Tom welcomes back guest Anton Bosch as they continue their discussion the Strange Fire Conference.
Gary: Welcome to Search the Scriptures 24/7, a radio ministry of The Berean Call with T.A. McMahon. I’m Gary Carmichael. We’re glad you could join us. In today’s program, Tom continues his visit with special guest Pastor Anton Bosch from Sun Valley Community Church in California. Now, along with his guest, here’s TBC executive director, Tom McMahon.
Tom: Thanks, Gary. Well, this is our…part 2 of our program in which we’re addressing the Strange Fire Conference that was held at John MacArthur’s church, Grace Community Church in Sun Valley in Southern California, and my partner in addressing this is Anton Bosch.
As you’ll recognize from Anton’s accent, he’s originally from South Africa, which…you know, when I ever have somebody on here from New Zealand or these countries, you guys are so much more articulate (laughing) that it’s a thrill. You know, Paul Wilkinson from England as well. I go, “Oh brother, Tom. You’d better take some elocution lessons!”
But anyway, back to the subject here, Anton is a pastor. He attended -- if you missed our first program, he attended the Strange Fire Conference, which is not too far from his own church. He’s a pastor in Sun Valley, California, which is in the San Fernando part of Los Angeles, if that’s the way to describe it. But also, Anton has been a part of apologetics ministries, blog sites – I mentioned last week “Herescope,” which is a fantastic blog site; it’s a part of the discernment research group, so he’s been at this a long time. And that’s what got me interested…well, I was sent an article out of Australia, which is Philip Powell’s ministry, Christian Witness Ministries—is that right?
Tom: So that’s where I first read Anton’s impression of this conference. Now we covered a lot of material last week, so…and we’ll try not to keep going over this but get on to some more information about it, so I recommend if you haven’t heard part 1 of this that you…you know, it’s on our website, and some radios are picking it up, and so on. It’s out there. And you can also email us with your objections or with your encouragements, whatever that might be.
Now, Anton, the issues I want to talk about today, which we alluded to last week, this conference was not only about dealing with the issues of the Charismatic movement, of the abuses among Charismatics, the charlatans, the Benny Hinns, the TBN crowd, and so on, which, you know, as I said last week, many, many other ministries, including our own, including what you’ve written about, Herescope, we’ve dealt with this over the years. But sadly, it keeps growing and growing. That would tell us that, hey, I think the Bible may be right when it talks about in the Last Days there will be apostasy.
Tom: Paul writes to Timothy in 2 Timothy:4:1-3 that “the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine,” and you couldn’t…I mean, you’d have to be blind not to recognize what’s going on throughout the church. It’s overwhelming. But the point is that if that was the issue, yeah, let’s have another voice of discernment regarding the abuses of the gifts, the abuses within…call it Charismatic, Pentecostal, whatever it might be…again, not that everybody that’s a part of that…and you mentioned last week, Anton, the broad brush that’s used, but we’re going to talk about that in a little bit.
So, my concern is, yes, they’re addressing an issue that needs to be addressed, but it’s how they’re addressing it and what their solution is, and I challenge anybody who thinks I’m putting them on with this, or not understanding this—there are 17 messages and 2 Q&A sessions, which are available on the Internet from Grace Community Church, so you can go over every message, you can watch them and hear them, and they also involve the transcripts. So, folks, check us out here. We’re just giving you our impressions. You may have a different impression, but I don’t know how you can argue with some of the things that we’re going to address here. But that’s up to you.
So, Anton, again, as we’ve mentioned the silver bullet to deal with all of these problems within the Charismatic church, Pentecostal church, within those who are continuationists, those who believe that the gifts of the Spirit are still for today, the silver bullet to solve those problems, those errors, in their view, would be Calvinist cessationism. Now, am I boiling it down to something that’s not there?
Anton: No, that’s exactly what it is. Because of his broad brush approach, and it’s [actually?] in a follow-up YouTube that was recorded when he spoke to his seminary students subsequent to the conference, he paints the church landscape in the world today as follows: There are the crazy Charismatics on the one side; there are the Reformed people on the other side; and in between, there is…and he used the word “generic” group of “gray” churches that are really just keeping people happy preaching motivational messages and that kind of thing. So as far as he’s concerned, there’re really only two things happening in the church today, and that is Reformed theology and Charismatics on the other side.
And that really is not the truth. In between these two extremes, there is a huge number, and granted it’s not an organized thing as Calvinism is, or as the Charismatic movement is, but there are thousands of churches in America and in the rest of the world just like ours, where our emphasis is on the Scriptures; it is not on Pentecostal gifts; it is not on the Reformers; it’s not on the traditions of men. It is simply trying to rediscover a biblical form of Christianity. And that just does not exist in his understanding of what goes on in the church.
So, yeah, the only answer, as far as he is concerned, is in Calvinism, and, as you said, not just Calvinism, because remember there are Calvinists like Grudem and Piper, and so on, who are continuationists. He disregards them and refers to them as an anomaly or an oxymoron, and so they don’t really even feature in this. The only answer to the problems in the church and the world today lies within Calvinism.
Tom: Right. Now, you mentioned Wayne Grudem, certainly John Piper, and Sam [Storms]—these are Calvinists. So, you know, my impression, Anton, was they were cut a little bit more slack because at least they had the Calvinism part right—they were just in error over their view of the gifts. So again, it all comes back to the answer is not sola scriptura, even though they wave that banner, and so on, the answer is in Reformed theology, and again, folks, if you want to take the time to go through all of these messages, that’s what’s going to come home.
Now, we mentioned last week how in John MacArthur’s words, Steve Lawson, and other so-called icons of the Reformed Calvinist movement, that’s all you heard about. These are the men that were referred to, even drawing in Augustine, certainly Calvin himself, Luther—you go on down through the line. These are supposed to be our heroes in the faith.
Tom: Now, before I get to John Calvin himself, obviously from the conference, and I haven’t read the book yet, but Calvin is the hero. He’s almost sanctified, not only in this conference, but you read the book, Anton, and I would imagine John would continue that idea.
Tom: Now, Calvin, as I mentioned, he’s almost sanctified in a Catholic way, canonized, in this conference. For example, John MacArthur says, “This is a time for the people who now stand on the shoulders of the Reformers in every area of their theology to be faithful to Reformation theology to its full rich intent. If we claim allegiance to the Reformers, then we ought to conduct ourselves with the same level of courage. Don’t call yourself a charismatic Calvinist. John Calvin would reject that. John Calvin did reject that. You’ll have to drop the “Calvinist” part.” I assume that’s pointed at Piper and Gruden and [Storms] and others who go that way.
Now, Calvin, just to talk about him for a brief moment, and add whatever you’d like to this, Anton. Well, he wrote his Institutes of the Christian Religion at age 26 – that’s two years after leaving the Catholic Church, and, as I mentioned, the baggage that he brought, which I’ll get into.
Tom: So, you know, you’d think that would give someone pause, because, wait a minute, the guy’s only been a believer, if indeed that, for two years and now he’s writing about the Christian religion?
Tom: Incredible. But do these guys buy that? Yes, they do. Philip Schaff, who’s also a historian and a Calvinist, is quoted by Lawson in his message: “Calvin was an exegetical genius.” We used the words “exegesis” and “eisegesis” last week. Exegesis is correctly interpreting the Scriptures. Eisegesis is putting your own ideas into it. Would that be…?
Anton: Yes, exegesis, “ex” meaning “out of,” so “drawing out of the Scripture its meaning”; eisegesis is based on the idea of putting into Scripture your own meaning.
Tom: Okay, now that’s important to clarify that. Again, the quote: “Calvin was an exegetical genius of the first order. His commentaries are unsurpassed for originality, depth, perspicuity, soundness, and permanent value. Calvin was the king of the commentators.” Again, quoting the conference, that comes from Philip Schaff.
Now, they also quote a former president of Westminster Seminary, John Murray, and this is what he said: “Calvin was the exegete. He was the exegete of the Reformation and in the first rank of biblical exegetes of all time.”
Lawson goes on to say, “I do believe that Calvin towers over the church history as the most substantial theologian that has been given to the church, its most powerful influence, and we would do well to hear from our older brother.”
Now, I know you know this stuff, Anton, but I have to keep it going. Calvin, also known as the Protestant Pope of Geneva, a city of about 20,000, in which he instigated torturous persecutions of hundreds, including more than 50 executions, many of whom were drowned for simply disagreeing with his “biblical” doctrine of infant baptism—of course, that would be the Anabaptists.
Tom: You know, Dave Hunt, in his book What Love Is This? spells all of this out, folks. “Calvin [I’m continuing] Calvin, the church’s most substantial theologian and foremost exegete…” Well, he interpreted Luke:14:32 to support his violent coercion. Now folks, I challenge you to look up that verse and see if you agree.
Now, the conference also, not only Calvin and those of Reformed history, Reformation history, they quote Augustine, again, Roman Catholics’ or Roman Catholicism’s doctor of the major dogmas, John Chrysostom -- he taught prayers for the dead, Luther taught infant baptism, baptismal regeneration, and wrote a vicious anti-Semitic tract, Jonathan Edwards – he taught that God is the author of sin and evil, B.B. Warfield -- I mentioned him last week – he taught theistic evolution and honored Darwin “as one [before] whom we gladly doff our hats in true and admiring reverence.” As well, there were lists of contemporary Reformed theologians, such as J.I. Packer – he signed Evangelicals and Catholics Together, R.C. Sproul, who teaches partial preterism.
Now look, my whole point here is that why are they looking to men? Not that these guys got everything wrong, but the point is sola scriptura. We don’t look to men, especially fallible men, no matter where they are. It’s not that they can’t give us an insight, but if their insight doesn’t direct us back to the Word of God, well, it’s delusionary and worse.
Anton: Right. And really these men get between us and the Word and between us and God, and just the very idea of calling yourself a Calvinist is to me abhorrent. And I know that’s a strong word, but was Jesus a Calvinist? Or was Jesus an Arminian? And in fact, I wrote an article before this conference a few months ago, and it’s entitled, “Just a Christian.” I’m a follower of Christ. And we are called to follow Him. We’re not even called to follow Paul, and Paul, you know, exceeds Calvin by a thousand times. And yet we’re not Paulists. We do not follow Paul. We do not follow Cephas, or Peter. We do not follow Apollos. We follow Christ.
Tom: Right. But we see again a huge difference. What Paul writes is under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. And he makes that correction himself, are you following Apollos? Are you following…which way are you going. On the one hand. On the other hand, we have sola scriptura. We have the Word of God. You know, when Paul talks about “look at my life, a pattern for life,” what we have is from the Scriptures, from the truth, things that we are to emulate and do, but not the person of Paul. But what he did, “Not by might, nor by power, but by the Holy Spirit,” that’s the deal there.
Anton: Yeah, and we obviously don’t want to discard the benefits of 2,000 years of Christianity, and there are good things in that history, and if there are good things, we can extract those good things. And certainly there were good things out of the Reformation, and the very term that we’re throwing around this morning, sola scriptura, was a Reformation term. And that was a good thing.
Tom: Of course. The sad part is they didn’t follow it. You know, Luther….I mean, they had so much Catholic baggage that they gave way to that in many cases. But I agree with you to stand up to the Roman Catholic Church at the time was a huge, huge deal. So we’re not undermining that. But, as you said, Anton, what they’re doing with it now, it’s not just erroneous; it’s so contradictory, it’s antithetical to the Scriptures.
Anton: Yeah, and the Reformation was, as you mentioned, it was a correction to the errors of Catholicism, and it was for that time. Now running parallel to that, and you get this in Broadbent’s book on the church history, The Pilgrim Church, running parallel to that is this generic church that MacArthur refers to of the small little groups that existed from the Book of Acts and continues through to today. Now, I’m not saying that God does not move in big movements. Of course, you know, He did use the Welsh revivals and the Great Awakening, and things like that. But the continuity does not run through the Roman Church and then the major correction in the Reformation. The continuity runs in those little groups, the Brethren, amongst others at that time, who didn’t need to make these big corrections because they had remained true to the Scripture. So it’s a fallacy to suggest that the answers lie in the Reformation. No, the answers don’t lie in the Reformation. The Reformation was purely a Catholic thing. It related to the Catholic problem, and one of the problems of reading Luther today—in fact, I just read a comment by D. A. Carson on Luther’s commentary on the Book of Galatians, and he says that Luther’s commentary is basically irrelevant to us today because his interpretation of the Book of Galatians is in the light of the Catholic problem that he was dealing with.
Tom: Mm-hmm. Now, Anton, I want to go back to something that really…really upsets me, and it has to do with labels and definitions. And we’ve seen this abuse, well, on both sides of those who defending the gifts and those who are not. They fall into what I think is a huge, huge trap, an error.
Now, have you ever had anybody say to you, “Well, are you a Calvinist or an Arminian?” And then, I’m sure your response would be, as mine, “Wait a minute. I’m not either one. I’m a biblical Christian.” If we’re going for labels, that’s the only one I will accept.
Tom: Now within Calvinism, if I said, “Well, yeah, “ or let’s say I’m dealing with somebody who claims to be a Calvinist, and I said, “Well, so you’re a Calvinist.”
And they’d say, ”Yes. Yes, I am.”
I said, “Well, are you a hyper-Calvinist? Are you a moderate Calvinist? Are you a five-point, four-point, three-point, two-point, one-point Calvinist? Are you a Limited Atonement Calvinist? Are you a Particular Atonement Calvinist? Are you a Particular Redemption Calvinist? Are you a Definite Atonement Calvinist?”
Now, folks, these are legitimate – they’re labels, but some would agree, “This is what I am, this is what I am.” But I’ll keep going: “Are you a Almyraldist Calvinist? Are you a non-Almyraldist Calvinist? Are you a supralapsarian Calvinist? Are you an infralapsarian Calvinist? A sub-lapsasrian Calvinist? A sub-lapsarian Calvinist? A cessatinist Calvinist? Are you a continuist Calvinist? Are you a charismatic Calvinist? Are you a miracalist? Are you a providentialist Calvinist?” And the list goes on and on and on. And with all of these things, there are definitions that men have made up to see if you fit into any one of these things. Now, this is men’s rationalism. This is a methodology of trying to work theology out according to the labels and the definitions of men.
Am I making too much of this, Anton?
Anton: No, that’s exactly what it is, and it’s really trying to put the Word of God, and to put God, in a box, with a label, you know, of some form of Calvinism or some form of this or that or the other thing. And, you know, of course the problem with Calvinism in terms of the central issue of predestination is a very complex thing, and the answer does not lie, as you said, in Calvinism or in Arminianism. The answer lies in holding the incredibly great truths in tension. God is sovereign. You know, of course, He’s sovereign. Can He do what He chooses? Yes, He can do exactly what He chooses. But at the same time, has He given a man a responsibility to respond to His plan of salvation? Clearly He has. Does the one contradict the other in human wisdom? Yes, it does, and so because we want to apply human wisdom to these things and not accept by faith even those things that have to be held in tension and that we cannot fully understand, we try and put things in these boxes. And God and His Word is just so profound – and there are so many truths, you know, how can He be three and be one at the same time? We have to hold these things in tension. And so any attempt to put things in this box or that box is really an attempt at applying human wisdom and descaling the incredible depths of God’s greatness and God’s power and wisdom.
Tom: Now, Anton, we just have a few minutes left, but we need to address this, because I know people say, “Well, wait a minute, so what’s your view on the gifts?” Okay? I’ll tell you folks pointblank, we believe that there’s no verse in the Bible that says that the gifts have ceased for today. It all has to do, you look at all the gifts, it all has to do with the building up of the church, for edification, and so on. So in our view, yes, it’s a difficult subject, and it’s not like a nonnegotiable part of the gospel, or the gospel itself, which is objective. We can look at verse after verse and say, “This is clearly what it says.” But when you move into the issue of the gifts, it’s a little bit more subjective, lends itself more to somewhat the experiential. Now, having said that, it can be a minefield. We’ve seen people go awry with it. We’ve seen people lock down on it. But my view is the Bible does not teach that the gifts have ceased for today. No way. You can’t give me chapter or verse. Having said that, we also can see from observation how the gifts have been abused in the church. But that doesn’t mean you throw it out. You can’t! There are too many examples in the Bible of the Holy Spirit directing lives in ministering from the Scriptures. We can take that.
Sorry, Anton, you’ve only got about a minute. What do you say to that?
Anton: Yeah, I agree. You know, there are abuses, and there’s all sorts of stuff going wrong, but that does not contradict the truth of God’s Word, and if God says that’s the way it is, that’s the way it is. The same can be applied to salvation. Is the world filled with Christians who claim to be Christians and their lives are filled with sin and unholiness and unrighteousness? Of course it is! Probably the majority of Christians today do not reflect Jesus Christ. But does that mean, then, that the gospel is a lie, and that I can’t believe the gospel, and that I have to say, well, you know, the whole issue of the gospel has to be thrown out?
No! I believe the gospel even if I never see anybody get saved and their lives powerfully and dramatically transformed -- which, praise God, we do see, but if I never saw that, I would still believe the gospel because that’s what the Word teaches. And the same applies to the spiritual gifts.
Tom: I can only say Amen to that, Anton. So, listen, Brother, thank you for participating in this. I’m sure we’ll have more to address in future programs, but we’ll just see how it goes. So again, once again, thanks for being with us.
Anton: Thanks, Tom.
Gary: You’ve been listening to Search the Scriptures 24/7, featuring T.A. McMahon, a radio ministry of The Berean Call. We offer a wide variety of resources to help you in your study of God’s Word. For a complete list of materials and a free subscription to our monthly newsletter contact us at PO Box 7019 Bend, Oregon 97708. Call us at 800.937.6638. Or visit our website at the bereancall.org. I’m Gary Carmichael. We’re glad you could tune in, and we invite you back again next week. Until then, we encourage you to Search the Scriptures 24/7.