Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Good Views on Perseverance

Preservation or perseverance? Which is the correct way to express the security of the Lord’s saints? The only problem that can be found with using preservation is that it does not immediately answer the question as to how they are preserved. It could be that the elect are preserved by God in their state of unbelief or ungodliness! Therefore, unless we convey the point that they are preserved in holiness the position could open the door for antinomianism.

There’s a good story involving D.L. Moody which illustrates how this could happen. A drunkard stopped him once and said, "Don’t you remember me? I’m the man you saved here two years ago." Moody’s reply was most appropriate:

"Well, it must have been me, because the Lord certainly didn’t do it."

Closer home to the Old Baptist circle, Elder E.H. Burnam expressed it correctly in the trial of Mt. Carmel Church(emphasis mine):

“Now the faith of the Old School Baptists or Regular Baptists, as they used to be called and are still called by us, was salvation by grace through faith, and the perseverance of the saints in grace to glory. The perseverance! The word perseverance instead of preservation. A clear distinction must be drawn between the two words. Preservation does not necessarily include faith, but perseverance could not exist without it. None persevere unto eternal life except through a God-given faith.”

It was most pleasant to read the words of Elder Zack Guess on this as well, who states things correctly. He writes (emphasis mine):

“Someone has said that perseverance and preservation are two sides of the same coin. I agree with that statement.

Preservation means that none of the elect will finally be plucked from the hand of God. This is sometimes referred to as the doctrine of ETERNAL SECURITY. It is sometimes defined as ONCE SAVED, ALWAYS SAVED. This is definitely a beautiful and comforting Biblical truth.

Perseverance is the other side of the coin. What I understand this to mean is that the elect will persevere in some degree of faith and holiness. When people hear this they sometimes run backwards, because they think that those who hold to this doctrine are teaching perfectionism. But this is not true. When I say that the elect will continue in some degree of faith and holiness, I am simply saying that their faith will not totally and finally fail. Someone has already given the example of Christ praying for Peter that his faith would not fail. Peter certainly had a grievous lapse of faith, but the Lord interceded for him and his faith was not totally and finally overthrown. In fact the Scripture teaches this in 1 John 5:4, where it is said" For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith."

When I say that the child of God will persevere in some degree of holiness, I simply mean that there is a difference in one who is spiritually alive and one who is spiritually dead. A child of God cannot live permanently in gross sin and be happy in it.

We get no credit for our perseverance. It is the work of God in us.”

Further down in the same article he says:

“Perseverance is not works salvation. It is simply the outworking in our lives of what God has worked in us.”

There is much to be thankful for in these words. Living at a time in which the perseverance of the saints (not eternal security itself) is being denied by many of my former acquaintances, it was good to see a correct balanced view being presented. Guess is correct in saying that preservation and perseverance are two sides to the same coin. They express the objective and subjective side, respectively, of our perpetual union to Christ. And on this the scriptures agree. To illustrate, simply compare John 10:27-29 with Job 17:9.


“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand.” (John 10:27-29)


“The righteous also shall hold on his way, and he that hath clean hands shall be stronger and stronger.” (Job 17:9)

Nor is any credit given to the creature for his perseverance. It is not a “works” system as some have suggested in identifying the doctrine as teaching legalism.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Are Calvinists Pharisees?

While going through my old material from years ago, I came across some of the strawmen arguments commonly used to tear down that system of truth taught by some of the great ministerial giants of the past.

“By not distinguishing, rightly dividing the word of truth, and the blending of Eternal and Timely Salvation, one can be falsely led to believe that Regeneration is only the first "half-step," and the 2nd "half-step" is found within your "Positive Obedient Response to the free offer of the gospel," thereby completing and bringing you unto "final" salvation. This is rank heresy. Saving Faith is exercised as an effect and result of and certainly not the cause of Eternal Salvation. One is solely by the works of the Holy Trinity, and the second, is by the faith-works of the regenerated man. There is really no difference in the Old Law Pharisee and the modern day "grace works" dogmas of Calvinism.” (Elder Hulan Bass, The Banner of Love, August 2001)

The Calvinists are Pharisees

• The “work” of the Calvinist is “believing” the gospel message. We refer to this as “Gospel Regeneration” and it can be found on every religious TV station.
• Predestination includes hearing and believing (doing something) for salvation.
• All of the elect will hear and believe to get eternally saved.
• Enabling grace will then be provided to persevere or stay saved until death. Some refer to this as “Lordship Salvation” meaning that Jesus cannot be your Savior without being your Lord. The one is proof of the other.
• Both the Pharisees and the Calvinists are “absoluters” in that they teach that all things are absolutely predestinated. Ask one to explain Romans 8:28.
• The Pharisees believed in “election” of the Jews. They would all go to Abraham’s Bosom by keeping the law.
• The Calvinist system is: Grace plus Works for Salvation and Grace plus Works to Persevere to the end.

(Elder Conrad Jarrell, Grace vs. Calvinism)

These quotations are full of so many errors and caricatures of Calvinism.

Spurgeon. Whitefield. Owen. The framers of the Confessions.


I’m sure they would object. And so would I.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Two Faiths, or One Faith with Two Stages?

On October 21, 2008, fellow contributor Stephen wrote:
"The Hardshells not only insist on "two kinds of salvation" in the Bible, but also two kinds of faith, two kinds of sanctification, two kinds of births, two kinds of obedience, two kinds of following Christ, two kinds of repentance, two kinds of hearing Christ's words, two kinds of life, two kinds of forgiveness, etc."
These are words with which I heartily agree.  The duplication of Christian virtues is the inevitable result of what happens when one follows a system which attempts to preserve God fulfilling his purpose concerning His elect in time, but will not allow Him to do so through gospel means.  For each evangelical blessing that is to be conveyed to the children of God, a non-evangelical version must be created of which they are said to receive, where the former is left uncertain.  However, if “two faiths” is a caricature view, as Brother Jason Brown has charged in his rebuttal to my last posting, then both Brother Stephen and myself are guilty.  Yet we both spent double-digit years under this doctrine, in which a distinction was often made between seed and evangelical faith. 

If the terminology of “two faiths” is a caricature, it would stand to reason that the charge of "two kinds" of other virtues (listed above) are a caricature as well.  What of "two salvations"?  Is that a caricature? If evangelical faith is an extension of seed faith in regeneration, then is gospel conversion (i.e. time salvation) also an extension of regeneration?  It would seem that way.  For if evangelical faith is not really a separate faith from that received in regeneration, then the "two salvations" which are said to bring seed and evangelical faith, respectively, should be considered a single unit as well. Otherwise we are left with the strange conclusion that time salvation conveys and imparts a blessing which is actually part of the first salvation!  Thus, the verbage of “two salvations” should henceforth be discarded. Starting today, it should be declared that there really are not two salvations taught in scripture.  Rather, there is one salvation taught in the Bible, in which regeneration and the future gospel conversion are the components.  For to call it two salvations would be a caricature!
But let us notice the usage of two faiths in the following citations.
I do believe that all who are regenerated will and do have faith, but deny that the "faith" -- that is, the believing response to God -- is in all cases "cognitive" or "informed" faith -- for cognitive faith necessarily depends on hearing the rational proclamation of the gospel; rather, I do not hesitate to affirm that it is, in all cases, below the level of consciousness -- Lazarus-like, the sinner responds believingly to Christ in response to His Divine fiat in regeneration, being made willing in the day of His power, believing according to the working of His mighty power, and coming to Christ in "vital" relationship (Ps. 110:3; Eph. 2:8; Eph. 1:19; Jno. 6:37, 44). Cognitive faith is indeed present in some, but the gift of faith is present in all of God's children; hence, I concur that no one goes to heaven without faith, but deny that no one goes to heaven without rational knowledge of the truth. A teaching does indeed take place in the new birth, for God teaches the heart directly and immediately to know Him (Jno. 6:65). Cognitive faith, however, must necessarily come after this initial work of grace in the soul, for it depends on the instrumentality of the preached word. Obviously, if such cognitive (or evangelical) faith is necessary to eternal salvation, then every infant who dies in infancy and every individual without average mental capacities would miss salvation.” (Michael Gowens, Temporal Salvation: A Bogus or Biblical Concept?)
Clear reference is here made by the author to faith below the level of consciousness versus cognitive/informed faith.  Let’s do the math: 1+1=2. That’s what the unacquainted reader would conclude.  Unfortunately, the citation does not answer the question as to whether the author really feels that there is in reality only ONE faith, separated in two possible stages.  I think that would all depend on whether he aligns himself to the position which states that the regenerate elect who do get to hear the gospel would receive it or reject it.
Let us take another quote:
“Understanding faith will have a great effect on our relationship with God and our Savior while we yet live in this low ground of sin and sorrow.  Where does faith come from?  Can someone who is not a child of God believe in Jesus Christ?  Who can believe, when can they believe, and why do they believe?  Will all of God’s elect believe in Jesus Christ?  Does faith have the same meaning every time it is used in the scripture?  Are there different kinds of faith?  Could there be different phases of the same faith?” (Randy Dillon, Faith, Primitive Advocate)
Since inquiry is made both to whether there are different kinds of faith or different phases of it, it is not known as to whether the author prefers to use the terminology “two faiths” or one faith composed of the seed and evangelical phase/steps.
And lastly, in the pivotal trial of Mt. Carmel Church, Elder T.S. Dalton was questioned:
"You believe that God given faith is essential to the salvation of God's people, do you not?"
To which he replied:
"I will say this, that there is a belief produced through the preaching of the Gospel and there is a belief of the sacred truth of God; but that belief which is produced through the preaching of the Gospel is not a necessary adjunct in the eternal salvation of the sinner.  But there is a faith that is implanted by the Spirit of God in the soul of every man that will ever enter Heaven, and no man will ever go to Heaven without that Divine eternal faith by the Spirit of God."
If the true position within this system is that there is one faith composed of two stages, and not two faiths, then the fault lies not with me in making a caricature, but the failure of others in not pointing this out.  I repeat what I read and hear.  When they are held in contrast with each other in sermons or quotations such as those given above, it is quite easy to walk away with the impression that there is one "kind" of faith necessary for salvation, and another "kind" which is not.  I think Brother Stephen would join me in saying that we heard it expressed this way for many years.

The main point, though, is that even if I were to go back and rewrite my posting, and change my verbage of "two faiths" to one faith with two aspects, the substance remains the same.  Passages yoking faith with salvation must still be given an interpretation.  So I express it differently.  What is that stage or aspect of the ONE faith which unites us to Christ, as in Gal. 3:26?  Is it:

1) faith below the consciousness through the preaching of Jesus?
2) cognitive faith through the preaching of Jesus?
3) cognitive faith through the preaching of men?

Or some other permutation?  This is not a haphazard handling of a subject, but a legitimate question based on the various aspects of faith as defined by the very inventors of this regeneration-conversion divorcement.
But let us, for the sake of argument, suppose that there is one faith in Christ, consisting of two distinct stages separated by some expanse of time.  The result is that we end up facing that question which often surfaces in theological circles:  Is there any time gap between regeneration and conversion?  I can remember the time when I struggled with this question.  Entertaining this as a possibility was part of the process the Lord brought me through when I left the anti-means position.  As I grew in my understanding of some of the deeper things of soteriology I came to see all the theological problems created when one espouses such a view, not to mention the proof texts in the Bible which destroy it. The scriptures annihilate the idea of a time gap between regeneration and conversion, and thus the position that says that one receives seed faith in regeneration, and then evangelical faith one week, one year, or twenty years later.  It does so by specific proof texts in which evangelical faith as preached by MAN is included as part of the transition in which one goes from death in sins to life in Christ.
"In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory." (Eph. 1:13-14)
The text is clear.  The faith is evangelical.  The verses preceeding are dealing with matters respecting eternal salvation, and are some of the most profound of the Bible.  The sealing of the Holy Spirit speaks of how the regenerate are safe in Christ.  They receive the earnest of the inheritance, not in time salvation, but in regeneration!  I have never encountered one single writer in history who argues otherwise, and I certainly am not wiser than they.
But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness.” (Rom. 6:17-18)

They were the servants of sin (i.e. unregenerate).  The doctrine was presented to them in that condition!  They obeyed the doctrine thus presented!  They were made free from sin! Not in time salvation, but in regeneration! 

It takes a most prejudiced mind to deny that these scriptures teach that the gospel is somehow involved in deliverance from depravity.

It is most interesting as well that Brother Jason commented favorably on a recent posting of mine regarding John Watson.  The stickler is that the Elder mentioned the evangelical faith (the gospel preached by man) of Romans 10 as transitional in going from death to life.

I post it again.

"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."

Lest there should be any doubt that the Elder felt evangelical faith was part of the transition from death to life, he writes as well:

"I would just state here, at once, that I have no idea that sinners, dead in trespasses and sins, will ever believe through the mere preaching of the Gospel, or through the exhortations of the Lord's ministers, any more than that they dry bones would have lived through the prophecying of the prophet, apart from what the Lord did for them.  But that fact does not nullify the commission to preach to them, but on the contrary greatly strengthens it.  The divine assurance that God's word will prosper in the thing whereunto He hath sent it, affords greate encouragement to preach to sinners.  If it be said by the objector that they are deaf and cannot hear it, faith replies God can open their ears; if said they are dead, faith again says God will give them life; and thus faith can meet all the objections which can be urged against preaching to the very chief of sinners, and at the same time exclude that Arminianism which some effect to see in a course of this kind."

Thus we see that evangelical faith is not something far removed from regeneration, but part and parcel to it. To deny this by placing it in the category of "conversion" as defined by those contending for the ordo salutis is no defense at all. Saying that there are people walking about in society who have been regenerated for x number of years and not converted is something entirely different.

Throughout the debate he has had with Brother Stephen, I noticed how Jason relied heavily on the case of Peter cited in Luke 22:32 to prove that such a time gap is warranted.  This is not according to sound hermeneutics.  Case studies should not be used as proof texts.  The exegesis of explicit Bible passages such as Eph. 1:13-14 and Romans 6:17-18 mentioned above should be where one grounds his doctrine, with case studies being interpreted in their light.  If we follow that rule, we will see that when one is regenerated, he is converted.

Right then and there.

For a more specific treatment of this soteriological "system of twos", I refer the reader to Brother Stephen's article:

Thursday, August 2, 2012

What is the "Second" Faith?

It was always my understanding when I embraced conditional time salvation that there were two kinds of faith.  There was what we call seed faith, sometimes referred to as embryonic, subconscious, or vital faith.  And then there was what we call evangelical faith.  The first one came in regeneration and was necessary for eternal salvation.  This was the kind of faith under consideration when addressing those biblical passages which joined faith with salvation, but could not possibly be squeezed into the time salvation framework.  The second one was wrought through the gospel, and deemed not necessary for eternal salvation based on established anti-means premises.  The “regenerate” child of God who just happens to hear the gospel, conditionalism saying there is no guarantee that he shall, would now believe evangelically what he had already “believed” subconsciously.

Describing the two faiths of Hardshellism this way, though, actually must be questioned.  I think some have seen how this idea of subconscious faith presents the problem of hollow-log regeneration.  They have correctly concluded that SOMETHING certainly happens when a sinner is regenerated.  Yet in order to avoid the hated alternative of evangelical faith, a compromise position is held which contends for a cognitive yet non-evangelical faith, in which the regenerated sinner does in fact know and believe Christ, but not through gospel instrumentality.  In this scenario, God may be said to simply zap the person to be illuminated. Even this, however, may not be the most accurate way to describe it, as some say that this too may be looked at as evangelical faith, with the point made that it is Jesus himself directly preaching the gospel to the sinner in regeneration.

This is a middle ground position between extreme Hardshellism, which calls for a complete separation of the objective fact of salvation from its subjective experience, and the means pattern of salvation taught in Calvinism.  It allows for its proponents to avoid hollow-log regeneration, yet at the same time contend that all the regenerate shall be converted, with the understanding that such conversion transpires by the direct preaching and/or revelation of Christ to the individual.
I hope to write more on this idea of ALL the elect being ”non-evangelically converted” in the future, yet for now let me just look exclusively at this view of their being two kinds of faith.  With the idea of some that there is a cognitive yet non-evangelical faith given in regeneration common to the elect, the traditional teaching that there are “two kinds” of faith is in need of clarifying.  Should seed faith give place to this cognitive non-evangelical kind as faith number two?  Or should two faiths be discarded altogether, under the argument that evangelical faith is not different from seed faith, but simply an extension of it?  Regardless of the answer, here are the possibilities and a short description of the kinds of faith that now lay on the table.  Within this system it may be said that the regenerated sinner has:
1) Subconscious faith:  This is the most extreme position, yet remains true to the premise (a faulty one) of conditional time salvation which calls for a complete separation of the objective fact of salvation from it subjective experience.  Under this idea, the "regenerated" sinner does not know or believe in Christ on a conscious level.
2) Cognitive non-evangelical/Christ-evangelical faith:  This is a moderate position, doubtless held by those who see the error of the extreme view above.  It maintains that the "regenerated" sinner does consciously know and believe in Christ.  This he receives by direct revelation, or what might be described as Christ himself preaching the gospel to the sinner.
One of these two possibilities is given in order to avoid the position that the average Christian reader sees when he reads the Bible:
Evangelical cognitive faith.  People come to know and believe in Christ by exposure to the gospel.
The average reader may be puzzled by what we have written, being not aware of the hewing and hacking which this system does to the Bible.  Perhaps, therefore, it will be best to look at an example from scripture which demonstrates the possibilities which now exist when “faith” passages are interpreted in the light of this heresy.
Galatian 3:26 reads:
For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.”
Here the Apostle Paul plainly yokes the subject of faith with that of salvation.  With the multiple kinds of faith available, as invented by time salvation though, one of two things could be maintained.  It could be argued that men become children of God by having subconscious faith, being thus read as:
“For ye are all the children of God by faith below consciousness (i.e. seed) in Christ Jesus.”
Or, it could by claimed that men are children of God by having cognitive yet non-evangelical faith, being read as:
For ye are all the children of God by cognitive non-evangelical faith in Christ Jesus.”

Unless it was argued that Christ himself preaches the gospel to the sinner in regeneration, at which point it would be understood as:

For ye are all the children of God by cognitive evangelical faith, in which Jesus is the preacher.”
This wiggle room exists because of the latitude which comes with espousing the time salvation system, wherein its buzzwords have been given multiple definitions.  In order to be upheld, the heresy has no choice but to say there’s two kinds of this, and two kinds of that.  Nor should this example from scripture be thought of as an isolated occurrence.  In every single text in the Bible where faith is connected to eternal salvation, this room for interpretation is rendered available.  The advocate of time salvation has at his disposal two interpretations to which he may align himself, either one granting an escape from that position which says that saving faith comes through the gospel. Where things really get confusing, though, is when “faith” passages are mentioned in connection with other doctrines, such as justification and condemnation.  These too have been given multiple definitions!!  How many available interpretations are there then? This we hope to look at in our next posting.
So, in summary then, I have to ask.  According to conditional time salvation, what constitutes the second kind of faith, apart from evangelical faith?

Is it subconscious faith, or cognitive non-evangelical faith?  Despite their being lack of agreement on the answer, there is definite concurrence against what is rightly understood by most of Christendom, both Calvinists and Arminians alike: faith in Christ comes by exposure to the gospel. 

But that's all that really matters to be considered "in good standings".