Orthodox Pharisee? (1)

Of course from the following passage, we see clearly that the Pharisee is set in stark contrast with the tax collector. From Jesus’ very words we see that the Pharisee is damnably heterodox while the tax collector is blessedly orthodox. Obviously from the context, the Pharisee is unjustified because he was relying on himself that he was righteous (despising the rest) even though he “thanked God” for his supposed “moral superiority” and “righteous standing” before God. For more on this see:


“And He also spoke this parable to some of those relying on themselves, that they are righteous, and despising the rest: Two men went up into the temple to pray, the one a Pharisee, and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee was standing, praying these things to himself: God, I thank You that I am not as the rest of men, rapacious, unrighteous, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice on the sabbath; I tithe all things, as many as I get. And standing at a distance, the tax collector would not even lift up his eyes to Heaven, but smote on his breast, saying, God, be merciful to me, the sinner! I say to you, This one went down to his house having been justified, rather than that one. For everyone exalting himself will be humbled. And the one humbling himself will be exalted” (Luke 18:9-14).

Chris: From Doug Wilson’s site (Doug is commenting on the Westminster Confession of Faith 3:8. My comments interspersed):

8. The doctrine of this high mystery of predestination is to be handled with special prudence and care (Rom. 9:20; 11:33; Deut. 29:29), that men, attending the will of God revealed in His Word, and yielding obedience thereunto, may, from the certainty of their effectual vocation, be assured of their eternal election (2 Pet. 1:10). So shall this doctrine afford matter of praise, reverence, and admiration of God (Eph. 1:6; Rom. 11:32); and of humility, diligence, and abundant consolation to all that sincerely obey the Gospel (Rom. 11:5–6, 20; 2 Pet. 1:10; Rom. 8:33; Luke 10:20).

This truth should be handled gingerly. Sinners like to blame God instead of themselves, and they do so with particular impudence whenever they become aware of this truth. But the reason we emphasize it is three-fold. First, we must understand this in order to make our calling and election sure. Secondly, it gives rise to many occasions where God may be greatly glorified.

Lastly, this doctrine is a real humbler. Those who are proud of their knowledge of this doctrine (as opposed to all those modern evangelical semi-Pelagians out there) have the worst of all situations.

Chris: The tolerant Calvinists who are a little less heretical than their Arminian (or even semi-Pelagian) brethren, may pride themselves in their “slightly less heterodox” doctrine of a permissive aspect of predestination. But if said Calvinists, Arminians, and semi-Pelagians are judged as God-hating idolaters, does it necessarily follow that we are proud of our knowledge of the Biblical doctrine of predestination? Are we glorying in our wisdom (cf. Jeremiah 9:23; 1 Corinthians 1:31)? Of course not. In Jeremiah 9:24, God admonishes us to glory that we understand and know Him, that He is Jehovah, doing kindness, justice and righteousness in the earth. It appears that Doug is saying that we ought not to glory that we know Him, while God is saying that we ought to glory that we know Him. A reason not to glory for Wilson is because he does not wish to use this doctrine to beat his Arminian brethren over the head with, since it must take years and years for a Christian to know his rightful place in the universe, and that he is the pot and not the Potter.

We gather from Galatians 6:14 that we are to glory in, to boast exclusively in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. We who boast in and speak peace based on (Galatians 6:16) the efficacious cross-work of Christ alone are not proud of OUR knowledge of this doctrine of the cross, as if we were boasting in our own wisdom and knowledge. We do not boast in OUR knowledge of the cross as if from us, but we DO boast exclusively in the cross as what makes the ultimate difference between salvation and damnation (Galatians 6:14). It may just be that if we judge saved and lost based on this doctrine, people like-minded with Wilson, will slander us as boasting in our own knowledge of this doctrine of the cross.

More from Doug:

The most obvious thing about predestination is that it exalts God and abases the creature. But this is not be confused with the exaltation of the creature who pretends to exalt God.

Chris: The above fits you like a glove, Wilson. Not to mention your Arminian brethren — you and the Arminians in pretending to exalt God, are in fact exalting yourselves.


As John Newton once memorably put it,

“And I am afraid there are Calvinists, who, while they account it a proof of their humility that they are willing in words to debase the creature, and to give all the glory of salvation to the Lord, yet know not what manner of spirit they are of. Whatever it be that makes us trust in ourselves that we are comparatively wise or good, so as to treat those with contempt who do not subscribe to our doctrines, or follow our party, is a proof and fruit of a self-righteous spirit. Self-righteousness can feed upon doctrines, as well as upon works; and a man may have the heart of a Pharisee, while his head is stored with orthodox notions of the unworthiness of the creature and the riches of free grace.”

Chris: I think we can see why, or how this quote by Newton is a favorite amongst some of the more insidiously irenic spirits of antichrist out there who refuse to judge based on the gospel alone (cf. Mark 16:16; Romans 1:16-17). Newton says that self-righteousness can feed upon doctrines as well as upon works. Perhaps the slanderous charge we often receive of “doctrinal regeneration” would apply here.

And whether it be doctrine or works, a self-righteous clinging to doctrine would still be works and it would still be a seeking to establish a righteousness of one’s own (Romans 10:1-4). If Newton is in line with the Puritans, then he would believe that a true regenerate person could at times manifest a self-righteous spirit. I wonder if Newton — or those in agreement with him — thinks that a regenerate person who believes the gospel can self-righteously feed upon the doctrine of the gospel?

John Newton points out the schism and party-spirit bickering amongst the Calvinist and Arminian brothers in Satan. It looks like Newton is saying that it is possible to give glory to God alone for salvation in the head, while self-righteously trusting in oneself, with a Pharisaic heart. In contrast to Newton’s assertion, the Bible makes no distinction between the head and the heart. Newton either made it up, or he is just repeating a common falsehood that someone else made up.

More from Doug Wilson:

The Pharisee who went down to the Temple to pray actually began his prayer with one of the solas—soli Deo gloria. “I thank Thee, God . . .” Perfectly orthodox. And he went home unjustified to boot.

Chris: How about you give some context, Wilson? The Pharisee trusted in himself, and thanked God. This is NOT “perfectly orthodox,” as far as the Biblical teaching is concerned. But it IS orthodox Calvinism, since orthodox Calvinism teaches that “grace” enables a person to meet conditions for his salvation. The Pharisaic, “I thank Thee, God” for enabling me to add to the work of Christ by meeting “instrumental conditions,” is perfectly orthodox Calvinism, but it is NOT perfectly orthodox Christianity — it is the damnable heterodoxy of salvation conditioned on what the sinner is enabled to do (cf. Romans 11:6).