Open Letter to Dr. Anthony Evans
With the hope of initiating an informal dialogue regarding Dr. Anthony T. Evans' teaching, the following letter was sent to Dr. Evans's home by way of certified mail. Dr. Evans, senior pastor of Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship Church in Dallas, Texas, personally signed for this letter in January of 2004. The signature card is on file. As this letter is rather lengthy it is divided into five sections giving the reader various options at the end of each section. This letter also appears in its entirety as Appendix C in our book The Lying Promise .
Dear Dr. Evans,
My family and I listen to "The Urban Alternative" on the Moody Broadcasting Network. Over the years, we have often enjoyed the wide variety of music and teaching heard thereon. Most recently, I found your teaching on the family and marital relationships to be quite insightful and most helpful. Thank you for this, Dr. Evans. Your insights and passion in this regard are inspiring.
Given the publicity of Moody radio and Moody press, surely your ministry has influenced hundreds of thousands around the world, perhaps more. Your booklet, "How Christians Are Destroying America," in particular, conveys a message deserving of mass consideration. Dear sir, I thoroughly enjoyed this writing. I pray that this message, addressed in detail at the end of this discourse, will be used by God to awaken those who slumber and to quicken those bereft of life.
Regarding your understanding of soteriology or salvation doctrine, however, I must admit gentle sir, I am confused. Would you be kind enough to help me, your student, understand your teaching? I pray you will be patient, Dr. Evans, as I explain my quandary. In the introduction to your 209-page book, Free At Last, published by Moody Press, you wrote:
I consider the truth about our identity in Christ to be the greatest principle of Christian living in Scripture.1
To be sure, this is a wonderful, even a glorious principle, Dr. Evans. Who would argue that being "a new creature in Christ" is a great truth? Surely, not I. Your statement, however, could be a resolute affirmation of scripture or a gross misrepresentation of the same, depending on the definition you assign the phrase, "our identity in Christ." Defining this "greatest principle," as you understand it, you wrote:
First of all, I want to talk about the key to your identity. The principle here is that your identity is always and only linked to your birth . . . It is our new birth as Christians that gives us hope and determines our eternal destiny.2
At face value, this seems to be a scriptural statement. That it is our new birth as Christians that gives us hope is a foundational truth indeed. I am perplexed, however, by the notion that our identity, that is, whether or not we are Christians, is "always and only" defined by and linked to our new birth. In other words, we cannot determine a Christian by what he does. To substantiate this notion you quote 1 Peter 1:3, 23:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. For you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and abiding word of God.3
Perhaps I'm missing something here, Dr. Evans, but I'm not sure how this proves that a Christian's identity is "always and only" determined by the new birth. In my limited estimation, this text says nothing of the kind. This text simply speaks of the imperishable nature of the means God uses to regenerate the sinner, not that a Christian's identity is always and only linked to this regeneration. In fact, Jesus clearly teaches the direct opposite. Does Peter contradict Christ, Dr. Evans? Kindly consider the Lord's unambiguous instruction in Matthew 7:19-20:
Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.
Dear sir, if our identity as believers is "always and only" determined by the new birth then we cannot determine the tree by the fruit it bears. I was surprised to find that this is precisely the meaning you intend by the statement, "your identity is always and only linked to your birth." In other words, we cannot know them by their fruits, as Jesus taught. Your words are:
If you are in Christ, you are brand new. You are not the same person you were before, even though you may be doing things you did before.4
It is birth not performance that determines identity.5
When we talk about a Christian's new spiritual position, we are referring to the way God views us in Christ6
. . . God sees us the same way He sees his sinless Son.7
You're not the same people you used to be before you got saved, even though you're doing a lot of the same things you used to do before you got saved. God now calls you saints. Believers are called saints sixty times in the New Testament. We may be carnal saints, defeated saints and even sinning saints. But we're still God's "set-apart one."8
When God looks at us He sees not merely justified sinners, but His own dear son9
If I may speak plainly, Dr. Evans, this "greatest principle" in scripture is that grace, or the new birth, inflicts a permanent case of moral blindness on God. Though a Christian may blaspheme like Belshazzar, fornicate like the sons of Eli, or offer the kiss of Judas, his "identity" is no more affected by these wicked actions than was Stephen's while under a shower of stones with his face shining like that of an angel! I must admit, dear sir, if your "greatest principle" is true, the implications are practically endless. Here is a sample from your own pen:
"I'm a Christian. I've accepted Christ as my Savior and been born again, but I use illegal drugs. I've tried to quit many times, but I always fall back into the habit. I guess I'm just a drug addict.". . . this person is identifying himself as a drug addict because he's doing the things addicts do. He has confused his performance with his identity. He has convinced himself, "I do what drug addicts do, so I must be a drug addict." No, he's a Christian with a serious drug problem.10
A Christian with a serious drug problem? So, when put into practice, the "greatest principle" in scripture insists that when this Christian drug addict is passed out in an alley with his crack pipe by his side that our holy God views him "the same way He sees his sinless Son." Again, the "greatest principle" in scripture affirms that when the infant child of this Christian crackhead is at home crying from hunger because his junkie father spent the grocery money on drugs rather than formula, that our holy God sees this child of Satan "the same way He sees his sinless Son."
Dr. Evans, I fear "you have wearied the LORD with your words, Yet you say, 'How have we wearied Him?' In that you say, 'Everyone who does evil is good in the sight of the LORD, and He delights in them' " (Mal 2:17). Did the apostle speak to no purpose when he wrote, "let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous" (1 John 3:7)? Is John's admonition not clearly applicable to your "greatest principle," Dr. Evans? John seems to teach that to believe your greatest principle is to be deceived. Indeed. That God sees practicing drug addicts as righteous is a principle foreign to the apostle John.
Dear sir, I mean no sarcasm or disrespect, but the idea that our identity can never be determined by what we do, seems to be a notion at war with scripture. If this is, as you insist, the "greatest principle" in scripture, it seems that perhaps the apostle John did not understand this as clearly as you do. Kindly consider 1 John 3:7, 8:
Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous. He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil.
Dr. Evans, if it is true that God sees practicing drug addicts as he sees His sinless Son because of their identity in Christ, why would John warn his Christian hearers in this manner? If what you teach is true, he should have said, "Let no man deceive you, he that commiteth sin may be of God because 'it is birth not performance that determines identity.' " Dear sir, help me understand your teaching. John knows nothing of Christian drug addicts or identity being determined "always and only" by a supposed new birth.
If I said to you, "Let no one deceive you, whoever wears plaid pants is a golfer," why would you think I said this? Obviously, you would conclude that it was because there were those telling you otherwise. So it is with the apostle, Dr. Evans. He issues this warning because there were false teachers telling the people that those who practice sin were of God or Christians. Why else would he say, "Let no man deceive you . . . He that committeth sin is of the devil"? Perhaps these teachers said something like:
first of all, the carnal Christian is a genuine Christian. He has received Christ as Savior, but refuses to submit to Him and serve Him as Lord. Christ is not allowed to occupy the throne of a carnal life. It is possible to be on your way to heaven but be of no earthly good because you compromise your faith.11
Committed Christians may fall into sin, but a carnal Christian bathes in it. He has the mindset, motivation and methodology of sin.12
Third, the carnal Christian is characterized by rejection of the Christian faith.13
No offence is intended here, Dr. Evans. I honestly see no other reason why John would issue such a statement. "Let no man deceive you . . . He that committeth sin is of the devil," simply corrects the false statement, "He that commiteth sin is of God," or the more contemporary, "He that practices sin is a carnal Christian." Correct me if I err, but it seems there is firm scriptural grounds for answering your "greatest principle" with a categorical, "Let no man deceive you!" Please, show me my error in this dear sir.
Does this not also apply to the teaching of Jesus? Why did Christ say, "by their fruits ye shall know them," if "it is birth not performance that determines identity"? Wouldn't it have been more accurate for the Lord to say, "by their fruits you might know them"? Was Jesus mistaken here, Dr. Evans? The Greek term translated "ye shall know" in Matthew 7:19, 20:
Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.
. . . is the Greek word epiginosko, which means, "to become thoroughly acquainted with, to know thoroughly; to know accurately, know well."14 In other words, when we see the crackhead passed out in the alley, we may know thoroughly, accurately, and well that he is not a Christian and that God does not see him "the same way He sees his sinless Son." How do we know this? "He that committeth sin is of the devil," as John taught. How do we know this? "By their fruits ye shall know them," as Jesus taught.
Regarding your teaching on the Christian drug addict as quoted on page three, namely, that "he's a Christian with a serious drug problem," you further apply your "greatest principle" to "other sins." You wrote:
You could also substitute other sins into this formula, such as homosexuality . . . Christians may be performing in these unacceptable ways, but that's not who they are. It's an identity issue.15
Homosexuality . . . an identity issue? Though a Christian is practicing homosexuality you teach that he's not a homosexual. Not only this, but while he's in bed with his boyfriend that God sees him "the same way He sees his sinless Son." I fear even to type these words, Dr. Evans. I beg you, sir, help me understand your doctrine. While the Christian crackhead is sucking on his pipe and while the Christian sodomite is "working that which is unseemly" (Rom 1:27), you plainly teach that these reprobates ought to view themselves as perfectly sinless.
When we talk about a Christian's new spiritual position, we are referring to the way God views us in Christ - and, therefore, the way we should view ourselves.16
This "greatest principle of Christian living in Scripture," as you describe it, Dr. Evans, is greatly suspect in my mind. I can't help but believe that Satan must rejoice over such notions. Unrepentant, practicing drug addicts and homosexuals viewed by God as perfectly holy? Those who "bathe" in sin and reject the Christian faith are considered sinless and ought to view themselves as such? To be sure, making such notions congruous with scripture is no easy task. Kindly consider the following. Please sir, read them . . . thoughtfully, and help your servant understand your teaching.
What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him? Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. (James 2:14, 17)
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)
But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God; Who will render to every man according to his deeds: To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life: But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath. (Rom 2:5-8)
For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live. (Rom 8:13)
For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee. Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off. (Rom 11:21-22)
But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints; Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks. For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience. (Eph 5:3-6)
Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. (1 Cor 6:9-10)
Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him; Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins. ( James 5:19-20)
For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them. (2 Peter 2:20-21)
But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death. (Rev 21:8)
Dear sir, unless I am mistaken, it doesn't take a theologian or an expert in koine Greek to see that your alleged greatest principle is at war with scripture. If homosexual Christians are viewed as sinless, why does Paul warn Christians that the immoral will not inherit the kingdom of God? Again, why does Jesus warn His followers that only those who do the will of God will enter the kingdom of heaven if carnal Christians will enter irrespective of their obedience?
As mentioned earlier, Dr. Evans, drastic measures must be taken to force these and many other passages into harmony with your greatest principle, not the least of which is Paul's letter to the Galatians.
Unless I am mistaken, sir, the Galatian epistle is addressed to Christians, that is, to the born again-the saved. The Galatians heard the gospel (4:13), they accepted it (1:9), received the Spirit (3:2), Paul called them brethren (1:11), they were his spiritual children (4:19), they suffered for the sake of the gospel (3:4), and they ran a good spiritual race (5:7). Surely, the Galatians were the spiritually regenerated children of God.
The Galatian Christians were legalists, however; that is, they were attempting to be "justified by law" (Gal 5:4). They tried to mix the Mosaic ceremonial rite of circumcision (Gal 6:13) with justification by faith. The Galatians returned "to the beggarly elements of this world" (Gal 4:9), by superstitiously "observing days, months, times, and years" (Gal 4:10). In essence, they rejected the sufficiency of Christ's atonement in justification. The Galatians were on their own in terms of justification. Addressing this Galatian error you wrote:
So the very nature of the gospel as a gift of God's grace was at stake in this Galatian controversy.17
Indeed it was, Dr. Evans. Paul said the Galatians were "removed from him that called [them] into the grace of Christ unto another gospel" (Gal 1:6). Another gospel! No more Christ. No more grace. No more truth. God made one way - the gospel - and the Galatians said, "No thanks!" Like your carnal Christians mentioned on page four, the Galatians were "characterized by rejection of the Christian faith." And like them also, according to your "greatest principle," the Galatians are in no greater danger of damnation than "Christian" drug addicts and sodomites. You wrote:
The issue Paul was addressing in Galatians 5 was not the loss of salvation for those who believed in Christ, but the ground or basis upon which a person is saved. In other words, we can choose either "works of the law" righteousness or "by grace through faith" righteousness to be acceptable to God. But the Bible wants us to understand that these two paths are so mutually exclusive that the person who chooses to try to work his own way to heaven is cut off from the grace of Christ. It has to be either/or, not both/and.18
"Believed in Christ?" I must admit, sir, I desperately need your help understanding this. The whole issue with the Galatians was that they did not believe in Christ. I agree that Paul was addressing "the ground or basis upon which a person is saved." Where, however, do you gather the notion that "we can choose either 'works of the law' righteousness or 'by grace through faith' righteousness to be acceptable to God"? And this, without being in danger of the fires of hell! On one hand you say, "It has to be either/or, not both/and." On the other hand, however, you offer options as to how we are made acceptable to God. The Gospel offers options?
Since when do we get to choose how we are made acceptable to God? We may reject "the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ" (Rom 3:22) and yet "God sees us the same way He sees his sinless Son"?19 Preposterous! Dear sir, in this you are grievously mistaken. Did not Paul clearly warn of the dire consequences of adulterating the gospel?
But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed. (Gal 1:8-9)
"Let him be accursed," wrote the apostle. Paul issued this solemn excommunication twice in two sentences, and he aimed it at anyone, apostle, angel or otherwise, who preaches a gospel other than what he preached. Does Paul intend to teach that those who preach another gospel will be lost, but those who believe it will be saved? Are there many ways to the kingdom of God? Surely not. Dr. Evans, God made one way, and His name is Jesus Christ.
Dr. Evans, I do not see how Paul's anathema does not apply to you. I wish it were not so, but where does Paul teach that the true gospel offers options regarding the ground or basis upon which we are saved? The true gospel offers no such options. Consider Paul's prayer for Israel as recorded in Romans:
Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved. For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God. (Rom 10:1-3)
Paul wanted his countrymen saved, but as long as they wanted options such was impossible. Dr. Evans, though you teach "we can," scripture could not be clearer in that we cannot "choose either 'works of the law' righteousness or 'by grace through faith' righteousness to be acceptable to God."
Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified. (Gal 2:16)
Through your teaching we must conclude that the Galatians will go to heaven though they are not justified! Has not your errant "greatest principle" forced you to such absurd interpretations? I cannot help but conclude that when you embrace a soteriology and a gospel that says practicing drug addicts, sodomites, and even those who reject the gospel are viewed as sinless, you are driven to such contradictory nonsense. Not only does your exegesis of Galatians contradict scripture, it clearly contradicts your own teaching:
The only thing you want to look for to verify that you're saved is, 'Who am I trusting for my eternal destiny?' The answer to that question determines whether you're a believer, and only the answer to that question. Who or what am I trusting to bring me into a relationship with God? Or to put it this way, if you died today and stood before God and He said, 'Why should I let you into heaven?' what would be your answer? If you're not right in whom you are trusting then you're not saved. You don't even need to examine it, you're not saved.20
This is a resolute declaration indeed, Dr. Evans, but doesn't this also apply to the Galatians? Doesn't it apply to your carnal Christian who "is characterized by rejection of the Christian faith"? How is it, Dr. Evans, that you teach, "If you're not right in whom you are trusting then you're not saved"? Yet the Galatians who were not trusting Christ are saved? On the one hand you say:
Who am I trusting for my eternal destiny? . . . If you're not right in whom you are trusting then you're not saved.
But on the other hand you say:
The issue Paul was addressing in Galatians 5 was not the loss of salvation . . . but the ground or basis upon which a person is saved. In other words, we can choose either "works of the law" righteousness or "by grace through faith" righteousness to be acceptable to God.
Is this not a blatant contradiction? Is someone who chooses "works of the law righteousness" right in who or what they are trusting? Surely not. Then by your own words, they're not saved! Dr Evans, I beg you to reconsider your views. Are not contradictions evidence of wrong doctrine?
Kindly consider what Paul said to the Galatians who rejected the gospel. Unless I err, his gospel was not nearly as accommodating to those who were "going about to establish their own righteousness" as is yours, gentle sir. His words are:
I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labour in vain. (Gal 4:11)
The term rendered vain in Gal 4:11 is the Greek word eike, which means without cause or to no purpose. Could it honestly be said that Paul's labor was in vain if the Galatians would ultimately enter the kingdom of God? If you bestowed labor without cause or to no purpose, Dr Evans, what would such language indicate? Obviously, that your efforts were fruitless. So it is with the apostle, is the salvation of a soul a "vain" thing? Kindly consider Paul's other warnings to those who reject the gospel.
In 5:2 Paul warned the Galatians, "Christ shall profit you nothing." The idea here is that Christ will be of no value - none at all. What does Paul teach here, Dr. Evans? It does not appear that he sympathizes with your notions. "Paul emphatically declares," noted Martin Luther, "that for the Galatians to be circumcised would mean for them to lose the benefits of Christ's suffering and death. This is to make Christ and His salvation of no benefit to anybody.21
It is interesting to note that Luther, the first protestant to assert, "Sola fide!" or faith alone, did not believe that the true gospel offered options. Luther, like Paul, seems to see no contradiction between the doctrine of justification by grace through faith and the Galatian Christians being eternally lost. As if to remove all doubt as to the potential danger that the Galatians were in, the apostle of true grace, the apostle Paul wrote:
Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace. (Gal 5:4)
Regarding this passage, and in keeping with your "greatest principle," namely, that God sees the most heinous Christ-rejecter as he sees His sinless son, you wrote:
Those who sought to be justified by law keeping cut themselves off from Christ. Phrases like 'severed from Christ' and 'fallen from grace' (Galatians 5:4) sound like it is possible for believers to lose their salvation, which if true would fly in the face of everything the Bible says about our security in Christ.22
Please note your use of the word believers in the above quote. The point Paul was making to the Galatians is that they were not believers. This accords well with what you said regarding those who are not right in whom they are trusting, namely, if you're not trusting Christ you're not saved. In the above quote, you mention the security of those who are "in Christ," yet you apply this security to those who have been "severed from Christ." "In Christ" but "severed from Christ"? Does language mean nothing, Dr. Evans? Paul himself clearly teaches that believers who have been severed from Christ have no security, which is why the branches of John 15 are thrown "into the fire, and they are burned" ( John 15:6).
Now, what does Paul mean by the phrase, "Christ is become of no effect" in Galatians 5:4? If Christians may reject Christ and turn to another gospel without being lost, as you insist, Paul must mean something infinitely less than the literal "no effect" would suggest. Unless Christians are saved some other way than through the effectual working of Christ in their lives, which of course they are not, no effect cannot literally mean no effect, as in none. However, is such the case?
The phrase translated is become of no effect in Galatians 5:4 is the Greek word katargeo, which means "to render idle, unemployed, inactive, inoperative," that is, "to cause a person or a thing to have no further efficiency."23 Dr. Evans, what does it mean if Christ has no further efficiency in the life of a Christian? This word katargeo is the same word Paul used to describe how God will make the Anti-Christ of no effect:
And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming. (2 Thess 2:8)
How Christ will make Satan of no effect:
Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil. (Heb 2:14)
How God will make death of no effect:
The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death. (1 Cor 15:26)
How the law, to the Christian, is made of no effect:
But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter. (Rom 7:6)
To be sure, when the apostle of true grace said, "no effect," he literally meant, "no effect"! Perhaps you see my point. This Greek word, katargeo, is used twenty-seven times in the New Testament; twenty-five of those times it is used by Paul. Never is it used to mean anything less than "to cause a person or a thing to have no further efficiency," as noted earlier and as seen in the small sample cited above.
With Christ becoming of no effect to the Galatians is it any wonder Paul ended Galatians 5:4 with the phrase, "ye are fallen from grace"? Fallen from grace? Again, what does this mean, dear sir, if paradise is guaranteed? "To fall from grace," said Luther, "means to lose the atonement, the forgiveness of sins, the righteousness, liberty, and life which Jesus has merited for us by His death and resurrection. To lose the grace of God means to gain the wrath and judgment of God, death, the bondage of the devil, and everlasting condemnation."24
Please, show your servant his error, Dr. Evans. Paul, far from teaching, "we can choose either 'works of the law' righteousness or 'by grace through faith' righteousness to be acceptable to God," continually warns the Galatian Christians about the very real eternal consequences of such actions. In so doing, he debunks your "greatest principle." To the unbiased mind, it seems to me that Paul's language is unmistakable.
Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. (Gal 5:19-21)
To understand what Paul meant by the phrase, "not inherit the kingdom of God," kindly consider the teaching of Jesus on the subject. "Good Master," asked a rich young man, "what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?" (Mark 10:17). The Greek word rendered inherit in Mark 10:17 is, as I'm sure you are well aware, the same word Paul used in Galatians 5:21, 1 Corinthians 6:10, and the same root word he used in Ephesians 5:5 as quoted earlier. How did our Lord interpret this word inherit? Did He teach, as does your fellow Dallas Theological Seminary graduate, Dr. Erwin W. Lutzer, that the word inherit does not mean enter?
I assure you, Dr. Evans, He did not. After the rich man went away grieved because he didn't want to part with his possessions, "Jesus looked round about, and saith unto his disciples, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God!' " (Mark 10:23). The man asked, "How do I inherit eternal life?" Jesus understood him to mean, "How do I enter the kingdom of God?" According to Jesus and in stark opposition to the modern message of Moody, the name you can trust, and DTS, not inheriting the kingdom of God means far more than losing some distant rewards.
Gentle sir, please consider the fivefold warning of Paul to the Galatian Christians:
These statements are strong to say the least. How you reconcile the idea that God sees drug addicts, sodomites, and Christ rejecters "the same way He sees his sinless Son" with number five alone eludes me. Dr. Evans, what option is left if we don't inherit the kingdom? Considering the instruction of Jesus regarding the word inherit and noticing the overlap between Galatians 5:19-21 and Revelation 21:7-8, the inevitable conclusion is that if we don't inherit the kingdom we will be thrown into the lake of fire.
He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son. But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death. (Rev 21:7-8)
As mentioned earlier, your booklet, "How Christians Are Destroying America," surely conveys a message deserving of mass consideration. The following quote, though over ten years old, resounds with contemporary relevance:
The real tragedy is that so many saints are out-sinning the most sinful sinners. Christians, as a group, have failed to act as salt and light within society - a condition which carries devastating consequences we've only just begun to discover. Today's young people perceive Jesus as irrelevant and lay the blame squarely at the feet of the Christian community. Our failure to commit ourselves to the comprehensive application of biblical standards and to live holy lives has led many to dismiss the gospel as "pie in the sky" religion.25
Tragedy indeed, dear sir! Surely, we need not look too far to realize that the sins characterizing the world in general have invaded the professing church in particular - and this to the amusement of a scoffing secular society. That professing Christians are "out-sinning," as you rightly note, the most sinful of sinners is a condition betraying our spiritual bankruptcy. I believe you are right, Dr. Evans, but what is the reason for the church's outturned pockets in this regard? Why are professing Christians out-sinning sinners? Again, your observations hit the mark.
The church needs a "teaching priest." Let's face it - we're dealing with a generation of ignorant Christians. (Despite what you've heard, the epistles were not the wives of the apostles. And Phoenicia is not the place where they make those window blinds!) If the sheep are ignorant, there's likely to be an inept shepherd in the mix somewhere.26
An inept shepherd! How true this is, dear sir, but what is the error of these inept shepherds of which you speak? What have they done or not done to cause these "sinning saints"? Again, you are right on target when you write, "Without some absolute standard of right and wrong, ethics and morality become matters of expediency."27 Bravo, learned sir! If holiness were optional, just something good but not imperative, not many would choose holiness. Consider the false message of inept shepherds in ancient Israel that led to complacency in sin:
Thus saith the LORD of hosts, Hearken not unto the words of the prophets that prophesy unto you: they make you vain: they speak a vision of their own heart, and not out of the mouth of the LORD. They say still unto them that despise me, The LORD hath said, Ye shall have peace; and they say unto every one that walketh after the imagination of his own heart, No evil shall come upon you. ( Jer 23:16-17)
What was the error of these inept shepherds, Dr. Evans? Did they not promise peace to the wicked? "They [the inept shepherds] say unto every one that walketh after the imagination of his own heart, No evil shall come upon you." Perhaps they promised practicing homosexuals a future home in heaven. Because these inept shepherds diminished the scriptural consequences of sin, the people continued in their wickedness. Inept shepherds simply cannot understand, "there is no peace, saith the LORD, unto the wicked" (Isa 48:22).
Because with lies ye have made the heart of the righteous sad, whom I have not made sad; and strengthened the hands of the wicked, that he should not return from his wicked way, by promising him life. (Ezek 13:22)
"For the leaders of this people cause them to err" warned Isaiah; "and they that are led of them are destroyed" (Isa 9:16). Destroyed indeed! With a few noble exceptions, the promise of peace and life to the disobedient leads to spiritual sloth and complacency in sin. In essence, the hands of the wicked are strengthened by the false promise of peace. The sinner persists in his wickedness as he feels it is safe to disobey God. This error of promising peace and life to the wicked is not new.
The inept shepherds as noted above simply echoed the message of their father Satan. "Ye shall not surely die," was the lying promise that led the first children of God into sin and spiritual ruin. Thousands of years later, inept shepherds in our day believe grace and the new birth have changed Satan's lie into God's truth. They blindly insist that the people of God may sin with impunity, just as did Satan. This they do by "turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness" ( Jude 4).
Professing Christians are indeed, out-sinning sinners, Dr. Evans. We find practicing drug addicts within the professing church. We find practicing homosexuals, not only in the pews, dear sir, but behind the pulpits! As you say, "there's likely to be an inept shepherd in the mix somewhere." O that the prophet Nathan were among us, Dr. Evans, to expose these men-pleasers who have gone the way of Balaam and like Jezebel seduce the servants of Christ into sin! Perhaps he would point an unpopular finger in the face of our modern inept shepherds and declare, "You are the man!" Then we would not have to guess from whence flows this poison in gospel garb! Pray with me, Dr. Evans, that God would raise up some Nathans in this dark hour of church history.
Gentle sir, I pray that in my plain speech and candid manner I have neither disrespected your person nor misrepresented your views. Like a good Berean, I simply desire to search the scriptures to see if the things you teach are so. I am convinced, Dr. Evans, that one of us propagates another gospel as Paul warned some would do. If it is I, kind sir, I beg you, show your servant his error. I humbly request an informal discussion of the issues contained herein and anxiously await contact from you, most kind and venerable sir.
1 Anthony T. Evans, Free at Last (Chicago: Moody Press, 2001), 12.
2 Ibid., 26.
4 Ibid., 30.
5 Ibid., 29.
6 Ibid., 38.
7 Anthony T. Evans, Totally Saved (Chicago: Moody Press, 2002), 34.
8 Evans, Free at Last, 33.
9 Ibid., 38.
10 Ibid., 28.
11 Anthony T. Evans, The Carnal Christian (Dallas: The Urban Alternative, 1993), 6, emphasis mine.
13 Ibid., 12-13.
14 James Thayer, Thayer's Greek Lexicon, Electronic Database (Seattle: Biblesoft, 2000), 1921.
15 Evans, Free at Last, 28, ellipsis mine.
16 Ibid., 38.
17 Evans, Totally Saved, 161.
18 Ibid., 162.
19 Ibid., 34.
20 Anthony T Evans, "Secure Forever, The Problems of Eternal Security," audiotape sec104a.
21 Martin Luther, Commentary on Galatians, Electronic Database (Seattle: Biblesoft, 1999), Gal 5:2.
22 Evans, Totally Saved, 161.
23 Thayer, Lexicon.
24 Luther, Galatians, Gal 5:4.
25 Anthony T. Evans, http://www.tonyevans.org/speakout/booklets/destroy.htm; Internet; accessed 17 December 2003.
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