If you’ve been to a foreign country you may well have had an experience like the one John describes below. That country could well be — and often is — awash in controversies that have absolutely no hearing in the USA. Issues, persons, concerns, politics … it always varies. John tells the story of the influence of an American, Paul Washer, in the Ukraine.
What do you know of Paul Washer?
John Frye writes…
On my recent ministry trip to Lutsk, Ukraine, I was asked by some friends there what I thought of Paul Washer. My friends told me that Paul Washer is the subject of great discussion, even admiration by many Ukrainian Christians, especially the youth. I was a little taken back and I had to confess, “I’ve not heard of Paul Washer. I’ll ‘google’ him when I get to the States and let you know.” When I got home I did just that and 427,000 results popped up in 0.32 seconds. I also asked Scot McKnight if he knew anything about Paul. Scot had the same confession as mine.
What’s up with this—my Ukrainian friends are all abuzz about an American Christian leader that has not appeared on my radar screen? Not that my screen is all that big. Scot McKnight invited me to write a short post about Paul Washer for Jesus Creed.
You either really like him or you don’t. Paul Washer will compel you to take a stand. Are you with him or are you not? I listened to a number of his sermons and I can affirm that Paul Washer is a passionate, expressive, revivalistic speaker. If you like that style, you will like Paul. If you don’t, he will sound angry, even outright mean. Many commentors who liked Paul’s content stumbled over his demeanor, his take-no-prisoners, fire and brimstone spirit. This kind of passion attracts many people because it sounds bold, courageous and, therefore, true. Washer’s “it’s my way or the highway” stance polarizes. What is “truth” to some is “slander” and “malicious gossip” to others. Paul Washer is a polarizing man.
Paul Washer is a dyed-in-the-wool Calvinist and a Southern Baptist itinerant minister. An anomaly? Not really in light of the flux in USAmerican evangelicalism and the Southern Baptist Convention’s surrender to strong neo-Reformed voices. Fully committed Arminians are quick to call Paul Washer a “false prophet.” They are the ones still all aghast at the doctrine “once saved, always saved.” Washer has no place for decisional regeneration and a lot of the theological rants about Washer labor over whether faith precedes regeneration or regeneration precedes faith. A lot of the free-will Arminians think Washer is preaching a false Gospel of works-righteousness. I think Paul is only (over)emphasizing, from his theological stance, that “works” (real, tangible evidence of a changed and changing life) issues from faith. His opponents think Paul Washer confuses the “fruit” of faith with the “root” of faith. I didn’t hear that, but I’m not that informed about all of Washer’s teachings.
Within the larger community of evangelicalism, Paul Washer is a strong-headed complementarian, almost chauvinistically so. He’s vehemently against a reduced Gospel activated by “the sinner’s prayer.” He’s alarmed by the capitulation of the church to the prevailing culture and rightly calls for a return to holiness and godliness in the church, especially among the youth. A recurring post in the google search concerns Paul’s “shocking message” to 5000 Baptist youth in 2002. Like many commentors, the shock factor depends on where you stand relative to Paul Washer. Some liken Washer to a mixture of John the Baptist—bold, fire-breathing prophet—and Keith Green—another contemporary voice calling down judgment on the church.
Paul Washer was converted while in law school at the University of Texas. He earned a Master’s of Divinity from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He served as missionary in Peru for 10 years. He now is the Director of HeartCry Missionary Society, a ministry caring for the needy in many countries.
You probably wonder where I stand regarding Paul Washer. From the number of sites I visited and teachings I heard, I think Paul Washer is passionate voice, if not a little off-key, crying out in the wilderness. I certainly don’t hold some of his more strident views, but that does not stop me from sensing (I could be wrong) that Paul is timely communicator needed by the church at large. I am not Paul’s judge. I am his brother.
You may verify most of all I’ve written by googling Paul Washer for yourself. I’d even be so bold to ask you to do so before you comment. Thanks.