Thanks to blog.savetheperishing.com
This is the true story of a witnessing team’s birth and its subsequent fall into the errors of Calvinism by some of its members. I decided to write this as a warning to others who may be involved with Calvinists who evangelize or who may be on the verge of embracing the doctrine. Looking back on my experience I am amazed at the subtle shift in behavior, doctrine, interpretation, attitude and mindset of the group due to Calvinism. Its interesting to see how a doctrine like this can change humble, smart, loving people into prideful, contradictory, unthinking, unloving people. It wasn’t one thing per se that caused problems nor was it one person but an accumulation of events with many people over a few years. It took me a several years of prayer and bible study to come to the conclusions I am writing about in these posts.
Way of the Master Radio
One day in 2006 I heard on the radio that Kirk Cameron, the actor, had his own Christian ministry. I decided to do a google search on him. The Way of the Master website popped up and I started reading its material and watching the witnessing videos. They also had a radio show where they record themselves witnessing to others. I decided to share this with my friends.
What started out as a mere curiosity turned into a full-blown ministry. Some of my friends and I took Way of the Master classes, read their books, and studied the bible to see if this method of evangelism were true. It seemed to be so we started witnessing to the lost using this method.
For the first two years it was great. We would go to the bus stops or the Sprint Center downtown, perhaps to a festival, we had the ministry listed in our church’s bulletin so we could have others join us if they wanted to, we could see God moving in the conversations we had with the lost.
Along the way we had others join our group and 4 of them were Calvinists. We didn’t have Calvinists in our group before and at the time I was undecided on the doctrine but was leaning away from it. Months later I started to notice some disturbing trends emerging in the witnessing group.
Shift of Interpretations
I was at my friends house before a bible study and there were four us standing in the kitchen. We were talking about the lost and then the verse from 1 Corinthians 1:18 came up, “the preaching of the gospel is foolishness to those who are perishing.” Up to this point we had understood this mean’t the gospel is foolishness to those who have pride and think they are good. This is the context of Corinthians and was in fact taught this way by Ray Comfort on the Way of the Master Training Course. In other words, “Why would you preach the gospel to me? I’m not a sinner! I’m a good person! Go preach to a sinner.” The preaching of the cross is foolishness to someone with… pride.
While I was standing in the kitchen I was amazed to hear the reason why the “preaching of the cross is foolishness” is because sinners are “totally depraved” and unable to believe. When I objected to that interpretation another verse was used, taken out of context, to further demonstrate how total depravity is true. While it is true “totally depraved” sinners have pride it is also true Christians have pride, so I can’t say the reason why people have pride is because they are totally depraved. Besides, the chapter in Corinthians we were discussing has nothing to do with total depravity. It has to do with the pride of man and how God uses the weak things of the world to confound the wise.
What in the world was going on?
The Gospel Tract Enigma
When we witnessed we mainly gave out million dollar bill tracks. They look like a real million dollar bill even though there is no such thing as a million dollar bill. Several times after an evening of witnessing we would either have dinner or meet afterwards for fellowship. Some questions would arise in the minds of my friends who later became Calvinists. “Why do certain people take the tracks we give out and others don’t? Its a mystery they say. Twenty people don’t take a tract and then a bunch of people do.” Some concluded this MUST MEAN God is drawing only those people who took the tract.
There are many reasons people don’t take tracts:
1) They think its a political ad because there is a president on it.
2) They think we are selling something and aren’t interested in buying. This is a normal reaction. People rarely give away material to people without selling something.
4) People in the back who see people in the front reject the tract also reject it. “If the person ahead of me didn’t take it than I probably don’t want it either.”
5) Maybe they are upset, or tired, or who knows how many other reasons for avoiding taking a leaflet from a stranger.
There are many reasons for people taking tracts as well:
1) They are curious about what it is.
2) They like political ads.
3) They don’t want to be in an awkward situation where they must reject what someone is freely giving them so they take it.
4) People in front of them grab one so they grab one.
5) God is drawing them.
Calvinists attribute everything that happens to God. While Calvinists vary in their opinion as to the amount of control God has on His creation many believe natural disasters, and even sin as something God has ordained, so its not a surprise the people in the witnessing group are focusing on why certain people take a gospel tract.
When I mentioned to them the different reasons why people may grab or not grab a tract it went in one ear and out the other. Suggesting these ideas makes their exciting discovery that God controls everything not so exciting.
Popular Preachers and Popery
My friends in the group spent a great deal of time listening to Calvinist preachers such as Paul Washer, Alestair Begg, John MacArthur, James White, RC Sproul, and John Piper to name a few. If you spend all your time listening to Calvinists preachers you will eventually be… a Calvinist. Particularly if you spend more time listening to them than reading the bible for yourself allowing the Holy Spirit to interpret the Word. Every Calvinist I have known or debated with spend far more time reading reformed titles, or listening to popular reformed preachers than they do reading the bible.
After they do this they believe Calvinism and then later tell me how “God opened my eyes to this truth.” How deceived they must be to think “God opened my eyes” when in reality they spent more time reading theinterpretations of men rather than the words of God. They have not learned the “deeper things” of God but rather what someone else thinks the bible says. How can they possibly say “God opened my eyes” when in fact they are being told what to believe by human fallible preachers? Are they confusing a preacher as God Himself? Is this the Catholic church with a magisterium who speaks infallibly for God? It seems so.
This is called indoctrination and thats what happened to the witnessing group over time. They were becoming indoctrinated right before my eyes.
I used to be a Catholic and after that I was in the occult for several years. Its not difficult to be indoctrinated, all you have to do is keep on listening, and believing it little by little until eventually it will take hold. Before I was a Christian I was on the brink of worshiping the Earth due the shamanistic teachings I was studying. I had the sudden realization that the next step in my learning was to worship the earth. It made sense because of what I learned and knew. Once I realized I was about to do this I stopped myself because deep down I knew it was wrong. As a side note how would I know it was wrong? I was “totally” depraved! Perhaps the concept of total depravity is wrong, but thats another topic for another post.
Listening to the same preachers over and over again amounts to a type of popery similiar to the Catholic church. Instead of one person as a pope there are several that teach the same things. These people cannot be questioned because they are “Godly” men who preach hard on sin. They couldn’t possibly be wrong about this doctrine! They spend all their time studying this and are smarter than us, they know Greek and use fancy theological terms such as “doctrines of grace.” Who am I to question them?
Oh what an insult to Christ! The Holy Spirit, through His Word, is “unable” to teach believers better than men!
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying to forsake all preachers…I’m saying their interpretations are not the final word. If you spend more time listening to other human beings than reading God’s Word you do indeed have a Pope, whether its in the form of one preacher or many. If someone asks you “What do you believe about election” and your answer is “Read this book by James White” or “Here is an article on this by John Piper” or “Here is a sermon from RC Sproul” or “Here are some commentaries on this” you may possibly have a “pope” in your life telling you what to believe.
An objection to what I just wrote might be “I don’t have time to write a full answer to your questions, its easier to show you what <insert preachers name> believes.” Yes I know. You have spent so much time studying the interpretations of others you know what these other preachers believe. Thats my point! Do you honestly think you can listen to preachers everyday in podcasts or on the radio and not be influenced by them? The reason you are listening to them is because you WANT to be influenced by them. Perhaps its true you don’t have enough time to study. Maybe your job forces you to drive frequently or you have many family responsibilities. If thats true, why not listen to the bible on CD instead of a preacher most of the time? Are you confident enough in the abilities of the Holy Spirit to teach you directly through His Word?
Furthermore if you know words like “monogerism” or “synergism” or if you automatically think since I am not a Calvinist that makes me an “Arminian” or I’m a “free-willer” you spend way too much time studying the writings of men rather than the word of God.
The extent to which this idea of popery was entrenched in the witnessing group was made evident one day. Tony Miano, a well known Calvinist who evangelizes, was saying some things to sinners on video which were questionable and confusing. When someone in the witnessing group was asked to reexamine what Tony said he refused to do it. He felt examining Tony would make him “sick” because he is after all a “Godly” man who apparently cannot be questioned. Accusing Tony of teaching questionable doctrines would definitely disrupt the peace among the group and we can’t have that!
This is a far cry from the Bereans who examined what the Apostle Paul had to say to see if what he said was true.
It seems the witnessing group is not so interested in truth after all.
Descent Into Error Part 2 – Mottos to live by?
“Descent Into Error” Part 3 – Judgement Without Discernment
“Descent Into Error” Part 4 – Love waxes cold to the unsaved
“Descent Into Error” Part 5 – The Bible as a spell-casting device