Subversive preaching: “Examine yourself”

A friend on Facebook posted the video above which gave rise to the following conversation:

Me:

I find such sermons where the underlying premise is “though you think you are saved, you MAY not be” to be absolutely deplorable and ultimately severely spiritually damaging. May God have mercy on all preachers who think they are doing any good in preaching such sermons and may God also fortify those unfortunate enough to sit through such horrible sermons to either ignore them or be strengthened enough to withstand the undue and needless spiritual consternation they cause.

What amuses me in all of this, though, is that such sermons are often preached by Calvinists, who also purport to hold to “once saved always saved”. Assurance of salvation indeed!

They:

Wes…..there is an epidemic of easy-believism in this country. Just say a quick prayer and bam, you are saved. Man cannot declare someone’s salvation, only God can do that. Unfortanetly, this is the way of the world. You are right, for the false convert, sitting through such a sermon must be “absolutely deplorable”. Wes, the Truth is not meant for comfort and to make one “feel good”. It is God’s Truth, and just because it may make someone feel it is “absolutely deplorable” does not change anything. Yes, once saved, always saved, but you actually have to be saved to claim this. As many who think they are, are not.

Me:

The point is that it has nothing to do with feelings in the first place. Sure, there is easy-believism in the form of making people feel good about themselves, but on the opposite end of the spectrum you have the preachers like Paul Washer who seem to think people should be emotional train-wrecks 24/7 and never content with their life or their walk with Christ.

The bottom line is if someone accepts the simple message of Christ’s life, death, and atonement for their sins per 1 Corinthians 15 then they are saved and can know it with certainty. Period. End of story. Any further preaching whose aim is primarily to introduce doubt in their lives as to their salvation is, quite simply, wrong (and quite possibly demonic). Now, we may want to more clearly define what it means to believe in the first place (and that is not merely mental acknowledgement/affirmation of a set of propositions) but we by no means need to preach sermons where we may inadvertently destroy someone’s faith because we are hell-bent on removing the tares from the wheat.

Also, “easy-believism ” is not really a problem. Failure to understand what one is believing/committing to is.

The Gospel is simple and easily to believe (with the drawing and assistance of the Holy Spirit that is) and it would be wrong for us to start throwing in additional unnecessary barriers to belief (beyond the limited and simple ones Jesus Himself established).

The problem is not that people are readily believing what is preached. The problem is that what is preached is not an entirely accurate portrayal of what it means to be a Christian.

They:

Actually Wes thats not how it works. What you just stated is in fact the false gospel that is damning many to hell. You cant just simply “believe” and be saved. There is no way I can detail this in a fb comment, but simply yes you must believe the gospel BUT then you must beg God to grant you repentance and salvation and IF you get saved you receive the Holy Spirit and are regenerated. Then you are called into a life of pursuing Holiness and Christ like charactor i.e. a covenant with God to keep his law. No one can not by any means earn salvation through works but good fruit or works is evidence of true salvation and the only proof. Washer preaches the way he does because the majority of this country are deceived and not saved. The TRUE Saints rejoice and delight in reproof and his teaching, if it bothers you maybe it is because one doesnt have the Holy Spirit therefore is not a child of God and doesnt appreciate the discipline of God.

Me:

God does not grant us repentance.

We repent before God. We may be drawn and aided by the inner working of the holy spirit, but to say that God “grants us repentance” is to destroy what repentance, by definition, is.

But you do elucidate one of the biggest problems we face here and that is not that people believe the Gospel but that the gospel is being changed (either knowingly or unknowingly) by Calvinists such as Washer through their understanding of election into “if you are elect, then God will change you, otherwise you are one of the reprobate and therefore screwed from all eternity”. Unfortunately such a gospel is really no gospel at all (and not really worth preaching either since it neither provides hope nor is it anything anyone can do anything about).

What is truly sad in all of this is that in an effort to preserve a man-made theological system we are quite wiling to do mortal damage to the faith of our brothers.

At this point my salvation was questioned. A tactic I’ve come to discover is par for the course, especially when debating with hyper-Calvinists.

They:

Wes….I’m not saying anything of the sort. Only God knows your heart, but everything you speak of screams “easy-believism”. If I offended you I am sorry, that was not my intent. I cannot believe anyone who is truly saved can speak of Paul Washer in the tone that you do. I’m done responding Wes. Again I am sorry if I offended you, but I can speak of no other but the truth. Please, if you cannot tolerate what I post here on fb, please delete me. For it will not offend me in any way shape or form.

Me:

I hate to take a short detour from the present thread’s topic to address this for a second:
“I cannot believe anyone who is truly saved can speak of Paul Washer in the tone that you do.”

That smacks of “I am of Paul”. Brother, that is a VERY dangerous and spiritually damaging road to walk down. I don’t think Paul Washer has absolutely nothing good to say, he does. But neither do I think he is right in regards to everything he says or does or, and more importantly, is he above reproach. Remember, the Bereans were commended for following up on Paul, the least we can do is the same for anyone who purports to be a teacher.

Back to this whole mythical specter of “easy believe-ism”. I simply don’t see it. The message of the Bible is clear, concise, and accessible by all. The fact that we reject it is only an indication of our hard hearts, but the present conversation has NOTHING to do with order salutis. Even though we are from different sides of the theological fence we ought to be able to agree that after one is saved they are, indeed, saved. In that respect, and based on the testimony of Paul’s wife above, I find absolutely no biblical reason to say that she was not saved before her emotional breakdown some many years later. Further, I would cite the emphasis on emotion in this case is actually what is detrimental to a person’s spiritual well-being. And it is quite likely what exacerbated the issue in question far more than any lostness (mostly because the lostness was merely a perceived one and not due to any objective Biblical definition of lostness).

So for offending/hurting anyone’s feelings. Brother, I simply don’t understand what you are talking about. Just because I disagree with you does not have any bearing on my emotional state. Further, my emotional state has no bearing on the facts or what needs to be said or expressed. What you seem to be alluding to smacks of some sort of hyper-sensitivity that I do not possess. And hopefully you don’t either. So if it is all the same to you, why don;t we agree to stay on topic, discussing it in a Christ-like fashion, and forgo worrying about eachother’s feelings?

They:

Wes, why do you think you are a Christian?

From here the conversation turns to be about me rather than the initial topic. This is, as I noted above, a common tactic popular among Reformed adherents. But it also serves to elucidate the subversive nature of this vein of teaching.

Where does it come from? Both Augustine and Calvin taught a view of the church where, in their view, there existed a global visible church and a local invisible church. Under this view all local congregations contained both reprobate as well as elect persons. It is from this view that men like Paul Washer either knowingly or unknowingly subvert the faith of millions by constantly calling into question their salvation.

By contrast, the Bible teaches us that we can be certain of our salvation.

These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God. -1 John 5:13

Let no one, including (and especially) preachers, tell you differently.

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4 responses to “Subversive preaching: “Examine yourself”

  1. Wes
    Two things:
    1) How can you say "Examine yourself" is subversive? How do you reconcile this to what Paul says in 2 Corinthians 13, Peter says in 2 Peter 1, or Jesus says in Matthew 7?
    2) You say that God does not grant repentance. How do you reconcile that statement with 2 Timothy 2:25?

    By the way. I found your blog because I saw you were speaking at Perimeter Church this Thursday. My roommate and I are planning on attending because of the topic you're addressing. We're looking forward to it.

  2. Are you a universalist? You sound like one. Now, I don't know what Reformed theology is nor do I care. I know what Scripture says, though. Matt. 7:21-23 is counteractive to your thought process here. That passage aggressively challenges the faith of those who profess to be Christians. We may think because we prayed a prayer, feel happy about Jesus, follow all the moralisms in Scripture, and even prophesy or cast out demons that we are Christian. NONE of that is really assurance. Assurance comes from the Lord. Washer is merely challenging those who profess Christ to examine deeper. Humble themselves before the Lord.

    You seem almost spiteful and hateful and angry. Chill out.

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