Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Judging Others

Thoughts from TETH on Off the High Horse by Elder Ben Winslett

I have often found the writings at March to Zion very profitable over the years that I have followed that website. Elder Ben Winslett’s recent article entitled Off the High Horse particularly resonated with me and I wanted to take a moment to provide some commentary on it…

Christians Obsessed with Finding False Converts

I really don't understand the obsession so many believers have with judging the eternal salvation of others. I see it among both Arminian and Calvinist believers, but probably worse among Calvinists. (Off the High Horse, Elder Ben Winslett)
I do not understand this either. In my experience, a great many modern Calvinists are particularly fascinated, yea obsessed with the notion of the false convert, often to such a degree that they seem to delight in the prospect of having discovered one. I believe that all Christians who believe in election (Ephesians 1:4-6), who affirm that eternal salvation is the result of an everlasting covenant that is ordered in all things and sure (II Samuel 23:5), and who believe that Jesus Christ shall give eternal life to as many as the Father has given him (John 17:2), should likewise embrace the unavoidable logical consequence of those essential doctrinal facts, namely that there is not anything that anyone can do, either in ministry to God or the devil himself, that will either augment or diminish the number who will be eternally saved. That includes “discovering” through relentless investigation of another’s life that they are a false convert.


An Apostolic Example

Look - the foundation of God stands sure having this seal, the Lord knows them that are His. Period. The context of that verse deals with men who taught heresy. Even The Apostle Peter wouldn't pass such a judgment on Simon Magus when he encountered him in Acts 8. He called on him to repent, and used words such as "perhaps" and "perceive" when describing his state. He simply did not know who was or was not elect. Who would have guessed Saul of Tarsus was chosen of God? And yet in God's time, God regenerated Saul and made a preacher out of him. (Winslett)
Amen. That is exactly right, brother Ben.


Terrible Sin and Errors Exist Among the Regenerate

Further, many people are swept away in terrible errors. It happens. Until glorification, when we know as we are known, embracing an error is possible. (Winslett)
That is absolutely true. From my observation, many of those most obsessive about uncovering false converts do so by rendering judgments that are evidently contradicted by many, many examples in the bible. Without the NT, it would be nigh on impossible to build a case for Lot as a regenerate child of God given his poor example of brokering in Sodom (Genesis 13:12, 19:1), offering up his daughters for sex (Genesis 19:8), and refusal to leave the city though he had been told (Genesis 19:15-16). Yet Peter refers to him as a “just” man (II Peter 2:7). The evidence he cites in favor of this fact is a conviction of conscience that Lot possessed while viewing the wicked conversation of those around him in Sodom. That is not an evidence that anyone viewing his life externally is likely to see, yet it was present, sincere, and evidence of his regenerate state, even while living a life that by external evidence would appear to be that of a reprobate.


But, "Ye Will Know Them by Their Fruits!" 


I often hear the false-convert-hunters quote, “Ye will know them by their fruits!” to biblically justify the fiat proclamations of unregeneracy they enjoy pressing upon others. In practice, they believe this passage teaches that a regenerate man has the capacity to tell if someone else is unregenerate; though they would be loath to admit that characterization. Indeed if this is NOT what this passage is teaching, then it does not support their proclamation based on fruit inspection, which renders their reference to it irrelevant. I would point out that the phrase “Ye will know them by their fruits” is made in reference to false prophets, not to one’s state of grace. It is speaking of the fruit of their ministry and teaching as a means of determining the soundness of their doctrine. It is not teaching that one can definitively determine the locus of unregenerate, false-professors of Christ by the external evidences they exhibit.


We Are NOT Jesus

Of course, Jesus would indeed tell men they were of their father the devil. He would also tell men they were not of His sheep. But you and I aren't Jesus. (Winslett)
This too is a great point, we most certainly are NOT Jesus, nor do we possess his divine aperture on the heart of men. But when you consider the doctrine of many of those false-convert, bone-collectors, perhaps the deluded exaltation of their own opinions on such matters is not inconsistent with other things they believe. Indeed, if one believes one’s own preaching instrumentally imparts eternal life unto men as literally the voice of Son of God in fulfillment of John 5:25, is it such a stretch to imagine that one’s thoughts regarding another’s state of grace might be just as accurate as the Lord’s?
We have no certainty as to who will or will not be in Heaven. I have news for you, even if a child of God is a member of a heretical cult, the foundation of God stands sure. All that the Father gave Him shall come to Him (John 6). We need to get out of the "peanut gallery" and off our "high horses" as believers. (Winslett)
That is very, very well said, brother Ben. Stated another way, if one’s soteriology cannot accommodate the undeniable biblical reality of a good Samaritan - a regenerate man doing good in this lifetime while being an ignorant and active practitioner of a false religion – then one stands at odds with the teaching of the Lord Jesus Christ.


A Sound Admonition Against Judgmentalism

I'll close this admonition with a recommended passage. Please consider the parable of the wheat and tares in Matthew 13. In that parable, Jesus tells of a man who planted a field of wheat, but an enemy sowed tares among the wheat. The man's servants asked their master if they should attempt to uproot the tares, but the master forbid them, saying they would end up hurting the wheat in their attempt to rid the field of the tares. How does this apply to us? The wheat represents God's people; the tares represent the wicked. This parable serves to tell us that 1) it isn't our business and 2) God knows what He's doing. (Winslett)
Those who obsess on false-convert hunting slash and burn the Lord’s church doing manifold damage to the crop that was only moments before white unto harvest. The damage visited upon the flock of God by such practices is immeasurable. I believe that there are people who have been so hurt by this practice run amuck, that they will never again approach anything resembling the Lord’s church in this lifetime, though they will spend eternity with God. It is a great crime to treat the bride of Christ with such contempt. God help us.
Let's repent of this obsession. As Jesus told the disciples in Luke 9, "ye know not what spirit ye are of." (Winslett)
Amen, brother Ben. Having been a member of a Lordship Salvation affirming assembly, I have seen first hand the damage that this theology does among the flock. It breeds a toxic atmosphere of judgmentalism and paranoia that is incredibly unprofitable. It’s pretty ugly stuff when you see how it touches people.


Finally


It’s true that there are times when, after much longsuffering and intervention, the church must exercise discipline upon those who willfully persist in sin. But this must be done in love and never done with the presumptuous proclamation that such a person is unregenerate. We do not know that, neither should we misuse Matthew 7:15-20 as a half-baked justification such. While Jesus does teach that one who is excluded should be regarded as a heathen and a publican, I do not believe that this designs unregeneracy, given that there were heathens (Hebrews 11:31) and publicans (Luke 18:13) who were evidently born of God but who stood in need of conversion to gospel truth and practice. We should regard such as standing in need of conversion to the truth with respect to their error (James 5:19-20) and do so knowing full-well that we’re just as capable of being caught up in sin which doth so easily beset us (I Corinthians 10:12, Hebrews 12:1).

Lord help us to judge righteous judgment, not according to mere appearance (John 7:24).




2 comments:

  1. I have seen this attitude among the Calvinists as well. It's unbiblical. I don't motivate my kids to obey me by threatening to throw them out of the house forever. But supposedly God motivates us to obey by threatening us with hell fire. If you take some of their teachings prima facie, you might think the charge I just leveled is unfair. But if you actually spend time around them, you will see I speak the truth.

    The fear of the Lord has to do with being afraid of painful chastening. Not of eternal hell fire.

    By the way, there are many godly, loving Calvinists. I am thinking of one specifically that I am honored to call my friend.

    www.theformofthefourth.com

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    Replies
    1. ANON: I have seen this attitude among the Calvinists as well. It's unbiblical.

      TETH: I agree. There is a distinction we must draw between identifying certain practices as sin and insisting that such practices constitute ironclad, irrefutable evidence of unregeneracy. God's people get involved in some pretty nasty stuff in this lifetime - much to their own detriment.

      ANON: I don't motivate my kids to obey me by threatening to throw them out of the house forever. But supposedly God motivates us to obey by threatening us with hell fire.

      TETH: I know. It's not a stable notion at all. It arises out of the Jonathan Edwards brand of Calvinism that insists that God is dangling you by a thread over the fires of hell. Such an idea is so utterly contrary to the idea of an everlasting covenant that is ordered in all things and sure that it boggle the mind that it passes for "salvation by sovereign grace." That says a lot about the woeful lack of discernment possessed by the garden variety disciple of Christ in our day.

      ANON: If you take some of their teachings prima facie, you might think the charge I just leveled is unfair. But if you actually spend time around them, you will see I speak the truth.

      TETH: This has been my experience with some Calvinists as well. They seem to delight at the prospect of having discovered a false convert.

      ANON: The fear of the Lord has to do with being afraid of painful chastening. Not of eternal hell fire.

      TETH: It is the recognition that God is in charge and we are recipients of undeserved GRACE not meritorious rewards.

      ANON: By the way, there are many godly, loving Calvinists. I am thinking of one specifically that I am honored to call my friend.

      TETH: Absolutely true. I'm surrounded by many of them in my friends and family. Many of them evidence far more "grace" in their lives than the embrace in their theology, IMO. I mean that as a compliment to their love of God (if not their system of beliefs).

      God bless,
      TETH

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