The Plan of Salvation & Calvinism
QUESTION: "Does it bother you, too, Larry Ray?"
Obviously, the question above requires explanation. After writing the article which appears below, "What Will Baptists Say?," I sent copies to Wayne Camp and to Robert N. Wilkin. Mr. Camp is a long time friend of mine, a Baptist preacher with whom I have had three public debates. Camp's material was reviewed in a series of twelve articles which appeared in Watchman in four monthly installments, January, February, March and April of this year (1998). I have not heard from Wayne regarding any of the material I sent to him.
Mr. Wilkin and I engaged in a debate in January of 1996. We discussed the subject of salvation by grace through faith (video tapes are available). At that time, Bob Wilkin and I signed an agreement to discuss perseverance, eternal security, or "once saved, always saved." However, Mr. Wilkin has refused to honor his commitment and will not debate the question with me, nor has he secured anyone else to take his place.
At any rate, after receiving the article which follows, my friend, Mr. Wilkin, wrote me the brief note which contains our question this month, "Does it bother you, too, Larry Ray?" Please read the article, Bob's response, and the comments which follow.
"Dr. Jim Moore is Senior Minister of St. Luke's United Methodist Church," in Houston, TX. Recently he wrote regarding the need for "UNWAVERING COMMITMENT." He spoke of "people...who made it to greatness because they...refused to give up....They were totally committed....They persevered because they were committed.
"...(D)id you know that...Thomas Edison's teacher said he was not smart enough to learn anything? Did you know that the editor of the Kansas City Star fired a young cartoonist named Walt Disney because he said Walt...couldn't draw and wasn't creative? And Winston Churchill not only failed sixth grade but also went through a lifetime of failures before he finally became Prime Minister of England at the age of sixty two.
"This kind of unwavering commitment is essential in the Christian faith. We can't do it halfway. We can't be wishy-washy about it. We can't be lukewarm. Total, complete unshakable commitment is required" (Houston Chronicle, May 21, 1998, 25A).
Though he cited no Scripture to prove his point, Minister Moore is correct. Absolute, "unwavering commitment is essential" (Lk. 13:24--"Strive" is from our word "agony." One must agonize to enter into eternal life--Cf. Matt. 7:13, 14). "Eternal life" is given "to those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality" (Rom. 2:7). It is given after one perseveres unto the end--"Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life" (Rev. 2:10). "Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life" (Jas. 1:12). "Henceforth" (that is, since he had fought a good fight, since he had finished his course, since he had kept the faith), Paul said "there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord...shall give me at that day" (2 Tim. 4:8).
These passages, and many more which could be cited, support Moore's thesis that "unwavering commitment is essential in the Christian faith" (1 Cor. 15:58; Heb. 10:32-39; 1 Pet. 1:10). Said Senior Minister Moore, "We can't be lukewarm. Total, complete unshakable commitment is required." Observe two key terms, "essential" and "required." Again, he is correct, for "it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful" (1 Cor. 4:2).
However, our Baptist friends cannot agree with Methodist Moore. They do not believe it is "essential" or "required" that a man "be found faithful" (Lk. 12:42-48). They believe it is "best," and they encourage faithfulness. However, they say that a man may die in unbelief and be guilty of every sin "from idolatry to murder," but that if he were ever saved, he has no cause to fear the judgment.
Robert N. Wilkin, head of the Grace Evangelical Society, publicly has argued that those believers in John 12:42, 43 who would not confess Christ because they "loved the praise of men more than the praise of God" were still saved (Matt. 10:32, 33; Rom. 10:9, 10)! So, we are not misrepresenting the Baptist position.
How, then, will the Baptists react to Moore's statement? Will they castigate it as a form of "works" salvation? Will they accuse Senior Moore of joining the Campbellites? Will they condemn this article while arguing that they still agree with Moore and the Methodists? One thing is for sure: They cannot agree with the article and remain consistent with Baptist doctrine. Or is there a Baptist out there who will say that "we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast unto the end," and that we are not partakers with Christ if we do not do so (Heb. 3:12-14; 6:12; Cf. Jn. 8:51; Col. 1:21-23)? What will the Baptists say?
Yes, you should strive or agonize to enter the kingdom of God. Why? Because the way is narrow that leads to life and few there are who find it. Most people are on the broad road to destruction.
So what is the broad road of destruction? What if it includes Campbellite doctrine? Would it not be wise of you, then, to strive to enter by the narrow gate?
At a meeting of Bible scholars last November in Northern California there was a Stone/Campbell Study Group. They allowed me to sit in to their discussion and to ask a question. I asked the two speakers, professors in schools, one of the questions I asked you. Is there a passage anywhere in the Bible which tells us everything we must do to be saved?
Their answer was interesting. The older man said that while there is one, there are two, one in Ephesians and one in a related passage in Colossians. He read the two passages. I then noted and said aloud that neither of the two passages mentioned baptism, and asked, "Wouldn't that mean that even these two passages are not enough? Don't you need a third passage?" His answer was answer.
By the way, when I asked if this bothered him, he said, "Yes, it does bother me that we don't have one passage that lists all of the conditions." I appreciated his candor.
Does it bother you, too, Larry Ray?
Concerned for your eternal salvation,
First, Did you notice that Mr. Wilkin did not respond to the article written by the Methodist preacher? Keep that fact firmly in mind. Bob does not dare to display the "candor" he apparently admires in others. He raises a side issue, seeking to divert attention from the point of the question, "What will the Baptists say?" As you will see in viewing the video of our debate on salvation by grace through faith, this is Mr. Wilkin's idea of debating. He seems to have no concept of dealing directly with an opponent's material. He does not take up an argument and examine it. Rather, he brings up other issues, some of which are unrelated to the topic at hand, and then proceeds to ignore scriptural arguments. If you doubt that this is his modus operandi secure the tapes of our debate and see for yourself. Also, if he should respond to this piece, it will provide further evidence of his manner and method of debating.
While we shall deal with Bob's question in due course, let us again insist that he reply to the questions asked in the article above as they pertain to Methodist Moore's plain statements and their relationship to Calvinist Wilkin's doctrine of eternal security. If and when he does so, we may have to turn him over to the Methodists. If they cannot handle him, we may risk another remark or two.
Second, here is the man who can neither be humbly convinced nor honestly chided into keeping his commitment to honor his signed agreement to debate the issue of apostasy, but who scruples not to hide behind his computer and lob a controversial missile our way. If our friend believes the Lord, his board, and his wife do not feel "secure" enough for him to debate "the security of the believer," does he not violate their earnest pleadings when he ventures a little mouse-meekly response to the Methodist missive above? Bob reminds me of the little boy who says he is "not scared" to be near a graveyard after dark, but who whistles while he whizzes past it.
Third, did anyone notice that Mr. Wilkin did not deny that those believers in John 12:42, 43, who believed on Christ but who would not confess him, were saved? That is not all. Bob not only believes those who "loved the praise of men more than the praise of God" were saved, he also believes the rich young ruler was saved, too (Mk. 10:17-22)! I challenge him to deny it. That man would not obey the Lord; he "went away grieved, for he had great possessions." Yet, Bob Wilkin agrees with Zane Hodges that he was a saved man! Despite what Jesus said, the rich ruler was saved, says Bob Wilkin (Mk. 10:23-26; 1 Tim. 6:8-12). Deny it, if you will, Bob. If you do, I will "sic" Zane on you.
Now, friends, you may not think much of me, or of this material, but after you finish bashing and trashing me, will you please take a moment to consider your endorsement and support of a man who so contradicts the word of God as does Mr. Wilkin in the cases above?
Fourth, let us give some attention to Mr. Wilkin's opening paragraphs. "Yes," he avers, "you should strive or agonize to enter the kingdom of God. Why? Because the way is narrow that leads to life and few there are who find it. Most people are on the broad road to destruction."
Well, that little snippet undoes everything for which Mr. Wilkin contended in our discussion on salvation by grace through faith. In that debate, he said there was only one condition; namely, faith, or belief, that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. He argued and cited an illustration about a bus that showed he does not believe there is a "way...that leads to life." He scoffed at the idea that one would have to "find" life, let alone agonize for it. He does not believe there is anything one must do to "find" or have eternal life, except to mentally assent to the fact that Jesus is the Son of God. One need not repent. One may orally and publicly deny that Jesus is the Son of God, but he is still saved, according to Mr. Wilkin (Cf. Matt. 10:32, 33; Acts 2:38; 3:19; 17:30; 1 Tim. 2:4; 2 Pet. 3:9; Rom. 10:9, 10; 2 Tim. 2:12; Heb. 5:8, 9).
Mr. Wilkin endorses this quotation: "...Neither Calvin nor Luther treated repentance as a CONDITION for eternal salvation...no other position is Biblical...Faith alone (not repentance and faith) is the sole condition for justification and eternal life...to make repentance a condition for eternal salvation is a regression toward Roman Catholic dogma" (Zane Hodges, Absolutely Free!, 144, 145). Since Mr. Wilkin agrees with the statement above, how can he then speak of agonizing and finding "the way...that leads to life"?
The word, "find," is an action verb. Bob, is it "required," is it "essential" that a man "find" "the way...that leads to life"? If so, does that not mean that he must "seek" it? The last time I looked, finding and seeking were terms of action and effort. As such, they contradict Mr. Wilkin's "grace alone through faith alone" doctrine. In order to have "eternal life" given as a gift, one must "seek for" it, says no less an authority than the Holy Spirit (Rom. 2:7; Cf. Acts 17:27). But if one must "seek" and "find" and "believe," then that is something more than "faith alone," or faith only. Your move, Bob.
Fifth, besides seeking and finding, yet two other new, additional terms have been added by Mr. Wilkin. Here they are. See if you can find them. "So what is the broad road to destruction? What if it includes Campbellite doctrine? Would it not be wise of you, then, to strive to enter by the narrow gate?" See the words, "strive" and "enter"? They are action verbs. Now, Mr. Wilkin not only recommends that we "seek" and "find" eternal life, but now he says we should "strive to enter by the narrow gate" which leads to eternal life (Matt. 7:13, 14; Lk. 13:24).
Bob, is it "required," is it "essential" that one "strive" and that he "enter" anything? If one "seeks," "finds," "strives," "agonizes for," and "enters" "the way...that leads to life," would that not be a form of works salvation? If not, why not? It certainly is something more than "faith only."
Still, though, we are making progress with our friend. He has come a long way toward the truth since our debate, as these statements reveal. Since he now promotes the idea that one should "agonize," seek, and "find" "the way...that leads to life," perhaps he will say, "Amen," to the following passages: "Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven" (Matt. 7:21-27). "He became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him" (Heb. 5:9). Let Mr. Wilkin tell us whether or not he accepts the import of those texts and then let him "square" his acceptance with his view of the rich young ruler and the believers of John 12:42, 43. Will he do it?
Mr. Wilkin has asked three questions in the paragraph under study. Let us answer them in order. Bob asks, (1) "So what is the broad road of destruction?" That road is the road of the foolish man, i.e., those who will not hear and heed the word of the Son of God (Matt. 7:13-27; Lk. 6:46-49; 13:24-28). "Faith alone" was not sufficient--"Why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?" "My mother and my brethren are these which hear the word of God and do it" (Lk. 8:21). "If a man keep my saying, he shall never see death" (Jn. 8:51). What "if" he does not keep his word, Mr. Wilkin, what then (Rom. 2:8; 2 Thess. 1:8)?
Mr. Wilkin inquires, (2) "What if it (the road to destruction) includes Campbellite doctrine?" If the road to destruction "includes Campbellite doctrine," then all who follow "Campbellite doctrine" will be destroyed (Matt. 10:28; 2 Thess. 1:9). "Whosoever transgresseth and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God" (2 Jn. 9). But, Mr. Wilkin does not believe that. He believes that a man, once he has believed in Christ, may renounce his faith, become an atheist, a Buddhist, or a Campbellite and still go to heaven! That is what Mr. Wilkin believes. Again, I defy him to deny it. Now, our readers may begin to see why Mr. Wilkin has found it best to refuse to follow through with his signed agreement to debate the issue of eternal security (Heb. 3:12-14; 4:1, 11).
Finally, Bob wonders, (3) "Would it not be wise of you, then, to strive to enter by the narrow gate?" Connected with question two above, it appears that Bob thinks I should leave "Campbellite doctrine" and "strive to enter by the narrow gate." Now, this is confusing. Here is how. I am not a "Campbellite" (though I suppose having a Campbell light would be better than some who have no light at all). Between the two of us, Mr. Wilkin and myself, who is the "Campbellite"? He is the one who attended a "Stone/Campbell Study Group," a thing I have never done. Usually, those who attend drug and alcohol rehab, or AA, meetings are the ones who have the problem. I have never been. Bob has. So, who is the Campbellite? (Lighten up, folks. Draw an internet smiley face here, if it will put you in a good humor.)
The other confusing facet is Bob's suggestion that I ought "to strive to enter by the narrow gate." Since the road to destruction might include "Campbellite doctrine," his implication is that it would then be "wise of (me) to strive to enter by the narrow gate." However, if I "strive to enter," will that not be equivalent to "works salvation"? If one must "strive to enter," Wilkin argued in our '96 debate, that makes faith and grace null and void. Now, though, he suggests that I would "be wise...to strive to enter by the narrow gate." Which is it, Bob? One cannot have it both ways. If "striving (agonizing) to enter the strait gate" divorces one from saving grace, why do you now say it would be "wise" to do so? Since, in our debate, he argued that salvation is "absolutely free" of any act of obedience, and that such works will not permit one to be saved by grace, it is now surprising to hear him recommend that it would be "wise...to strive to enter by the narrow gate." Perhaps Mr. Wilkin would like to clarify his self made conflict with our readers.
Sixth, as an aside, I challenge Mr. Wilkin to name one thing which I believe, teach, or practice which originated with a "Stone/Campbell Study Group" or any other such arrangement. Can he do it? Will he even try? Is it the fact that I believe there is "but one body," or church (1 Cor. 12:20; Eph. 1:22, 23; 4:4; Col. 1:18)? No. Is it that I believe local congregations may be referred to as "churches of Christ" (Rom. 16:16)? No. Is it that I believe disciples should meet "upon the first day of the week" to break bread (Acts 20:7)? No. Is it that I believe baptism is "for the remission of sins," or that baptism is one of the conditions with which one must comply in order to be saved by grace through faith (Mk. 16:16; Acts 2:38; 19:5; 22:16; Eph. 2:8, 9)? No. If not, what then?
I urge Mr. Wilkin to give an example of anything he has seen from me that originated with the teaching of any man apart from the Scriptures. Let him cite an example of the "Campbellite doctrine" to which he refers and then show that it is contrary to Scripture and that Hafley believes it. Again, can he do it? Will he even try? Why not?
Bob was troubled that those in the "Stone/Campbell Study Group" could not give an answer to his question, "Is there a passage anywhere in the Bible which tells us everything we must do to be saved?" He says they could not give an answer to the question, and, so, he wonders, "Does it bother you, too, Larry Ray?"
No, Bob, it does not. Here is why. (1) Where does the Bible teach that one must be able to find "everything we must do to be saved" in only one verse or passage? Bob, can you find one such passage? Suppose I give you "two passages," or do you "need a third passage?" At any rate, Bob, find the passage, the verse, which obligates one to find "everything we must do to be saved" in one passage. I insist that you do so. If you do not, then why must I find such a passage as you request?
(2) What does Mr. Wilkin mean by his question, "everything we must do to be saved?" According to Mr. Wilkin, I thought there was nothing one could do that would procure his salvation (Acts 2:40; Rom. 6:16-18). Bob argues that salvation, like his bulletin, is "absolutely free!" If that be so, why ask anyone to find "everything we must do to be saved?" If Bob is correct, if salvation is "absolutely free" in the sense Bob says it is, then not even Bob himself could find such a passage for it does not exist. However, let us ask Bob the same question. Bob, "Is there a passage anywhere in the Bible which tells us everything we must do to be saved?" Is there, Bob? Whatever text he cites, it will be something the sinner "must do to be saved." If there is something the sinner absolutely "must do to be saved," this will eliminate grace and do away with Bob's "absolutely free" ideas. Send us your verse, Bob. We promise to give it close scrutiny and believe you will appreciate our "candor" when we examine it. (Since Mr. Wilkin will not provide the passage, perhaps some of his brethren will help him out.)
(3) Mr. Wilkin, "I will also ask you one thing, which if ye tell me, I in like wise will tell you" the one verse which contains "everything we must do to be saved." Is there a passage anywhere in the Bible which tell us everything God did in order for us to be saved? Which verse, Bob, contains all that God did in order to effect our salvation? Can you cite just one? (1) John 3:16 will not do. It mentions the love of God in sending Jesus, but it does not refer to the cross, the blood of Jesus, the grace of God, the resurrection of Christ. Yes, I am aware that verses 14 and 15 include the cross, but that is more than one verse--"Wouldn't that mean that even these two passages are not enough? Don't you need a third passage?" (2) Ephesians 2:8, 9 will not suffice, for that is "two passages." Besides, those verses do not mention the love of God or the cross of Christ. Hence, even that great text does not "tell us everything God did in order for us to be saved."
Is it essential that there be one such passage? No. The fact that one cannot find the love and the grace of God, the grace of Christ, the cross, the blood of Christ, and his glorious resurrection all specifically mentioned in one verse does not deny their part nor their legitimate validity in the scheme of redemption. And so it is with respect to man's response to the gospel. It is not essential that one verse list "everything" that God did, or that man "must do," in order for it to be a part of the gospel plan of peace and pardon. However, if Mr. Wilkin will find the passage which "tells us everything God did in order for us to be saved," then "I in like wise will tell (him)" the one passage that "tells us everything we must do to be saved." Care to take me up on that, Mr. Wilkin?
In our debate, Mr. Wilkin affirmed that salvation is "by grace through faith alone." He insisted that since the Bible says salvation is "by grace through faith," that meant that salvation is "by faith only." I then asked him that since salvation is by grace does that mean that salvation is by grace alone and not also by the love of God, the blood of Christ, the resurrection, etc. (Rom. 4:25; 5:8; 2 Cor. 5:21; 8:9; 1 Pet. 2:24). Mr. Wilkin believes that the grace of Christ includes all that God did. He believes grace is an inclusive term, one that includes the love of God, the death and blood of Christ. So, likewise, he was told, "faith" is equally inclusive. It, too, includes all the one must do to be saved. If "grace" is broad enough to include the love and mercy of God and the grace, death, and blood of Christ on the cross, plus his resurrection and exaltation, why is not faith broad enough to include repentance and confession of Christ as the Son of God?
In other words, if saying that salvation is by the grace of God does not eliminate the love of God and the blood of Jesus, why must faith eliminate repentance, confession, and baptism (Matt. 28:19; Mk. 16:16; Lk. 24:47; Acts 2:38)? Mr. Wilkin could provide no answer during the debate, as the tapes will show. If he can do better now, let him make an effort to answer. Or, will his refusal to answer be our answer? I suspect so.
So, no, Mr. Wilkin, I am not bothered by the fact "that we don't have one passage that lists all the conditions" necessary for salvation. Are you bothered by the fact that you do not have "one passage that lists all of the works of God in providing our salvation?"
Conclusion: The noted "evangelical" author, John MacArthur, one of the most widely read theologians of our day, says that Robert Wilkin's publication is the "leading voice" of his position. Thus, we are not dealing with a novice. Mr. Wilkin is a personable, talented man. This adds to his danger to the souls of men (Matt. 7:15; Acts 20:29; Eph. 4:14; 2 Pet. 2:1-3; 1 Jn. 4:1; Rev. 2:2). He teaches men that they need not repent or confess the name of Christ (Rom. 2:4; 10:9, 10). He is a false teacher of the deepest dye.
Many pages of correspondence have been exchanged with him, not only by myself, but by others also. Still, he is not moved away from his error. For that cause, we shall challenge and confront him and his nefarious doctrine so long as God gives us the means to do so. I am not Bob's enemy (Gal. 4:16). Though he does not know it, those of us who have contended with him are the best friends he has ever had. We wish him no personal ill and have only the kindest feelings for the salvation of his soul, "though we thus speak" (Heb. 6:9). May God grant him the willingness to continue to reason with us that he may eventually come to a knowledge of the truth and be saved (1 Tim. 2:4; 1 Pet. 1:22).
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