A Form of godliness

“…having a form of godliness, but denying the power of it; even turn away from these” (2 Timothy 3:5).

The following is a “guest post.” This was written many years ago and it is a very important article warning against those whose ministries appear to be characterized by true gospel preaching, but who have shown themselves to be ministers of Satan masquerading as ministers of righteousness (2 Corinthians 11:12-15). They have a form of godliness, but they deny the power of it.

Why we no longer endorse the PRC, SGC, EAGC

It is a very sad time when we find out that the churches that we thought were solid have compromised the truth. And it is especially incumbent upon those of us who have promoted them in the past to let people know that we no longer support or endorse them and what the reasons are for this change. There are two independent churches and one denomination whose ministries we have endorsed in the past that we can no longer in good conscience endorse.

In the first issue of Outside the Camp (February 1997), I wrote: “The Protestant Reformed Churches in America (PRC) is the most doctrinally sound denomination in the world, to my knowledge.” But what I have found is that, although the ministers in the PRC are able to articulate the doctrines of grace and are so bold to call Arminianism a false gospel, there are at least some of them who consider some Arminians to be their brothers in Christ. Thus, even though they claim to believe in the Christ whose work demanded and ensured the salvation of all whom He represented, they also claim to believe in the same christ as the Arminians – the christ who died for everyone without exception, whose blood did not actually accomplish anything without the work of the sinner. In a letter to the editor in the February 1999 issue of Outside the Camp, Doug Kuiper, pastor of Byron Center Protestant Reformed Church, wrote:

“Certainly calling Arminianism a false gospel is not radical; but calling someone who holds to it unregenerate is radical – that would be Prof. Decker’s position, and is my position.”

Ron Hanko, who is a PRC missionary and was the pastor of Covenant Protestant Reformed Church in Northern Ireland (a PRC mission church which became a sister church), wrote the following in an article entitled “Can Arminians Be Saved?”:

“But does this mean that those who hold to free will and other teachings of Arminianism cannot be and are not saved? We do not believe that. … Nevertheless, many people inconsistently confess both grace and works … Usually this is the fault of the teaching they have received – teaching which speaks along two lines. It is a teaching that affirms grace on the basis of works and free will. Those who teach such things have the greater fault. Nevertheless, those who think along these lines, though they may be saved, also need to realize that what they believe is not the truth, and need to repent of it.”

Other pastors and one other missionary in the PRC have let me know that they believe the same thing. These pastors, as well as any others in the PRC who believe this blasphemy, are unregenerate. The PRC is not a doctrinally sound denomination; it is an apostate denomination.

This leads into the next disendorsement, which is of Sovereign Grace Church (SGC) in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, where John Pedersen is pastor. Pedersen wrote two articles for Outside the Camp, and I wrote a summary of his series of lectures in Vermont and a book review of his book, Sincerity Meets the Truth. I even bought many copies of this book and sent them to people around the world. I and many others thought that Pedersen was of one mind with us. We were devastated when we found out otherwise.

In Ron Hanko’s aforementioned article on Arminians, he backed up his views with a quote from Sincerity Meets the Truth:

“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.”

Because I thought Pedersen believed – and thought this book was stating – that all who tolerated Arminianism were unregenerate (after all, Sincerity went to hell at the end of the book), this quote did not raise red flags with me at first. “We” was just a way of saying “we who are the lost tolerant Calvinists,” right? Wrong. It turns out that Pedersen believes that regenerate people need to repent of tolerating the false gospel! In his article in the November 1998 issue of Outside the Camp, Pedersen wrote that those who are tolerant of the Arminian false gospel need to repent. I assumed that he was talking about evangelical repentance, which is the one-time repentance that happens upon conversion (in contrast with the ongoing repentance in a believer’s life). Was I ever wrong, as I later found out.

The first red flag came when Pedersen stated that he believed that A.A. Hodge could have been a regenerate man when he (Hodge) made the blasphemous statement that the Arminian party “holds all essential truth,” that Arminianism is “necessary to restrain, correct, and supply the one-sided strain” of Calvinism, and that Arminianism and Calvinism “together give origin to the blended strain from which issues the perfect music which utters the perfect truth” (see the Heterodoxy Hall of Shame in the February 1999 issue).

Later, John Robbins came out and stated that an Arminian can be orthodox in his view of justification and that not all who believe in universal atonement are unregenerate. I judged Robbins to be unregenerate (see “Why we no longer endorse The Trinity Foundation” in the May 1999 issue), and Pedersen publicly rebuked me and stated that he did not stand with me in my judgment of Robbins.

Now some of you might be scratching your heads. How could John Pedersen, who has come out so boldly against “tolerant Calvinism,” not believe that Hodge and Robbins were unregenerate?

It turned out, through reams of correspondence, that John Pedersen believes that regenerate persons can and do tolerate, believe, and confess the false gospel and need to continually repent of these sins. It stems from his gnostic dualistic notion that the “flesh” of a believer is constantly believing and confessing the lie, is constantly unsubmitted to the righteousness of God revealed in the gospel, and is constantly following a stranger (a false christ).

In an article in the “Encounter With Christ” newsletter, Pedersen wrote the following:

“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.”

Here, Pedersen is stating that those who tolerate Arminian doctrine implicitly believe it. He urges such people to repent and forsake this grave sin. Had he stopped there, it would lead people to believe that he considered such people lost. However, he goes on to show that this “repentance” of tolerating and believing the false gospel of Arminianism is something that he himself needs to engage in continually. He admits that he tolerates Arminian doctrine and thus implicitly endorses and believes it. This has been confirmed through correspondence.

John Pedersen believes that a regenerate person can confess a false gospel of salvation conditioned on the sinner. He will still say that Arminians are lost, but he will vitiate this by also saying that a regenerate person can “speak as an unregenerate person would speak.”

Finally, I get to the most disheartening and devastating of them all. It is hard for me to even write this. We no longer support or endorse Bill Parker of Eager Avenue Grace Church (EAGC) and Reign of Grace Ministries. As you regular readers know, I have wholeheartedly endorsed Parker’s ministry. Reign of Grace was a ministry feature in the February 1998 issue of Outside the Camp, Parker was quoted in the November 1999 issue, and he wrote two excellent articles for the newsletter. I have sent out dozens of Parker’s booklets around the world and have told correspondents that they should get in touch with Reign of Grace. My family and I went down to Albany, Georgia, to visit Parker and the others at EAGC in February of 2000, and he came up to Vermont and preached a series of messages to our assembly in July of 2000. I considered Bill Parker to be the clearest preacher of the true gospel and of the antithesis between the true gospel and the false gospel that I ever heard.

But then it came time for Parker to demonstrate what he preached. He was in contact with a man who had been attending SGC. This man believes and strongly defends the view that the damned to not suffer eternally in hell, even after being confronted with this heresy. This man also believes that he was regenerate when he held to the following: (1) It is possible that a regenerate person can confess and believe the true gospel and the false gospel at the same time. (2) The reason Christians can speak peace to non-Christians is that Christians are not under the dominion of sin, so Christians are not condemned for speaking peace when there is no peace. (3) It is possible for an untaught Christian to believe in the false gospel of salvation conditioned on the work of the Spirit in them. (4) A regenerate person can confess a false gospel of salvation conditioned on the sinner, including confessing belief in an Arminian gospel. (5) Christians must repent of their repenting and believing. (6) It is possible for a regenerate person to confess that those who believe in universal salvation are saved. (7) There is nothing that is repented of upon conversion that is never repented of again (i.e., a Christian continues to bring forth dead works and fruit unto death and continues to be an open idolater and a believer in a false gospel, and needs to continually repent of these things).

Shockingly, to the dismay of many, after being confronted with what this man believes, Bill Parker continues to maintain that this man was regenerate when he said those things and is now regenerate even when this man continues to spit on God’s holiness and justice by believing that the damned do not suffer eternally in hell. Not only does Parker continue to speak peace to this man, but he also baptized this man, in spite of strong warnings against doing so. So Bill Parker, who preaches so strongly against speaking peace when there is no peace, has done the very thing he preaches against. What a travesty.

Finally, I would like to mention two churches that readers have asked me about. Even though I have never endorsed them in Outside the Camp, I want to make it clear as to where we stand concerning them.

The first church is Reformed Bible Church, formerly located in Rutland, Vermont, now located just outside of Rutland. Rob Zins, the famous debater of Roman Catholics, is at this church. Zins is affiliated with Alpha and Omega Ministries (James White) and White Horse Publications (Tim Kauffman); he has written articles and books; and he recently spoke at The Trinity Foundation’s annual conference. We in no way support or endorse this church or the ministries that come from this church. They are just another one of the many tolerant Calvinist churches in America. Their latest “Reformation Day” conference featured Tom Ascol, one of the many God-haters from the Founders Journal (which includes Ernest Reisinger). This church is vastly more well-known and popular than we are, for obvious reasons.

The second church is Temple Bible Church in Rocky Mount, North Carolina, where my father [… ] is pastor. This church holds an annual Sovereign Grace Bible Conference that has featured people like Lloyd Sprinkle, Tommy Anderson, and Gene Breed. We in no way support or endorse this church or the ministries that come from this church. They, too, are just another one of the many tolerant Calvinist churches in America. My father does not believe that all who condition salvation in any way to any degree on the sinner are lost, and he does not believe that all who believe that Christ died for all without exception are lost.

My friends, beware. There are ministers out there who transform themselves as ministers of righteousness, who will even preach that the righteousness of Christ is the only ground of salvation, but who turn out to be ministers of Satan. They claim to believe the gospel, but they do not value it enough to make their judgments by it. From such turn away.”