Friday, April 8, 2016

Paul Washer on the Importance of Seminary EXAMINED


This video endorsement of The Master’s Seminary by Paul Washer was recently called to my attention. I must admit that I have mixed feelings about Washer. While his preaching on the subject of depravity is among the best I’ve ever heard, I have found that this is radically offset by numerous instabilities and doctrinal errors found elsewhere in the popular brand of Calvinism he promotes, the foremost being the suggestion that though Jesus Christ only died for the elect, that the is nonetheless sincerely offering eternal life to all of humanity, including those for whom he did not die. In the following video, Washer goes on to reveal a host of other instabilities lurking in his particular flavor of “reformed” theology.




Before diving into our analysis, I will take a moment to state that TETH’s standard disclaimer applies: (1) I do not question Washer’s sincerity or profession of faith, (2) I affirm that there are many who believe Washer’s erroneous teachings who are nonetheless blood-bought children of God, (3) but must insist that the contradictory nonsense that Washer promotes is not the faith once delivered to the saints and that it is profitable to correct an erring brother. (James 5:19-20) So with that by way of introduction, I bring you Paul Washer’s endorsement of The Master’s Seminary along with my commentary:

Non-Seminary Trained Ministers are the "Exception"


"If a man feels like he’s called of God and he believes that the scriptures are inerrant and inspired, that’s a wonderful thing. And in history we do know some men who were able to, in one sense, academically at least, train themselves, even though they were surrounded by other Godly men." (Washer)  
I would add to that an innumerable host of prophets and ministers of God found in the bible, very few of which were ever trained in anything remotely resembling a modern Seminary, and none of which were ever instructed to attend a Seminary institution. Let’s listen on…
"An example would be, of course, Charles Spurgeon and Martin Lloyd Jones. And we all, all of us acknowledge those kind of exceptions and we praise God for them most certainly." (Washer) 
But how is it that such men have come to be regarded as “exceptions”?  Are they exceptions to some biblical command for training in a Seminary Institute?  Not at all. No such command for training in a Seminary Institution exists in the word of God. So this is a VERY important observation. Men such as Spurgeon and Jones may be “exceptions” to the cultural norm for 19th and 20th century Christianity, but they are most certainly NOT exceptions to the biblical pattern for the training of ministers because the broad practice of Seminary education has precisely nothing to do with the bible. This observation bears repeating. The ubiquity of Seminary Institutes in modern Christendom may cause us to regard a seminary-trained minister as the norm, and to regard those who are not seminary trained as “exceptions.” But this is a cultural bias, not a bias that arises out of the word of God. If we have a high-regard for the word of God, we must use it to assess what is “normal” and “exceptional” with respect to the training of God called men and resist the temptation to determine such things on the basis of cultural observations. So I’ll state this plainly, if we use the bible as the benchmark for what is “normal” in ministry training it is apparent that the extra-ecclesial Seminary education of ministers is most certainly the “exception” and not the “norm.”  So from the get-go, Washer suggests that a God-called minister should have a high regard for scripture (inerrant/inspired) but then immediately erects a case for Seminary training by ignoring the bible’s testimony, preferring instead to determine what is normal and what is exceptional upon common observation. I won’t belabor this point now, but I would suggest that the ease with which Seminarians promote evident contradictions such as this is one of the noisome byproducts of Seminary addling. Let’s listen on…

Good Seminaries and Bad Seminaries

"In the world today, of course there’s always bad seminaries and bad institutes and things like that, but God in his providence has also raised up some very good places to train." (Washer)  
So in Washer’s view there are good Seminaries and bad Seminaries. Before considering the doctrines taught by Washer’s “good” Seminaries, I would seek to point out that the VAST (and I do mean VAST) majority of Seminaries in the world reject the notion of salvation by the sovereign, monergistic, grace of God. That observation alone means, at a minimum, the majority of Seminary trained ministers are men who have been primped and polished to promote a false gospel.  It also means that what Washer implies is normal is in equal measure horrible. Let’s listen on.

Sola Scriptura = One Must Use Church History to Establish Truth

"If a man who’s called into the ministry, sure if he has the bible and he studies the scriptures, praise God, but he needs to ask himself a question – How do I know my interpretation is right?" (Washer)  
That is true and it underscores the great need for right division of the word of God. The biblical means of knowing that one’s interpretation is correct is by examining one’s theological assertions to ensure that they are NOT logically contradictory to one another, because “The scripture cannot be broken.” (John 10:35) Apart from a minister’s relentless commitment to handling the word of God in a way that is consistent with LOGIC, a never-ending commitment to not allow himself to side-step the matter of LOGIC, one is NOT rightly dividing the word of truth. That is absolutely fundamental to a proper handling of scripture. In contrast, Seminary Theology is absolutely riddled with logical inconsistencies that are promoted as “gospel truth.” When such nonsense is pressed upon men as truth, it poisons their minds against the application of logic. Stated plainly, most Seminaries train men for the vocational promotion of a false gospel, and the rest teach men that truth is illogical. That is a pretty brusque statement on my part, and at this point it is unsubstantiated. Perhaps we’ll put some meat on the bones of that accusation as we listen on. Washer, a self-proclaimed 5-point Calvinist and Sola-Scriptura adherent, goes on to give us some insight into precisely what he means when he speaks of a high-view of scripture and Sola Scriptura.
"And that’s where, well, Church history comes in. Is he in that long line of Godly men and women who had a high view of the scriptures?" (Washer)
Now think about this for a minute folks. Washer has suggested that a God-called minster should have a high-regard for scripture (infallible/inerrant), no doubt consistent with the Sola Scriptura (scripture alone) reformation mantra, but when it comes time to affirm whether or not one’s interpretation of scripture is correct, they must look to church history? I have seen this notion promoted a great deal among the Reformed and it never ceases to amaze me how they seem to lack enough orientation to their beloved Reformation heritage to recognize that they are staking out the precise position that the Roman Catholic Church pressed upon their reformation forefathers, many of them unto death. Washer is promoting an enormous contradiction, as ALL Reformation theology does in such matters, namely that the truth is based on “Sola Scriptura” but the affirmation of that truth comes from church history. He refers to the key question that ministers should be asking of themselves – “[Are they] in that long line of Godly men and women who had a high view of the scriptures?” One wonders, who is the arbiter of determining the composition of that line? Who gets to determine what constitutes a “high-regard” for the scriptures? I’ll state this very plainly – those who suggest that one must look to church history as a means of substantiating biblical truth deny the sufficiency of scripture. Whatever might be said of the merits of believing that the word of God is inerrant and inspired, those affirmations are of absolutely no consequence if the word of God is insufficient to throughly furnish God’s people.

The Danger of Marinating in Contradictions


I recognize that what I have just stated here is sufficient to make most Reformed Christians a little hot under the collar. Indeed, what Reformed Christian worth his salt would deny the sufficiency of scripture? But herein lies the danger of proselytizing men on antinomies and contradictions. I do not doubt that all of the Reformed will stand up and declare, “I believe in the sufficiency of scripture – Sola Scriptura!” What I’m pointing out is that if one must employ something other than scripture to substantiate scripture, then their previous affirmation is meaningless. In my experience, the reformed I so frequently engage have been marinated in this contradiction for so long that they are utterly incapable of seeing the error therein. THAT is the danger. When you think that referring to St Augustine, John Calvin, or the Second London Confession of Faith is any means of substantiating truth, you have denied the sufficiency of scripture, your claim to Sola Scriptura is spurious, and you give evidence of just how little you understand the theological matters you claim to embrace. 

The bottom line is that while church history is a matter of historical curiosity and may give some indication of what people from a previous era believed, it has absolutely no bearing on the interpretation of the word of God whatsoever, and those who insist that it does admit the scriptures themselves to be insufficient to throughly furnish God’s people.  Let’s listen on. 
"Then if he asks, you know, himself the question -  How do I know that I’m thinking as I should be thinking? There’s systematic theology and ethics. Are these prepositions really important?  Yes they are that’s hermeneutics." (Washer)  
A God-called man who has a proper high-view of scripture as inerrant, inspired, and sufficient, is likewise well aware that the words of the bible are important. He must prayerfully consider his own interpretations and insist that they are logically consistent both line upon line (exegetically in context) as well as precept upon precept (systematically across all revelation). Such a man should be taught within the domain of the Lord’s church and discipled by the Lord’s Elders just as we see practiced in the New Testament church. Absolutely none of this requires the creation and funding of a Seminary Institution.

The Biblical Model - Briefly Mentioned and Quickly Discarded as Insufficient

"And so I think that if a man is called into the ministry, if he’s in a really biblical church, he needs to latch on to those elders, he needs to ask them to train him in things like that, and if they have the ability to give him all those things, to sit down with him and disciple him in all these great disciplines of the Christian faith, praise God." (Washer)
Here Washer briefly strays into the biblical model for raising up church elders, but he quickly departs from it, regarding it as impractical and insufficient in most instances…
"But in most cases that’s not the case. And so I heartily recommend that if someone is called into the ministry that they go to a bible institute to a seminary where they can gain the tools that are such a great benefit for the ministry, for the Christian life." (Washer)
I would not deny that there are a great many practicing ministers in Christian churches who are incapable of training men to become ministers. No argument there. But why is that true? Is it not in many instances true because those same ministers are themselves the produce of Seminary institutions that are not within a thousand miles of gospel truth? Statistically speaking that is undeniably so. But a bigger problem with this assertion is that Washer is admitting that training for the ministry is something that must be acquired outside the institution of the church. That is a completely unscriptural notion. It is one that most Christians have become so familiar with that no one gives it a second thought. Nevertheless if we are to have a high-view of the word of God, we must not lose sight of the fact that the bible NEVER instructs even one person to seek training for the ministry in an institution that is outside the domain of the church itself. That may force people to seriously reconsider their view of what an Elder in the New Testament church should look like, but if our view of scripture is appropriately high, this is something we MUST do. That observation alone will make a great many very uncomfortable, but I would ask – What good is one’s profession of having a “high view of scripture” if when it comes time to build the church we ignore the fact that it is the mechanism for training men for the ministry?  The bottom line is this – The Lord Jesus Christ instituted the New Testament Church and he did NOT institute a 501c3, para-church, Seminary, neither did he ever make reference to such a thing as “The Master’s Seminary.”  That observation, based on a high-regard for scripture, should give those brokering in the domain of Seminary education reverential pause.  
"You know when someone goes to seminary and they graduate they haven’t learned everything they need to know. As a matter of fact a seminary can’t teach you everything you need to know. What a seminary does is this – It places in your hands the tools so that for the rest of your life you can be expounding the scripture for your own life and for the life of others." (Washer)

TETH's Radically Different Recommendation


In contrast to Washer’s advice I would recommend a radically different approach to any man who believes himself called of God to preach the gospel. Before you go barreling off to a biblically unwarranted para-church organization that calls itself “The Master’s Seminary,” when the Master himself never spoke of or established any such para-church institution, to be proselytized in their interpretation of the word of God, instead spend a tremendous amount of time reading and becoming very familiar with the word of God and praying to be given some understanding of it. Do you have a high-regard for the word of God as the inerrant, inspired, sufficient revelation to God’s people that it is? If you do that’s good. Has this profession ever been born out by actually reading the bible? I would recommend that a good litmus test for someone’s high-regard for the bible is found in whether or not they’ve ever read it. I submit that if that were a requirement for entering the seminary institutions that produce the majority of what passes for preachers in this world they would all dry up for lack of students. Until someone shows a high-enough regard for the bible to have read it, I submit that their commitment to the ministry call lacks any merit whatsoever.  

I would furthermore recommend that God’s ministers spend time fishing and doing the practical labors of this world. They are very often used in scripture as a means of imparting a spiritual lesson. Those who have spent a little time fishing understand something very fundamental about that enjoyable activity. A man who is fishing is a man who intends to catch the living, not to catch the dead. Perhaps if some of the seminary trained preachers of our day had spent more time in a boat and less time being taught that they must use church history to substantiate the word of God, they would be more apt to understand that gospel ministry involves the acquisition of living fish, not the resurrection of dead fish.  

IN SUMMARY


Let me take a moment to point out some of the nonsense that a TMS student will be prostelytized in upon entering that non-scriptural institution.
  • Jesus Christ died for the elect only, nevertheless the gospel is a sincere offer of eternal salvation to all men, whether Christ died for them or not.  
  • Eternal salvation involves both God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility and we cannot understand how this is so.  
  • The new birth is being challenged by God to abandon everything you’re committed to and totally commit yourself to Him.  
The list could be liberally multiplied but these three TMS precepts derived from John MacArthur’s teachings should be sufficient to give those who have read the word of God and who insist that the scripture cannot be broken (John 10:35) an occasion to rethink the matter.  The bottom line is this: The Lord Jesus Christ established the New Testament Church. He did not establish an extra-ecclesial Seminary institution, neither did he or his apostles ever instruct anyone to create or attend such an institution to be equipped for the ministry.


9 comments:

  1. "And that’s where, well, Church history comes in. Is he in that long line of Godly men and women who had a high view of the scriptures?" (Washer)"

    I think this is a cryptic way of saying 'read your Bible but make sure your conclusions line up with Spurgeon and Fuller otherwise you're not reading correctly.' :)

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    1. DavidC,

      While I doubt that Washer or the Master's Seminary staff would be willing to accept your characterization of their position, I believe that what you are saying is correct given that any differences one might point out between these men and TMS theology are very minor and outside the domain of soteriology or philosophy of ministry.

      I think the observation you bring forth is extremely insightful and very few who encounter the TMS church-history-appeal that Washer sets forth in this video see it with the degree of clarity that you do.

      Thanks for a thoughtful contribution to the blog,
      TETH

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  2. I have just, this very day, discovered your blog. I have stumbled across Washer and was too quick to jump on the Washer "bandwagon" (no disrespect to Mr. Washer-the slight is intended for myself) after watching some YouTube videos of some of his speeches/sermons. Growing up in a country that has been allowed to transform itself from a beacon of hope and rest to the persecuted Christian around the world into the greatest exporter of Christian heresy the world has ever seen, Washer's passion and hard "truths" (reference to my assuming his doctrine was sound until I listened to more of his videos) were a welcome change to a hungry ear. However, I find the author of this blog summed up the growing popularity and fascination with Washer as perfectly as any mortal man can. Have people, the few truly hungry souls, become so starved for true Biblical preaching that we eagerly accept one bearing partial truths? Now we readily embrace seminaries, infant baptisms disguised as "dedications to Christ", altar call salvation, etc, etc, etc, when our forefathers in the faith were put to horrible deaths for refusing to go along with these things? They spent hundreds upon hundreds of years resisting the tyranny of catholicism (after spending several years researching the doctrines of this group and their sordid history, I will not intentionally honor them with capitalization) and yet even our Baptist brethren are slowly adopting their practices. Please excuse my going off topic.
    The utter arrogance of man is completely beyond the grasp of my simple mind, I'm afraid sir. To think they actually believe our Lord and Savior, the Creator of All, would "call" a man to serve Him yet not bestow upon the mortal man the spiritual gifts of pastor according to His will? Has the opinion or understanding rather, of our Creator, sunk so low as this?
    Lastly, believing the Scriptures as I do and thus the greatest damnation reserved for those "false prophets", where is the FEAR of even holding such a position? I would think, were hearts and minds in the proper place, Washer or anyone, would preface any discussion on the subject with the fear that one should have to stand in such a place as a pulpit, first and foremost. I don't doubt many, many of these men and the women were "called". However, my fear would be who was actually doing the "calling". I think if more time was spent on their knees seeking that very answer less time would be spent on their discussion of it.
    Thank you for sharing your insights with us. I know these things take valuable time in a world filled with too little of it anymore.

    May His Mercies and Love be upon you and yours.

    Ron

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    1. TETH ANSWER 101

      TETH: First off, thanks for taking a moment to provide a thoughtful and encouraging contribution to the blog. You make a number of statements that I’d like to share some thoughts on.

      RL: I have just, this very day, discovered your blog. I have stumbled across Washer and was too quick to jump on the Washer "bandwagon" (no disrespect to Mr. Washer-the slight is intended for myself) after watching some YouTube videos of some of his speeches/sermons.

      TETH: I know many who have climbed aboard that Washer-bandwagon. I’ve spent a little time there myself. I find that his preaching on human depravity quite good. Unfortunately, I believe that when one digs a little deeper into his theology they discover that it is laden with numerous Calminian false notions.

      RL: Growing up in a country that has been allowed to transform itself from a beacon of hope and rest to the persecuted Christian around the world into the greatest exporter of Christian heresy the world has ever seen, Washer's passion and hard "truths" (reference to my assuming his doctrine was sound until I listened to more of his videos) were a welcome change to a hungry ear.

      TETH: His social observations regarding the malaise of modern American Christendom are often spot-on. These problems do exist. When he begins to assert that all such backslidden Christians are unregenerate on the other hand, he is handling the matter in a way that is inconsistent with Paul’s handling of churches that were errant in doctrine and practice (Galatians, Corinthians). This “you’re all going to hell” approach is part and parcel of the Lordship Salvation “gospel.”

      RL: I find the author of this blog summed up the growing popularity and fascination with Washer as perfectly as any mortal man can.

      TETH: That is very kind of you to say. Thank you for the encouragement.

      RL: Have people, the few truly hungry souls, become so starved for true Biblical preaching that we eagerly accept one bearing partial truths? Now we readily embrace seminaries, infant baptisms disguised as "dedications to Christ", altar call salvation, etc, etc, etc, when our forefathers in the faith were put to horrible deaths for refusing to go along with these things? They spent hundreds upon hundreds of years resisting the tyranny of catholicism (after spending several years researching the doctrines of this group and their sordid history, I will not intentionally honor them with capitalization) and yet even our Baptist brethren are slowly adopting their practices. Please excuse my going off topic.

      TETH: Your observations are difficult to refute. I believe we are truly living in a Laodicean age and even the Lord’s people have only a very causal relationship with the truth. This is the result of the fact that a great many professing Christians have never read the bible, much less studied it. We live in a sound-bite era and people are too distracted by their idols to put much effort into acquiring discernment through the diligent study of God’s word.

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    2. TETH ANSWER 102

      RL: The utter arrogance of man is completely beyond the grasp of my simple mind, I'm afraid sir. To think they actually believe our Lord and Savior, the Creator of All, would "call" a man to serve Him yet not bestow upon the mortal man the spiritual gifts of pastor according to His will? Has the opinion or understanding rather, of our Creator, sunk so low as this?

      TETH: That’s very true. The idea that an extra-ecclesial, 501c3, para-church organization is required to equip men for the ministry is a completely unscriptural notion. The fact that most professing evangelicals are highly offended by that statement is a strong evidence of the degree to which the traditions of men have captured the minds of the Lord’s sheep.

      RL: Lastly, believing the Scriptures as I do and thus the greatest damnation reserved for those "false prophets", where is the FEAR of even holding such a position? I would think, were hearts and minds in the proper place, Washer or anyone, would preface any discussion on the subject with the fear that one should have to stand in such a place as a pulpit, first and foremost. I don't doubt many, many of these men and the women were "called". However, my fear would be who was actually doing the "calling". I think if more time was spent on their knees seeking that very answer less time would be spent on their discussion of it.

      TETH: I do not doubt that there are many “false prophets” in this world. Indeed the Lord promised that there would be. I would maintain a distinction between a biblical “false prophet” and a minister who lacks a proper understanding and who teaches others his confusion. I do not believe Washer is a “false prophet” – but I do believe he is one of a great many who have failed to “rightly divide the word of truth” (II Timothy 2:15) and who therefore stands in need of correction (James 5:19-20). The Lordship theology that he promotes is an unstable Calminian hybrid that insists upon paradoxes to bind the entire system together. I believe it best to avoid it altogether, lest one become convinced that logical contradiction is an indispensible instrument in one’s hermeneutical toolkit.

      RL: Thank you for sharing your insights with us. I know these things take valuable time in a world filled with too little of it anymore. May His Mercies and Love be upon you and yours.

      God bless you, brother Ron. Thanks again for sharing your thoughts.
      TETH

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    3. Thank you for taking the time for such a lengthy reply.

      I want to attempt at further clarification about a statement I made so as not to risk leaving it misunderstood. In referring to false prophets, I was not implying nor outwardly accusing Mr Washer of being such a one. If he is a child of Grace, then to do so would be accuse the very Savior of such. Where his souls rests for eternity is not within the tiny realm of my simple abilities nor does there rest any desire within me to make such a claim upon any man. However, in my simple mind and very limited understanding, I would think the Fear of the Lord, as well as the Fear of the consequences of standing and not being called (leading some poor soul(s) astray) would be the first and foremost fear of any such man who contemplates the pulpit of any church. The majority of so called "Christianity" pats upon the back and extols any individual with much fanfare and verbal encouragement when seeking the pulpit. Yet, I have only witnessed solemnity and humility with one called to the pulpit within the PB. To me, there is stark contrast between this denomination and the rest of broad Christendom in America in this practice.

      Kindest regards,
      RL

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    4. RL: I want to attempt at further clarification about a statement I made so as not to risk leaving it misunderstood. In referring to false prophets, I was not implying nor outwardly accusing Mr Washer of being such a one. If he is a child of Grace, then to do so would be accuse the very Savior of such. Where his souls rests for eternity is not within the tiny realm of my simple abilities nor does there rest any desire within me to make such a claim upon any man.

      TETH: I appreciate that clarification.

      RL: However, in my simple mind and very limited understanding, I would think the Fear of the Lord, as well as the Fear of the consequences of standing and not being called (leading some poor soul(s) astray) would be the first and foremost fear of any such man who contemplates the pulpit of any church.

      TETH: I agree that the fear of the Lord should be a cautionary word toward ministers. They should all endeavor to rightly divide the truth so as not to misinform the sheep or teach them false notions that will breed insecurity in the flock. All that said, if a pastor has laid hold of an untruth, he may be unaware that he is creating a problem. His zeal for God which is not according to knowledge may drive him to promote that untruth all while thinking that he is doing God service. This underscores the great need to lay hold of the truth so that one is not confounded by confusion and so that they do not spread that confusion among the flock through their ministry.

      RL: The majority of so called "Christianity" pats upon the back and extols any individual with much fanfare and verbal encouragement when seeking the pulpit.

      TETH: That is true. It seems that many churches are more interested in hiring entertainers, stand-up comics, and motivational speakers than they are in finding a God called minister who has a proper understanding of the word of God.

      RL: Yet, I have only witnessed solemnity and humility with one called to the pulpit within the PB. To me, there is stark contrast between this denomination and the rest of broad Christendom in America in this practice.

      TETH: That's nice of you to say. In my experience, PB ministers regard their calling as a very serious matter and they regularly recognize that apart from the Spirit of God working in and through them in their ministry it will be unprofitable and vain. May we maintain that sentiment as we endeavor to feed the Lord's lambs.

      God bless,
      TETH

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  3. I hope this finds you and your family doing well this early fall. I have been hoping to find the time to take this conversation a little deeper with some pointed questions pertaining to our prior discussion. My goal is not conflict and controversy, only seeking the thoughts of another professing Christian on the topics of false teachers/prophets and the subject of being rightly called. Would you prefer we continue on your blog sir or email you directly?

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    1. Brother Ron,

      Thanks for taking a moment to reach out again. I'm happy to discuss or to answer any questions you have. Unless your questions are directly related to this particular video, it probably makes more sense to have this conversation via email (theearstohear@me.com) just to keep the comments section of the blog a little more tidy. But we can discuss it here as well if that is your preference.

      I look forward to your thoughts.

      God bless,
      TETH

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