Weighing the Percentages vs. Zero Tolerance
This article will talk about two opposing views of judging the spiritual state of a minister whose teachings are mostly orthodox.
The first view we'll call the Weighing the Percentages view.
In the Weighing the Percentages view, one takes the "totality" of one's ministry into account. Thus, the minister may say some things that deny the gospel, but "overall," his teachings are orthodox. This inevitably gets into weights and percentages, whether the person holding the view wants to admit it or not.
Suppose a certain minister teaches the true gospel the vast majority of the time. Let's take 99%, for example. Now suppose for that left-over 1% of the time, his teaching denies the gospel. According to the Winnen Russ view, you take a look at the entire ministry, the totality of the orthodoxy, the overall bent of the ministry, and if it comes out satisfactorily to one's own standard of judgment, you judge the minister to be saved. What is the standard? It varies depending on the person doing the judging. For some, it is a percentage; they don't think of an exact percentage, but in their minds, they total up all of the orthodox teachings and total up all of the gospel-denying teachings, and if the orthodox teachings reach a certain threshold, then that person is judged to be saved. For others, it is a weight. For example, if someone strongly teaches against a well-meant offer or common grace, the weight of that is much greater than a single gospel-denying teaching. And there are some gospel-denying teachings that are less weighty than others. Sometimes, there is more gospel-denying tolerated in some instances because of the weightiness of the orthodox teaching. For most, it's a combination of the two. Think of an old-time scale in which the orthodox teachings are placed on one side of the scale and the gospel-denying teachings are placed on the other side of the scale. Some of the single orthodox teachings weigh more than some of the gospel-denying teachings, but it is also a matter of numbers and percentages; if someone does not have many weighty orthodox teachings, he can make up for it by a larger number of orthodox teachings. The same goes (in the opposite direction) for gospel-denying teachings. The person then takes a look at the "totality" of the teachings by looking at the scale, and if the scale tips to the orthodox side at a certain mark on the scale, then the minister is judged to be saved. The mark on the scale is different depending on the person judging, since there is no such mark found anywhere in the Bible.
This view is, in and of itself, an indication that the judger is lost. How so? Because (1) he does not believe that a gospel-denying teaching is necessarily indicative of lostness and (2) he believes that saved ministers can deny the gospel.
The second view we'll call the Zero-Tolerance view.
In the Zero-Tolerance view, weight and numbers/percentages don't matter in the presence of gospel-denying teaching. Even ONE gospel-denying teaching indicates that the minister is unsaved, NO MATTER WHAT ELSE the minister has taught. It matters not if the orthodox teaching is weighty or if the quantity of orthodox teaching is high. The ONE gospel-denying teaching WIPES OUT all the orthodox teaching when it comes to judging the minister's heart. For example, if a minister says "Nothing but the blood of Jesus makes the difference between salvation and damnation" a million times and then says "Jesus died for the sins of everyone without exception" one time, then that one gospel-denying teaching is enough to judge the minister to be unsaved.
The Weighing the Percentages people would say, "This minister made an orthodox statement a million times and made a gospel-denying statement one time. That's 1,000,000 out of 1,000,001 times! How could you judge this person to be lost?" (This is an over-simplification, of course; the "Weighing the Percentages" crowd usually does have a list of orthodox teachings that the minister must teach, not just one orthodox teaching.)
The Zero-Tolerance people would say, "The teaching that Jesus died for the sins of everyone without exception necessarily indicates that the minister is unsaved. It matters not what else the minister has said."
Of course, the Zero-Tolerance view is the only view that is Christian. It is based on the truth from God's Word that there are certain sins that are indicative of lostness that believers cannot commit. It is based on the truth from God's Word that no believing minister will ever teach gospel-denying teaching, even once (of course, I'm talking about non-coerced teaching, for those reading this who want to bring up the diversion of the "gun to the head" scenario).
It matters not whether the minister says "Your final glory is based on your present stewardship" one time or a million times. That person is lost. It matters not whether the minister says "TULIP is the truth" one time or a million times if that minister also teaches a gospel-denying teaching. That person is lost. The only minister who is saved is one who ABIDES -- STAYS -- in the doctrine of Christ. He may teach some things that are in error, but he will never teach error that denies the gospel. Any error that denies the gospel is that "breach in the wrapping" about which John Kennedy wrote:
"I am quite ready to allow that, in the addresses of those who hold the views to which I refer, there will be found statements that seem to contradict those which are objectionable. This, however, does not prove that the bearing of the teaching, as a whole, is not what I indicated. 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."