Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Emphasizing the Wrong Thing

Let me state at the outset of this posting how mentally taxing it is to respond to definitions of time salvation which do not address the heart of the matter.  Brother Jason Brown, in his response to my posting on how time salvation de-emphasizes the necessity of the present life, begins his reply by inscribing yet another modest definition of time salvation.  It’s sometimes like beholding a chameleon in trying to pinpoint what they mean when they refer to this heresy.  At one moment, it is the same thing as an optional gospel conversion (which is actually what the heresy was meant to supplant).  At another moment, it has to do with the “blessings that we receive in this life”.  In Brother Jason’s latest, he refers to it as “attaining to higher joys” as a Christian.
The problem with such a definition is that it does not approach the major issues at hand, which has always been one of my criticisms of the teaching.  Christians everywhere speak of how the Lord delivers them in their daily struggles in life, and we all know that we vary from mourning over our sin to rejoicing in the Spirit.  Save it for Jason and the Hardshells of the past 100 years to come along and package up this very basic concept of the Christian experience, and claim it as some special revelation that no other Christian denomination knows about!  If time salvation amounts to nothing more than the idea that Christians can vary in the amount of joy they experience from one day to the next, then by all means, throw down the bars of fellowship and strike hands with all other Christians, for this is nothing more than affirming the fundamental concept that the Christian experience is one of ups and downs.  C.H. Spurgeon suffered from bouts of depression and oft prayed for deliverance from the Lord.  He therefore believed, as do all other Christians, in the reality of temporal deliverances from the Lord.  The error of the Primitive Baptists lies in extending this very basic teaching and using it as a blanket to account for texts in the Bible which teach deliverance via the means of the gospel, as if these too are speaking of a temporal deliverance.  To prove my point, all that needs to be done is to ask one to give an explanation, for instance, of Romans 10, 11:14, or 2 Timothy 2:10.  We shall then see that by time salvation is meant much more than “attaining to higher joys”.
But let us suppose for a moment that we were to argue the point that by time salvation is meant the idea that the elect may go on to higher joys in their Christian experience, and it resulted in the affirmative that such is the case.  What will we have accomplished?  Will we have established the notion that unbelievers are saved, that the gospel has nothing to do with eternal salvation, and that perseverance in holiness is heresy?  Unless a definition of time salvation is given which pivots around the controversy over gospel means, perseverance, and absolutism, then to argue the point is to travel on a road to nowhere, as far as settling the matter which has divided the Primitive Baptists both in the past and at present. There is no incompatibility whatsoever between Calvinistic/Reformed theology and these very modest definitions of time salvation which are always given.  The most staunch Calvinist can believe in gospel regeneration and yet still claim that the Christian receives temporal deliverances and that his present life will be one of degrees (which is nothing more than an affirmation of experimental sanctification).  Moreover, it is most deceitful to tell the rank and file member that time salvation has to do with simply “receiving blessings from the Lord” when what they’re actually made to accept is that they need not believe in Christ and repent of their sins for salvation.  The citation of Gowens I provided, though rank heresy, is to be credited with at least addressing the real matters involved.  Would to God that more and more of the people would be told what is really at stake in the controversy which has divided the Primitive Baptists over the last 150 years than the very basic observation, for instance, that the word saved in scripture doesn’t always refer to eternal salvation. 
In this posting, Brother Jason purports to be emphasizing time salvation.  What he actually does, however, is define and defend experimental sanctification under the name of time salvation.  What he writes of the fluctuating nature of the regenerate life is true enough.  His only issue is confounding time salvation with what should actually be referred to as the timely phase of salvation.  I’m kind of glad that I get to respond to this, as I have noticed in some of their writings how Hardshells are sometimes guilty of talking about the timely phase of salvation as if it is the same thing as time salvation itself.  It isn’t, and let me explain why.  When mention is made of a ‘phase’ the implication is that it is actually PART of the singular whole in which it is contained.  Primitive Baptists (except for those who have been brought to see the error of time salvation), however, do not believe in one salvation in which the timely phase is an actual component.  They believe in “two” salvations.  They believe that the timely phase of eternal salvation (i.e. the post-regeneration experience) is not a phase at all.  Rather, it constitutes a separate salvation which the elect may or may not receive.  It is therefore a contradiction on their part to speak of time salvation in terms of the timely phase, as it implies that it is actually part of a "one" salvation in Christ Jesus.
When I read Brother Jason’s response, I think he feels that some measure of the timely phase of salvation is common to all the elect.  Restricting the issue to regeneration, as he does in a couple of places actually sidesteps the idea, for if time salvation has specific reference to regeneration, then everyone who believes that all the elect will be regenerated must be counted as an adherent!  Perhaps he does this, however, to help his argument that time salvation is a reality, for who denies that the elect will be regenerated in time?

Time salvation concerns the issue of what happens or does not happen after regeneration.  Does the person who is regenerated go on to conversion to Christ or not?  However, if Brother Jason really believes that all the elect will experience some measure of the subjective side of salvation, this is definitely a good starting point.  The only step to be taken then is to affirm that this is wrought through the gospel (Acts 26:16-18; John 17:17-20; Romans 10:17; Eph. 5:26).  Having followed Jason’s responses in his discussion with Brother Stephen I suspect that he will say the subjective reality is obtained via the gospel “for those under the sound of it”, but not for those who aren’t.   Perhaps Brother Jason will enlighten us as to the degree of holiness and faith found in the regenerate heathen?  Is it a "Christian" faith and holiness?  Is it in his mind and heart?
Brother Jason speaks much of degrees in the life of God’s elect, writing, for example:
“Timely salvation does not happen to all the elect to the same degree, manifestly. Do all the elect have all the exact same life experiences? Do they all learn to add Christian virtues in exactly the same manner? Do they all commit the same sins? Do they come to the knowledge of the faith at the exact same time, in equal degrees, and with equal clarity?”
Agreed.  And I’ve never affirmed otherwise.  But are we talking about a "second" salvation, or a timely phase of eternal salvation?  There’s a difference.

The proof of time salvation does not consist in showing that the life of the regenerate is in degrees.  This is a most basic characteristic of the very real doctrine of sanctification.  Again, if time salvation is the idea that the elect have varying degrees of holiness and faith, then tear down the barriers excluding the Calvinists, who affirm the exact same thing!  Brother Jason’s words also suggest that the denial of time salvation would be to conclude that the Christian experience does not vary, but that all are given the same measure of faith and holiness.  Who claims that?
Brother Jason is confounding time salvation with experimental sanctification, or the timely phase of salvation.  One of the fundamental aspects of sanctification is that the Christian life is one of degrees.  “God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith” (Rom. 12:3) and the path of the just “shineth more and more unto the perfect day” (Prov. 4:18).
“There is no other way of growing in the likeness of God but in holiness: thereby alone are we “changed into the same image from glory to glory (2 Cor. 3:18) – that is, one from degree of glorious grace to another, until by one last great change shall issue all grace and holiness in eternal glory."
“While many writers have treated at length on the meaning of the term itself, the manner in which this gift has been provided for the believer, the work of the Spirit in imparting the same, the varying degrees in which it is manifested in this life, yet few indeed have entered into a clear description of what holiness actually is.”
“Though there may be many degrees of holiness, there cannot be more than kind of holiness.”
 “Though our sanctification be complete in all its parts, yet it is not now perfect in its degrees.” (Arthur Pink, The Doctrine of Sanctification)
“Sanctification is a constant, progressive renewing of the whole man, whereby the new creature doth daily more and more die unto sin and live unto God.  Regeneration is the birth, sanctification is the growth of this babe of grace.  In regeneration, the sun of holiness rises; in sanctification it keepeth its course and shineth brighter and brighter unto the perfect day (Prov. 4:18).  The former is a specifical change from nature to grace (Eph. 5:8); the latter is a gradual change from one degree of grace to another (Psa. 84:7), whereby the Christian goeth from strength to strength till he appear before God in Zion.” (George Swinnock, 1660)
“Sanctification, as a principle, which is the new creature, or new man, has all his parts; though these are not grown up to the measure of the fulness of the stature of Christ, as they will do; where there is one grace, there is every grace, though none perfect; there is a comparative perfection in the saints, when compared with what they themselves once were, and others are; and when compared even with other saints, for one saint may have a greater degree of grace and holiness than another.” (John Gill, Of Sanctification, Body of Divinity)
“Justification is an act, sanctification is a process; the one is instantaneous and complete in all, the other is imperfect in its degree in all, unequal in different Christians, and is increased throughout life.” (R.L. Dabney, Sanctification and Good Works, Systematic Theology)
And the answer given as to the difference between justification and sanctification according to the Westminster Larger Catechism:
“Although sanctification be inseparably joined with justification, yet they differ, in that God in justification imputes the righteousness of Christ;in sanctification his Spirit infuses grace, and enables to the exercise thereof; in the former, sin is pardoned; in the other, it is subdued:the one does equally free all believers from the revenging wrath of God, and that perfectly in this life, that they never fall into condemnation; the other is neither equal in all, nor in this life perfect in any, but growing up to perfection.”

The fact that Calvinistic writers speak as well of the Christian life as being in degrees proves that this is not where the hostility between Calvinistic and Hardshell soteriology lies.  The difference lies in the fact that the former teaches that the timely phase of salvation is an actual component of the progressive flow of eternal salvation (Philip. 1:6), wheres the latter says it is something which the elect may possibly obtain, but not definitely.  This answers the question as to which system actually emphasizes the aspect of time.  The former, along with the Bible, teaches that the present life (i.e.sanctification), though not the efficient cause of achieving final salvation, is the means towards that end.  Only those who continue in the faith (Col. 1:23) and endure to the end (Matt. 24:13) shall be saved into heaven.  Time salvation denies this.  It implicitly promotes antinomianism by teaching that failure to repent and believe will usher in only a temporal judgement.   I will admit that Primitive Baptist elders are probably doing their utmost to curb this antinomian cloud by the constant preaching of time salvation.  However, as long as it is taught that personal holiness and faith in Christ do not concern matters pertaining to eternity, this will continue to influence the professing mind that it is okay if the present life is neglected.

 I am pleased with the way Brother Jason concludes his response however.  He writes:

 "Brother Fralick is a 19th century Primitive Baptist!"

 Thanks for the compliment.  And being a 19th century Primitive Baptist, I am actually more in line with my forefathers and am more entitled to the title of "Primitive" Baptist than my contemporaries.

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