Dear Jason,

Thank you so much, brother, for your careful and thoughtful rejoinder. I am instructed. One of the things I so appreciate is your desire to model your own pursuit of holiness, and your teaching of it, after the pattern of the New Testament.

In interchanges like this, there is so much that could be said, and the issues seem to be multiplying, and also shifting somewhat. To my mind, then, the healthiest thing to close out this exchange is a brief word on where (I think) we agree, and where (I think) we disagree.

Where We Agree

1. About a thousand theological convictions that haven’t surfaced in this exchange.

2. Holiness—earnestly sought, gouge-out-an-eye, soul-guarding holiness—seems, tragically, not to be the great concern today that it has been in generations past.

3. Holiness requires effort, effort, effort, effort. “Make every effort” (2 Pet 1:5).

4. Believers are fundamentally different from unbelievers. Both are made in the image of God, and both sin. But believers are born again, new creations, indwelt by the very Spirit of God. As such they have not only a new impulse, but a new ability, to honor and obey God.

5. Patterning their ministries after that of the apostles, Christian preachers must exhort their hearers to holiness.

6. Antinomianism—a diseased view of grace that twists it into a license to sin—is a real threat, and is deeply unbiblical.

7. Being misunderstood by some to be preaching antinomianism is not a de facto guarantee of gospel fidelity. (Whether such a misunderstanding by some may coexist with, and even be prompted by, gospel faithfulness is another question altogether.)

8. Antinomianism is not hostility to gnomes.

Where We Disagree

As far as I can discern, Jason, there’s really just one central disagreement.

You want to call people to holiness, as the new creatures they are, and bring them into a deep awareness of the gospel of grace. I want to call people to holiness, as the new creatures they are, by bringing them into deeper and deeper awareness of the gospel of grace. You believe “effort and action [are] central to sanctification.” I believe the gospel is central to sanctification, and that effort and action are neither central nor optional (optional = antinomianism) but integral.

The rhythm of the New Testament is “walk in love as a response to how deeply you are loved in Christ.” “Be imitators of God, as beloved children” (Eph 5:1). In a nutshell: if the imperatives of Scripture are extracted in preaching without being self-consciously placed within their (heart-transforming) indicative framework, then such bald imperatives will invariably devolve into a counterproductive reinforcement of the Pharisee lurking in every human heart—even the regenerate human heart.

For the regenerate, holiness has taken on a strangely attractive hue, for God is now our loving Father, not our wrathful judge. We now delight in the law in a way we never did (never could) before. But the law itself remains impotent to generate this holiness. The law can guide us, but not propel us. It is a steering wheel, not an engine.

Back to the Trenches—Together

Well, brother, in so many meaningful ways we are on the same page. And there is so much more to Christ and what it means to be his disciple that I have not yet apprehended. I hope this exchange is sharpening onlookers as it has been sharpening me.

In the meantime, blessings to you!

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