My Run-In With Pastor Steven Anderson (rough draft)
Yesterday after work, my wife and I went over to Vital Records to acquire new birth certificates for our newly adopted sons (which is always a touching experience). On the way there, I saw two men in suits out and about around Taylor and 15th Ave. It looked as if they were going door to door so I figured they were Jehovah’s Witnesses. I told my wife if I saw them on the way back home, I wanted to stop and speak with them.
On the way back, I did drive around and look for them for a few minutes. I did not see them but I did see a car with vanity plates reading ‘KJVONLY’. That immediately struck me as intriguing. I remember saying to myself, “Something’s afoot” (a humorous phrase if there ever was one). I got out to take a few pics of the plates. I WILL POST THE PICS TOMORROW. I also noticed some literature in the dashboard which mentioned Pastor Steven Anderson of Faithful Word Baptist Church in Tempe, AZ. At this point, I figured this car may belong to the dudes I saw earlier … and maybe they weren’t JWs but instead Indie-Fundy Baptists.
Eventually, I saw the pair emerge from a house again, so I pulled over by the curb beside them. When I first stopped them I told them, “When I first saw you guys I thought you were Jehovah’s Witnesses but it seems you’re not, is that right?” They laughed and said “No”. I told them that I am a Christian and I do some pastoral work at an area church. I asked them if they would like to talk about a few things.
After introducing ourselves, I discovered that this man was none other than Pastor Steven Anderson. Anderson has made national news several times for outrageous statements and actions, so I was aware of him and some of his beliefs (see the PS at the end of this entry for audio from an earlier encounter I had with one of his devotees). First, Pastor Anderson asked me how I knew I was saved. I told him it was all through God’s grace and I said a few other things. He seemed satisfied with my answer. Then he said, “BUT (he really emphasized the BUT) does your church teach that you can lose your salvation”. I told him “No, because we believe in the perseverance of the saints”; I mentioned this could also be called “preservation of the saints” (see the debate I did with a Roman Catholic blogger on this topic).
He seemed relieved but then kept pressing me, giving me examples of what he felt the practical implications of this doctrine would be. He gave an example of someone who says they came to faith “but then leaves the church and starts backsliding” (his word). “They start going to clubs and all that and never repent – are they saved?” I tried to talk about false converts and the importance of abiding and bearing fruit and he started accusing me of teaching a works based salvation.
I could see where he was going. I asked him this: “Can someone be a Christian if they do not submit to the Lordship of Christ in their life”? He looked right at me and said, “yes”. I said no, they can’t and brought up James discussion on the relationship between faith and works. He got out of this in a very creative manner: “James says faith without works is dead – but how can something be dead if it doesn’t exist? You’re saying their faith doesn’t exist but it does, it’s just dead.”
Then he went through a flurry of proof texts, such as Romans 3-4 and 1 Corinthians 3:10 - I do not recall where all of them were from but then he turned to I John 5:10-11: “Whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself. Whoever does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has borne concerning his Son. And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.” He ran through some scenarios from his interpretation of this verse and came to the conclusion that if you do not believe in once saved, always saved in the exact same way that he believes it (which I would say is a non-Lordship view), then you yourself are not saved and going to hell. You may wonder how one can get that from this verse and you would not be alone in your wondering. When I brought up 1 John 2:19 (as an example of false professors), he said “John is only talking about anti-Christs and backslidden Christians are not anti-Christs”. He gave the examples of King David, King Solomon and even King Saul and told me they were all three in heaven. His point is this: if you teach that true repentance and genuine salvation will always be followed by fruit (works) then you are a heretic. Pastor Anderson and his flock believe that all it takes is for someone to “believe on Jesus” and then it does not matter what they do or say after that – they are saved for the rest of their life and then go to heaven; admittedly, with very little reward.
Of course, I think the biblical view is that no true child of God will ever be lost (he brought up John 6 and John 10, which are good places to go to), and yet every true child of God will bear fruit. This is all over Scripture - Paul says in Ephesians 2:8-10 that this is one reason why we were saved! Pastor Steve, on the other hand, seems to say that mere assent or verbal agreement to some basic Christian doctrine means one is truly saved. What is so odd about all this is that Pastor Anderson is an Arminian! He holds dogmatically to an unbiblical version of perseverance but then destroys its foundation by slamming the doctrines of grace. Here is how I know this …
Pastor Anderson showed me several more passages and asked me several more (convoluted) questions. When I would try to clarify what he was asking me (I wanted him to define his terms), he became irritated. When I would answer with a qualification, he would say I was twisting the Scripture. As he did this (he did most of the talking), he told me he “didn’t like the term perseverance of the saints”. I asked him “why” and he said people who usually use that term have a works-based salvation. Even though I had some idea about his church’s focus on non-Lordship salvation as a cardinal doctrine, I was still taken aback. I was confused how perseverance of the saints could ever equal a works-based talking righteousness. As we began discussing these issues (or should I say as he began talking at me), he said he didn’t believe in that phrase because usually people have a Reformed understanding when they use it. When I told him I was Reformed, he told me “Reformed theology is a load of junk and a bunch of garbage”.
I asked him if he was part of the Free Grace Movement (sometimes called ‘antinomianism’ or even ‘cheap grace’). He said he had never heard of it and he just “read the Bible”. I mentioned how there has been something called the Lordship Salvation Controversy and many of the same issues he was bringing up had been raised (and I would even say adequately dealt with). As I asked him about the Lordship Salvation Controversy he curtly interjected: “I don’t believe in Lordship salvation”. What a startling thing for a Christian to say, I thought. I responded to his statement: “That’s the only kind, my friend”. That was the turning point for Pastor Steven. Even though he had been dominating the conversation, he had been relatively cordial up to this point – that began to change.
He turned to me and said: Oh yeah? Well, I tell you what, you can take a shovel and go dig up the bones of John Calvin wherever he is and worship him”. When I told him I don’t look at Calvin like that or follow him in that way, he said: “Or whoever your favorite Reformed idol is”. I said you don’t have to be Reformed to appreciate the Reformation. I said, “I think the church we should have an appreciation for history and understand its importance”. He replied with, “I don’t care. That was 500 years ago and I am living right here now”. When I began to speak he said, “What are you going to say? That we’d all be Catholic if there was no Reformation? Pfffsh – God’s always had his faithful people but you are in a false and man-made religion”.
We had only been conversing for 6-8 minutes and he was mainly preaching to me but then he said he was “gonna show me just one more passage”. He did and I commented on the passage and he said:
“You can go to hell”!
“Yeah, you can literally go to hell.”
After he said this and rebuked me in the name of Jesus as a false teacher and a heretic, he began walking away. I wanted to continue on, so I said, “I challenge you to a public debate in your church on these issues.”
He looked disgusted and said “No, why should I because every Scripture I bring up you have twisted – so what would be the point? No, you obviously pulled over and stopped us just to argue but we have better things to do – like preach the gospel to these people.”
I quickly mentioned that I lived a few streets north of where he was – this was my neighborhood and I was concerned because he was teaching some false things in regards to salvation.
By now he was about ten feet away from me and walking briskly. I wanted him to come back so I said: “Now I can tell everyone that I met Pastor Steve Anderson, challenged him to a debate on his doctrine and he wouldn’t do it.”
He said, “Yeah, go ahead and you can also tell all of your little Reformed friends that they are all going to hell”.
I told him I would still want to do the debate but at this point he was walking away to a new house. I called after him and asked, “Well, then what about coming on our radio show to do it instead”?
He responded with “Look up debate in the dictionary. It’s just a bunch of people who sit around arguing with each other all day.”
I pointed out that he could also look it up in the Book of Acts where it says Paul went into the synagogues and debated the Jews there. They ignored me and began knocking on the door of the new house they were at. I was desperate to try to speak with this man and I felt this may be my one chance … so, for better or for worse, I goaded him (although what I said was truthful): “Pastor, it seems the Fruit of the Spirit is missing in your life. Especially patience but also gentleness, love, meekness, and self-control”.
He shot back: “Well the Bible says to rebuke false teachers”.
At this point he was really far away and I really wanted to talk to him to try to get some points across and to try to record. So I will admit I goaded him further in an attempt to get him to come back – to no avail. I said, “Man, you are just like I thought you would be – except worse.” He shouted from the porch he was on: “Oh yeah? Well, there’s something called the Great White Throne Judgment, buddy, and you’re gonna be there.” By this time they had moved onto a man painting his house and began speaking to him in Spanish. I sat in my car and listened for a while. They both were laughing with the man, being very friendly, and speaking Spanish to him (I noticed earlier one of them had a Santa Biblia.). The other man was not saying much, just painting and listening. Even though it seemed like he was trapped listening to them because he was painting, they were very friendly to him.
They left that man and went onto another block, passing by my parked car where I was sitting. Steve said into my window (they were rolled down): “Why don’t you get out here and preach the gospel to all these people so we don’t have to come down here and do it for you.” He literally said “so we don’t have to do it for you” – I exaggerate not.
I waited in my car, reading over John MacArthur’s The Gospel According to Jesus and looking at some Scripture passages. When I could tell they were done, I drove over by their car and began making one last attempt to speak with them. By this time, I had out my wife’s digital recorder and recorded it. However, I was literally walking after them while speaking and for the most part, they were completely ignoring me. The audio from their end is a bit rough but for the most part you can make out what he is saying to me. Especially awesome is the “we don’t have time for the paparazzi” comment. I will put up the audio tomorrow. In fact, I will update this post tomorrow and re-post it in a more polished and edited version – it is still a bit rough around the edges. But I wanted to write it down before I forgot what was said and put it up as soon as possible.
It is possible I could hear from them again because earlier I wrote a note to them and placed it in their windshield. It included my name and contact info and I said I wanted to talk to them.
NOTE: Now I’ve had one other run in with a member (Chris) of Faithful Word out on Mill Ave. I blogged about it and even included some small audio. Chris is the gentleman who carried an AR-15 to an Obama rally here in the Valley. In our convo, his main point to me was that is a person did not believe in the doctrine of once saved always saved (defined in cheap grace, not Reforemd, terms) then they themselves could not be saved. I WILL POST THE LINK TOMORROW.
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