A Critical Examination of Statements Published by C. Matthew McMahon

Discussion in 'Calvinism & The Doctrines of Grace' started by pastorway, Feb 11, 2006.

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  1. pastorway

    pastorway Puritan Board Senior


    Let me start by assuring the reader that I hold to the Doctrines of Grace and the Five Solas of the Reformation. I embrace The First (1646) and Second (1689) London Baptist Confessions of Faith. I serve as the pastor of a Reformed Baptist Church. So I am not herein defending Arminianism or any other heresy, nor am I impugning the doctrines of grace as if they were not true. I am however defending the gospel of Jesus Christ against perversion.

    A Critical Examination of Statements Published by C. Matthew McMahon

    What I am setting out to accomplish is to reveal though an examination of the writings of C. Matthew McMahon that he has begun to teach that one must believe the doctrines of grace in order to be saved.

    That is, in his own words, I will demonstrate that Matt has published a number of works that insist that if one is not holding to all five points of the doctrines of grace (TULIP), then that person is not saved, has believed a false gospel, is not a believer in Jesus Christ, and is not going to heaven when they die.

    I will show that Matt has replaced the content of the gospel, which is the Person of Jesus Christ, with a formulation of systematic doctrine that he requires one to believe in order to be converted.

    It is his view that a sinner must understand and embrace the five points in order to be saved. Trusting Christ is not enough. Simple child like faith is not enough. Jesus is not enough. In the view presented, one must be a Calvinist in order to be converted.

    In love for and out of duty to Christ and His Church, and in Christian love for Matt, I offer the opportunity for Matt to recant this position and embrace the truth, namely that the content of the gospel in the Person of Jesus Christ and that one need not understand or embrace all Five Points of Calvinism in order to be saved.

    Let us look then at what he has written.

    The Evidence

    TULIP - the essential doctrines for salvation.

    If the doctrines of grace are not preached then the hearer has not heard the gospel.

    To deny any single point of the doctrines of grace is to proclaim another gospel.

    Defining Heresy

    By his own definition, one who holds to heresy is "œan enemy of God", "œheresy is damnable. It will send the one holding it to hell." He puts forth that to believe any one of these points is to believe heresy and be damned:

    • that God loves all equally and that His decrees are conditional (a denial of unconditional election)
    • that man has free will (a denial of total depravity and irresistible grace)
    • that saints may fall from grace (a denial of perseverance of the saints)
    • that Christ died for all men (a denial of limited atonement)
    So to deny any part of TULIP is to believe a heresy, which of course, damns.

    Here is the quote used to define heresy:

    Denying Limited Atonement

    Worshipping a False God

    We find that McMahon says that one must believe the doctrines of Calvinism and he accuses anyone who disagrees with any of the Five Points of being guilty of idolatry by the worship of a false god, concluding that these "œidolaters" have no place in the kingdom of heaven. Consider these quotes from the latest article:

    From http://www.apuritansmind.com/Arminianism/McMahonArminianGodNotWorshippable.htm

    According to this paragraph, if you believe God loves everyone equally you worshipping a false god. If you believe Jesus died for all men, you are worshipping a false god. If you deny particular redemption (limited atonement) then you are worshipping a false god. If you deny God's elective decree then you are worshipping a false god.

    If you believe you came to God on your own, of your own free will, and that you can refuse or frustrate the grace of God, then you are worshipping a false god.

    Again, reject limited atonement and you are worshipping a false god.

    If you believe that you can lose your salvation, then you are worshipping a false god.

    If you worship a false god, identified herein as denying any of the points of Calvinism, you are an idolater and are going to hell.


    Matt, in his own words, over and over again, states in public view and in no uncertain terms that to deny any single point of the doctrines of grace is to worship a false god, believe a false gospel, embrace damning heresy, and be doomed to hell for all eternity.

    He has replaced the content of the gospel of Jesus Christ. He has removed Christ from the gospel and instead made TULIP the gospel and faith in Calvinism a requirement for salvation and the forgiveness of sins.

    Matt, do you recant of your denial of the gospel of Jesus Christ? Do you recant of your requirement for adherence to Calvinism in order for one to be saved? And do you recant of your identifying the denial of any single point of Calvinism as damnable heresy?

    For Christ, His Gospel, and His Church,
    Phillip M. Way
    Maranatha Community Church

    UPDATE - April 17, 2006

    As most of you know, Matt posted a response to this critique on A Puritan's Mind - Coming to Faith: Examining Theological Paradigms Pertaining to Neophytes and Heretics in the Essentials of Christianity, and now after some time in the Word and in prayer, after a brief email discussion with him, and after consulting with a group of pastors to whom I am accountable and with whom I fellowship, I have written a final response from my point of view that I hope will make the issues surrounding this debate clear for everyone to see. I do not know if this disagreement will be resolved. But I know that with God all things are possible. I leave it in His hands then.

    What Do These Words Mean?
    By Pastor Phillip M. Way

    Has Dr. C. Matthew McMahon denied the gospel of Jesus Christ?

    Matt penned an article and published it on A Puritan´s Mind and provided a link on the Puritan Board titled "œThe god of Arminianism is not Worshippable" . The post that introduced this article has been the most replied to thread on the Puritan Board and is the second most viewed discussion on the forum. It introduced one of the most heated debates that we have ever seen on the Puritan Board. It led to attempts on the part of many to clarify what one must believe in order to be saved.

    In that discussion, several people defended the work. Others saw what I saw in the article. They wanted to know why Matt would write an article making the case that anyone who did not know and understand the doctrines of grace was a heretic.

    This thread and particularly Matt´s response to challenges to his article troubled me. It seemed that Matt and those defending what he had written were in fact denying the gospel of salvation by free grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. To be clear, my concern from the very start of this debate has been that the gospel was not being clarified but was being clouded or even denied.

    Is that a serious charge? Absolutely. Any minister of the gospel who loves the Lord and desires to be faithful to the Word of God would shudder and be offended at the charge! Any minister of the gospel should be offended if he is told that he has denied the gospel. But along with that offense, and even the resultant anger, a minister of the gospel should be the first to be sure that what he has preached and written lines up with the Scriptures. Few should desire to be teachers because those who teach the Word of God will be held to a higher standard by God. (James 3:1)

    Further, if a minister is presented with any evidence that what he has preached or written has been misunderstood, confused, or has indeed been incorrect, then that material should be edited and the record corrected. In other words, if a minister of the gospel teaches error then when he becomes aware of it he should recant.

    A recent example of this is presented to us within the very history of the Puritan Board and A Puritan´s Mind. Matt was formerly a Reformed Baptist and he had written several articles defending believers baptism. When he changed his view and embraced paedo-baptism, he, in his own words, "œretracted and recanted the Reformed Baptist position" "“ he removed the articles that defended believers baptism and wrote an article of recantation for every one of them.

    As a result, I trusted that if Matt was presented with evidence of error in his writings that he would be open to retracting or recanting those errors. I stated in the thread on his article that I feared that he was indeed presenting the case that unless one embraced the five points of Calvinism (TULIP) in full then they could not be saved. And again, I was not alone in assessing this from the article.

    It seemed clear to me and others that Matt was defending a Hyper-Calvinistic position, so I took the time to read every article that he has written and posted on A Puritan´s Mind that deals with the topic of salvation, the doctrines of grace, and the gospel of Jesus Christ. I was not angry. I was not mad at Matt. I was not trying to dig up dirt or uncover some ambiguous statement with which I could manufacture allegations of heresy. It was not a witch hunt or a hasty rant. I was truly out of love and concern for Matt worried that he was either being misunderstood or had mis-stated his own beliefs.

    Honestly, Matt has written a very useful article that defines and attacks Hyper-Calvinism. He has written several very good gospel tracts. He has written a lot about Calvinism and the Reformation. All good and useful. But when a minister of the gospel writes or preaches contradictory things then we must press them to be sure that they mean what they say and say what they mean. All teachers must be held to this high standard "“ what we teach must be tested by the Word of God. (Acts 17:11)

    As a result of what I found and my ongoing discussions with Matt on the topic, I posted a very brief critique of several statements that he had made and published on the internet that were cause for concern. My purpose for doing so was simply to give Matt an opportunity to clarify what he meant by what he had written. I never for one minute believed that Matt himself had begun to believe that a person who was ignorant of the doctrines of grace could not go to heaven. I never doubted the state of his own soul. That is not for me to judge. I love Matt, and out of concern for what he was writing and defending I wanted him to clarify his position.

    I truly believed that he would answer quickly that I had misunderstood what he had written. However, his response has puzzled me even more than the discussion around the article that started this all. He has defended what he has written. In fact, he has gone to great lengths to defend what he has written. There has been no retraction, no recantation, and no direct answer to the questions put to him about his statements as I quoted them in my critique.

    The truth is that this whole "œconflict" could easily be resolved with the answer to one question. I asked Matt this one question and asked for a one word reply. That´s right. This whole debate can be settled by one question with a one word answer.

    The question?

    Can a person who never hears or understands the doctrines of grace go to heaven?

    The answer is either "œyes" or "œno".

    Simple? Yes it is. And it goes to the very heart of the matter being discussed. Can a person believe on the Lord Jesus Christ without ever hearing the terms total depravity, unconditional election, limited atonement, irresistible grace, or perseverance of the saints?

    A great illustration of what I am trying to say can be found in a discussion I was having today in a hospital waiting room with a friend of mine whose mother was recovering from surgery. As we discussed the gospel, one family member brought up the thief of the cross next to Jesus. He trusted Christ alone to save him and simply asked, "œLord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom." And Jesus responded to this saving faith bestowed by grace by saying, "œAssuredly I say to you, today you will be with Me in paradise." As Romans 10:13 states, "œWhoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." And when the Philippian jailor asked, "œWhat must I do to be saved?", Paul replied, "œBelieve on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved." (Acts 16:30-32).

    So can we present Biblical evidence, or a proof text of any kind, that would indicate to us that one must hear, understand, and embrace the five points of Calvinism in order to be saved? No. There is no such Scriptural evidence.

    When I asked Matt this simple question what did he say? Did he say, "œYes"? Did he say, "œNo"? He said, "œIt is not that simple."

    And that is why I am writing this one last time. I am asking Matt to clarify what he has written and published on the internet so that there is no confusion as to what he believes about the gospel. I do not want quotes from theologians, footnotes, and pages and pages of material. That is all unnecessary. It is my sole desire that Matt will clarify whether or not he believes that one must hear, understand, and embrace the doctrines of grace in order to be saved or as proof that they have been saved. That is what he has seemed to have stated in the statements that I have called into question. Those statements are included in my original critique.
    To show why I am concerned, in his response to my critique he stated the following (emphasis from the original):

    Now listen to this carefully. I am not saying this lightly. And I do say this intentionally and with great care given to the words I use "“

    Matt, if you believe that a person must hear, understand, and embrace the doctrines of grace in toto in order to be saved or as proof of their salvation as they mature in Christ, then you have in fact denied the gospel of Jesus Christ. Coming to faith and maturity in Jesus Christ is not synonymous with embracing TULIP.

    There have been many great and godly men throughout the history of the church who were not Calvinists. There have been countless numbers of people who have been saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone who have never even heard the term "œThe Doctrines of Grace." There have been Christians in every age who were completely ignorant of systematic theology. What did they know and believe? They knew that they needed to be saved and that Jesus alone could and would save them if they trusted Him. They took Him at His Word, "œCome to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest."

    Matt, if you believe that this is the position that you have presented in your articles, then many people are misreading you. Those who have defended you have argued for Hyper-Calvinism and against the gospel itself. It should alarm you that those who defend you also defend Hyper-Calvinism! If what you have written does indeed confuse the content of the gospel and cloud the simple truth of salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, then you must be encouraged to retract what you have written and recant the errors that you have published. It is not enough to write new material to defend what you believe. You and I must be willing and ready to correct any errors we find in our writing and preaching as we both continue to grow in grace.

    If you are satisfied with what you have written and do not see any need to retract, recant, or edit a word of it then I do truly fear that you have slipped into Hyper-Calvinism and that people will take your writings and with them justify their own denial of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

    I leave it between you and God. I have nothing more to say on the matter to anyone. And in fact, I will not comment further. I have no desire for an ongoing conflict that is disagreeable and unfruitful. I write this not because I am responsible for you or your ministry, but because I am responsible as a minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ to defend that gospel and to give every man an answer for the hope that all Christians have in Christ Jesus. In doing so, I am going to be held accountable by God for every word I speak, write, and think. So will we all.

    Think about what you have written. Does it present the gospel of Jesus Christ in the clearest terms possible? If not, cast those things aside and strive only to preach Christ and Him crucified.

    For our Risen Lord Jesus Christ,

    Pastor Way

    [Edited on 4-18-06 by pastorway]
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