This year’s Siegwinden Conference (Germany), held from 24th-26th February, experienced a great drop in the standards of teaching which it has come to appreciate over the years. The main speaker, Philip Eveson, a Bible College Principal and reputed to be a Reformed man, proved a wolf in sheep’s clothing and openly declared himself to be a contender against the reformed faith. Radically denying the experimental, new-life-giving work of God in Justification so much emphasised by the New Testament writers and our Reformers, Eveson proclaimed that it was merely a legal, ‘as if’ act with no actual transforming of the sinner into a saint. Using the most inappropriate illustration of North and South Korea to describe justification, Eveson taught that it was all a matter of status. One was a citizen of the North as a condemned sinner, but after justification one was now a citizen of the South. The new citizen is the same person with the same character but with a different passport. He has a new legality. The new legal status as a South Korean means, for Eveson, that Christians are no longer regarded as being ‘in Adam’ but as being New Creatures in Christ. This sounds good, but Eveson spoils this goodness by reminding us that we are speaking of status only. The North Korean is the same man as he is under a South Korean government; he has merely a new passport. This is all justification means to a Christian. Eveson thus separates justification from its attributes claimed by Scripture and our Reformers. It is a naked pronouncement only.
Eveson was most evasive when question time came. He rejected outright my own queries concerning the nature and timing of faith and the fact that we are justified whilst ungodly enemies of God as ‘too complicated’. Eveson believed he could make the Bible simpler. Other meaningful questions were answered by what can only be called pious-sounding, subject-evading waffle. Principle Eveson did respond when I asked for clarity on the question of the New Man in Christ Jesus, especially regarding the struggle that the New Man still has with the remains of Adam in him. Eveson replied that the Old Man does not remain with us until death as the wages of sin. He is absolutely done away with on our receiving a new passport. The Christian is a New Man in Christ. I thus asked if Eveson believed that the New Man in Christ, as the Old Man in Adam, was also a sinful creature. Eveson tried to avoid this question but overcame his embarrassment by reminding us that we must think in terms of status not character. When pressed to be clearer, he maintained that though the Old Man was crucified, and we were new creatures in Christ, Adam had left his sins in the New Creature bound for Heaven. So the New Man is, regarding personal sin and his personal holiness, the same unchanged individual whatever influence either Adam or Christ has on him. The very idea that Christ has created in us a new, sinful creature is blasphemous to Christian ears but Eveson served up such tripe without batting an eye-lid. He promised us that he would settle the matter to our satisfaction in his last talk on the following Sunday morning concerning the justified life. After this promise, I sat with various young people who came over to me one by one and we discussed the new life in Christ. This obviously angered Eveson who came over to a young man who was asking me for help on the subject and rudely interrupted us. “I see that you are interested in what this man has to say”, he said rather loudly, pointing to me. “Do not listen to him, he is a dangerous person”. After this, the young man, and several others, asked for my e-mail address and desired to carry on our fellowship at a more opportune date.
Typical of modern Liberals, Eveson thought it was a pity that the English versions did not agree with him, so he suggested new translations and new interpretations based on his own imaginations. Though he reminded us that he was an authority on the ancient languages, neither his Hebrew, Greek nor English appeared to have reached even rudimentary proportions. In order to convince us of his extraordinary thesis that Old Adam had disappeared from our lives, he argued that the present perfect tense was used by the Bible to refer to a finished action in the past. This is, of course, the function of the imperfect tense and the present perfect refers to an action started in the past which is still carried on to the present. Actually, the passage referred to in Col. 3:9 translated ‘you have put off (renounced) the Old Man with his deeds is not a tense at all but a non-tense carrier or Aorist signifying unlimited time. The verses emphasise that the believer, since is conversion, is always putting off the old man and his deeds and is thus told by Paul (v. 5) “Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth.” We cannot renounce or mortify what we do not have. Then Paul gives a list of all the sins of the Old Man against which we have to combat from the position of the New Man in us. It would be truly wonderful not to have this battle but mortal man must receive his just punishment until he stands before the throne of grace, pardoned and glorified for what Christ has done for Him. Actually, the very passages Eveson quotes to prove that the Bible words for justification are non-causative and that God does not activate justification in us have special undeniable, highly causative, intensively activating inflections and moods in their originals ignored by Eveson who is either unaware of them and thus no scholar or dishonest in their application and thus no Christian shepherd.
Then the day of clarification arrived and we received a talk on walking the justified way. We were told that our old disobedience had brought on us condemnation in North Korea but now, in the South we had a ‘New obedience’ to follow which led to progressive sanctification. I was sadly expecting such Neonomian rubbish, because legalism had been Eveson’s theme all along. God works no change in justification but merely gives us a new chance in a new country. Now we are supposed to do better this time, albeit calling on Father, Son and Holy Spirit to aid us in our new status under the old law but in a new country. Though Eveson claims that Old Adam or the Old Man is no longer present in us, Eveson’s New Obedience is designed for a still un-crucified Adam that is still with us and given a ‘second chance’. Eveson’s North Korea is under a state of law but so is his South Korea, whatever the name on the passport. Indeed, whatever Eveson says the sinner left in North Korea, he restored it under a new name in South Korea. Old Adam is thus restored but now under New Obedience.
Eveson uses theological terms ‘ideally’ as merely legal pronouncement void of any attributes which he feels must come through the sinner’s awareness of his new status. Thus the trials of Old Adam and the blessings of Justification are mere pro forma labels to demonstrate status not actualities. Against this, Reformed believers hold that condemnation is a deserved judgment pronounced on us by a righteous God. However, justification is never a deserved judgement pronounced on us by a righteous God. It is thus not a legal act like condemnation as there is everything to condemn us legally but nothing to save us legally of ourselves. The law can only condemn us it cannot justify us. Justification is all of grace given to us by a merciful, loving Father through the work of His like-willed Son. Justification confers on us all the benefits of salvation; they have not to be earned. One cannot separate justification from these benefits which transform us into New Men in Christ Jesus. At conversion, we are not placed in a new country as Christians but remain in the old one to serve out Lord as pilgrims in a foreign country. For this service we are changed and equipped for new life and new tasks. Justification brings with it the wherewithal to live a life in Christ. It is not a mere ‘as if’ act. It is a converting act. As fallen creatures, we must reap the consequence of our sinful nature until death frees us from our Old Adam, alias Old Nature, Old Self or Old Flesh. Ironically enough, Eveson told me that this Reformed view was Antinomian and rejected the Ten Commandments. He was obviously surprised when I explained that we honour the commandments of God as we do God’s Word in its entirety. Nevertheless, we do not look to ‘sincere obedience’ to the law for our justification but to God’s grace. The law kills legally, the gospel saves graciously.
Perhaps Principal Eveson’s reputation had gone before him as this year’s conference was only half last year’s size regarding numbers.