HOW I FOUND OUT JOHN PEDERSEN'S TRUE COLORS: A CORRESPONDENCE HISTORY

Here is Pedersen's letter to me regarding the Gordon Clark quotes (Pedersen's words in red, Clark's words in green):

Dear Marc,

My brief comments are below, in [brackets]

I believe he really did some good.

[I believe his (Billy Sunday's) confession and preaching was the heart of darkness, insidious evil-- it was Arminianism]

Maybe the couple who put away their liquor were actually converted by means of Sunday's sermons.

[And quite possibly they became the more children of hell by means of Sunday's sermons.]

Now it was a bit strange that this gentleman should have requested this hymn and should have sung it with such praise and devotion. For he did not like Calvinism; all his life he had been an Arminian; he did not believe in 'eternal security,' as he called it; and he had been telling his friends so for years. Even now he would have disowned the name of Calvinism.

[In other words, he was a believer in the false doctrine of human sovereignty which is antithetical to the biblical gospel]

But could it be that without realizing it he had now come to believe, and that his earlier Arminian views had changed with the color of his hair?

[No. It could not be.]

It is strange that this lovely Arminian saint could become at least somewhat of a Calvinist without knowing it,

[Here, he clearly believes that Arminians (self conscious, doctrinaire Arminians) are true saints.]

it is far more strange that anyone who bases his faith on the firm foundation of God's Word could ever be an Arminian.

[No. It is impossible.]

The Scripture verses are too numerous to mention.

[cut]

God does not contradict himself.

[Which is why no confessing Arminian can be a believer in the Christ of Scripture.]

But Arminian saints do.

[No. They are condemned, unless they repent and believe on the true Christ.]

They may be grand old men, loved by all who know them. But not until the message of the Bible persuades them of God's sovereign, unchangeable love, can they really sing,

"The soul, though all Hell should endeavour to shake,

I'll never, no, never, no never forsake."

[When were these remarks written? Did Clark ever indicate this viewpoint anywhere else?]


My reply (with Pedersen's reply to my reply in brackets):

At 10:15 PM 8/22/98 -0000, John Pedersen wrote:

<<When were these remarks written? Did Clark ever indicate this viewpoint anywhere else?>>

I'm trying to find that out. Hopefully, John Robbins will be helpful. However, even if he did write these remarks earlier on before he was saved, why in the world would Robbins want to republish them?

[Perhaps Robbins was not aware of them.]

Also, does one ever use the term "saint" in a way that means something other than "true believer"?

[I am convinced by the way Clark characterized the person he was describing that he regarded him as a true believer.]

Marc


John's response to my letter to Robbins:

Dear Marc,

I rejoice every time I am allowed to hear a clear confession of the truth of the grace of God, as I read in your letter to John Robbins.

And you are correct in saying that I am very interested to learn of his response. I thank God for the work and care expressed in the letter.

Regards,

John


Then came the issue about A.A. Hodge. I e-mailed the following to all on my cc list:

Hello, everybody. My letter to the Standard Bearer has just been published in the October 1, 1998 issue, along with a response from Robert Decker. The entirety of my letter and Decker's lame response is below. It is my hope and prayer that God will use this to spur His people who read the Standard Bearer to stand up for the radical extremism of the gospel and let the editor of the Standard Bearer know where they stand. It is my hope that some of you men, maybe even many of you men, who get this e-mail will write in to the Standard Bearer as a voice for the gospel. I would love to see David Engelsma (editor) overwhelmed with the response to this position taken by Decker. Notice in Decker's second point, he says that Hoeksema used Charles Hodge's book in his classes even though he disagreed with Hodge on things such as the covenant and common grace. I wasn't writing about Charles Hodge, and I wasn't writing about the covenant and common grace. I was writing about A.A. Hodge's promotion of the Arminian lie. Yet Decker uses this example to say that Hoeksema differed with Charles Hodge on "several key points of doctrine" -- implying that differing with the false gospel of Arminianism is in the same league. Decker does not judge A.A. Hodge to be lost, even though A.A. Hodge said that Arminianism is necessary for balanced Gospel truth and is necessary to correct Calvinism. This is serious. May the men of God in this cc list take a stand for the truth. By snail-mail, you can write to:

David J. Engelsma, Editor

The Standard Bearer

4949 Ivanrest

Grandville, MI 49418

And you can e-mail a letter to: engelsma@prca.org

Notice that I and all who stand up for the gospel were given a compliment -- that we are "Radical to the Extreme"! Perhaps we should start an organization called BORE: Bunch Of Radical Extremists.

In Christ,

Marc


Below is the letter and response as it appeared in the October 1, 1998 issue of the Standard Bearer, pp. 7-8.

RADICAL TO THE EXTREME

In Robert Decker's review of David Calhoun's two-volume work on the history of Princeton Seminary (SB, August, 1998), he quotes A. A. Hodge as saying that the difference between Calvinism and Arminianism "is one of emphasis rather than principle," that Calvinism and Arminianism are "necessary to restrain, correct, and supply the one-sided strain of the other," and that Calvinism and Arminianism "together give origin to the blended strain from which issues the perfect music which utters the perfect truth."

Decker correctly states that "there was some very æstrange fire on Princeton's altars.'" However, earlier in the review, Decker mentions A. A. Hodge in the list of Princeton men who were "strongly committed to the Reformed Faith." I beg to differ. From the above quotes alone, it is obvious that A. A. Hodge believed that Arminianism is just an unbalanced form of the true gospel. And he does not stop there. He does not merely tolerate the false gospel; astoundingly, he says that Calvinism is also an unbalanced form of the true gospel and that Arminianism is necessary for balanced gospel truth! He believed that Arminianism is necessary to "correct" Calvinism! "Strongly committed to the Reformed faith"? Hardly.

The true gospel is the good news of salvation conditioned on the blood and imputed righteousness of Christ alone. Any other "gospel" that conditions any part of salvation on the sinner is a damnable false gospel. Those who believe and preach this false gospel are lost, and those who tolerate, endorse, and promote this false gospel are just as lost. Previous articles in the Standard Bearer, such as David Engelsma's "Free Willism: Another Gospel" (May 1, 1997) and John Pedersen's "Confessions of a Harsh, Judgmental, Intolerant One" (May 15, 1997), as well as Pedersen's book, Sincerity Meets the Truth (reviewed in SB, December 1, 1997), compellingly bear this out. Far from being "strongly committed to the Reformed faith," A. A. Hodge showed himself to be an unregenerate agent of Satan in his promotion of the false gospel.

Marc D. Carpenter

Sudbury, Vermont



Response:

I have three comments in response to your letter:

1. My statement concerning A.A. Hodge and others, "These were men strongly committed to the Reformed faith," is qualified by my reference to "the very strange fire on Princeton's altars."

2. It will interest you to know that for many years Herman Hoeksema used Charles Hodge's Systematic Theology (Wm. B. Eerdmans three-volume edition) as required collateral reading in his Dogmatics classes. This in spite of the fact that Hoeksema differed sharply with Hodge on several key points of doctrine, the covenant and common grace to name just two.

3. Your statement, "A.A. Hodge showed himself to be an unregenerate agent of Satan in his promotion of the false gospel," is radical to the extreme. It is a judgment best left only to God Himself.

--Prof. Robert D. Decker


A man named Jay Martz (from Peace PRC in Lansing, IL) e-mailed the cc list to express disagreement with my position. Here is my reply to him:

At 08:14 PM 10/10/98 -0500, JayMartz wrote:

<<The gospel according to Marc is becoming more exclusive in it nature.>>

If the gospel that I proclaim is my own and is not the true gospel, then it is a false gospel. All readers need to keep this in mind. Is what I am saying true, or is it false? If it is true, then all who believe the true gospel will believe it. If it is false, then all who believe the true gospel will reject it. The gospel does not become "more exclusive" or "less exclusive" depending on the person proclaiming it. The true gospel has always included certain people and excluded certain people. It has never changed.

<<I would assume that at one point in time, it was the good news of Salvation: Christ come in the flesh to save His people from their sins. It has then moved to, You may not speak peace to an unbeliever without also being an unbeliever yourself. Now the gospel according to Marc says that>>

The gospel is the good news of salvation conditioned solely on the atoning blood and imputed righteousness of Christ. There has never been any other gospel. "You may not speak peace to an unbeliever without also being an unbeliever yourself" is not the gospel. "If you are not willing to relegate people of the past, people who have written vast amounts of biblical and reformed material, to the status of unregenerate agents of satan, you would be condemed" is not the gospel. I would ask Jay to please come up with some evidence to prove that I believe that these sentences are the gospel.

Let us analyze the first sentence: "You may not speak peace to an unbeliever without also being an unbeliever yourself." Is this true in light of the gospel?

If someone "speaks peace" to someone else, he believes that that person is a brother in Christ. Thus, he believes that that person believes the true gospel.

An "unbeliever" means someone who does not believe the true gospel. I would assume that when Jay talks of an "unbeliever," he is specifically talking about the kind of unbeliever who confesses the Arminian gospel. If this is not who he's talking about, then I am willing to go into other aspects of speaking peace to other kinds of unbelievers.



So the question is really the following: "What is the spiritual state of those who believe that at least some who confess the Arminian gospel are regenerate?"

The first thing that we need to realize is that we are to judge a person's spiritual state by whether or not he believes the gospel. Mark 16:16 makes it very clear that those who do not believe the gospel are unregenerate. Does a person who speaks peace to Arminians believe the gospel?

As I said before, the gospel is the good news of salvation conditioned solely on the atoning blood and imputed righteousness of Christ. Every believer believes this. Those who are ignorant of the righteousness of God revealed in the gospel are lost (Romans 10:3). Arminians believe that at least some part of salvation is conditioned on the sinner. This is a different "gospel" than the true gospel.

What about those who say they believe in the true gospel (and can even articulate the true gospel) but who say that they are Christian brothers with those who believe that some part of salvation is conditioned on the sinner?

2 John 11 speaks to this: "for the one who gives him a greeting participates in his evil deeds." What does it mean by "gives him a greeting"? It is obviously talking about speaking peace to that person -- calling that person a brother in Christ. In verse 9, he gives a description of that person -- one who "does not abide in the doctrine of Christ," which is obviously talking about the gospel. John is saying that one who speaks peace to someone who does not abide in the gospel "participates in his evil deeds." What evil deeds is John speaking of? It must be the evil of not abiding in the gospel -- the evil of abiding in a false gospel. Verse 9 says that the one who performs these evil deeds (doesn't abide in the gospel) "does not have God." One who "does not have God" is lost. He hates God.

What about the spiritual state of one who participates in the evil deeds of that hater of God? What does it mean to "participate in" these deeds? The KJV translates it "partaker." The Greek word is "koinoneo." It means "to share in." I'm sure that many of you recognize the root; "koinos" means "common" or "communal," "koinonia" means "partnership" or "fellowship," and "koinonos" means ""partner" or "sharer." Some Scriptural examples:

Romans 15:27b: "For if the Gentiles have SHARED their spiritual things ..."

Hebrews 2:14: "Since then the children SHARE in flesh and blood ..."

1 Peter 4: 13: "But to the degree that you SHARE the sufferings of Christ ..."

Titus 1:4: "to Titus, my true child in a COMMON faith ..."

Jude 3: "Beloved, while I was making every effort to write to you about our COMMON salvation ..."

1 Corinthians 1:9: "God is faithful, through whom you were called into FELLOWSHIP with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord."

1 Corinthians 10:16: "Is not the cup of blessing which we bless a SHARING in the blood of Christ? Is not the bread which we break a SHARING in the body of Christ?"

Philippians 1:5: "In view of your PARTICIPATION in the gospel ..."

Philippians 2:1b: "if there is any FELLOWSHIP of the spirit ..."

Philippians 3:10b: "and the FELLOWSHIP of His sufferings ..."

1 John 1:3b: "that you also may have FELLOWSHIP with us; and indeed our FELLOWSHIP is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ."



Matthew 23:30: "and say, 'If we had been living in the days of our fathers, we would not have been PARTAKERS with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.'"

2 Corinthians 1:7: "and our hope for you is firmly grounded, knowing that as you are SHARERS of our sufferings, ..."

Hebrews 10:33: "partly, by being made a public spectacle through reproaches and tribulations, and partly by becoming SHARERS with those who were so treated."

1 Peter 5:1b: "and a PARTAKER also of the glory that is to be revealed."

2 Peter 1:4b: "in order that by them you might become PARTAKERS of the divine nature ..."

Now let's go back to 2 John 11. He who speaks peace to one who abides in a false gospel is a SHARER, PARTICIPATOR, PARTAKER, PARTNER in the evil deeds -- in the FALSE GOSPEL -- of the one who abides in a false gospel.

The "tolerant Calvinist" is a partner in and a partaker of the false gospel.

As Pastor John Pedersen has so powerfully pointed out on many occasions and in many writings, HE WHO SPEAKS PEACE TO ARMINIANS BETRAYS HIS ESSENTIAL BELIEF IN THE ARMINIAN "GOSPEL."

"By tolerance of the Satanic deception of 'Evangelical Arminianism,' however, they deny the power of godliness and actually believe and teach the lie by allowing it. Consider the implications of tolerance: Tolerance is an expression of essential endorsement for whatever is tolerated. Every conviction held in distinction from what one tolerates, one holds as a preference, but not as a 'bottom line' conviction. Tolerance is the border beyond which lies unacceptability. It is the point at which something is viable in our thinking, and though we may not prefer what we tolerate, we nevertheless accept it and regard it as legitimate, preferences notwithstanding. ... By their acceptance of Arminian confessions as viable expressions of Christian conviction, they show that the Arminian heresy is actually the starting point of their own belief. ... This effectively makes 'Reformed theology' into nothing more than a list of optional preferences that those who wish to be 'more biblically consistent' add to the Arminian gospel they accept as legitimate." (John Pedersen, "The Savage Brutality of Tolerant Calvinism," Outside the Camp, February 1998, pp. 2-3)

Pastor Pedersen is saying what 2 John 11 says: Those who TOLERATE and SPEAK PEACE to Arminians SHARE in the belief of the false gospel with those who out-and-out endorse the false gospel. If you don't think that most who call themselves "Reformed" really believe in the god and gospel of Arminianism, check out Pastor Pedersen's "Polemics: Refuting Arminian Arguments" section on his web site:

http://www.geocities.com/Athems/Aegean/7029/Polemics.html

So-called "Calvinists" who know what Arminianism is and still believe that Arminians believe the true gospel DO NOT KNOW WHAT THE TRUE GOSPEL IS. An essential part of the true gospel is its EXCLUSIVITY. One does not believe the true gospel if he believes that "there are many ways to God."

<<The only evidence to pass such judgement is a couple of quotes. Mind you quotes which we do not even know the context. Perhaps Marc could provide these quotes in their context. Perhaps with refferences so that we could see more clearly what the author had in mind. This gospel says that we must be able to ascertain the spiritual status of dead individual with only a quote or two, regardless of the rest of their lives.>>

A.A. Hodge said that the difference between Calvinism and Arminianism "is one of emphasis rather than principle," that Calvinism and Arminianism are "necessary to restrain, correct, and supply the one-sided strain of the other," and that Calvinism and Arminianism "together give origin to the blended strain from which issues the perfect music which utters the perfect truth." Context will not help Mr. Hodge. For example, what if these statements were preceded by the following: "The gospel is the glorious truth that salvation is based on the work of Christ alone, by the Sovereign Grace of God alone." How would that change the way we view Hodge's endorsement of the false gospel? It would not matter if the rest of the entire treatise were orthodox. Another example: Suppose someone said this: "I believe in Total Depravity, Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, Irresistible Grace, and Preservation of the Saints. I believe in double predestination. I reject the well-meant offer. I believe that Satanists are our brothers in Christ. I believe that God does not love everyone and that common grace is false. I believe that God does everything for His own glory. I believe that all those God appointed to eternal life before the foundation of the world will believe and that no one will pluck them out of His hand." Now suppose I said that this person is lost because he believes Satanists are saved. Would you then come back to me and say, "But wait a minute, Marc! Look at all the truth he believes and promotes! After all he personally doesn't believe in Satanism -- he believes the truths of the Reformed faith! How dare you call this man lost!"

<<A couple of quotes no context. No need to look at anything else the person taught, we need to make the judgment with a couple of sentance.>>

How dare I do something so judgmental! After all, look at all the good things A.A. Hodge taught! And look at all the good things this man who believed that Satanists were his brothers taught!

<<This is extreamly serious business.>>

It most certainly is.

<<I take this as a judgement upon my soul, as I am unwilling to come to the same conclusion based on the same information as Marc. I am unwilling to say unequivically that A.A. was lost at the time of writing this. I say that I do not know his state.>>

So you are unwilling to say that you know the spiritual state of one who says that the difference between Calvinism and Arminianism "is one of emphasis rather than principle," that Calvinism and Arminianism are "necessary to restrain, correct, and supply the one-sided strain of the other," and that Calvinism and Arminianism "together give origin to the blended strain from which issues the perfect music which utters the perfect truth." Are you also unwilling to say that the Pope is lost? The Pope has never said anything more blasphemous than what A.A. Hodge said.

<<My responsibility is to know God, to love and serve him. My soul does not depend on an infalible knowledge of the souls of others, both dead and alive.>>

I do not claim an infallible knowledge of the souls of others. When I pass someone I don't know as I'm walking down the street, and he says nothing and I say nothing, I have no idea what his spiritual state is. I reserve judgment. I do not have an infallible knowledge of this man's soul. But when a man confesses a false gospel, I am COMMANDED to judge that person lost. And because I am judging by God's Word and not by outward appearance or reputation, I can be confident that this judgment is right judgment.

God's Word says, "Do not be bound together with unbelievers" (2 Corinthians 6:14). This verse would be nonsense if God did not enable us to discern who the unbelievers are. Are you going to tell God, "I refuse to do that, God, because I do not know men's hearts"? God says that we ARE able to know the hearts of the wicked: "... for the tree is known by its fruit. You brood of vipers, how can you, being evil, speak that which is good? For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart" (Matthew 12:33b-34). I am able to judge that A.A. Hodge was lost at the time he wrote the above quotes because from his mouth he promoted a false gospel.

God's Word says, "Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world" (1 John 4:1). This is just as much a command as "Thou shalt not kill."

"Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. ... So then, you will know them by their fruits" (Matthew 7:15-20). We know A.A. Hodge and the other false-gospel promoters, both dead and alive (e.g., Spurgeon, Whitefield, Van Til, Sproul, D.J. Kennedy, Reisinger) by their fruits.

<<Wo unto him that calleth evil good, and good evil.>>

Yes. WOE unto him who calls those who will speak peace when there is no peace good and calls those who will not speak peace when there is no peace evil.

<<These verses say nothing about needing to have a certain knowledge of the state of the souls of others, either alive or dead, in order to be saved.>>

I have never said that one needs to have a certain knowledge of the state of the souls of others, either alive or dead, in order to be saved.

<<If any man say that to be saved we must believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, + anything else ... be very leary>>

Here again is the accusation that I am adding conditions to salvation. I would be lost if I did this. There are no conditions. Christ met all the conditions. True faith believes that Christ met all the conditions.

I guess this is a warning against people like me who say that when one of God's elect is regenerated, the Holy Spirit miraculously works in him to cause him to believe that salvation is based on the atoning death and imputed righteousness of Jesus the Christ alone and that this Holy Spirit convinces him of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment, so that he will not speak peace when there is no peace.

Soli Deo Gloria,

Marc


In reaction to the above, Steven Thury wrote the following:

Dear Marc,

After reading several of your posts and articles in "Outside the Camp", I have come to a judgmental decision. I have concluded that you are a very immature christian that uses the Word of God in the realm of carnal intellect rather than a godly grace that exudes humilty and love for the brethren as well as unbelievers. What do you have that you have not received? When we speak of the term "kindler gentler Calvinist", this does not mean that the words, "kind" and "gentle" have a connection with evil. Jay Martz in an earlier post suggested you present the Gospel with meekness and fear.

I would suggest you take heed to this Biblical admonition.

You have changed your tune as far as condemning A. A. Hodge by now saying he was unregenerate at the time he made the quote. If I recall correctly, you did not state this initially. You just made a sweeping statement that A. A. Hodge is an unregenerate servant of Satan.

A HUMBLE submission to all of Scripture is vital to rightly dividing the Word of Truth. If this is not present, we will get off into reactionary tangents that are not glorifying to God.

Peter, while regenerate, denied the Lord three times. David, while regenerate, commited adultery and murder. Several Kings in the OT did right in the sight of the Lord, but did not take down the high places. Josiah would not dig up and burn the bones of the prophet of God who's disobedience cost him his life.

My point here is not to promote licentiousness or "let us sin so that grace may abound theology". My point is, beware, because, "For with what judgement ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again." Matt 7:2

You have condemned Reformed theologians, such as Whitfield, Berkhof, John Murray, C. Van Til, who wrote of, and promoted the Reformed doctrines as the true system of doctrine revealed in the Scriptures. These are very serious charges you are making, because none of these men promoted Arminianism in their teachings. No, they were not perfect in their theology, but the Gospel was preached by them with love and humility in a manner that would save sinners.

Based on your criteria for determining a false teacher from a true teacher, there would not be a messenger of Christ since the apostle Paul. Bringing your understandings to a logical conclusion is to realize that we are all condemned and without hope.

In Christ's service,

Steven Thury


Pedersen then sent me an e-mail regarding my assessment of Thury (and his assessment of me) that he said was personal, so I won't share it with you. Now around the same time, I had been having an e-mail correspondence with a man named Sean Gerety. We had gotten into a discussion about A.A. Hodge, Gordon Clark, and John Robbins. I then e-mailed Gerety a copy of Pedersen's article,"The Reformed Faith as Spiritual Pride," and Gerety then sent the following e-mail to Pedersen:

October 13, 1998

Dear Rev. Pedersen,

CC: Marc Carpenter:

Marc Carpenter e-mailed me your piece, The Reformed Faith as Spiritual Pride, and, at least at first glance, I am tentatively sympathetic with yours and Mr. Carpenter's position on the matter of "tolerant Calvinists." I too agree that Arminianism is necessarily a different gospel, or, rather, as Paul says with regards to the Judaizers, "which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you, and want to distort the gospel of Christ." It was, of course, the distortion and perversion of the gospel of grace that warranted Paul's subsequent "anathemas."

The reason I say "tentatively" is not because I think those who compromise the truth should not be publically rebuked and corrected, as Peter was for his hypocrisy: "But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed," it's just that I'm a little uncomfortable when I read statements like those expressed by Mr. Carpenter in a recent letter to Standard Bearer where he called A. A. Hodge "an unregenerate agent of Satan." It's pronouncements like these that makes me wary. While this is probably a better question for Mr. Carpenter, but would he have been correct in referring to Peter as "an unregenerate agent of Satan?"

Paul's rebuke certainly stemmed from love of the truth and a deep brotherly love for Peter. I just have to wonder if there is the same kind of brotherly love when making pronouncements against men like Hodge? Of course, I guess Hodge would not be viewed as a brother, nor would anyone else who is caught compromising the clear and simple message of Scripture. The same would seem to apply to all "tolerant Calvinists." I don't think I would go this far, nor do I think there is scriptural warrant to do so, per the example of Peter.

Hence my tentativeness.

Naturally, you can't be responsible for statements made by Mr. Carpenter's (you'll notice I've also copied Mr. Carpenter and I hope he comments as well), but I would be interested in learning your position on the question, are these so-called "tolerant Calvinists" still our brothers in Christ and, if so, shouldn't they be treated as such? I also think it's unfortunate that you're on trial for "preaching the true gospel" as Mr. Carpenter mentions in his introduction to your piece.



Although, I wonder why preaching the "true gospel" would be grounds for a trial in the OPC? If this is a public debate I would be very much interested in learning the details, if they're available. As someone who is deeply indebted to the work of Gordon Clark (who, according to Mr. Carpenter also falls into the "tolerant Calvinist" camp), I was very interested in his problems with the OPC and his differences with Van Til.

In any case, Mr. Carpenter said you welcomed comments.

Thanks for your patience and may God bless you and Mr. Carpenter.

Sean Gerety


Pedersen replied to Gerety as follows:

Dear Sean,

Thanks for writing. My response is below, in [brackets]. I will not include extensive citations from Scripture in my remarks, but should you desire further warrant for my statements on biblical grounds, I would be glad to provide it, and I welcome your response and admonition (Marc's too) from Scripture.

You write:

Paul's rebuke certainly stemmed from love of the truth and a deep brotherly love for Peter. I just have to wonder if there is the same kind of brotherly love when making pronouncements against men like Hodge? Of course, I guess Hodge would not be viewed as a brother, nor would anyone else who is caught compromising the clear and simple message of Scripture. The same would seem to apply to all "tolerant Calvinists." I don't think I would go this far, nor do I think there is scriptural warrant to do so, per the example of Peter. Hence my tentativeness.

[I do believe that it is appropriate to recognize a distinction between occasions of sinful expression (which plague all believers until the resurrection) and sinful expression as unremitting practice, which the Scriptures teach is contrary to the life of the Spirit.

The situations with Peter involved occasions of sinful expression for which he was rebuked and from which he repented. It is noteworthy that inGalatians he was acting under the influence of a doctrinal position (that of the Judiazers) which is weighted with eternal condemnation. He is nevertheless distinguished from the Judiazers themselves by the fact that his action was a hypocritical lapse and did not define his ministry or agree with the doctrine he preached. He did something which was against the gospel he preached, and Paul points this out in Galatians 2:14.

In the case of persons who hold to a doctrinal position which is contrary to the gospel and regularly express this, they are false teachers and need to be exposed as such, even while they are called to repentance and true faith.

I do not believe that the statement of A.A. Hodge conforms to the biblical confession of the gospel. It is a statement of false doctrine. In the light of the life-or-death issue it addresses, it is certainly something which calls for rebuke and repentance. Hodge, in making it, was promoting Satan's lie. Is it necessary for me at this point to say that he was unregenerate at the time he made the statement? I have heard Marc to say yes. I would rather say that I believe that Hodge said something that was un-Christian. He spoke as an unbeliever would speak.

I am not familiar enough with the writings of A.A. Hodge to say whether this kind of thing was characteristic of his writing. If it was, he indicts himself by his own words as a false teacher, a false brother. I have heard that he never repented of this statement (or others like them) in any public way-- I do not have all the facts, and I desire to refrain from expressing myself in situations where I can not say what I say with a clear conscience and conviction before God. I hold from a definitive pronouncement that Hodge was unregenerate.]

Naturally, you can't be responsible for statements made by Mr. Carpenter's (you'll notice I've also copied Mr. Carpenter and I hope he comments as well), but I would be interested in learning your position on the question, are these so-called "tolerant Calvinists" still our brothers in Christ and, if so, shouldn't they be treated as such?

[The position which I identified in the essay involves implicit endorsement and belief in the false gospel. I would call such as hold to this position to repentance in the light of the grave implications of this endorsement and belief. It is the loving thing to do. In the absence of repentance from a conviction that the "Reformed Faith" and "Evangelical Arminianism" are essentially the same gospel distinguished only by emphasis, I can not positively regard a person with this conviction as a brother in Christ. I can not speak peace to him when his own confession is a declaration of war against the sufficiency and power of the work of Christ. The position I identify in my essay was one that I myself held for years after having graduated from Westminster and after having preached many sermons. Looking back, I weep in recognition of the fact that for all my formal understanding and acknowledgment of "Reformed doctrine", I was an enemy of the cross of Christ. God broke my heart and brought me to repentance. I believe He can and does do the same with other "tolerant Calvinists".

To say that persons who hold to the position of "tolerant Calvinism" (I understand this as a position and not as sinfully rash statements occasionally made) should be regarded as brothers without regard to the position they hold is to dismiss the position as having consequence where essential unity of faith is concerned, and to thus dismiss it as sinful in any biblical sense at all. Persistent, un-repentant sin is inconsistent with a credible profession of faith in Jesus Christ.

To re-state the point by way of an illustration, it would be the same thing as saying that a person who is persisting in admitted, un- repentant adultery should be regarded as a brother in Christ absent any acknowledgment of or repentance from his adulterous practice. Few if any people who even formally profess the Christian faith would say that a person in the situation I just described should be considered a brother if he persists in his sinful practice, whether or not he sees it as sinful, or whether or not he sincerely says all the while he is doing it that "I really love the Lord and I believe in the 'Reformed Faith'".]

I also think it's unfortunate that you're on trial for "preaching the true gospel" as Mr. Carpenter mentions in his introduction to your piece. Although, I wonder why preaching the "true gospel" would be grounds for a trial in the OPC? If this is a public debate I would be very much interested in learning the details, if they're available.

[I am charged by the Presbytery of Philadelphia with violating my sixth ordination vow "to be zealous and faithful to maintain the truths of the gospel and the purity, peace, and unity of the church, whatever opposition and persecution arises to you on that account.". Specifically, I am charged with the aspect of the vow touching "purity, peace, and unity" on account of my involvement with persons from my former congregation who continued to meet with me after my pastoral relationship with them had been officially dissolved by the presbytery.

In the controversy within my presbytery, I have consistently appealed to the doctrinal offense which arose within the congregation as the principal factor with precipitated my resignation, which I represented to the Presbytery as forced. The presbytery has instead appealed to the resignation itself and to what it represents as a legitimate directive to me to cease any teaching activities among the (then) members of the congregation of LHOPC (teaching activities which did not conflict with any of the stated meetings of the church, and which did not involve encouragement of these people to leave the church, but instead encouraged them to seek to bring the concern of the gospel to the session) on the unproved ground that my teaching and presence in the area was inherently schismatic.

People left the church and were formed as a new congregation only after the presbytery officially took the position that my teaching and relationship to them was inherently schismatic. This position (expressed in a directive issued to me by a motion of the presbytery) forced these people to either submit to the position of the presbytery (with the agreement of the majority of the session) or to conscientiously remove themselves from the oversight of the session out of a desire to honor Christ and the gospel.



The trial is in progress and is likely to continue for some time. I am not optimistic about the outcome, but I am grateful for the opportunity to seek to clarify the message of the gospel and to defend what I believe is the work of God and not John Pedersen.]

As someone who is deeply indebted to the work of Gordon Clark (who, according to Mr. Carpenter also falls into the "tolerant Calvinist" camp), I was very interested in his problems with the OPC and his differences with Van Til.

[Like Clark, I am viewed as a "rationalist" and a "hyper-Calvinist". Like Clark, I am represented as being in conflict with the "well meant offer" of the gospel which was expounded by Murray and Stonehouse and is the prevalent position in the OPC, so far as I am able to tell.]

In any case, Mr. Carpenter said you welcomed comments.

[I do indeed, and I would be grateful for any continued discussion with you. If I am saying anything that dishonors the grace of God, I desire to repent of it, and I do ask for admonition and rebuke. "Let a righteous man strike me..it is a kindness..."]

Sincerely in Christ,

John Pedersen


I then wrote Pedersen and said this:

Dear John,

Regarding your reply to Sean:

A regenerate person who knows what Arminianism is can say that the difference between Calvinism and Arminianism "is one of emphasis rather than principle," that Calvinism and Arminianism are "necessary to restrain, correct, and supply the one-sided strain of the other," and that Calvinism and Arminianism "together give origin to the blended strain from which issues the perfect music which utters the perfect truth"?? This can come from a regenerate person's mouth?? What in the world are you saying??!!

John replied:

My answer:

I am saying that regenerate persons can sin in doctrine (I believe that Peter was regenerate when he made the false confession in Matt. 16) and that because this is possible, I can not state with absolute certainty that such and such a person is unregenerate solely on the ground of a single statement, but that their response to biblical admonition must be known and the judgment of the church must be expressed at the conclusion of a process such as Matthew 18.

When James spoke in James 3:1-18 and used the first person plural pronoun, was he just using a rhetorical device or was he including himself in state- ments like those found in verses 2 and 9? I believe he included himself, and was not using "we" as a rhetorical device.

When he says in verse 10, "...My brethren, these things ought not to be so..." he is asserting the need for repentance concerning the sins of the tongue--to would-be teachers among the congregation. He cites the situation in verse 14 as a real possibility, even as he expresses NO TOLERANCE of it ("ought not to be") and explicitly and implicitly calls "My brethren" to repentance and true faith.

When you start to grade greater and lesser offenses in doctrine and absolve the lesser while propounding a certain conclusion on the greater, you arrogate an authority to your private judgment which does not belong to you as an individual in distinction from the collective verdict of the Church. It is one thing to say that something a person says is against the gospel and is, for this reason, Satanic. It is something else to say that on the basis of a certain statement, the person is unregenerate. When I sin, I do something Satanic. I am not sinless. I need to constantly acknowledge my sins, and pray that I might hate them more and more. Do you think that Christ gave the Keys of the Kingdom of Heaven to individuals in abstraction from the Church? What do you make of the biblical doctrine of the assembled Church, submitted to the oversight of elders who must give an account, Marc? How is the judgment on a false professor to be rendered?

Regards,

John


I then wrote to John a piece called "Satanism as the Gospel." I wrote it as a conversation between "Jim" and "Joe" regarding the statements of a "Mr. Z":

"The difference between Christianity and Satanism is one of emphasis rather than principle. Each is the complement of the other. Each is necessary to restrain, correct, and supply the one-sided strain of the other They together give origin to the blended strain from which issues the perfect music which utters the perfect truth." -- Mr. Z

Jim: Mr. Z is obviously not saved. I assume you believe this as well.

Joe: Wait a minute, Jim. Don't be so hasty. I'm not familiar enough with the writings of Mr. Z to say whether this kind of thing was

characteristic of his writing. I do not have all the facts, and I desire to refrain from expressing myself in situations where I cannot say what I say with a clear conscience and conviction before God. I hold from a definitive pronouncement that Mr. Z was unregenerate. Is it necessary for me at this point to say that he was unregenerate at the time he made the statement? I would rather say that I believe that Mr. Z said something that was un-Christian. He spoke as an unbeliever would speak.

Jim: Joe, do you realize what you're saying? Mr. Z said that Satanism is a true gospel! He is saying that there are some Satanists who are regenerate but who are just "unbalanced"!

Joe: I am saying that regenerate persons can sin in doctrine (I believe that Peter was regenerate when he made the false confession in Matt. 16) and that because this is possible, I cannot state with absolute certainty that such and such a person is unregenerate solely on the ground of a single statement, but that their response to biblical admonition must be known and the judgment of the church must be expressed at the conclusion of a process such as Matthew 18.

Jim: Oh -- so we can't judge a person lost who has come out with a statement that Satanism is a form of the true gospel until we know how this person responds to admonition and until we go through the Matthew 18 process?? I heard John Pedersen say this several times, and it is so true: What one tolerates is what one believes. Mr. Z not only tolerated Satanism; he endorsed it! Pedersen also makes this point: Are you making God so weak that He cannot produce a belief and confession in the true gospel in those He regenerates and that He cannot keep those He regenerates from believing and confessing a false gospel?

What about a person who says, "I believe that Christ died for everyone without exception"? Are you not going to pass judgment on this person because "regenerate persons can sin in doctrine" and that you "cannot state with absolute certainty that such and such a person is unregenerate solely on the ground of a single statement" and that we must first see how he responds to admonishment and that this professor in salvation conditioned on the sinner must go through the Matthew 18 process before you can judge him lost??

Suppose you admonish the universal atonement advocate and show him the falsehood of his position. Suppose then the universal atonement advocate says, "You're right! Thanks for teaching me that! My Christianity is now much more logical and consistent!" Are you then going to count him as a brother, even when he does not claim that God changed his heart from unregenerate to regenerate when he went from a "gospel" of salvation conditioned on the sinner to a gospel of salvation conditioned on Christ?

What, then, of Mr. Z? Suppose you confronted Mr. Z with his sin, and Mr. Z said, "You're right! Satanism is a false gospel! I should have never said those things. I repent of saying those things. My Christian life is now much more logical and consistent." Are you then going to count Mr. Z as a brother, even when he does not claim that God changed his heart from unregenerate to regenerate when he went from endorsing Satanism to endorsing only Christianity?

Did God just "not reveal His grace to Mr. Z with as much clarity," or was what Mr. Z said DAMNABLE BLASPHEMY? If you will say that you cannot categorize sin, I say that THE BIBLE CATEGORIZES SIN. Even John Pedersen showed that he categorizes sin when he says that "To see the grace of God (as the false gospel of Arminianism does) as conditioned on something in the sinner is evil, and it is not something that calls for a condescending pat on the head by those who consider themselves of more refined theological taste, as if the distinction between 'The Reformed Faith' and the 'Evangelical Arminian' gospel were nothing more than intellectual development and a few good books." Here Pedersen shows (as he has elsewhere) that to believe the false gospel of Arminianism is to be LOST; thus, the sin of believing the false gospel is in A DIFFERENT CATEGORY than the sin that a believer commits. Mark 16:16 says that "he who has disbelieved [the gospel] shall be condemned." This puts belief in a false gospel in A DIFFERENT CATEGORY than, for example, a believer sinning by coveting someone's new car. In fact, it is in such A DIFFERENT CATEGORY that believers CANNOT believe the false gospel. It is IMPOSSIBLE for a believer to commit the sin of believing a false gospel. God has determined to glorify Himself in the salvation of sinners, and He will NOT cause one of His own to believe a false gospel or make a confession of the false gospel. Do you agree? If so, then Mr. Z showed he believed the false gospel by what he tolerated, and thus he was an unbeliever at the time he said those words. In fact, when Marc Carpenter asked Pedersen about one of the sentences in his latest article, Pedersen replied, "I see what you mean, Marc. However, what I am saying about the toleration of Arminianism by 'Calvinists' is that this toleration is essential Arminianism. In other words, it is all a part of the same ball of wax.

Tolerant Calvinists are simply the most subtle expression of the most subtle expression of false doctrine." Thus, if you agree with Pedersen, you would see that Mr. Z believed essential Satanism because he tolerated it (and he did more than that -- he said it was NECESSARY for the true gospel). In essence, Mr. Z was a Satanist. As Pedersen put it (when talking of those who tolerate Arminianism): "First, they communicate essential belief. By their acceptance of Arminian confessions as viable expressions of Christian conviction, they show that the Arminian heresy is actually the starting point of their own belief." He went on to say that such tolerant Calvinists "are, from a spiritual perspective, mean and brutal, grievous wolves." (Notice that Pedersen did not say that we need to wait until they were admonished or until they went through the Matthew 18 process before we make such judgments.)

Okay -- it's your turn, Joe.


Pedersen wrote several small e-mails to me saying that he was considering "Satanism as the Gospel" and would respond after he had time to think about it. Meanwhile, I had been having an e-mail conversation with Andrew Magni about the issue of "sins that Christians cannot commit" as a result of what Robbins had been saying. Andrew said this:

Greetings Marc ,

It appears that Robbins is advocating the following syllogism :

The regenerate can and do sin

To confess a false gospel is a sin

Therefore , the regenerate can confess a false gospel



This is a non sequitur since the first premise does not grant that the regenerate can sin ANY sin : it is true that they sin but that sinning is limited to certain sins.

for example for the above syllogism to be true , the regenerate therefore would have to be able to sin ANY sin , then the following would be true :

The regenerate can and do sin

Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is a sin

therefore the regenerate can blaspheme the Holy Ghost

of course we know this is impossible so the syllogism must be amended to commence with the following true premise :

the regenerate can not sin any sin that is exclusively commited by the unregenerate

hence it can be legitimately followed with the following :

to blaspheme the Holy Ghost and to confess a false gospel are sins exclusively commited by the unregenerate

therefore , the regenerated can not blaspheme the Holy Ghost , nor confess a false gospel

For example the Council of Orange stated in defence of Augustianism that "If anyone argues that God waits for our desire that we should be cleansed from sin, and does not acknowledge that it is by the work of the Holy Spirit in us that we are caused to want cleansing, he resists the Holy Spirit." 529 Canon 4.

Hence , we can posit

The regenerate sin but can not commit sins exclusively commited by the unregenerate , such as resisting the Holy Spirit

The council of Orange states that if one does not acknowledge that the desire to be cleansed from sin is a work of the Holy Ghost they are resisting the Holy Spirit

Therefore , the regenerate can not commit the sin of denying that the desire to be cleansed from sin is the work of the Holy Spirit

2 John 6-10 states that those who do not abide in the doctrine of Christ have not God hence the syllogism

The regenerate have God

Those who abide not in the doctrine of Christ have not God

therefore the regenerate can not not abide in the doctrine of Christ or therefore the regenerate abide in the doctrine of Christ


And here is my reply that I cc'd to Pedersen and Winnen:

Exactly, Andrew.

There are certain sins that a regenerate person CANNOT commit.

The Bible makes clear distinctions between sins that all can commit and sins that only the unregenerate can commit. John Robbins does not make such distinctions. And anyone who does not see that A.A. Hodge was unregenerate when he made those blasphemous statements does not make such distinctions.

2 John is a prime example of such distinctions (In fact, all of John's epistles make these distinctions). Those sins which are IMPOSSIBLE for the regenerate to commit are:

a. transgressing and abiding not in the doctrine of Christ (v. 9)

b. speaking peace to those who bring a false gospel (v. 11)

We also know that it is IMPOSSIBLE for the regenerate to:

c. preach a false gospel (Gal. 1:1-9)

d. believe that works help to gain or maintain salvation (Gal. 5:2-3)

e. blaspheme against the Holy Spirit (Matt. 12:31)

And there are many more passages. So we as Christians need to make such distinctions and see that some sins are in a different league, a different category, than others. The categories would be:

1. Sins that are exclusive to the unregenerate

2. Sins that are not exclusive to the unregenerate.

A.A. Hodge, Gordon Clark, John Robbins, Charles Spurgeon, Loraine Boettner, George Whitefield, David Ponter, Phil Johnson, John MacArthur, George Ella, Erroll Hulse, Iain Murray, Cornelius Van Til, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Horatius Bonar, etc., etc., etc. committed sins that are exclusive to the unregenerate. Thus, at the time that they were committing these sins, they were unregenerate. We do not know if any of them were or are reprobate, but we do know that they were unregenerate when they were committing such sins.

In Christ,

Marc


Pedersen replied with this:

Dear Marc,

Greetings. I realize I still have not responded to the Satanism as the G. Note, but, I have been thinking about the whole matter and am still not ready to say more than the following:

All false doctrine is satanic. Against it, we must assert statements like that of Paul in I Timothy 1:1-11.

It is IMPOSSIBLE to be "too radical" in the defense of the grace of God or in the interest of the glory of God. The concerns I have with your conclusions about person not being regenerate at a moment of time based upon something he says at that moment have NOTHING to do with the idea that you are going too far, or are being too radical, etc.

They have to do with the biblical foundation for your conclusions and with the effect your conclusions have on the clarification of the gospel. They have to do with the call to those who profess the gospel to repent of sinful speech about God. Unrepentant sin is inconsistent with biblical Christianity, and forbids a positive judgment as to the status of the person before God.

You should think some more about adding other sins as exclusive to the unregenerate along side of, and in the same category (genus) as the sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, for the implication of your conclusion is that regenerate persons cannot commit sins against the first table of the law. This is contrary to Scripture (I John 3:4; James 2:10). All sin is a denial of the gospel in the one who is sinning. You are beginning a categorical distinction between mortal and venial sins, it seems to me.

Regards,

John


My reply:

Dear John,

At 06:20 AM 11/28/98 -0000, you wrote:

<<All false doctrine is satanic. Against it, we must assert statements like that of Paul in I Timothy 1:1-11.>>

Is the view that only professing believers should be baptized a "false doctrine"?

Is the view that one can remarry after divorce while the spouse is still alive "false doctrine"?

<<They have to do with the biblical foundation for your conclusions and with the effect your conclusions have on the clarification of the gospel. They have to do with the call to those who profess the gospel to repent of sinful speech about God. Unrepentant sin is inconsistent with biblical Christianity, and forbids a positive judgment as to the status of the person before God.>>

Are all Baptists in unrepentant sin about baptism?

Are all who are full subscriptionists to the Westminster Confession in unrepentant sin about remarriage?

<<You should think some more about adding other sins as exclusive to the unregenerate along side of, and in the same category (genus) as the sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, for the implication of your conclusion is that regenerate persons cannot commit sins against the first table of the law. This is contrary to Scripture (I John 3:4; James 2:10). All sin is a denial of the gospel in the one who is sinning. You are beginning a categorical distinction between mortal and venial sins, it seems to me.>>

Tell me -- is it possible for a Christian to commit the sin of abiding not in the doctrine of Christ? (2 John 9)

Is it possible for a Christian to commit the sin of preaching a gospel contrary to that which the Apostles preached? (Gal. 1:8-9)

Is it possible for a Christian to commit the sin of believing in the Arminian "gospel"?

Is it possible for a Christian to commit the sin of believing that Islam is the true gospel?

In Christ,

Marc


Pedersen's reply:

Dear Marc,

There is a difference between the essential meaning of Baptism, for example, and the application of baptism.

Wherever the meaning is contrary to that of the gospel, it is false doctrine.

<<Tell me -- is it possible for a Christian to commit the sin of abiding not in the doctrine of Christ? (2 John 9)>>

Key word is abiding. It is indeed possible for Christians to act or speak contrary to the gospel, and to be in need of repentance and even discipline. To abide contrary to the gospel of Christ is to live in un-repentant sin and to be characterized by falsehood. Any one who does this does not have God.

<<Is it possible for a Christian to commit the sin of preaching a gospel contrary to that which the Apostles preached? (Gal. 1:8-9)>>

Peter's actions in Galatians 2 were not straightforward about the gospel, and he needed to be rebuked. He repented.

<<Is it possible for a Christian to commit the sin of believing in the Arminian "gospel"?>>

It is possible for a Christian to commit sins which rob God of His glory and are idolatrous. It is not possible for Christians to continue in them without repentance. No person can become a Christian by the false gospel, but our struggle against sin is marked by battles against the self righeous and idolatrous tendencies of our sinful nature, which is still a totally depraved sinful nature. Since Arminianism is simply a refined way of expressing idolatry and pride, we will struggle against essential Arminianism while we are in the body, and will finally be through with our battle against it in the resurrection.

<<Is it possible for a Christian to commit the sin of believing that Islam is the true gospel?>>

Not explicitly, or else he would not be called a Christian. Islam is a works religion, like Arminianism. A Christian can therefore implicitly endorse Islam (as to its significance) buy words or actions which are self righteous and require rebuke, correction, and repentance.

You tell me, Marc-- Can a Christian violate the first table of the Law? Does James 2:10 include these commandments?

When John wrote I John 1:8, did he include first table violations? Can they be distinguished?

Also, am I to understand from your last letter that you now regard John Robbins as an unregenerate agent of Satan?

Regards,

John


My reply:

At 09:28 PM 11/28/98 -0000, you wrote:

<<There is a difference between the essential meaning of Baptism, for example, and the application of baptism. Wherever the meaning is contrary to that of the gospel, it is false doctrine.>>



If someone differs from you in the application of baptism, does that necessarily mean that it is contrary to the gospel? And if it is not contrary to the gospel, does one then have a choice between two equally correct applications of baptism (i.e., professors-only baptism and paedobaptism)? And if they are not equally correct, then is one the biblical way and the other a sinful way?

What about the instance of remarriage after divorce?

<<Key word is abiding. It is indeed possible for Christians to act or speak contrary to the gospel, and to be in need of repentance and even discipline. To abide contrary to the gospel of Christ is to live in un-repentant sin and to be characterized by falsehood. Any one who does this does not have God.>>

If someone speaks contrary to the gospel and is rebuked once and does not repent, does that mean he does not have God? What if he is rebuked twice? Thrice? Where do you come to the conclusion that he does not have God?

<<Peter's actions in Galatians 2 were not straightforward about the gospel, and he needed to be rebuked. He repented.>>

Are you saying that Peter was commiting the sin that Paul spoke about in Galatians 1:8-9?

<<It is possible for a Christian to commit sins which rob God of His glory and are idolatrous. It is not possible for Christians to continue in them without repentance.>>

You didn't answer the question. Is it possible for a Christian to commit the sin of believing an Arminian gospel? And I'll go further: Is it possible for a Christian to profess that Christ died for everyone without exception? Is it possible for a Christian to profess that he could un-justify himself by his works?

<<No person can become a Christian by the false gospel, but our struggle against sin is marked by battles against the self righteous and idolatrous tendencies of our sinful nature, which is still a totally depraved sinful nature. Since Arminianism is simply a refined way of expressing idolatry and pride, we will struggle against essential Arminianism while we are in the body, and will finally be through with our battle against it in the resurrection.>>

Will this struggle ever result in one confessing and/or preaching a false gospel?

<<Not explicitly, or else he would not be called a Christian. Islam is a works religion, like Arminianism. A Christian can therefore implicitly endorse Islam (as to its significance) buy words or actions which are self righteous and require rebuke, correction, and repentance.>>

Are you saying that there is a sin that is impossible for a Christian to commit -- an explicit profession of belief in Islam? If so, you've just started categorizing sin.

<<You tell me, Marc-- Can a Christian violate the first table of the Law? Does James 2:10 include these commandments?>>

Yes, and yes.

<<When John wrote I John 1:8, did he include first table violations?>>

Yes.

<<Can they be distinguished?>>

Not sure what you're asking here.



<<Also, am I to understand from your last letter that you now regard John Robbins as an unregenerate agent of Satan?>>

Yes, most definitely, clearly, and undoubtedly.

Would you agree? After all, he has been confronted with the truth and has not repented.

In Christ,

Marc


Pedersen never replied to this e-mail. I sent him some more e-mails, including the following:

In his e-mail to David Ponter, Winnen Russ said:

<<Neither would he [John Pedersen --mdc] be disposed to theological discussion w/ one who says a true Christian can deny the gospel (don't tell me you're gonna say here that the gospel is not synonymous w/ JBF?)>>

John, can a true Christian deny the gospel?

In Christ,

Marc


Dear John,

Winnen wrote:

<<1. Is it enough evidence that a person is an unrepentant liar and slanderer, one who believes in "Evangelical Arminianism" (clearly understanding what the term means), one who believes that an unregenerate man can perform an acceptable act in the sight of God, and one who states unequivocally (and even INSISTS) that a true Christian can be a man who DENIES Justification by Faith, I say is all this enough evidence to "judge" (J. 7:24 style) that such an one is not a Christian?>>

You replied:

<<[Yes, I believe it is, provided all these things are true, as you say.]>>

What about one who states unequivocally that both Arminianism and Calvinism are necessary components of the true gospel? Is this enough evidence to judge that such an one is not a Christian?

In Christ,

Marc


The next thing I heard from John was the following e-mail that was cc'd to Andrew Magni, Winnen Russ, and John Robbins:

Marc C. wrote [to John Robbins -- mdc]:



<<I said that I would answer your questions on one condition: That you give me your word that you will clearly state your position on those seven statements of 11/14/98 after I answer your questions, even if you disagree with my answers to your questions. I have not received any correspondence from you since that 11/22/98 e-mail.>>

Dear Marc and all,

I address Marc before you all, because what he has said has been before you all, and me.

I am deeply saddened and concerned about this communication.

Marc, there is frankly no good reason, in my view, why you should not have simply answered John's questions, without demanding he fulfill a prerequsite first. It is as though you are convinced John "owes" you something before you will give what, if it is true, can only be for the good; his, and all concerned. He owes you nothing, and you deserve nothing.

Such a demand is inconsistent with the patient, gentle, and forthcoming demeanor which any should seek to have who are involved in correcting brothers who may be in error, or who may be thought to be in error. You should prayerfully consider the statements of the Apostle in II Timothy 2:24 and II Thessalonians 3:14,15.

I do not stand with you in your accusations toward John Robbins.

You convey an imperious attitude. I would distinguish between this attitude and an attitude which does not tolerate or compromise with sin, but seeks (through patient, gentle instruction) repentance of those who may be in error. To seek repentance through adminition and instruction is not to begin by driving to the conclusion that the person you are dealing with is an unregenerate agent of Satan before great care is taken to clarify and make proper distinctions. Also, there is a difference between withholding positive endorsement (while clarification is sought) and declaring a negative conclusion, absent any indication of the biblical process which (properly) preceeds this conclusion.

My response to the AA.Hodge issue is now in order. On the biblical principle that it is possible for a regenerate person to speak or otherwise act contrary to the gospel (thus sinning, and requiring repentance), I can not, in good concience, declare with absolute certainty that AA Hodge was unregenerate when he made the statement about Arminianism and Calvinism both being needed to hold one another in check. I can say that such a statement calls for admonition, and may (have) invited the proper conclusion that he was (is) an unregenerate agent of Satan. I can even say that that is the kind of statement an unregenerate agent of Satan could or would make. But I can not proclaim that I absolutely know this to be the case about AA Hodge on the basis of that single statement, and at the time he made it. I say this with the conviction that Arminianism is THE lie of Satan.

Referring to II Thess. 3:15, Calvin says in the Institutes IV.10: "Unless this gentleness is maintained in both private and public censures, there is a danger lest we soon slide down from discipline to butchery."

Marc, are you willing to show a patient, careful, meek disposition that fears of arrogating authority that belongs to the solemn judgment of the church? How will you respond to the admonition of this letter? Do you regard me as a Pastor in the Church of Jesus Christ?

Regards,

John


This was a shocker, to say the least. I concluded that I had to get some clear answers from Pedersen to see where he really stood. Thus the following e-mail:

Dear John,

Okay. It's time to go way, way back to the basics. Perhaps I have been assuming way too much. I would like you to simply, clearly answer the following questions. PLEASE NOTE that I am NOT asking questions based on whether or not the person has been confronted with the sin or whether or not there is any evidence that the person is "persisting" in the sin. I am talking about ONE-TIME OCCURRENCES.

1. Can a regenerate person deny the gospel?

2. Can a regenerate person confess a false gospel?

3. Can a regenerate person confess the belief that Christ's death atoned for the sins of everyone without exception?

4. Can a regenerate person confess the belief that God chose to save people based on what he foresaw they would do?

5. Can a regenerate person confess belief that unregenerate people can decide to be saved of their own free will?

6. Can a regenerate person confess the belief that some whom God intends to save will resist the Holy Spirit's attempts to save them?

7. Can a regenerate person confess the belief that regenerate people can lose their salvation?

8. Can a regenerate person confess the belief that Islam is the true gospel?

9. Can a regenerate person confess the belief that Buddhism is the true gospel?

10. Can a regenerate person confess the belief that Hinduism is the true gospel?

11. Can a regenerate person confess the belief that Arminianism is the true gospel?

12. Can a regenerate person confess the belief that Mormonism is the true gospel?

13. Can a regenerate person confess the belief that Roman Catholicism is the true gospel?

The following questions are about specific people. Please answer them based on what you know about the beliefs of each one, not based on whether or not they have been confronted with their sin.

14. Is Billy Graham a regenerate person?

15. Is Barney Frank a regenerate person?

16. Is the Pope a regenerate person?

17. Is Saddam Hussein a regenerate person?

18. Is Bill Clinton a regenerate person?

19. Is Robert Schuller a regenerate person?

20. Is James Dobson a regenerate person?

21. Is Michael Horton a regenerate person?

22. Is David Ponter a regenerate person?



I will now put forward some quotes, and I would like you to say if you agree or disagree with each of them.

23. "What I am saying about the toleration of Arminianism by 'Calvinists' is that this toleration is essential Arminianism. In other words, it is all a part of the same ball of wax. Tolerant Calvinists are simply the most subtle expression of the most subtle expression of false doctrine."

24. "No individual is to judge the spiritual state of another individual. These judgments must be made by the church after the correct biblical process is followed."

25. "Those who tolerate Arminian confessions ... communicate essential belief. By their acceptance of Arminian confessions as viable expressions of Christian conviction, they show that the Arminian heresy is actually the starting point of their own belief."

26. "Someone who claims to be Reformed but who makes a statement endorsing Arminianism is not necessarily lost, because the confession of his lips might be inconsistent with what he believes in his heart."

27. "Tolerance is an expression of essential endorsement and belief. "

28. "It's one thing to say that some individuals in a church 'tolerate' Arminianism, but that has to be proven and adjudicated through the church courts."

29. "God has placed the weight of eternity on the confession of His truth, and God is powerful enough, He is able enough, (He has declared Himself to be so) to give repentance and a true confession to weak and the despised things of this world, and the things that are not."

30. "Sometimes people are talking past each other in discussing Arminianism and sometimes there are real and blatant differences. It's up to the church courts to determine who is right when both parties claim to be Biblical and confessional."

31. "Formally affirming orthodox doctrine and then allowing for and endorsing false doctrine is not a passive activity, but involves heretical teaching under the cover of "truth" and virtue, even moral concern. To TEACH allowance and endorsement of a lie is NOT to passively allow something without words or doctrine, it is to actively promote falsehood in a subtle way, which for its subtlety is the more destructive for its deceitfulness."

32. "Just because a murderer is caught red-handed, that doesn't mean he can be executed without a proper trial by the proper authorities. While he may be considered guilty by everyone, he must be treated as innocent until proven guilty in a proper trial. The same holds true in church courts. Anything less leads to vigilantism."

33. "If the Calvinist would accept an Arminian conversion as true, which means that God foresaw their faith and therefore elected them based on their decision, they would no longer be a Calvinist."

34. "We are commanded to judge only the outward appearance. Since we can't see a person's heart, we don't know if they're regenerate or not. We may assume they're unregenerate. We may even have abundant outward evidence leading us to believe they're unregenerate, to the point that we excommunicate them from Christ's church. But we can't know that for certain without being able to see a person's heart."

35. "I believe his (Billy Sunday's) confession and preaching was the heart of darkness, insidious evil-- it was Arminianism."

36. "I'd even go so far as to say, about any Arminian, 'If he trusts in anything but Jesus Christ alone for his salvation, he's not saved.' The problem is that most Arminians won't come right out and say, 'I'm trusting partly in Jesus Christ for my salvation and partly in myself.' That's IMPLIED, certainly, by their profession of Arminian doctrines, but have you ever heard them come right out and SAY that? Most will not. That tells me there's some confusion in their minds. On the one hand, they outwardly profess to trust in Jesus Christ alone for their salvation, and on the other hand, they outwardly say things that, to me, and according to all the laws of logic, IMPLY that they're NOT trusting in Christ alone for their salvation. I can't see their heart. So I don't make a judgment on that."

37. "No confessing Arminian can be a believer in the Christ of Scripture."

38. "I can only hear their profession, and their profession, in my opinion, may sometimes give mixed messages. But can you say, 'for sure,' that every last person who outwardly professes belief in any single point of Arminianism is absolutely and positively lost? Does the Bible ever ask us, as human being to make that judgment? Then we shouldn't ask others to make that judgment either."

39. "Those who believe that Christians can make a false profession are making God so weak that He cannot produce a belief and confession in the true gospel in those He regenerates and that He cannot keep those He regenerates from believing and confessing a false gospel."

40. "A person who thinks all full-fledged Arminians are brothers in Christ does not appear to me to understand the Gospel himself. The only thing I'm unwilling to say, is that I know that such a person is not, himself, trusting completely in Jesus Christ for his salvation. I can't see his heart. At the very least, I know his outward profession is very confused and does not give Biblical grounds for hope of salvation. I also know that most Christians are not very theologically precise in many of their beliefs. They may believe that Billy Graham is a Christian, or even that Mother Teresa is a Christian and still be saved themselves, for all I know. Many of them believe this, however, because they haven't thought through all the logical implications of that belief which are inconsistent with their own profession and understanding of the Gospel. I believe we have a gracious and merciful God who patiently brings people along in

their understanding, bit by bit, and doesn't expect every Christian to immediately see the connection between all these things."

41. "Why should any Christian be required to judge the heart of any other Christian? We are to judge by outward profession ALONE (also taking into account whether or not a person has a consistent outward lifestyle, of course). We can't see the heart. So we can't SAY all those who profess any Arminian doctrines are lost. We CAN say, 'All those who truly believe Arminian teachings in their hearts are lost.'"

42. "If I was dealing with a new Christian who said that Islam is the true gospel, someone who has professed faith in Christ before the Session and was admitted into the fellowship, I would be obligated to correct this person in light of Scripture (I would be obliged to correct the Moslem as well). If he were to persist in teaching or expressing this view, I would go to him with another brother and if he were still unrepentant, I would inform the Session and proceed from there. Would I presume, out of hand, that this brother was not saved? I would probably be tempted to think that, but I would proceed on the assumption that this guy needs to be corrected -- and quickly -- out of a love for the truth."

43. "First of all, no one knows Billy Graham's or Mother Teresa's heart for certain. We may be quite confident in our judgments concerning them, but we can't know FOR SURE because we can't see their hearts. IF a person WERE able to see these person's hearts, and IF these people's hearts were, indeed, trusting in anything besides Jesus Christ, and IF this person STILL believed these people were saved, then I would say we have pretty good grounds to judge that this person was lost."

44. "Would I think someone unregenerate if they said that both Christianity and Islam are vital components of the true gospel? I would say it was a stupid statement, but based on that statement alone, I could not say that person was unregenerate, nor would I presume them to be so. Based on that statement alone I could presume very little besides ignorance."

I eagerly await your reply.

In Christ,

Marc


Pedersen replied:

Dear Marc,

Is this your answer to my last letter to you?

I replied:

Dear John,

The reason why I'm backing up is because it is possible that I have been sinfully assuming things that I ought not to have assumed. So when I read your last letter, I said to myself, "Whoah, Marc, go waaaaaaaaaaaaaay back." When you say that you cannot judge a person lost who says that it is possible that a regenerate person can say that Arminianism is an integral part of the true gospel (A.A. Hodge), and when you say that you cannot judge a person lost who says that it is possible that a regenerate person can believe in universal atonement or conditional perseverance (John Robbins), it's time to stop abruptly and quickly shift into reverse. Some basic questions need to be answered. So no, this isn't a direct answer to your letter; however, it is a necessary precursor to an informed answer to your letter.

I have one more set of questions that I would like to add to my list. It might look familiar:

Can we judge someone to be unregenerate who says:

45. "The difference between Mormonism and Christianity is one of emphasis rather than principle. Each is the complement of the other. Each is necessary to restrain, correct, and supply the one-sided strain of the other They together give origin to the blended strain from which issues the perfect music which utters the perfect truth."

46. "The difference between Islam and Christianity is one of emphasis rather than principle. Each is the complement of the other. Each is necessary to restrain, correct, and supply the one-sided strain of the other They together give origin to the blended strain from which issues the perfect music which utters the perfect truth."

47. "The difference between Buddhism and Christianity is one of emphasis rather than principle. Each is the complement of the other. Each is necessary to restrain, correct, and supply the one-sided strain of the other They together give origin to the blended strain from which issues the perfect music which utters the perfect truth."

48. "The difference between Roman Catholicism and Christianity is one of emphasis rather than principle. Each is the complement of the other. Each is necessary to restrain, correct, and supply the one-sided strain of the other They together give origin to the blended strain from which issues the perfect music which utters the perfect truth."

49. "The difference between Atheism and Christianity is one of emphasis rather than principle. Each is the complement of the other. Each is necessary to restrain, correct, and supply the one-sided strain of the other They together give origin to the blended strain from which issues the perfect music which utters the perfect truth."

50. "The difference between Satanism and Christianity is one of emphasis rather than principle. Each is the complement of the other. Each is necessary to restrain, correct, and supply the one-sided strain of the other They together give origin to the blended strain from which issues the perfect music which utters the perfect truth."

There! We have an even 50!



I would encourage both Andrew and Winnen to give responses to these 50 items as well. Then we can compare our answers.

In Christ,

Marc


Pedersen never responded to any of the 50 items. He wrote the following response to one of Andrew's letters:

Dear Andrew,

I am working today on sermons for translation into Chinese, and I have to have them finished by the end of the day. Things like this have been a steady part of my schedule and have prevented me from giving you a fuller answer to your points. They have not prevented me from reading your responses and you attempts to clarify your position.

I can say that from what you have written I am very concerned that you are adding qualifications to the Scriptures which have grave implications. We are not of the same mind on the matters at hand, and I could not entertain the idea of traveling with you to preach the gospel unless you were willing to submit to instruction and change your expressions. Both you and Marc should have humbly sought much more clarification from John Robbins before making these statements, even if John was abrupt or harsh in his initial manner, which I don't know to be the case.

Marc, I have been under the impression that you regard yourself as a Calvinist in the best and truest sense, and not a "hypo- Calvinist". Do you have any idea what Calvin said about your position that the regenerate may not (can not, will not ever) commit sins which implicate a true gospel confession as one- time occurrences? Just curious. If you saw Calvin's position running a cross purposes to what you have stated, would you denounce Calvin as an un-regenerate agent of Satan? I am assuming that you would. Indeed, if you are convinced that Calvin either implicitly or explicitly denied the gospel, you must.

I have no concern about your being "radical to the extreme". It is impossible to be too zealous in the promotion and the defense of the truth of the gospel. My concern is not that you are "going too far", or that you are "too radical". My concern is that you are wrong, and that you have begun to add qualifications to the Scriptures that are not there. Also, you seem oblivious to earnest admonitions to you about your manner of speech. This really troubles me.

In truth, as I write more about the distinctions you are now asserting as a basis for your position, I am very interested in seeing how I will be regarded. My prayer is that a compliant willingness to submit to biblical instruction will prevail all around. I will try to write more later after I make some more progress on the work I am now doing, which must have first priority.

Regards,

John


Some time during this time (I'm not sure of the chronology), I wrote this:

John Pedersen #1: "The fact he is willing to call such a one a 'brother' indicates that he does not understand the Scriptures, or the power of God, i.e., the Gospel."

John Pedersen #2: "You convey an imperious attitude. I would distinguish between this attitude and an attitude which does not tolerate or compromise with sin, but seeks (through patient, gentle instruction) repentance of those who may be in error. To seek repentance through adminition and instruction is not to begin by driving to the conclusion that the person you are dealing with is an unregenerate agent of Satan before great care is taken to clarify and make proper distinctions. Also, there is a difference between withholding positive endorsement (while clarification is sought) and declaring a negative conclusion, absent any indication of the biblical process which (properly) preceeds this conclusion."

John Pedersen #1: "Then he fundamentally denies the heart and soul of the gospel."

John Pedersen #2: "On the biblical principle that it is possible for a regenerate person to speak or otherwise act contrary to the gospel (thus sinning, and requiring repentance), I can not, in good concience, declare with absolute certainty that AA Hodge was unregenerate when he made the statement about Arminianism and Calvinism both being needed to hold one another in check. I can say that such a statement calls for admonition, and may (have) invited the proper conclusion that he was (is) an unregenerate agent of Satan. I can even say that that is the kind of statement an unregenerate agent of Satan could or would make. But I can not proclaim that I absolutely know this to be the case about AA Hodge on the basis of that single statement, and at the time he made it."

John Pedersen #1: "This man knows nothing. He is a dangerous man who trades away the grace of God and sacrifices it on the altar of religious sincerity. This is evil. ... both the aforementioned person and the other man who shamefully displays contempt for the heart of the gospel are my enemy, and the enemies of the truth."

John Pedersen #2: "It appears to me in addition to what I have already observed that you and Marc have adopted a 'shoot first-- ask questions later' approach which actually precludes any kind of the admonition we see the Apostle Paul giving the Corinthians above. On the assumptions Marc has expressed, were he to learn of some who was 'easily putting up with' the preaching of 'another Jesus', he would immediately determine that the whole lot of them were unregenerate agents of Satan and have nothing to do with them, directives like Titus 3:10 notwithstanding."

Would the real John Pedersen please stand up?


Pedersen wrote this to Andrew and me:

Dear Andrew (Marc too)

I am presently in Massachusetts.

I am thankful for Andrew's last letter. You are quite right that I must offer a more substantial response and give more specific reasons.

I just did not want it to be thought that I was in agreement with Marc when he included me in a communication to John Robbins, even though I did not have the time to respond at length. Even now what I write must be rushed, but I will, by God's grace, write something.

The simple answer is that you and Marc are positing distinctions which are not IN Scripture, and drawing conclusions that are contrary TO Scripture.

Also, Marc appears to be showing an arrogance so great that he does not even acknowledge receiving a rebuke, say nothing about responding as to its legitimacy or even disagreeing with it scripturally. What place to the fear and meekness spoken of in I Peter 3:15 have in your life, Marc? What about the gentleness and humility of II Timothy 2:23, 24? It is possible to manifest these qualities toward those who are taken captive by the devil to do his will, and to manifest these qualities without tolerating the wicked lie of the false gospel one iota.

You just multiply questions, Marc, as though you were holding me in suspicion.

I will try to BRIEFLY touch on some of the biblical and doctrinal reasons for saying that a person who maintains that a regenerate person may not commit sins which implicate the gospel has departed from the Scriptures.

More than this, I can not do right now. Also, I ask that if you think I speak contrary to the gospel in anything I write to you, that you direct your concern to me and allow me to respond first before I see this letter published somewhere. The reason? I do believe it is possible for me to speak in a way that requires repentance, and I invite the correction I constantly need.

Unless I can be clearly convinced otherwise from the Word of God, I believe that the view you have asserted, while it may have the intention of honoring the truth and seeking to do biblical justice to the work of the Holy Spirit, actually tends toward the diminution of both the gospel and the biblical truth of total depravity.

It diminishes the gospel by the false implication that there are some sins that are "non gospel" sins. Actually, the implications of the gospel are so great that all sin is an either implicit or explicit denial of the gospel.

The view you have expressed implies that there are some sins which do not deny the gospel (and which are therefore possible for regenerate persons to commit).

This both denies the pervasive implications of sin (negatively-see below) and the pervasive implications of the gospel (positively) and leads to a Wesleyan Arminian perfectionism. I remember once talking with a Nazarene pastor and having him tell me that because of the entire sanctification of the Holy Spirit (the "Second Blessing"), he no longer sinned, but he did make mistakes. The same kind of Pharisaic reasoning must invariably belong to those who take it upon themselves to decide which sins do not deny the gospel (and are therefore not possible for the regenerate) and which sins do.

Because we do not believe that the Bible teaches a separation between the heart and the mind (and thus a distinction between sins in "life" and sins in "doctrine") a person is speaking in their actions and acting in their speech. Notice the example James cites approvingly in James 2:18.

Whenever you begin to add distinctions and qualifications to the Scriptures (which you do by saying that a regenerate person may not commit sins which implicate the doctrine of the gospel) you begin to "manage" the Word of God, and you actually serve the same method as the false gospel. The irony here is sad indeed.

God does not need our help to guard His truth. We should resist the temptation to dress the stones of His Altar. He has made provision whereby the Church guards the trust committed to her and disciplines those who profess to be Christians while denying Christ in doctrine or life. We only show ourselves to be fools when we think we can erect safeguards and assert distinctions which are not our prerogative, and circumvent the biblical process of admonition, rebuke and Church censure.

Your view diminishes the biblical doctrine of the total depravity of man. It implies that the sinful nature of the believer is infused with righteousness and is not as depraved as it was when we were lost. This is wrong. My sinful nature is no less sinful now than it was when I was a slave to it. Although the reigning power and dominion of my sinful nature has been broken, the sinful nature is no less sinful in principle now than it ever was. In Christ, I am under the constant constraint to put to death whatever belongs to it (Colossians 3:1ff). There is no aspect of my sinful nature that is "sinless", as if I were incapable of sinning in the "big things" and could only commit the venial sins of "non- gospel" import. You have erected a mortal/venial distinction in sins. Were have we heard this before?

While a regenerate person will invariably sin in this life (I John 1:8;2:1), he is never given assurance in his sin that he is regenerate and further, if he is regenerate, he will not continue in sin (I John 3:6) but will demonstrate a pattern of repentance and turning from sin. Moreover, he can not be regarded as a brother so long as he continues in un-repentant sin. He will walk in the light, as He is in the light (I John 1). Sin can never be tolerated in the life of the believer. A person who persists in un-repentant sin in doctrine or life can not be positively endorsed as a brother. He can be admonished and disciplined, however. For an unbeliever, sin is a way of life, the course of his life. For the Christian, sin is an aberration, something which must be identified and forsaken daily. He nevertheless struggles with, as well as against, sin until the resurrection.



The problem with some of your syllogisms is that you don't distinguish between sin as un-repentant practice and the occasion of sin which can occur in the life of a person who is regenerate. You seem to see them as the same reality. As far as "gospel denying" sins are concerned, Marc has said they ARE the same reality ("one time occurrences"). Marc is plain wrong, and is not only adding something to the Scriptures here (and thereby diminishing both the greatness of the gospel and the sinfulness of sin), but is asserting something that is contrary to the Scriptures, unless, for example, he does not believe Peter was regenerate in Matthew 16, John 18, or Galatians 2.

The viewpoint you have expressed is also contrary to the biblical doctrine of Church discipline. According to your view, the Church may not discipline those who commit "gospel denying" sins. The reason is that if a person (as a "one time occurrence"--Marc) commits a sin which implicates the true profession of the gospel, he is not regenerate and is therefore to be regarded as being of the world. We do not discipline any but those we acknowledge may be regenerate on account of their profession and their relationship to the life of the Church. It is only those who call themselves "brother" who are disciplined by the Church (Read carefully I Corinthians 5:1-13).

According to what you are saying, if those who profess the Christian faith commit a sin which endorses the false gospel and denies the true, he is de facto not regenerate and we need not dissociate from such a person or even excommunicate them because they are not different from the people of this world, who we expect to act as the idolaters they are. So, while we may discipline a person we consider to be in the Church who has an immoral relationship with his step- mother, we may not discipline a person who says that he believes Arminianism is needed to balance Calvinism, for such a person (on your view) is a rank unbeliever and idolater (on the basis of a "one-time occurrence"-Marc) and is no different than one of the people of this world. "Not at all", says the Apostle as to separation from the people of this world who are idolaters. "In that case, you would have to leave the world".

Also, your view does not take into account the evil subtlety of the false gospel, and the cautious and careful way that we much approach and deal with this subtlety in the context of the Church. The statement in Jude 9 about the Archangel Michael is instructive. We are dealing with issues of life or death. We must be very careful and continually renounce our own wisdom, lest we be infected with the subtlety we denounce by directing our bow (as did Jehu, in his recklessness) against others besides those of the house of Ahab. The truth is, Jehu's reckless butchery ended up exposing his pride.

I hate the wicked lie of the false gospel now more than ever. I believe that this lie should be exposed and the people of God should be protected from it. I also believe that Christians, regenerate people, should forsake this lie where they have lent their ears to its blasphemous influence. Those who belong to Christ will forsake it, and demonstrate that they are among those who purify themselves from what defiles body and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of the Lord (Read carefully II Corinthians 7:1-3, and note especially the first phrase in verse 3). Those who continue in it without repentance will perish eternally, for it is the gospel of "another Jesus" (See II Corinthians 11:1-4).

Because the Corinthians put up with this gospel (v.4), Paul rebuked them.

He did not say that the fact that they "may well put up with it" was proof positive that they were unregenerate agents of Satan. He rather warned them, and the implication is clear: if they were to continue in this course, Christ would profit them not at all (Cf. Galatians 5:2).

It appears to me in addition to what I have already observed that you and Marc have adopted a "shoot first-- ask questions later" approach which actually precludes any kind of the admonition we see the Apostle Paul giving the Corinthians above. On the assumptions Marc has expressed, were he to learn of some who was "easily putting up with" the preaching of "another Jesus", he would immediately determine that the whole lot of them were unregenerate agents of Satan and have nothing to do with them, directives like Titus 3:10 notwithstanding.

Rather, we should seek to admonish them as we see the Apostle doing with the Corinthians. Repent, Marc. Repent, Andrew. The immense value and good that can be gained by attacking the lie of Satan and calling all who tolerate it to repentance is in danger of evaporation. Instead of the attention being focused on the truth verses the lie, the attention is now being focused on Marc Carpenter and those who are brave enough and have the spiritual guts enough to be "radical to the extreme". How about forsaking the un-biblical bravado, submitting to God's testimony with a broken recognition of your own sinful propensity, and calling persons to faith and repentance?

Regards,

John


Here is my response:

Dear John,

I hope and pray that I am not engaging in "un-biblical bravado" and am "submitting to God's testimony with a broken recognition of [my] own sinful propensity, and calling persons to faith and repentance." I am painfully aware of my own sin, and I desire to live in repentance. I do not want to proudly arrogate myself above anyone. I come before you as one who is in need of God's grace every single moment of every single day. Without the imputed righteousness of Christ, I would be a guilty, naked sinner.

<<The simple answer is that you and Marc are positing distinctions which are not IN Scripture, and drawing conclusions that are contrary TO Scripture.>>

Please explain to me these Scriptures:

Matthew 12:31-32

Galatians 1:8-9

1 John 1:8,10

1 John 2:22-23

1 John 4:3

1 John 5:16-18

2 John 9-11

<<Also, Marc appears to be showing an arrogance so great that he does not even acknowledge receiving a rebuke,>>

I acknowledge receiving a rebuke.

<<say nothing about responding as to its legitimacy or even disagreeing with it scripturally.>>

One of the reasons for the 50 questions was to ascertain the legitimacy/scripturality of the rebuke.

<<What place to the fear and meekness spoken of in I Peter 3:15 have in your life, Marc?>>

I acknowledge that this is a rebuke from you. Please give me specifics in which I have not acted in fear and meekness, and I will be happy to look at the specifics. Please give specific quotes -- my own words. And please tell me whether or not you think Paul was acting in fear and meekness when he said what he did in Galatians 5:12.

<<What about the gentleness and humility of II Timothy 2:23, 24?>>



I acknowledge that this is a rebuke from you. Please give me specifics in which I have not acted in gentleness and humility, and I will be happy to look at the specifics. Please give specific quotes -- my own words. And please tell me whether or not you think Paul was acting in gentleness and humility when he said what he did in Galatians 5:12.

<<It is possible to manifest these qualities toward those who are taken captive by the devil to do his will, and to manifest these qualities without tolerating the wicked lie of the false gospel one iota.>>

Please show me, in my own words, where I have not manifested these qualities.

<<You just multiply questions, Marc, as though you were holding me in suspicion.>>

I gave you the 50 questions so I can get a grip on where you stand. I honestly do not know where you stand on these issues. Your answers will go a long way to clearing many things up. Please answer them. They're not difficult to understand.

<<It diminishes the gospel by the false implication that there are some sins that are "non gospel" sins. Actually, the implications of the gospel are so great that all sin is an either implicit or explicit denial of the gospel. The view you have expressed implies that there are some sins which do not deny the gospel (and which are therefore possible for regenerate persons to commit).>>

Your answer to one question will make things more clear for me:

Is it possible for a regenerate person to confess belief in the Arminian gospel? (An example, if the question is not sufficiently plain: Can a regenerate person confess that Christ's death atoned for every single person without exception?)

<<This both denies the pervasive implications of sin (negatively-see below) and the pervasive implications of the gospel (positively) and leads to a Wesleyan Arminian perfectionism. I remember once talking with a Nazarene pastor and having him tell me that because of the entire sanctification of the Holy Spirit (the "Second Blessing"), he no longer sinned, but he did make mistakes. The same kind of Pharisaic reasoning must invariably belong to those who take it upon themselves to decide which sins do not deny the gospel (and are therefore not possible for the regenerate) and which sins do.>>

This is a serious accusation, and I acknowledge it as such. I have NOT "taken it upon myself to decide which sins do not deny the gospel." I have reasoned from the Scriptures. I have reasoned that Christians cannot preach a false gospel. I have reasoned that Christians cannot not abide in the doctrine of Christ. I have reasoned that Christians cannot give a greeting to those who come to them with a false gospel. This is all from Scripture.

Do you want to talk about where views lead? What is the logical extreme of the position that a Christian can commit every possible sin? It is this: That a Christian can profess that Muslims are his brothers in Christ. That we cannot judge anyone lost because he might just be a Christian who is sinning by professing a false gospel. That we cannot even say that Billy Graham or the Pope is lost because they might just be Christians who are in sin. If you argue that Billy Graham and the Pope are people who have "persisted" in their sin, then I ask you: are you then going to judge someone lost based on the length of time someone has continued in sin? How long does the Pope need to "persist" in his sin before you judge him lost? Did not his first prayer to Mary show that he was lost, even though he had not yet "persisted" in it and had not yet been "confronted" with his sin? How long must a person persist in the sin of confessing a false gospel before you juge him lost? One second? One hour? One day? Fifty years? How many times must a person be confronted with and reject the truth of the gospel before you judge him lost? Once? Twice? Twenty times? Six hundred times?

<<Whenever you begin to add distinctions and qualifications to the Scriptures which you do by saying that a regenerate person may not commit sins which implicate the doctrine of the gospel) you begin to "manage" the Word of God, and you actually serve the same method as the false gospel. The irony here is sad indeed.>>

This is a serious accusation, and I acknowledge it as such. The distinctions COME FROM the Scriptures. I have not made these distinctions up.

By the way, my dictionary says that "implicate" means "1. To fold or twist together; entwine. 2. To imply. 3. To bring into intimate or incriminating connection; involve." I assume you mean something like "denegrate."

<<God does not need our help to guard His truth.>>

God uses means to guard His truth.

"And the word of Jehovah was to me, saying, Son of man, speak to the sons of your people and say to them: When I bring the sword on it, on a land, and take one man from the people of the land, their borders, and set him for a watchman to them, and [when] he sees the sword coming on the land, and he blows the ram's horn and warns the people, and the hearer hears the sound of the ram's horn and takes no warning, and the sword comes and takes him; his blood shall be on his own head. He heard the sound of the ram's horn and took no warning; his blood shall be on himself. But he who took warning, he shall deliver his soul. But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the ram's horn, and the people are not warned, and the sword comes and takes a soul from them, he is taken in his iniquity. But I will require his blood from the watchman's hand." (Ezekiel 33:1-6)

<<We should resist the temptation to dress the stones of His Altar. He has made provision whereby the Church guards the trust committed to her and disciplines those who profess to be Christians while denying Christ in doctrine or life. We only show ourselves to be fools when we think we can erect safeguards and assert distinctions which are not our prerogative, and circumvent the biblical process of admonition, rebuke and Church censure.>>

I am assuming that you are accusing me of "erecting safeguards and asserting distinctions" that are of my own imagination rather than of the Holy Scriptures.

Here you are getting into discipline (which you go into later). I would like you to explain to me how one would exercise church discipline on Billy Graham or the Pope. Or John Robbins. And, since you imply that this is the only way to judge someone lost, then I expect that you will be pursuing this church discipline with each of these three men (and thousands more).

<<Your view diminishes the biblical doctrine of the total depravity of man. It implies that the sinful nature of the believer is infused with righteousness and is not as depraved as it was when we were lost. This is wrong. My sinful nature is no less sinful now than it was when I was a slave to it. Although the reigning power and dominion of my sinful nature has been broken, the sinful nature is no less sinful in principle now than it ever was. In Christ, I am under the constant constraint to put to death whatever belongs to it (Colossians 3:1ff). There is no aspect of my sinful nature that is "sinless", as if I were incapable of sinning in the "big things" and could only commit the venial sins of "non- gospel" import. You have erected a mortal/venial distinction in sins. Were have we heard this before?>>

I acknowledge your accusation. I have NOT "erected a mortal/venial distinction in sins." ALL SINS are mortal sins, in the sense that all deserve death. There is not a single sin that does not deserve death. The Bible makes it VERY CLEAR that there are some sins that Christians ARE NOT ABLE to commit, because there are sins that PROVE SOMEONE'S LOSTNESS. Again, your answers to my 50 questions will show me whether or not you are really denying this or are just confused.

To say that a Christian cannot commit certain sins IS NOT saying that Christians do not still have remaining sin. This is a non sequitur.

<<The problem with some of your syllogisms is that you don't distinguish between sin as un-repentant practice and the occasion of sin which can occur in the life of a person who is regenerate.>>

Is one example of an "occasion of sin which can occur in the life of a person who is regenerate" an affirmation that we are saved by our works? That Christ's blood atoned for all without exception? That salvation is conditioned on faith? That Mary is co-redemptrix? That there is no God? And on and on I could go. Can a regenerate person confess these things? This is a VERY important question John. PLEASE answer it.

Here is what John Kennedy of Dingwall had to say about a preacher who sounded orthodox most of the time but committed the "occasional sin" of preaching a false gospel:

"The telling part of the doctrine may be that which is unscriptural, and all the more is it helped to be so by the mixture of what tends to recommend it to acceptance. The measure of truth it contains merely serves, in many cases, to throw the conscience off guard. It seems to some, as if the utterance of an occasional statement, that is both indefensible and dangerous, can be quite counteracted by other statements, from the same source, that are confessedly scriptural. But in such a case, the character and tendency of the teaching are not determined by the counterpoise of truth. The sound doctrine cannot be intelligibly apprehended and honestly believed, if what is utterly inconsistent with it is both held and proclaimed. A breach in the wrapping exposes the contents of a parcel. To that opening the eye must be directed that would discover what the envelope enclosed. An occasional erroneous statement, breaking wildly through the bounds of possible orthodoxy, exposes the spirit of one's teaching, and is the index of its practical tendency."

<<The viewpoint you have expressed is also contrary to the biblical doctrine of Church discipline. According to your view, the Church may not discipline those who commit "gospel denying" sins. The reason is that if a person (as a "one time occurrence"--Marc) commits a sin which implicates the true profession of the gospel, he is not regenerate and is therefore to be regarded as being of the world. We do not discipline any but those we acknowledge may be regenerate on account of their profession and their relationship to the life of the Church. It is only those who call themselves "brother" who are disciplined by the Church (Read carefully I Corinthians 5:1-13). According to what you are saying, if those who profess the Christian faith commit a sin which endorses the false gospel and denies the true, he is de facto not regenerate and we need not dissociate from such a person or even excommunicate them because they are not different from the people of this world, who we expect to act as the idolaters they are. So, while we may discipline a person we consider to be in the Church who has an immoral relationship with his step- mother, we may not discipline a person who says that he believes Arminianism is needed to balance Calvinism, for such a person (on your view) is a rank unbeliever and idolater (on the basis of a "one-time occurrence"-Marc) and is no different than one of the people of this world. "Not at all", says the Apostle as to separation from the people of this world who are idolaters. "In that case, you would have to leave the world".>>

This is a gross misrepresentation of my position. We need not excommunicate one who endorses a false gospel???!! We may not discipline a person who says that he believes Arminianism is needed to balance Calvinism???!! I have NEVER EVER said or implied that. OF COURSE we are to excommunicate them. In fact, they are to be excommunicated IMMEDIATELY, for they are EVIL-DOERS.

<<Also, your view does not take into account the evil subtlety of the false gospel, and the cautious and careful way that we much approach and deal with this subtlety in the context of the Church. The statement in Jude 9 about the Archangel Michael is instructive. We are dealing with issues of life or death.>>

And how do you judge life or death issues? Is the issue of professors-only baptism vs. paedobaptism a matter of life and death? After all, if someone "persists" in the sin of professors-only baptism after being confronted with it, would you judge him lost? Since all sins are alike in that all are "gospel-sins," would you not consider an unrepentant Baptist to be lost?

<<I hate the wicked lie of the false gospel now more than ever. I believe that this lie should be exposed and the people of God should be protected from it. I also believe that Christians, regenerate people, should forsake this lie where they have lent their ears to its blasphemous influence. Those who belong to Christ will forsake it, and demonstrate that they are among those who purify themselves from what defiles body and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of the Lord (Read carefully II Corinthians 7:1-3, and note especially the first phrase in verse 3). Those who continue in it without repentance will perish eternally, for it is the gospel of "another Jesus" (See II Corinthians 11:1-4).>>



Yet one who is regenerate can continue in the gospel of "another Jesus" for a short period of time? How do you judge how long one continues without repentance before you consider him lost?

Does "lent their ears to its blasphemous influence" mean that they confess belief in salvation conditioned on the sinner? That they confess belief that Christ's blood atoned for all without exception? That they confess belief that a saint can lose his salvation?

<<Because the Corinthians put up with this gospel (v.4), Paul rebuked them. He did not say that the fact that they "may well put up with it" was proof positive that they were unregenerate agents of Satan.>>

This verse is has been mistranslated by most versions, including the KJV, which says, "ye might well bear with [him]." The NKJV's "you may well put up with it" is no better (in fact, it doesn't even put "it" in italics, which is should have). The word in italics should be "me." Paul is talking about himself here. Look what sense it makes:

"For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or [if] ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with [me], for I suppose I was not a whit behind the very chiefest of apostles" (2 Corinthians 11:4-5). Paul is not saying that the believing Corinthians put up with the false gospel; in fact, he said that they had NOT received another spirit and had NOT accepted another gospel.

<<It appears to me in addition to what I have already observed that you and Marc have adopted a "shoot first-- ask questions later" approach which actually precludes any kind of the admonition we see the Apostle Paul giving the Corinthians above.>>

Please give a single example where I have taken this approach. Please show me in my correspondence with John Robbins that I only asked questions after I had made a judgment of him.

<<On the assumptions Marc has expressed, were he to learn of some who was "easily putting up with" the preaching of "another Jesus", he would immediately determine that the whole lot of them were unregenerate agents of Satan and have nothing to do with them, directives like Titus 3:10 notwithstanding.>>

Please give me specifics on how I have been in disobedience to Titus 3:10. SPECIFICS PLEASE. Generalities are not helpful.

Again, the "easily putting up with" the preaching of "another Jesus" comes from the errors of your Bible version.

<<Marc, I have been under the impression that you regard yourself as a Calvinist in the best and truest sense, and not a "hypo- Calvinist". Do you have any idea what Calvin said about your position that the regenerate may not (can not, will not ever) commit sins which implicate a true gospel confession as one- time occurrences? Just curious. If you saw Calvin's position running a cross purposes to what you have stated, would you denounce Calvin as an un-regenerate agent of Satan? I am assuming that you would. Indeed, if you are convinced that Calvin either implicitly or explicitly denied the gospel, you must.>>

Please show me what Calvin said, and we'll deal with it.

If Calvin denied the gospel, then yes, he was lost when he denied the gospel.

As Winnen said in response to Gary McKirchy (who said that Clark never said all Arminians were going to hell):

"Well, if he said that Arminians are going to heaven, then TO HELL WITH HIM! And if Turretin said that Arminians are going to heaven, then TO HELL WITH HIM! And if Augustine and Calvin said that Arminians are going to heaven then TO HELL WITH THEM, too! Of course, I am only quoting the INFALLIBLE words of the apostle Paul here. But (and also an 'of course' here, too) I didn't go as far as he did. Because none of the above men would qualify as an 'angel from heaven.'"

Amen, Winnen.



In Christ,

Marc


And another one from me:

Dear John,

Not too long ago, Winnen Russ sent you some things you said about 1 1/2 years ago considering the spiritual state of Bob Fisher and John MacArthur. Along with sending you these things, Winnen said this: "The words in brackets were written by a man named John Pedersen a-year-and-a-half ago. Notice how little evidence (comparatively speaking) it took this man to come to the conclusion that both John MacArthur and Bob Fisher (my brother's pastor) are both his enemies and the enemies of the gospel. Are you still the same man?"

Your response to Winnen was YES, you are still the same man who made those judgments that MacArthur and Fisher are lost based on a small amount of evidence. This gives me a glimmer of hope.

I would like to take some quotes from this letter and make comments.

Winnen said:

"I seem to have even a difficult time with reformed pastors on occasion. I want to ask you to read the correspondence below and tell me what you think of it. I asked a reformed pastor if he would allow a person to speak in his pulpit who openly denies Limited Atonement. Here's his reply:"

Then Winnen quoted Bob Fisher:

"Dear Winnen, We would not allow a man who 'openly denies' particular redemption preach or teach in our assembly. In some cases we might allow such a brother to speak in terms of bringing a report or asking for prayer. With that having been said, each case would need to be considered individually. Sincerely, Bob"

And here is your response to that letter:

"The fact he is willing to call such a one a 'brother' indicates that he does not understand the Scriptures, or the power of God, i.e., the Gospel."

Wait a minute here.

1. You are judging this man lost based on THREE SENTENCES?? Do you know who this man is? This man is a Reformed Baptist pastor who I know has made many, perhaps thousands, of orthodox statements about the gospel. He professes to believe all five points of Calvinism. He was a friend of my father. Yet you have judged this man lost based on his calling someone who openly denies particular redemption a "brother" in a three-sentence letter. How do you know this man is lost? Couldn't a regenerate person make the statements that Bob made to Winnen?

2. Where is the church discipline process here? Did you refrain from judging him until he had been confronted with his sin? Should you not have waited to judge him until he showed a pattern of such sin? Why do you think you can take it upon yourself to make a private judgment of Bob Fisher's soul without the judgment of the church?



3. And YOU are calling ME into repentance for judging that John Robbins is lost? I am in sin for judging someone lost who said that people who deny particular redemption and say they can lose their salvation are regenerate? And YOU are saying that you cannot judge A.A. Hodge to be lost based on his quote that Calvinism and Arminianism are needed for the whole truth of the gospel? Please, John, PLEASE show me why this is not a double standard. You can judge Bob Fisher lost based on what he wrote to Winnen, and yet I cannot judge John Robbins lost based on what he wrote to me, even though what Robbins wrote is MUCH more extensive and clear than what Bob Fisher said. You can judge Bob Fisher lost based on what he wrote to Winnen, and yet I cannot judge A.A. Hodge lost based on his statements, even though what Hodge wrote is MUCH more clear as to his promotion of the false gospel than what Bob Fisher said.

I would like to give you some of your own recent quotes:

"Both you [Andrew] and Marc should have humbly sought much more clarification from John Robbins before making these statements."

Could I not apply this to YOUR statements about Bob Fisher? Should you not have humbly sought much more clarification from Bob Fisher before making these statements? Especially in light of the fact that John Robbins made his position VERY CLEAR, and Bob Fisher's statement is not nearly as clear.

"The problem with some of your syllogisms is that you don't distinguish between sin as un-repentant practice and the occasion of sin which can occur in the life of a person who is regenerate."

Okay--tell me which one was the sin of Bob Fisher. Was it "the occasion of sin which can occur in the life of a person who is regenerate"? If so, how dare you judge Bob as lost! Isn't it possible in your scheme of things that a regenerate person could say, "We would not allow a man who 'openly denies' particular redemption preach or teach in our assembly. In some cases we might allow such a brother to speak in terms of bringing a report or asking for prayer."? Was Bob's sin "un-repentant practice"? You certainly can't tell that from one letter. And if you judged Bob as lost before you established your standard of "un-repentant practice," then you must judge yourself to be in sin as well, since YOU are the one who called ME into repentance for doing the exact same thing you did.

"The reason is that if a person (as a 'one time occurrence'--Marc) commits a sin which implicates the true profession of the gospel, he is not regenerate and is therefore to be regarded as being of the world. ... According to what you are saying, if those who profess the Christian faith commit a sin which endorses the false gospel and denies the true, he is de facto not regenerate."

Tell me, John -- by what standard did you judge Bob Fisher lost? Was it because he "commited a sin which implicates [sic] the true profession of the gospel"? Was it because he "commited a sin which endorses the false gospel and denies the true?" By what standard, John?

"... a person who says that he believes Arminianism is needed to balance Calvinism ... (on your view) is a rank unbeliever and idolater (on the basis of a "one-time occurrence"-Marc) and is no different than one of the people of this world."

So -- is a person who says "We would not allow a man who 'openly denies' particular redemption preach or teach in our assembly. In some cases we might allow such a brother to speak in terms of bringing a report or asking for prayer" a rank unbeliever and idolater on the basis of this one-time letter to Winnen?

"Because the Corinthians put up with this gospel (v.4), Paul rebuked them. He did not say that the fact that they 'may well put up with it' was proof positive that they were unregenerate agents of Satan. He rather warned them, and the implication is clear: if they were to continue in this course, Christ would profit them not at all (Cf. Galatians 5:2)."

Didn't Bob Fisher just merely "put up with" those who believed in universal atonement? If this is the case, then if you are consistent with yourself, you must say that this is NOT PROOF POSITIVE that Fisher is an unregenerate agent of Satan. Right?



"It appears to me in addition to what I have already observed that you and Marc have adopted a "shoot first-- ask questions later" approach which actually precludes any kind of the admonition we see the Apostle Paul giving the Corinthians above."

Okay. Let's see if you abide by your own standard. Did you, before you made the comment to Winnen that Bob Fisher did not understand the gospel, ask clarifying questions of Bob Fisher, or did you just "shoot first" and say that he did not understand the gospel?

"Rather, we should seek to admonish them as we see the Apostle doing with the Corinthians. Repent, Marc. Repent, Andrew."

Okay. Did you seek to admonish Bob Fisher before judging him to be lost? If not, what are Andrew and me to think of your calls for us to repent of that of which you are guilty?

_______________

On to some more of what Winnen wrote:

"I wrote to encourage him in such a stance, but at the same time asked why no mention of Calvinism. One of his associates(?) answered my letter and stated in no uncertain terms that ...... ....... is not Calvinistic but 'biblical' in his theology, and that he holds to only four of the five points of Calvinism. You guessed the one he denies--Limited Atonement."

This was your response:

"Then he fundamentally denies the heart and soul of the gospel."

Wait a minute here. How can you be so hasty to judge one who denies Limited Atonement? Do you not have to see whether or not he persists in denying Limited Atonement and see whether or not he repents of his denial of limited atonement before you judge him lost? After all, if Christians can commit the sin of denying Limited Atonement, then you have no business judging someone lost just on the basis of a denial of Limited Atonement. It could just be one of those "sins which endorses the false gospel and denies the true" into which true Christians can fall. Denying Limited Atonement could be just one of those "occasions of sin which can occur in the life of a person who is regenerate." Tell me, John -- how can you judge someone lost just because he denies Limited Atonement?

_________________

And finally, here is another letter to Winnen (in << >>s), with your comments in brackets, and my comments in ##s:

<<Dear Winnen, Greetings in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ! Thank you for your note. Brother, please do not be so critical of other disciples of the Lord. You know that we would be together in our disagreements with ..... ....., but God is greatly using him.>>

[Winnen, this man knows nothing. He is a dangerous man who trades away the grace of God and sacrifices it on the altar of religious sincerity. This is evil]

##Quite a judgment. Isn't it possible for a true Christian to sin in the way this man sinned? If so, how can you be so judgmental?##

<<He is truly our brother and not the enemy.>>

[Correction. He is truly the brother of the person who wrote this, and both the aforementioned person and the other man who shamefully displays contempt for the heart of the gospel are my enemy, and the enemies of the truth]

##Wait a minute here. You said that this person is YOUR ENEMY?? Just because he "shamefully displays contempt for the heart of the gospel?" Isn't a "shameful display of contempt for the heart of the gospel" one of those "sins which endorses the false gospel and denies the true" into which true Christians can fall? Isn't a "shameful display of contempt for the heart of the gospel" one of those "occasions of sin which can occur in the life of a person who is regenerate"? After all, can't true Christians "shamefully display contempt for the heart of the gospel?" Isn't EVERY SIN a "shameful display of contempt for the heart of the gospel?" Isn't there NO DIFFERENCE between the so-called "gospel" and "non-gospel" sins? How, then do you judge this man your enemy? How is it that you do not judge John Robbins your enemy?##

<<Paul told us not to glory in men but he also said that "all things are yours." In this context the "things" are preachers. They are all ours and we should profit from them all.>>

[Scripture twisting at its best. Preachers may well be included in the "things", but preachers who slight the grace of God and show contempt for the sacrifice of Jesus Christ are not included]

##Wait a minute here. Aren't "slighting the grace of God" and "showing contempt for the sacrifice of Jesus Christ" sins into which believers can fall?##

<<I have heard ..... ..... often and there is much that we can receive from him. I once attended a meeting where he addressed the growing connections between Evangelicals and Roman Catholics. He did an excellent job of presenting the truth regarding that great sin. I would be delighted to hear him preach at a conference!>>

[This is because you would be hearing the sound of your own voice, one who was of the same fundamental grace- slighting disposition as you]

##This shows that you were judging that this man lost who would be delighted to hear a false preacher preach at a conference. Can't true Christians say that they would be delighted to hear a false preacher preach at a conference?##

____________________

And finally, here is something I wrote to Winnen that I would also like you to answer:

Since ALL sins deny the gospel, then can you ever judge a person lost by what he confesses? Example: Person A says that Christ died for every human being without exception. Person B says that only professing believers should be baptized. I say that I can judge Person A lost based on what he said, and I cannot judge Person B lost based on what he said. But YOU must come to one of two conclusions: Either you must say that you cannot judge Person A lost and you cannot judge Person B lost, or you must say that you can judge both Person A and Person B lost, since both sins are a denial of the gospel. To which conclusion do you come?

_____________________

Okay. It's time to stop. And it is time for you to answer. Are you promoting a double standard? If not, please tell me how you can judge Bob Fisher and this other man lost and yet call me into repentance for judging John Robbins lost. And please tell me how you can judge Bob Fisher and this other man lost and yet say that there is not enough evidence to judge A.A. Hodge lost. Show me where you used your standard of church discipline and admonition when you judged Bob Fisher and this other man lost. Show me where you used your belief that a Christian can sin a "sin which endorses the false gospel and denies the true." Explain to me why the sins of Bob Fisher and this other man ARE NOT examples of "occasions of sin which can occur in the life of a person who is regenerate." Explain to me how you can judge these people to be lost by what they say while at the same time you maintain that Christians can endorse the false gospel and deny the true gospel.

John, you have a lot of explaining to do.

In Christ,



Marc


Pedersen never answered the questions or explained any of the Scriptures I asked him to explain.

Here is what I got from Pedersen on 12/26/98:

Dear Marc,

All sin is Satanic darkness.

The danger in not responding to you is that you are likely to take that as an indication your arguments are un-answerable, or your representations of my statements and position are accurate and fair. Neither is the case.

I must allow the danger, because I have no time under the present circumstances to say more than what I said earlier. I will briefly and finally repeat it, below. You will hear no more from me about this for some time, as I am committed to other matters which need my full attention.

You will infer and conclude what you will, and you truly seem blind to the dis-respectful and even flippant way you do it. (examples? Things like references to Barney Frank, the Pope, and the "real John Pedersen")

Here is the crux of my disagreement with you, Marc. You have declared that a regenerate person can not commit a sin (as a "one- time occurrence"-your words) which denies the gospel. Thus, you have taken the position that all the sins a regenerate person commits do not deny the gospel. They are apparently "better" and "less sinful" sins.

You are wrong, and you need to repent of your foolishness, because implicit in your position is a denial of your own sin (no matter how much you say otherwise about your struggle with [non-gospel denying] sin) and a denigration of the gospel. What irony.

Regards,

John


My reply:

At 06:30 AM 12/26/98 -0000, John Pedersen wrote:

<<All sin is Satanic darkness.>>

I do not want to misrepresent you: are you then saying that the Satanic darkness to which you were referring in the letter I quoted is not necessarily associated with unregenerate people?

<<The danger in not responding to you is that you are likely to take that as an indication your arguments are un-answerable, or your representations of my statements and position are accurate and fair. Neither is the case.>>

Okay. I do not want to make statements concerning your position that are inaccurate and unfair. One of the ways I try to get at accuracy and fairness is to ask a lot of questions. It is very, very frustrating to be accused of inaccuracy and unfairness when one does not answer any of my clarifying questions.



<<You will infer and conclude what you will, and you truly seem blind to the dis-respectful and even flippant way you do it. (examples? Things like references to Barney Frank, the Pope, and the "real John Pedersen")>>

I have not meant to be disrespectful and flippant. I was DEAD SERIOUS when I mentioned Barney Frank and the Pope. I repeat: I was DEAD SERIOUS. There was NO flippancy in this. NONE WHATSOEVER. When I asked my previous pastor if he thought the Pope was saved, he said that he could not judge the Pope lost. PLEASE tell me whether or not you judge Barney Frank and the Pope to be lost, and PLEASE give me your reasons why you either do judge or do not judge them to be lost. I'm serious.

Regarding the "real John Pedersen": I see discrepancies in what you used to say and in what you now say. I don't know which one is really you. I need to know. I did not mean any disrespect by this. I repent of giving you the impression of disrespect and flippancy. These are not funny matters.

<<Here is the crux of my disagreement with you, Marc. You have declared that a regenerate person can not commit a sin (as a "one- time occurrence"-your words) which denies the gospel. Thus, you have taken the position that all the sins a regenerate person commits do not deny the gospel. They are apparently "better" and "less sinful" sins.>>

I have said that a person cannot confess a false gospel. For example, a person cannot confess that Jesus died for everyone without exception. Do you agree or disagree? Please put an "x" beside one of the answers:

__ agree

__ disagree

I have tried to make it easy for you to answer. Most of my questions are "yes-no" in format, which doesn't take much time at all, even if you just have a few minutes to answer. I have tried to be respectful of your time.

Saying that a person cannot confess a false gospel is fundamentally different than saying that a regenerate person cannot commit a sin that IMPLICITLY denies the gospel. Do you see the difference?

<<You are wrong, and you need to repent of your foolishness, because implicit in your position is a denial of your own sin (no matter how much you say otherwise about your struggle with [non-gospel denying] sin) and a denigration of the gospel. What irony.>>

The irony here is that it seems that you believe that all people who continue in unrepentant sin are lost, no matter what sin it is, thus seeming to show that you believe that you have no unrepentant sin in your life, and thus seeming to show a denial of YOUR own sin and continual need of forgiveness every second of every day. If this is a misrepresentation of your position, then please tell me what you mean by saying that all who remain in unrepentant sin, no matter if it is blatant confession of a false gospel or not, are lost.

Thanks.

--Marc


Pedersen then took a trip to China to see Winnen Russ. When he came back, I again wrote to him asking him to answer my questions. Here is my response to him:

Dear John:

You said:

<<Marc, I am not sure what the future holds. As far as your questions are concerned, please re-read them and try to condense them, and ask them one at a time. This will help.>>

Good. I'm happy to help.

Many of the questions are yes-no, so this should make it even easier.

QUESTION #1: Is it possible for a regenerate person to believe that at least some part of salvation is conditioned on the sinner?

Marc


Pedersen responded, but not with a"yes" or "no." Here is my response to him:

<<Good. I'm happy to help.>>

<<Dear Marc,

Please refrain from quips and flippant remarks like the one above. Thanks.>>

This was NOT a quip or flippant remark. It was sincere. Here you go again, falsely accusing me. REPENT of your false accusation.

<<Many of the questions are yes-no, so this should make it even easier.>>

<<They may be yes-no as far as you are concerned, but I will seek to answer them as best as I can based on my understanding of the Scriptures.>>

<<QUESTION #1: Is it possible for a regenerate person to believe that at least some part of salvation is conditioned on the sinner?>>

<<As faith is God's gift, true faith will never and can never deny the truth. Thus, no regenerate person expresses the faith of God in denying the gospel. The real issue is, can a regenerate person speak in a way which is contrary to the true faith God has given him and express (by words and deeds) that which grieves the Holy Spirit and which requires his repentance? Can a regenerate person violate the first table of the law and speak or act in a way which is idolatrous or injurious and contrary to the gospel? The answer to this is yes. Peter did this in Galatians 2 when he walked contrary to THE GOSPEL and was rebuked by Paul for doing so.

John>>

My response: This does not answer my question; it only raises more questions because of the indirectness of your answer. When a regenerate person speaks in a way which is contrary to the true faith God has given him and expresses by words and deeds that which grieves the Holy Spirit and requires his repentance, is that regenerate person right then believing that at least some part of his salvation is conditioned on himself? When Peter walked contrary to the gospel, did he believe right then that at least some part of salvation is conditioned on the sinner? Can a regenerate person confess, "My salvation was partly a work of God, and partly a work of me"?


Pedersen then came to Vermont for a lecture in April of 1999. I didn't attend, but I obtained a tape of the lecture. After the lecture, there was a question and answer session. I wrote Pedersen about what I heard:

Dear John,

The following is a transcript of part of the question and answer session in your seminar this past Saturday:

Magni: You discussed a great deal about the matter of limited atonement and the confession of unlimited atonement, which means that someone doesn't understand the truth because he believes a false gospel. This is their confession. So the question is - this is a question that has been raised in another forum: Can a regenerate person believe unlimited atonement?

Pedersen: When you say can a regenerate person believe unlimited atonement or believe a false gospel, I'd like to distinguish between the word 'believe' and the word that Paul uses, for example, in Galatians, when he says to the Galatians, 'Who has bewitched you?' Or says in the first chapter, 'I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to another gospel which is really no gospel at all.' Because the faith which God gives is a faith which He gives not in the interest of the false gospel, not in the interest of the lie, but the faith which God gives He gives with the truth. The gospel itself is what brings true faith. And so for a person to believe the gospel and for us to contrast belief in the gospel with belief in the false gospel I think is misleading, because we're implying that belief is something that inheres to a person's psychology, that belongs to them, and that you can equally either believe the truth or believe a lie. And the fact is that God's faith or true belief is only given in the interest of the truth. And you can't use the faith of God to deny Christ. In other words, you can't use that which God gives to deny Him. And so the faith of God will never deny Him. The question is, can a person who is regenerate, that is to say, a person who has the Holy Spirit, can that person come under the influence of or can they be tempted by false doctrine, by the false gospel? And can they for a time acknowledge by at least the fact that they allow the influence of that gospel in their life, acknowledge that gospel to be legitimate or true? And the answer, I believe, is yes, because I think that Scripture is replete with examples of people who have been misled or deceived and who need to be recalled to the truth. And the example I think of the Galatians is a prime example of the issue for me, and I think according to Scripture is not whether a person can find themselves misled by the false gospel or find themselves under the influence of it. The question is, in the clarification of the truth as a person brings the gospel to them and calls them to repentance, will they hear and repent and confirm that they belong to the true Shepherd, that they belong to Jesus Christ? Or will their response to that rebuke be one of offense, in which they say, 'No, I don't want to listen to what you have to say about the truth,' and 'No, I think it's just fine that I am where I am or that I'm saying what I'm saying or being with who I am being with.' And in that situation where a person will not repent, I don't think that there's any possibility that you can regard them as a believer. But I think in the first case, where a person finds himself having been bewitched as the Galatians were under the lie of the Judaizers and they hear the rebuke of the Apostle Paul and they submit to this rebuke in repentance, that that is a confirmation that they belong to Christ. And as to whether it is possible for regenerate people to be in a position like that, I would say, yes it is - it's possible for them to be led and misled into sin. And the issue for us as the people of God is not so much the fact that we don't need to repent but it's the fact that we do repent by the Holy Spirit. And I think this applies to sin in doctrine as well as sin in life. And I don't see where the Bible distinguishes sins in doctrine from sins in life.

Magni: So a person can therefore - who is a believer, therefore believes the gospel - can be, out of ignorance, I suppose, misled by a teacher or a teaching or something, and although he doesn't actually capitulate to believing, but he can certainly be - out of that ignorance - be tolerant. If the Galatians came in and taught them, 'Look, even our Lord was circumcised, and the entire church up to this period has always emphasized circumcision,' and if you accepted that as being just an ordinance in the church even the way we accept baptism - now in your mind it's not really for salvation, but that's what they're teaching. But by accepting that idea of circumcision, now basically, in effect, you have received all of their doctrine, and so in effect, you're giving heed to the greatest of errors. And you come under that influence - and certainly you can, in effect, be bewitched by it, because you're now circumcised yourself without having realized that you're actually capitulating to all their doctrine. But that believer who's done that actually hasn't in their heart now come to believe that their righteousness is what saves them. But they certainly are in a position where they appear, certainly, to be presenting this. In effect, you could say that because now they are promoting these Galatian teachers, they are in effect promoting that doctrine. But their heart can't be changed to believe the false doctrine. Once you clarify to them, look, the actual effect of their teaching is that it actually contradicts the gospel, then certainly they would be repelled and move away from it, and, as you say, repent of it. But I suppose for me the key is: Isn't the heart completely altered so it can never actually go back to believing a lie?

Pedersen: Isn't the heart completely altered so it can never go back to believing a lie? In the sense in which a person is or was before the time that they hear the gospel and were regenerated, the answer to that question is yes. The fact is that the Bible is clear about our confession and our conduct that agrees with and is a confirmation of the truth. Or else it wouldn't be a Christian conduct. It wouldn't be a Christian profession. And what I would say is that we should guard ourselves against the idea that we're not susceptible to temptation in the area of doctrinal sin as any other area in our life. And we should be recognizing the fact that we allow the false gospel to come into our hearing, there is a dangerous occasion for our senses to be dulled and for us to be lulled into sleep, which we need to be awakened from and we need to repent from. And I believe that there are people who need to realize how dangerous the false gospel really is, who belong to Christ, who are His elect, and who are regenerate, and who having not heard the kind of rebuke, for example, that Paul is giving the Galatians in the way that he gives it, are lending credence to that, which really leads to death. And they need to repent and they need to turn. And the fact is that they will do this. When, in the time they hear or as they do hear, they will confirm that they hate what belongs to this lie of the false gospel and they're drawn to the voice of Christ, of the Good Shepherd. And if we say that people are unable to be under the influence of the false gospel and therefore implicitly, at least, to give it place, to tolerate it, to promote it by that, and by that to sin, then we are beginning to advocate sinless perfection in the area of doctrine, in the fact that a person cannot sin in matters pertaining to the gospel. Because really, if you say that a person cannot profess a false gospel, you have to be consistent, and you have to say that the reason why they cannot profess a false gospel is really because they're not able to do so, and they're not able to do so because as far as their heart is concerned, they're not able to be tempted with such an evil, and they're not able by implication to do anything which impugns or otherwise denies the gospel. If you're not consistent and make those relationships explicit, then you really become arbitrary in the sorts of particular things that you want to pick out as sins that can't be committed in terms of the gospel. And when we do that, I think we've departed from the Scriptures and we put ourselves in the place where we really remove ourselves from the need to hear the rebuke of Paul in Galatians. And we really begin to focus on the sins of the flesh as the concern - the sins of the second table of the law instead of the sins of the first table or at an exclusion from those sins. And the fact is that we're just as tempted to deny Christ with our mouth as we are with our bodies, with our lives. And we should guard ourselves against the insidious influence of the lie by the grace of God - by hearing and submitting to the truth. And that's one of the reasons why we continually encourage each other in the gospel.

Sweeney: You stated I think that belief in the true gospel is a work of God.

Pedersen: Yes.

Sweeney: Not a work of man.

Pedersen: Right.

Sweenney: And I think I hear you saying that there is no sin that Christians will not commit, perhaps you would say, other than the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. Is that correct?

Pedersen: Christians are subject to the occasion of sin in this body, yes, until the resurrection.

Sweeney: And is there any real need to distinguish 'willingly' or 'unwillingly' or 'knowingly' or 'unknowingly' in light of the way the Bible speaks about sin and people commit sins unknowingly and are still accountable for them?

Pedersen: Yeah. I think that's important to point out. Because in the Old Covenant the sacrifices for sin are, if not exclusively, they're, in the main, prescribed for sins that are unintentional. So the fact that a person commits an unintentional sin doesn't mean it's not a sin. It doesn't mitigate the sinfulness of it to say that it's unintentional. So it's really not so much the issue to say, 'Well, I was confessing a false gospel but I didn't mean it.' The issue is that Christ through the truth gives us repentance from the lie. And He places His praise on our lips. And He reserves the glory for the salvation He secures, He reserves it for God, and He ensures that it will occur. He ensures that His people will bring praise to Him.

Sweeney: We know that belief is not our own work - belief in the true gospel. What do we say to people - Christians - is their assurance?

Pedersen: We say to Christians that their assurance is in the work of God, in the work of Christ. In other words, we take comfort and joy in the fact that the conviction that we have of our sin and the love that we have for Christ's righteousness could never have come from us. And it could never be something that we could have cooked up in our own sincerity, but that it must necessarily come from God. And where a person doesn't have that concern for sin or for righteousness, where they don't display that in their life, not only should they not be given assurance of salvation, we shouldn't offer it. In other words, a person can say, "Well, I believe in Jesus Christ, but I don't see what the big deal is about grace. I mean, I think that some people are in different levels of understanding of grace and some people believe in a lot of it, some people believe in a little or whatever." When people talk like that, they obviously shouldn't be given any assurance of their salvation. They should be rebuked in a gentle and clear way and directed to the truth, and by God's grace, we hope that they would repent of their sin.

Sweeney: If we are saying that Christians can sin doctrinally, when that occurs, that's an occasion for discipline within the church, how is that handled?

Pedersen: The same way that any sin is handled. They should be admonished and that admonishment should take place according to the Lord's own instruction in places, for example, like Matthew 18 or Titus chapter three or other places where the Bible speaks about warning a person. And that if a person persists in denying the truth, denying the gospel in their profession, persists in doctrinal sin, then the church must distinguish itself from that person. The way that the church distinguishes itself from a person who otherwise is in their midst when they persist in sin without repentance is through excommunication. And one of the things that I've said in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church is that the position that I've taken about Arminianism is that Arminianism is not a matter of inconsistency. There are some people who say that what Arminianism is is a kind of innocent lack of intellectual consistency on the parts of these people. They just don't have it straight. One person who I regard as a real enemy of the truth, I regard this person as an enemy of the truth because this person believes and endorses the lie of Arminianism, but he's very respected in so-called Reformed circles. But he says that an Arminian can have the nature of faith right, can have a correct understanding of the nature of faith, but they can have a misunderstanding of the origin of faith. So basically what this means is that an Arminian believes right, they just don't understand where their faith comes from. They think it comes from them, and we know it comes from God. But if a person thinks that their faith originates with them, then anything you build on a foundation like that is false, because it's the assumption that everything proceeding from their lives ultimately is conditioned upon them. So a person like that, for example, let's say, a person in your congregation is confessing something like this. Their problem is not simply that they're just not as smart as we are, that they don't have some part of the ordo salutis correct or they don't understand the fact that both parts of faith, the nature and origin of faith, are both of God. It's a moral problem. It's a sin issue. It's a fact that they're holding on to their righteousness in what they're saying. And that is not Christianity. That's not the biblical gospel. That's another gospel, you see, when they do this. And they need to be brought to repentance. They need to be directed to repentance. And if they say, as you speak to them, and they say, 'Well, hey, I believe the same thing as John Wesley. I ...' [tape turned over] That person, except they repent, will perish, except they turn to Christ, because they're not confessing and they don't know the gospel. They don't know the biblical gospel. And so if a person like that's in your church and they're a member of the church, then without repentance they should be disciplined and excommunicated from the church. They should be separated away from the church.

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Based on what you said, I have made some conclusions about what you believe. If what follows is NOT what you believe, I would like you to tell me so. If I do not hear from you that this is NOT what you believe, I will assume I am correct in my conclusions.

1. You believe that there is NO sin that Christians cannot commit other than blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. This not only includes sins of immorality, but it also includes ALL sins of doctrine except blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. Thus, you can NEVER judge a person lost based on what he confesses, unless he continues to confess doctrinal error after rebuke (and I'll get into the issue of rebuke later). Thus, if you hear a person confess, "I believe that Jesus Christ is the mediator and redeemer and Mary is the co-mediatrix and co-redemptrix," you cannot judge that person lost based on that one confession, because Christians CAN commit the doctrinal sin of confessing that Mary is co-mediatrix and co-redemptrix.



2. You believe that when a person tolerates and endorses a confession that Mary is co-mediatrix and co-redemptrix by saying, "There are some regenerate people who believe that Mary is co-mediatrix and co-redemptrix," you CANNOT and indeed MUST NOT judge the person lost who said this based on this one confession, because Christians CAN commit the doctrinal sin of confessing that there are some regenerate people who believe that Mary is co-mediatrix and co-redemptrix.

3. You believe that the only time you can judge someone lost is when they have been confronted with the truth, rebuked, and directed to repentance, and still refuse to repent of their sin. Thus, you cannot judge Billy Graham lost, because you have not confronted him and rebuked him to see if he will repent. Billy Graham might just be one of those who has been "bewitched." And Christians CAN sin the sin of confessing what Billy Graham confesses. You cannot judge Pope John Paul II lost, because you have not confronted him and rebuked him to see if he will repent. Pope John Paul II might just be one of those who has been "bewitched." And Christians CAN sin the sin of confessing what Pope John Paul II confesses.

4. You said, "Because really, if you say that a person cannot profess a false gospel, you have to be consistent, and you have to say that the reason why they cannot profess a false gospel is really because they're not able to do so, and they're not able to do so because as far as their heart is concerned, they're not able to be tempted with such an evil, and they're not able by implication to do anything which impugns or otherwise denies the gospel." This means you believe that a Christian CAN profess a false gospel.

5. You said, "The question is, can a person who is regenerate, that is to say, a person who has the Holy Spirit, can that person come under the influence of or can they be tempted by false doctrine, by the false gospel? And can they for a time acknowledge by at least the fact that they allow the influence of that gospel in their life, acknowledge that gospel to be legitimate or true? And the answer, I believe, is yes, because I think that Scripture is replete with examples of people who have been misled or deceived and who need to be recalled to the truth." This means you believe that a Christian CAN acknowledge the false gospel to be the true gospel.

Again, PLEASE correct me if I have IN ANY WAY misrepresented your position. I am willing to hear you out if I have misrepresented you. Also, you seem to be accusing me of believing that Christians cannot sin in the area of doctrine, which I have never said. Christians CAN sin in the area of doctrine. You brought up perfectionism again. Yet you say that you must judge everyone who remains in sin (doctrinal or otherwise) after being rebuked as lost, meaning that you believe that there is NO Christian who EVER remains in sin (doctrinal or otherwise) after being rebuked for that sin. So if you confront someone with doctrinal error, and that person says, "No, I don't see it that way," you judge this person lost. This applies to the areas of ecclesiology, eschatology, baptism, whatever -- ANY doctrinal error. This also means that you believe you have ALWAYS repented of EVERY doctrinal error EVERY TIME you have been confronted with the truth. And you say that WE'RE the perfectionists??

And again I say, BE SURE to correct me if I have misrepresented your position EVEN THE SLIGHTEST BIT. I want to be totally accurate in my representation of your beliefs.

Soli Deo Gloria,

Marc

[Did you read it very closely? Are you able to see the subtle deception? Here are a few things he said: "And so for a person to believe the gospel and for us to contrast belief in the gospel with belief in the false gospel I think is misleading, because we're implying that belief is something that inheres to a person's psychology, that belongs to them, and that you can equally either believe the truth or believe a lie." So it is misleading to contrast belief in the gospel with belief in the false gospel, because this view implies that belief is inherent to a person's psychology! Pedersen does NOT believe that belief is part of the believer, as he stated more clearly later: "And the fact is that God's faith or true belief is only given in the interest of the truth. And you can't use the faith of God to deny Christ. In other words, you can't use that which God gives to deny Him. And so the faith of God will never deny Him." This "faith of God" never denies Christ. But does this mean that a believer never denies Christ? See this: "The question is, can a person who is regenerate, that is to say, a person who has the Holy Spirit, can that person come under the influence of or can they be tempted by false doctrine, by the false gospel? And can they for a time acknowledge by at least the fact that they allow the influence of that gospel in their life, acknowledge that gospel to be legitimate or true? And the answer, I believe, is yes." Remember -- this is in response to the question of if a believer can confess belief in unlimited atonement. Consider his answer carefully. He is saying that a believer CAN, for a time, acknowledge the false gospel to be legitimate or true. "Because really, if you say that a person cannot profess a false gospel [showing that Pedersen believes that a believer CAN profess a false gospel], you have to be consistent, and you have to say that the reason why they cannot profess a false gospel is really because they're not able to do so, and they're not able to do so because as far as their heart is concerned, they're not able to be tempted with such an evil, and they're not able by implication to do anything which impugns or otherwise denies the gospel." "IF you say that a person cannot profess a false gospel ... " Notice the non sequitur: If you say a believer can't profess a false gospel, then you say that they're not able to do anything that even implicitly impugns the gospel.


Back in November of 1998, I had asked John Pedersen:

<<John, can a true Christian deny the gospel?>>

Pedersen did not answer this.

However, Winnen Russ, who was cc'd this message, wrote to me and said:

<<Come on, Marc. You know John's answer to this question.>>

Winnen thought that it was even ridiculous to ask the question, because he thought John obviously would say "NO":

And later, when I said that it seems that Pedersen would answer the question with a "YES," Winnen wrote:

<<He's NOT saying this. Believe me.>>

Was Winnen right? The following e-mail from John Pedersen made Winnen admit that Pedersen WAS saying this:

<<Of course, you know very well that I believe it is possible for regenerate persons to be guilty of the act of confessing a false gospel, and to require repentance for this act. I distinguish, with the Scriptures, between a state of sin (which is the condition of unregenerate persons) and acts of sin which can plague believers, as, for example, the Apostle Peter in Matthew 16 and Galatians 2.>>

My response:

This is it. You have finally come out and said it. You have never said it before, to my knowledge. You had strongly implied it twice, but you had not come out and explicitly stated that you believe a regenerate person can confess a false gospel. I am sorrowing, John. I had no idea when you and I established a relationship that I was in fellowship with and was promoting the writings of a person who believed that regenerate persons can confess a false gospel.

It is the subtlest of the subtlest form of the lie: Arminianism is a false gospel, all Arminians are lost, but true believers can confess belief in the Arminian "gospel." Wow. I am trembling with fear. I shudder at how insidious this is. If it were possible, it would deceive even the very elect. It has a form of godliness but denies its power. It denies the power of God to produce a true confession to His glory in all His saints. It denies that salvation is God glorifying Himself in the hearts of His people. It confesses that those whom God has regenerated are able to confess that their salvation was conditioned on themselves. I am awe-struck at the incredible subtlety combined with the deadliest of poisons.

John, I am not saying this to be mean. I am saying this because it is the truth. And I would rejoice to see God open your eyes.

I don't know if anyone else who is reading this is able to see the insidiousness of this lie. I'm expecting that most, if not all, of you will now completely dissociate from me and consider me to be unregenerate and warn others against me. If this is the way it has to be, then so be it. I will not compromise the gospel, even if it brings the persecution and slander of the religious world, including those who claim to be intolerant of Arminianism but who would not judge one who professes the false gospel of Arminianism lost. "Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you." I know that you, John, will apply this verse to yourself, claiming that you are being persecuted by me because of the gospel, but the key is "for my [Christ's] sake." The persecution that comes from the religious world is persecution because God's people will not speak peace where there is no peace and because God's people will say to the false religionists that they are lost and their deeds are evil. But when you hear someone making a confession of belief in a false gospel, you cannot tell them that they are lost and their deeds are evil, because, after all, they might be believers who are just confessing belief in a false gospel ("speaking as an unbeliever would speak") and need to be called to non-evangelical non-saving repentance.

To all who have ears to hear: The gospel is the good news of salvation conditioned on the atoning blood and imputed righteousness of Christ alone. True repentance believes and confesses that all your deeds before hearing and believing this gospel were dead works, open idolatry, and fruit unto death. Repent and believe the gospel.

Amen.

To God ALONE be the glory for ever and ever,

Marc


So what does this mean about those writings of Pedersen that seem so solid? We have to look at them in light of what he believes. In the lead article of an old issue of Outside the Camp entitled "The 'Reformed Faith' as Spiritual Pride, or Why 'Tolerant' Calvinists' Should Fear and Repent,'" I thought the repentance Pedersen was talking about was evangelical repentance! I thought he was saying that they needed to repent because he was judging them lost! But NO! When Pedersen said, "Should we not seek the repentance of those who say something evil about God's grace?", he's not saying that those who say something evil about God's grace are necessarily lost! He has to wait to see how they respond to his call to repentance!

Also, in Sincerity Meets the Truth, he said:

<<We need rather to be greatly ashamed of ourselves for our tolerant friendship with the doctrine of human sovereignty which lies at the rotten core of evangelicalism, and which, on account it, of our sleepy indifference to is a testimony to our own cowardice.>>

WE need to be greatly ashamed of OUR tolerance of Arminianism? Does he believe that HE is tolerant of Arminianism? Does he believe that HE confesses belief in the false gospel? Does he believe that HE refuses to submit to Christ's righteousness? The answer is YES!!!!

Consider this quote from an article in the Encounter With Christ magazine:

<<Many "Calvinists" defend Arminianism as a legitimate expression of Biblical Christianity, "rough edges" notwithstanding. By doing so, such "Calvinists," by their toleration of Arminian doctrine, implicitly endorse and believe it. The sober truth is this: whatever people may call themselves, if they tolerate and endorse the teaching of Arminianism, they lend support to the satanic lie of human sovereignty. When such persons are aware of this grave sin, they need to repent and forsake it. I pray that such repentance will ensue, and that I will continually repent of this sin.>>

See it?



1. There are people who profess to be Calvinists who defend Arminianism as a legitimate expression of Christianity.

2. These people tolerate, endorse, lend support to, and believe Arminianism.

3. These people need to repent of this sin.

4. I pray that I will continually repent of this sin.

This means that this repentance of which Pedersen speaks is NOT the repentance that happens upon conversion! This means that those who tolerate and thus believe Arminianism are not necessarily lost! Incredible!

And consider this from a sermon on his web site entitled "Palm Sunday: Jerusalem, Jerusalem":

<<It is a weeping which grieves at the rebellion of wickedness. God grieves at the rebellion of wicked hearts, but God is not frustrated by that rebellion. This weeping of Jesus is not the frustration of an impotent God to save, but He is not being given permission to save. No, this weeping is not the weeping of one who has a frustrated inability to accomplish salvation without permission of the objects of His saving love. This weeping is the weeping that is horrified at the rejection of His saving love.

We should weep over this sinful self-righteousness in our own lives. Rather then join the Israelites in Jerusalem on this day and agree with them that we are the decisive factor in our salvation and that the world turns upon us and that Jesus is expressing some kind of impotence here, some kind of powerlessness to do something that He otherwise would do, if we would only give Him permission. We should rather join Jesus in weeping over this rebellion of self-righteousness. If we find it in our own lives and we fail to grab a hold of the Lord Jesus Christ as our only hope and we fail to see in Him our only life and we fail to see that He is the One in whom all our lives live.

I pray that God will expose my own refusal to submit to His righteousness and recognize that that great work that He accomplished on the cross and that was fulfilled and sealed and delivered, if you will, through the resurrection is my only interest.>>

Romans 10:3 says that all who refuse to submit to God's righteousness are LOST!! Yet Pedersen prays that God will expose his own refusal to submit to God's righteousness! (And did you notice that Pedersen believes that "rejected love" was the cause for Christ's weeping?)

Here's a wrap-up about what John Pedersen believes:

John believes that there is NO sin that a Christian cannot commit other than blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.

John believes that a regenerate person can confess a false gospel. His definition of "confess" includes words or actions, implicit or explicit (implicit and explicit being one and the same). If we take all the permutations of this, then we come up with four statements:

1. John believes that a regenerate person can implicitly confess a false gospel with his actions.

2. John believes that a regenerate person can explicitly confess a false gospel with his actions.

3. John believes that a regenerate person can implicitly confess a false gospel with his words.

4. John believes that a regenerate person can explicitly confess a false gospel with his words.

It is #4 that is the most serious.

This means that a regenerate person can explicitly confess with his words belief in the false gospel of Arminianism.



A regenerate person can explicitly confess with his words the belief that Mary is co-mediatrix and co-redemptrix.

A regenerate person can explicitly confess with his words the belief that Hindus are regenerate.

And on and on it would go. It would never stop. We got a little taste of this early on when he said that a regenerate person could confess what A.A. Hodge confessed -- that Arminianism and Calvinism are both necessary components of the true gospel. And since he believes that Christians can sin any sin except for blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, he would also have to say that a regenerate person could confess what Gordon Clark confessed -- that ALL true Arminians MUST be saved. But he has realized that to continue on this path would further unwrap what has begun to be unwrapped.

Now, just to make things perfectly clear and fair, John does NOT believe that explicitly confessing with words a false gospel is something to be tolerated. He is clear that any sin that a believer commits needs to be confronted and repented of. In fact, he uses the words "repent" and "repentance" a lot. But this is where I totally misunderstood him from the beginning. When he used the word "repent" when he was talking about what those confessing and tolerating Arminianism needed to do (as in the title to his article from Outside the Camp, he was NOT talking about evangelical repentance (as part of conversion), .e.g., in the Apostles' message, "repent and believe the gospel." He was talking about repentance that a BELIEVER needed to do. So when he tells "tolerant Calvinists" to REPENT, he is doing so with the belief that if they do repent, then it shows that they were regenerate BEFORE they repented. When he says he does not tolerate an Arminian confession, he is NOT saying that this Arminian confession is necessarily an indicator of the person's lostness; instead, John's intolerance of it leads to his confronting this person who has the Arminian confession and calling him to repentance -- and if that person repents of his Arminian confession, it shows that he was a saved man BEFORE he repented. Thus, these people who confessed Arminianism or who tolerated Arminianism were NOT repenting of dead works and fruit unto death, and thus, they continue to believe that they were saved while they were confessing a false gospel. In other words, they are continuing to speak peace to their "former selves" and show that they really prefer the old wine rather than the new. And this peace-speaking is facilitated by John, who says that it is possible for a regenerate person to explicitly confess a false gospel and to merely need to repent as a Christian of this sin. This is opposed to the truth that when a person explicitly confesses a false gospel, it shows that he is LOST and that he needs to REPENT (evangelical repentance) and believe the gospel, which he showed he DID NOT believe when he was confessing this false gospel.

John's judgment of saved and lost is not based on the person's confession; instead, it is based on whether or not that person repents when confronted with the truth. John has stated that if that person does not repent when confronted with the truth, then he would consider that person lost. An interesting twist on this is that John holds to this in the case of all sin. Thus, if John sees a person sinning, no matter what the sin (it could be what he sees as doctrinal error, since he agrees that doctrinal error is sin), then he confronts the person, and if the person does not repent, he considers this person lost. John would have to consider me lost, since he has called me to repentance for what he sees as my sinful attitude, and I have not repented. Thus I am in unrepentant sin in his eyes. Consider where this leads: If John believes that everyone who continues in unrepentant sin, no matter what the sin, after being confronted, is lost, then he must believe that he himself as a believer has NEVER continued in unrepentant sin after being confronted. He also must judge NO person lost who has not been confronted with the truth. And he must say this: when a person who has confessed a false gospel for 50 years is confronted for the first time and repents, then it must be concluded that this person was a regenerate man during the 50 years that he confessed a false gospel.

In conclusion, I will divide what John believes into categories that correspond with John 16:8-11. The Holy Spirit without fail convinces His people of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment. Let us see what true believers believe in each of these categories and compare them to what John believes.

OF SIN, because they believe not on me.

True believers are convinced of sin. They are convinced that all their deeds before they believed on Jesus were dead works, acts of open idolatry, and fruit unto death. They repent of ever thinking that salvation was conditioned on themselves, they repent of going about to establish a righteousness of their own, they repent of refusing to submit to the righteousness of Christ, and they repent of believing and confessing a false gospel. And when they repent of these things, they know that they will never repent of these things again, because God has changed them from unbelievers (those who refuse to submit to the righteousness of Christ) to believers (those who are submitted to the righteousness of Christ).

John Pedersen is not convinced of sin. He believes that he continues to refuse to submit to the righteousness of Christ. He does not believe that he has been changed into one who is in constant submission to Christ. In effect, he is saying that he is both an unbeliever and a believer at the same time. He does not believe that repentance of refusing to submit to the righteousness of Christ and confessing a false gospel is exclusive to conversion (being changed from an unbeliever to a believer). He believes that the sins regenerate persons commit come from exactly the same unbelief as the sins that come from unregenerate persons. He believes that Christians can sin any sin, including the sin of confessing a false gospel. Instead of seeing the sin of confessing a false gospel as a manifestation of a person's lostness, he says that it is merely "speaking as an unbeliever would speak." What Christians call evangelical repentance (the repentance that happens upon conversion for sins that they will never again fall into), John calls the continual repentance of a believer for sins that believers time and again fall into.

OF RIGHTEOUSNESS, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more.

True believers are convinced of righteousness. They are convinced that the imputed righteousness of Christ is the only ground of their salvation, their sanctification, their assurance, and their final glory. They are so convinced that they never refuse to submit to Christ's righteousness any longer. They are so convinced that they base all their hope of salvation on the imputed righteousness of Christ alone. They are so convinced that they never confess the false gospel of salvation conditioned on the sinner.

John Pedersen is not convinced of righteousness. He believes that anyone who is in unrepentant sin cannot be assured of his salvation. He believes that if he falls into sin and is confronted and does not repent, he has no assurance of his salvation. He bases his assurance not on the imputed righteousness of Christ but on his repentance. He also believes that, since he is assured of his own salvation, he is not in any known unrepentant sin, and that when he is confronted with sin, he repents without fail. He trusts in his own beauty. He is not so convinced of righteousness that he will never confess a false gospel or refuse to submit to Christ's righteousness.

OF JUDGMENT, because the prince of this world is judged.

True believers are convinced of judgment. They judge saved and lost based on God's Testimony. They are convinced that all who are ignorant of Christ's righteousness are lost. They are convinced that all who are not submitted to Christ's righteousness are lost. They are convinced that all who are going about to establish a righteousness of their own are lost. They are convinced that all who confess a false gospel are lost.

John Pedersen is not convinced of judgment. He believes that regenerate persons can confess a false gospel (they can "speak as an unbeliever would speak"); thus, he does not judge all those who confess a false gospel lost. He believes that regenerate persons can refuse to submit to the righteousness of Christ; thus, he does not judge all those who refuse to submit to the righteousness of Christ lost. He believes that judgment is not based solely on God's Testimony -- God's doctrine -- but on whether or not someone who confesses a false gospel repents after being confronted. And if that person does repent after being confronted, then he believes that the person who confessed a false gospel could have been regenerate while confessing that false gospel. In saying that Christians can refuse to submit to the righteousness of Christ and can confess a false gospel, John is speaking peace to those who refuse to submit to the righteousness of Christ and confess a false gospel. This speaking peace is masked by the subterfuge of saying that those who confess a false gospel or refuse to submit to the righteousness of Christ need to "repent"; what he means by "repent" is not evangelical repentance but repentance that is the constant activity of believers. When he says that tolerant Calvinists need to "repent," or that those who confess a false gospel need to "repent," or that those who refuse to submit to the righteousness of Christ need to "repent," he is not saying that these people are necessarily lost and their deeds are evil.



May we be wise to such subtlety. I do not doubt that there are believers who have heard the good stuff that Pedersen has preached and still believe that he is a brother. This is very, very subtle. I was one of those deceived by Pedersen; he was saying all the right things. But when controversy came up (A.A. Hodge, John Robbins), he showed his true colors. I continue to grieve. Please pray for John, that God would open his eyes.

In Christ,

Marc


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