(From Outside the Camp, Vol. 3, No. 4)
Because of some of the feedback I have received, I need to clarify what our position is regarding people who claimed to believe the doctrines of grace and knew what Arminianism is and yet said that Arminians were their brothers in Christ.
I will use what I said about Spurgeon and Whitefield in the last issue of Outside the Camp as an example. I said that both were lost, as evidenced by the fact that they spoke peace to Arminians. Some took what I said to mean that I know for sure that they are in hell. I want to make it very clear that I have never said and never meant to imply that they are surely in hell.
Now you might ask, "Don't all lost people go to hell?" They surely do if they remain lost until they die. And if Spurgeon and Whitefield remained in the same spiritual state as they were when they spoke peace to Arminians, then they are in hell. But I do not know what they believed upon their dying breath; I do not know if God saw fit to save them after they spoke peace to Arminians. Thus, I cannot and will not say that people such as Spurgeon or Whitefield, or even people who were known as rank Arminians or satanists or homosexuals or whatever, are now in hell. God could have saved them later in their lives. One thing we know for sure is that if God saved them, they would no longer have been Arminians or satanists or homosexuals. And if He saved Spurgeon or Whitefield, then they would no longer have spoken peace to Arminians.
A distinction needs to be made between "lost" and "reprobate." One who is lost is unregenerate. One who is reprobate has been predestined for hell. All who are reprobate are lost, but not all who are lost are reprobate. The elect - those who have been predestined for heaven - all go through a period of time of being lost. There are lost elect people, and there are saved elect people. Thus, when we come upon a lost person, we do not know if he is an elect lost person or a reprobate lost person. Only God knows to what end this lost person has been predestined.
Not knowing who is elect and who is reprobate does not keep us from judging a person lost. In fact, God's people are commanded to judge all those who do not believe the gospel and have not repented of dead works and idolatry to be lost (see the article "Righteous Judgment" in the February 1999 issue of Outside the Camp). These lost people include all who know what Arminianism is and yet say that regenerate persons can confess belief in the false gospel of Arminianism, say that at least some Arminians are saved, or say that they remained an Arminian for a period of time after they were regenerated.
Does this mean that we are saying that they will surely go to hell? No. It is saying that they are currently in an unregenerate state. If these lost people continue in their unregenerate state (i.e., if God does not regenerate them), then they will go to hell. But there have been many who have been lost Arminians or lost tolerant "Calvinists" whom God has saved, showing that they were not reprobate.
Were Spurgeon and Whitefield unregenerate when they spoke peace to Arminians? Most definitely. And I must judge them lost by God's testimony. But I do not know if God saved them later in their lives; thus, I do not know whether or not they are in hell (i.e., whether or not they were reprobate).
God's people are not commanded to judge whether or not a person is reprobate. We are not the final judges; only God is. We do not condemn anyone to hell. What God's people are commanded to do is to judge all those who confess a false gospel lost - whether or not these lost people are elect or reprobate.