Thursday, April 25, 2013

A Critique of the Theology of Paul Washer

Here's the program.

On today's program I reviewed clips from sermons by Calvinistic baptist preacher Paul Washer. I discussed why I believe his theology to be dangerous.



Here is the message of his that I referenced which I referred to as preparationist.

30 comments:

Steve Martin said...

Forgive me, Lord, but I cannot even stand the sight of him.

He is expert at using that despicable technique of 'emotional blackmail'.

He's a cry baby with a Southern Baptist/Calvinist theology that just destroys people's assurance and sends them headlong back into themselves. it's downright demonic.

J. Dean said...

Steve's right about this one. Washer-while he does address real problems, as you said, Jordan-runs back to self for assurance. Not once in those bytes did I hear "look to Christ and His work."

But this is the issue I'm seeing with Reformed theology: at times it can be schizophrenic. On the one hand, it will say "look to Christ" but then it will turn around and undermine that Christocentric view by saying "look to your works as evidence."

The irony is that one would think Calvinism would be more assuring with its doctrine of eternal security, and yet Lutheranism, which does not teach eternal security, actually has a better assurance.

Anonymous said...

Help me out here: how does Lutheranism have an assurance greater than the perseverance of the saints?

Lutherans feel they can lose their salvation, right? So how does a Lutheran NOT go back into themselves, always questioning whether they really, really believe and are of the elect?

The Lutheran confessions DO state that God's elect will persevere to the end.

So it seems as though Lutherans are also little 'schizophrenic'. Either God hold his elect, or the believer has 'the choice' to fall away from the faith.

Now, Washer may not be your cuppa, but to call him demonic is hardly charitable. He is a brother in Christ, mistaken though he may be in his delivery, technique, whatever.

Anonymous said...

Also, if God has grabbed you and your life isn't changing, well, you might want to make 'your election sure', eh?

2Peter1" 4For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.5Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge,6and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness,7and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love.8For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.9For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins.10Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble;11for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you."

J. Dean said...

Anonymous,

The difference is that Calvinists undermine the assurance of salvation by an overemphasis on looking to one's own works for assurance--Granted, not all of them do this (Tullian Tchvidijan is a notable exception to this, and a breath of fresh air in the Reformed community!), but many do. The danger in doing this is that the only acceptable works before God are either 1.) perfect works done from a sinless person (which not a single one of us can claim) or 2.) imperfect works done by one trusting in Jesus Christ and His work on the cross for our salvation.

While a Calvinist will pay lip service to #2, they will undermine this by an overemphasis on obedience and the third use of the law in a manner that is too close to works-righteousness for comfort. On the other hand, Lutheranism says "Yes, do good works, but your assurance is in Christ and His work, not in how spiritual you may feel, or whether or not you 'really ' believe (I've never really liked that one), or in whether or not you're being good enough and seeing any measurable growth, because you'll always have sin mixed with the good you do in some way, shape, or form." The Calvinist might agree with that statement in theory, but they hesitate to say so because they don't want to be perceived as being Antinomian, and unfortunately as a result they will fall into the other extreme of navel gazing and a shift in trust from Christ to "Am I being good enough?".



Anonymous said...

"Lutherans feel they can lose their salvation, right? So how does a Lutheran NOT go back into themselves, always questioning whether they really, really believe and are of the elect?"

It is infinitely more reassuring that God's promises are always true and always FOR ME, having been placed on me objectively-- while believing the scriptural truth that I can shipwreck my faith through persistent unrepentance-- than it is to believe that God won't let any "real" believers stop believing, but you can never really tell if you're one of those "real believers." It is plain and obvious that better people than you or I once believed fervently in Christ, had the works to show it, believed their motives were true, the whole nine yards... but died as unbelievers. Small children who sang of God's love and of the cross, who trusted Jesus with a purer faith than we could see in ourselves today... many will die as unbelievers. How is it more assuring to believe that those precious little ones were deceiving themselves by thinking that Jesus really loved him when he never did?

Steve Martin said...

We look to the external Word, which includes the sacraments, for the assurance of our salvation. Totally apart from anything that we do, say, feel, or think.

We don't place our faith in our faith. But rather we place our faith (trust) in what the Lord has done for us. And Baptism and the Lord's Supper are two places (along with the preached and read and taught Word) where God acts in real time in a concrete tangible way, to bring the cross of Christ to bear in our personal history.

Bruce Zittlow said...

As long as Calvinism trifles with the L (limited atonement)it will be forced outside of scripture for assurance. And what is Calvinism without the L? It's almost Lutheranism. But Calvinists will not do without the L, and so they must look inward for fruits of faith, etc., to know that Jesus loves thm in the first place. Imagine looking at your own works to discover whether Jesus died for you. Doesn't that make Christ's death for you contingent upon you? It's an impossible scenario.

David Gray said...

As long as Calvinism trifles with the L (limited atonement)it will be forced outside of scripture for assurance.

The "L" as you term it is interpreted in some fairly wide ranging fashions and while what you say is true for some interpretations it isn't true for all. I don't see any conflict between recognizing that Christ died for the elect and assurance. If you dwell in overt and unrepentant sin you should be concerned. But if you are struggling with assurance look up to Christ, on the cross and risen, not in towards yourself.

Steve Bricker said...

I got a chance to listen to the critique today. Your evaluation is helps me to understand what did not set right after listening to that popular YouTube message and then a couple others.

terriergal said...

I appreciate Jordan's respectful handling of Washer. I think Washer is one of the good guys. His emotional approach is troublesome, definitely. But I don't think calling him a 'crybaby' is helpful to the discussion at all, nor does it speak anything positive about the attitude of the one using that term.

Paul Washer may be in error but he isn't the enemy.

terriergal said...

"We look to the external Word, which includes the sacraments, for the assurance of our salvation. Totally apart from anything that we do, say, feel, or think."

Except if you engage in that mortal sin long enough...

This is the one thing I don't understand about Lutheranism... and yet it ties back to a Lutheran understanding of Baptism too, and so I still feel torn between the two (Lutheran and Reformed)

Jordan Cooper said...

terriergal- You are not alone in feeling "stuck" between the two Reformation traditions. A lot of my readers feel the same way. They like Lutheran sacramental theology, but are still convinced of TULIP. Ultimately though, the two ideas are incompatible.

Anonymous said...

"He's a cry baby with a Southern Baptist/Calvinist theology that just destroys people's assurance and sends them headlong back into themselves. it's downright demonic."

He's not a crybaby, I believe you call that sensitivity to conviction and sin. Spurgeon said preach like a dying man to a dying world and I think those are very wise words. I have wept sharing the gospel because of the utmost supremacy it demands. How can you not get emotional when you come to the realization that you will stand before a righteous God and give an account for how you shepherded His sheep and presented His precious Son to a hell bound world? I believe Paul Washer knows what reverence and fear of The Lord is about. If Paul Washer destroys your assurance what does that tell you? His call is just the same as Paul's in 2 Corinthians to "examine yourself". If your assurance is destroyed over a Paul Washer sermon son you better get off of this blog and go before The Lord instead of calling a brother in Christ demonic. That is very dangerous ground. Paul Washer is not demonic he is a very biblical man brought very low and humble. He knows His place before a righteous and just God who does not need him for anything but graciously uses him for Christ's glory. Don't let yourself believe Christianity is about you. The only thing you're called to do is die. Pick up your cross, crucify yourself and follow Him. Christ didn't tell the rich young ruler yea man keep all your stuff and pursue your kingdom and you can still follow me. Other than defending a brother in Christ, I don't have anything else to say. Don't get caught up in the folly of doctrines tossed to and fro like James says. Go be alone with Christ if you want to know Him.

Anonymous said...

"They like Lutheran sacramental theology, but are still convinced of TULIP. Ultimately though, the two ideas are incompatible."

Not at all. Just take the best parts of both ideas, and there you have it.
1) Real presence in a heavenly, spiritual, supernatural sense.
2) Baptism into the visible church, regeneration only of the elect.
3)Church year, not RPW.
4)OF course the atonement only works forgiveness to the elect. But everyone MAY come, if they will.

Seriously, a synthesis of the two is probably the wisest place to be.
I worship in a Lutheran body, but am just as much a Presbyterian.

DavidC said...

I am with some of these posters that labeling Mr. Washer demonic is extreme.

That said, he does lean towards a regeneration-is-the-gospel view. Whether he is right or wrong in doing so I can't say.

christian said...

I've been blessed and leared much from paul washer. I was a nominal christian and was powerfully converted after listening his sermons. God makes a covenant with every true child of God. God promises to do certain things for those whom He has chosen. this is the number one problem I have with lutheranism, In jer 32, God says in the New covenant that "He will put the fear of Him into His peoples hearts so that they will not turn away from Him" how on earth can one loose their salvation? God promises that he will not let His elect leave Him! and he has guarenteed that through the new covenant. (Jer 31/32)all paul washer is saying is, "this is what God promises He's going to do, is it a reality in your life? b/c if it isnt that either God is a liar or you are! which one is it?

christian said...

even luther himself speaks about not only looking to Christ for assurance but also looking to your own fruits to see if your faith is genuine!

Lauren C said...

I've recently finished a book that is a wonderful explanation of grace and God's working in and thru us, instead of a performance based concept, which Im afraid Washer may dabble in at times, it's calle 'Good News for Those Trying HARder" By Alan Kraft, it is fantastic and shows how following Jesus is a heart-change and not a check list, and how our motives show us our sin nature and how God's spirit can and will change us, not based on some fead-based thing, but on His kindness and mercy, its just my top ten books of all time now!!!

Lauren C said...

I just finished a book called "Good News For THose Trying HArder" by Alan Kraft and it answered so many of these topics on why we serve God, now his grace changes us not some fear-based topic like what I think Ive heard from Washer, though I want to give him the benefit of the doubt b/c I dont truly know his teaching, but it worries me from what Ive heard so far, but anyway, this book was just great, and I recommend it!!

Ken said...

Luther Wanted to remove the book of James, and Lutherans unfortunately by practice do so today.

James 2 teaches us that we see the evidence of faith by the deeds done. The Works don't save us, but they show that we are saved ( cf. Eph 2:10, 1 John 1:10; 2:4,19 ).

Moreover, Washer accurately teaches the Reformed Position and effectly preaches limited atonement which is biblical.

Sin is legal problem since sin is breaking the law of God. 1 John 3:4, “sin is lawlessness.” It is not only a legal problem. But it is a legal problem because the law deals with what is legal.
Matt. 6:12, ‘And forgive us our debts (opheilema), as we also have forgiven our debtors.” The parallel in Luke 11:4 says, “And forgive us our sins (hamartia)…”
Would you agree that we need a legal solution? Namely, a legal, lawful sacrifice on the cross that deals with our sin?
Jesus was made under the Law, Gal. 4:4 and he never sinned, 1 Pet. 2:22.
So, Jesus’ sacrifice had to be legally correct (according to O.T. Law), proper, and sufficient in order to deal with the legal problem of breaking the law which is sin.
On Matt. 5:17, “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish, but to fulfill.”
Lev. 17:11, “‘For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you on the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood by reason of the life that makes atonement.’”
Deut. 17:1 “You shall not sacrifice to the Lord your God an ox or a sheep which has a blemish or any defect, for that is a detestable thing to the Lord your God.”
John 19:36, “For these things came to pass, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, ‘Not a bone of Him shall be broken.’” (Exodus 24:36)
Luke 22:44, “Now He said to them, “These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.”
Heb. 10:8, “After saying above, “Sacrifices and offerings and whole burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin Thou hast not desired, nor hast Thou taken pleasure in them” (which are offered according to the Law),
John 19:30 – “It is finished”, tetelestai, which has been found at the bottom of ancient tax documents signifying a legal debt had been paid in full.
Col. 2:14, “[Jesus] having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us and which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross,” (Col. 2:14).
Matt. 6:12, ‘And forgive us our debts (opheilema), as we also have forgiven our debtors.” The parallel in Luke 11:4 says, “And forgive us our sins (hamartia)…”
Yes, we must believe in the sacrifice…
Jesus cancelled out the sin debt – on the cross “[Jesus] having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us and which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross,” (Col. 2:14).
If Jesus cancelled out the sin debt for everyone who ever lived, ON THE CROSS, then how can people go to hell when their sin debt has been removed?
If a person’s sins are cancelled/removed and he also go to hell, then that means that God is unrighteous because he is punishing a person whose sins have been removed by His own sacrifice. The only thing they can do here is either deny the legal, substitutionary, atonement or adopt irrationality as their defense.
If Jesus took away the sin of the world (everyone who ever lived), then that necessitates universalism since EVERYONE has had their sins removed. This means NO sins can be held against anyone – OR THEIR SINS HAVE NOT BEEN REMOVED!

Lucy Jack said...

If Paul Washer is a true Calvinist (believer in infralapsarianism or supralapsarianism), then he should stop crying and beating his breast, for NOTHING he says or does will be able to change anyone's eternal destiny. I believe that he is wrong. The predestination that the Bible talks about is predestination to be conformed to the image of Christ for all those who will believe.

Lucy Jack said...

If Washer is a Calvinist (believer in infralapsarianism or supralapsarianism), he should stop crying and beating his breast. Why? Because if he is correct, then NOTHING can ever change a man's eternal destiny. Nothing he can say or do will ever change a single soul's salvation. Now, I don't believe in infra/supralapsarianism. I believe that the predestination spoken of in the Bible is the predestination to be conformed to the image of Christ for each one of us who chooses to follow Christ.

David Gray said...

I believe that the predestination spoken of in the Bible is the predestination to be conformed to the image of Christ for each one of us who chooses to follow Christ.

I prefer the consensus of the Reformation, Lutheran and Reformed alike.

R9 said...

I am a Calvinist. I have heard quite a few sermons of Washer's. Though I think there is truth in the idea of examining yourself (it is scriptural), I think he takes it too far, in the sense that there is even a hint, I believe (but could be wrong) of sinless perfectionism...I also find his tone of near tears and high emotional pleading to be unrealistic and manipulative - having said this, I can't see the man's heart, so I take what I say with a grain of salt...I don't want to judge his heart. I do like a few things that he says...but his style or means of communicating it can be damaging to Christians - especially new Christians.
I can say that Calvinism here has been blamed for some things that it doesn't do...in other words, they disagree with his style, then lambast it along with Calvinism, when Calvinism has nothing to do with what the problem you have with him.

Anonymous said...

The fact is that Paul Washer in April 2013 was speaker at a conference in a roman catholic monastery in Italy where during working days 2 times a day the mass is celebrated. All the Calvinists from the past called the pope of Rome THE antichrist and the RC the church of THE antichrist. Paul Washer as a public teacher in 2013, after 20 years work in roman catholic Peru, has no problem with preaching in a roman catholic monastery.
At the end of 2013 Paul Washer will speak at the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton Ilinois. Thereby after 11 years confirming that he still considers Billy Graham a true teacher. It is Billy Graham who brought the message on decisions, it is Billy Graham who is a friend of the pope (aka THE antichrist according to the most well known Calvinists of the past).
Paul Washer is no Calvinist, he is deluded because he can combine things that cannot be combined.

Anonymous said...

In the mp3, Jordan Cooper asked for the source in which Paul Washer related the story of the elderly dying man whom he evangelized. If I'm not mistaken, that is told in Paul Washer's sermon, "Ten Indictments Against the Modern Church." I don't have a link, but a Google search should turn it up pretty quickly.

Anonymous said...

Here's a link to a video on Youtube in which Paul Washer shares the story of the elderly man whom he evangelized: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oul-9fbp1Ak. The story starts around 1:02:50. This may precede the similar message linked to above.

Anonymous said...

Many of you would do well to learn more of what Paul Washer teaches before picking out things here and there that seem wrong on the surface. When Washer speaks of examining yourself to see if you are in the faith, he is doing it after he reads scripture which say the same thing. So your problem isn't with Washer but the scriptures. Many times Washer has stated that he isn't talking about sinless perfection, but a "style of life". Meaning if you are living a life of sin and that doesn't bother you then you need to examine yourself. These are the same things the scriptures teach. If some of you would do more listening to Washer instead of posting about him, you might understand the context in which certain phrases are used. As far as his emotion? Some of you are acting like he is a fake like Joel Osteen. Washer is alltogether different and just because most pastors preach with no passion(leaving us to only guess if they believe what they are saying or not) doesn't mean we need to criticize Washer for having passion. Is John Piper fake too? Maybe you should start questioning your pastors if they don't have passion. Maybe you should start questioning yourselves if you don't want to see passion or don't have passion yourself...

Dave138 said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you for this podcast! You've put into words much of what disturbed me about the new Calvinists and their Puritan predecessors. The combination of the Calvinist doctrine of election with the need for a Baptistic conversion experience is particularly terrifying. It seems to almost be a standard trope in the conversion narratives of many New Calvinists that they, at one time, thought they were saved, but weren't really. They had called out to God at an early point in their life, but apparently weren't sincere enough or God just wasn't ready to pick them yet, so they continued as false Christians until their dramatic conversion experience. How terrifying. By this logic, any one of us could be fooling ourselves right now, sine the New Calvinist telling the conversion narrative also thought he or she was saved. And, as for looking to ourselves, I found your comments quite insightful about Luther noting that, as we grow in grace and in our Christian walk, we will actually become MORE aware of our own sinfulness. Looking at ourselves, we should always sound more like the Publican than the Pharisee, and, if we don't, THEN we have something to worry about.