Sunday, April 27, 2014

Is It That You're Really Missing Something? Forms of Second Blessing Theology, pt. 4

The last comment under the last post in this series read:

It was interesting - a friend and I were discussing how to live a victorious Christian life, and it reminded me of viewing this blog post earlier today. I'm a little confused though; are there not practical steps to living a victorious Christian life? I know there isn't a "second blessing," a feeling, or something like that. But it is also clear that not all (or even most) Christians, who are truly saved, live a spiritual Christian life. Instead, they live carnally, or Laodicean-like at best. What is the key to being an overcoming, spiritual Christian?

All Christians will live a victorious Christian life.  Many places in the New Testament say that, but I'm reminded of 1 John 5:1-5:

1 Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one that loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him. 2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments. 3 For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous. 4 For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. 5 Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?

Whatsoever is born of God overcomes the world.  It's a guarantee.  Overcoming characterizes the Christian.  Romans 8:28-30 promises it.  Everyone God justifies He has predestined to conform to the image of His Son.  This is the message of Jesus at the end of every one of His messages to the seven churches in Revelation 2 and 3.  People who are saved will have victory.

The problem today is that there are many, many unconverted people in churches, because they have heard a false gospel that either did not present scriptural faith or a biblical Jesus.  They can't live a victorious life because they are not born of God.   The person has no victory because He does not have the love of God in his heart.  This is a test of faith.

The comment itself smacks of second blessing theology.  The anonymous comment person said he didn't believe in second blessing theology, but he manifested his second blessing theology when he said that most Christians do not live a spiritual Christian life.  He divides Christians into carnal Christians and spiritual Christians.  There are no carnal Christians, only spiritual ones.  The carnal Christian doctrine was popularized in 1918 by Lewis Sperry Chafer in his book, He That Is Spiritual, that was then eviscerated by B. B. Warfield in 1919.  No Christian will live in a perpetual state of carnality, waiting for a higher life or second blessing or the baptism of the Spirit or fresh oil.  He has everything he needs the moment he is justified.

He also talks about a Christian being Laodicean.  That's another marker of second blessing and keswick.  Those at Laodicea were unsaved.  That church is an apostate church.  The "lukewarm Christian" is another "carnal Christian" that is part of the second blessing theology.   Lukewarm is not referring to a saved person, but someone who is most likely never to be saved.  God spews him out of His mouth.  Language like lukewarm and backslidden and these types of terms have become the currency of keswick and second blessing. They explain "Christians" who very likely are not Christian.  The Bible doesn't explain these people as saved, but they are labeled so by this new theology.

In 2 Corinthians 12:21-13:10, the Apostle Paul reveals requirements of sanctification.  When someone is sinning, he should repent.  If he doesn't, he should be disciplined.  When he is disciplined, he should submit to authority.  If he won't, then he should examine himself as to whether he really is a Christian.  The goal, however, is someone not doing evil, but doing right without anyone having to discipline.  Paul didn't want to do that, but he would if they wouldn't repent.  If Christians are doing right, then they don't need to repent and won't need discipline.

Through the new covenant, a believer already has victory through the Lord Jesus Christ.  He will experience that victory through obedience, by just doing right.  Doing right will characterize his life, because that is the nature of the grace of God.

Paul teaches in Romans 7 and 8 that sanctification is a struggle against the flesh.  If you are going to point to anything as a "key" in sanctification it is mortification (Romans 8:13; Colossians 3:5).  A tremendous, old work on this is by John Owen, entitled, Of the Mortification of Sin in Believers, and I recommend every Christian to read it.  It's tough sledding, but if you go slow, it will be tremendous edification.  It is simply Owen's fine exegesis of the applicable passages in Romans.


I decided to deal with the "carnal Christian" issue here in the main text and not the comment section.   The title of Chafer's book, He That Is Spiritual, comes from 1 Corinthians 2:15, and this is where Chafer gets it wrong, I believe, under the influence of Oberlin, where he graduated and where Finney had been long time president, and that of Scofield (read Mark Snoeberger's journal article, including the footnotes).  Chafer divided people into three categories:  the natural man, the carnal Christian, and the spiritual Christian.

Chafer fails in that 1 Corinthians 2 presents two categories of people, the natural man and the spiritual man.  The natural man of 1 Corinthians 2 and the carnal man of 1 Corinthians 3 are the same person.  The natural man in 2:14 is psuxikos, a person controlled by himself, by his own soul (The -ikos ending says "controlled by" or "pertaining to" or "characterized by").  The natural man is in control of his own life and destiny.  The spiritual man, 2:15, is pneumatikos, so the Spirit controls him.  These are the unsaved person and the saved person respectively.

So, in chapter 3, Paul says he could not speak to them "as" unto spiritual, really referring back to the spiritual man of chapter 2, but plural, spiritual men.  He's saying he couldn't talk to them like they were saved people, that is, people who could understand spiritual things.  "But" (alla, strong contrast, on the contrary) "as" carnal (sarkikoi, people controlled by the flesh).   Paul couldn't talk to them like they were saved, but like they were unsaved.  Paul is talking to Christians, so he says, "as."  If he was actually talking to the so-called carnal Christians, he could just say, 'speaking to carnal Christians,' not "as."

He also says "as babes in Christ."  He is talking to Christians, but "babes" doesn't have to be a Christian.  It isn't in Hebrews 5 and in Galatians 4.  It doesn't universally mean "saved person."  Paul isn't creating a category of carnal Christian.  He isn't differentiating the two like they are two types of Christians.  These Corinthians are behaving like unsaved people.  He's having to talk to them like they are unsaved.

Parallel with this is Romans 8:5-9:

 5 For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. 6 For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.  7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. 8 So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. 9 But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.

Is the carnal in this text a Christian?  Of course not.

With that being said, Paul is talking about position.  Every saved person still has the flesh, so he can behave carnally.  He isn't carnal, but he can obey his flesh and not the Holy Spirit.  Practically, he isn't living spiritually.

Some reading, I'm sure, would ask, "So what's the difference?"  The difference might seem minor, but it isn't.  There is no category of carnal Christian.  Christians sin.  That's not spiritual.  That's fleshly.  However, it doesn't mean that there are those two categories of Christians, meaning that there are three natures for people and not just two.  When we're saved, we receive a new nature and the old nature is gone.  We still have the flesh, but we aren't natural or carnal anymore, speaking of position.

In keswick or second blessing theology, the carnal Christian is the Christian who accepted Jesus as Savior, but hasn't been dedicated or hasn't received Jesus as Lord of his life.


Anonymous said...

Kent, I want very, very badly to agree with the totally of this post, but can't. You said,

"There are no carnal Christians, only spiritual ones."

This, however, conflicts with what Scripture itself says,

"And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able. For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men? For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal?" (I Corinthians 3:1-4)

Clearly, your statement above is not correct. Paul - addressing the Corinthians as "brethren" - nevertheless tells them that they are carnal and that he cannot deal with them as spiritual.

None of this is to argue for "Keswick" theology, or to suggest that genuine Christians can, in fact, remain carnal perpetually, or that they have to hope for some "second blessing" to "get the victory" (they can't, and they don't).

The reason I mention this is because I fear that, if taken at face value, your comment would seem to steer into the opposite error of sinless perfectionism - if someone is saved, they won't sin because that is carnal. If they sin, they're obviously not saved. That is obviously not a scriptural position, either (I John 2:1-2, Rom. 7:19, Hebr 12:1, etc.). While I believe you do not hold to it, your comment as formulated would seem to accidentally point in that direction.

Sanctification is an ongoing process (II Pet. 3:18). This is an obvious enough point, but yet is one that nevertheless needs to be reiterated because while many are lead astray by Keswick theology and "waiting for God to drop a victory on them," many other new Christians are discouraged because they are told after a failure that they're "not really saved" (have seen it happen). Both are equal evils.

Again - none of this is meant to "excuse" sin on the part of believers. Obviously the goal of every genuine born-again believer is to "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect" (Matthew 5:48). God will work in us to will and to do of His good pleasure. But in the process of dealing with them, we have to be scriptural about it, not veering off in either direction.


"There are no carnal Christians, only spiritual ones." - KB

And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ (1 Cor. 3:1).

Paul said, ..."I am (present active indicative) carnal"..
(Rom. 7:18).

Most of your statments seem to agree with Scripture but the above does't seem to, IMHO.

It's confusing to your readers to write articles refuting Calvinism and MVO's and telling us how off on soteriology and biblilogy guys like Warfield and Owen are and then cite them in defense of a seemingly soteriological subject, FWIW.

Still edified by all you write..

Tyler Robbins said...

Warfield's conclusion:

"There are not two kinds of Christians, although there are Christians at every conceivable stage of advancement towards the one goal to which all are bound and at which all shall arrive."

Yes, I would agree wholeheartedly with Warfield on that point.

I don't recall that Chafer made that big a deal about the "carnal" man in his Systematic. It came out much later than the book you referenced; perhaps he modified his views? I just perused his summarization of sanctification (7:274-284), and he specifically calls Christian growth an on-going process. He denies the possibility of sinless perfection. He doesn't mention a second blessing, or the necessity of one. He seems to essentially agree with Warfield's summary (above).

Appreciate the series.

Kent Brandenburg said...


I'll be answering all these comments later today, but I'm presently in a break at school, but have one more hour to teach.


Anonymous said...

I appreciate your detailed answer to my question. However, I think I've just become more confused. I was going to mention the passage that Titus mentions above - isn't he talking about Christians there? Also, I thought that the passage in Revelation was written to the church itself: would Jesus recognize it as a church, if it was made up of just unsaved individuals?

I'm really not trying to argue, but I don't really understand your point. The Bible is clear that ALL Christians have the ability to live an overcoming, victorious Christian life. But why do you say that if anyone is not living a victorious Christian life, they are lost? If that be true, then I know very few Christians. Most Christians I know seem to have periods of victory and periods of defeat. I completely agree with you that a true Christian will not stay in a place of defeat, but defeat does come at times.

Tyler Robbins said...


I don't believe Bro. Brandenburg is saying that a Christian will never experience defeat, and I know Warfield didn't say that in his article (cited above).

As I understand it, the fallacy in the second blessing scheme is that your sanctification is predicated on a second, more dynamic and empowering infusion from the Spirit. Thus, there are "carnal Christians" who haven't been infused, and "spiritual Christians" who have been so infused.

It is far more Biblical to speak of "progressive sanctification," and simply observe that men are at different points along their journey to the goal of Christ-likeness.

All believers must be committed to the Lordship of Christ, and have the ability to effectively combat sin through the aid of the Spirit (whom they received at salvation). There is therefore no pretense of an excuse; e.g. "I haven't received my second blessing yet! It's not my fault . . . !"

As an aside, I dealt with a few teenagers who were indoctrinated by this mad Keswick teaching. It is un-biblical. It also bred in these teens a feeling of arrogance; e.g. they had received a "second blessing" while we commoners were carnal and lazy.

Kent Brandenburg said...


1 John 1:8-10 teaches against perfectionism. Characteristic of being a Christian is confession of sin, because we have an advocate with the Father. However, true confession is to say the same thing about your sin that God does. You don't live characteristically in sin, because His seed remains in you (1 John 3:6-10). A true believer overcomes sin, meaning that it doesn't dominate his life, but it isn't sinless perfection. I would be interested in your pointing out where I have taught sinless perfection at what you called "taken at face value." All I've said is that sanctification is a struggle, not a form of sinless perfection. Your face value comment would seem to need some example or illustration of where I said anything like sinless perfection. This article says that when someone sins, he repents, but if he doesn't he's disciplined, and if he doesn't submit when disciplined, then he should check to see if he's saved. Did you miss that?

Kent Brandenburg said...


Have you read, He That Is Spiritual?

Kent Brandenburg said...

John Gardner,

The law is good. It's not the problem, Paul is saying. The problem is me. I'm carnal. Is Paul calling himself a carnal Christian? No. Just the opposite -- this is a mature Christian man who understands sin. He's lamenting that sin comes not because of the law, but because of him, because of his fleshiness. He's not in "in the flesh," see Rom 8, but the flesh is still in him. He's not yet been glorified, so it will be a constant struggle that he describes in Romans 7.

Regarding the quotation of Calvinists, it's not as though non-Calvinists or historic Baptists have disagreed with Calvinists on everything. Spurgeon was a Calvinist. When you read the Schleitheim Confession, that's not a very complete confession, and I've argued here that the confession was written to differentiate. I can't bring you to something on sanctification written by a non-Calvinist, and what Owen and Warfield write there are true.

This is coming from someone who has greatly argued against Warfield's interpretation of the WCF on preservation of scripture.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Anonymous, aka, the philosopher,

I'm reporting what 1 John 5:1-5 says. You should deal with that. Every Christian has victory already. If someone lives characteritistically, habitually sinful, 1 John among many other places says that isn't a Christian. The fact that someone is concerned about whether he is a Christian when he is sinning could be the very evidence that he is a Christian.

I believe the reason why you don't see victorious Christian living by Christians is almost exclusively because they are not saved, in part because they were taught this two pronged idea of first Savior and sometime later Lordship, or salvation and then dedication. People feel justified in their perpetual carnality, because there is a category of carnal Christian and they have "eternal security." Only Christians have eternal security and security isn't liberty to sin.

This idea that there is some secret to living the Christian life smacks of keswick, Hannah Whitall Smith, holiness/higher life movement. I'm not saying that you joined it, but the language is that, which has saturated independent Baptist churches.

Tyler Robbins said...


Not all of it yet. I read the chapter on the "three classes" of Christians, and skimmed a good deal of the rest. His emphasis appears to be on yielding to the Spirit and thus being empowered, vice a second "infusion," which he explicitly scorns in the book.

My personal dealings with "second blessing" theology have been with folks who have allegedly "experienced" a second infusion of grace by the Spirit.

Steve Rogers said...

There is truth here on both sides which seem to want to define the others terms, creating a straw man by painting the other side with a broad brush. Whether it's the term Lordship or repentance and in this case the word carnal. Obviously the Bible teaches all three but I honestly think this particular series against 2nd blessing has included some that simply believe that victory has been provided through our union with Christ' resurrected life as Rom 6-8 clearly teach to Christians to recognize. There is no 2nd blessing promoted just the believer reckoning himself dead to sin and alive in Christ. That took place at salvation just as the HS indwelling did, but the believer is commanded to be filled with the Spirit. These are commands given to believers but the truth already exists from the moment of salvation. On the other hand, while victory is provided there is a struggle or battle with the flesh and a wrestle against principalities and powers. Some on the other side deny the struggle aspect. I believe it's all semantics and defining terms. Pride usually is the culprit in these disagreements.

Joshua said...

Nothing Pastor Brandenburg wrote here has me concerned he believes in sinless perfectionism, or even tends towards it. Everyone knows Christian's don't live in perpetual victory, as we all sin and stumble. Once I was scheduled to preach at my church and I didn't show up because I was caught in a sin and couldn't face up to the task of declaring the Word of God as a hypocrite. I hid in bed like a coward. Not exactly victorious stuff eh? In fact, that was the conclusion of several weeks of non-victorious living.

But the Lord chastened, I repented and soon I was back to serving Him with gladness. Surely we've all seen stuff like that happen either in our lives or in the lives of other Christians around us? I doubt Kent could have missed events like that in his time as a Pastor. Everyone stumbles from time to time.

But to live in the stumble in perpetuity and still be His? Had that event been the beginning of 70 years of fleshly living continuing to the day of my death, then I would say not that I was a carnal Christian, but that it was evidence I was never a Christian in the first place. The Bible backs that idea up to the hilt.

Jim Camp said...

I've been waiting for this to come up, for I have a specific question concerning the "carnal" Christian.

In I Cor. 3, Paul thrice calls them carnal. He then explains what he means by the last clause of vs. 3 - They walk as men. I think this pretty plainly shows that carnality is not about our condition or standing before God (Rom. 8 - Spiritual - saved, carnal - lost), but about our walk.

So my question is "What is carnality in I Cor. 3???" Robertson put it as "one who lives according to the flesh". Is this not what the common expression of "a carnal Christian" means??? In none of this am I suggesting a second blessing. I am suggesting that some Christians are carnal, walking as men.


Kent Brandenburg said...

Hi Steve,

I would hope that what we have here is just dealing with what the Bible says and not attempting to win an argument by straw manning someone else. I spent most of my early life in keswick/second blessing surroundings. I can sympathize with people who are hearing something different. I'm happy to hear where I straw man anything, have it pointed out, because it's not something I want to do. I think I know when I'm actually hearing the wrong teaching.

I think it is important that we don't take people out of context and represent them properly. The only two people I have named is Chafer and Finney. These weren't Baptists, and yet a lot of Baptists take their position on things as if these were historic Baptist or let's just say biblical teachings, when they are not.

Are saying that the Bible teaches there are two categories of Christians? I'm saying that isn't what Paul was teaching in his epistles.

I don't know what the pride is that you're talking about. I understand pride being a sin that is also a basis for other sin, but how is pride uniquely an issue with regards to these two positions that are different. It is more than just semantics. People think, believe, and then live differently. In many cases, they think they're saved, when they're not, because this is also tied into salvation doctrine.

Kent Brandenburg said...


They're acting like unsaved people. He's having to talk to them like they're unsaved people. Some of them were unsaved, thus, they needed to examine themselves whether they be in the faith. Saved people act like unsaved people when they obey the flesh and not the Spirit, but they aren't charcteristically under the control of the flesh. In Rom 8, Paul says that which is in the flesh cannot please God. Cannot. Not will not. Cannot.

In a practical way, men obey the flesh and not the spirit, and they behave fleshly, carnally, and then they obey, they behave spiritually. If by "carnal Christian" someone meant that Christians do carnal things, I would be fine with that, but that is not historically what men have meant by that.


Kent Brandenburg said...


You threw out that idea that at face value I was teaching sinless perfectionism, and I'm still awaiting an example of that. I believe what I'm teaching is biblical salvation and sanctification. People who are justified don't live a lifestyle of sin any longer, they don't live in perpetual carnality. They overcome. When they sin, they confess, and if they don't, they repent when confronted, and if they don't, they repent when they're disciplined, but they will live righteously. It will be a struggle, but they don't need a second blessing to do that. Awaiting your retraction of sinless perfection accusation or example of it in my post. Thank you.

KJB1611 said...

I think that an examination of the verse that Chafer took his book from is very interesting:

Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. (Galatians 6:1)

Note that the verse identifies "brethren," the regenerate membership of the church in Galatia, with the category of those who are "spiritual." The verse does not say that some of the "brethren" are "spiritual," but that all of them are. They are contrasted with the one who is overtaken with a fault. His spiritual status is not identified – he is simply a "man."


Hi Bro. Ross,
Regarding Gal. 6:1, to where are the spiritual men to restore such an one? Or another way, the man that was overtaken with a fault was in a position before the fault that he needs to be restored to, where/what is that?

Are not the attributes of the "brethren" in 1 Cor.3:1 carnal and babes IN Christ?



Anecdotal warning:

I took classes from several Dallas brothers at Southern Evangelical Seminary and can't recall any keswick or second blessing teachings.

Kent Brandenburg said...


I'm not arguing against the reality of "the flesh" in a Christian. That also means that he will act carnal, because the flesh is carnal. However, scripture doesn't present a category of carnal Christian -- do you understand what you are arguing for if you argue for that? In light of keswick and second blessing?

Neither am I saying that 1 Corinthians isn't written to believers. I'm saying, however, that we don't argue for a category of "carnal Christian," even as Paul is talking to them as though they are unsaved, though they are actually saved. When you read chapters 2 and 3 and take it altogether, instead of zeroing in on the first few verses of 3 in order to find the carnal Christian category.

Kent Brandenburg said...


I'm sure there are Dallas guys who don't believe that position. Many are Calvinist. They won't call their own teaching keswick or second blessing -- they'll just call it scripture if they believe it.

Tyler Robbins said...


Back in your day, did you see any hint of second blessing theology at Maranatha?


None of my professors were Calvinists and the teaching they considered Scripture wasn't keswick/second blessing.

SES was co-founded by "moderate Calvinist" Norman Geisler. He's not a Dallas guy but SES was known as not reformed.

Joe Cassada said...

Whenever this topic comes up, I always anticipate the Paul-said-the-Corinthians-were-carnal argument. Every time.

The fact that there are no carnal Christians does not imply that Christians don't act carnally. There's a difference between being a child and acting like a child. If I tell an adult, "You're a child" what I mean is: "In this-and-that situation you have acted childish."

Christians can act carnally, but the Bible has no room for the "carnal Christian" as a third spiritual category of people.

Just like there are no fruitless branches in Christ. The fruitless ones are removed and burned. Any connection they had to the Vine was purely mechanical and not vital. The branches that are in the Vine are pruned of their dead works so they will bear more fruit. All Christians will bear fruit; those who don't aren't Christians. I think the Savior makes this clear in John 15:1-6. Likewise, there are no carnal Christians. The Christians that act carnally are disciplined by the Father so they will be less carnal and more spiritual.

I haven't taken the time to read the entire thread, so if I am repeating what others have already said, I hope Kent will delete this comment.


I'm not arguing for a category of carnal Christians. However, it seems we are all carnal (Rom.7:18) at varying levels. Some of us are babes in Christ (1 Cor.3:1). Some of us are novices (1 Tim. 3:6). Some others are spiritual (Gal. 6:1). However, even the spiritual ones struggle with something(s) (1 John 1:8).

I don't struggle with the same things I did 10 years ago and I hope to say the same Lord willing in another decade. It's not some second blessing that got me here from there nor one that will get me from here to yonder. I rejoice with Paul that it is only Jesus who will save me from this body of death.

I don't think you believe in sinless perfectionism but your case reads like either your’re saved, victorious, overcoming or not saved (Jesus is Saviour but not Lord). You acknowledge "struggling" but what do you call someone who has Jesus as Lord and is struggling?


Kent Brandenburg said...


At that point in my life, keswick or second blessing was all that I heard. I heard various iterations of it, but if sanctification was touched in any depthy, it was keswick. I heard the two nature doctrine taught. Of course, Rice and Hyles and those in their orbit were absolutely second blessing people. Dr. Cedarholm never taught on things like that. I never accepted it fully and questioned it, but I didn't know what I believed by the time I left. I knew that I wasn't Rice and Hyles, but I wasn't settled myself, because I hadn't heard a regular diet of exposition or been studying it out myself. It's one reason I write about it here, because I think men should be thinking about it.

Thomas Ross's PhD dissertation, 1000+ pages, will probably be the greatest dealing with it in existence when he's done. Someone you've heard of, that's written a book on it, is Andy Naselli, and Detroit has talked a lot about it. They are Calvinists, but Thomas and myself are not.

Kent Brandenburg said...


Thanks and your comment was a contribution.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Hi John,

I don't believe we "are" carnal. We "are" spiritual. We have the flesh, but our nature is spiritual. Is. Perhaps you are taking that from Paul saying "I am carnal," but in the context, he's saying that he still lives in a physical body. You can't separate that from the term. This is part of anthropology, that is, the flesh resides in the body, which is why the flesh disappears when we are glorified. You can't separate "the flesh" from the physical body.

Everyone is struggling, to answer that question, but sin isn't characteristic, habitual, or a lifestyle, and, therefore, a believer has victory. The struggle is described in Rom 7.

Nice talking about this.

Tyler Robbins said...


Thanks. I was going to mention that Naselli wrote on it (I think it was for his PhD at Trinity). This is a thought-provoking series.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Here's something free and available online right now in pdf....not the book, but a journal article.

Tyler Robbins said...

Thanks VERY MUCH for the article. I've saved it. Extremely helpful. I especially like the sanctification comparison charts at the end.

For those disagreeing with Bro. Brandenburg, I think the charts at the end of Naselli's article (linked above) will explain matters very clearly. Come back and let me know which view of sanctification you support.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Titus (aka Tim Dunkin),

So you're going to do a drive-by and accuse me of teaching sinless perfectionism with no obvious example, and then just disappear without proving it. What's that all about?

Tyler Robbins said...

In an earlier comment (above), I said that I hadn't seen anything in Chafer's systematic theology about "carnal" and "spiritual" Christians. I stand corrected:

"As there is a great transition from the estate of the unsaved to that of the saved, there is also a transition for the Christian from the carnal to the spiritual state. The former change is wrought by God in answer to saving faith in Christ, while the latter is brought about by a natural release of the Spirit's power in the believer when needed adjustments are made, which power has been possessed though not necessarily experienced from the moment of salvation," (6:172-173).

Anonymous said...

Hi Kent,

Sorry for not responding sooner. To be quite frank, I had some other things come up and forgot about this thread, which is why I did not respond again sooner.

However, at no point in my comment above did I "accuse" you "of teaching sinless perfectionism." In fact, I specifically tried to allay that concern by saying, "While I believe you do not hold to it..."

The reason I said that your comment could appear to point in that direction (which is not the same thing as being there, mind you) is because making a declarative statement like "there are no carnal Christians" seems to naturally lead to "anyone who sins is not saved," which is where that statement HAS led in the theology of others that I have seen. Again - I am not saying you hold to this. Simply that, as formulated as a declarative statement without apparent (at the time) caveats, it mimicked what has led to sinless perfectionism in other cases.

Kent Brandenburg said...

But Tim,

This position is classic NOT sinless perfection. The historic position, which is the same for Baptists and reformed in this instance, they didn't disagree, is exactly what I'm communicating. Perfectionism comes out of Keswick revivalism, second blessing theology. The classic, historic, biblical view just looks for fruits of salvation, characteristic holiness, a lifestyle of righteousness.

You tell me if I'm wrong. You don't like your salvation being questioned, and the people who might question it, speaking hypothetically, because they expect repentance for sin, you think are asking for perfection? No. Believers, who are sinning, are expected to repent. They want to repent. They don't see themselves as bigger than the teaching of the Bible, the truth, as proclaimed by the pillar and ground of the truth, not some self-appointed free-floating, free agent, who takes it all into his own hands. Not saying the latter is you, but I wondered if you agreed with the statement.

Anonymous said...

Kent - I would completely agree with your statement above. But it doesn't address what I was actually saying earlier.

You originally stated that "There are no carnal Christians, only spiritual ones."

This is, scripturally, not true. The scripture itself refutes your original comment in your article. It was THAT comment to which I was responding, not the later things which you have said. Therefore, it is to that original comment, not the later things, that I also said "...would seem to steer..." in the direction of sinless perfectionism. "Would seem to steer" is not the same thing as saying that you're there (a point which I thought I had made pretty plain in my original comment, btw).

Your attempts at clarifying your statement appeared to be somewhat contradictory to your original comment. That's the issue. Originally, you said there are no carnal Christians - a statement that is scripturally not true on its face. You subsequently adopted the more scriptural position that, yes, it is possible for someone to be a Christian and still have carnality in their life (though obviously they *should* not). I took your first subsequent responses to be a de facto retraction of the original comment.

I'm not accusing you of teaching sinless perfectionism. I have not said that you did, and have actually tried to go out of my way to affirm that I do not believe you believe that or are teaching it. If you want to believe that I am, there's really nothing else I can do say to disabuse you of the notion. All I said was that your comment was the same as has been made by those who do and who I have seen be a discouragement to new Christians. That's it. No accusation against you, Kent.

Kent Brandenburg said...


Scripture doesn't contradict itself, but it will make statements, that if not taken in the right way, will contradict. Some of it has to do with the tenses of the verbs or whether conditional sentences are being use. For instance, think of 1 John 3, where it says that a believer cannot sin. On the other hand, it says if he says that he has not sinned, he's a liar (1 John 1). There are no carnal Christians -- sin doesn't have dominion over them. Romans 8 makes this same point. People who are unsaved are "in the flesh," so they cannot please God. They are in the flesh -- that is the carnal person. Saved people are not in the flesh.

Personally, I think you know this. Maybe not, but I think you do.

It's easy to attack this and put the one teaching it on the defensive, because of the passage that says a person can behave carnally. But that's not what we're talking about. We're talking about the historical detour off the biblical teaching of sanctification that taught categorical carnality up until a certain point in life: the two nature teaching. That's what we're talking about here. Maybe you don't know that or understand that.

So no, I'm not contradicting myself. Christians sin, they do works of the flesh (carnality), but they are not by nature carnal, that is, categorically carnal. The way I'm putting that, and I'm not the first, is that there are no carnal Christians, only spiritual ones. I'm also saying that is what 1 Cor 2-3 are teaching. The Bible won't contradict itself.

Anonymous said...

I appreciate what both of you are trying to wrestle with here. I can understand why Tim is asking the question, because I Cor. 3 does say "ye are carnal." However, I know exactly what Kent is saying, and I agree. When I recently preached on I Cor. 3:1-4, part of my outline concerning "The Reality of Carnality" was the following:

The carnality referred to here is:

A. A Characteristic, not a Category

B. A Description, not a Demarcation

C. A Stage, not a Status

By "Stage", I don't mean an indefinite period of time between the time a person accepts Jesus as "Savior" and the time he accepts Jesus as "Lord". I don't see that distinction in scripture. What I mean is that Paul says that they were "yet carnal" that they were to be spoken to "as unto babes". In other words, they had some growing to do, but they were expect to grow out of it so to speak.

FWIW, I'd thought I'd share that in hopes that it might help clarify what I Cor. 3 is saying about carnality and what it is not saying.