Tag Archives: faith and works

Up for a little theology? I need your help on Calvinism…

So, here’s a video that explains it all:

Help Me on Calvinism from Fred Lybrand on Vimeo.

So, here’s a copy of DORT (Dordt; from the Synod of Dordrecht): http://fredlybrand.files.wordpress.com/2010/11/canons-of-dort.pdf

Again, I need your agreements and disagreements and why…this project could turn out big!


Fred Lybrand



P.P.S.  Please put an AGREE or a DISAGREE at the very top of your post…as it will make our reading easier.

Calvin’s Error on Assurance

I honestly stay stumped by those who think Calvin never made a mistake and those others who think he never said anything true.  I also wonder how many out there are still interested in being objective and understanding both sides of any issue.  I do not find that my rabid 5-point-DORT-calvinism-is-the-only-true-calvinism friends (both advocates and enemies believe this same indefensible point) are able to explain both sides of their issue-of-the-moment.  It is embarrassing theologically not to be able to clearly explain both sides.

Here is Calvin’s error: We are saved by faith alone, but the faith that saves is not alone

Yes, he said it a little fancier, but it is the same point.  Here is the idea…if you REALLY believe, then works MUST show up.  DORT said it too…that you could fall into the most awful lifestyle for a long, long time; but eventually, if you are a TRUE believer, you will come back before you die.

Honestly, that is just simply made up.

And here’s the rub— if someone is in ‘sin’, how do you know he will ‘come back’ someday?  You clearly do not.

And— If this same person may not REALLY be saved/justified, then he certainly can’t be assured of his destiny with God.  True?

AND—WHAT ABOUT YOU? If you COULD fall into a sinful life in the future…and that would mean you COULD not really be saved…then HOW can you possibly be assured now?

Hence, Calvin’s error.  Calvin was so defensive about the Catholic retort of “What about Works?” when he accurately explained FAITH ALONE IN CHRIST ALONE…that he compromised his theology and his logic.  Don’t get me wrong…it does make sense…but only inside the framework of Calvin’s assumptions.  Of course, it is mostly an issue of incongruence; Calvin did often stay away from co-mingling works and faith.

This view about works DOES NOT MAKE SENSE in reality.  It is an assumption about the nature of faith AND and assumption about our ability to discern TRUE from FALSE works in others.  Hey gang, God is the one who knows.  But honestly, why don’t we see great populations of people getting ‘better’ in Christ as they age?  Why don’t we see better doctrine over time (if people who are saved must get godlier and godlier)?  It’s simple, people must also GROW SPIRITUALLY…which is a second choice / issue / concern.  Salvation is apart from works, but spiritual growth is intimately connected to works.

Below is the info on my intensive labor on this issue…if you want to be loaded for bear (or for bearing witness)…300+ pages and 600+ footnotes lays it out.  It also contains a mini-course in logic.

Recently a lady wrote me that she had studied this book and was in a small group meeting where she politely engaged the pastor who was trying to support Calvin’s Error.  As she explained that assurance is only sustained when we look at Christ (and not ourselves) this lady spoke up in the meeting for that moment—testifying that she suddenly had assurance for the first time in 12 years!  The wild thing was that it was her own pastor who was leading the group discussion.

Face it, as long as you look at yourself and your works, you will never be truly assured of heaven.  And, as long as you look at others’ works, you will never be assured of heaven for them either.


Now, please let’s get the word out.  I’m finding this book is being  used to convert both rabid Arminians and rabid Calvinists to the clarity found in affirming Faith Alone in Christ Alone, while dropping our lust for judging others.  I know there are lots of questions…but most get addressed in the book.


Fred Lybrand

John Piper’s Leave of Absence — Is It the Logical Result of His Theology?

First, allow me to share my own empathy for John Piper and the struggles he alludes to (see: http://bit.ly/aTDmGg) as he takes a leave of absence from the ministry (altogether, including writing).

Having just recently retired from the pastorate, I know the strain on the soul and the family.  I suppose I should add a lecture on how abusive most churches are of the pastor’s time, life, and energies…perhaps another day.

In the meantime, I want to offer a possibility for our own lives.  Last year I released a book called Back to Faith, which explores and analyzes the mistaken assumptions about works proving faith.  John Piper’s writings were my example; in fact, an entire chapter was dedicated to him alone.  I also must add here (and you’ll see it if you get a copy of Back to Faith) that I affirm John Piper’s accuracy on the gospel…he clearly affirms faith alone in Christ alone.  On the other hand, he has an incongruity in play.

In the straightest of terms, John Piper believes that we can look at our works (or those of other people) and conclude something about our faith in Christ for our destiny.

If that is true…then fine…except, what if your works don’t match up?  In Piper’s thinking it should call your salvation into question.  Now, that seem quite despair-growing.  So, here is John Piper (in a classy and self-effacing way) looking at his faltering works and feeling grieved.  The grief, however, is much more than sadness…if Piper is true to his theology, he can’t really be sure about his eternal salvation.  Wouldn’t you need a leave of absence if you were haunted about your eternal destiny, and served as a pastor in a church?  It would be easy to misunderstand me here and think I’m psycho-analyzing John Piper; I am not at all.  I am saying, however, that one piece of his theology really does exactly match the nature of his open admissions and struggles over the past year or two.

Here are a few quotes of his from What Jesus Demands from the World [I discuss this in Back to Faith].

Sometimes I am asked whether my understanding
of Jesus implies that divorce is the unforgivable sin.
The answer is no. Jesus said that his blood will be
the basis for the forgiveness of all sins…
From these wonderful promises we learn
that forgiveness of sins is available on the basis of
the shed blood of Jesus. Forgiveness is available
for all sins, without exception. Forgiveness is
received freely through trusting Jesus to forgive our
sins. (What Jesus Demands from the World, 68)

So clearly Piper gets the importance of looking at the shed blood of Christ, which is awesome.

The only unforgivable sin is the sin that we refuse
to confess and forsake. We commit unforgivable
sin when we cleave to a sin so long and so
tenaciously that we can no longer confess it as sin
and turn from it. (What Jesus Demands from the World, 69)

Now, we are seeing a misstep here.  The tendency with this incongruent piece of theology (works prove saving faith), all we can do is see our sin as unforgivable if it keeps showing up (even on occasion)…and if unforgivable, then you remain unforgiven.  Piper knows it’s a problem because he addresses it on occasion.  The issue will always come back to whether we are looking at Jesus or looking at our works.

Here’s a full statement from Back to Faith (Piper is in bold),

In fairness to Piper, he would completely deny the
incongruence, though he seems to realize others are concerned
about it

Some readers will see this stress on the necessity of
a change in obedience to Christ as ‘justification by
works.’ But that would be a misinterpretation of
what I am saying. That is why I wrote chapter 4
and put it near the front of this book,

“Brothers, Live and Preach Justification by Faith.” Obedience
is the evidence of faith that alone unites us to Christ
who is our justifying righteousness. Nothing I have
said here contradicts that truth.

Making the claim that one is misinterpreted is different from being
misinterpreted. It does not seem to have dawned on Piper that he
really may be communicating something scarily similar to
“justification by works” when he claims “obedience is the
evidence of faith…” It seems his theme is that one can tell true
faith (salvation) in an individual because of obedience, but Piper
again displays his incongruity,

It does imply that one can be called a ‘brother’ on
the basis of appearances but in the end prove not to
be a brother because of failing to persevere in the
end. (Back to Faith, 219)

I wouldn’t label John Piper’s theology as evil or bad, but it does have a harmful incongruency that haunts all Hyper-Calvinists (not all Calvinists).

If your works prove you have faith,

and your works are inconsistent or weak,

then…you MAY NOT (probably don’t) have faith.

I don’t know the intricacies of John Piper’s life and issues.  I’ll pray for his leave of absence.  I do know that if I look at my works, I lose assurance…and…when I look at Christ alone I am greatly assured.   What else can you do with something so wonderfully clear?

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. (Romans 5:1–2) ESV

Fred Lybrand

P.S. Yes, I sent John a copy of Back to Faith (which he graciously had acknowledged to me).

Listen to a more detailed explanation of some of these matters at: http://www.backtofaith.com/LISTEN.html

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“Does Works Prove Faith?” (Can We Really Judge Others’ Salvation?)

So, I am just back from Houston, and am quite encouraged the response to my presentation by the same basic title concerning works and faith.  This isn’t exactly a problem of debating whether a believer ‘must’ have works, but rather if one can discern ‘true-and-saving-faith’ from another’s works.

I’m a skeptic (as some of you know from my recent work, Back to Faith).

Here’s a bit of the logic I shared (called Affirming the Consequent)…which is a basic logical fallacy.

Here’s how it works (or doesn’t, as the case may be):

If it rain, the streets will be wet.

The streets are wet, therefore it rained.

This is clearly flawed because there can be other reasons for wet streets (dew, street cleaners, broken water main, etc.).  It turns out that anything which works this way is a fallacy.

If x (rain), then y (wet streets).

y (wet streets), therefore x (rain)

…is wrong / invalid.

So, try it with faith and works!

If faith (x), then works (y).

Works (y), therefore faith (x).

False.  The truth is that someone can do works for many reasons, including trying to work really hard to prove to God they deserve His favor!

Just because you see someone’s works, it doesn’t mean they have faith.


Even more intriguing is the fact that two Bible passages state that believers can basically be works-less (fruitless).

“And let our people learn to devote themselves to good works, so as to help cases of urgent need, and not be unfruitful.” (Titus 3:14, ESV)

“For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 1:8, ESV)

In Greek, the word ‘unfruitful’ is exactly the meaning in the original language (not + fruit).

Crazy how much judging we like to do!  Let’s let folks of the hook and keep sharing grace!

Grace and Truth,

Fred Lybrand

If you grasp the insights in this book, you’ll understand FAITH ALONE IN CHRIST ALONE in such a way that you’ll never be tempted to judge anyone’s eternal destiny again.

OK…so, I want to shamelessly tell you about the power of sorting out the Faith/Works issue in keeping the Gospel clear, assurance solid, and judgmentalness banished.  It is all in Back to Faith (see www.backtofaith.com)

Here’s the beginning of Chapter 5 from the book to consider:

The Cliché Is Pragmatically Invalid
If the arguments presented have been unpersuasive to this
point, consider that this one great weakness of the cliché is the
only real challenge needed to justifiably abandon it: The cliché is
pragmatically invalid. Pragmatic invalidity simply means that, in
any practical sense, the theology behind the cliché is useless, even
if it is true. Assume the cliché, “It is therefore faith alone which
justifies, and yet the faith which justifies is not alone,” is true. In
other words, with the assumption that the cliché is valid, it is held
that one can indeed look at works (or the lack of works) and
determine something about the true nature of an individual’s
eternal salvation. Said otherwise, works prove faith. But can one
truly know if the works are authentic? Or, can the works be
hidden? Here a great problem appears, practically speaking,
because the true works arising from a true salvation are
indeterminable, and so the cliché is pragmatically useless. How
can one know for sure that the works seen in another are “because
of salvation,” rather than “in order to get saved?” To appreciate
this argument, one need only consider the distinction between fact
and theory.
A fact, in the simplest sense, is something that corresponds
to the actual state of affairs. Facts are those things which are
knowable and demonstrable and correspond with how things really
are. A theory, on the other hand, as used in this context, is an
unproved assumption. It parallels words like conjecture and
speculation when one speaks of theory in this sense. Obviously the
[This argument admittedly matches the correspondence theory of truth.
Ted Honderich, ed., The Oxford Companion to Philosophy [book on-line]

(Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995, accessed 4 October 2006), 267;

available from Questia, http://www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&d= 74362715;Internet.

Defined 6b: an unproved assumption: conjecture, c: a body of
theorems presenting a concise systematic view of a subject. Merriam-Webster’s
Collegiate Dictionary, 11 ed. (2003), s.v. “theory.”]

word of God does not contain theory, as such, but the factual
explanations from God concerning His will and revelation to
mankind. Whether or not one can demonstrate the validity of the
cliché as a biblical concept is not at issue. At issue is the
distinction between that which is provable and factual, in contrast
with that which is theoretical and based on conjecture.
If the cliché’s theory is true, then it is apparent that one can
look at works or lack of works to point to the genuine nature of
another’s saving faith. So the puritan Matthew Henry asserts,
Faith is the root, good works are the fruits, and we
must see to it that we have both. We must not think
that either, without the other, will justify and save
The truth, however, is that scripturally speaking, believing
individuals can indeed lack works, while unbelievers can indeed
have good, albeit dead, works. Judas serves as a glaring example
of one whose works never betrayed him. When Jesus predicted
that one of the disciples would betray him, all were perplexed, and
no disciple stated, “Well, it is obviously Judas.”


Fred Lybrand