Multi-Apostolic Defense of Paul Washer

I had written: “This objector’s works-salvation is showing itself: note how this objector indicates that God makes a first move and then it is man that fails or succeeds. That is a great definition of works-salvation. It is to be contrasted with a salvation in which God is both the author (first mover) and finisher (last mover) of our faith.” (link)

A kind reader, styling himself “Another Anonymous in America” has provided a response to this comment of mine. His response is as follows:

Calvinism has a works-salvation as well, even though it is concealed. For example, consider the sermons of Paul Washer. More than anyone else in the calvinistic movement, he emphasizes what he calls the signs of a genuine conversion by means of a very suspicious works-oriented self-introspection. “If God has started a work in you, then he will continue it.” How will He continue this work? By your works . In the final analysis, calvinistic “sanctification” boils down to the real payment of what was first handed over as a “free gift of grace”. How does a believer know that he is a believer? Because of his works. And there is much talk about the Perseverance of Saints. How do they persevere? Well, by persevering on their own!
How does calvinistic sanctification work? By their own subjective judgmental opinions. Where is the line between “sheep” and “goats”? Well, again a matter of subjective, personal guess work, personal attitude and opinion. So the only “salvation” in calvinism is ultimately not without works on the part of the recipient of God’s grace. While I know that Calvinists vehemently deny this conclusion, I haven’t seen anyone clearing up what the significant difference between a “true conversion” and a “counterfeit conversion” is supposed to be. Folks like Washer do not contribute any more clarity here but promote the idea of salvation by works more and more in the reformed minds.

(all errors and emphases in original)

I’ll go line-by-line, responding to these allegations.

A) “Calvinism has a works-salvation as well, even though it is concealed.”

No, that’s not the case. Calvinism is the pure gospel of salvation by grace alone.

B) “For example, consider the sermons of Paul Washer.”

I have considered a number of them. Although Washer does not tend to call himself a Calvinist (for his own reasons), his sermons tend to be quite Calvinistic.

C) “More than anyone else in the calvinistic movement, he emphasizes what he calls the signs of a genuine conversion by means of a very suspicious works-oriented self-introspection.”

Washer’s apparent emphasis on introspection is likely the result of so-called “easy believism” that suggests people should focus their attention on a decision they made, or on their holding to a certain collection of doctrines. Washer is quite right to call people to make sure that they really have been converted, as opposed to recklessly assuming.

D) “‘If God has started a work in you, then he will continue it.'”

That’s quite right. Scripture says so:

Philippians 1:6 Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:

E) “How will He continue this work? By your works.”

This is not quite an accurate characterization. One’s works are the evidence of God’s working in a person. It is not that God continues the process of sanctification by our works, but that our works are the fruit, or evidence, of the Spirit working in our lives. They are the result of a changed heart that loves God rather than ourselves.

F) “In the final analysis, calvinistic “sanctification” boils down to the real payment of what was first handed over as a “free gift of grace”.”

No, that’s not an accurate picture. Our works can be thought to be a payment of a debt to God, in the sense of a debt of gratitude. They cannot, however, in any way contribute to our salvation. Nevertheless, they are not worthless to us, because they demonstrate to us that God is working in our lives. The works that we do show that the faith that we have is a lively and true faith, as opposed to a dead and false faith.

G) “And there is much talk about the Perseverance of Saints. How do they persevere? Well, by persevering on their own!”

That’s neither the Biblical nor the Calvinistic teaching on this subject. The Saints do persevere, but not on their own. God is described this way:

Jude 1:24 Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy …

Unless one thinks that this is just a trivial recitation of an ability God doesn’t use, the point is not just that God can keep us from falling, but that he does use this power. Why? Because he loves us.

H) “How does calvinistic sanctification work? By their own subjective judgmental opinions.”

This is rather odd and inaccurate. Sanctification is the work of God’s free grace, whereby we are renewed in the whole man after the image of God, and are enabled more and more to die unto sin, and live unto righteousness. That is how it is expressed in the very Calvinistic Westminster Shorter Catechism.

The Larger Catechism spells it out even more fully: Sanctification is a work of God’s grace, whereby they whom God has, before the foundation of the world, chosen to be holy, are in time, through the powerful operation of his Spirit applying the death and resurrection of Christ unto them, renewed in their whole man after the image of God; having the seeds of repentance unto life, and all other saving graces, put into their hearts, and those graces so stirred up, increased, and strengthened, as that they more and more die unto sin, and rise unto newness of life.

That’s the Calvinist and Biblical position, not that we are sanctified by our own judgmental opinions.

I) “Where is the line between “sheep” and “goats”? Well, again a matter of subjective, personal guess work, personal attitude and opinion.”

No. The line between “sheep” and “goats” is a line drawn by God, not by man. Nevertheless, we are told:

2 Peter 1:10-11
10 Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall: 11 For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

We need to worry about believing on the Son of God. The way to test our faith is by our works. Thus, Jesus said:

Matthew 7:20 Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.

Why? Because the fruits show the person’s nature.

J) “So the only “salvation” in calvinism is ultimately not without works on the part of the recipient of God’s grace.”

A saved person will not be without works, but it is not those works that save them. Works show us that faith is real and living. Thus, James explains:

James 2:17-24
17 Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. 18 Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. 19 Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. 20 But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? 22 Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? 23 And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God. 24 Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.

K) “While I know that Calvinists vehemently deny this conclusion, I haven’t seen anyone clearing up what the significant difference between a “true conversion” and a “counterfeit conversion” is supposed to be.”

I am sorry that no one has explained it to you before. Hopefully this explanation is helping. A counterfeit conversion is when someone is not truly changed in their heart, by God. It is when someone does not have true faith in the Son of God. A person with a counterfeit conversion has dead faith: his life does not bear fruit of the work of the Spirit. Such a person should be afraid for their soul – they should turn to God in repentance and cast themselves on the mercy of God in faith, trusting in the sacrifice of Christ on the cross.

L) “Folks like Washer do not contribute any more clarity here but promote the idea of salvation by works more and more in the reformed minds.”

I certainly haven’t heard absolutely everything that Washer has preached, but I haven’t seen any evidence from the videos I have seen to think that this claim about him is true. Perhaps some more explanation in certain areas would be helpful, and clarity is always a good thing. Nevertheless, I am comfortable that what I have heard Washer preach is the testimony of Jesus himself and of his apostles: Paul, Peter, and James. It is the doctrine of Scripture and the faith of Abraham.

-TurretinFan

6 Responses to “Multi-Apostolic Defense of Paul Washer”

  1. TheoJunkie Says:

    Good post. It appears that the anonymous reader is confounding (or perhaps is confused by) the difference between “Salvation” and “Assurance of Salvation”.Works-based salvation says: If you do X, it demonstrates to God that He should save you.Grace-based salvation says: If you do X, it demonstrates to Man that God has saved you.

  2. Turretinfan Says:

    Agreed!

  3. Anonymous Says:

    TJ and TF,I happened to note that someone picked up a comment of mine. :-)If you do X, it demonstrates to God that He should save you.If you do X, it demonstrates to Man that God has saved you.And what if you do not do X?GreetingsAnother Anonymous On American Ground

  4. Turretinfan Says:

    If you do not do X, that too shows your heart. Whatever you do, shows your heart. It shows your heart to man, including yourself.It’s not infallible, but it can be helpful.For example, if you do not go to church or help your needy relatives, that says something about the state of your heart.It says something to man. God does not save you based on how good you are – God saves people despite how bad they are.-TurretinFan

  5. TheoJunkie Says:

    Also, “if you do not do X”, while man may learn something about your heart, it demonstrates nothing to God about your heart. Because God knows your heart already, he does not need your works to tell him what’s going on. (Not to mention, “it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” — Philippians 2)So, “doing X” or “not doing X” changes nothing about (has no impact on) your salvation itself.This is what Paul means when he speaks of “the one who does not work” in Romans 4…. and this also is why Paul is not in conflict with James’ 2nd chapter. Paul was speaking of salvation itself… while James (in chapter 2) was speaking how man may discern the truth of someone’s claim of salvation.So, salvation is by grace through faith apart from works. Yet works are the evidence of salvation that is by grace through faith.

  6. Turretinfan Says:

    TJ,I’d tweak your comment slightly. Sometimes our works, such as prayer and fasting, demonstrate something to God. Not that he needed those things to know our heart. Nevertheless, He is a God that sees and understands.We can fool men with our deeds. We cannot fool God.Finally, God saves despite what we do, not because of what we do.-TurretinFan

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