Responding to a Lutheran Critique (updated)
February 10, 2015
I'm off to South Africa tomorrow for a few weeks, then to North Carolina and South Carolina, then to the China, and then to Hong Kong, all for teaching and preaching purposes (Jas. 4:15). So the flurry of posts of late are to keep up my contractual obligations to the Top Men here at Ref21.
Recently, a Facebook friend of mine sent me a link, which shows that a Lutheran doesn't quite agree with my book, Antinomianism. Since I write from a Reformed perspective, not a Lutheran one, I suppose this makes sense.
Yet, the critique was disappointing in many ways. I wish I had more time to interact with his piece, but I'm quite busy looking for ear plugs so that I don't have to listen to my four children on the plane to South Africa.
It seems odd to me when someone implies that I say things that are actually the quotes of others.
This gentleman, Jordan Cooper, writes:
"This is further demonstrated by the fact that Jones contends, throughout the book, that assurance is to be found, not in the universal means of grace, but in one's inner renewal. He argues: "The examination of our justification by our sanctification, is not only a lawful, and possible, but a very excellent and necessary work and duty" (Antinomianism, 2027 [Kindle])."
Well, the words: "The examination of our justification..." are from John Flavel, not me. This seems irresponsible scholarship. But, even worse, the full quote from Flavel reads:
"That the eye of a Christian may be too intently fixed upon his own gracious qualifications; and being wholly taken up in the reflex acts of faith, may too much neglect the direct acts of faith upon Christ, to the great detriment of his soul...The examination of our justification by our sanctification, is not only a lawful, and possible, but a very excellent and necessary work and duty" (Antinomianism, 109).
We are told by this Lutheran writer that I tell Christians that their assurance is not to be found in the universal means of grace, but instead in one's personal renewal.
However, a cursory reading of the chapter (including the full quote from Flavel) shows that his claim is false. I repeatedly claim something very different, eschewing the either/or dichotomy that he presents.
For example, I write: "The primary foundation for assurance is provided by the promises of salvation" (Antinomianism, 109).
I quote: "As [Thomas] Goodwin notes, our sins 'move [Christ] to pity more than to anger'" (Antinomianism, p. 107). I wish my critic had attributed that quote to me, as it is pure genius from Tommy Boy.
Does that sound like what he accuses me of? Does that Goodwin quote give you comfort or does it lead you "to despair due to the lac [sic] of desired fruit in the Christian life" as my critic suggests?
Furthermore, I write: "There are a number of 'ordinary means' in which believers may gain infallible assurance of faith (WCF 18.3). God's objective promises should always be uppermost in our minds" (Antinomianism, p. 108).
So he claims that I say assurance is not to be found in the universal means of grace, but I actually say we should look for assurance in the ordinary means of grace, and that the objective promises of God should be "uppermost in our minds."
His critique is filled with similar missteps. As frustrating as reading certain critiques of one's work can be, I suppose that I should be thankful that Lutherans are reading the book. But I'm sorry to say, in this case, perhaps a closer reading of what I in fact said would go a long way to producing a serious conversation between two traditions that have disagreed and continue to disagree on these matters.
Pastor Mark Jones is thinking about the strong correlation in the bible between living Coram Deo and Corum Mundo (Matt. 25:42-46; Acts 9:5; 1 Cor. 8:12).
* Update. Cooper has provided a note saying that the quote comes from Flavel. But since he clearly did that in response to my criticism, it appears a bit disingenuous not to tell the reader this is in fact an update. As it stands, someone might think I forgot to read the original footnote. Again, scholars should know the etiquette of debate.