Review of Living Springs Baptist Church, Rockbank, Victoria
Once upon a time, Living Springs Baptist Church used to be a conservative biblical church in the western suburbs of Melbourne. That now seems to be a long way in the past. It was bad enough that over the years it should develop an unhealthy preference for Hillsong-type music over standard godly music. (Hillsong is a huge music-producing industry that is seemingly totally focussed upon (even obsessed with) making money rather than making and building Christians. Those churches who flock to the support of Hillsong music should be more discerning regarding the actual Christian witness – or lack of it – at Hillsong itself.) This slide of Living Springs into apostate music was certainly a put-off for the genuine Christian who sought to worship God and Him alone.
But when Living Springs permitted reform belief (calvinism) (via local calvinist church: GraceWest Bible Church) to permeate its beliefs, it crossed that line in the sand that divided Christian from non-Christian. It was apparent that GraceWest exerted a significant calvinist influence on Living Springs. One look at the Living Springs Facebook page makes it clear what side of that line in the sand they now occupy.
They trumpet forth the calvinist dogma of the “solas”. Along with other calvinists they say that salvation is “In Christ Alone”, yet calvinism requires that a person be born again (they call it being regenerated) before one may call upon the name of the Lord to be saved. But how may one be born again “In Christ Alone” before responding to Christ’s call to be saved? I quote from an email from a member of Living Springs church (18/01/2017): “John 3: 3. (man must be born again first before he can repent and believe.) In this super clear verse our Lord and saviour himself tells Nicodemus that he cannot even see the kingdom of God unless he is born again first, surely that puts to rest that regeneration must take place first and foremost.” And yet, doesn’t 2 Corinthians 5:7 teach that faith is in opposition to sight?
I had a number of email discussions with this person who just couldn’t see the wood for the trees! I note that the Living Springs Facebook page regularly quotes from MacArthur, Sproul, Lawson, Spurgeon, etc, all of whom are considered calvinist heroes of the faith. This email-writing member was especially enamoured with the perfection of MacArthur’s teachings. When I pointed out (with much documentation) that MacArthur had misquoted and misused a Greek rule known as the Granville Sharp rule (see link to “MacArthur is Wrong!” at end below), he wrote the following: “I must admit I am not too familiar with the Granville sharp rule (obviously!) and you have certainly done your research which I thank you for. (Note that he correctly admits his ignorance of the subject.) I should do some researching myself when I get the opportunity, (True, he certainly should research a subject before he condemns it as false!) I’m thinking perhaps the rule itself can be interpreted in a way to suit one’s belief in whatever point one is trying to get across. (Really? This does seem to be a basic rule of calvinist Bible study: that with enough twisting of Bible verses you can make them appear to teach non-biblical doctrines! If you want a Bible verse to support your false doctrine, then, hey, find a rule and interpret it such that it supports the “point one is trying to get across”!) There is one thing I am certain of and I have no reason to think otherwise and that is that I see no evidence that Macarthur would purposely mis-interpret anything to make his point. (What? No evidence? After I have documented MacArthur’s misinterpretation? This email-writer just did not research this topic seemingly because he has already determined that as MacArthur must be right, therefore I must be wrong – all this without even reading properly what I have written about it!) I have read and listened to probably six or so different teachings from Macarthur (What, he’s read only six or so teachings from MacArthur? I’ve read much more than that. It does seem that the more I read of MacArthur, the more non-biblical teachings I come across.) and I see no error in his sermons or lectures (If he read them as thoroughly (ha ha!) as he read what I wrote, then he’s never going to see any error, ever!), he is a widely respected scholar theologian world wide (To calvinists maybe.) the only criticism seems to come from free will believing Christians which is fine but some of the criticism is out of line and I know we will find out the truth one day. But until someone can show me hard facts about some of the things Macarthur has supposedly said or done I will dismiss them. (And yet, after presenting him with these “hard facts”, he, according to his own admission, failed to research the subject sufficiently in the first place. Hard facts become irrelevant if they are ignored like this.)” (20/01/2017)
This email-writing member showed his calvinistic interpretative style a number of times. (He was foolish enough to put it in writing!) When I raised the topic of the foreknowledge of God (and presented biblical support), he took the typical calvinist viewpoint that denies God the right to foreknow future decisions of any kind being made by mankind. Piper, another calvinist, says: “God does not foreknow the free decisions of people to believe in him because there aren’t any such free decisions to know. …. As C.E.B. Cranfield says, the foreknowledge of Romans 8:29 is “that special taking knowledge of a person which is God’s electing grace.” Such foreknowledge is virtually the same as election: “Those whom he foreknew (i.e. chose) he predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son.” (from “What We Believe About the Five Points of Calvinism” Piper, 1998)
1 Peter 1:2 says that we are “Elect (chosen) according to the foreknowledge of God the Father”. Calvinism defines the election as those who are chosen from the beginning of time by God to live with him forever in heaven. But if they are chosen by God’s foreknowledge (as the Bible teaches), then this must be based upon those decisions which God knows will be made by man in the future concerning his salvation. This is the most straight-forward interpretation of 1 Peter 1:2. But God using His foreknowledge to determine future decisions for salvation denies calvinism’s teaching that it is God alone who chooses who gets saved. Calvinism teaches that where you go when you die has been predetermined by God from the beginning and that nothing you can do or say can ever change that, ever!
MacArthur re-interprets this foreknowledge as a predetermined relationship God has with his people. Therefore, to MacArthur, God’s foreknowledge can only apply to God’s people? Clearly MacArthur does interpret the Bible “in a way to suit one’s belief in whatever point one is trying to get across”!
When I quoted 1 Peter 1:2 to demonstrate that God chose His elect according to His foreknowledge of future decisions, this email-writer said: “You have misinterpreted 1 Pet 1:2a the word foreknowledge (foreknown) does not refer to awareness of what is going to happen (for God never learned anything, he already knows all things) but it clearly means a predetermined relationship in the knowledge of the Lord. …… Now if you can find me one verse where it can be emphatically proven that God predestined his chosen elect because He first saw that we will choose him first, I will surrender in defeat.” (6/07/2018)
And yet the word “foreknowledge” in the Greek is prognosis which literally translates as “a knowing (of the future) beforehand”. Even today a doctor gives a medical prognosis which is literally a knowing beforehand what your medical condition might be in the future. In fact, the word prognosis was used as such by Hippocrates (known as the father of medicine) over 400 years before it was used in the New Testament.
Note that this email-writer probably got his false teaching from MacArthur who pushes this idea of foreknowledge being a relationship that God establishes with his people. Calvinists do strongly tend to mirror the teachings of their false-teaching “biblical heroes”!
As I noted earlier, the Facebook page of Living Springs clearly defines its doctrines as calvinist (or reformed). As such they will believe in the false doctrines of calvinism which claims “sola scriptura” (the Bible alone), yet uses so many other non-biblical sources to support its teachings. Note that according to the Bible alone, calvinism is a false doctrine, a doctrine of devils which removes all options for mankind to choose to call upon the Lord to be saved. Calvinism removes the need for the gospel, for evangelism in general, for missionaries, for outreach of any kind, because all these involve decisions that their God has already made from the beginning of time without any option for change, ever.
If any from Living Springs would like to debate this with me, then feel free to do so. Any discussion must be based on the Bible alone, of course. And (here’s a big problem for calvinists), there must be no changing the topic if the debate gets too uncomfortable. When I visited the above-mentioned email-writer at his home, he had a long list of topics to discuss. He introduced each topic in order, and, whenever he was unable to discuss a topic (that is, he had no satisfactory answer), he deftly (and sometimes not so deftly) changed to the next topic on the list. (It was likely that someone from GraceWest had carefully groomed him for this meeting.)
I remember introducing one topic: I asked him what he understood by 1 John 2:2 where it teaches that Jesus died, not only for the sins of all those who would be saved, but also for the sins of the whole world. This verse alone destroys any idea of an atonement limited only to those who would be chosen by the calvinist God. Calvinists are unable to defend their doctrine of limited atonement without openly denying the biblical truth of 1 John 2:2. So, I was curious to find out how he would deal with this verse.
He said that he didn’t know enough about this verse to give a satisfactory answer and immediately changed the topic to the next on his list. Like the JWs who come visiting with a prepared agenda, it was clear that this verse was not on his prepared list of discussion points, and just as clear that it had been purposely left off this list. That is, he was avoiding any discussion on this verse like the plague! So much for the Bible alone (sola scriptura)! If he had been any sort of genuine Bible student, he would have at least said he knew insufficient on this verse and would have offered to do some study on it so that we could continue discussion on it at some future date. But calvinists never like to promise to study and research a topic that they do not think they could defend satisfactorily if it has to be based upon the Bible alone. They prefer to change the topic to another that feels more comfortable to them. Calvinists are known for their ability to change the topic whenever they feel they might be losing the debate. And, if they can’t change the topic, then they will either challenge your credentials as a Bible teacher, or else refuse to discuss things any further with you. Anything that would get them out of the firing line! This Living Springs member was simply being a good calvinist. Like those JWs at the door, he knew how to change the topic, and how to move to an acceptable topic when an unacceptable topic was introduced. He was learning fast!
After many fruitless emails attempting to demonstrate the false teachings in calvinism, I gave up. You just can’t rescue everyone from heresy! In fact, to adapt a saying, you can always tell a calvinist ….. but not much! They are such know-it-alls that they “know” you are wrong even before you open your mouth! In the end I wrote him a final reply, which I also published on the website: “Final reply to a calvinist who just won’t listen” (see further down for the link)
At that time I also pointed out to a number of the Living Springs members (via email) some of the truths concerning MacArthur’s teachings on evangelism. There was no response; hearsay did suggest that the members had been warned by the “leadership” to avoid any discussion with me on the matter. It is clear, though, that the members were either not as biblical as they claimed to be, or else they didn’t want to get involved with any dissension. Their website soon after that stated that they were a like-minded sister church to GraceWest Bible Church, a local reformed (calvinist) church with whom they shared a number of facilities by then, including the pulpit. (The doctrinal statement of GraceWest was, at that time, almost identical to that of MacArthur’s church.)
After this adoption of calvinist heresy, Living Springs then taught some doctrinally questionable material from Todd Friel / Steven Lawson (both calvinists); Friel teaches the calvinist heresy that people who ask Jesus into their hearts are not saved and they will perish on the Day of Judgment. And Lawson is a calvinist who managed to significantly reduce the membership of a church in Mobile, Alabama, when he tried to force his calvinist doctrine upon those who would rather believe the Bible.
Then, if that weren’t enough, they committed the unforgiveable sin of using material by Gary Thomas which contained unacceptable blasphemies (is any blasphemy acceptable?). Thomas’ book “Sacred Marriage” quotes favourably from “Conjugal Spirituality” (by Mary Anne Oliver), a book that teaches how to use kundalini yoga and tantric sex, both of which involve demonism. Thomas also quotes from Friedrich Nietzsche (who teaches nihilism, and that God is dead). Gary Thomas elsewhere also advocates heresies such as contemplative and centering prayer (which is little more than crying out endless mantras to demons, a very un-Christian practice). He also wrote that “a healthy look at sex can provide fruitful meditation on our need and desire for God”! How is this Christian in any way?
It is apparent that Living Springs went downhill fast after they joined forces with GraceWest. I’m not suggesting that GraceWest advised on these ungodly teachers, but it is clear that the calvinism that Living Springs now embraces is not afraid to dabble in demonic teachings and sinful doctrines. A biblical doctrine should teach one to avoid the teachings of the world, to deny the world, not to love it.
Today’s Living Springs is very much resting upon the calvinist heresies of the Reformation. Keep in mind that Calvin never left the Catholic church, never renounced his Catholic membership, and that at all times he was merely trying to reform his church that he was yet a member of. Calvin also taught that it was his Catholic baptism that was the foundation of all salvation (which is why he persecuted the Anabaptists), and that there was no salvation to be found outside the walls of his Mother Church (which he defined as the Catholic church). Calvin remained a Catholic all his life!
If you are looking for a biblical church in the western suburbs of Melbourne, you would be well-advised to steer clear of Living Springs Baptist Church. If, however, you do decide to attend this church, please be very discerning in what you accept of their teachings. Read your Bibles and, like the Bereans of Acts 17:10-11, test all things and hold fast to that which is true (1 Thessalonians 5:21).
Any who think that MacArthur is an honest god-fearing, biblical Christian should make up their own minds after reading the information contained in the following documents (in which I ask a number of questions concerning MacArthur).
And as far as sola scriptura (the Bible alone) is concerned, reformed belief (calvinism) would rather quote the Westminster Confession and/or one of their false teachers such as MacArthur. All I have to do to scare off calvinists is to request that they discuss issues with me from the Bible alone. They never do! Try The Westminster Confession – A Scholarly Critique.
For further information, also read Gary Thomas – New Age Teacher.
If you have any questions or comments about this information, please feel free to say it or give advice, by using the Contact page. Genuine comments may be recorded on the Comments page. However, I may choose to reply to reasonable comments via email.
However, due to the lack of logical comments, most comments will not be recorded.