy”, expanded roles for women in the church, and a radical version of so called “two-kingdoms” theology in which the Christian is to disengage from moral and social issues under the guise of our doctrine of the church’s spiritual mission.

One controversy in particular helped highlight this phenomenon.

Several years ago, it became common for this particular sectarian approach on social media to label John Piper (Baptist, evangelical) a “heretic” and a preacher of a “false gospel of works righteousness.” In response, old antinomian ideas were loudly promoted as the Reformed perspective. This was often done in the name of being TRULY really really Reformed and not “Federal Vision”—a red herring in the discussion, and a convenient way to divert attention from the sectarian’s lack of engagement with the real issues. At the same time, the sectarians were supporting the now-discredited “Liberate” and “Christ Hold Fast” movements promoting old antinomian errors by Reformed teachers such as Tullian Tchvidjian, Steve Brown, Barbara Duguid, and Elyse Fitzpatrick.

One unfortunate lingering effect of that tsunami of anti-John-Piper-ism and promotion of old antinomian errors, is that it is common now for the place of the Law, good works, and sanctification in salvation to be denigrated publicly in the name of Reformed theology. But is this Reformed? It certainly is not. A careful study of the Scriptures, our confessions, and our history, speak with one voice: the Reformed have always emphasized the godly life of the true Christian, the necessity of good works, the judgement according to works, and the certainty and active nature of sanctification.

As I have spoken out on social media, I have been labeled a heretic (nope, hold to the Westminster standards with no exceptions), a Federal Visionist (nope), a neonomian (nope), a mysogynist (nope), etc. etc. etc. And I’m a nobody. I’m just a Reformed church elder who reads, believes our confessions, and cares about being honest, especially about people we disagree with: that’s why the controversy over Piper and others matters to me. It exposes ways in which we in the modern Reformed world need to better understand the Word of God to our own holiness of heart and life before the Lord. Reformed doctrine corrects, but first it corrects us.

May Christ be praised in his churches.