Love and charity should not be separated from the service of God. While it is true that vital religion has as its foundation the true knowledge found in Scripture, and implanted in the heart by the Holy Spirit, it is no less true that Christianity also consists of a right application of the truth to one’s life, grounded on a right understanding in the heart, both the work of that same Spirit..
If the fruit of one’s teaching is in sanctification according to the measure and rule of God’s Word, then it is likely the root of justification is whole. However, if the fruit of one’s teaching results in a denial of love—or other graces of the Holy Spirit—in doctrine or practice, then this is not the Christianity of the Bible, and we have a Biblical ground to question if a person is justified who is not also being sanctified by the Word of truth.
Without doubt, we ourselves must be careful not to censure unjustly those who stray from the truth in word or deed, for we ourselves are admonished to take heed lest we fall .
There are many false prophets in the world, and not every man who teaches in the name of Christ is to be considered a Christian. The spirit of antichrist is a spirit of falsehood, and more often than not falsehood is subtle, not blatant (such is the nature of the FV’ers).
An example of such subtlety is the definition of Christianity given by John Robbins.
In The Trinity Review of May 2004, Robbins defined Christianity as a set of propositions:
Christianity is the propositions of the 66 books of the Bible together with their logical implications. Christianity is the set of Biblical doctrines.
Without doubt Christianity is revealed in the explicit teaching of the Bible and all of its logical implications. However, this is an incomplete definition, for Christianity is more than just a set of ideas. Christianity also includes in its biblical definition the doing of God’s will, not just the knowing of it (hence, the Incarnation). True and vital religion is about faith and practice, belief and obedience. Contrary to the God-man Incarnate, Robbins either completely ignored the doctrine of sanctification in his definition, or it was absorbed into his definition, but in either case it disappeared. Christianity includes not only logical but also practical implications.
An example of this subtlety is Robbins overemphasis on the doctrine of justification by faith alone.
Robbins wrote that the “Gospel of justification through belief alone is the central doctrine of Scripture” (A Companion to The Current Justification Controversy: The Trinity Foundation, 2003, p. 9).
No doubt, a central doctrine of Christianity is justification by faith alone, and it, like many other doctrines due to their interrelatedness, illumines other doctrines. Yet, Robbins’ contention, at the least an overstatement, and, at worst a heresy, truncates Christianity, and justification in his theology and practice absorbs sanctification, and love is gone.
Where, then, is his justification?
Christianity is the truth, and it must be understood and believed. But in both words and deeds Robbins manifested that he had not “caught, felt, sensed, or encountered” this truth with his heart or his hands.
Perhaps the most noticeable area in which Robbins’ idealistic approach to Christianity was evident was in his attack on Christian’s who offended his viewpoint. Robbins apparently made no efforts to contact men who printed or publicly stated what he believed were “heresies” or errors. Instead, Robbins publicly attacked the men in question with no regard to such Biblical texts as Galatians 6:1 , or other texts that admonish us to seek peace.
God condemns constant and overbearing browbeating, not simply because of its harshness, but also because it is contrary to brotherly love, it is contrary to meekness, and does not seek reconciliation.
Those who are held up by the Spirit will not beat their brethren down.
They are commonly the most severe judges who forget their own weaknesses.
Robbins often boasted, in writing and verbally, that his hero, Gordon H. Clark was “America’s Augustine.”
The great Augustine wrote
We should rebuke in love—not eagerly hoping to injure the person, but earnestly taking care to improve him. If we have such a mindset, we practice what Christ commanded: “If thy brother shall sin against thee, rebuke him between thee and him alone.” Why do you rebuke such people? Because you are grieved that they sinned against you? God forbid. If you do it out of love for yourself, you don’t do anything. If you do it out of love for the other person, you act in excellence. Notice what these words say about whom you should love in doing so—yourself or the other person: “If he hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.” Do it for other people’s sake then, so that you can “gain” them. If by doing so you “gain” them, they would also be lost if you hadn’t done it….Therefore, don’t let anyone disregard it when he sins against a fellow Christian [or many Christians]. For the Apostle Paul said, “But when ye sin so against the brethren, and would their weak conscience, ye sin against Christ,” because we have been all made members of Christ. How can you not sin against Christ if you sin against a member of Christ?
As one looks at the fruit of John Robbins’ life, he cannot help but wonder if he understood love—or Christ—at all. In his review “Did C. S. Lewis Go to Heaven” Robbins suggested that because Lewis (supposedly) never explicitly mentioned the doctrine of justification by faith alone he may not have made it past the gates of Heaven.
Some who are aware of the acerbic, vitriolic, and damning rhetoric employed by Robbins in his public writings (he never lasted long on discussion boards) cannot help but be braced by the same problem when we ponder Robbins doctrine and practice. The fruit of Robbins teaching clearly results—judging by the public behavior of himself and his followers—in a denial of love and other graces of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, their belief system is deficient as a representation of the Christianity of the Bible, and we have Biblical grounds to question if these persons are justified when they apparently are not also being sanctified by the Word of truth.
God knows. But, let us be warned.
Many who espouse John Robbins views are keen but clueless. They commit themselves to the theologies of Clark and Robbins with too little reflection of their own, and with little if any engagement with sounder theologians who counter or inform them.
As mimics they flatter each other’s intellectual conceit and encourage intellectual dishonesty, which adds up to a lack of spiritual, moral, and mental integrity.
Relying on the assertions of narrow-minded quacks who evidence only the fruit of a barren and “arid hyper-intellectualism” is unwise. Emulating an intellectual morale puffed up in knowledge but accompanied by moral laxity isn’t following Christ.
Men’s thoughts should shape their actions. If the actions are not characteristic of the fruit of the Spirit, should we not conclude there is something rotten at the root?
“Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? let him shew out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom.” James 3:13