Monday, July 23, 2012

Watson on Preaching

Here's a valuable gem from Elder John Watson on preaching the gospel, both its mode and our attitude towards it.

"The very way of grace and mercy is to blend exhortation and admonitions with the commandment.  God is a sovereign, and could have given his commands without them; but as a God of mercy, he commands and then exhorts, he exhorts and then admonishes, he admonishes and then warns.  A stern ruler may give absolute orders without admonition or warning, relying entirely on his authority to command; but the Lord does not thus deal with us; His way is a way of Fatherly love; he commands and then in mercy exhorts and warns.  How great is the grace of exhortation!  Shall the minister suppress this mercy and grace in the pulpit; shall he deny its utterance there?  Now brethren, I have come to the strong point, an undeniable truth, has not God joined the exhortations with the commandments?  And how dare we preach one without the other?  We have become too sensitive, and are not willing to suffer among brethren for the truth's sake.

Some do not object if the believers only be exhorted, but contend it is wrong to exhort the impenitent sinner to repent, or the unbeliever to believe because the doctrine of repentance and faith is that they are both the gifts of God.  Has not the Lord ordained the preaching of His word to that very end? Rom. 10:8,15.

The minister must look by faith beyond the exhortation "repent ye", "believe" and the like, to God who only can give these blessings.  The bow is drawn and arrow shot at a "peradventure".  This kind of preaching with faith in the promises of God, excludes all Arminianism.  They become Arminian only when we disconnect them from the excellency of divine power; or may expect them to take any other effectual way than that of God's purpose and election.  Our ministerial call cannot rise higher than an if or per adventure.  Acts 16:14; 2 Thes. 2:13; 2 Tim. 2:25.  Our not exhorting sinners to repent and believe, is a gross deviation from the gospel rule, and a palpable perversion of the great commission under which we preach.  Let us pursue the revealed method of God, and not the assumed one which we now follow.  If ultraists, in their blindness, call us Arminians, let us bear it for the truth's sake.  We had better suffer ourselves than deviate from our commission.  I know I shall have to dispute every inch of ground here; that many are ready to catch at my words, and dispute all I may write; therefore I appeal to "the law and to the testimony".  How did the first Baptist preach?  "Repent ye, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."  To whom were these words addressed?  To the penitent or impenitent?  To the impenitent of course.  Who gave repentance?  The Lord.  How did Christ?  "Repent ye and believe the gospel."  How did the twelve?  "They went out and preached that men should repent."

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Dillon on Regenerated Idolaters

A belief in conditional time salvation results in consequences, some more severe than others.  What is most regrettable is when the consequences of the extreme form of this doctrine make their way into published periodicals.

In an article entitled Faith, editor Randy Dillon writes of the regenerated child of God (emphasis mine):

"What will they believe?  Will they believe in God, the Creator of the universe, will they believe in Jesus as the Christ, or will they believe in some other God?  The faith that an individual receives in the new birth will cause him to believe in something greater than himselfHe will worship some god, but it may not be the God of the Bible.  Paul taught the men of Athens in Acts 17:23, 'Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you.'  The scriptures clearly teach that the Jews believed in God, the Creator of the Universe, but rejected Jesus as the Christ." (Primitive Advocate, Volume 5, 2002)

This is one of the worst conclusions that can be reached when one has adopted extreme time salvation.  It suggests the change, if it can be called such, which regeneration brings is a conversion to idolatry!!! How dishonoring to Christ, whose purpose is to deliver His people, not just from the penalty (i.e. justification), but the practice of sins (i.e. sanctification).  If it be true, though, that the change experienced by the regenerated sinner is worshipping "some God" then what did he worship beforehand?  Anything?  If he did not worship any God, who then is NOT regenerated, seeing that the worship of some God is practically common to the human race?  If he did worship some God, then there is no real change.  He simply continues as an idolater; only now he is a regenerated one!

How does such a statement make it into one of the leading publications?  If it is an aberrant view, then a serious editorial slip was made somewhere!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Sentimental Minds

During my years spent among the Primitive Baptist denomination I became well acquainted with the mindset of the people.  I was aware of all the rules of interpretation which upheld their distinctive doctrines, and I followed them myself.  If I confronted a salvation passage, time seemed to stop as I gave it my utmost attention.  Without realizing it I would call forth the accepted premises and then apply them to the text.  If I saw action on the part of the sinner or any form of instrumentality involved in the saving that was under consideration, I immediately applied the text to those “already regenerated”, placing it in the time salvation category without hesitation.  It just had to be that way regardless of any difficulties it might create, even violation of the context.  It is sad to say that this is the same guide employed by many of those ingrained in this heresy upon approaching the Word of God.

However, after ten plus years of acquaintance, as well as remembering my own state of mind at the time, I feel there is another significant factor at play which cannot be ignored.  It is my firm conviction that not only is this system upheld by faulty hermeneutics, but by minds which have been made overly sentimental.  There exists among the people a tender regard for the eternal fate of the unevangelized heathen.   Not to be confused with the traditional missionary regard common within Christendom which yearns to see people converted to Christ for salvation (Romans 10:1; 2 Tim 2:10), the concern here is mainly for their final salvation (i.e. going to heaven), regardless of whether they ever come to hear and believe in Christ through the declared gospel.  This conviction plays a major role in upholding the anti-means paradigm, preventing some from accepting the teaching that God ordinarily calls His people to salvation through the gospel (2 Thes. 2:13-14) and that Christian profession is absolutely necessary for salvation (2 John 1:9). 

The mindset of the people has been conditioned over the years to view most of the world as the elect of God.  Unless a plan of salvation was instituted and carried out by God which would land the overwhelming majority of the human race in heaven, then it becomes difficult for them to countenance.  Little to no tolerance is given to the gospel means pattern of salvation at the get-go, as it is thought that this would mean that much more of mankind will suffer eternal damnation than their sentimental minds are willing to allow.  I know this is true from personal experience as I have heard many sermons, read apologetic works, and had several discussions in which I've gleaned what dominates the thought process.  It has been my experience that one of the first responses given upon entertaining the possibility of gospel instrumentality is not an immediate reference to some passage of scripture which pronounces yea or nay on the subject, but speculation about the fate of those who never hear the gospel.  No sooner than it is mentioned that God might…just might…begat us “with the word of truth” (James 1:18) then immediately comes forth the question of the fate of the unevangelized multitudes.  Effectual calling via the Word is denied, not on the basis that the scriptures do not teach it, but on the attractive sentimental notion that a vast host of heathens ignorant of the Christian faith are to be given a place in heaven.   I do not mind admitting that I was once guilty of doing the same thing if I might be of help to others who are guilty of similar such eisegesis.   At one time if approached with the proposition that God calls His people to salvation through the gospel, I would have dismissed it based on my sentimental conviction that 90% of the human race was God’s elect, most of which were unevangelized, and that very few were to be damned.  This would be the only way that God could be declared the victor in the salvation race.

This problem ultimately stems from the Primitive Baptists having lost the balance of truth.  So much emphasis has been placed on the message of salvation by grace without a proper balance of man’s responsibility to His maker.  Such is the case now that an awareness of human responsibility has been all but lost.  The exhortations to repent and believe are seldom if ever heard, at least within the context of eternal salvation.  This is easily explained, as the God of conditional time salvation is one who has imposed no demands upon His creatures to repent, believe, and practice holiness for salvation.  Grace, which actually secures the impartation of these blessings, does not necessarily bring these gifts to the elect child of God, so eternal life may exist apart from them.  This one-sided hyper-calvinistic presentation of God’s sovereignty (e.g. electing, redeeming, regenerating, securing) at the neglect of the human side of salvation (e.g. seeing, hearing, believing, coming, overcoming) has left the people with an incomplete, and thus erroneous, view of the God of Heaven and his ordained salvation.  True faith and repentance are being viewed as “additions” to salvation, instead of that which salvation necessarily involves (John 6:37; Romans 4:16; Acts 5:31; 17:30-31).  Their minds have been made to picture a God who has imposed no responsibility upon mankind for salvation, and commonly see salvation in cases where these evangelical graces are not present.  Whereas the average Christian demands faith in Christ as evidence of another’s prior regeneration, for instance, they are relieved of such.  If the person is an unbeliever, they can always content themselves that they may be one of the many regenerate unbelievers that are part of God’s elect.  If he shows no signs of repentance, he may be one of those who simply didn’t choose by his free will to “save himself” (based on their view of Acts 2:40).  Thus, the idolatrous heathen in some foreign country can just as easily be viewed as a new creature in Christ as the one who is actively following the Savior.

All of this is done in an attempt to get as many people into glory as possible.  Elder Thomas Mann nailed it in 2002 when he stated in his sermon “Re-thinking Conditional Time Salvation” that the doctrine portrays a God whose only real concern is “populating heaven”.

Despite it being an error, this makes the Hardshell doctrine appear very attractive.  It’s very appealing to the carnal mind to say that most everyone in the world is saved.  It sounds good to say that God’s grace is so amazing that it actually overlooks unbelief and ungodliness, and welcomes sinners into heaven despite these shortcomings.   It’s the cause for much joy to feel that there will be a vast multitude of souls in heaven who spent the whole of their lives ignorant of Christ, or were engaged in false religions, but will be made partakers of the eternal inheritance nevertheless.  I recall a funeral in which an elder remarked that he knew he was part of the true church of Christ simply because his doctrine was the only one which would get the unrepentant, unbelieving deceased individual in heaven.

It can be easily seen how one could be lured into such a system as this, as it naturally lends itself to sentimental minds.  To be delivered from it is tougher still, especially when one has been ingrained in this way of thinking for so long.

This is actually what makes my task and others who would like to see them delivered from their erroneous view of salvation so difficult.  It is not only a matter of exegeting the scriptures which will convince them of their error.  In many cases, it is being able to overcome a sentimental mind which will not tolerate the possibility that either all or most of those who have died without true faith in Christ are eternally doomed (John 3:36). 

When dealing with emotions, we realize that we’re dealing with something very delicate.  Nevertheless, we have to remember that the scriptures are the source of authority, and not what agrees with our feelings.  Tough it may be to accept the words of the Psalmist:

Pour out thy wrath upon the heathen that have not known thee, and upon the kingdoms that have not called upon thy name” (Ps.79:6).

Or that of Paul:

"And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ:  Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power" (2 Thes. 1:7-9).

Yet we still submit to it.

It's very important to remember that there are places in the Bible which are very challenging to our sentiments.  Noah and his house alone entered the ark (Gen. 7:1).  Few as well were found righteous in Sodom (Gen. 18; 2 Peter 2:6-7).  Paul relates that there were seven thousand who had not bowed the knee to Baal (Romans 11:4-5).  In comparison to how many who did?  Moses writes to the chosen nation that “The LORD did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people” (Deut. 7:7).  And even Jesus himself declared “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.  Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity” (Matthew 7:21-23).

If based on our emotions we say that God becomes a failure where there is a minority of the elect, then He has failed many times, for the God of the Bible is one who deals with a “remnant according to the election of grace” (Rom. 11:5).

We are reminded of the words of the great Puritan John Owen (emphasis mine):
Assigning to God any thing by him not assumed is a making to ourselves, a deifying of our own imaginations” (The Death of Death in the Death of Christ).
God is not glorified when we welcome as part of the divine family the very ones He has denied. He is not honored when we attempt to broaden the scope of salvation beyond what He himself has set.  In such a case, it becomes our duty to submit to the teachings of the scripture and say along with our Baptist forefathers that God is to be praised in reprobation just as He is in salvation.  To pine for the salvation of those whom God hath expressly condemned is simply a salve to our sentiments.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Brown on LBC I

Jason Brown, Hardshell apologist, recently made some comments about the London Confession of faith and stated that this old confession taught against the Gospel means position.  (see hereThis is an outlandish claim. 

Brown wrote:

"I have stated already to Brother Garrett he should take the Fulton Confession as the standard for Primitive Baptist orthodoxy. Why drag up a couple of aberrant views of some individuals?"

Why take the Fulton Confession?  It clearly upholds Hardshellism.  It clearly is in disagreement with the London Confession on effectual calling and the use of means, as well as on the subject of the divine decrees.  Does Jason think that the Fulton Confession accurately interprets the LBC?  Hardshells are divided over the London Confession.  The honest ones, like Elders S. T. Tolley and R. V. Sarrels, admit that the elders who wrote the footnotes to the Fulton Confession were dishonest in altering the clear meaning of the LBC.  Others attempt to follow in the steps of the Fulton brethren by insisting that the London Confession did not teach the use of means in regeneration.  Is that Jason's position?  It seems to be.  But, before I confront Jason about this, I want him to tell us frankly.  The above words seem to agree with what the Fulton brethren said about the LBC regarding the use of Gospel preaching in accomplishing the new birth. 

Further, the views of Cayce, Sarrels, and Richards are not the "aberrant views of some individuals," but are from highly respected men among the Hardshells, recognized leaders.  Ironically, most Hardshells would consider the views of brother Jason to be "aberrant."  We have consistently asked Jason to provide us with the writings of present day Hardshell elders where they teach contrary to the Hardshell elders we have cited.  He has not yet given us these evidences.

Brown wrote:

"Are a few individuals reflective of the entire denomination in every single belief they may hold? A lot of these views were simply "Cayce see, Cayce do". These particular Primitive Baptists under consideration, i.e. Cayce, and Sarrels, who are the one's particularly to be blamed, took the idea that God is not limited to men to accomplish his will among the heathen, which is perfectly Scriptural to entertain as possible from Ezekiel 3:6, and asserted the heathen idolaters at Mars Hill as certainly born again."

Cayce and Sarrels may not be "reflective of the entire denomination" of Hardshells today, but they certainly speak for at least 95% of them.  Again, Jason needs to cite men who today denounce these views.

It is ironic how Jason can condemn following Cayce and Sarrels and yet uphold their essential heresy!  Cayce affirmed that the Athenians to whom Paul preached were regenerated before they heard the Gospel and while they were pagans!  And, though Jason at the first attacked this view of Cayce, yet here he now endorses it!  How does he know that the pagans were "regenerated"?  Does the text affirm it?  Jason, on one hand, countenances the view of Cayce that polytheists are "born again," and yet says he is to be "blamed" for such a view.  "Consistency thou art a jewel."

Further, if the Athenians were "regenerate" while pagan, then it was when they did not know God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, which Jason admits proves they did not have spiritual life.  (John 17: 3) 

Brown wrote:

"Now, certainly, some of those that believed the gospel in Acts 17:34 could have been born again previous to the gospel message..."

How could their being "born again" be "previous to the gospel message" if Jesus personally preached the Gospel to them in order to birth them and make them believers in him?  Jason, "the legs of the lame are not equal."  If they were "born again" before hearing of Jesus by Paul, then why did they testify that these were "new" and "strange" things that they were hearing? 

Jason is admitting that the Athenians heard the Gospel by the preaching of Paul, and not by the personal preaching of Christ.  But, in this, he is contradicting what he has also affirmed.  He has said that only those who have first personally heard the Gospel from the mouth of Christ receive the Gospel heard from the mouth of Paul.  So, in affirming that some of these Athenian pagans were "regenerated" Jason is affirming that they were already believers in Jesus and the Gospel before they heard Paul preach it! 

Brown wrote:

"One thing that has to be distinguished is that, though the regenerate can fall into sin and be deceived, as Aaron was in crafting the golden calf, they are brought to repentance from such - this is the clear message of Scripture, according to Hebrews 12:5,6. Therefore, for Afton Richards to depict the regenerate as left to a state of unrepentant idolatry is entirely inconsistent with the entire Biblical emphasis of the providential, shepherding care of those that are His."

It is good that Jason does not agree with Richards.  But, I am sure that nearly all Hardshells in Texas today will agree with Richards.  (note:  I met Afton as a young preacher and was a guest in his home) 

Jason cited Eze. 3: 6 (as did Sonny Pyles in the sermon I reviewed - see here) and suggested that the heathen had born again children of God among them.  But, if that is so, how is it that the Lord did NOT send Ezekiel or the Hebrew prophets to them?  By Jason's own reasoning he proves that there were NOT any born again heathen idolaters because they were not delivered from it! 

The Psalmist testified:

"He sheweth his word unto Jacob, his statutes and his judgments unto Israel. He hath not dealt so with any nation: and as for his judgments, they have not known them. Praise ye the Lord."  (Psa. 147: 19-20)

If the Lord chose not to send his word to the heathen, to deliver them from idolatry and belief in false gods, then, by Jason's own reasoning, there were no born again children of God among the heathen.  Either he must admit this or agree with Richards.  As long as he disagrees with Richards, and asserts that all those who are born again will be delivered from belief in false gods, then he must admit that there were no born again people among the heathen.  The Lord did not send Ezekiel!  He did not choose to deliver the heathen from idolatry! 

Brown wrote:

"Another thing Brother Garrett should take care to discern is whether the Primitive Baptists he cites are addressing the question of whether all the elect will hear the gospel as preached by man. The sovereign, effectual call of the Father by His Spirit surely spiritually reveals the person of Christ, so Elder Vernon Johnson's quotation was intended in terms of the gospel as preached by man. He did not assert the ridiculous idea that the speculative concept of unevangelized heathen must entail the very idolatrous works clearly stated by Paul as the evidence of the damnation of the unevangelized (Romans 1:18-32). Also, his second quotation of Potter falls to the same objection, he was likely talking about the propositional gospel, not the direct revelation of the person of Christ. The same with Elder David Pyles..."

The elders cited did not believe that believing in the Gospel was necessary for being saved.  This shows that they did not accept the view of Jason that they all believe the Gospel, though only that which is preached by Christ himself. 

Jason says that "unevangelized heathen" denoted the "damnation" of the heathen.  I don't think that Elder Johnson is affirming that.  It is also not what 98% of today's Hardshells believe and teach.  I again challenge Jason to give us the names of the elders who agree with him and to cite their writings.

Brown wrote:

"The London and Fulton Confessions do not go to either extreme of asserting the certain damnation (something Brother Garrett should heed) or salvation of the heathen. In chapter 10 on "Effectual Calling", sections 3 and 4 stand diametrically opposed to each other. Section 3 is not limited to the context of infants, as it considers by the last independent clause, " also are all elect persons, who are incapable of being outwardly called by the ministry of the word.""

That is a false statement.  The London Confession clearly asserts the certain damnation of the heathen who do not know God and believe in Jesus.  (see here)  So did John Gill.  (see here

"Those incapable of being outwardly called by the ministry of the word" has no reference to heathen, but to infants and idiots.  "Incapable" relates to physical inability.  The heathen are not physically "incapable" of hearing the Gospel as infants and idiots.  Throughout the confession they teach that all the elect will attain to faith and repentance.

Further, Jason is again contradicting himself.  He says, on the one hand, that he does not believe all heathen polytheists are lost, but then, on the other hand, says that all the elect will be delivered from faith in false gods. 

Brown wrote:
"Therefore, the historic position of the Primitive Baptists is the logical one of the LCF itself: that the fate of the heathen rests entirely on God, but that, if there were such persons, they certainly did not exist without the person of Christ as the object of their implanted faith."

More doublespeak and contradiction!  Christ is the object of faith for all who are born again!  But, if this is so, then why argue for the regeneration of those who do not believe in Jesus, and who are heathen idolaters?  If a "heathen" has "faith" in Christ, then why are you arguing for the idea of the heathen being saved without belief in Jesus and the Gospel?

Brown wrote:
"Therefore, Brother Garrett is not in keeping with the LCF or Gill to disallow from Romans 10:14 what is still plainly possible, and universally damn the unevangelized outside of the gospel as preached by man."

Both Gill and the London Confession did not affirm that the salvation of Romans chapter ten was a mere temporal salvation that was unessential for final salvation.  It is deceptive of Jason to suggest that the Old Baptists mentioned believed like the Hardshells relative to Romans 10.