Why we do not endorse Still Waters Revival Books
Over the years, many people have asked us what we think of Still Waters Revival Books (SWRB), which is a "ministry" of the Puritan Reformed Church of Edmonton (PRCE) in Canada. Most of the time, the reason people ask us about them is that, to those who have not dug far into their web site, they seem to agree with us. For example, they write and promote books against Arminianism and Roman Catholicism, saying they are heresies. They follow the Regulative Principle of Worship. They promote courtship as opposed to the evil practice of dating. They promote home-schooling. Their rhetoric is strong and seemingly uncompromising. Yet we want to make it as clear as possible that, although there are many materials that SWRB distributes that are useful, we do not endorse SWRB and unequivocally reject their false religion.
SWRB Promotes Heretics and Heretical Writings
SWRB is not merely a "Christian" book store that sells books of many different beliefs. SWRB promotes and endorses the books it sells (as we will see). SWRB's author list looks like a Who's Who of Free Offer Conditionalism and Tolerant Calvinism. The Heterodoxy Hall of Shame could be filled with quotes from SWRB books.
SWRB unashamedly promotes the Marrow Men and their heresies. Their endorsement of Edward Fisher's The Marrow of Modern Divinity with notes from Thomas Boston includes the following: "Jeremiah Burroughs states, 'If thou wilt pursue this little book, thou shalt find great worth in it.' First printed in 1645, this controversial book was read in 1700 by Thomas Boston and had a profound influence on his ministry. Boston added copious notes to this edition, which was reprinted in 1718. His notes, which are often longer than the text by Fisher, are an invaluable addition to this work. ... On Boston's notes in the Marrow of Modern Divinity, James Henry (author of Theron and Aspasio) comments, 'I never read the Marrow, with Mr. Boston's Notes, until this present time (1755) and I find, by not having read it, I have sustained considerable loss. It is a most valuable book; the doctrines it contains are the life of my soul, and the joy of my heart. Might my tongue or my pen be made instrumental to recommend and illustrate, to support and propagate such precious truths, I should bless the day wherein I was born. Mr. Boston's Notes on the Marrow are, in my opinion, some of the most judicious and valuable that ever were penned' (cited in Brown's Gospel Truth Accurately Stated and Illustrated, by James Hog, Thomas Boston, Ebenezer and Ralph Erskine, and Others; Occasioned by the Republication of the Marrow of Modern Divinity, p. 7). ... Finally, of Boston, David Lachman writes, 'He took an active part in the Marrow Controversy, having 'relished [the Marrow] greatly' since first finding a copy in a cottage while engaged in pastoral visitation in Simprin ... His theology can be characterized as what came to be known as 'Marrow theology'. From early in his ministry he emphasized a free offer of the gospel ...'"
What is in this book (that was condemned by the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland because it espoused the notion of offering Christ as a Savior to all men) that SWRB loves so much? Fisher wrote, "God the father, as he is in his Son, Jesus Christ, moved with nothing but his free love to mankind lost, hath made a deed of gift and grant unto them all ... And hence it was, that Jesus Christ said unto his disciples, Mark xvi.15, 'Go and preach the gospel to every creature under heaven:' that is, Go and tell every man without exception, that here is good news for him; Christ is dead for him; and if he will take him, and accept of his righteousness, he shall save him." Boston's notes state, "... the deed of gift or grant is to every man. This necessarily supposeth Christ crucified to be the ordinance of God for salvation, to which lost mankind is allowed access. ... Therefore he says not, 'Tell every man Christ died for him;' but, Tell every man 'Christ is dead for him;' that is, for him to come to, and believe on; a Saviour is provided for him; there is a crucified Christ for him, the ordinance of heaven for salvation for lost man, in the use-making of which he may be saved."
What does SWRB think of this Marrowism? They believe that it is evangelical truth. SWRB says this about Marrow Man James Hog: "Hog was one of the 'Marrow men,' as advocates of evangelical truth were styled in the Church of Scotland. He edited the first edition of the Marrow of Modern Divinity published in Scotland."
SWRB promotes Edmund Calamy, who attempted to insert Amyraldianism (hypothetical universalism) into the Westminster Catechism; Richard Baxter, who held to the heresy of universal redemption; Thomas Chalmers, who said that God desires to save everyone without exception, and John Brown of Haddington, who said that the atonement has a "general reference" to everyone without exception and was a "display of love" for everyone without exception.
And this may come as a surprise to some: SWRB even promotes Andrew Fuller's heretical The Gospel Worthy of All Acceptation, saying that it is " A major defense of the free offer of the gospel." In this book, Fuller wrote, "If the atonement of Christ were considered as the literal payment of a debt ... it might, for aught I know, be inconsistent with indefinite invitations. ... On the other hand, if the atonement of Christ proceed not on the principle of commercial, but of moral justice, or justice as it relates to crime - if its grand object were to express the Divine displeasure against sin, (Rom. viii. 3,) ... if it be in itself equal to the salvation of the whole world, were the whole world to embrace it ... no such inconsistency can justly be ascribed to it. ... The facts afford proof that Christ, by his death, opened a door of hope to sinners of the human race as sinners; affording a ground for their being invited, without distinction, to believe and be saved." Fuller also wrote, "I apprehend, then, that many important mistakes have arisen from considering the interposition of Christ under the notion of paying a debt. ... Sin is a debt only in a metaphorical sense; properly speaking it is a crime, and satisfaction for it requires to be made not on pecuniary, but on moral principles. The reason of this difference is easily perceived. Debts are transferable, but crimes are not. ... If the satisfaction of Christ was in itself sufficient for the whole world, there is no further propriety in asking, Whose sins were imputed to Christ? Or, For whom did He die as a substitute? Than as it is thereby inquired, Who are the persons whom He intended finally to save? ... In short, we must either acknowledge an objective fulness in Christ's atonement, sufficient for the salvation of the whole world to believe in Him; or, in opposition to the Scripture and common sense, confine our invitation to believe, to such persons as have believed already. ... If satisfaction was made on the principle of debtor and creditor, and that which was paid was just of sufficient value to liquidate a given number of sins, and to redeem a certain number of sinners, and no more, it should seem that it could not be duty of any but the elect, nor theirs till it was revealed to them that they were of the elect, to rely upon it." That is just the tip of the iceberg. It is no wonder that Fuller's conditionalism and universalism is embraced by Arminians.
SWRB promotes Stephen Charnock's Existence & Attributes of God, saying, "because his theology was so sound, there is 'not one of all the Puritan Divines whose writings can with more safety be recommended to the attention of students of divinity and young ministers.'" In this book, Charnock wrote: "God hates no creature; no, not the devils and damned, as creatures; he is not an enemy to them, as they are the works of his hands. He is properly an enemy, that doth simply and absolutely wish evil to another; but God does not absolutely wish evil to the damned."
SWRB promotes Samuel Rutherford's The Covenant of Life Opened, calling it an "exceedingly rare Covenanter classic! These are deep waters and this title is recommended for those who have already developed some fair strength in swimming the strong theological currents of the second Reformation. Containing some of Rutherford's most mature thought, this book was published six years before Rutherford passed on to glory." And what is an example of "Rutherford's most mature thought?" A chapter entitled "Faith the Condition of the Covenant of Grace" put forth the lie that God's covenant is not a unilateral, unconditional bond of love but is a conditional contract, with God enabling the sinner to meet the condition of faith.
SWRB promotes Robert Dabney's Discussions, saying that "Warfield called Dabney 'the most conspicuous figure and the leading theological guide of the Southern Presbyterian Church, the most prolific theological writer that Church has as yet produced.' These three volumes of articles and essays vindicate Warfield's statement. 'This is not a book to be read and returned to the library shelf,' states the well known Baptist minister Al Martin, 'rather, as I have found to my own profit, it ought to be read, digested, and kept close at hand as a guide, companion and constant prod to us.' Dr. Archibald Alexander called Dabney, 'the best teacher of theology in the United States, if not the world.' Freundt notes, 'Dabney championed the doctrines of Calvinism and applied them consistently and practically to the great issues of his times.'" In Volume 1 of Discussions, Dabney has a chapter entitled "God's Indiscriminate Proposals of Mercy" in which he says, "But let the question be stated thus: Do all the solemn and tender entreaties of God to sinners express no more, as to the non-elect, than a purpose in God, uncompassionate and merely rectorial, to acquit himself of his legislative function towards them? To speak after the manner of men, have all these apparently touching appeals after all no heart in them? We cannot but deem it an unfortunate logic which constrains a man to this view of them. How much more simple and satisfactory to take them for just what they express? -- evidences of a true compassion, which yet is restrained, in the case of the unknown class, the non-elect, by consistent and holy reasons, from taking the form of a volition to regenerate. ... It is, then, but the application of this method when God makes the sincere offer of mercy through Christ to a Judas first glorify his infinite love and placability, and then, when it is slighted, as was permissively decreed, illustrate the stubbornness of Judas's sin as a deadly voluntary evil, and also God's clear justice in destroying him. ... God may be sincere in the first alternative, and, omniscient of its result, may permissively ordain to let Judas reject the mercy, and also be righteous in the latter alternative. Thus, we can take all the gospel declarations concerning Christ's sacrifice to mean just what they express, and we are relieved from the necessity of all tortuous exegesis."
SWRB promotes W.G.T. Shedd's Reformed Dogmatics, saying that this is "for the advanced study of Calvinism. Closing up the labors of forty years of theological research and meditation, Shedd steps forth as a major proponent of the Augustinio-Calvinistic system of thought. Drawing heavily from citations in works of the Ancient, Mediaeval and Reformation periods, and from the English and Continental divines of the 16th and 17th century, Shedd's work is unsurpassed in many respects." Yet in this work, Shedd wrote, "The non-elect receives common grace, and common grace would incline the human will if it were not defeated by the human will. If the sinner should make no hostile opposition, common grace would be equivalent to saving grace."
SWRB promotes Iain Murray's Spurgeon v. Hyper-Calvinism, quoting Murray: "'But does the denial of Arminianism mean that God has no love for all? ... Hyper-Calvinism answers 'Yes' to these questions and in so doing it constitutes a serious hindrance to the progress of the evangel.' This book, citing from such 'masters in Israel' as John Calvin, Samuel Rutherford and John Brown (of Wamphray), answers the Hyper-Calvinistic challenge." In this book, Murray calls God's love toward and desire to save the non-elect "perhaps the most serious difference of all between Calvinism and Hyper-Calvinism." The book includes Spurgeon's exegesis of 1 Timothy 2:3-4 (what Murray calls a "Crucial Text") that God wishes that all men without exception would be saved. It also includes the following quote from Spurgeon: "A man may be evidently of God's chosen family, and yet though elected, may not believe in the doctrine of election. I hold that there are many savingly called, who do not believe in effectual calling, and that there are a great many who persevere to the end, who do not believe in the doctrine of perseverence. We hope that the hearts of many are a great deal better than their heads. We do not set their fallacies down to any wilful opposition to the truth as it is in Jesus, but simply to an error in their judgments, which we pray God to correct. We hope that if they think us mistaken too, they will reciprocate the same Christian courtesy; and when we meet around the cross, we hope that we shall ever feel that we are one in Christ Jesus."
And speaking of the heretic Charles Spurgeon, there are plenty of his writings promoted at SWRB, including A Defense of Calvinism in which he wrote, "Most atrocious things have been spoken about the character and spiritual condition of John Wesley, the modern prince of Arminians. I can only say concerning him that, while I detest many of the doctrines which he preached, yet for the man himself I have a reverence second to no Wesleyan; and if there were wanted two apostles to be added to the number of the twelve, I do not believe that there could be found two men more fit to be so added than George Whitefield and John Wesley. The character of John Wesley stands beyond all imputation for self-sacrifice, zeal, holiness, and communion with God; he lived far above the ordinary level of common Christians, and was one of whom the world was not worthy. I believe there are multitudes of men who cannot see the truths, or at least, cannot see them in the way in which we put them, who nevertheless have received Christ as their Saviour, and are as dear to the heart of the God of grace as the soundest Calvinists in or out of heaven."
And speaking of heretics George Whitefield and John Wesley, SWRB promotes Whitefield's letter to Wesley in which Whitefield speaks peace to Wesley.
SWRB promotes Loraine Boettner's The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination in which Boettner wrote, "As in the study of Mathematics we do not begin with algebra and calculus but with the simple problems of arithmetic, so here the better way is to first present the more elementary truths. Then after the person is saved and has traveled some distance in the Christian way he comes to see that in his salvation God's work was primary and his was only secondary, that he was saved through grace and not by his own works."
SWRB promotes R.C. Sproul's Chosen by God in which Sproul wrote, "The struggle about predestination is all the more confusing because the greatest minds in the history of the church have disagreed about it. Scholars and Christian leaders, past and present, have taken different stands. A brief glance at church history reveals that the debate over predestination is not between liberals and conservatives or between believers and unbelievers. It is a debate among believers, among godly and earnest Christians. It may be helpful to see how the great teachers of the past line up on the question. 'Reformed view': St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas, Martin Luther, John Calvin, Jonathan Edwards. Opposing views: Pelagius, Arminius, Philip Melancthon, John Wesley, Charles Finney."
SWRB Believes that Arminian and Roman Catholic "Churches" are Essentially True Visible Churches
This might come as a shock to many who have seen SWRB's writings against Arminianism and Roman Catholicism. But the fact is as plain as day, right on their web site at www.swrb.com/newslett/actualnls/misrep2.htm.
In the second part of a series of articles entitled "The Covenanted Reformation Defended" (which is a response to accusations from Richard Bacon), Greg Barrow of the PRCE writes this: "One mark alone is sufficient to constitute an essentially true visible church - the profession of the true religion. We use this mark to distinguish between a Christian church and a non-Christian church. ... Strictly speaking, all that Scripture requires to constitute (esse) a visible church is the mark of the truth, viz., possession of the true doctrine of Christ and enough of the fundamentals of the true Christian religion to warrant a possibility of salvation."
Does SWRB/PRCE believe that Arminian and Roman Catholic "churches" meet these criteria - the profession of the true religion, the mark of the truth, possession of the true doctrine of Christ and enough of the fundamentals of the true Christian religion to warrant a possibility of salvation?
Here is Greg Barrow: "I have shown by this first distinction that one mark alone is sufficient to constitute an essentially true visible church, viz., the profession of the true religion. This single mark is used to designate a Christian church from a Pagan church. The PRCE unequivocally states that the one remaining church calling itself the presbytery of the Reformation Presbyterian Church is a truly constituted visible church as to essence or being, as are particular Roman Catholic, Arminian, or Baptist Churches. This applies equally to any other particular church who essentially retains the profession of the truth."
Greg Barrow, speaking for SWRB/PRCE, is saying that Arminian and Roman Catholic "churches" profess the truth and possess enough of the fundamentals of the true Christian religion to warrant a possibility of salvation. Arminians and Roman Catholics do not profess the truth - they profess THE LIE! SWRB/PRCE believes that Arminian and Roman Catholic "churches" possess the true doctrine of Christ. Arminians and Roman Catholics do not possess the true doctrine of Christ - they possess FALSE DOCTRINE OF A FALSE CHRIST! SWRB/PRCE believes that Arminian and Roman Catholic "churches" possess the fundamentals of the true Christian religion. Arminians and Roman Catholics do not possess the fundamentals of the true Christian religion - their religion is FALSE THROUGH AND THROUGH! The PRCE obviously does not even recognize this. They believe that a profession of universal atonement is not enough to disqualify them from being a true church as to essence. If the PRCE considers Arminian churches to be true churches as to essence, then the Mormons and the Jehovah's Witnesses should be considered this as well. But no, the PRCE would include them, as well as Muslims and Hindus and Buddhists, in the "pagan" column. But the Arminian religion is JUST AS FAR AWAY FROM THE TRUE RELIGION as the Hindus, Muslims, and Buddhists. The PRCE obviously does not believe this.
Earlier in the article, Barrow writes, "In the universal visible church there are many true sons and daughters of God who have never even considered some of the questions we are now disputing." True sons and daughters of God in Arminian and Roman Catholic "churches"? Of course - if you believe that these "churches" possess the fundamentals of the true Christian religion and the true doctrine of Christ! What does this say about the PRCE's view of what the true doctrine of Christ is?
It is important to note that the PRCE makes a distinction between true churches as to being verses true churches as to well-being. The true churches as to being are the aforementioned churches that possess and profess the fundamentals of true religion. The true churches as to well-being are ones that preach right doctrine, administer the sacraments correctly, administer discipline correctly, and hold to the "Solemn League and Covenant." And they will not fellowship with any other church that, according to them, is not a true church as to well-being, including any church that does not fully subscribe to the "Solemn League and Covenant," which is a document ratified in 1644 "for reformation and defense of religion, the honor and happiness of the King, and the peace and safety of the three kingdoms of Scotland, England, and Ireland."
From this, it is important to note two things: First, they believe that the distinction between them and Arminians (and between them and Roman Catholics) is not one of essence; it is one of well-being. In other words, Arminian and Roman Catholic "churches" are of the same essence as their church, and possess the same true doctrine of Christ as their church and possess the same fundamentals of the true Christian religion as their church, but they're just not well.
Second, they put those who believe the true gospel but who do not hold to the "Solemn League and Covenant" in the same category as the Arminian and Roman Catholic "churches" - they are essentially true churches who are not well. They will not fellowship with us (and we certainly do not desire to fellowship with them) for the same reason they will not fellowship with Arminians. Their "Solemn League and Covenant" is on par with the doctrine of the atonement. Universal atonement is on the same level as not holding to the "Solemn League and Covenant." They obviously do not believe the gospel.
After seeing what those at SWRB believe, it makes total sense why they promote God-haters and their heretical writings.