Sunday, March 2, 2008

Exposing Error: David Stewart

In the interest of providing a Biblical counterpoint to SPM 1's ongoing series on Reformed/Calvinist thought I'd like to offer the following analysis of their article entitled A Link on the Topic of Calvinism which back links to the article discussed in my post below.

From "What a mess! Calvinism…Hyper-Calvinism…Arminianism?" by David Stewart:

Stewart says: “The concept of original sin is demonic. We are NOT held accountable for Adam's sin, but we suffer because of his sin.”

I respond: Prove it with scripture! The Bible says:

Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam's transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come. (Romans 5:14)

For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. (1 Corinthians 15:22)

Stewart says: “God told Adam and Eve that they would die the very day they ate of the forbidden fruit, but they didn't die when they ate the fruit (Genesis 2:17). Why didn't they die? They did die, but it was a spiritual death; not physical. Thus, every human being born into this world since Adam has been born spiritually dead, void of God. When a man is "born again," his dead spirit is made alive by God's Holy Spirit.”

I ask: What precisely does a dead man do for himself? Calvinists would fully affirm Stewart’s assessment of man’s spiritual death from birth since this is the plain, consistent teaching of scripture. So now we’re faced with a real dilemma; how can a dead man come to life either spiritually or physically?

Can the dead man ask for life? No, that’s impossible because he’s D-E-A-D.

Does he need to metaphorically “swallow the medicine” of the Gospel to cure the deadly illness of sin? No, he can’t swallow because he’s not merely sick, he’s D-E-A-D.

Like Lazarus being called forth the dead are only raised by the One True and Living God as evidenced by scripture. This applies to both physical death as we can see in the resurrection and spiritual death as we can see by sovereign, monergistic justification by grace through faith alone.

From whence is the fountainhead of grace? It is from God Himself.

From whence is faith? It is from God Himself.

From whence is justification? It is from God Himself.

From whence is salvation? It is the gift of God and not of works lest any man should boast. Is “choosing”, “accepting”, or “receiving” Christ a work? If so, is it a work of man or is it the work of God?

I ask: “Are you a Christian?” I surely hope your response would be affirmative. If so, do you know people; friends, relatives, acquaintances who are not Christians? I surely hope your response would be affirmative on this point as well. So now, I would ask another question; Why are you a Christian while your friends, relatives, and acquaintances are not?”

Did you choose better than they?

Are you smarter than they?

Are you wiser or more holy than they?

Are you in possession of greater knowledge about God and therefore in a better position to make an informed decision than they?

How can you explain the fact that you are a Christian while your friends, relatives and acquaintances are not apart from God's work of divine electing grace? The only remaining option is a form self-righteous pride couched in the subtle idolatry of a works based salvation, i.e. ”I chose correctly and they chose badly.” This is called synergism and is the belief that men cooperate with God to effect their own salvation. Incidentally this is the position taught by the Roman Catholic Church, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, The Mormon LDS, practically every false religion on earth, and free will Arminianism as espoused by the majority of modern professing churches. You’ll find synergism taught nowhere in the Holy Bible.

Standing over against synergism is monergism. This is the belief that God alone saves those whom He will according to His own perfect and holy sovereign plan, for His own glory, and because of no intrinsic merit or worth that He sees that is in - or will be in - those sinners whom He miraculously translates from spiritual death unto spiritual life out of His boundless oceans of undeserved mercy, pity, and love. Salvation is all of God and is all of grace. This is the position taught by the Reformed/Calvinist professing churches and the Holy Bible.

Stewart says: ”Calvin misunderstood the Word of God. The Bible does indeed teach that it is IMPOSSIBLE for mankind to save himself. Mark 10:25-27 reads, "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. And they were astonished out of measure, saying among themselves, Who then can be saved? And Jesus looking upon them saith, With men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible). Yet, the Word of God also proclaims that "whosoever will" (anyone) can get saved, a view that Calvinists and Hyper-Calvinists do NOT hold. Romans 10:13 plainly teaches, "For WHOSOEVER shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved." It is certainly Biblical that salvation is absolutely 100% of God. We read in John 6:44, "No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day." But for Calvinists and Hyper-Calvinists to teach that God is "selective" in choosing who will or won't be saved is certainly NOT Biblical. Titus 2:11 clearly teaches, "For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men." Did you read that...ALL men? Calvin believed that only certain sinners of God's choosing would be saved. Romans 10:13 plainly teaches that "WHOSOEVER" will may come to be saved (and Arminius believed this). John 3:16 proclaims that God loved the WORLD enough to send His only begotten Son to pay for our sins. Calvinism and Hyper-Calvinism are wrong to teach that God chooses who will be saved.

I respond: Based on his reckless mishandling of scripture it’s clear that it is David Stewart who has misunderstood the Word of God. First Stewart affirms the scripture teaches the impossibility of mankind saving himself (i.e. becoming justified by his own actions), then he turns around and says that it possible for anyone to save himself (i.e. to become justified by his own actions)! Which is it? Stewart commits precisely the same error as all who hold a high view of man and a low view of scripture and that is to demand mercy from God. I wonder if Stewart is similarly offended that everyone everywhere wasn’t invited onto Noah’s ark before the flood? I wonder if Stewart is stewing over the fact that God made Israel His covenant people in the Old Testament instead of making everyone in the whole world His covenant people? Stewart continues in his unbroken pattern of error by wresting the scriptures and demanding that whosever will must mean that salvation depends on sinful men’s choices instead of a Holy God’s choice. Stewart says it isn’t Biblical to believe that God chooses who to save, even after he quotes the scriptures that teach no man can come to Christ unless the Father draws him! Amazing! How are these men to choose apart from God drawing them and how are they to be drawn unless God chooses to draw them? The absurdity is mind boggling! But foolishness, irrationality, and illogical gibberish are the hallmarks of the unregenerate and desperately sinful human mind when it is confronted with the truth of God’s Word.

According to his own argument Stewart ought to believe, like every Calvinist would affirm, that WHOSOEVER shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.", and then he should also believe that "No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day." There’s nothing even remotely contradictory in these statements. Those whom the Father draws to Christ will be the “whosoever” that shall call upon the name of the Lord and they shall be saved to the uttermost and shall in no wise be lost.

With this in mind unless he’s advocating the heresy of universalism – that everyone will be saved – then Stewart’s following statement doesn’t make any sense at all: "For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men." Did you read that...ALL men? Calvin believed that only certain sinners of God's choosing would be saved. Now I don’t think that Stewart believes everyone is going to be saved so I’m going to assume he’s simply confused here and thus fails to make any cogent point whatsoever.

Continuing Stewart says: John Calvin taught heresy when he taught that God chooses people to be saved. There is NOT one Scripture in the entire Word of God which teaches that God chooses anyone to be saved. The Bible teaches that all believers were predestined to "be conformed to the image of His Son," NOT predestined to salvation ("For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren" -Romans 8:29). Calvinism teaches predestination unto salvation. This is unbiblical. God NEVER chooses anyone for salvation, Scriptures such as Acts 17:30 make this abundantly clear ("...but now commandeth all men every where to repent"). Why would God command ALL men to repent if only certain men have been chosen for salvation.

When refuting similar error espoused by Dave Hunt, James White of Alpha & Omega ministries inserted the following comments into a dialogue between himself and Hunt (White's comments in bold): Indisputably, the phrases themselves which are represented by the first four letters in the acronym TULIP never appear in the entire Bible. [Neither does the word Trinity, nor “pre-tribulation rapture” to use a term you frequently utilize, but as anyone can see, the use of specific terms is not the issue: the phrase “free will” does not appear in the context of man’s alleged ability to freely choose or reject Christ, either. The issue is, does the Bible teach the concept that is described by phrases like Total Depravity, Unconditional Election, etc.] That fact should speak volumes. [It doesn’t] Where is it stated in plain words that men are by nature incapable of believing the gospel or of seeking God? [That would be John 6:44, Romans 8:7-8, and Romans 3:10-11, just to name a few representative samples] Where does it say in clear language that men are chosen unconditionally to salvation [Ephesians 1:3-11, Romans 8:28-31, etc.], or that grace is irresistible [every passage that describes the work of salvation as a divinely powerful and radical change, such as the removal of the heart of stone and the giving of a heart of flesh (Eze. 36:26) or the giving of life to the dry bones (Eze. 37) and every passage that says that we are saved by grace alone (Eph. 1:6) teach the divine power of saving grace, which is all irresistible grace is about] or that Christ died only for a select few? [We do not believe it is a few, we believe it was for all the elect, which no man can number, and the plain words would be such passages as Matthew 1:21, Romans 8:31-34, Eph. 5:25, etc.] Where does it say explicitly that one must be sovereignly regenerated without any understanding or faith before one can understand and believe the gospel? [This is the constant misrepresentation of the Reformed position that is found throughout your work. God uses the proclamation of the gospel as the means of bringing the knowledge of Christ to His elect. The fact that regeneration precedes saving faith is found in numerous passages, such as John 1:12-13, 1 John 5:1, etc., and is likewise substantiated by the description of faith as a gift given by God, Phil. 1:29] The Calvinist cannot produce for any part of TULIP a clear, unambiguous statement from any part of Scripture! [That is wishful thinking, Dave, and has been refuted above] Calvinism must therefore be imposed upon certain texts because it cannot be derived from any. [An assertion that any person who has taken the time to read both sides knows is far beyond any kind of rational basis]

And with respect to Stewart’s concern about Acts 17:30 we can easily see commands throughout scripture that God gives despite His knowledge that men will not and cannot keep them. This truth ought to drive men to their knees in contrition and repentance before God, not make them haughty and self righteous resulting in their mimicking of the Pharisee who thanked God that he was not like the tax collector who nevertheless smote his breast and went home justified. Acts 17:30 is succinctly explained here by the Reformation Theology blog.

Thus saith David Stewart: There really is NO debate concerning Arminianism, Calvinism, and Hyper-Calvinism if you simply take the Word of God at face value...they're all messed up!

And again: Calvinism is unbiblical heresy!

I respond: I partially agree with Stewart's first statement (Arminianism and hyper-Calvinism are all messed up), and I know where and why I agree and disagree with him. But I don’t know how grounded his other readers may be in the scriptures and apparently Stewart is quite fond of making numerous false, bald assertions that have no basis in reality whatsoever – and he doesn’t seem terribly bothered by this bad habit - although his readership should be.

Stewart continues: The Bible teaches universal atonement. Like it or not, the Word of God is our Final Authority, NOT Spurgeon or any other man. 1st John 2:2 reads, ""And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world." 2nd Corinthians 5:15, "And that he died for all..." We read in 1st Timothy 1:15, "This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief. The Word of God proclaims that Christ came to save sinners, not just certain sinners. Listen to the plain teaching of 2nd peter 3:9, "The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance." This Scripture clearly reveals that it is possible for ALL men to repent. God is NOT willing for any to perish. If Calvinism is correct, then how can you reconcile God's desire for all men to repent if He only predestinates certain of them to salvation? Calvinism makes no sense at all.

Actually it’s Stewart that doesn’t make sense, and he clearly hasn’t bothered to actually learn anything substantive about Calvinism apart from the boogey-man stories he seems to have been taught by his vain traditions of men religion. Stewart demonstrates that he doesn’t bother to study and show himself approved by utterly failing to note the context in which “the whole world” and similar verses he points toward are used. In their original contexts they are used to explain to the ethnically Jewish Christians who comprised most of the early church that salvation had come to the Gentiles (the world) as opposed to being limited strictly to the children of Israel, who were theretofore God’s only and unique covenant people.

Additionally Stewart’s theology is shown to be absolutely wretched because if the atonement is universal - as he claims - then it necessarily follows that salvation must be universal as well. This is because Christ’s shed blood is a 100% effective propitiation for sin, meaning all those for whom His blood was shed will be saved. Therefore if He died for everyone in general and no one in particular then everyone in general must be saved or else the Father is made to be a liar, casting men into hell for whom Christ died. This also makes the church, the bride of Christ, an absurdity because it means Christ didn’t have a specific group (the church) in mind when He gave His life as a ransom for many. Since Christ was and is omniscient God, and since according to Stewart Christ had the whole world in mind as recipients of His blood sacrifice, and if the Father then doesn’t draw all men to Jesus, resulting in some of them being lost and cast into hell, then based on Stewart’s theology Christ’s suffering and death on the cross was a failure of cosmic proportions! If Stewart is correct then it means some of those “world in general” types Jesus had in view on the cross will not be saved meaning He will have failed to accomplish His redemptive task. And he says Calvinism makes no sense?

The truth is that unless he espouses the heresy of universalism then Stewart himself must believe in a limited atonement; that atonement being limited to those within the professing church. In this case a limited atonement must be in view for every professing Christian, the scope of that limitation being the only point in dispute.

Stewart says: Furthermore, God never forces anyone to be saved. Not one instance in the Word of God is found where God forced anyone to get saved. Again, Titus 2:11 declares that the grace of God that brings salvation appears to ALL humanity. Psalm 19:1-3 clearly teaches that nature itself testifies of the goodness of God. Romans 1:20 teaches that God's eternal power and Godhead are CLEARLY presented in God's creation. Therefore, all men are without excuse. The Door of salvation is open to all, and that Door is Jesus Christ. Anyone may enter, but God will NOT force a man to be saved. Calvin taught heresy. Jesus clearly exposes the lie of irresistible grace when he said in John 5:40, "And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life." Jesus said, "ye WILL NOT"; He didn't say, "ye CANNOT!"

I respond: Again Calvinists affirm that God doesn’t force anyone to be saved. This is because no one naturally desires salvation or the things of God. Men naturally loathe and reject anything to do with God because they’re desperately wicked and self-righteous desiring to be gods themselves. It’s only by the effective regenerating power of the Holy Spirit on the elect that empowers them to approach God and become recipients of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone. It’s not as if God is withholding something from men that they desire, no one naturally desires Him apart from His effectual drawing. This is why Jesus could rightly claim that men will not come to him, because they WON’T (will not). Men WILL NOT “self-will” themselves to come to God, because only God can will them to come to Himself. Clearly by implication and simple inference we can see that if men will not come to God of their own accord apart from God drawing them to Himself, then it follows that they CANNOT come to Him apart from His drawing either.

Sadly David Stewart's article was so filled with shameful exegesis, blatant errors, gross distortions, and outright falsehoods that it would take days to point out and refute them all. Given the examples above I believe I've offered sufficient scriptural evidence to refute David Stewart's error riddled man-centered theology, therefore I’m going to leave off by simply asking anyone who happens to follow the link to the original article to take a discerning look at David Stewart’s home page and carefully consider the totality of his online "ministry" in the light of the manifold errors contained in the poor offering we've covered today.