The Chalcedon Foundation (a Reconstructionist concern) publishes a bimonthly magazine dealing with various issues of the Christian faith.  In the most recent issue, author Martin Selbrede writes a very interesting article, The Cost Of Discipleship, in which he makes the very intriguing argument that the modern discipleship movement – indeed, the very concept of “discipleship” as much of the modern church takes it – is actually antithetical to that Christian liberty which Christ died to procure, and in reality short-circuits the sanctifying work which the Holy Spirit Himself desires to bring about in the believer’s life.

The gist of the evangelical push for accountability is horizontal accountability. This push is a major factor in many ministries in which believers are advised to hold one another accountable for various aspects of their Christian walk. An implicit distrust of the Holy Spirit’s office of sanctifying the believer lies behind this push. The Spirit may be sent to convict the world of sin and of righteousness, but evangelicals feel He needs a little help—He’s just not quite omnipotent enough, you see, and so men need to fill in what’s missing. Just as we have many new precepts of men rushing in to fill the vacuum that results when God’s commandments are tossed out, even so we have many new sanctifying agents rushing in to fill the gap when God’s Holy Spirit is judged inadequate to perfect the saints in holiness.

The pattern is all too clear: just as many evangelicals are dead-set on being lawmakers on God’s behalf, many more are committed to becoming little holy ghosts for their brothers and sisters. One’s “accountability partner” becomes a surrogate for the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit’s work is usurped. This is a way “that seemeth right to a man.”

The dominant focus in Scripture is that men and women are accountable to God. Accountability is fundamentally vertical. As David put it so directly after being implicated in the death of Uriah the Hittite, “against Thee, Thee only, have I sinned” (Ps. 51:4). This idea grates on human pride and pomposity, but it is God’s law, not man’s law, that is being broken. We are to inculcate the fear of God, the vertical relationship, in others. But we undercut this because accountability partners subconsciously act out of fear of man. Our motivation in these relationships takes an unconscious turn: “I’m doing this because I don’t want to look bad to my accountability partner.” God holds us all accountable. Nothing ought ever to pull our eyes down from heaven, from Him with Whom we have to do, to worry about our fellow man’s opinion of us. We ought to worry about what God thinks of us. “So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God” (Rom. 14:12; see also 1 Pet. 4:5).

Accountability partnering puts man back in front of a human audience, inviting us to operate in terms of that new relational dynamic instead of in terms of the Holy Spirit’s sanctifying power and quickening of His law-word to our minds and hearts.

I can excuse the author’s compulsive jab at non-Calvinists (“We would expect this kind of thinking among Arminian believers who repose much weight in the actions of man as opposed to the operations of God, but the idea is rampant among Calvinists who have temporarily lost sight of the fact that God controls sanctification as much as any other aspect of our lives.”) given that he is a Calvinist, and as such is characteristically incapable of viewing other theologies in anything less than hubristic contempt.  Don’t let that rob you of the meat of what he has to say.

Overall, I find myself very intrigued with his arguments…not sure if I buy them completely, but fascinating nonetheless.