Elder Sonny Pyles is one of the two leading elders in the PB church who have had the greatest impact on the "Primitive Baptist Church" over the past 50 years. He is the father of David Pyles, who has picked up the "mantle" of his father.
"Sonny" was a leading cause of "King James Version Onlyism" taking root among the Hardshells and it was his preaching on the issue that led many Hardshell churches in the late 70's and early 80's to change their articles faith to limit the inspiration of the scriptures to the King James Version.
Unlike his forefathers, Sonny has been against "debating," though he has often been challenged to do so. He has, of course, had many private debates with others, but nothing formal. It would be nice if he would change his mind and come forward to debate the foundations of Hardshellism.
Elder Lasserre Bradley Jr., another supreme leader of the Hardshells, said this about Sonny:
"Elder Sonny Pyles has probably done as much as any man among us in recent times to challenge ministers to be better students of the word, With his unique ability to get a point across in such a way that it is not forgotten, he has often shown the folly of man "running when he is not sent" and attempting to preach when he has nothing to say. The evidence of his own diligent study has proven to be an inspiration and an example to numerous ministers across the country."
A Hardshell website writes this about Sonny:
"The hallmarks of his preaching style include colorful illustrations, practical wisdom, abundant quotation of scripture, a gift for making profound truths understandable even for young children, and an never-wavering focus on the glory and sovereignty of God."
Thus, the credentials of Sonny are clear. The Hardshells, when they want to put their "best foot forward," or want to give the "best face" for their denomination, will put forth either Sonny or Lasserre.
Sonny had this to say about his own biography:
"My father's people have been Primitive Baptists for many generations. My mother was a Southern Baptist, but united with the Primitive Baptists the same day I did. My uncle, Elder Ray Piles (Our family name has been spelled either "Piles" or "Pyles" by various members. I spell it "Pyles" because my father did), preached for many years, and my great-uncle, Elder R.L. "Rube" Piles, was a signer of the Fulton, Kentucky Confession of Faith. There was also a great-great great uncle named Alexander Campbell who also preached for the Baptists, but later started his own movement and became better known than the rest of us!"
It is interesting that Sonny refers to the Fulton Confession of Faith. The Hardshells, by this confession, did an evil work upon the Old Baptist London Confession of 1689. In "An Examination of How the Hardshells Diluted the London Baptist Confession" Bob Ross wrote:
"One of the most reprehensible acts by a group of Primitive Baptist ministers was perpetrated in November 1900.
From the 14th day to the 18th day -- five days of infamy -- "fifty-one ministers, representing three-hundred and thirty-five churches, aggregating fourteen-thousand five-hundred members in direct correspondence with over one-hundred-thousand Baptists," set themselves -- after adorning their nefarious scheme with all the proper and pious camouflage of the most sanctimonious session of the Scribes and Pharisees -- to the work of "clarifying" and "adding some explanations to" the most highly respected confessional document in the history of English-speaking Baptists, The Baptist Confession, set forth in London, England in 1689.
This 20th century "Sanhedrin" was shepherded in part by a couple of well-known elders of Old School craft, James H. Oliphant and John M. Thompson, who proved to be two veritable Jehudi's (Jeremiah 36:23). Not content with their rejection of the London Confession, they found it more to their liking to distort it and perpetrate the distortion under the "unanimous vote" of their ministerial accessories among which "tears filled eyes," contemplating their deed as "doing God service" (John 16:2). This meeting had all the "holy smoke" of a Papal election. And no one can puff more "sweet" and "comforting" holy smoke than the "little lambs" of Hardshellism.
The hallowed ground on which this holy convocation of Hardshell "rabbis" took place was the meeting-house located in Fulton, Kentucky, and the grand product of this enclave in Zion was published under title of A Comprehensive Confession of Faith. I am the proud possessor of a maroon hardback edition of this blessed creation, published by those professing to be "servants" -- E. D. Speir, R. E. Cagle, and E. D. Speir, Jr. -- in this current form in 1981.
These brethren of the Old School, in a humility worthy of the likes of Madam Guyon and St. Thomas of Assisi, announced that they felt themselves "under profound obligations to thank God and labor faithfully for the prosperity of his holy cause," and with "humble gratitude" to the "gracious and divine providence of God," recognizing that "language naturally undergoes some change," they "deemed prudent" the adding of "some explanations to those sections that seemed ambiguous" in the Baptist Confession of 1689.
The sanctified purpose of the "explanations" and "clarifications" was -- of course -- "increased gladness and the sweetest union," "general prosperity," "establishing union and fellowship," and similar attendant blessings within the sweet Old Baptist "home." Who could possibly have ever entertained the doubt that such "obedient servants" as Thompson, Oliphant and their fellow butchers would prove to be triumphant in behalf of their beloved Zion?
But despite their holy fervor, sweet prayers, tears, explanatory abilities, and unanimous vote, it seems that the old Baptist Confession has proved to be too much of a piece of granite, and their efforts at patching up Zion, where she was "torn into factions in so many places," failed; -- tears, rents, and factions are at this late date greater than at the turn of the century. "For many years, I have seen the spiritual decline approaching . . . The problems have obviously become worse," bemoans Elder S. T. Tolley (The Christian Baptist, 4/92, p.5).
Viewed from our own perspective, it would have been far more the act of honesty and candor had this solemn assembly of Scribes and Pharisees simply acknowledged the fact that their own theology was so far removed from that of the 1689 Baptist Confession they must cease the hypocrisy of claiming the Confession, then they should have composed their own confession. This would have at least relieved them of the necessity of the contemptible spectacle of "clarifying" what they and everyone else understood perfectly to be the doctrinal sentiments of the Baptists who set their names to the 1689 Confession.
THE FACT IS, IT WAS "UNDERSTANDING" THE BAPTIST CONFESSION WHICH MADE IT NECESSARY FOR THIS GATHERING OF HARDSHELLS TO HACK AND HEW ON THE CONFESSION IN THE EFFORT TO MAKE IT ACCEPTABLE. All of their pious reasons notwithstanding, the truth is, these Old School Primitive Baptists DID NOT BELIEVE the doctrines of the London Confession and would have set up "bars of fellowship" against every last one of those who originally signed the 1689 Confession had the signatories arisen from the dead and asked for a "home" among these Hardshell brethren.
We have already called attention to Elder S. T. Tolley's repudiation of the London Confession (chapter four) on those chapters of the Confession which he specified, as he called for the composing of a new confession which would accurately represent Primitive Baptists. Another Hardshell, Elder R. V. Sarrels, who wrote a book presenting Hardshell doctrine, ostensibly called a "Systematic Theology," very candidly confesses that Primitive Baptists "do not believe" chapter three of the London Confession, and he charges that the Fulton Convention of 1900 wrote a footnote "to make this old article MEAN WHAT IT DOES NOT SAY" (Systematic Theology, pages 109, 110).
Sarrels indicates that the sweet brethren who gathered at Fulton, Ky. in 1900 were engaged in a "literary effort of TORTURING of language" when they tried to "clarify" and "explain" the London Confession. He says, "Moderate or Non-fatalist Calvinists must either repudiate this statement [in the London Confession] or resign themselves to the endless task of trying to make it mean what it does not say" (page 111).
Why didn't the 1900 Fulton Convention do the honest thing and simply repudiate the London Confession and write their own separate confession? Because they are of the "We-be-Abraham's Seed" progeny, claiming they are the "true," "only," "legitimate" church and ministry in succession back to the 17th century Baptists. To come out and honestly state the truth of the matter, they would thereby be giving up their farcical and spurious claim. To avoid this humiliation, they took the route of adding "clarifications" and "explanations" in footnotes, presuming that naive Baptists didn't have enough sense to read and understand what the 17th century Baptists plainly stated.
Throughout the Confession, significant places were selected by the Hardshell scribes for "footnoting," wherein they have placed their leaven of Hardshell aberrations. The two primary doctrines which merit the most attention are (1) predestination, and (2) "means" in the new birth. On these, the reader is treated to the views of the Hardshells which are clearly in opposition to the views of the 17th century Baptists. The modern Hardshells deny these doctrines as they were believed by the Baptists of the London Assembly of 1689." (History and Heresies of Hardshell Baptists, chapter 5)
I remember reading the Fulton Convention's "explanatory notes" regarding the London Confession of Faith as a young Hardshell preacher and I also, like Sarrels and Tolley, saw how the ministers who wrote the Fulton Confession had been dishonest regarding the Old Baptist London Confession. It bothered me. The men who assembled in Fulton, Kentucky were Hardshell "men of renown." What is Sonny's view on this matter? Does he agree with Sarrels and Tolley? Does he agree that the Fulton brethren were attempting to make the old confession say what it does not say? Or, does he countenance their attempts to make the old confession agree with Hardshellism? He seems to want to accept it, since he speaks of his ancestor as involved in it. Can he tell us why most Hardshells today distance themselves from the London Confession? Can he tell us why those assembled in Fulton endorsed it but today's Hardshells do not?
Sonny also mentions his relation to Alexander Campbell. This too is interesting, because Hardshellism and Campbellism are "twins." Wrote Bob Ross:
"B. H. Carroll Jr. says Campbell was the "greatest opposer" of missions, and says, "The truth is, Alexander Campbell was the father of twins, Hardshellism and Campbellism" (The Genesis of American Anti-Missionism, pages 93, 95)." ("History and Heresies of Hardshell Baptists, chapter 3")
Sonny wrote (emphasis mine):
"My childhood impressions were influenced by my mother's former church. I united with the Missionary Baptists at ten years of age and had a serious, though secret, desire to preach what I thought was the gospel. Our family moved to Dallas, Texas, when I was thirteen. My father began to take us regularly to the church pastored by Elder W.W. Fowler. Dad had been very involved in the business world up to this time and was now taking us to a Primitive Baptist Church each Sunday for the first time in our lives. In a few months, three members of his family came asking for a home in the true church. My mother, my sister, and the unworthy writer were all baptized the same evening by Elder J.P. Dale. My own experience causes me to believe that many children are outside the church simply because they were not taken to church enough and properly influenced by their parents."
This is typical of Hardshell conversions. They first get saved in Missionary Baptist churches and then join Hardshell churches. Sonny does not believe that what he heard in the Missionary Baptist church was the "gospel." In fact, he doesn't believe that Missionary Baptists are members of "the church" of Jesus Christ. To him, anyone not in the Hardshell church is "outside the church." He obviously, like other Hardshells, believe that they are the "only ones" who are preaching the gospel. I would like for Sonny to tell us when he was "regenerated." When did he hear the "voice" of Christ speaking to him?
I feel certain that Elders Fowler and Dale spoke many sermons convincing Sonny and his mother that they were saved apart from the preaching of the gospel of Jesus and that the ones who had first preached it to them, the Mission Baptists, were heretics. After teaching him and his mother and sister the basics of Calvinism I feel certain that the "first principles" of Hardshellism were taught to them.
These preachers, no doubt, first sought to convince him that his prior experience, at ten years of age, was NOT his "regeneration" (what God did for him), but was rather his "conversion" (what he did for himself), and that the former was "before," probably long "before," his coming to hear and believe the gospel and to repent of his sins. Secondly, that "regeneration" was necessary for eternal salvation, but "conversion" was not. Thirdly, that the eternal salvation of the elect, in all its parts, was "without any human means." He was told that "if man was involved with it, it would be dependent on man, and therefore not certain."
Being a young convert, Sonny was no doubt easy prey for the Hardshells. His rejection of "Arminianism," and his acceptance of "Calvinism," made him vulnerable to Hyper Calvinism. Sonny's "conversion" to Hardshellism (Antinomianism) was no doubt typical of many other Missionary Baptists. He accepted their Pelagian "first principle," the one that says - "a command implies ability" (for God, say they, "does not command any man to do any more than he is able to do"). He accepted their "logic" and their false hermeneutic principles. He put on their theological spectacles and accepted their soteriological paradigms. Having embraced the idea that the Hardshells were the "only ones," the "true church," he became a member of a cult. Sad day.
Of course, I deal with all these matters quite extensively in my book on the Hardshells.
"The Lord used Elder W. J. Blackmon of Logansport, Louisiana, at a meeting at Luling, Texas, in June 1952 to open my eyes to the truth. Elder Blackmon harmonized the "worlds" of John 3:16, 17:9, Luke 2:1, Heb. 9:26, I John 5:19, with the "Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated," of Romans 9:13. This message caused me to listen more attentively to the other preachers during the meeting. The Arminian sandcastle that I had built soon came tumbling down."
Sonny obviously was first convinced of the doctrine of unconditional election (a doctrine taught in the London Confession and by many Mission Baptists). As a result of the Hardshell elder's "harmonizing" the doctrine of election with verses that seem to teach a universal atonement, "world" texts, he also embraced the "limited atonement" view. Had Sonny stopped here, all would have been well, and he could legitimately claim to teach what is expressed in the old London Confession of Faith, but he "went too far" in accepting Hyper Calvinism. He went too far in believing that the above doctrines excluded God having a general or common "will" that "all men" believe gospel truth, repent of their sins, etc., and in failing to see that this is not inconsistent with his special will to save his elect, or with those doctrines mentioned above.
And again he writes:
"Our church was prospering and I had many young friends; but a terrible division occurred when I was fifteen and many of my friends left with their parents and started a church in another part of town. This was hard for a teenager to understand. I was called on to make my first efforts to speak shortly after the division and did so regularly for a few years. However, our state continued to be torn with strife and I began to ask myself some burning questions: Can we be the true church and be in such a divided state? Are you a Primitive Baptist because of the influence of others or have you had a real experience of grace and call to the ministry? For about four years my beliefs were put to a rigid test and much scriptural investigation."
I can sympathize with Sonny in the discouragement he felt when he saw the church suffer division. I too was a young Hardshell when I saw division and warring among the Hardshells. It is a tremendous shock, especially considering the fact that he "joined the church" thinking that the old Hardshell church was the only group who could be called "the church of Christ" or the "kingdom of God." It made me think - "can this be the one true church?" Sonny too questioned it. He says, however, that after four years of searching, he concluded that the old Hardshell church was indeed the kingdom of God on earth, despite his reservations and observations. I came to a different conclusion, however.
How did Sonny come to believe that he had experienced a "real experience of grace"? How did he come to know that he had been born again? When does he believe that he was born again? Did he have that experience of grace under the preaching of the gospel by Missionary Baptists?
And again he says:
"David (whose biography precedes mine) was ordained to the ministry in 1984, and has written prolifically on Biblical topics. Our daughter, Lynn Pyles Bruce, is a devoted wife and mother and has written extensively on matters of Christian family life, and hosts an Internet fellowship for Primitive Baptist parents. At the time of this writing (January 2000), I have baptized the two eldest of our five grandchildren, Caitlin and Claire Louise Bruce."
This is interesting. Sonny believes that those who use the Internet are getting themselves entangled in destructive "webs," the kind condemned in the Bible, and yet David and Lynn are heavily involved in it.
And again he writes:
"It has been my privilege to preach for the Lord's people by invitation in 32 states. It seems that there is more love and fellowship at present than I ever remember in times past. It is my firm conviction that we have a great opportunity to reach the Lord's people in this age."
"More love and fellowship at present than ever I remember"? I doubt that is the case. Certainly the controversy regarding issues raised by the "liberal movement" proves otherwise.
He says the Hardshells "have a great opportunity to reach the Lord's people in this age," but sadly, the history of his denomination shows them to be "do nothings" in this regard. Notice also the language chosen. He wants to reach "the Lord's people," not sinners. He, as a typical Hyper Calvinist, does not want to reach the dead unregenerate sinner, but only those who show evidence of already having been regenerated. And, why does he want to "reach" them? Is it not so that he can "proselyte" them to Hardshellism?
And he writes further:
"There are a few verses from the apostle Paul which summarize my life and ministry, in Acts 26:22, “Having therefore obtained help of God, I continue unto this day; and I Timothy 1:15, This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.""
It is interesting that Sonny should choose a verse as a favorite that goes against Hardshellism. How does Sonny believe that the gospel is "worthy of ALL acceptation"? Doesn't he believe that it is not offered to all? Doesn't he believe that only the elect, who are already born again, are to be called by the gospel? This is the verse that Andrew Fuller used to overthrow the Hyper Calvinism of his day. This verse is as much against Hardshellism as this one:
"Whom we preach, warning EVERY MAN, and teaching EVERY MAN in all wisdom; that we may present EVERY MAN, perfect in Christ Jesus." (Colossians 1: 28)
Does Sonny and his Hardshell brethren "warn" and "teach" every man, or just the elect who are already born again? Does he and his brethren do it with the same purpose of the apostle? In order to "present every man perfect in Christ"?
See here for his complete bio.
As I have recently pointed out, one of the questions being debated by today's Hardshells, as a result of the "liberal movement," is - "Will All The Elect Hear The Gospel," one that David Pyles addressed in an Internet writing, and one which I have previously examined. But, Sonny did not let his son "lead the charge" alone against the view of some, that all the elect will hear the gospel, for he has preached his own views over the past few years, trying to "stem the tide" of the "liberal movement." Sonny has preached several sermons on the question, and one of them I will review in this posting.
And here to listen to the sermon.
In this sermon, Sonny begins by talking about how the issue of whether all the elect will hear the gospel first came to his attention, or when he began his "first dealings with it." He says it was through the Internet. He then talks about how he is not into computers (like many his age - 70's, including my dad - SG) and does not use them or "have time for them." He speaks of his children, especially his son David, who are very literate in computers and do spend lots of time on it. He then warns of some preachers that he personally knows who waited till their fifties to get a computer and get on the Internet and that it became an "addiction" for them. Then he says "this old dinosaur is a little afraid of getting involved with something thats got the word web in it. I'm not too eager to walk into a web. And its also referred to as an Internet. The bible warns me about a net thats easily spread for you."
This is typical Sonny Pyles. He can be a bit superstitious. He seems to think that the Internet is a cause of the problems the Hardshells are having. I recall how years ago he said the same thing about the telephone. He felt that too many "troubles" in the church were because brethren were spending too much time on the phone talking about local troubles and thereby creating an environment for them to "spread like wild fire."
Apparently the "liberal movement's" brethren's use of the Internet to communicate is a danger to the hardliners and to neo-Hardshellism. His son uses it, and is sophisticated in its use, so Sonny's warning about "net" is applicable to his own son.
Sonny's "preaching style" is a blend of Peter Ruckman and Adrian Rogers. It was from Peter Ruckman that Sonny got a lot of his views about "King James Onlyism." Sonny is often apologizing for his "deep gruff voice," for he is often "brusque or stern" in his preaching, for the purpose of deflecting criticism of his seeming rudeness and harshness. Sonny is a learned elder, devoting himself to a diligent study of the Bible. He has what some call a "photographic memory." His preaching, as Elder Lasserre Bradley has stated, has done much to encourage more Bible study among the eldership. Sonny has been supported full time for most of his years in the ministry. Most of his support has not come from his home church (Graham, Texas), however, but from his "speaking engagements." When Hardshells want to give examples of their minister's good speaking abilities, Sonny and Lasserre are the two most given. Their audio sermons have been dispersed far and wide by the Hardshells over the past 50 years.
After making his comments about the Internet and use of computers, Sonny then says that brethren began to post on the Internet, mostly privately in e-mails, and he said he would get printed copies of what they wrote. He then began to talk about one particular preacher, whom he would not name (Ernie Fletcher? - SG), who was preaching that all the elect will hear the gospel but then chose to leave the Hardshells. But, apparently, the minister made a statement upon his departure that Sonny felt a need to repeat, "word for word," as he says. He cites the preacher's words as follows: "There are other Primitive Baptists who believe like I do. Their names will be known when the time comes."
Elder Pyles then attacks this as a "conspiracy" among the Hardshells from a group that has a secret "agenda" and "time schedule" and that these men were like Osama ben Ladins.
Then he derides these hidden rebels to Hardshellism by demanding that they come out in the open, quit writing this stuff in private emails, and talking of them in private chat rooms. He then makes an interesting statement. He then says in regard to the sending of private e-mails - "Don't ever send anything to a Hardshell Baptist privately folks (chuckles in the audience). They're not to be trusted." He then says, with chagrin, "They'll turn it over to somebody like me."
First, notice how Sonny is not opposed to calling his brethren "Hardshells." Then he says his Hardshell brethren are "not to be trusted." He can say this and yet affirm that they are the "one true church"!
He then mentions some of the "claims" that these closet gospel regenerationists, gotten from their private e-mails. One of those claims was - "the preaching of extreme time salvation among Primitive Baptists has caused no-hellism." He then simply says forcefully - "False Accusation!" He says - "no-hellism is caused by preachers too afraid to preach on hell."
He then cites one of these e-mails which read - "The preaching of extreme Time Salvation has caused all this decline in the churches, this apathy, and has caused churches to dry rot and die."
He then says:
"My response to this? On one end of the spectrum we have extreme Time Salvation, as they call it, on the other end of the spectrum we have the doctrine of Absolutism, the Absolute Predestination of all things. It has been known that wherever Absolute Predestination has been preached among our people, it has produced dry rot and dearth of the churches."
He then asks - "which produces it?" He argued that the preaching of extreme Time Salvation is not what is the "cause of the dry rot," but the "failure to preach Time Salvation correctly and enough is the problem! People who preach Time Salvation in the right way actually spurs growth"!
To preach "time salvation," period, is the real danger, however. To take all the passages dealing with salvation through faith and repentance, and through the gospel, and make them apply to a merely temporal salvation, is the real danger, and the real cause for "dry rot." To twist such passages and make them conform to Hardshell premises is the real danger. To teach that faith in Christ and repentance of sins are not required for eternal salvation is the real danger. To teach that conversion is unnecessary is the real danger. To teach that "conversion" and coming to evangelical faith is the work of free will is the real danger. To teach that only Hardshells enjoy this "time salvation" is the real danger.
In his conclusion to his sermon he mentions his son David's efforts to work with these closet conspiricists among the Hardshells. He speaks of the many hours on the Internet that David has spent with these brethren in an attempt to pull them back (into "ultraism" and "Hardshellism"), and said that he lamented the fact that David, and perhaps a few others, were having to "bear this burden alone." So he says that he decided that the "old dinosaur" should help his son bear this burden!
He concludes with this:
"Finally, I began to feel very condemned about young men, like my son, and other young men I name, bearing this load alone. About time for the 'old dinosaur' to come out of the corner. Old dinosaur came out of the corner for the first time at Bethel in Nashville about 6 weeks ago, tapes been a going in many directions."
Then he chides these "closet gospel regenerationists" by challenging them to come out in the open now, and quit advocating their views only in private. He asks them "why they won't say it in the pulpit?" He chides them for not coming forth and saying it in the pulpit. I suspect that some of these Hardshells who are seeing their denomination's errors on the new birth, the Great Commission, and whether all the elect will hear the gospel, and other things, are implementing Ernest Reisinger's "Quiet Reformation" plan in a Hardshell package. I agree with Sonny that those who believe that the gospel is a means in quickening sinners should preach it and not be afraid to preach it. Those who are afraid show that they are more interested in the praises of the Hardshell cult than the praises of God. In the early to late 19th century many Hardshells were not afraid to preach that the gospel was a means in the eternal salvation of sinners. But, as Elder John Watson said in his book "The Old Baptist Test," many Hardshells began to call a belief in means "Arminianism" and many therefore became afraid to preach it, afraid to preach the gospel to the lost and to call upon them to be converted. Elder John Clark also spoke of these anti-means Hardshells as calling those who believed in means as "Arminians." Both Watson and Clark denounced this false charge, and did not believe that the means doctrine was "Arminianism." Clark even said that it was the "ultraist" brethren who were the real Arminians.
Sonny is using a common tactic of cults. He appeals to fear when combating those who are coming to see the truth of means, and the error of "time salvation," and the need to call upon the lost to believe in Christ for salvation. He wants to warn them about getting themselves into trouble with the Hardshells. Fear is a leading tactic that Hardshells use to keep uniformity of interpretation and belief among the leaders of the cult. If one wants to keep an "open door" to preach widely among the Hardshell churches, he must needs conform himself to the thinking of cult's leaders and popes. You must not "rock the boat," but should simply preach the traditions of the cult. The Hardshell cult is not very tolerant of certain teachings. How unlike their forefathers! Their forefathers mostly believed in gospel means. There was a time when those Hardshells who rejected means nevertheless did not have any reluctance to fellowship those Hardshells who believed in means. Sonny shows how today's Hardshells think that all those who believe in means are heretics and ought not to be judged as in good order. But, they are not like their fathers in this regard.
"The only response I have received has not been sent to me directly. They don't deal with me directly, remember? The only response I have received, is that they're saying among themselves- 'well, its not what a man preaches, but the way he preaches it."
Sonny then gives his arguments against the view that all the elect will believe in Jesus or hear the gospel.
He says - "teaching that all the elect will hear the gospel creates problems," and "forces" people "to take positions they don't want to take." Truth must be systematic and not contradict, he affirms.
I will address these supposed "problems," or doctrinal consequences, that Sonny thinks are involved in a belief in gospel means. But, let us turn his statement on him by saying - "teaching that all the elect will not hear the gospel creates problems," yea, far greater problems. So, before we look at the "problems" that the means doctrine is supposed to beget, let us look at the "problems" that the anti-means doctrine begets.
The anti-means has the problem of John 6: 37, where Jesus affirms - "All that the Father giveth me shall come to me." "All that the Father gives me" refers to the elect, and no Hardshell will deny this. Thus, Christ says - "all the elect shall come to me." What is meant by "come to me"? From the context it is the same as "believing" in Jesus Christ. It is a coming to Christ with the heart, mind, and understanding. So, the passage says that "all the elect will believe in me." But, it takes the gospel to believe in Jesus, and this is not generally denied by Hardshells. They regularly argue that believing in Jesus is not necessary to be chosen and regenerated. What is meant by "coming to Jesus" is what all the elect will do. It is interesting to note that the word "come" is an action word, that refers to an activity of one who is elect. In other words, all the elect will do something, will all perform some kind of action. What is that action? It is a "coming to" Christ. It is something that people do consciously and willfully.
Before we look further at this "problem," that the anti-means view entails, and before we look at a few more of its "problems," I will give this argument from Sonny in his sermon. Sonny gave this syllogism in order to prove his Hardshell proposition that avers that hearing and believing in Christ by the gospel is a necessary means in regeneration, and or, eternal salvation.
Argument # 1 (Sonny's Syllogism)
1. All the elect will believe the gospel (believe in Jesus)
2. Infants are incapable of believing the gospel.
3. Therefore infants are not of the elect.
After offering this syllogism he warns - "Now you've got to do something." He then asked this question - "What are you going to do?"
Sonny thinks that his syllogism overthrows the means position. But, in this he is false. The conclusion is false because his minor premise is false. But, before demonstrating that fact, let us first talk about the first premise. Sonny does not believe that the first premise is biblical. This premise is the premise that he wants to disprove as being true. Sonny wants to know what the advocate for premise #1 is "going to do" in view of the conclusion. Well, we are not going to do as Sonny and the Hardshells do. We are not going to deny that premise #1 is the teaching of scripture. We are not going to say, as do the Hardshells, that believing in Jesus is not necessary for being one of God's chosen and called.
We have just noticed how John 6: 37 says that all the elect will come to believe in Jesus. How much clearer support for premise #1 can there be?
In premise #2 Sonny presents a premise that he accepts, and one that he thinks no one could possibly disagree with. Infants and idiots are "incapable of believing the gospel," that is, cannot believe in Jesus. But, this is a proposition that is not true and he offered no proof from scripture to prove its verity. In fact, Sonny and the Hardshells cannot accept it, if we are to believe what they say and write about the supposed "regeneration" of John the Baptist, who, while in his mother's womb, was "filled with the Holy Ghost" and "leaped for joy" at hearing and understanding the "good news" announced to Elizabeth by Mary. So, Sonny, in the above syllogism, argues that the infant cannot leap with the joy of faith, cannot believe in Jesus, and yet argue that the infant Baptist did that very thing! Truly, "the legs of the lame are not equal." Not only has Sonny, in other sermons, used the case of John the Baptist to prove infant "regeneration," but he has used the case of David, who was said to "hope upon his mother's breast." Even if we admit that David was an "infant," one still sucking the breast, as the Hardshells affirm, does not this contradict their proposition that says that infants can't believe? If they can "hope" then surely they can "believe." If they can "leap for joy" in hearing the gospel, then surely they can "believe."
So, though premise #2 is assumed to be true by Sonny, and one that is crucial to the validity of his conclusion, he nevertheless does not really believe it either, for he denies its truthfulness in his argumentation regarding the supposed regeneration of David and the Baptist. These examples, ironically, overthrow premise #2, the one that Sonny wants us to accept as true so that can undermine faith in premise #1.
Sonny knows that the means side is not going to deny the truthfulness of the conclusion, even if it can't be unquestionably proven from scripture, and is not going to say that those who die in infancy, and who are incapable of rationally thinking, are lost. He knows that they will accept that all who die in infancy are of the elect and will be saved.
He knows that he can logically "force" the means side into denying premise #1, which is his whole intent, by getting them to affirm the truth of premise #2 and of the conclusion. If one accepts that premise #2 and the conclusion are truthful propositions, he must accept the view that premise #1 is false. It will lead one right into rank Hardshellism, the denial that all the elect will believe in Jesus, will all receive gospel revelation. But, as we have shown, the major premise and the conclusion are valid truth statements, and premise #2 is false.
Sonny's affirmation of premise #2 limits the power of God. But, did not Jesus say - "With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible." (Matt. 19: 26)
Not only do the Hardshells and Sonny have problems with John 6: 37 in their denial that all the elect will come to believe in Jesus, or believe the gospel, they have problems with what Paul said about all the elect being "called by the gospel." Paul wrote:
"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." (II Thess. 2: 13, 14)
How does God "call" the elect to that salvation which he has decreed for them? "He called you by our gospel." For what purpose? The calling is "to salvation," and to "sanctification," and to "belief of the truth," and "to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ." None of this can hardly be made to concern a mere "time salvation." They are as much chosen to a "belief of the truth" as they are to salvation and sanctification. So, let us look at a syllogism of our own.
1. Those dying in infancy are elect
2. All the elect are chosen to a belief of the truth
3. Those dying in infancy are chosen to a belief of the truth
In Sonny's sermon, he next gets off on a tirade about the absurdity of the means position because it supposedly necessitates that one affirm that God has "more than one way of saving people." The anti-means position, he affirms, upholds the premise that says "God has only one way of saving people," a scriptural position, while the means position must deny it to be consistent.
First, for Sonny's reasoning to have any force, he must demonstrate that the means position denies that all the elect are saved the same way. The Calvinists who wrote the London Confession, the fathers historically accepted by the Hardshells, spoke of God's "ordinary" way of saving, calling, or regenerating, his elect, and the extraordinary way. By the "ordinary" way, God regenerated through the outward call of the gospel, but in the case of infants and idiots, those who are "incapable" of being called "outwardly" by the gospel, he called them inwardly. But, though the way of communicating the gospel was different, both cases involved the application of gospel knowledge and faith. Infants experience direct revelation by the personal teaching of Christ before they die in infancy. So, this is but a minor differentiation and therefore it can still be affirmed to have been done the same way.
But, let us turn this argument around on Sonny. Sonny believes that Paul was regenerated on the Damascus road and that his experience there was a "pattern," as Paul said, to all who are regenerated. Sonny would affirm that "all are saved the same way." Thus, all are saved the same way as Paul! When Paul was saved (regenerated) on the Damascus road, he was converted at the same time! He knew who Jesus was and believed on him! He believed gospel truth!
Sonny, in his comments, rejects the "exceptional" argument of the London Confession. He says he is "looking for half a verse that says God has more than one way of" saving or regenerating sinners. But, does he not have such? Does he not deny that all the elect experience regeneration just exactly as the apostle Paul?
Next, Sonny gives another one of his Hardshell syllogisms.
Argument # 2 (Sonny's Syllogism # 2)
1. All the elect will believe the gospel (or in Jesus)
2. Some can't hear (idiots)
3. Therefore, not God's elect.
He then says - "Now my opponents got to go to work." He again ridicules the view that there are exceptional cases and asks with a snort - "Book, chapter and verse please!"
But, does he not admit that Paul's case was exceptional? Does he not admit that John the Baptist's case was also exceptional? Again, premise #2 is false and can be overthrown with the same argumentation regarding the infant, who was supposed to be "incapable" of believing in Jesus. Again, we say to Sonny - "with God this is possible."
Argument # 3 (Sonny's 3rd Syllogism)
1. All the elect will believe the gospel (or in Jesus)
2. Some never heard nor could (died without opportunity to hear)
3. All are lost (non-elect) who have never heard.
He then says - "Some say God preaches the gospel to them" and then he rebuts, saying - "Why didn't you say that to start with?"
Sonny again wants people to reject premise #1. He just cannot accept it that the bible teaches that only believers in Jesus are saved. He cannot find any plain bible verses that affirm that unbelievers in Jesus will be saved, so he must try to find such a proposition in a "deduction" from scripture. But, believers in premise #1 have many express statements of scripture that promise salvation to believers in Jesus only. They don't have to rely on deduction for their acceptance of the truthfulness of the premise. Sonny does not want to tell the world that all those who will be saved (elect) are they who believe in Jesus. What a shame!
What is very interesting is the fact that Sonny does not object to the statement that affirms that "God preaches the gospel to them," but rather affirms the truth of it! Then he does not deny that all the elect will hear the gospel as preached by God! David, Sonny's son, also has said the same thing. Does he not realize that he has taken a gospel means view in saying this? It would seem then that the debate has been narrowed down to how God preaches the gospel to all the elect when he regenerates and converts them.
Consider also how in affirming that all the elect, including idiots and those who die in infancy, will have the gospel preached to them directly by God, Sonny has denied the proposition that says that these characters are "incapable" of being taught in the gospel! "Consistency thou art a jewel." If all the Hardshells would agree with Sonny on this, they would be much closer to the truth of scripture and to the Old Baptist faith than they have been for the last hundred and fifty years.
It should be a simple thing for them to be able to accept that God regenerates through preaching done by his sent preachers. What is the great difference between what God does himself, in preaching the gospel, and what he does through preachers? Can he not speak through evangelists as he did through the prophet Ezekiel in raising the dead?
Next, Sonny brings up an argument from Ezekiel 3: 3,4)
Sonny's Argument # 4
"And he said unto me, Son of man, go, get thee unto the house of Israel, and speak with my words unto them. For thou art not sent to a people of a strange speech and of an hard language, but to the house of Israel; Not to many people of a strange speech and of an hard language, whose words thou canst not understand. Surely, had I sent thee to them, they would have hearkened unto thee. But the house of Israel will not hearken unto thee; for they will not hearken unto me: for all the house of Israel are impudent and hardhearted. Behold, I have made thy face strong against their faces, and thy forehead strong against their foreheads. As an adamant harder than flint have I made thy forehead: fear them not, neither be dismayed at their looks, though they be a rebellious house."
Basically, Elder Pyles argued that both the Israelites and the foreigners mentioned in the passage, were all born again people of God. He argued that since God described these foreigners as people who "would have believed," had a prophet like Ezekiel been sent to them, therefore they are already born again.
It is ironic that he fights, at the outset of his sermon, the notion of no-hellism and universalism and yet he is here promoting it! In Elder Pyles' mind, if a person in a heathen country fits the description of one who would believe IF certain conditions prevailed, then that proves that he is saved! Is that not universal salvation? The text says that God could have sent Ezekiel anywhere, to any foreign country, and they would have heard it. Therefore, by Pyles' logic, all these other countries were saved as much as Israel!
Elder Pyles ought to get a copy of my writings on "Addresses to the Lost" where I given lengthy citations from the Bible and from Dr. Gill that show that the bible and Dr. Gill believed that all the heathen who died without hearing the gospel were lost! Pyles believes they are all, or nearly all, saved and born again!
But, it Pyle's argument is valid, it would not only prove universalism but would also prove that the Sodomites and the inhabitants of Tyre and Sidon, are in heaven!
Sonny's Argument # 5 (Matthew 11: 16-24)
"But whereunto shall I liken this generation? It is like unto children sitting in the markets, and calling unto their fellows, And saying, We have piped unto you, and ye have not danced; we have mourned unto you, and ye have not lamented. For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, He hath a devil. The Son of man came eating and drinking, and they say, Behold a man gluttonous, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners. But wisdom is justified of her children. Then began he to upbraid the cities wherein most of his mighty works were done, because they repented not: Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works, which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment, than for you. And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell: for if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I say unto you, That it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for thee."
"They would have repented" had the miracles been performed. Well, that is enough to make them children of God! Ironically, he cites the verse again that says that these people were "cast down to hell" and yet they are children of God! He says such and yet wants us to believe that he is opposed to no-hellism and universalism! Jude said that these Sodomites were "suffering the vengeance of eternal fire." (Jude 1: 7) The Sodomites are "cast down to hell," and are "suffering eternal vengeful fire," and yet they are saved? Simply because Christ said that they could or would have been saved had they heard the gospel, or have been saved had they seen the miracles of Christ? Is the "day of judgment" not the great judgment at the end of the world?
Argument # 6 (Matthew 23: 37-39)
"O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate. For I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord."
He says that Christ, in Matthew 23, is "speaking to leaders who are to receive woe, woe, woe." He then goes into affirming that the word "kingdom of heaven" means "where heaven rules" and that there are various "aspects" to the term, saying that sometimes it refers to the "kingdom in your heart" or to the "Old Baptists." He says - "If you try to make this kingdom eternal heaven, you are headed for disaster."
Thus, according to Pyles, one can be neither a help nor a hindrance in the salvation of others. But, the scriptures abundantly show that God uses the means of preaching, and preachers of it, to eternally save his elect. This is clear in such passages as Acts 26: 18, where Jesus spoke these words to Paul:
"But rise, and stand upon thy feet: for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee; Delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee, To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me." (Acts 26: 16-18)
It was in view of this mission of salvation that Paul would elsewhere say:
"For so hath the Lord commanded us, saying, I have set thee to be a light of the Gentiles, that thou shouldest be for salvation unto the ends of the earth." (Acts 13: 47)
Paul would be God's means of "opening eyes." Is regeneration not an experience of opening the eyes? How can Hardshells deny that regeneration involves the opening of the eyes, involves revelation? And involves coming to know God? Paul would also be God's means to "turn from darkness to light" those who are turned in their hearts to darkness? How can Hardshells deny that regeneration turns a man from darkness to light? Can a man be regenerated who has no spiritual vision? No light in the soul? Paul would also be God's means to "turn" sinners "from the power of Satan unto God." Obviously his mission is to those who are turned to the power of Satan, to the power of darkness. Why is this taken by Sonny to be a description of regenerated people? That is ludicrous. How does it detract from God's sovereignty and glory in salvation to use preachers of the gospel as instruments in opening eyes and in turning men from Satan and darkness to God and light? Paul would also be God's means of sinners "receiving the forgiveness of sins." How could this be made into a mere temporal salvation? Is the forgiveness of sins not received in regeneration? Who can imagine a "regeneration" that lacks the experience of receiving the forgiveness of sins? Paul would finally be God's instrument for sinners "receiving inheritance among those sanctified by faith." Do sinners not receive inheritance when they are born again?
Paul said that God had ordained that he be for salvation, that is, that he would be God's means and instrument.
Sonny then cites the words of Christ - "Ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men," and argues that these words cannot be taken to teach that men can be a hindrance to the salvation of others. As I said, he rejects not only the idea that men can be a help, or instrument, in salvation, but that they can be a hindrance. In order for him to uphold this false premise, he has to interpret the reference to shutting up the kingdom to be a hindrance of another in a temporal blessing only. Jesus spoke of those who were "entering the kingdom" being hindered in doing so by the leaders of the Jews. This entering the kingdom has no reference to being eternally saved, however, according to Sonny. If it did, Sonny realizes that he would then be wrong in affirming that one can be a hindrance to others in being saved, for Christ says "you shut up the kingdom of heaven against men," and you "do not permit them who are entering to enter."
In reply to all this, however, it must be observed how the verse does not say that the anti-Christ leaders actually succeed in their hindering of others, for Christ speaks of those "who ARE entering," not about those "who want to enter but do not." It merely says that the ungodly leaders were not permitted to enter, and does not say that they were actually prevented the elect from entering.
It is obvious from the context that "entering the kingdom" does not refer to entering the "old Baptist" or Hardshell church. The "kingdom of heaven" does not refer to the Hardshell denomination, and does not refer to a mere "time salvation."
Sonny does not deny that these Christ rejecting Jews, the rulers who were hindering others from entering the kingdom of heaven, the scribes and Pharisess, are lost. How could he? Jesus, after all, refers to them as being a "child of Hell" (vs 15), and calls them "vipers" and "serpents," people who could not "escape the damnation of hell." (vs. 33) But, notice how Christ says that God had sent the gospel and word of God to these same people. "Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes." (vs. 34) But, is not this denied by Hardshells? Do they not deny that the Lord has sent preachers to preach to the non-elect and unregenerate? If Christ is condemning the serpentile Jews for not becoming a Christian and a Hardshell, then how does this fact support Hardshellism? Do Hardshells believe that lost people have a duty to be saved in time and join the Hardshell church? Christ can condemn these unbelieving Jews for not entering the church and enjoying "time salvation" but cannot condemn them for not entering the eternal kingdom and enjoying eternal salvation?
He says - "if your pastor has a way he has something the Lord didn't offer." And, he says - "Here's some people over here and I would have gathered them, but you would not." "It is plain as the nose on your face that human beings hindered the spread of the gospel."
He says that "if anyone believes that the 'gathering' is in an eternal sense, then you are forced with the monstrosity that human beings, down here on earth, can prevent the Lord from gathering his people into the heavenly fold."
The Lord "didn't offer" escape from the "damnation of hell" in his words to the unregenerate Jews? Why then did he condemn them by saying "you neither entered in yourselves"? Does he not condemn them for deciding not to believe in Christ, in not refusing to enter the kingdom of heaven? Truly he does, and this fact uproots the Hardshell teaching that the gospel, and offers of salvation, are not "to" the unregenerate. Christ had sent them prophets and wise men to exhort them to enter the kingdom and condemned them for not doing so.
These serpentine Jews chose not to enter the kingdom and they became obstacles and hindrances to those who were in fact entering it. They stood in the way. They opposed others entering the kingdom. They opposed the work of God. It doesn't say that their opposition succeeded. Where hindrances succeed, it is only because God has willingly allowed them to succeed.
Argument # 6 (Luke 11: 52)
"Woe unto you, lawyers! for ye have taken away the key of knowledge: ye entered not in yourselves, and them that were entering in ye hindered."
Sonny cites this verse and says that no one can legitimately think that Christ is talking about being eternally saved or lost, for such thinking would involve the illogical, the absurdity of affirming that God can be kept from his work of saving sinners, a position that he thinks repugnant, and therefore not taught in scripture. But, before we respond to this, let us notice how Christ condemns the unregenerate Jews for their not entering "yourselves." How can he do this according to Hardshellism? Do they not teach that there is no commission to preach the gospel to those "dead in sins"? For calling upon them to enter the kingdom and to be saved?
"I present this in response to some brethren of late who have said that all the elect will come into the knowledge of Jesus and a knowledge of the truth, before they die."
Sonny thinks that the the proposition that affirms that one can hinder another from being saved is incompatible with the proposition that affirms that all the elect will know and believe Christ and the truth. But, his thinking is wrong, and he gives no proof for his denial of the compatibility of both propositions, and of their truthfulness. Both are true and consistent. All the elect will believe the gospel, though hindered from doing so, while all the non-elect would be successfully hindered from believing. We have already shown where Jesus said that all the elect would come to him, would believe in him, and that the elect are chosen to salvation, a salvation that involves sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth.
"Pronouncing woe upon the lawyers" for "taking away the key of knowledge," he says, cannot be a condemnation of taking away from people the means of eternal salvation, for this, he thinks, would logically force one to affirm that God can be hindered in his work, that it would make God a failure. But, I have already shown how this reasoning is false.
Sonny then says:
"Here are people who WOULD enter in but here you have humans hindering them."
Again, Sonny is listing the logical consequences to the means position, to the position that says that all the elect will believe in Jesus, to the position that affirms that faith in Christ is necessary for being eternally saved. He argues that those who "would enter" are they who wanted to enter but did not in fact enter. But, I have shown how they did enter, though hindered. Jesus said - "them who ARE entering."
Again, all who hear the gospel are hindered by Satan and their carnal depraved nature. But, some are successfully hindered and some overcome the hindering. Is it not the elect that overcome the hindering and who enter the kingdom and are saved?
He says - "you make that kingdom eternal heaven and this entering into the kingdom and your faced with a disaster."
Thus, he gives another logical consequence that he thinks is false and absurd. How is it disastrous for the means position to affirm that people are hindered in coming to Christ?
Sonny then mentions some hermeneutic rules, speaking of cases where a bible student might have a "host of scriptures that teach a thing" but also has "a few scriptures that seem to contradict it." He argues that the greater quantity should weigh out, and that an interpreter is probably not properly interpreting those few verses that "seem" to contradict the bulk of the others. But, there are a large number of verses that promise salvation only to the believer, but none that affirm that some unbelievers will be saved! It seems that Sonny is violating his own rule.
He then relates an incident occurring in his more sarcastic younger days wherein a believer in means and in free choice in salvation sat right in front of him and questioned him about Matthew 23: 37-39. This woman was apparently upset with some of her kinfolk embracing Hardshellism, saying they were all "hooked on Hardshellism." After citing the verses she asked him - "what are you going to do about that verse?" He said - "well, I'll quote it right."
He got sarcastic with her and said - "what do you want to do with it? cut it out with my knife?"
He reminded her that the people addressed in Matthew 23 are "generation of vipers" who could not escape the damnation of hell and then asks her how she can offer them a way or think that Jesus was offering them a way.
He then says - "Jesus never said to them - 'this is the way to escape the damnation of hell, repent..."
He said to this woman - "the only way out of that dilemma, on Matthew 23:37 puts you in, is to acknowledge that there is such a thing as a timely kingdom and a timely entering into that kingdom."
In reply to all which I observe, first, that it is abundantly taught in scripture that Christ often pointed out the way of salvation to those who were clearly lost and unregenerate.
"But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you...If I do not the works of my Father, believe me not. But if I do, though ye believe not me, believe the works: that ye may know, and believe, that the Father is in me, and I in him." (John 10: 26, 37, 38)
These words of Jesus uproot Hardshellism. Jesus is clearly preaching to those who are not his sheep, not his elect, those who are not believers. Let the Hardshell come forward and deny these plain facts. Jesus is addressing a group who he says "are not of my sheep." That much is clear. But, the fact that they are not his sheep, are not believers, does not keep Christ from preaching to them. This in itself shows that Christ was no Hardshell, for Hardshells do not address those who are not Christ's sheep, believing that gospel preaching is only to be addressed to the sheep. Consider also the fact that Christ says to these "goats," these unregenerate souls, "believe the works that you may know and believe." If Christ commands the non-elect to "believe" on him, then is it not their duty to do so? How then can Hardshells deny that it is the duty of all to believe the truth about Christ? How can they deny that all men are responsible to believe in Christ?
It is not only the duty of all to believe "the record that God gave of his Son" (I John 5: 10), but it is also their privilege, for believing assures one of salvation.
"And ye have not his word abiding in you: for whom he hath sent, him ye believe not...And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life...But I know you, that ye have not the love of God in you." (John 5: 38, 40, 42)
Who can doubt that these people, like the ones addressed in John 10 (above), are unregenerate, "dead in tresspasses and sins"? They are identified as unbelievers, as those who have no will to come to Christ, who have no life in them, who have not his word abiding in them, and who have not the love of God in them. Let the Hardshell come forward and deny that these are dead sinners. But, what does Christ say to them? "These things I say, that ye might be saved." (John 5: 34)
Do Hardshells follow Christ's example? Do they admonish the lost to believe in Christ for salvation?
Sonny then puts forth his next argument and apologetic for Hardshell theories.
Sonny's Argument # 7 (II Thessalonians 2: 16)
"Forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they might be saved, to fill up their sins alway: for the wrath is come upon them to the uttermost."
He argued that if "one makes that eternal salvation" then he has a "dilemma." He then says - "I'm going to drive you into gospel regeneration before its over...Be careful. A lot of our brethren haven't seen where this thing is going." He says that the people addressed were "saved" from Judaism, and from error, and from false doctrines, but that it couldn't possibly be eternal salvation. But, it is foolish resistance to the obvious meaning of the apostle to deny that he is talking about eternal salvation, the theme of all his epistles.
Sonny's Argument # 8 (Acts 13: 48)
"As many as were ordained to eternal life believed." Sonny knows that this verse is detrimental to his case, for it clearly says that all the chosen believed the gospel when it was preached unto them.
Sonny argues that since the apostle addressed the audience as "men and brethren" that this identified them as all born again children of God!
He says this shows that the apostle was "not talking about alien sinners."
He then goes to verse 40 but I will cite more of the context.
"Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins: And by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses. Beware therefore, lest that come upon you, which is spoken of in the prophets; Behold, ye despisers, and wonder, and perish: for I work a work in your days, a work which ye shall in no wise believe, though a man declare it unto you."
He keeps harping on how all this is said only to "men and brethren" and that this proves that the whole audience was regenerated! He says that Paul, since he is "urging men and brethren to repent," cannot possibly be talking to dead alien sinners. And, he believes it is unscriptural to call upon lost sinners to "repent and believe the gospel" (Mark 1: 15), yet the scriptures teach that God "has commanded all men everywhere to repent." (Acts 17: 30) Calling the audience "men and brethren" does not mean that all the audience were born again people. That is an absurd interpretation of the words of Peter's address. "Men" refers to non-Jews and "brethren" refers to Jews.
Sonny yells - "He's preaching repentance and the forgiveness of sins to men and brethren." He then asks - "Would these men, full of the Holy Ghost, be bringing dead alien sinners to repent? No, no." And says - "You say they're dead alien sinners. Oh no, they're not! They're men and brethren."
This is the error of Hardshellism. Hardshells do not believe that all men are commanded to repent, and yet this is what is taught in scripture.
He cites the words of the apostle - "You will in no wise believe though a man..." Then he says - "He's urging God's people to repent."
God's born again people are warned about rejecting and "despising" Christ and "perishing"? Sonny said:
"'Beware lest that come upon you which is spoken by the prophets.' Okay, very well, there is then potentiality that this could come upon them or else why would he tell men and brethren to beware of it?"
In these words he admits that this warning was a "potentiality" for the born again. But, he wants to make this perishing, this receiving all the judgments pronounced by the prophets upon unbelievers, to be simply a temporal punishment. He says all this and yet wants to be an opponent of Universalism!
He then refers to this passage in Acts 28: 26-28:
"Saying, Go unto this people, and say, Hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and not perceive: For the heart of this people is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes have they closed; lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them. Be it known therefore unto you, that the salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles, and that they will hear it."
He says that these people with hearts that are waxed gross are born again children of God! He makes these arguments on this point, arguing that the "blindness" is a "judicial blindness" that only comes to the disobedient born again children of God.
He says - "if you persist in your wickedness" you will simply lose some timely blessings; But, you are born again.
He says that the terminology of "waxed gross" must imply that the people are children of God! He says - "the heart of an alien sinner does not wax gross, its that way to start with."
Elder G. E. Griffin was one of the last of the Hardshell debaters and held a debate in 1957 with Guy N. Woods, the famous Campbellite debater. On page 22 Griffin of that published debate, Griffin stated:
"I want you to go with me to the gospel according to St. John 12: 39: Jesus said, "They could not believe because He (God) hath blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts." I know God's children can turn their backs and shut their eyes and harden their hearts, but will you tell me how in the world a person with a stony heart can get it any harder? They'd have to turn it into steel or something. For the dead alien sinner has a stony heart. Ezekiel 36: 26. They couldn't harden a stony heart; it's already hard. The only way you can harden a heart is to have a soft one!"
According to Griffin's "logic" Pharoah was a born again child of God! Did not God "harden" Pharoah's heart? According to the "logic" of Griffin, Pharoah had a soft heart, the kind given in regeneration! Who can believe such a thing? Hardshell hermeneutics! Only "children of God" can have their hearts "hardened"! Pharoah a child of God!
How many times did God "harden" Pharoah's heart? Was it not more than once? But, according to Griffin's "logic," such could not be! Griffin's "logic" says that those with hardened hearts cannot harden their hearts repeatedly!
Thus, the logic of Sonny is like that of Griffin. Sonny wants to make Christ rejecters into born again children of God. Many Hardshells even affirm that one can be an anti-Christ and yet be a born again child of God. Such absurdity!
Sonny then said:
"He says here they're blinded. Their eyes they have shut. Well, alien sinners don't have to shut their eyes to spiritual things, they can't see them to start with. Its folks like us."
This is a standard argument of the Hardshells and a weak and faulty one it is. So, anyone in scripture who is said to have blinded eyes is a child of God? The scriptures do not deny that men have eyes, or mental capacity, but only that such is blinded, that men willfully refuse to see or recognize spiritual truth. The scriptures do not deny that men have hearts when it says that men blind their hearts. It is fascinating to me how Sonny can affirm that men with blinded eyes, deaf ears, and with hardened hearts, such as are "waxed gross," are "born again children of God"!
He says, after writing this rebuttal (to help his son), that he only got one response from the liberal brethren who told him - "Well, we now believe the gospel doesn't always have to be preached by man." He then says in retort - "God's own Son preached it and they didn't hear it." And then he adds - "that dodge isn't going to help us right here."
This is interesting for it shows a contradiction. Earlier Sonny had seemed to endorse the view that all of the elect will have the gospel preached to them by God, but here he denies it, and says that such a view "isn't going to help us right here." It seems to show that Sonny is willing to accept the view, but only says that such a view presents a problem with scripture that shows that the personal direct preaching of Christ was rejected. It should be no difficulty to believe that the preaching of Christ was rejected by unregenerate men. All who heard Christ did not believe what he preached. So, Sonny is probably referring to the fact that some of God's elect and called "didn't hear it." But, he did not prove that the words of Acts 13 referred to God's elect and called. The people are Christ rejecters, and will perish and suffer all the judgments spoken of by the prophets concerning those who reject Christ. Sonny did not prove that any of those who were chosen failed to come to faith in Christ.
I Timothy 2: 6 is a difficult for Sonny, just like John 6: 37 and II Thessalonians 2: 13, 14. Paul says of God - "who will have all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth." Hardshells interpret "all men" to refer only to the elect and the "will" of God refers to his eternal decree of the elect to salvation. Thus they read - "God will (absolutely and without fail) have all the elect to be saved (regenerated) and come to a knowledge of the truth." So, how can he deny that the elect are not only predestined to be saved, but to also come to a knowledge and belief of the gospel truth?
Sonny's Argument #9 (Rich Young Ruler)
"Jesus loved him," argued Sonny, "but he didn't obey the gospel." To Sonny and the Hardshells this proves that you can be a Christ and gospel rejecter and yet be saved in heaven! They affirm that the fact that Christ "loved" the young rich man proves that he was of the elect, for Christ does not "love" the non-elect. But, how can Sonny deny that Christ loved all men? Was he not born under the law with duty to obey the law as any other Jewish man? Does the "second commandment" not say "thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself"? Surely Christ loved the rich young man as much as he loved himself or else he would be a sinner. So, this is no proof at all for the proposition that Christ rejecters will be saved. He can find no positive statements of scripture that says such a thing and so has to try to deduce such a proposition by use of false premises.
Sonny cautions, however, saying - "I'm not trying to encourage disobedience." Yea, right! He may not be doing so intentionally, but his preaching that faith in the one true and living God, and in Christ, is not necessary to be eternally saved, does encourage unbelief and disobedience.
Sonny's Argument #10 (Rev. 5:9)
Sonny gives the typical Hardshell argumentation from this verse by saying that "since the saved are 'out of every kindred and nation and tongue," then the gospel could not have been a means, for the gospel has not been preached to 'every kindred, nation, and tongue.'"
Why cannot the Hardshells just give us plain statements of scripture that promise salvation to any unbeliever? In answer to this argumentation I will call their attention to the argument that they make on Colossians 1: 23 where they affirm that the gospel, in the days of Paul, had been "preached to every creature," and that the Great Commission was therefore fulfilled. If the gospel had been preached to "every creature," then that answers the objection that the saved of every nation did not hear the gospel. Also, Paul wrote in Romans 10 - "their sound went into all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the world." (vs. 18)