Friday, July 21, 2017

Brother Kenny on "Altar Calls"

Brother Kenny Mann, who I mentioned in a previous posting, sent me this small article of his and I asked him to let me publish it here with some of my own comments on the subject.

"THE ALTAR CALL"
by Kenny Mann (guest writer)

The church I grew up in always gave an “altar call” at the end of the service. Sometimes it was called, the “invitation.” It’s a time at the end of the service where the pastor asks anyone who wants to receive Christ, or pray about something, to come forward to pray. Some churches don’t have this practice, and simply end the service with a hymn and prayer.

Some people in evangelical circles object to having an altar call, while others insist on it. In my experience, it’s usually the more “Calvinistic” people who object. Why? They say because the altar call can involve a lot of emotionalism, and saying the “Sinner’s Prayer” cannot save you. They believe the pastor manipulates people into saying a prayer, and POOF, they are “saved.” On the other side, the less calvinistic people would say that they are encouraging people who come, to confess with their mouth in front of witnesses, that they accept Christ. The debate is rooted in how you see the Gospel. If you read my article entitled “DOES GOD FIND US, OR DO WE FIND GOD”, it will help you understand more about the theology of this question.

When I was doing some soul searching about these issues, I knew there was some truth to both sides. Too many times we get caught up in the numbers game, and think if we can get someone to repeat a prayer, that they are saved. On the other hand, admitting you’re a sinner and in need of saving needs to be expressed in some way. But repeating a prayer after someone does not save you, I don’t believe. The action that has taken place in the heart of one who has had their eyes opened to how much God loves them, and feels broken and sorrowful that they caused the Son of God to be crucified on their behalf is what saved them. They may make a public confession of faith right then, or it may not come til much later. Both sides in this debate have a point. On the one hand, too many times we work up emotions to get a response. On the other hand though, if someone truly has the light turned on about what Jesus did for them, it HAS to be an emotional event. So I am going to lean in favor of the altar call. I am also going to say that saying the “Sinner’s Prayer” is fine—as long as it’s explained that saying those word will not save you, any more than any other “good” work.

As I was pondering this issue several years ago, I would lay in the bed imagining an altar call. It gradually grew in scope to to include the story of the Prodigal Son. (Luke 15:11-32) When was the son forgiven? Well he was forgiven before he even left the foreign land he was living in, the "pigsty." When did that forgiveness change him? It changed him the moment he got up to GO home. His father had issued the “invitation” before the son ever came back—the scripture says the father “looked for him afar off.” That means the father was looking for him with anticipation and with expectancy.

As I envisioned this story, I thought about what I would do if I were giving an altar call. I imagined it was MY son walking down the aisle. As he got near to me, tears were streaming down his face. The question he asked would be the best sinner’s prayer that could be said. He looked at me and said,  Do you think God will take somebody like me?” My response was “He already has.”

My Comments

This has been a topic that my dear friend, Bob L. Ross of Pilgrim Publications, has been interested in for many years. Though Calvinistic in doctrine, he has fought those Calvinists who have gone overboard in their denunciations of the "altar call." He has a good defense of the practice in an Internet article titled "The Altar Call - CONVERTS FREQUENTLY MADE IN RELATION TO PUBLIC INVITATIONS." (see here) Here are some excerpts from that article:

Perhaps the most popular "whipping boy" of the Reformed Hybrid Calvinist camp of theology is the "altar call" or the "public invitation."

The "Pryomaniacs" website has opened up for its readership to suggest a "better idea," and that despite the fact that it might safely be presumed that 9 of every 10 who comment on that blog were probably converted in relation to an altar call or public invitation.

I have often read items critical of public invitations and in most cases they were written by persons whose own conversions were related to public invitations. Some, after their "indoctrination" into the Hybrid Calvinism of the Reformed camp, later say they were saved "despite" the invitation.

Oh, well, it is no marvel that it has been observed that a number of the anti-invitation churches fail to evangelize by any method and thus fail to make converts, their memberships dwindled, and some of them have even closed their doors. They didn't seem to have a "better idea" on how to invite lost men and women to come to Christ and confess Him as Lord and Saviour.

Some have utilized other methodology in soliciting professions of faith, such as the "Invitation to the Pastor's Office," which was the practice of the late Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones at Westminster Chapel in London.

I have written several articles in which I think I have just about replied to every conceivable objection to public invitations, and you can find a number of these articles at this link:

Select Writings of Bob L. Ross (HERE)

Among my writings are some articles in reply to Pedobaptist Ian Murray, who has written against the use of public invitations, and is responsible for much of the anti-invitation palabber of the current age. Others basically simply repeat Murray's objections.

I also wrote a reply to Flounders' Founder Ernest Reisinger's criticisms. Ernest himself is said to have prayed "The Sinner's Prayer" and afterwards professed faith during an invitation in an "Arminian" Salvation Army meeting. His experience is somewhat typical of how many, if not most, of the anti-invitationists were converted. It seems that most of our current crop of alleged "Calvinists," like Reisinger, were brought to Christ under alleged "Arminian ministries" which used "Arminian methods," and afterwards they adopted the "Reformed" theology which made it necessary for them to somehow "explain" why those methods were wrong and they "got saved in spite" of the "Arminian methods."

If it weren't for the alleged "Arminians" bringing in the "elect," we wonder how they would be brought into the fold. It has been my observation for over 50 years that most of the "Calvinists" I have known testify that they were evangelized and brought to profess faith by those whom they were later pleased to identify as "Arminian."

Also, see brother Ross's other article "Are Altar Calls Justified by Founders' Founder, Ernest Reisinger?" (see here) He also has some good articles on this topic at his web site referred to above.

I have written on this subject extensively myself. For instance, see the posting "Hardshells & Mission Opposition IV" (see here) See also the posting "Old Baptist Evangelistic Methods" (see here) in which I show how the first old Baptists of the Kehukee Association practiced the altar call.

So, I agree with what brother Kenny has written. There are extremes on most sides of an issue. Today's Hardshells give only one kind of invitation. At the end of the sermon they say something like "the doors of the church are open for the reception of members." That's it! Further, when a person responds, they rarely question the person about their experience, something that makes them different from their forefathers. Yes, some like the famous Finney, use salesman type tactics, "high pressure" methods. These are extremes. My own advice is to follow my man Spurgeon!

Garrett's Prescription For The PBs

In this posting I want to give my prescription for the salvation of the "Primitive Baptist Church." One of the top ten postings of this blog is the one titled "Elder Hildreth on Hardshell Decline" (see here). In that posting I gave Hildreth's prescription for saving the Hardshells from certain death. He acknowledges that their churches continue to dwindle and die. I made some comments on that prescription. In this posting I want to enlarge upon the comments I made in that posting (underneath those made by Hildreth).

1. Retrace your steps to the place where you, as a denomination, departed from the path of truth, from what you all affectionately call "the old paths." You are not on the "old path," but on a new path. I have proven such in this blog. Your forefathers did not hold to your aberrant views. You hold new doctrines that your forefathers did not believe. You must throw away those new teachings and come back to the historic old Baptist doctrine. That doctrine is expressed in the 1689 London Confession. It is the confession all your forefathers endorsed (many times through the Philadelphia Confession). The "Fulton Confession" acknowledges that the 1689 Confession is the historic confession of the PBs. You must acknowledge that the "footnotes" that were attached by your leaders at the time (1900) to that old confession were distortions of what the old confession really taught, and that those who signed the Fulton document were being deceitful and were changing the faith of your forefathers.

2. Once you have returned to an adherence to the 1689 confession, you will discover that there are lots of Baptists who adhere to the old confession and your circle of fellowship with be greatly enhanced thereby; And this cannot but help you to grow and prosper. You will need, of course, to become more open to fellowship and quit trying to restrict your fellowship so narrowly. You need to learn to be more forbearing and let each local church be independent. Simply put, you need to be less strict in your terms of fellowship. It will help you, not hurt you. There are many good churches and preachers outside of your group and your shutting yourself off from their fellowship has not been good for you.

3. You must throw away your novel doctrines. You must quit believing that God does not use his word to beget faith and to save his elect. You must become like Spurgeon. You can still preach the doctrines of grace and be evangelistic. John Leland did it. All your forefathers did it. They preached to the lost and called upon them to believe and repent and warned them of the consequences for not doing so.

4. You have got to see that there is nothing wrong with Sunday schools, theological schools, musical instruments, and missions. You need to follow the lead of the Progressive PBs in this regard. They are the ones growing, or at least holding their own, while you "old liners" are almost dead.

5. Change your name. With all the things attached to the name "Primitive Baptist" today, there is just too much baggage with it. Why not call yourselves "Old Baptist Church"?

It is really that simple! Spurgeon showed the way. He preached to thousands each week. He could preach sovereign grace better than anyone and yet he could still address the lost, still involve himself in missions to reach sinners. "Go thou and do likewise." That is my prescription for you my Hardshell brethren. Take it or not. I hope you will take it.

My Good Talk With Baptist Historian

Kenny Mann of Conyers, Georgia contacted me a couple days ago. He wrote in his e-mail:

hello Bro. Stephen. ran across your blog and found it very interesting. i am a life long student of baptist history, and am currently digging into primitive baptists. ive never met someone who used to be PB but is no longer one. i realize youre a busy guy, but if you could find a few minutes to chat id really appreciate it. my name is Kenny Mann, from Conyers ga. my number is *****. feel free to leave a msg if im not in, ill def call you back and schedule a time to chat. thanks so much!

I did call this dear brother last evening and we talked for about three hours! He is a Southern Baptist, and one who is not a five pointer as I am, but that did not keep us from having an enjoyable discussion. We talked doctrine, history, but mostly about the "Primitive Baptists." He is an avid history researcher as I am. He is affiliated with Historical Rural Churches of Georgian (http://hrcga.org/home/) (see here).

He is a man in his 50s who, though not a pastor, nevertheless teaches and evangelizes much. After I wrote him today and telling him how much I enjoyed talking to him, we have exchanged several e-mails. In one of them he wrote:

hey Stephen yes it was great to ramble thru all that history with you. most baptists dont know squat about their history or about the other types of baptists that exist. i am not a pastor but i was a youth pastor for years. i currently have a bible study in peoples homes, and its been formed from people who have contacted me because of the devotions ive written, some of which deal with how to live with different views about theology and still work together for the gospel. as you know many denominations are splitting apart over different issues like the methodist church and episcopal church, ranging from homosexuality to biblical innerency, so there are many christians who are now seeing that they have more in common with a bible believing baptist, than they do members of their own denominations---thus our topic that last few months has been delving into baptist history. the interesting thing is that most in the group arent even baptists! we have methodists, a lutheran, a presbyterian, a few charismatics and a few baptists. i told them all up front that i would teach only what i believed to be the truth, and that would mean "baptist" theology. a couple of them googled stuff on their own and found out that there a a hundred different kinds of baptists lol, so they asked if i would delve into all that, so thats what we are doing. i am 54 yrs old and feel every bit of it lol! i dont do facebook, tho i probably should. blessing to you and YES, please keep in touch!

I have been blessed over the years to have had many calls from such folks and I tell you, it cheers my heart to know that our writings are read by such men. I feel very humbled and thankful to know that our labors have not been in vain.

Anyone in the Conyers area should definitely contact this brother! You can e-mail him at "jayhawkmann@yahoo.com"

Perhaps this brother will consider posting some articles for us here or on my Baptist Gadfly blog. I hope so. It is good that historians share the results of their research with other historians.

God bless you brother Kenny!

Thursday, July 20, 2017

An Excellent Critique Of Hardshellism

I have been reading from an Internet web page called "Coming In The Clouds" which professes to be a A "Worldwide Internet Christian Discipleship Ministry." This is because I have noticed how folks from this web page have been reading our writings here on this blog. Recently there was a post titled "Primitive Baptists – True Hyper-Calvinists" (see here). It was published March 13 of this year. I want to share some of the things said in this article about the Hardshells by one who only recently discovered them, and who was an object of proselyting efforts by the Hardshells.

The article begins with these words (emphasis mine):

"This article is the result of several months of dialog with Primitive Baptists (also known as Hardshell Baptists) and a good deal of time spent reading their literature. The dialog primarily consisted of email correspondence with a particularly outspoken apologist for that sect along with some interaction with several people on a Facebook Primitive Baptist discussion forum. I read articles by Primitive Baptists and former Primitive Baptists and I listened to a number of Primitive Baptist audio messages."

After reading this, any person should be interested in the results of such an investigation into the beliefs of those who call themselves "Primitive Baptists." I know I was! I wish that everyone who first confronts Hardshellism would be as noble as was this person in his investigation! Noble Bereans!

The author of the article next writes:

"What I discovered was several things, namely that this group holds to a heretical doctrine regarding evangelism: they genuinely believe that there is no point to conventional evangelism – preaching to the lost as a “means” of salvation. They believe that salvation only involves the Holy Spirit without any assistance from preachers or evangelists or other persons preaching the word of God to effect salvation in unsaved sinners. They mistakenly believe that these two scripture passages:

“salvation is of the Lord” (Jonah 2:9) and
“not of works” (Eph 2:9)

are saying that salvation does not even involve the efforts of an evangelist preaching the law of God to bring conviction of sin to the unregenerated."

Well, amen to that! The Hardshells have no scripture to support their presuppositions and attempt to rely solely on logic, inferences, suppositions, etc. I have written about this numerous times! Such as in Demolishing Hardshell Reasoning and Hardshell Presuppositions and in many other such postings.

The author next writes:

"Determining that these folks were teaching heresy regarding evangelism took a while to figure out for a couple of reasons. I sort of fell into a trap, following a trail of crumbs they laid out before me that led me down the Primitive Baptist path of redefined words and reinterpreted scriptures…Yes, they look at words like regeneration and conversion differently than most Christians. And this causes them to interpret certain Bible verses differently than most Christians. So, what should have been obvious to me early on in my investigation, became obscured by my own tunnel vision as I followed that trail of crumbs."

What an excellent review of Hardshell literature and proselyting methods!

The author continues:

"Primitive Baptists apparently MISS two important things when they read the Bible, perhaps because they have already adopted their own definitions of things and perhaps because they are missing the overall picture of what was going on in the New Testament Church. These two important things are the 2 distinctions in the types of preaching documented in the Bible, as being engaged in by the early Church…

Preaching type 1: The early church was evangelizing the unsaved, (unbelievers/unregenerated) as can see by the biblical accounts of Paul preaching at Mars Hill and in the synagogues, Peter preaching at Pentecost, and Stephen preaching to the Sanhedrin. In fact, it is beyond obvious that they were preoccupied with this mission.

Preaching type 2: The early church leaders were teaching the saints (believers/regenerated) through the letters to the churches (along with direct, in person teaching of course). And one of the primary things they were teaching was the need to evangelize the lost, by their example and by their epistles. And yes, the early church leaders also spent time teaching about the importance of godly (Christlike) living."

This is all "right on"! The really Old Baptists, such as those who wrote the 1644 and 1689 London Confessions, and John Clark, the oldest Baptist in America, all talked about how their ministry was twofold. One was a "begetting" ministry, aimed at the unregenerate, with the intent of bringing about their regeneration, and the second was a "feeding ministry" aimed at those already saved, with the purpose of aiding them in their perseverance towards final salvation. See my posting John Clark & Obadiah Holmes Hardshells?

Next, the author of this excellent article writes the following under the sub heading "They Become Focused On Their Uniqueness" and says:

"And as much as Primitive Baptists may try to focus on Christ, what they end up doing is focusing on the uniqueness of their group, perhaps inadvertently, but never-the-less that’s how it looked to me as an outsider. I admire their desire to thoroughly examine Biblical issues. However, I believe Primitive Baptists have locked themselves into a compartment of doctrine with the words they have redefined and with the teachers and elders they put so much faith in, preventing them from any positive changes away from their erroneous soteriological doctrine."

So well said! Needs little comment! I just wish, hope, and pray that the Hardshells could get outside of themselves and see themselves clearly. As long as they see themselves through those cult spectacles, there is little chance that they are going to see things as they really are.

Next, under the sub heading "Why Would A New Believer Be Concerned About The Lost?" our author writes:

"Looking at my own change of heart upon regeneration, I can strongly testify, by way of the Spirit within me, that a genuine believer will have a burden to evangelize the lost. One must question their salvation if they do not have such a burden. Also, any doctrine that teaches and encourages Christians to not evangelize the lost (and to look for scriptural justification for that stance that involves redefining theological terms) is simply not of God and is of the evil one."

Again, "right on." Sadly, they don't see how they have descended from Baptists who had such a heart for the lost! Even Wilson Thompson, when he was baptized, confessed that he came out of the water with a desire to win the lost to Christ! Today's Hardshells may claim men like John Leland, but they do not have the heart for the lost that old Leland had! Concerning Leland and others who helped to begin the Hardshell denomination, see my posting Hardshells & Gospel Invitations.

Next our author writes:

"The central point that shows the error of Primitive Baptist doctrine regarding salvation (“no gospel means” as they refer to it) is regarding the biblical patterns for the 2 types of preaching in the New Testament. Those patterns don’t go away, no matter how they define things. Whether they believe that regeneration is separate from conversion (which they do) or whether they believe in “time salvation” or not. They believe in the idea that conversion takes place over time and does not necessarily coincide with regeneration. They also believe that you can be saved and not know it until some time after regeneration, at some time down the road, at which someone explains salvation to you from the Bible."

Again, all we can say is "amen." These things the Hardshells believe are foreign to the teachings of the scriptures.

Next under the sub heading "The New Testament Church Was Preoccupied With Evangelism" the author of this excellent article writes:

"The very thing that Primitive Baptists don’t believe in is the very thing that the early Church was preoccupied with. Primitive Baptists apparently don’t seem to understand just how much the New Testament church was actively involved in preaching to the lost. They were as mission-minded as you can get. They supported Paul in his missionary journeys. In addition, the Bible is chock full of examples of God sending messengers to preach to the unconverted. This is the way God does things historically. He sends His messengers out into the world to preach to the converted and unconverted a like. Just do a word search on the word “hearken” in the OT starting with Jeremiah and this fact becomes painfully obvious."

It is because the Hardshells are not evangelical, having no heart to win souls, and believing that God cannot and will not use them to that end, that they are dying, dying, dying! It is also why they can do nothing but fight, fight, fight! They divide, and "bite and devour" one another. I wrote a long series of articles on this very point, called "Addresses to the Lost." If they would just read those articles, they cannot but come away realizing their error. Sadly, most of them won't even give them a reading! They are so "set in their ways" and "hard headed" and "stubborn," characteristics of what it means to be "Hardshell."

Next, under the sub heading "Trying To Make A Case Based Upon A False Premise" our author writes:

"Primitive Baptists try to blend together the works of the lost sinner with the work of the ministry of the Gospel in an effort to build a case for not preaching to the lost. That blending is obvious in this Primitive Baptist article http://pbgrace.org/means.htm. But when you read that brief article, you can see that the author is presenting what is called a “straw man” argument…stating a false premise and then attacking it."

It is ironic how the Hardshells, though basing nearly all of their apologetic arguments on "logic," yet are guilty of the most illogical of reasonings! Yes, they use the proverbial "straw man" argument all the time! They use many other fallacious reasonings also, such as ad hominem, red herrings, begging the question, etc.

Next the author writes:

"The false premise of the Primitive Baptists can be stated this way: Since “evangelism” is a “work” of man, and knowing that the Bible states that salvation is “not of works”, God therefore cannot use evangelism as a “means” of saving someone. Who, other than a Primitive Baptist, would ever jump to the conclusion that Ephesians 2:9 is referring to both the sinner being preached to and the person doing the preaching?"

"False premises"? Yes, the Hardshells have many! They are premises (propositions and presuppositions) that they did not get from scripture, but which they take to scripture, and sadly attempt to make the scriptures to conform to them. Notice how this author sees through the faulty reasoning! Basically, this brother is saying, as I have said, that the Hardshells are a group of "oddballs." I don't say that to be purposefully offensive, but it is simply the truth. Actually, it is the nature of cults to be this way.

Next our author writes:

"The rest of the Church (those outside the Primitive Baptist camp) who believe in the sovereignty of God in salvation, would never deny that the sinner is dead in sin and cannot possibly reach out to God for salvation, cannot choose Christ, cannot accept Jesus as their savior. But they would not deny that God uses “means” – sends His laborers – into the fields to participate in the harvest. God is not ashamed to use mere vessels of clay as his messengers and as his laborers in the fields. But Primitive Baptists seem to think He should be ashamed. They claim that not only is the free-will gospel robbing God of His glory but that the evangelist is robbing God of His glory."

Again, notice how this author sees how the Hardshells try to rely on "logic" to uphold their aberrant views, rather than upon express statements of scripture! Is it logical to go preach to the dead? No. But, is it scriptural? Yes. God told Ezekiel to go preach to dry dead bones!

Next, this author writes:

"I guess if Paul had had some Primitive Baptists to “straighten him out” by telling him to not bother preaching to the lost as a means of salvation, he could have saved himself a whole lot of trouble..."

A little sarcasm there! But, it is sometimes apropos, yes? God and the bible writers sometimes speak in this manner when dealing with the stubborn, obstinate, and stiffnecked. When Bob Ross and I spent days together back in 1993 doing videos on Hardshellism with Larry Wessels (available on You-tube), he and I would often make such comments to each other about the Hardshells and their "logic" and how what they say indicts Jesus and the apostles!

Next, under the sub heading "Primitive Baptists’ Cult-Like Attributes" this able author writes:

"This very small, exclusive group of Christians who call themselves Primitive Baptists, seem to exhibit some characteristics of a Christian-like cult."

Yes, and thankfully, our writings have helped to keep some from becoming a cult member, and have helped to bring some out of it. Praise God that this brother was not "sucked in" by them and that God blessed him to see through all the smoke and see them for what they really are! Next he gives their cult characteristics, saying:

1. They have cult-like “gatekeepers” who guard the truth “as they see” it for their organization. These are a few individuals who write the stuff that everyone else is expected to subscribe to, like a creed or confession would have been used by protestant denominations of years gone by and similar to how the Jehovahs Witnesses use their Watchtower Society to print and promulgate Witnesses dogma. So Primitive Baptists have their teachers and spokespersons who write books and post teachings in online blogs and forums. Yes, it is true that many legitimate groups do this also.

2. They exhibit extreme exclusivity: They claim to be the ONLY group currently around that represents the truest and purest form of Christianity today, the most biblically accurate branch of the true Christian Church.

3. They claim to be able to trace their roots back to the first century church, a totally unverifiable claim that they never-the-less use, as a means of attempting to add validity to their group, a validity that no one can either prove or disprove…but the claim sure sounds impressive.

4. They have a unique view of certain passages of scripture that enables them to support their totally unorthodox doctrines."

Again, "amen" and "amen." I hope my Hardshell brethren who read this will read it with an honest and sincere heart! Next, under the sub heading "Obvious "Gospel Means" Passages In Scripture" our author says:

"There are plenty of passages in the Bible that indicate rather clearly, that preaching the gospel is the “means” by which God uses His messengers to effect salvation in the sinners He intends to save – in conjunction with the work of the Holy Spirit of course."

Yes, and everyone who reads the scriptures has to wonder how in the world could someone ever accept the no means view as do the Hardshells!

Under the sub heading "How Did Primitive Baptists End Up With Their Unbiblical Ideas?" our good author next writes:

"As convincing as Primitive Baptists can be, I could find no solid evidence that traces their beliefs back to the early church as they claim, nor do I think that they can convincingly deny that the beliefs they have, simply originated with a certain group of Baptists who splintered off from the “Missionary Baptists” in the 1800s. And then, over the years, their group developed this anti-missionary and anti-evangelism theology with corresponding new word definitions regarding the gospel, to suit their original position against missionary societies. And now that so much time has passed, they no longer realize the occurrence of that transition themselves, that such a theological metamorphosis has taken place in their denomination."

I am sure that my writings on the history of the Hardshells have helped this brother to see these things and for this I am thankful! It is true that today's Hardshells do not realize how they have changed so much and do not now believe what their forefathers believed! Further, they do not realize how this is all detrimental to their claim of having remained unchanged in doctrine over the centuries!

Next, the author says:

"I personally have not found the Primitive Baptist brand of Christianity showing up in the preaching and teaching of men of God who are I’ve grown to trust and whom so many other Christians have grown to trust over the centuries. That observation of mine in and of itself is not a “rock solid” case against the Primitive Baptist “no gospel means” doctrine. But it is noteworthy when taken into consideration with the points I mentioned above about the two types of New Testament preaching and teaching. Some PBs will say “Well what about John Gill? He shared our views regarding “no gospel means” in salvation.”. To that all I can say is that John Gill seems to be on both sides of the fence. Some of his commentary seems to lean on the Primitive Baptist “no gospel means” side and some commentary seems to lean more towards the traditional, historical, orthodox “gospel means” side."

What about John Gill? I have written so exhaustively on this point! Gill NEVER denied the use of means in regeneration! The Hardshells who say that Gill denied means are simply telling lies on the good doctor! They twist the learned doctor's words just like they did the 1689 confession via their "Fulton Confession."

Next, our author says:

"Primitive Baptists are in a very narrow camp, dangerously narrow. Which is a mark that other groups have, groups who claim to be the exclusive purveyors of the truth. Granted, narrowness does not necessarily negate the possibility of truth. But, it is a pretty common characteristic of a cult or unbiblical Christian sect."

Exactly!

Next he writes:

"Believe me, I have had to sort out many unusual ideas and doctrines since God saved me 31 years ago. (And I also! SG) Like with many cults and unorthodox sects, a lot of what Primitive Baptists teach seems to make a lot of sense and sounds biblical, and on many points even is biblical, especially regarding the sovereignty of God in salvation. But then there is a little bit of leaven that leavens the whole lump. Meaning something snuck in there that does not belong, and so certain words had to be re-defined to accommodate the unorthodox and unbiblical beliefs that are being promulgated by Primitive Baptists."

Such keen observations by this brother! And, he did not come to such conclusions quickly! But, he read Hardshell literature, studied, researched, and came to sound conclusions. Would to God others would follow his example!

Next he writes:

"To see things the Primitive Baptist way, you have to put on a certain special pair of “glasses” … you have to use “the Primitive Baptist dictionary” if you will, before their views make sense. And for me personally, I would have to throw away the heart of God that I’ve had for the 31 years since my new birth…a heart for lost souls to come to Christ, a burden to warn the lost to flee the wrath of God. The very thing representing the greatest change in me since my conversion (and I us the word ‘conversion’ in the traditional sense, not the Primitive Baptist sense), is the thing that Primitive Baptists say we should not even be doing, sharing God’s Word that souls might be saved….sharing God’s Word that the Lord of the harvest might see fit to convict and convert the Elect among those being preached to – that the Spirit of the living God would “give ears to hear” to some in the field where the Word is being sown. Just as God used Noah to bring salvation from the Flood to that small elect group of eight individuals, so God uses mere mortals to bring salvation to a lost and dying world."

Again, amen! So well stated that it needs little comment! These are things that I have been saying a long time. They are things that others have been saying about the Hardshells for decades!

Finally our good author writes:

"If Primitive Baptists are wrong on gospel “means”, which I believe they are, then there is no other conclusion that they have a doctrine that is the one doctrine that the Devil himself wishes all Christians would have, a doctrine that tells them they should not be doing the very thing that God commands them to do to: bring salvation to lost souls."

Good summation to a well written critique of the "Primitive Baptist" cult! Why do I bother with this sect? Many reasons, but chiefly for the reason stated here in the conclusion!

At the bottom of this good article the author lists many of our writings for those doing further research along with that of others. Here is the list.

Online Book About Hardshell Baptists by Stephen Garrett
BaptistGadfly Blog
Old Baptist – Where the real primitive or old Baptist faith is defended
Responding to Hardshell Comments
History and Heresies of Hardshell Baptists
Why We Are Not Primitive Baptists
The Killing Effects of Hyper-Calvinism by Bob Ross
Spurgeon versus Hyperism by Bob L. Ross & Ian D. Elsasser
Cultic Hyper-Calvinistic Doctrines of the Primitive Baptist Church Part #1
Cultic Hyper-Calvinistic Doctrines of the Primitive Baptist Church Part #2
Cultic Hyper-Calvinistic Doctrines of the Primitive Baptist Church Part #3

I encourage all to visit this good brother's web page and write to him and let him know how much you appreciate his good review.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

From The 1689 London Confession

Chapter 3: Of God's Decree

6._____ As God hath appointed the elect unto glory, so he hath, by the eternal and most free purpose of his will, foreordained all the means thereunto; wherefore they who are elected, being fallen in Adam, are redeemed by Christ, are effectually called unto faith in Christ, by his Spirit working in due season, are justified, adopted, sanctified, and kept by his power through faith unto salvation; neither are any other redeemed by Christ, or effectually called, justified, adopted, sanctified, and saved, but the elect only.

( 1 Peter 1:2; 2 Thessalonians 2:13; 1 Thessalonians 5:9, 10; Romans 8:30; 2 Thessalonians 2:13; 1 Peter 1:5; John 10:26; John 17:9; John 6:64 )

Notice the scriptures cited in support of this statement, particularly II Thess. 2: 13, which reads as follows:

"But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth: Whereunto he called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ." (vs. 14 included)

This is the confession that the churches that first formed the "Primitive Baptist Church" endorsed, because it was the confession of their forefathers. Notice how the confession says that God in his decree "foreordained all the means thereunto." What "means"? Simply that which is stated in II Thess. 2:13-14! It is "the truth" and the "gospel"! Notice also that this statement in the confession says that all the elect, by God's decree, are "effectually called unto faith in Christ" and "kept by his power through faith unto salvation." Faith, evangelical faith, the kind produced by the preaching of the gospel, is the "means." Notice also that the "faith" that is made essential for eternal salvation is "faith in Christ," not some kind of faith that the heathen have!

Chapter 10: Of Effectual Calling

1._____ Those whom God hath predestinated unto life, he is pleased in his appointed, and accepted time, effectually to call, by his Word and Spirit, out of that state of sin and death in which they are by nature, to grace and salvation by Jesus Christ; enlightening their minds spiritually and savingly to understand the things of God; taking away their heart of stone, and giving unto them a heart of flesh; renewing their wills, and by his almighty power determining them to that which is good, and effectually drawing them to Jesus Christ; yet so as they come most freely, being made willing by his grace.

(Romans 8:30; Romans 11:7; Ephesians 1:10, 11; 2 Thessalonians 2:13, 14; Ephesians 2:1-6; Acts 26:18; Ephesians 1:17, 18; Ezekiel 36:26; Deuteronomy 30:6; Ezekiel 36:27; Ephesians 1:19; Psalm 110:3; Song of Solomon 1:4)

Again, notice how in this section the confession once again refers to II Thess. 2: 13-14! Notice that the effectual call is "by his Word and Spirit." It is not by the Spirit alone as today's Hardshells teach. Notice also that in being effectually called, one is "enlightened" so that they "savingly understand the things of God," and that they are drawn "to Jesus Christ," and that "they come" to this Jesus "most freely." Thus, it is clear, that these Old Baptists made conversion via the gospel and via evangelical faith, to be the result of being effectually called. They did not separate conversion from either regeneration or from the new birth.

Today's so-called "Primitive Baptists" need to come back to the belief of their forefathers!

Monday, July 17, 2017

Hardshells & The Adultery Question

With this posting I will begin a series of articles discussing an issue that has troubled the "Primitive Baptists" for many years. It is the issue of accepting members into the church who are judged to be "living in adultery" because their present marriage is judged to have been unscriptural. The Hardshells are not united on this issue. Some, like my beloved father, was very strict on the issue. He believed that if a person divorced and remarried, without a just cause, then that person was judged to be "living in adultery" and had, by this situation, committed the "sin unto death," i.e. was "dead" to church life and membership. Of course, he, like other Hardshells, would accept the idea that such a person could divorce his or her unlawful spouse, go back to his or her lawful spouse, and then be allowed to become members of the church. Sometimes advising prospective members to do this was no simple thing, since many of them had been married for years to their unlawful spouses, even having children by them! Also, the spouses that had been illegitimately put away, had oftentimes remarried themselves. So, going back to that spouse became even more impractical. Yet, it was insisted, this was the only way to stop "living in adultery."

Further complicating this issue is the fact that Hardshells cannot separate baptism from church membership, and so the fact that a person is judged to be in an unscriptural marriage not only bars one from membership in the Lord's church but from baptism also. Further, since persons must repent before baptism, persons must renounce their illegitimate marriage, and dissolve it, before they can be baptized and become members of the church. In other words, no person is judged to be worthy of membership in the church if they are in a marriage that was begun as a result of previous unjust divorce.

As I said, this was a big issue with father. I recall a loving brother, "brother Myers," who was a faithful supporter of the church. He could not be a member of the church because he and his first wife had divorced years ago when he was a young man, and before he became a Christian. Now, it is possible that brother Myers, in spite of this illegitimate divorce, had a legitimate marriage to his second wife. How? Perhaps his first wife married first! Which, in such a case, she "committed adultery" and thus this would have given him the right to remarry. But, the problem was, brother Myers did not know anything about his first wife's whereabouts, nor that she had remarried, or if she had, whether she had remarried before he did. Thus, not being able to know this, father and the church he pastored (and where I was a member at the time) would not baptize him or take him into church membership.

To this day I think of the faithfulness of brother Myers. He was as good a member, without actually being a member, as one could be. I weep when I think about his case. I don't believe he should have been kept from baptism and church membership. It was, I believe, an error in understanding this issue that led father to take the actions he did. I use to talk to father about this issue, years later, but to no avail.

Father was so strict on this issue that he was often confronting fellow ministers about it. This was because not all PB ministers agreed with him on it. And, of course, father would attempt to straighten them out on it. He would often remark about another church - "they take adulterers into the church." And, with father, a church with lax discipline was not a church in good order. To my knowledge, I would guess that father's view represents the majority view, unless things have changed since I was with them in the 1970s and early 80s.

Among the Hardshells this issue was often discussed under this question - "does regeneration take one out of adultery?" The issue was whether an illegitimate divorce, effected when a person was not regenerated, allowed the person to become a member? Some argued that it did, some that it did not. Father was of the latter opinion.

In closing out this first posting on this issue, I want to first state my own views, then, in upcoming postings, lay out the scriptural reasons for my view. In stating my own views, I want to quote from Dr. Phil Johnson (see here), for he expresses my views perfectly. Johnson is associated with Dr. John MacArthur and is a well known lecturer, one I have followed for many years.

Wrote Johnson (emphasis mine):

"Are people who remarry after a divorce on grounds less than sexual infidelity or abandonment living in adultery? The answer seems to be no. The words of Christ— “Anyone who marries the divorced woman commits adultery” (Matthew 5:32)—are in the aorist tense, indicating action specific in time, completed when it occurs. A couple divorced on less than biblical grounds commit adultery when they remarry, but their new marriage is valid.

The New Testament never instructs divorced and remarried people who become Christians to break up their latest marriage, something we might expect if people who remarry after a divorce are considered to be living in a state of perpetual adultery. In fact, Paul definitely instructed married Christians to remain in their present state if at all possible (1 Corinthians 7:15-24). Jesus acknowledged that the Samaritan woman had lived with five husbands, recognizing each marriage contract as a bona fide union (John 4).

Christians commit the sin of adultery when they remarry after a divorce that’s not based on infidelity, but once a new marriage begins they do not live in a continuing state of adultery.

Jesus is saying that the act of remarriage is an act of adultery. He is not teaching that the ongoing conjugal relationship with the new spouse is a state of “perpetual adultery”--as if God refused to recognize the remarriages legitimate in any sense.

If that were the case--if the ongoing physical relationship between the remarried couple constituted one long, continuous, adulterous affair—the proper remedy, and the only way to end the chain of adultery, would be to dissolve the second marriage and insist that everyone return to his or her original spouse. On the contrary, Scripture teaches that the new marriage is now binding. In order to avoid further acts of adultery, the remarried person needs to remain faithful to the new spouse.

As a matter of fact, in the same passage where Moses permitted husbands to issue a certificate of divorce, the law added this restriction: “When she has departed from his house, and goes and becomes another man’s wife, if the latter husband detests her and writes her a certificate of divorce, puts it in her hand, and sends her out of his house, or if the latter husband dies who took her as his wife, then her former husband who divorced her must not take her back to be his wife after she has been defiled; for that is an abomination before the LORD” (Deuteronomy 24:2-4, emphasis added).

Clearly, the second marriage—whether biblically justified or not—becomes as binding as the original marriage was supposed to be. A return to the original spouse is strictly forbidden.

So Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:32 (and Mark 10:11-12) mean simply that entering into an illegitimate remarriage is an adulterous act. Nevertheless, once that new marriage covenant is sealed, the remarried couple needs to remain married and be faithful to one another. Their ongoing physical relationship is not to bethought of as “perpetual adultery.”

On the other hand, as long as they remain unrepentant about the illegitimate remarriage, they cannot expect God’s blessing on their marriage. Like all sins, that unauthorized remarriage must be confessed and repented of.

Because marriage entails a covenant that God deems holy, any remarriage (even remarriage after an unbiblical divorce) cannot be—and should not be—forsaken as we would forsake virtually any other sin. But people who have entered into such a relationship do need to seek God’s forgiveness with sincere repentance.

Again, these views are in accordance with the scriptures.

The Primitive Baptist (1837) & Gospel Means

From the April 22nd, 1837 issue of "The Primitive Baptist"

'The predestinarian believes in the atonement of the Lord Jesus, and that his righteousness is made over and imputed to all his spiritual children by and through the means or instrumentality of faith, as the law of righteousness that it might be of grace. The predestinarian believes that the means and the end are inseparably connected, and that works and faith are as much united as soul and body; and that God knoweth them that are his." (pg. 126 - see here)

Do so-called Primitive Baptists believe this today?

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Elder Mark Bennett

Elder Mark Bennett (1798-1875) was the first editor of "The Primitive Baptist" periodical, the second "Old School" periodical began after the 1832 split via the "Black Rock Address." That periodical was begun in 1836 and was sponsored by the Kehukee Association, who had declared against missions, theological schools, etc., in 1827. The leaders of this Association were Elders Mark Bennett, Burwell Temple, C.B. Hassell, Joshua Lawrence, Joseph Biggs, etc. It lasted till late in the 1860s. Many years after this Elder S. F. Cayce, father of C.H. Cayce, began a paper and called it also "The Primitive Baptist."

If one reads the issues of this periodical in the 1830s through the start of the 1850s, he will see how Elder Bennett did much writing for this paper and was affectionately addressed by PBs from all over the country. Elder Bennett was an apologetic spokesman for the Hardshells in defending their declaration of non fellowship for all Baptists who supported missions, schools, etc. Of course, he was a strong advocate for doctrines that are today denied by Hardshells. For instance, he believed that the preaching of the gospel was God's means of calling and saving his elect. He believed in the absolute predestination of all things (as did the editor of the other PB paper, Gilbert Beebe, editor of "The Signs of the Times"), and he believed in the perseverance of the saints, or in what is today sometimes called "Lordship salvation." These doctrines were the professed belief of all those who wrote to this old periodical. What they taught and protested against was what they thought were unscriptural and new methods for spreading the gospel and for training men for the ministry.

What is interesting about Elder Bennett is the fact that in the early 1850s he saw the errors of the Hardshells, the very errors he had long defended, and he left them and became a Calvinistic Missionary Baptist. This was a shock to the newly formed denomination. Bennett was their spokesman! He had updated their history and was well informed in regard to them. The Hardshells arranged for a debate and called on Elder Grigg Thompson to debate Bennett. Thompson was a leading debater and defender of the PBs and surely he could help undo the damage caused by Bennett's defection! They had two debates on the issues dividing the Missionary Baptists from the Hardshells. The transcripts of the debate were published in a book. As of this date I have not been able to find this available to read on the Internet. However, this information about the book and the debate can be found on the Internet.

A debate between Elder Mark Bennett, a Missionary Baptist preacher of N.C., and Elder G.M. Thompson, of Ky., a minister of the Old School Baptist Church, at New-Hope M.H., Edgecombe County, N. Carolina, on the 27th day of Sept., 1852 ...

Debate on whether the Modern Missionary Enterprise is supported or condemned by the word of God, with Bennett arguing in support of the Missionary stance, and Thompson arguing against.

Bennett did not leave quietly. In this respect, he and I have something in common! As I wrote in a posting titled The Seceder Hardshells, Bennett wrote in 1854 a book called "Review of the history of the Kehukee Baptist Association," which had this info attached to it - "to which are added the comparative claims of Missionary Baptists and Anti-missionary Baptists to scriptural and unaltered religious usages."

Here is what I found written in "The Primitive Baptist" in 1853.

"Notice — We shall endeavour get out the Debate between Elder G. M. Thompson and Mr. Mark Bennet to take with us to the above appointments, so that all those who wish to procure the Debate as above mentioned, those who have subscribed, and others who can make it convenient, can do so without the expense of mailage. The, subscriptions are coming in freely for the Debate and as we expect only to strike about 2,000 copies, those who wish to secure the work at 25 cents per copy, had better send in their amount of subscription at the most earliest opportunity — whether they be Whigs or Democrats, — Missionary or Anti- Missionary, Professor or no Professor, — all in a greater or lesser degree may face some anxiety to see the organization, and grounds occupied by each, speaker, the scripture introduced for proof on either side, and the arguments and explanations thereon; will we think satisfy to the amount of 25 cents, if no more. Mr. Bennett taking the affirmative, the Modern Missionary system was according to scripture. Elder G. M. Thompson, the negative. Each spake 30 minutes at a time until they had spoken twice each. Then at the close one hour's intermission was given; and then Thompson taking the affirmative, Bennett the negative, to speak as above described of thirty minutes speeches each, so as to consume two hours. After the close, Mr. Bennett challenged Thompson again, which was accepted by Thompson, to take place in Goldsborough under the same rules as the first. The Thompson's and Bennett's Debates are now out of Press, and will, in a few days be ready for delivery, at 25 cents per copy."

What is interesting about this is a fact little known by today's Hardshells. Later Elder Grigg Thompson himself would leave the newly formed "Primitive Baptists" to become a "United Baptists." But, that is another story!

Here are some history notes I have collected over the years on the departure of Elder Bennett (emphasis mine).

"The launching of ventures in missions, education, and other benevolences was displeasing to many North Carolina Baptists. In fact, the Kehukee Association severed relations with the others in 1827, beginning the Anti-Missionary, Primitive, or Old School Baptist schism. Survival necessitated that the Old School Baptists voice their views through a periodical. Accordingly, Joshua Lawrence, aggressive but unlearned Old School Baptist leader, persuaded Mark Bennett to edit a proposed paper. Known as the Primitive Baptist, a specimen number appeared in Tarborough October 3, 1835. It made clear, in the following passage, the founder's position: "This publication is principally intended to defend the old school United Baptists from the many aspersions cast upon them by deluded persons professing their own faith, because they cannot conscientiously engage in the various money-making schemes of the day, . . .Believing that Theological Schools, Bible, Missionary, Tract, and Sunday School Union Societies are the same in principle — unscriptural — savor more of 'lucre' than of 'good-will towards men' we are opposed to them.

Lawrence, who wrote frequently for the Primitive Baptist, and Bennett, the editor, soon had an altercation over the conduct of the paper. Bennett's fidelity to scriptural views having been questioned, he examined the policy of the paper more carefully. As a result he decided that the Old School Baptists were wrong, resigned the editorship, and wrote Thomas Meredith that he had yielded his heart to missions, as heaven's instrument, and ceased his opposition.

For eight years George Howard, the printer, got out the Primitive Baptist without the help of an editor. In 1848, however, Burwell Temple, an Old School minister, acquired ownership and moved the paper from Tarborough to his farm nine miles east of Raleigh. Here he edited and published this semimonthly newspaper until after the Civil War." 

I hope to write more about Elder Bennett and about others who have had a similar experience to his and have been forced, by conscience, to leave the Hardshells.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

From "The Primitive Baptist" (1837)

8. We believe that justification before God is by the imputed righteousness of Christ, received by faith in him.

9. We believe that God's elect shall be converted, changed from the love and practice of sin, to the love and practice of holiness; and that all such will be saved eternally.

10. We believe that such as are truly converted will make it manifest by a well ordered life.

From Jan. 28, 1837 issue under the heading "Synopsis Of Faith" (see here)

Now, this is not what most "Primitive Baptists" believe today! They have departed not only from what the Old Baptists of the 17th and 18th centuries believed, before the split in 1832, but they don't even believe what their own forefathers believed who created their denomination. I have cited numerous times from this old periodical and have shown that today's PBs have changed their doctrine from what it was in the beginning of their movement.

Hardshell History Studies

Listen, my Hardshell brothers. If you really want to find out what your "founding fathers" believed, go back and read the "The Primitive Baptist" periodical from the 1830s through the 1860s. You can find these old issues on the Internet (here). If you will read this periodical, put forth by the Kehukee Association after the 1832 split, and led by men such as C.B. Hassell, Joshua Lawrence, Mark Bennett, etc., you will discover that you could not fellowship these men were they here today. They believed in gospel means, in perseverance, and in the predestination of all things.