On “Necessary Consequences” and the ‘Grace-Circle’ Condemnation of Its Use…

A noted Sovereign Grace preacher had this to say about the (Reformed) viewpoint called “Necessary Consequences” (emphasis added):

Perhaps you are scratching your heads, saying, “What on earth is the heresy of necessary consequence?” It is the doctrine which says that the Bible alone is our only rule of faith and practice, that is to say, that which is written in the Bible and that which is logically and rationally deduced from the Bible. This is the first great error of Protestant theology. The Reformers retained this little bit of Romanism which led to the retention of much more.

The Westminster Confession is even more specific. “The whole counsel of God, concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man’s salvation, faith, and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture.”

It is this doctrine of necessary consequence which allows churches and preachers to devise their own creeds and confessions and causes them to hold their creeds and confessions above the Scriptures, making void the Word of God by their traditions!

Now the above-quoted is problematic enough for me. However, consider this additional one from the same article:

We must believe and practice exactly what is written in the Word of God, not what was written and what we deduce should have been written!

If I cannot show you where a thing is stated in Holy Scripture, I have no right to believe it, preach it, or compel you to believe it. We have no right to believe, or insist that others believe, any doctrine which is not expressly taught in Holy Scripture.

I am more than just a little bit amazed at this statement; I cannot believe any reasonable professing Christian would make it. I understand that “necessary consequences” can be misused unto excess; I understand that we should warn against, and even speak out against, said excess; however, where reasonably and biblically applied, the precept of necessary consequences is not only NOT heretical, but it is soundly rational, and biblically approved (Acts 15 is an excellent example of it, noting specifically v6).

Consider the following: I cannot show you in Scripture where it specifically states “do not smoke crack” or “do not shoot heroin.” However, I agree with  (Scottish Puritan) George Gillespie that:

“reason captivated and subdued to the obedience of Christ and… standing to scriptural principles… [can be] convinced and satisfied with the consequences and conclusions drawn from Scripture.”

It is a frightful thought that the author not only cannot understand this but encourages his readers/hearers to make the same grave mistake that he does. I hope and trust that most Christians can look at verses like the following and understand that what is true for alcohol is also reasonably true, by inference, for other substances:

Proverbs 23:21 “For the drunkard and the glutton shall come to poverty: and drowsiness shall clothe [a man] with rags.”

Ephesians 5:18And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess [incorrigibleness;an abandoned, dissolute, life; profligacy, prodigality]; but be filled with the Spirit…”  [Also, would anyone argue that you can be drunk with beer, vodka, whiskey, etc., just not wine… or does necessary consequences dictate an extrapolation/extension to these forms of alcohol as well?]

1 Corinthians 5:9-11I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators: 10 Yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go out of the world. 11 But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat.”

1 Corinthians 6:9-11 “Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, 10 Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.”

Sadly, the author doesn’t seem to like such inference. And yet, likewise, I cannot show you in Scripture where it specifically states “do not cheat on your tests or homework” or “do not plagiarize when writing your dissertation.” And yet, I believe that the necessary consequences of, even the reasonable extrapolation of the following passage affirms the reality that we ought to act honestly in all things, which includes abstaining from cheating:

1 Thessalonians 4:11-12 “And that ye study to be quiet, and to do your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you; 12 That ye may walk honestly toward them that are without, and [that] ye may have lack of nothing.”

Proverbs 10:9 He that walketh uprightly walketh surely: but he that perverteth his ways shall be known.

I will begin to wrap it up here; I do not believe we need to belabour the point with more examples. Nor do I believe we have to put forth many examples concerning excesses when it comes to necessary consequences. We have all encountered people who require dress codes beyond the exhortation to prudence/modesty. We have all heard of those who judge (or imply) saved and lost by such things as dancing (of any kind), card-playing, board-game playing, television ownership, secular music listening, owning (by someone’s personal standard) homes or cars that are “too expensive,” and so on. No one should ever be promoting error, or excess, or the traditions and commandments of mere men (let alone of devils). Truly, we must all tread carefully, prudently, with an eye upon obeying God’s word, and honouring His person.

However, arguing that the exceptions (pertaining to excess) invalidate the rule is (especially as found within Gospel-preaching circles), indeed, illogical. Arguing that there is a ‘slippery-slope’ risk, therefore we must abandon the precept altogether, is as well. Which makes the following quote from the author even more tragic, and ironic:

This doctrine of Necessary Consequence is not something considered insignificant to reformed theologians. It is vigorously defended by them in every age. Without it, the whole system would collapse. Those who reject it are ridiculed as being irrational and ranked with ignorant heretics.  There is nothing new about that; but such scandalization must not deter us.

Even if ridicule isn’t warranted, clearly grave concern is. Sadly, the real “scandalization” lies with those who make such broad-brush condemnations, based upon hasty judgments, and ill-thought-out presuppositions and arguments. Indeed, when you speak of heresy, and hereticks, and claim to be identifying them for the saints (i.e., for their presumed protection and edification), you have to do better than this. You have to.

Finally, some may claim I am taking his words “out of context.” Whenever such men make incomplete statements, haphazard statements, statements that are ambiguous and confusing (as worded), or that sound as badly as they do because they mean what they say (but are unprepared for the subsequent fall-out), they (or others on their behalf) claim that they are being “misinterpreted,” “taken out of context,” etc. It happens so frequently that the claim is a bit cliché at this point. Nonetheless, my take on the matter? It’s simple! Say what you mean, mean what you say, anticipate possible counters and confusion, and aim to preemptively/proactively address such, so as to best prevent the alleged “misunderstandings,” and “misrepresentations” from happening. If one is careful with their words, and not rash with their judgments, these kind of “taken out of context” claims would be few and far between.

I will leave it at that.

To God be the glory, forever and ever,

Amen.

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