(with a response)
(From Outside the Camp Vol. 4, No. 2)
John Reisinger, in an editorial column in the July 1998 issue of his magazine, Sound of Grace, said this:
"I have not always been convinced that Limited Atonement was a biblical doctrine. I saw the other four points at least five years before God taught me the truth about the nature of the atonement. I well remember tearing in half Arthur Pink's booklet on Was the Sin Question Finally Settled at the Cross? and throwing it into the wastebasket saying, 'I will never believe that!' I think the last three issues of Sound of Grace prove beyond question that I now not only believe the truth of Limited Atonement, but, along with J.I. Packer, I affirm that this truth is the very heart of true Evangelical faith.
"A few readers have tried to convince me that I could not have been saved when I tore Pink's booklet in half. One man has vehemently urged me to repent of my false conversion and admit I did not become a true child of God until I became a five point Calvinist. I say all of this at the beginning of this article so you can 'brace yourself' for what is coming next. By the way, we published a booklet many years ago entitled 'Decisional Regeneration.' We were trying to show that Arminianism really teaches that a sinner's decision has the power to regenerate his heart and make him a child of God. 'Doctrinal Regeneration' would be a good label for the brand of Calvinism that insists only five point Calvinists are truly saved. In reality these people give correct theology the same power that the Arminian gives to his decision. We insist that neither the sinner's will nor correct theology can give a dead sinner life.
"When Peter said, 'Not so, Lord' our Lord rebuked him and said, 'Get thee behind me Satan,' but at that very moment Peter was a saved man. J.C. Ryle correctly observes, 'Just because God has sanctified your heart does not mean that He has totally sanctified your brains and taught you all the truth in one instant.' A true child of God can be awfully mixed up both theologically and emotionally and still be in Christ. If you think it through, I think you will agree that it is better to be a confused and emotionally upset saint on their way to heaven than to be the best-adjusted and theologically correct unregenerate person on their way to hell. Holding firmly to the truth of sovereign grace is not absolute proof that a person knows the sovereign Lord in a way of saving faith.
"I am not at all minimizing the importance of understanding the doctrines of grace. Our theological understanding does not save our soul but it does shape the way we understand and preach the gospel. Some sincere Christians have made some awful stupid statements because of bad theology even though their hearts were right with God. That was my problem while fighting Limited Atonement for over five years.
"The following statement is part of a Christmas sermon preached and printed over forty years ago by a man named Noel Smith. He was a professor in a Bible Baptist Seminary in the mid-west. I never met Mr. Smith but I know quite a few men who studied under him while at seminary. Without a single exception, they testify that he was a very godly man and a good professor. However, Noel Smith hated Calvinism and embraced universal atonement. I suspect his first contact with the Doctrines of Grace was with a Primitive Baptist. Be that as it may, his statement is either gospel truth or close to utter blasphemy."
Reisinger then quoted Noel Smith, who said the following:
"Knowing God as I do through the revelation He has given me of Himself in His Word, when I am told that God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance, I know it means that the Triune God has done, is doing, always will do, all that the Triune God can do to save every man, woman, and child on this earth.
"If it does not mean that, then tell me I pray you, what does it mean?
"What is hell? It is infinite negation. It is infinite chaos. And it is more than that. I tell you, and I say it with profound reverence, hell is a ghastly monument to the failure of God to save the multitudes that are there. I say it reverently, I say it with every nerve in my body tense; sinners go to hell because God Himself cannot save them. He did all He could. He failed."
And here is what Reisinger said about this God-hater:
"I am aware that Noel Smith's candid statement is shocking. Few preachers, no matter how Arminian they are in their theology, will say publicly that they believe 'hell is a ghastly monument to the failure of God.' However, no other honest conclusion is possible if Noel Smith's understanding of II Peter 3:9 is correct. Mr. Smith is an honest and consistent Arminian. The only difference between this man and preachers like Billy Graham is that Smith is both honest and totally consistent with his view of universal atonement.
"... Mr. Smith was, I believe, 'possessed' with a burning desire to exalt the love and grace of God. The title of his sermon was 'The Middle Man,' and he was extolling the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ. Mr. Smith was exalting the amazing love of God in giving His only begotten Son to die on the cross. It was Smith's purpose to so exalt this great display of God's love that his hearers might be gripped with the glory of the birth, death, burial, resurrection, and ascension of the Lord Jesus Christ. Noel Smith was setting forth Christ as the 'Middle Man' who alone could stand between a holy God and sinful creatures and perform the ministry of reconciliation.
"No preacher ever had a more glorious subject and I doubt that any preacher was possessed by a higher motive. I am personally persuaded that Noel Smith loved God and wanted to exalt His amazing grace."
Response: Obviously, Noel Smith was a child of hell. He believed in a gospel of salvation conditioned on the sinner and worshiped a god who could not save. But John Reisinger is ten times more a child of hell than Smith and proclaims just as deadly a "gospel." What makes Reisinger more dangerous and satanic than Smith is that he claims to believe and preach the gospel of sovereign grace. Yet he considers a man who proclaimed a "gospel" of salvation conditioned on the sinner, even a "consistent Arminian" who openly said that hell is a monument to the failure of God, to be a lover of and believer in the true God and the true Christ.
Reisinger justifies his position by his own experience. He claims that he was regenerate while opposed to particular redemption. He quotes J.C. Ryle in an attempt to bolster his position that a regenerate person can be "mixed up" about the ground of salvation.
Reisinger raises the straw man of "Doctrinal Regeneration." The truth is that a regenerate person may not be able to systematize and articulate the doctrines of grace, but since he believes the gospel of salvation conditioned on the work of Christ alone (as every regenerate person believes), he will never believe in universal atonement. Those who believe in universal atonement do not believe that Christ's work alone makes the difference between heaven and hell; instead, they believe that it is the work of the sinner that makes the difference between heaven and hell (as clearly shown in Smith's statement).
Reisinger does not believe that all who do not believe the gospel - all who are ignorant of the righteousness of God revealed in the gospel - are lost (Mark 16:16; Romans 10:3). Instead, he believes that a regenerate person can be "confused" about such basic gospel issues as Christ's work on the cross. And what about others who are "confused"? What about those who believe that Mary is co-redemptrix? What about those who deny the deity of Jesus? After all, these are merely "doctrinal errors,"and correct theology doesn't regenerate us, right, Mr. Reisinger? These people could just be "theologically confused," right, Mr. Reisinger?
Reisinger does not doubt that Smith was a "godly man." By what standard does he make his judgment? It is obviously not by God's gospel; it is by Smith's zeal and sincerity. Yet God says that those who have a zeal but not according to knowledge are lost (Romans 10:2).
Reisinger is correct in believing that he and Smith believe the same gospel and have the same father. That gospel is The Lie. That father is Satan.