To the Protestants I became as a Protestant…; Jerry Walls’ Jesuitical deception and the logical consequences of unlimited atonement

Jerry Walls is probably best known for his 2004 book with Joseph Dongell titled, Why I am not a Calvinist. He has since written a number of other books, and if I were a continuationist exercising my prophetic prowess I might predict a future publication by Walls entitled, Why I am not a Christian, for it seems he has altogether departed from the faith once delivered to the saints (Jude 3).

Jerry Walls provides us with a perfect example of what can and often does happen when the doctrine of particular redemption is displaced in favor of a more general, potential or universal atonement (making “salvation available to every single person”). In a previous post, I noted how Arminianism (more accurately, synergism generally) necessarily lends itself toward Rome’s false gospel because it introduces variables into the soteriological order that man, not God, controls. As it turns out, Jerry Walls’ other recent publications set out to defend the Romish heretical doctrine of purgatory (Purgatory: The Logic of Total Transformation [2011]; Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory: Rethinking the Things That Matter Most [2015]). Strategically scheduled for release in October 2017 is, Roman but Not Catholic: What Remains at Stake 500 Years after the Reformation (I’m gonna go out on a limb here and make the wild speculation that “unity” will be the thing alleged to “remain at stake after 500 years”). So, to honor the Protestant Reformation, Jerry Walls will undoubtedly repudiate it.

2016 saw the release of Walls’, Does God Love Everyone?: The Heart of What’s Wrong with Calvinism. As of late, Wipf and Stock Publishing has been pumping out books by mystics, anti-Protestants, social gospelers and various other heretics faster than Benny Hinn can discharge rounds from his Holy Ghost machine gun. This book likewise fulfills the apparent publication requirement of promoting heterodoxy. From the back cover:

“Does God truly love all persons? Most Christians think the obvious answer to this question is, ‘Yes, of course he does!’ Indeed, many Christians would agree that the very heart of the gospel is that God so loved the whole world that he gave his Son to make salvation available for every single person. This book shows that one of the most popular and resurgent theological movements in the contemporary evangelical church–namely, Calvinism–cannot coherently and consistently affirm this vital claim about the love of God. While some Calvinists forthrightly deny that God loves everyone, more commonly Calvinists attempt to affirm the love of God for all persons in terms that are compatible with their doctrines that Christ died only for the elect–those persons God has unconditionally chosen to save. This book shows that the Calvinist attempts to affirm God’s love for all persons are fraught with severe philosophical and theological difficulties. Calvinism, then, should be rejected in favor a theology that can forthrightly and consistently affirm the love of God for all persons. Nothing less is at stake than the very heart of the gospel.”

Note the immediate and obvious Scripture twisting: “Many Christians would agree that the very heart of the gospel is that God so loved the whole world that he gave his Son to make salvation available for every single person.” Indeed, this claim is likely true. That is, that many Christians would agree with this erroneous statement. But note carefully what is being purported by Dr. Walls. The proposition that “God so loved the whole world that he gave his Son to make salvation available for every single person” appears to be his primary axiom, used to justify his anti-Calvinism. Indeed, according to Walls, this is “the very heart of the gospel”. Dr. Walls wants us to accept his primary axiom and subsequent accusation that Calvinists are guilty of compromise because one must somehow find a way to reconcile particular redemption with universal, general, potential salvation for all. What Walls doesn’t seem to understand is that we are under no such obligation to reconcile particular redemption with universalism. His primary axiom is not found in Scripture.

Repeat:  the proposition: “God so loved the whole world that he gave his Son to make salvation available for every single person” is not in the Bible. It is not stated explicitly or implicitly in Scripture. It is not “expressly set down or necessarily contained in the Holy Scriptures” (Second London Baptist Confession), nor is it a proposition which by “necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture” (Westminster Confession). So much for his primary axiom. I could end my post here, but we need to see the consequences of his faulty starting point.

Perhaps he is hoping that since the beginning of his misquote sounds like John 3:16 we will be foolish enough to let his Scripture twisting slip by. When Walls is interviewed by Episcopalian host Ronald Way on Author Talk his aversion not only to Calvinism but Protestantism in general becomes all the more evident (transcript available here). The Protestant Reformation has been rightly called the greatest movement of the Holy Spirit since Pentecost by many pastors, theologians and church historians. Not surprisingly, Walls doesn’t see it that way. He says:

“The protestant reformation is…in many ways unfortunate, but still I think necessary split in the western church when a number of people recognized the deep corruption that was prevalent in the Roman Catholic Church in terms of financial abuse, spiritual laxity, and so on.”

So the Reformation was not a glorious awakening to the truth of the gospel which sets the captives free and led a world dominated by Romish superstition out of spiritual darkness, it was, according to Walls, unfortunate. Then he does what other ecumenists have done when describing the “necessity” of the Reformation; he pretends it was a necessary evil; a house-cleaning of sorts. In other words, it wasn’t the accumulation of false doctrines and dogmas and papal perversions of gospel truth that was concerning to the Reformers, it was merely some financial and moral corruption. And once the corruption got cleaned up, “Holy Mother Church” was good to go, and the dissenters should have returned to her fold instead of creating the alleged “34000 denominations” that exist today.[1] Walls goes on in the interview:

“What I’m saying is, if this is what … If this is the case, there’s no meaningful sense in which God loves everybody. That’s the heart of the problem, and if God doesn’t truly love everyone, he’s not a truly good being, he’s not a God of perfect love, he’s not a God of perfect goodness. The problem of Calvinism is the way it depicts the character of God. It makes him fall far short of the biblical view of a God whose heart is love, who desires the salvation of all of his children.”

Firstly, it should be noted that God does in fact desire the salvation of His children. So much so that he secured their salvation at the cross of Calvary. But Walls makes the same error that unbelievers make when they regard the entire human race as “God’s children”. Nothing in the Scriptures would indicate that such is the case, however. The Scriptures teach that since the Fall we are “by nature children of wrath” (Ephesians 2:3), and that the designation “children of God” is reserved only for those who believe in Him:

“He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:10-13).

Secondly, Dr. Walls’ presumption that God’s goodness is predicated upon the extension of His redemptive love to every member of the human race, is wholly without biblical justification. God’s goodness is intrinsic to His being, and He was free to secure the salvation of whomever He chose when the covenant of redemption was inaugurated in heaven.[2] God’s love is satisfied within the triune godhead; He requires nothing outside of Himself to satisfy His love. To put it plainly, why did God extend salvific love to a remnant of His fallen creation? Because He wanted to.

God’s love is not quantified by the number of people who end up in heaven. But even if we were to grant Walls’ erroneous premise for the sake of argument, one could argue thus: If it holds that God’s love can indeed be quantified by the number of people He desires to save due to His universal love, but in reality most people reject His love and subsequently don’t make it to heaven, then God is actually quantitatively less loving than the sovereign God of the Calvinists. But don’t worry. We will soon see that Walls has a solution for this dilemma extending from his first premise.

Note firstly that He makes the same errors as Dr. David Stone regarding “freedom”:

“The view that I hold is that God sincerely desires to save all persons. He enables all persons to be saved. He truly prefers them to respond to his grace, and accept his grace, but here’s the point, a genuine relationship of love and trust cannot be caused by God. Not even God can do that. If he gives us genuine freedom, and genuine freedom is the necessary condition for genuine love, genuine faith, genuine worship, genuine relationship. Given that is the case, necessarily if we choose not to trust, not to love, then we separate ourselves from God, and choose not to receive the good that God offers us and gives us. God enables all persons to respond, desires all persons to respond, but by nature, given the fact that we are truly free human beings that God calls us to be in a relationship with him, we can decline that. If persons are lost, it is because they will not accept the grace and love that God sincerely, genuinely extends to them.”

I will not reiterate the points I made to Dr. Stone on this topic (see here and here), but will simply add the following: If the concept of freedom as Jerry Walls is espousing here—that fallen man can reciprocate God’s love uncoerced and prior to divine regeneration— is not actually taught in Scripture, then the rest of the argument falls apart. If man’s alleged freewill is taken out of the equation (seeing that his will is in bondage to sin), there is apparently nothing that remains in the way of God’s obtaining His desire (since for Walls man’s freedom is the obstacle to Him obtaining what he desired, i.e., the salvation of all). It seems to be quite an affront to the sovereign God of the Bible to maintain that driveling, vile and putrid worms armed with our “freedom” should thwart God’s eternal desire, no less His immutable decrees. If Walls’ argument ended here, one would have to suppose that God must live eternally in perpetual misery, or at least in some blasé melancholy state, because His universal desire has been filibustered by His own creation. Rather, the Scriptures teach that “Our God is in heaven; He does whatever He pleases” (Psalm 115:3), and, “My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure” (Isaiah 46:10). God does get what He desires because fallen man in all his vileness can do nothing to stop Him.

Well, fair enough. Jerry Walls rejects Calvinism. That’s no surprise and that in and of itself does not put him outside the camp. But what is important to note is the logical consequence resulting from his false premises. The interview goes on:

Ron: “What about Christians who would say that if you seek God with an open heart, whether through Christ or not, whether you’re a Buddhist, or Hindu, or Muslim, or Taoist, you find the presence of the Divine? It’s my guess that you’d say that they’re not Christians, and they’ll all be condemned. Is that true?”

Jerry: “That is not in fact what I would say.”

Ron: “Good.”

Jerry: “Again, I’ve written about this in my books on hell. I believe God desires the salvation of all persons. I believe Christ died for all persons. They may not know about Christ. They may not know who he is, but he knows who they are, and they may not know that he died for them, but he did anyway. Many persons have not heard the gospel of Christ, but they’re still responding to whatever light, or understanding, or grace that they have, and so the point of the matter is this, I believe that God is drawing every single person to himself, using whatever resources are available in terms of light and revelation that they have. If persons are responding to the light that they have, I think they will ultimately come to see the truth in Christ.

“What I believe is that God will give every person every opportunity, even if that includes postmortem opportunities for repentance and salvation. I don’t think people are condemned for not believing a truth to which they’ve not had access. If people are responding to the truth that is available to them, if they’re sincerely responding to the grace of God … Again, I’m not saying this is a matter of works, but I believe God’s grace is at work drawing all persons, and I believe Jesus died for all persons, again, whether they know it or not, and so grace is extended to all persons, and I think there are a lot of people who are responding to Christ, who are coming to Christ even though they may not be aware of it until maybe after their death.”

Can it be any more evident that Jerry Walls has completely departed from Christian orthodoxy? He pats himself on the back for not crediting man’s salvation to his own “works” all the while defending the idea of postmortem repentance and salvation, and all detached from belief in the gospel. Walls’ defense of purgatory as a logical consequence of postmortem repentance is evident, and is articulated in his other books. Ron Way, in accordance with his own apostate religious tradition, closes the interview with this gem:

“I was happy to hear that Dr. Jerry Walls said that he thinks that good people of all faiths might still be saved. That’s a wonderful thing, and I appreciated that. I choose to believe that this is what Jesus meant when he taught so long ago that we’re all God’s children, no matter our tradition or faith, when he was asked, ‘What is the most important thing about his teaching?” He said, “Love the Lord thy God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind, and secondly love your neighbor as yourself.’”

I suppose Ron Way thinks that he— as well as every fallen man from every pagan religion— has the innate ability to keep this commandment.

Dr. Jerry Walls has not descended into heresy because he rejects Calvinism. He has descended into heresy because his unbiblical primary axioms used to justify his rejection of Calvinisim, when brought to their logical extension, drive him to heretical conclusions. This explains why synergists never have a truly systematic and logically coherent theology. They have to cry “paradox” before they let their axioms drive them to universalism. Dr. Jerry Walls, who has passed himself off as an evangelical Christian, has grossly perverted the Scriptures by affirming universalism, defending purgatory and postmortem salvation, and denying justification by faith alone. As a former professor at Notre Dame and currently a scholar in residence and professor of philosophy at Houston Baptist University, Jerry Walls must make the Jesuit pope proud.

-Nick Sabato

[1] For example, see James R. Payton Jr., Getting the Reformation Wrong, InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL, 2010, p. 253, footnote 4. This is a bogus number often paraded by Romanists and ecumenists in order to ridicule and deride the results of the Reformation. For a refutation of this myth, see James White’s article here.

[2] For a simple treatment of the covenant of redemption, see Blackburn, E.M. (ed.), Covenant Theology: A Baptist Distinctive, Solid Ground Christian Books, Birmingham, AL, 2013, pp. 26-30.

Roman Catholic Endeavors to Overturn the Reformation, by Richard Bennett

The following is an article by former Roman Catholic priest Richard Bennett (above). Bennett’s work has been a tremendous blessing to me, and his website is a storehouse of information pertaining to Romanism’s history and heresies as well as other subjects. At the end of this article he asks the reader to share and post it on the internet. A link to the original is here.

Roman Catholic Endeavors to Overturn the Reformation

by Richard Bennett

May 24, 2016

Just as the primary response of the Roman Catholic Church to the Biblical faith of the Reformers was the Counter-Reformation through the Jesuits, now Pope Francis a Jesuit leads the Roman Church’s endeavors to overturn the Reformation. Thus it is of vital importance that we understand want is involved in these endeavors so as not only to impede them but to advance Reformation faith.

In the sixteenth century, the most important response of the Roman Catholic Church to the biblical faith of the Reformers was the Counter-Reformation through the Jesuits.  In an aggressive manner, they led a movement to restore to the Roman Catholic Church the political and ecclesiastical power it had before the Reformation.  The Jesuits led the main Counter-Reformation efforts for four centuries by upholding Papal authority, restoring the sacramental system, and promoting mysticism along with superstitions to those many nations that had been touched by the biblical principles of the Reformation.  They sought out persons of position and power and worked at gaining favor by those who were in their circles of influence, particularly by teaching their children.

This Jesuitical practice was incorporated into Vatican Council II of 1962-1965.  Its major accomplishment was a planned strategy of false ecumenism.  The resolve was that all other “Christian” institutional denominations and their members are now to be drawn back into full communion under Papal Rome.  Thus, since Vatican Council II, Papal Rome has been working tirelessly to have itself recognized as the only Christian Church.  All others, especially Evangelicals, are designated as “separated brethren.” and may only obtain recognition as authentic Christians by returning to union with the Mother Church.  Thus the Roman Church continues to work towards the time when she will be accepted as in fact the Head of Christendom.

Endeavors to Overturn the Reformation through the Lutheran World Federation (LWF)

In 2016, the skilled Jesuit, Pope Francis, leads the Roman Church’s latest activities to overturn the Reformation.  It is of vital importance that we understand what is involved in these activities so as not only to obstruct them but also to advance Reformation faith.  On January 25, 2016, the Catholic News Service reported that Pope Francis would visit Sweden on October 31, 2016,

“to participate in an ecumenical service and the beginning of a year of activities to mark the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation.  Pope Francis will lead the ecumenical commemoration in Lund alongside Bishop Munib Younan, president of the Lutheran World Federation, and the Rev. Martin Junge, federation general secretary, said a joint press release by the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and the LWF.”[1]

The apostasy of the Roman Catholic Church and the Lutheran World Federation has already been attested to, when on October 31, 1999, they together issued an accord entitled, “The Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification.”[2]  The official common statement under the heading entitled, “The Justified as Sinner,” stated, “We confess together that in Baptism the Holy Spirit unites one with Christ, justifies, and truly renews the person.”[3]

Biblical truth, however, is that the believer’s faith cannot be based on any physical work whatsoever, as true faith is in Christ Jesus’ perfect life, and sacrifice alone justifies a person by grace alone through faith alone.[4]  To claim that the causative effects “in Baptism” justifies an individual before the Holy God is to attempt to negate the Lord’s grace and His finished work on the cross.  It is “to preach another gospel.”[5]  Justification by God’s grace alone through faith alone was Martin Luther’s great principle, the very principle that the Lutheran World Federation totally compromised in 1999 through an extended ecumenical dialogue with the Roman Catholic Church.  

The Rome Church Advances its Ecumenical Grip on the Church of England

Furthermore, on February 9, 2016, the same Catholic News Service reported that,

“…[the] archbishop of Westminster hosted an evening service at the former home of King Henry VIII.  It is the first time a service has been conducted at the palace’s Chapel Royal according to the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church in more than 450 years.”[6]

This latest intrusion was predictable since Pope Benedict XVI made a Papal visit to the United Kingdom in September of 2010.  The visit was called “an unprecedented opportunity to strengthen ties between the United Kingdom and the Holy See on global initiatives, as well as the important role of faith in creating strong communities.”[7]  The Pontiff addressed the British civil society at Westminster Hall [both houses of Parliament].” [8]

Although King Henry VIII broke politically with Papal Rome, he personally never renounced Roman Catholic doctrine.  Consequently, the present-day Church of England, represented by the Archbishop of Westminster and mimicking Roman Catholic doctrine, is being ever more closely united with the apostate Roman Church by ecumenical dialogue, precisely as Vatican Council II document No. 32 stated is the Papacy’s objective.[9]  

Now, in 2016, the two reports that we have documented announce the realization of 500 years of papal efforts to “nullify” the Reformation.  It is necessary, therefore, to review the historical facts of the Reformation in order to demonstrate that the intended Roman Catholic ecumenical meetings with both the president of Lutheran World Federation {LWF) and the Archbishop of Westminster are specifically intended to promote apostate betrayals of the Reformation faith. 

Authentic Reformation Faith

Martin Luther in Germany; John Calvin, Lefevre, and Farel in France; and Zwingli in Switzerland all represent authentic Reformation faith.  The essential nature of their Reformation faith was salvation before the Holy God by His grace alone.  United by the truth of God’s Word, they believed that each individual is saved by God’s grace alone as Scripture states, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.”[10]  They each taught the biblical truth that,  “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God, being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus…that he [God] might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.”[11]

The Reformation possessed definite characteristics, many of which set it apart from any other revival in history.  One of the distinguishing features was its territorial outreach.  It began simultaneously and independently in various European countries.  Men such as Martin Luther, John Calvin, Lefevre, and Zwingli preached in unison against rituals of Romanism and exalted faith in Christ alone as the sole means of salvation.  Although Luther is called the originator of the Reformation, the other Reformers, also proponents of Scripture alone, being the basis of truth, preached the same gospel of grace.

Sola Scriptura: The Power Principle of the Reformation

After what seemed endless years floundering in the heretical Papal Tradition, seeing the light of the Reformation, Europe began to come to biblical Christian faith.  Martin Luther spoke eloquently to the heart of God’s people when he said, “Unless I am convicted by scripture and plain reason–I do not accept the authority of popes and councils for they have contradicted each other–my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise, God help me. Amen.”[12]  Indeed, Luther had simply discovered what had been the standard attested to by our Lord and His Apostles.  In the wilderness temptation, the Lord Jesus three times rebuffed the prince of the devils, saying, “It is written.”  For example, “he answered and said, it is written, man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.”[13]  In stating, “It is written,” the Lord used the precise phrase that is used eighty times in the Holy Bible.  This repeated phrase underlines its importance.  The Lord’s complete acceptance of the authority of the written Word is evident in His words, “Think not that I came to destroy the law or the prophets: I am not come to destroy but to fulfill.  For verily, I say unto you, till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law till all be fulfilled.”[14]  So elsewhere it is written, “Thou hast magnified thy Word above all thy name.”[15]  The Reformers bowed in submission to the sole authority of God’s Word, as the Apostle Paul had taught them, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.”[16]

Thus, Luther and the Reformers whom the Lord raised up at that time knew that a person’s conscience is bound to God’s written Word: “Thy Word is truth.[17]  Indeed, all true disciples must acknowledge that there is an absolute standard by which a thing may be judged to be truth or falsehood, and afterward pleasing or displeasing to God.  It is not possible to own Jesus Christ as Master or Lord and simultaneously refuse the rule of the Father’s Word in and by Him.  If a person loves God he will love His Word alone; that is, without the contamination of tradition.  “Thy word is very pure: therefore thy servant loveth it.[18]  A person cannot say he loves God and not love His Word; for the marks of authentic spiritual affection are obvious in Scripture: “Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart.”[19]

Having placed their faith in subjection to God’s written Word, the Reformers could not do otherwise than condemn the false Roman Catholic dogma that “Sacred Tradition” was essential to the knowledge of the truth.  Yet this untrue belief remains the system of belief of the Church of Rome as stated in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.  “Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture, then, are bound closely together and communicate one with the other.”  The Catechism of the Catholic Church also states, “And [Holy] Tradition transmits in its entirety the Word of God which has been entrusted to the apostles by Christ the Lord and the Holy Spirit.”  “As a result the [Roman Catholic] Church…does not derive her certainty about all revealed truths from the Holy Scriptures alone.  Both Scripture and Tradition must be accepted and honored with equal sentiments of devotion and reverence.”[20]

Learning the Way of Truth and Life for the Reformers

At the time of the Reformation, scholarship and the pursuit of truth had become a staple of life.  A great friendship and fraternization developed among the Reformers, as the movement grew across Europe and the British Isles.  A frequent interchange of ideas ensued, and hospitality was freely extended.  One of the surprising features of the Re-formation was this extent of contact and cooperation among the Reformers as they encouraged each other in their efforts.  The Reformation spread with great rapidity.  Of course consolidations, refinements, and extensions were inevitable; but it is difficult to imagine so tremendous a revival on such a vast scale could be executed in so short a time, bringing with it a complete change in thought and in peoples’ lives.  This was necessarily providential; for at that time there were educated men who knew the Hebrew, Latin, and Greek necessary to read the Bible as it then existed.  And it was essential that the Bible be translated into the common language of each country so that the people would have the privilege of reading the Scriptures in their own tongue.  This task demanded scholarship.  All the preaching of many Luthers, Latimers, Zwinglis, Knoxes, and Wisharts would have failed to accomplish the Reformation if, at the same time, the Bible in the common language had not been provided for the people.  If at the moment Latimer was preaching at Cambridge, it had not happened that Tyndale, who had fled to the Continent, was smuggling back thousands of copies of the English New Testament so that every Englishman could read the way of salvation for himself, there would have been no Reformation in England.  A similar situation occurred in Germany, France, and other countries.

The Reformation proper, the break with Roman Catholic totalitarianism, was accomplished in a relatively short time.  The Reformation was a constant, all-encompassing moving of the Holy Spirit.  It was truly a glorious spiritual awakening when multitudes were freed from bondage of the superstition and ritualism of an apostate Papacy, and converted by the Gospel of Grace.  The recovery of the sole authority of Scripture led to obedience to God and His Word, just as the rediscovery of the doctrine of justification by grace alone through faith alone led every true believer into direct and personal contact with the God of revival.

The Heritage of the Reformation

What then is the heritage of the Reformation?  How are we to learn from it for our time?  The Reformation itself was a revival, grounded not only in the Word of God, but also in prayer as each previous and subsequent revival has been.  Spurgeon clearly described the prayer that was the support sustaining the Reformation.  Spurgeon said, “Think not that Luther was the only man that wrought the Reformation! There were hundreds who sighed and cried in secret, ‘O God, how long?’: in the cottages of the Black Forest, in the homes of Germany, on the hills of Switzerland, in the palaces of Spain, in the dungeons of the Inquisition and the green lanes of England.”[21]  Thus, prayer was the bedrock of this great movement as the dedicated prayer requests of numberless hearts across Europe pleaded the Lord to send a mighty moving of His Spirit.

The first great awakening after the Reformation occurred in the 18th century in both America and Britain, which was associated with Jonathan Edwards and George Whitefield.  Prior to the outpouring of the Lord’s grace, we find prayer in the lives of these men and in the lives of their associates.  Also, in Ulster Northern Ireland in 1859, and the end of the 19th century, and in the beginning of the 20th century at Wales, prayer anticipated these Reformations.

Conclusion

The Reformers proclaimed in their biblical teaching that God alone is eternal, infinite, and unchangeable in His being, goodness, holiness, justice, power, truth, and wisdom.  Thus, He alone hears prayers; He alone is the all Holy One; He alone is the Holy Father; in a word, to God alone be the glory. Thus, plans for Pope Francis to visit Sweden on October 31, 2016, and the Archbishop of Westminster hosting an evening service at the former home of King Henry VIII, are obvious examples of the Roman Church’s apostasy.  In 2016, sin indeed abounds.  The holiness of God, the fear of God, the conviction of sin, and the gospel of grace are necessary.  With all this abounding sin and deception, how do we live and reign with Christ Jesus at this time?  The Scripture gives us the answer, “For if by one mans offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.”[22]  As you receive the abundant grace given by Christ, you are redeemed from the dominion of death; you will live and reign with Christ as you are sanctified daily through His Word by the Holy Spirit, and by constant fellowship with Him.  Also with Him, you shall reign forever and glorify Him for all eternity.  Believe on Him alone and you will be secure in Him, “to the praise of the glory of his grace, his free gift to us in the Beloved.”[23]

It is by the power of grace of the Lord Jesus Christ alone that we can truly live the Christian life, as did the Reformers in the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries.  The Lord’s sacrifice is for the believer, in that He substituted Himself in the place of sinners who would come to believe, and thus satisfied the law on their behalf.  So authentic was this substitution that His sacrifice for them eliminated all necessity of punishment.  In becoming the substitute for His people, Christ Jesus took their legal responsibility.  In the wonderful words of Scripture, “when the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.”[24]  The Lord God has promised to be a Father to true believers—that they shall be His sons and daughters.  This is the greatest honor possible.  What rank ingratitude that anyone should slander such a gift and spurn Christ Jesus and eternal life in favor of the apostate Roman Catholic Church.  Hence, the Lord promised, “all that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.”[25]  Those who come at the call of God are given to Christ, because it is through His blood alone that they can be saved.  The Lord God, by His Spirit, convinces of sin, righteousness, and judgment those who acknowledge their iniquity and their need of salvation.  Is the Lord God calling you?  Only in the Lord Jesus Christ is found freedom and eternal life!  By His grace believe on Him and Him alone, “for by grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast.”[26]

Please make the article below known to your family and church members, and if possible have it posted on the Internet.

I would like to have your response to the article with any proposals that you may have. You can email me at; richardmbennett@yahoo.com  Or else send your comments to Pastor Glenn with whom I work at; bereanbeaconmail@yahoo.com

Thank you,

Richard Bennett

[Link to original here]

[1] www.catholicherald.co.uk/news/2016/01/25/pope-francis-to-visit-sweden-for-reformation-commemoration/   2/23/2016

[2] www.bereanbeacon.org/new-blog/2015/10/17/the-catholic-lutheran-accord

[3] Lutheran-Catholic Accord, “The Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification,” October 31, 1999, Sect. 4.4

[4] John 6:29; Romans 2:28, 29; Ephesians 2:8, 9; Colossians 2:11; Romans 3:21-26

[5]  Galatians 1:9

[6] www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3439293/Hampton-Court-Palace-chapel-holds-Catholic-service-Henry-VIII-broke-away-Rome-16th-century.html  5/18/2016

[7] https://zenit.org/articles/uk-queen-government-welcome-papal-visit

[8] http://www.zenit.org/article-28654?l=english

[9] Vatican Council II Document “Reflections and Suggestions Concerning Ecumenical Dialogue”  August. 1970

[10] Ephesians 2:8-9

[11] Romans 3:23-24, 26

[12] http://www.christianity.com/church/church-history/timeline/1501-1600/martin-luthers-most-noble-words-11629925.html

[13] Matthew 4:4

[14] Matthew 5:17-18

[15] Psalm 138:2

[16] 2 Timothy 3:16, 17

[17] John 17:17

[18] Psalm 119:140

[19] Jeremiah 15:16

[20] Catechism of the Catholic Church, Para. 80, 81 and 82

[21] www.the-highway.com/revival-reformation_Lamb.html 2/23/2016

[22] Romans 5:17

[23] Ephesians 1:6

[24] Galatians 4:4-5

[25] John 6.37

[26] Ephesians 2:8-9

January 2017 Heretic of the Month: Joel Osteen

Joel Scott Osteen (1963-present)

“Ministry” website: Joelosteen.com

Approximate net worth: $40 million

Notable achievements: Successfully paraded “prosperity” and self-help positive thinking as Christianity; Indoctrinated millions of goats into the ancient heresy of pelagianism.

Core message: Have faith in faith; believe in yourself; everything’s gonna be alright.

At peace with Rome: YES

With such an enormous selection of charlatans, Scripture-twisters, charismaniacs and other assorted proclaimers of another gospel to choose from, it was a difficult task to settle on the first inductee into our heretics “hall of shame.” There are many good candidates suitable for our first winner of the Heretic of the Month Club, but when the bogus baptism bonanza that took place at Lakewood Church was reported on by Pulpit and Pen on the last day of January, my selection of Smilin’ Joel Osteen was solidified.

When it comes to chicanery, Smilin’ Joel never lets us down. With every passing year the joke-telling prosperity preacher consistently “preaches” the same “sermon” and publishes the same book (with a different title and cover) over and over again, ever adding to both his own personal “prosperity” and own personal condemnation. One might have thought that by now Joel’s popularity might have waned. After all, he’s been in the huckster business for some time and has some serious competition in the marketplace. But Joel continues to press on, not being one to ever lose faith (in himself). Joelosteen.com boasts that over 100 million homes in the US watch his Sunday circus and that his podcast “is consistently one of the top five in the world.”

So we see that the Word-of-Faith, prosperity preaching pelagianism of Joel Osteen continues to thrive, despite the rise of many newly devoted wolves in sheeps’ clothing cropping up all over “evangelicalism”. Of course, denying the exclusivity of Christ is always helpful in expanding your outreach and growing your flock (more accurately, expanding your customer base and growing your bottom line).

Naturally, Osteen is at peace with Rome and has personally met with Antichrist. Ecumenicalism and an anti-Protestant profession of faith (in this case, faith in faith instead of faith in God) is essential to the success of any committed pelagian prosperity preacher.

Without further ado, we not-so-proudly present Smilin’ Joel Osteen as our first Heretic of the Month. We credit him with an innate ability to satisfy the itching ears of fallen humanity by telling it precisely what it wants to hear and his consistent pouring of gasoline on the fire of self-esteem already raging out of control.*

-Nick Sabato

joel-tract

Joel Osteen tracts available here

Recommended Resources:

Information regarding Joel Osteen’s credentials and rightful entitlement to the position of January 2017 Heretic of the Month and additional information may be found at:

Robert M. Bowman, Jr., “Joel Osteen”, Watchman Fellowship Profile, 2007. http://www.watchman.org/

Joe Schimmel, The Word Faith Heresy (mp3 CD), https://www.goodfight.org/product/the-word-faith-heresy/

Justin Peters, Clouds Without Water [formerly “A Call for Discernment”] (DVD), http://justinpeters.org/store/

http://apprising.org/?s=joel+osteen&submit=go

http://www.worldviewweekend.com/search/transcript/joel%20osteen (available to Situation Room members).

* To borrow a phrase from the late Dave Hunt concerning self-esteem.

J.C. Ryle: “No peace with Rome…”

“…The spurious liberality of the day we live in helps on the Romeward tendency. It is fashionable now to say that all sects should be equal, that all creeds should be regarded with equal favor and respect, and that there is a substratum of common truth at the bottom of all kinds of religion, whether Buddhism, Mohammadanism or Christianity! The consequence is that myriads of ignorant folks begin to think there is nothing peculiarly dangerous in the tenets of papists — any more than in the tenets of Methodists, Independents, Presbyterians or Baptists, and that we ought to let Romanism alone, and never expose its unscriptural and Christ-dishonoring character.

The consequences of this changed tone of feeling, I am bold to say, will be most disastrous and mischievous, unless it can be checked. Once let popery get her foot again on the neck of England — and there will be an end of all our national greatness! God will forsake us, and we shall sink to the level of Portugal and Spain!

With Bible reading discouraged,
with private judgment forbidden,
with the way to Christ’s cross narrowed or blocked up,
with priestcraft re-established,
with auricular confession set up in every parish,
with monasteries and nunneries dotted over the land,
with women everywhere kneeling like serfs and slaves at the feet of clergymen,
with schools and colleges made seminaries of Jesuitism,
with free thought denounced and anathematized,
with all these things — the distinctive manliness and independence of the British character will gradually dwindle, wither, pine away and be destroyed, and England will be ruined! And all these things, I firmly believe, will come unless the old feeling about the value of Protestantism can be revived.

I warn all who read this message, and I warn my fellow churchmen in particular, that the times require you to awake and be on your guard. Beware of Romanism, and beware of any religious teaching which, wittingly or unwittingly, paves the way to it. I beseech you to realize the painful fact that the Protestantism of this country is gradually ebbing away, and I entreat you, as Christians and patriots to resist the growing tendency to forget the blessings of the English Reformation.

For Christ’s sake, for the sake of the Church of England, for the sake of our country, for the sake of our children — let us not drift back to Roman Catholic ignorance, superstition, priestcraft and immorality! Our fathers tried Popery long ago, for centuries, and threw it off at last with disgust and indignation. Let us not turn the clock back and return to Egypt. Let us have no peace with Rome — until Rome abjures her errors, and is at peace with Christ. Until Rome does that, the vaunted reunion of Western churches, which some talk of, and press upon our notice, is an insult to Christianity.

Read your Bibles and store your minds with scriptural arguments. A Bible-reading laity is a nation’s surest defense against error….

I entreat my readers, beside the Bible and Articles — to read history, and see what Rome did in days gone by. Read how she trampled on liberties, plundered your forefathers pockets, and kept the whole nation of England ignorant, superstitious and immoral….

And do not forget that Rome never changes. It is her boast and glory that she is infallible, and always the same.

Read facts, standing out at this minute on the face of the globe, if you will not read history. What has made Italy and Sicily what they were until very lately? Popery. What has made the South American states what they are? Popery. What has made Spain and Portugal what they are? Popery. What has made Ireland what she is in Munster, Leinster and Connaught? Popery. What makes Scotland, the United States, and our own beloved England the powerful, prosperous countries they are, and I pray God they may long continue? I answer, unhesitatingly, Protestantism, a free Bible and the principles of the Reformation. Oh, think twice before you cast aside the principles of the Reformation! Think twice before you give way to the prevailing tendency to favor popery and go back to Rome!

The Reformation . . .
found Englishmen steeped in ignorance — and left them in possession of knowledge;
found them without Bibles — and placed a Bible in every parish;
found them in darkness — and left them in comparative light;
found them priest-ridden — and left them enjoying the liberty which Christ bestows;
found them strangers to the blood of atonement, to faith and grace and real holiness — and left them with the key to these things in their hands;
found them blind — and left them seeing,
found them slaves — and left them free!

Forever let us thank God for the Reformation! It lighted a candle which we ought never to allow to be extinguished or to burn dim. Surely I have a right to say that the times require of us a renewed sense of the evils of Romanism, and of the enormous value of the Protestant Reformation!”

-J.C. Ryle, Holiness: Its Nature, Hindrances, Difficulties and Roots (1879).

Caricatures of Calvinism and the denial of depravity: A rebuttal to Dr. David Stone, part 2

In part 1, I addressed some of the concerns I had regarding Dr. Stone’s rejection of Total Depravity, praise of freewill, distortions of Calvinism, and other pelagian leanings found in his article, “Calvinism: It’s not just irrational. It’s atheism”. The next quote from his article displays the great abhorrence he has for Calvinism. It makes you wonder how—if his conclusions are correct—he can reasonably concede that Calvinists are Christians at all.

“I submit that free will is axiomatic to human existence. We live each day, moment by moment, just as if we are persons. But if this is quite meaningless, that man is constrained at every point by Calvinist-defined sovereignty, then you and I are not persons. Consequently, the One in whose image we are made, is no person either. If man doesn’t exist as a person, then neither does God, and God as a person doesn’t exist. This is atheism, except that atheists are not such blasphemers as to credit God with the moral evils that plague our world.”

So again, Calvinists are essentially blasphemous atheists because they do not hold to Dr. Stone’s unbiblical view of freewill. To reiterate a bit from part 1, it is perfectly logical to assert that people do make actual choices, but it is also perfectly logical to assert that their choices are governed by their nature. The real issue here is that fallen man will never seek after the God of Scripture, repent and believe the gospel unless God graciously gives them a new nature. Any relative good the natural man does is irrelevant to this discussion. Man does what he wants to do. But what fallen man wants to do cannot be separated from his fallen nature, his nature being at enmity with God.

So, Adam’s fallen progeny act accordingly, that is, suppressing the truth in unrighteousness and not freely and willingly seeking after the things of God. This teaching does not equate to atheistic/mechanistic determinism, and it certainly does not substantiate the charge of blasphemy.

Dr. Stone goes on to say that the Calvinist depends on “Calvinistic sovereignty” because, due to “unconditional damnation” (his phrase; addressed in part 1), sovereignty must exist to prevent the individual from seeking after God since, of course, it would be a real letdown for one to seek after God and believe the gospel only to find that he has been “unconditionally damned” from eternity past. He writes:

“It’s not a big leap, by the way, from Unconditional Damnation to Calvinist sovereignty. Otherwise, what if a non-elect fellow gets curious about salvation and seeks God? …John 6:37b teaches, ‘. . . him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.’ That fellow could get saved if he decides to come to Christ. And so the Calvinist needs his version of sovereignty to prevent that!”

The biblical data obtained from a proper exegesis of John 6 seem to be lost on Dr. Stone. He clearly ignores the fact that no one of their own accord will seek after God—“There is none who understands; There is none who seeks after God” (Romans 3:11)—so his concern for lost sheep haphazardly seeking after the Shepherd is unfounded. Calvinism does not teach that God executes sovereignty in order to hold back the “unconditionally damned” who might otherwise “choose to repent…choose to believe…humble themselves, recognize their lost condition, turn from sin, and turn to Christ”. Such an idea implies that man’s natural inclination is toward God, rather than away from Him. Obviously, God would have no need of doing this because all men’s hearts are by nature set against Him in the first place. Furthermore, the atonement was made for God’s elect people in the covenant of redemption. The cross-work of Christ secured the salvation of those same people who have been “born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:13). Those, and only those, will come to Christ. God’s sovereignty does not need to suppress their wills against coming to Him, for opposing Christ is their natural inclination. So, those for whom Christ died will receive the entirety of salvation, including regeneration, faith and repentance.

“If you’re not a Calvinist and fairly new to this ‘debate,’ you might think I’m making all this up. It’s too ridiculous to even warrant consideration. Yet Calvinism is gradually taking over most of evangelicalism, and much of fundamentalism is infected with portions of the heresy. The Calvinist insists he believes in God. Perhaps, then, he’s closer to pantheism than atheism, per se…. Calvinists tend to see such blatant contradictions as predestination vs. free will as mysteries, not wanting to admit the gross illogic. The mystic can always invoke mysteries when his religion doesn’t make sense.

“…The fact that such nonsense can propagate so readily within Christendom, including among born again Christians, is evidence of the spectacularly free will we enjoy. As I suggested before, God doesn’t save us from willful stupidity.”

With a foundation of mischaracterizations in place, Dr. Stone goes on to employ his “freewill” in executing abusive ad hominem attacks. Thus Calvinism is both “too ridiculous to even warrant consideration” and “heresy” (later he adds “poison” and “insanity”), and Calvinists are atheistic, illogical, stupid mystics. I think it is now clear why I didn’t receive much of a response from Dr. Stone after he read my discourse on “freewill”. He goes on:

“I’m teasing the Calvinist reader by choosing 6:37b. Part ‘a’ of that verse refers to the eleven disciples, which should make many passages much clearer to the Calvinist who is willing to examine Scripture freely, without the blindfold of TULIP.”

It is unclear what point Dr. Stone is trying to make here. As anyone familiar with debates surrounding Calvinism could attest, the broader context of this passage from John chapter six is a logical stronghold for the doctrine of predestination. Dr. Stone makes no attempt at exegesis here but only makes a passing reference to the phrase, “him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out”. He is apparently using this as a counter-measure to the strawmen of “Unconditional Damnation” and what might be termed ‘Suppressive Sovereignty’. (There you go, I just coined a phrase for Dr. Stone’s view of sovereignty—that which prevents unbelievers from freely choosing God. Dr. Stone, feel free to use this term in identifying your strawmen if you like).

I am curious which caricature of Calvinism is correct. On the one hand, Dr. Stone says that according to “Unconditional Damnation” and Suppressive Sovereignty, God prevents those fine truth-seeking folk from ever finding Christ. But on the other hand, he says that Calvinism teaches that God directly controls the movement of every atom, even our thoughts, so that “we mechanically play our parts”. But if this mechanistic view of the universe were true there would be no point in the charade about God stepping in to prevent autonomous man from believing the gospel. Pick a caricature and go with it. These strawmen are not getting along well.

Despite the pelagian tendencies in some of Dr. Stone’s argumentation, he does rightly go on to point out the corruption of man’s heart. He writes:

“False doctrine derives from corruption in the heart, not misunderstanding in the mind. Consider a well-known passage, Jeremiah 17:9-10. ‘The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? I the LORD search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings.’

“The ‘heart’ is the center of man’s being, as represented in Scripture, your controller, the part of you that weighs the alternatives and says, “That’s what I want to do.” A man’s heart is corrupted by sin – transgressions of God’s laws – coupled with man’s flesh . . . his natural inclinations….”

He is right that the man’s heart is corrupted by sin, and this affects his natural inclinations. But somehow this is used to prove that man’s corrupt heart causes some to embrace Calvinism (that, or, an obsession with “pseudo-intellectualism”). Apparently though, man’s heart is yet not so corrupt that it would prevent him from making choices contrary to his nature, such as believing the gospel.

Stone’s passing over of the implications of Jeremiah 17:9 depend in part on the popular notion of a ‘head-heart distinction’. Perhaps this allows him to separate the inward corruption of the heart from the autonomous and free will of man. I do not believe the heart and mind are two separate and distinct entities. Consider a very small sample of Gordon Clark on this point:

…heart is a Scriptural expression for mind. It does not mean emotions…. If anyone would take a few moments and look up every instance of this word in the Old Testament, he would find that about seventy-five percent of the time it means mind. The remaining one-fourth of instances are divided between the will and the emotions. Strictly the word heart, it seems to me, means ‘the whole personality.’ And the proportion shows that the mind is the most important factor in the whole personality.”[1]

To conclude, Dr. Stone has downplayed the effects of the Fall, separated the will from the rest of man (the will being somehow insulated from man’s intrinsic fallenness), set up a blatant strawman with regards to Unconditional Election (by fabricating a parallel “Unconditional Damnation”), likened “Calvinistic sovereignty” to mechanistic determinism, atheism, and Islam, and made other various lesser errors in his assault on Calvinism.

I can relate to his sentiments. I was quite opposed to Calvinism for years and would latch onto any argument that seemed to quench the fiery darts of the Reformed ones. I was influenced by some of the same material that it appears he has drawn from. I do not expect him to become convinced of the reformed soteriological order by reading my short response, but as Dr. Stone says himself, Truth Really Matters. It is out of love for the Truth that I am compelled to call out some of his erroneous contortions of Calvinism and contend for a God-centered, monergistic theology of redemption.

-Nick Sabato

 

[1] Clark, G.H., What is the Christian Life? The Trinity Foundation, Unicoi, TN, 2012, pp. 189-190.

Caricatures of Calvinism and the denial of depravity: A rebuttal to Dr. David Stone, part 1

Recently, after reading my review of William R. Downing’s book, The Bible and the Problem of Knowledge published in the Creation Research Society Quarterly (CRSQ), a Dr. David Stone contacted me with a desire to discuss apologetic methodology.

Dr. Downing’s book dealt with the subject of epistemology and its relation to apologetics. My review of Downing’s work was favorable considering his presuppositional approach as well as his commitment to a biblical, reformed anthropology. Dr. Stone, being himself quite enthusiastic about apologetics and evangelism, asked me to review his article, “The Missing Heart of Apologetics” [accessed 1/23/2017]. I was honored to do so, and we engaged in a somewhat lengthy exchange.

As I read Dr. Stone’s work it was quite apparent that he was a man zealous not only for the proper method of apologetics, but for regular, one-to-one, personal evangelism. I told him that I applaud his enthusiasm for evangelism and that he was quite right that 1) apologetics is intimately connected to the subject of evangelism and not to be detached from it, and, 2) that apologetics must not remain in the realm of the theoretical but must make its way to actual encounters with the lost.

This particular article did not confine itself to apologetics and evangelism, however, but touched on two other important subjects in which I did not share his opinion. One was the Bible version debate, (which I had addressed in a book review published in the Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society, (found here [please note that I completely reject the primary theological tenets of the GES, namely dispensationalism, Arminianism and antinomianism]). The other subject was Calvinism, which Dr. Stone wholeheartedly denounces as damnable heresy.

In our exchange, I was directed to another article Dr. Stone had recently written titled, “Calvinism: It’s not just irrational. It’s atheism” [accessed 1/23/2017]. There were some very concerning statements made by Dr. Stone relating to Calvinism initiated in the article he asked me to review and reiterated in our conversation. But since the particular article directed at Calvinism seems to summarize his objections to reformed theology, and since comments are not welcome on Dr. Stone’s website (the comments always appear to be “closed”), I thought I would take the time to address some of his statements here. Though his article is not very long, the issues he raises are numerous and require some attention. My response will be posted in at least two separate posts.

Let me begin by stating that nothing herein is meant as a personal attack on Dr. Stone. As far as I can tell, he appears to be a man who is zealous for evangelism and reaching the lost. Also, it took many years of listening to reformed preaching and reading a variety of material before my buttress set against Calvinism had finally been eroded. But because some of his statements against Calvinism are quite bold, misleading, and just plain absurd, and since in God’s providence I have been given the opportunity of interacting with him on this subject, I think it would be irresponsible for me not to provide an honest rebuttal for both his sake and the sake of his readers, should they ever be providentially directed to this site. Though Dr. Stone has been made aware of this site, I am quite certain he will not be the one directing his readers to nopeacewithrome.com anytime soon. In any case, we offer this short rebuttal.

Obviously, the title of his article itself is a bit shocking. To assert that Calvinism is atheism is beyond the allowable limits of “agreeing to disagree” over a “secondary doctrine”. I could argue—and it has been argued—that the God of Arminianism is not sovereign, therefore not the God of the Bible, making Arminianism atheistic. But I will be cautious enough not to proceed along those lines, even though that seems quite a bit more logical than asserting that faith in a perfectly sovereign God who controls the universe somehow equates to atheism.

I also found it amusing that he chose to use the word “irrational” to describe Calvinism. I say this because it was the logical precision of men like Gordon Clark which convinced me of the perfectly rational, interconnected and systematic nature of reformed theology. In fact, it was a growing resentment toward the irrationalism and paradoxical nature of the non-Calvinist position that forced me to embrace Calvinism. You can reject Calvinism for some other reason if you like, but one thing you cannot accuse it of is irrationality. The logical consistency of Calvinism is usually not what is up for debate. Both Calvinists and non-Calvinists have acknowledged that “the five-points stand or fall together”. The issue is not whether Calvinism is rational or logical, but whether it is biblical. That is where the debate typically centers, while unexegeted proof-texts are launched in typical elephant-hurling fashion.

Stone opens with a statement which cannot be brushed aside. He writes, “…You wouldn’t dream of calling Reformed Theology a damnable heresy, would you? Yes, I would. I’m not kidding about my title….” I am genuinely concerned for someone who uses such extreme language concerning the doctrines of grace. On what basis can it be alleged that Calvinism is a damnable heresy? Furthermore, if it is such, that puts all Calvinists on the path through the wide gate to hell. So if Dr. Stone is going so far as to relegate Calvinists to the lake of fire, we should offer an equally bold rebuttal. Surprisingly, however, he then goes on to say that “many Calvinists are born again Christians….” So, either Stone is using the phrase “damnable heresy” improperly, or he chose it for its emotional impact, or “damnable heresy” is not so damnable after all.

He explains, “Where Calvinism is damnable heresy is that children raised on that doctrinal diet will miss their personal responsibility to choose to repent, to choose to believe, that it’s up to them whether and when to humble themselves, recognize their lost condition, turn from sin, and turn to Christ.”

In an attempt to keep this article from getting so long that no one will read it (my last response to Dr. Stone was sixteen pages), I will try to work through this and the following errors quickly and pass over the lesser ones. It should be obvious that Dr. Stone engrafts fallen rebels with a capacity to take it upon themselves to choose their eternal destiny, according to the whims of their autonomous freewill. He appears to have no reservations about proclaiming the innate ability of those described in Romans 1 as being in epistemological futility to simply “choose to repent, choose to believe…humble themselves…turn from sin, and turn from Christ.” Typically such Arminian sentiments are at least prefaced by a recognition of the divine initiative, that is, that God must at least commence the process of conversion via “prevenient grace” or some other prior work before man can do any of these things. Dr. Stone’s insistence upon such innate ability in man makes me wonder if he is more pelagian than he is “non-Calvinist”. I would like to believe that is not the case, since pelagianism actually is “damnable heresy”.

He then goes on to issue an attack on “total depravity”. Dr. Stone should be informed that rejecting total depravity is not something historic Arminians would likely recommend. His latent pelagianism rises more and more to the surface when he puts himself at odds not only with Calvinists but historic Arminians as well. Consider the words of Dr. Ronald Cooke on this point:

“Some people who have not done their homework either in church history or theology imagine that Total Depravity is a ‘Calvinistic” doctrine only; and that those who are not Calvinists do not believe in it. However, Orton Wiley, who was the premier conservative Wesleyan-Arminian theologian of the 20th century wrote, ‘By the total depravity of man we do not mean that he is so thoroughly depraved that there can be no further degrees of wickedness. Rather, the term is used in its extensive sense, and carries the thought that the contagion of sin is spread throughout man’s entire being. It vitiates every power and faculty of spirit, soul, and body. The affections are alienated, the intellect darkened, and the will perverted…. St. Paul affirms, For I know that in me (that is my flesh) dwelleth no good thing.’”[1]

To emphasize, Dr. Cooke writes:

“When one looks at church history he will find that conservative Lutherans, conservative Methodists, Congregationalists, Baptists, Plymouth Brethren, conservative Episcopalians, Anglicans, Presbyterians, Reformed, and Wesleyan-Arminians have believed and taught this doctrine [total depravity]. Biblical Christians for centuries have taught that all sinners need a Vivifier, just like Augustin said. [Charles] Finney, however, sought to revive the anti-christianity of Pelagianism in Protestant churches.”[2]

It should be clear why my concern for Dr. Stone—that his abhorrence for what he perceives to be a distinctively Calvinistic doctrine has driven him to abandon a biblical anthropology in favor of a form of pelagianism—is well justified. Finney’s pelagianism has infected American evangelicalism at large in both soteriology and evangelistic methodology.

His next caricature is in regards to Unconditional Election and that such a doctrine inevitably means that “vast multitudes…are Unconditionally Damned”. Note the category error here. He is attempting a parallel between Unconditional Election and the reprobate, as if to say, in the same way that some are elected to salvation unconditionally, others are damned unconditionally. Such a statement reeks of an appeal to the emotions and is itself a shocking distortion of biblical election. The damned are not damned “unconditionally”. They are justly condemned because they are sinners both by nature and by choice. But Dr. Stone’s repudiation of Total Depravity leaves us with an apparently neutral being, and so perhaps that is the logic behind the allegation that the reprobate are condemned “unconditionally”—that is, for no apparent reason.

But man is not neutral (Luke 11:23). He is set against God in every fiber of his being (Romans 3:10-23). Post-Fall, such is every man’s natural condition. His willful sin adds to the weight of his cumulative wickedness, thereby justifying his destruction and consignment to the lake of fire. He is not condemned “unconditionally”. He is judged with righteous judgment, on the condition that he has willingly and knowingly broken the moral law of God. Since God’s law is embedded in the image of God, man is rendered inexcusable.

Unconditional Election is such that there are no conditions that fallen man has met or can meet which put him in a right standing with God. Dr. Stone seems to think that if Calvinism were true it would mean that God randomly and arbitrarily selects from a pool of neutral beings who will go to heaven and who will go to hell; both original and ongoing sin somehow excluded from the equation.

Election is unconditional because there are no conditions that fallen man is capable of meeting that will make him right with God, or even prepare himself as a candidate for God’s grace. But condemnation is God’s justice rightly executed on sinners. It is not “unconditional”, but conditioned upon the undeniable reality of man’s own sinfulness as compared to the moral law of God.

Stone goes on to say that at conversion, according to Calvinism, there is “no intellectual or emotional or willful choice” on the person’s part. Not so. Justification is by faith alone (I hope Dr. Stone would at least agree with that), and faith is intellectual assent to a proposition. Saving faith is belief in the gospel of Jesus Christ. The regenerated person is given the gifts of faith and repentance, as well as a new heart desirous to do the will of God. The will, mind and emotions of the unregenerate are intimately connected and equally infected with the depraved nature. The believer is made willing because he has been given a new nature. But apart from God’s Spirit breathing new life into dry bones, there is no willingness to be raised to life, and no power of contrary choice. Those dead in trespasses and sin do not of their freewill decide to be resurrected. Bruce Ware elaborates:

“…[Man] is not constrained or coerced in his choosing but rather chooses according to his deepest desire, his strongest inclination, or according to what he most wants. Of course, since the agent chooses according to his deepest desire or strongest inclination, it makes no sense to imagine that his freedom consists in his ability to do otherwise—right? If his deepest desire and strongest inclination is to choose A, then what sense does it make to say that he might, instead, have chosen –A or B? Why would he choose contrary to his deepest desire or strongest inclination? What sense does that make? For to choose –A or B would be to choose against what may be thought to be his highest desire, but if he really did that, then his choice of –A or B would actually be the choice he desired most! The simple way to understand freedom of inclination is this: as morally free agents, we always choose and do what we most want.

“…His freedom, then, [is] seen in his ability to choose and act according to his strongest inclination, not in some supposed power of contrary choice.”[3]

Another cause for concern is that in quoting non-Calvinist David Cloud who, while making his own case against Calvinism notes that he appreciates the Calvinists’ emphasis of God’s sovereignty, Dr. Stone “totally disagrees”. He writes, “Calvinist sovereignty (a word not found in the KJV) is nothing like the concept of sovereignty in common usage in the English language and in the history of the world.” Unfortunately one faulty assumption is used to buttress another. Dr. Stone and I exchanged a few words about the Bible version debate, Stone revealing his devotion to the KJV. Part of his argument against “Calvinistic” sovereignty here is based on the apparently infallible KJV. Interestingly, the word sovereignty is indeed found in a number of other translations. And although the following point is irrelevant to Dr. Stone, having been influenced by Jack Moorman and his outright dismissal of any other translation, it is noteworthy that the ASV, NKJV, NASB, NIV, HCSB, NRSV and even Darby’s translation all contain the word “sovereignty”.

More importantly, Dr. Stone asserts that the common English usage of the word should determine its meaning. Well, if the KJV English is more relevant than the Hebrew and Greek texts then I suppose there is some argument here. But of course the Hebrew and Greek words in their proper context determine the meaning of the word, not the English of a seventeenth century translation. Further, it is the concept that is ultimately in question, not the use of a particular word. I shouldn’t have to give the obvious example that the word “trinity” is not found in the Bible while no orthodox Christian denies this doctrine. I don’t want to belabor the point but I think it should be given a little more attention.

Is it unusual that we should insist on the truth of a doctrine—such as “Calvinistic sovereignty”—based on the analogy of faith and the cumulative weight of evidence from Scripture rather than the success of finding one specific verse that uses the exact terminology in question? Many theological concepts deduced from Scripture are explained in terms that are not used in Scripture. To name a few, consider the use of such terms as, inerrancy, epistemology, hermeneutics, omnipresence, omniscience, impassibility, soteriology, monergism, depravity, eschatology, millennium, etc.[4] None of these words are in Scripture but the teachings can be easily deduced and defended. To insist upon a “chapter and verse” where such terms can be found and declare victory when it is shown that they are not used in Scripture is very faulty reasoning indeed. Such is the word-thing fallacy: “Words and things are not the same. The absence of a particular term does not entail the absence of a particular concept.”[5]

Naturally, freewill is a major component of Dr. Stone’s objection to Calvinism. He writes, “Every man knows that our system of laws and justice make no moral sense whatsoever if man has no free will.” He essentially argues that it is illogical to punish someone for a crime which they had no freedom not to execute. This is typical of anti-Calvinistic rhetoric and I am guilty of having once used similar arguments myself. The flaw is twofold: One who argues this way is conflating “freewill” with the freedom with which morally responsible agents are endowed. While man is a free moral agent—committing sin of his volition and not of coercion—he is not free in the Arminian sense of the word. Lazarus was not free to be resurrected or not, depending upon his power of contrary choice, mood, weariness, or any other emotion. Again, man is not a morally neutral being free to decide whether or not he will enjoy resurrection life. Yet he is responsible for his actions and must suffer the due penalty of the law as carried out by the civil magistrate. More importantly, his responsibility to repent and believe the gospel does not imply that he possesses the natural ability to do so. More than once he confuses responsibility and ability. I take this up in Human ability and the imperative mood.

Dr. Stone likens the sovereignty of the almighty God of Scripture to the atheistic/mechanistic/deterministic “universe’s master computer program”. An issue he raised in our exchange was that my denial of freewill entailed the embrace of a universe in which everything happened according to the decrees of God and there was subsequently no room for human choice. Without delving into a long discourse here, I would simply question why someone with a passion for biblical inerrancy (albeit a misguided view of such due to unjustified textual allegiances) seems to prefer a universe governed by the free and arbitrary actions of billions of wicked, selfish, God-hating, idolaters. Perhaps a review of Romans chapter one’s descriptive list of the natural man would be helpful at this point. Would you prefer a universe where billions of vile worms with their freewills perpetually collide in a constant state of rebellion? That such would be a better hope for humanity’s fate? I will opt for the God of Scripture who unapologetically does whatever He pleases (Psalm 115:3; 135:6; Isaiah 46:10; Ephesians 1:11).

“But Calvinism blasphemes God by teaching Limited Atonement and Unconditional Damnation for 98% (or more) of the human race. This must be a doctrine of Satan, to blaspheme the grace of God and the love of God, deceiving people that God is arbitrary, that all fates are in His hands without human recourse. By the way, this is also Islam!”

I will assume that Dr. Stone is using the word “blaspheme” here for the emotional charge and dramatic effect it supplies and not because he actually believes it blasphemous to assert that God is not obligated to rescue every wicked sinner from their rightful and just condemnation. In what sense is it blasphemous to insist that God saves His own elect people according to His purposes in accordance with the covenant of redemption established “before time began” (2 Timothy 1:9)? One may not like that God did this, he may prefer that God merely made a general, potential atonement for those who would of their own volition “decide to follow Jesus” (in which case no one would be saved), but it could hardly be called blasphemous for God to save whomever He wills. Rather, if we are going to throw the word blasphemy around, it would more rightly be applied to the pelagian path upon which Dr. Stone appears to be walking.

Calvinism is likened to both atheism and Islam by Dr. Stone. It is difficult to take such charges seriously. He assured me in our exchange that he had not missed any relevant reformed works in settling on the position he now holds, but we have to wonder just how much actual reformed writing Dr. Stone is acquainted with that he could with good conscience hurl such accusations. He appears to take an even stronger position against Calvinism than some of the non-Calvinists he seems to have been influenced by.

There is much more worth addressing in Dr. Stone’s article. I plan on taking some of it up in part 2. For now, let it be recognized that the blind allegiance to “freewill” so prevalent in our day is nothing more than the fruit of Charles Finney and his pelagian anthropology. What concerns me most with Dr. Stone is not his refusal to embrace reformed soteriology. TULIP is not the gospel as recorded in 1 Corinthians 15 and it is not required that one be a Calvinist in order to be saved. What concerns me is that a denial of Total Depravity and the epistemological futility of the natural man results in other departures from orthodoxy. His own defense of presuppositionalism, for example, is quite inconsistent with his appraisal of man as an apparently neutral being. If he is neutral, like a jury who has not heard any opening statements yet, why not just do your best to convince him of the gospel using all evidentialism has to offer?

Furthermore, a patent denial of Total Depravity does not put one outside of reformed theology but outside of orthodox Christian theology. As has been shown, it is not a distinctively Calvinistic doctrine. It may be argued that only the Calvinist holds the doctrine consistently, since it is the foundation for the rest of the five-points, but it is not something exclusive to avowed Calvinists. Man has an innate problem. It is not merely that he sins, but that he “was brought forth in iniquity” (Psalm 51:5).

I humbly exhort Dr. David Stone to reconsider his objection to this heartily biblical doctrine.

-Nick Sabato

[1] Cooke, R., Pelagianism, Barthianism, Self-Esteem & Romans 5:12-18, Truth International Ministries, Max Meadows, VA, 2012, pp. 48-49.

[2] Cooke, R., ref. 1, p. 146.

[3] Ware, B.A., The compatibility of determinism and human freedom, in Barrett, M. and Nettles, T.J., (eds.), Whomever He Wills, Founders Press, Cape Coral, FL, 2012, p. 228.

[4] Excerpted from a more exhaustive list in Blackburn, E.M. (ed.), Covenant Theology: A Baptist Distinctive, Solid Ground Christian Books, Vestavia Hills, AL, 2013, p. 24.

[5] Taylor, J., Was there a covenant of works?, in ref. 4, p. 137.

Arminianism, the back door to popery

During my ‘non-Calvinist’ days, having long been a staunch opponent of Rome and her heresies, when I stumbled upon a book titled Arminianism, the Back Door to Popery (Jonathan Warne) I was quite a bit insulted. Similarly, Augustus Toplady had written, Arminianism, the Road to Rome, and, Arminianism: A Jesuit Drug.

I did not consider myself to be Arminian or Wesleyan, but having read some of the things John Wesley had to say about Romanism and his interpretation of antichrist as being fulfilled in the papacy, I could not fathom how one could see a connection between Arminianism and popery. Consider, for example, the following brief excerpts from Wesley’s notes on Revelation 13:

“And they worshipped the dragon – Even in worshipping the beast, although they knew it not. And worshipped the wild beast – Paying him such honour as was not paid to any merely secular potentate. That very title, “Our most holy Lord,” was never given to any other monarch on earth….

“And there was given him – By the dragon, through the permission of God. A mouth speaking great things and blasphemy – The same is said of the little horn on the fourth beast in Daniel. Nothing greater, nothing more blasphemous, can be conceived, than what the Popes have said of themselves, especially before the Reformation.

“To blaspheme his name – Which many of the Popes have done explicitly, and in the most dreadful manner.

“…By this the Pope manifests that he is antichrist, directly contrary to Christ….

“…The name of the beast is that which he bears through his whole duration; namely, that of Papa or Pope: the number of his name is the whole time during which he bears this name. Whosoever, therefore, receives the mark of the beast does as much as if he said expressly, ‘I acknowledge the present Papacy, as proceeding from God’….”[1]

Similar statements concerning the identity of antichrist are found in Clarke’s Commentary and Barnes’ Notes. Dr. Ron Cooke points out that in his commentary on Revelation, Wesley “mentions the Papacy over and over again in connection with Antichrist…. The fact remains that Wesley identified the Papacy with the Antichrist [and this is] clearly demonstrated…no matter what else Wesley may have written on other subjects.”[2]

I also thought of how Dave Hunt had written extensively on the subject of Romanism, denouncing it as blasphemous heresy, and also debated many Roman Catholic apologists. All that despite his anti-Calvinistic soteriology.[3]

It seemed to me, therefore, an overzealous and emotional outburst to claim that Arminianism was somehow a bridge to Rome seeing how some prominent Arminians of the past as well as many contemporary non-Calvinists had stood and continue to stand firmly against the aberrant works-righteousness of Romanism and the battery of other heresies the scarlet-colored Beast spews from its mouth.

It was not until I understood that underlying all of the mariolotry, saint worship, necromancy, sacerdotalism, etc., was in fact a common bond with the non-Calvinistic, non-confessional evangelicalism so prevalent today. It is an oft overlooked bond that was present within Wesley’s (and presumably Adam Clarke’s and Albert Barnes’) theology, despite any allegiance to the historic Protestant interpretation regarding the identity of the man of sin. That common bond is synergism. 

Wesleyan Arminianism may not be pelagian, and therefore should not be regarded as a damnable heresy. But then again, neither is Rome’s soteriology pelagian (it is semi-pelagian). However, synergism is what they have in common. So, despite the offense that most evangelicals would take to the allegation that Arminianism is a backdoor to popery, when it is realized that any conceivable theory of salvation and associated ordo salutis must ultimately fall into one of two categories—monergism or synergism—it cannot be denied that Arminianism must necessarily sit beside its Papal predecessor under the synergistic heading. In this regard at least, Arminians are at odds with their reformed, monergistic counterparts, and of necessity, at peace with Rome.

That is not to say that Arminians are in bed with the Scarlet Harlot, that they embrace Rome’s false gospel, or that they are diabolical Jesuits in disguise. Numerous examples can be given of men who are familiar with Rome’s counterfeit gospel and stand in direct opposition to it despite their reluctance to embrace reformed soteriology. I was one of them.

Primarily, sound exegesis, systematic theology and Baptist covenant theology worked together to bring me out of synergism. But at least part of the impetus for my parting ways with my non-Calvinist position is my abhorrence for peace with Rome. There truly cannot be peace between Christ and antichrist. Synergism is that common thread that runs from pelagianism through Arminianism right through to Romanism. But the thread is cut at Calvinism. The cancerous root of synergism is severed by the sword of a truly consistent, Protestant reformed soteriology, and synergism is ultimately smashed by the hammer that is the Word of God (Jeremiah 23:29).

Synergism undermines and eats away at an otherwise grace-centered gospel. The purity of grace is preserved by the bulwark of monergism.

-Nick Sabato

[1] Wesley, J., Explanatory Notes on the New Testament, The book of Revelation, ch. 13.

[2] Cooke, R., Antichrist Exposed: The Reformed and Puritan View of Antichrist, Truth International Ministries, Max Meadows, VA, 2006, p. 431 [Available here].

[3] Of course, despite Hunt’s forceful attacks on the papacy and Romanism, he could not fully embrace the historic Protestant position that had identified the papacy as the antichrist because of his prior commitment to Dispensational futurism. I hope to address this subject in a future post.

Genetic entropy and the Reconstructionists’ optimism

In a recent paper[1] published in the Journal of Creation, Alex Williams explains that genetic entropy has obvious implications not only for humanity’s alleged evolutionary past but for the sustainability of the genome projected forward in time. John Sanford similarly wrote that, “The extinction of the human genome appears to be just as certain and deterministic as the extinction of stars, the death of organisms, and the heat death of the universe.” [2] So, “the inescapable conclusion”, according to Williams, “is that humans must have been created with mutation-free ‘healthy genomes’ just a few thousand years ago, and their future is likewise limited to thousands, not millions, of years.”[3]

The main point of Williams’ paper was of course to show the incompatibility of genomic decay with the mythology of Neo-Darwinian theory. I could not help but take notice, however, that as problematic as genetic entropy is for Darwinism it is similarly at odds with the eschatological future anticipated by postmillennial reconstructionism.[4] While most Christians look forward to the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ (Titus 2:13), reconstructionism (generally) predicts a future state characterized by improving conditions in both world and church for thousands of years finally culminating in the return of Christ. David Chilton, for example, asserted that the millennium will last for thirty-six thousand years.[5] Considering that this duration is six times longer than all of world history up to this point, this is quite an enormous amount of time. Worse yet, “[Francis] Nigel Lee…speaks of 100,000 years…and…Loraine Boettner, wrote about 200,000 years to Christianize the earth.”[6] Incredibly, one particular interpretation actually turns the “thousand years” of Revelation chapter twenty into three hundred and sixty thousand years![7] Regardless of the exact duration, most postmillennial reconstructionists would agree that such a supposed Christianizing of the world would of necessity be “a tedious and slow progress of many centuries.”[8] Adherents to this view will therefore have to assume that God will sustain the human genome for potentially four-hundred thousand more years.[9] Considering the bleakness of our genetic fate as predicted by Alex Williams, John Sanford and Robert Carter,[10] the thought of having to put up with many more yet unknown debilitating diseases and endure ever-increasing mutational load for multiplied thousands of years is a discouraging prospect indeed.

Ironically, the postmillennial position is often categorized as the “optimistic” eschatology because of its vision of a utopian world prior to Christ’s return.[11] Yet one can hardly see the optimism in putting off the return of Christ for potentially hundreds of thousands of years while disease and death (“the last enemy”, [1 Cor. 15:26]) continue to ravage and ruin our sin-cursed race. The Apostle Paul’s optimism (joy, actually) was the thought of departing and being with the risen Savior (Phil. 1:23). “For here we have no continuing city, but we seek the one to come” (Heb. 13:14).

Of course, the foregoing observation should not be viewed as an attempt to put scientific limitations on God’s prophetic Word. Science must not play a role in exegesis, and it has no authority over God’s pronouncements as to what the future holds. In light of His omnipotence, God could providentially sustain the human genome for as long as He likes despite the fact that calculations predict that “genome decay projected forwards points to extinction in just thousands of years.”[12] Because Scripture is the authoritative infallible and inerrant Word of God, it is not within science’s jurisdiction to refute a particular eschatology any more than it can refute the resurrection of Christ. So, if Scripture clearly taught that multiplied thousands of years are to transpire before the Second Coming, then God will suspend this decay process much like He did for the wandering Israelites.[13] God created the human genome; its mutational load can be attributed to the Fall, and our Creator, Sustainer and Savior is not bound by the “natural” degeneration of our DNA any more than He is constrained by thermodynamic processes.

Given the preceding caveat, postmillennial reconstructionism must stand or fall on exegetical grounds and not on scientific ones.[14] Millennial controversies aside, the creation was subjected to futility (Rom. 8:20) and Christ’s bride is to be looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God and the promise of a new heavens and a new earth (2 Peter 3:12-13).

Research in genetic entropy is consistent with the Apostle Peter’s hope for the future. This fallen sin-cursed world is not gradually (over multiplied thousands of years) reconstructed by sinful mutants nearing extinction but rather judged for its ensuing wickedness at Christ’s return .[15]

As Dr. Gary Parker used to say, What we see in God’s world agrees with what we read in God’s Word.

-Nick Sabato

 

[see also Jeffrey Tomkins’ article,  Genetic clocks verify recent creation, Acts and Facts 44(12):9, 2015.

[1] Williams, A., Healthy genomes require recent creation, Journal of Creation 29(2):70-77, 2015.

[2] Sanford, J.C., Genetic Entropy and the Mystery of the Genome, p. 83, FMS Publications, New York, 3rd edition., 2008. Such predictions are here acknowledged in terms of probability, though one would be wise to consider the frequently overlooked fallacy of induction committed by empiricists generally and scientists particularly in formulating predictions and universal propositions.

[3] Williams, ref. 1, p. 76.

[4] Two points of clarification are in order: 1) ‘Reconstructionism’ is often conflated with ‘dominionism’ for their many commonalities despite the latter’s variations (Dager, A.J., Vengeance is Ours, Sword Publishers, Redmond, WA, 1990); 2) The older form of postmillennialism was not ‘reconstructionist’ in nature (Berkhof, L., Systematic Theology, pp. 716-718, The Banner of Truth Trust, Edinburgh, UK, 1958), and since the term ‘amillennial’ is a relatively recent term, theologians prior to the twentieth-century were often called postmillennial though their position did not resemble the modern form of postmillennialism (Molles, B., The Beast and the Bride, p. 227, Lulu, 2004).

[5] Chilton, D., Paradise Restored, p.221, Reconstruction Press, Tyler, TX, 1985, cited in Cooke, R.N., and Hill, K.C., Reconstructionism: Is it Scriptural?, p. 39, Truth International Ministries, Max Meadows, VA, 1989.

[6] Cooke, R., The Jesuit Kulturkampf in the United States, p. 69, Truth International Ministries, Max Meadows, VA, 2008.

[7] The justification for this idea comes from applying (wrongly, I believe) the prophetic year-day principle established elsewhere in Scripture to the “thousand years” of Revelation chapter twenty. See Barnes, A., Notes on the New Testament: Revelation (1884-1885), Frew, R. (ed.), p. 420, Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, MI, 1983.

[8] Erdmann, M., The Millennial Controversy in the Early Church, p. 40, Wipf and Stock Publishers, Eugene, OR, 2005.

[9] See, for example, Lee, F.N., John’s Revelation Unveiled, pp. 282-283, Lamp Trimmers, El Paso, TX, 2001.

[10] Carter, R.W., More evidence for the reality of genetic entropy, Journal of Creation 28(1):16-17, 2014.

[11] Erdmann, ref. 8, p. 207; Molles, ref. 4, p. 194

[12] Williams, ref. 1, p. 70.

[13] “And you shall remember that the Lord your God led you all the way these forty years in the wilderness…that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord. Your garments did not wear out on you, nor did your foot swell these forty years” (Deuteronomy 8:2-4).

[14] “The fundamental idea of the doctrine [postmillennialism]…is not in harmony with the picture of the end of the ages found in Scripture. […] The modern idea that natural evolution and the efforts of man in the field of education, of social reform, and of legislation, will gradually bring in the perfect reign of the Christian spirit, conflicts with everything the Word of God teaches on this point.” Berkhof, ref. 4, pp. 718-719.

[15] “[The] final Judgment will be at the end of the age, when this world passes away at the appearing of the Lord Jesus Christ in power and glory.” Patterson, D., On the Final Judgment, Protestant Truth, 20(6):120, 2014.

John Gill on Revelation 18:4

“‘And I heard another voice from heaven,….’ Either of another, or of the same angel, or rather of God, or Christ himself, since the persons addressed are called his people:

‘saying, come out of her, my people;’ meaning either his elect ones, till now uncalled, being such whom God had chosen for his people, and were so by virtue of the covenant of grace, were given to Christ as his people, and were redeemed by him, though, till this call, in an unconverted state; or else such who had been secretly called by the grace of God, but had not made a public profession of the Gospel, nor bore an open testimony against the Romish idolatry; for as the Lord had a righteous Lot in Sodom, and saints where Satan’s seat was, Rome Pagan, so he will have a people in Rome Papal, at the time when its destruction draws near; and these wilt be called out, not only in a spiritual sense, to quit the communion of the church, to forsake its idolatries, and not touch the unclean thing, separate themselves from her, and bear a testimony against her doctrines and worship, but in a literal sense, locally; they shall be bid to come out of her, as Lot was ordered to go out of Sodom before its burning, and the people of the Jews out of Babylon before the taking of it, Jeremiah 50:8 to which reference is here had: and as the Christians were called out of Jerusalem before the destruction of it: this shows the particular knowledge the Lord has of his people, be they where they will, and the gracious care he takes of them, that they perish not with others; and that it is his will they should be a separate people from the rest of the world; and this call of his sufficiently justifies the Protestants in their separation from the church of Rome, and every separation from any apostate church;

‘that ye be not partakers of her sins’: by conniving at them, or committing the same; and all such are partakers of them, and have fellowship with these unfruitful works of darkness, that are in the communion of that church; and those that dwell at Rome are in great danger of being so, and cannot well avoid it: yea, even those that only go to see it, and stay but for a time in it, and that not only through the strength and influence of example, but through the force of power and authority:

‘and that ye receive not of her plagues’; or punishments; the seven last plagues, which belong to her, the vials of which will be poured out upon one or other of the antichristian states, and the fifth particularly will fall upon Rome, the seat of the beast, and is what is here referred to.”

John Gill’s Exposition of the Whole Bible

 

 

Modern miracles and the failure of empiricism

Recently I was listening to a preacher on AM radio when he went on a tangent condemning what is commonly referred to as “signs and wonders.” He appeared to be quite set against the modern proliferation of prophetic utterances and so-called miraculous healings dominating “Christian” radio and television. I agree with his sentiment; my concern with his message is not that he opposed the so-called apostolic gifts of modern charismania but rather the way in which he framed his argument.

Basically, the argument was as follows: “How do we know that there are no charismatic gifts of healing today? Because we do not see any happening. Charismatics can talk all they want about gifts of healing but we do not see these miracles being performed today and so we can rest assured that such gifts have ceased.”

For this gentleman, whose opinion concerning the continuation of gifts given to the NT apostles I am in agreement with, the lack of empirical evidence was sufficient to dismiss such an alleged spiritual phenomenon. The problem with this argument, however, should be pointed out so that we do not make the same mistake in our zeal to defend against the excesses of charismania.

The premise upon which the conclusion (that miracles have ceased) is built is: we do not see them happening. First, this preacher appears to miss the fact that his opponents—the advocates for continuationism—would simply retort that we do see them happening. In fact, the epistemological method employed by both parties here is the same: empiricism. Certainly, while I have not personally observed such purported miracles myself, there are many who claim that they have indeed witnessed them. The fallacy of induction is evident because neither party is capable of observing every case in history across the globe in order to definitively say, empirically, “miracles do not happen”. If someone claims to have experienced a miraculous healing by way of a Word of Faith healer in Africa (even though the smartphone-laden generation did not take it upon themselves to document such a rare and miraculous occurence), who am I to argue against his experience? Likewise, if I insist that I have yet to observe a purported miracle by way of a Word of Faith healer, how can the WoF advocate insist that I must have in fact observed such occurrences?

The point is, in fact, that all of this is beside the point. Rather than a discourse on the flaws of empiricism (which would itself invalidate the claims of the WoF movement), I want to show that this probably well-intentioned preacher was delivering an argument against modern miracles by appealing to his experience and not by appealing to the Word of God. My criticism is not of his position as a cessationist, nor do I disagree that there is a lack of the empirical evidence you would expect to find if such miracles were happening today,[1] nor will I here attempt to exegete the necessary Scriptures to make a case for cessationism. My point here simply is that the man’s authority on this subject was his personal experience—his appeal was to the same authority as the advocate of modern miracles! Word of Faith advocates appeal to their experience which is what validates the movement, putting us in a stalemate. Only when one is willing to appeal to the only authority (Scripture) can we find a legitimate basis for either accepting or denying post-apostolic miraculous healings. If knowledge is propositional truth as revealed in Scripture and not a collection of universals formulated by a posteriori reasoning, then it is the biblical text which must be the foundation upon which our position rests, irrespective of the experience had by continuationists and cessationists alike.

-Nick Sabato

 

[1] Justin Peters’ comments are of interest here. On page 72 of his 2002 Master’s thesis (An examination and critique of the life, ministry, and theology of healing evangelist Benny Hinn) he writes: “The proof of Hinn’s purported healings is conspicuous by its absence. Even if documented miracles were common in Hinn’s ministry, they would not in and of themselves legitimize it (Matt. 7:22-23). It seems that nearly all of those on stage claiming to have been healed suffer from maladies that are not readily visible, such as stomach ulcers, cancers, or bad backs. If God is truly healing people through Benny Hinn, where are the amputees, the blind, the imbecilic, the maimed, and the crippled? They are sitting, or sometimes lying, on the back of the floor area safely away from the watchful eyes of the numerous television cameras. If some do venture forward, they are ushered away just as was this author.”