Friday, September 14, 2012

F.A. Chick on Conditional Time Salvation

In 1899, Brother J.E. Wilkinson wrote to the editors of the Signs of the Times, and inquired into the matter of ‘time salvation’. He writes:

Now, brother Chick, do you not think there is some misunderstanding about ‘time salvation’? Please give your views upon the following scriptures: Eph. 4:1; Col. 3:1; Rom. 8:13; 12:1; Deut. 4:39-40. Does this pertain to our ‘time salvation’? If so, is it on conditions? I think it is, though I may not understand what ‘time salvation’ is. Please let me hear from you on this subject, when you have time.”

In Volume 67, issue #12, Elder F.A. Chick replied with a lengthy article in answer to the brother’s question. The charges he has against the teaching often appear here on the Old Baptist blog, so I shall refrain from making elaborate comments at this time. Instead, I summarize by simply saying that the objections the elder has are often seen by those who agree that the doctrine is an error:

1) Conditional time salvation denies absolute predestination.
2) Conditional time salvation is Arminianism.
3) Conditional time salvation disconnects time from eternity.

This is demonstrated throughout some of the excerpts from Chick’s article. I highlight those places where this is seen.

Chick wrote:

“The expression ‘time salvation’, to which our brother refers, no doubt sounds differently to some minds from what it does to others. In our view (absolutism – KF) it would involve conclusions which another might not see in it. The doctrine of unlimited predestination does not involve in the minds of those who hold to it, what it is charged with by others (conditionalism - KF). Now we would not think it right to be charged with the conclusions which proponents of the doctrine think would follow from it, and neither would we ascribe to others what they deny holding, although to our mind it seems impossible to believe the one sentiment, without believing another which seems to us to necessarily follow. Opponents of predestination say it involves a denial of the accountability of man. We do not believe this, but do believe in the sinfulness of man, and his accountability. We would resent it, were we charged with denying man’s accountability. Yet to him who opposes the doctrine, it seems that such conclusions must follow. So, it may be, that those brethren who use the term ‘time salvation’, so much, and make such a broad distinction between it, and what they call ‘eternal salvation’, may not hold such conclusions which we draw from the sentiment. Some things which have been said concerning it, have sounded to us like the Arminian idea of conditionalism, and also like claiming the possibility of perfect obedience, or sanctification in the flesh. Yet when those who use this expression deny that they mean, or that they believe any such thing, we have no right to charge this conclusion of ours, upon them, although we may with perfect propriety, charge this conclusion upon what they have said. It should be our business, if we see such a conclusion as this from their sentiment, to strive to show them that they ought to give up the sentiment, since it does indeed involve such conclusions. If we can show them that the doctrine which they advocate is susceptible to such objections, perhaps they will then forsake the sentiment itself, in abhorrence of its proper conclusions.”

Chick wrote:

“We have not felt willing to use the term ‘conditional time salvation’, because it has seemed to us to involve more than the word of God justifies. Conditions, just as far as they go, seem to exclude grace. Still further, it does not seem to us that the Scriptures make such a broad distinction between grace here below, and glory hereafter, as these words seem to imply. One has said, ‘Grace is glory begun, and glory is grace finished. The Lord will give grace and glory.’ It does not seem to us that there is such a broad distinction between salvation here, and hereafter, as this expression ‘conditional time salvation’, implies. Do not the Scriptures speak of our present salvation, as an eternal salvation? Do they not speak of it as salvation begun, but still the same as shall be bestowed, only in more abundant measure, beyond? Do not they speak of eternal life as a thing already given and possessed? See John 6:54; 10:28; 17:3; 1 Tim. 6:12,19; 1 John 5:11,13. Eternal life and eternal salvation then are the heritage of the saint here, and now. In that salvation we find embraced first, the giving of life to the dead in sins, the entrance into communion with God, and fellowship with those who love and serve God; repentance, which Jesus has been exalted as a Prince and Savior to give; faith, which is the present fruit of the Spirit, and hope, and love, and all the graces of the Spirit, with a love of righteousness, and an abhorrence of sin. All this belongs to what the Scriptures call eternal life, or eternal salvation, of which Jesus is declared to be the author. Now in all this, there are no conditions left to the performance of man. All the conditions of this salvation have been performed by the Captain of salvation, our Daysman and Mediator. Believers are saved now in the Lord, with an everlasting salvation. This salvation is all of God, and he is the author of it. Now we should be slow to believe that any Old School Baptist would deny this. If any who bear the name, do deny it, they are not Bible Baptists, and they are not Old School Baptists. We trust that none who have been writing upon this theme, and who use the term ‘conditional time salvation’, mean by it that the new birth which is here in time; the bestowment of eternal life, which is now; the entrance of light and life, and all the spiritual fruits of this life, which are felt from time to time in the heart of the believer, and which exercise him in all godliness and righteous living, are dependent upon conditions of our performance. Yet those things are parts of that salvation which is received in time, and which take hold upon eternity. In this sense, our time salvation is but eternal salvation begun. If there be any conditions connected with the entrance of this salvation here, then it must follow that those conditions affect our destiny to all eternity, and this is Arminianism, or legalism.”

Chick wrote:

“'Conditional time salvation' seems to say, that the wages of God are eternal life, as well as the wages of sin, and to infer that all the blessings which we receive here are, in a sense, earned, or that we at least can say to another, who has not received so much of this life as we think we have, If you have lived as well as we, you would have fared as well. This is not the work of grace; it is not the fruit of eternal life to in any way exalt ourselves over any one. Eternal life says to the soul, and in the soul, All that I have is a mercy from God, bestowed upon a hell-deserving sinner.”

Chick wrote:

Much that has been said concerning ‘conditional time salvation’, has seemed to leave room for men to say, because I have lived right, I shall have a blessing, instead of putting all the blessings to credit of the grace of God.”

Thursday, September 6, 2012

From the "Signs of the Times" Volume 65

In 1897 the Signs of the Times magazine entered its 65th year of publication.  The editors at the time were Benton Jenkins, F.A. Chick, and B.L. Beebe.  Much like the 1820s and 1830s, this was a pivotal period; and one which if studied, will tell much about the controversy over absolutism and the growth of conditionalism.  The following quotes, taken from different issues, express some of the thoughts of the day, both from elders and others who wrote to the editors.  Hopefully, we shall bring forth more citations in the future as we are able to research this and other volumes of the notable periodical.

No. 1:

"Those who believe in conditional time salvation have, I think, invariably held up faith as one of the conditions. Will some one who believes that salvation is hinged upon conditions that rest with the sinner, and that this is one of them, please tell me how one is going to believe what he does not believe?" (Faith, E. Rittenhouse)

No. 7:

"In closing these remarks, we cannot do better than to quote the telling and solemn words of our dear and venerable brother, Elder W.M. Mitchell, in which he refers to this matter of time salvation. He says, “And now before closing this article, we will briefly say, that as there has been a great deal published in two or three of our Old Baptist papers of late, respecting conditional or time salvation, as it is called, we have only time now to say, that apart from that salvation that is in Jesus Christ, there is neither time nor eternal salvation for any child of God, or for any genuine believer in our Lord Jesus. In the gift of Jesus as Savior of sinners, God the Father has given all things that pertain to life and godliness, either for time, or for eternity" (F.A. Chick)

No. 15:

"In all of this trip I heard the truth preached, and I never heard one word in favor of that conditional time salvation, advocated by some in the south and west, neither did I hear anything said against predestination." (W.I. Carnell)

No. 16:

"There is, there can be, but two systems of salvation. One is grace, the other is works; one is unconditional, the other is conditional: one is of the Lord, the other is of man; one depends upon the Holy Spirit; the other ‘depends upon ourselves’. There is no such thing as blending, or mixing these two principles, for they are contrary the one to the other, and where one obtains, the other ceases. One bestows all the blessing received, as God’s free and unsought gift, the other deals them out as a debt paid for the good works done. One leads the seeking soul who desires salvation for every sin to cry, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner,’ the other disposes the sinner to say, ‘God, I thank thee that I am not as other men are’. This radical difference runs throughout these two principles of salvation, and there is no escaping from these opposite effects, for every tree bears fruit after its own kind. Now then, if we apply the principle of unconditional salvation, or salvation by grace, to our everlasting salvation, but apply the principle of conditional salvation, or salvation of works, to our ‘time salvation’, we then have two principles and ways of salvation at war with each other, absolutely irreconcilable and contradictory, and make ourselves more confused than Arminians." (W.M. Mitchell)

No. 17:

"Our greatest objection to what is commonly called ‘conditional time salvation’ is, that it seems to us to say that men do not serve God for naught. It seems to argue that love to God is not to be the moving cause of serving him, but rather the hope of rewards." (F.A. Chick and B.L. Beebe)

Monday, September 3, 2012

Bad Views on Perseverance

Some good lessons were learned by the citations in our previous posting. Elder Burnam’s statements prove that preservation, while certainly true, does not itself convey if there is such a thing as a subjective or human side of the security we have in Christ. The term presents the truth strictly from the divine viewpoint. Yet as the elder demonstrated on trial, what we are saved “thru” in regeneration (Eph. 2:8), we are kept through “unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time (1 Peter 1:5). Perseverance embraces this fact. It was a couple of key statements by Elder Guess, however, which are especially relevant in the current controversy of preservation vs. perseverance. What stands out is that he explicitly denied what others see as the reason why perseverance should be rejected. My guess is that he knows that there are many who have misrepresented the doctrine by claiming that it would suggest that final salvation can be earned. The explicit statements “we get no credit for our perseverance” and “perseverance is not works salvation” are probably specifically addressed to the mind which falsely charges the doctrine as being tantamount to Arminianism, that such is not the case. Just because there is necessary activity seen in the regenerate on his plod towards heaven, this is no cause to label it as a “works” system. Note as well in treating of Peter’s denial of Christ that temporal lapses of obedience are no cause for denying the reality of the saints’ perseverance, something which some of those we shall cite below fail to see. As the elder rightly notes, what we're talking about is their perseverance, not their perfection. Unfortunately, these are the objections which are usually raised against the doctrine, in the effort to prove that preservation is the only admissible term.

Having therefore taken a look at some good views of the perseverance of the saints, it is now time to look at some “not so good”. All emphasis is mine.

“Scripture only uses ‘perseverance’ one time, Ephesians 6:18, and in that passage the word is used as an exhortation to the Ephesians, not in any way teaching a divine decree that causes or ensures the faithful obedience of those whom God has regenerated by grace..” (Joseph R. Holder, Studies in Romans 13:11-14)

It matters not that perseverance only occurs once in the scriptures as there are comparable terms such as “continue” (Col 1:23) and “endure” (Mark 13:13) which teach the doctrine all the same. The decrees of God do ensure the faithful obedience of his people. It is guaranteed by those covenant passages where it is seen as the effect of God’s workings in regeneration (Jer. 32:40, Ez. 36:26-27). And since promised by one who cannot fail, it is certain to be accomplished in those for whom the promise was made.

Nor is classifying a text as exhortative in nature reason to dismiss the certainty that the elect shall obtain that unto which they are exhorted. The means should not be divorced from the end. The certainty of something does not render exhortation unto the same as unnecessary. The land of Canaan was the children of Israel's by promise, but they were still commanded to go up and take it (Deut.1:8). The elect shall positively abide in Christ (1 John 2:27) but are immediately exhorted thereafter to do so (v.28). Eternal life is given unto us but our Savior did not fail in exhorting us to labor for that which shall be given (John 6:27).

 In the same chapter, we read:

“The foundational premise of electing, redeeming, saving grace does not lie in our merit, be it Arminian merit or perseverance merit.”
Here we see the common charge that perseverance is on par with Arminianism. It is a caricature which may be refuted by Elder Guess’s own statement: “We get no credit for our perseverance”. Surely, if merit resulted from perseverance, we would receive credit for its performance.
Nothing done by man unto God can be considered as meritorious, in the strict sense of the term. “No work of man to God can bring Him by its own intrinsic merit, under an obligation to reward. All our works are owed to God; if all were done, we should only ‘have done what was our duty to do’. No right work is done in our own mere strength” (R.L. Dabney, Sanctification and Good Works). It must be understood that in all things we are “unprofitable servants” (Luke 17:10), before and after regeneration.

The same author writes further:
“Apparently after Sarah’s death, Abraham not only married another woman, not in Scripture at all condemned, but, according to the inspired record of Scripture in these two verses, he also embraced the common practice of his day to take concubines in addition to his wife. Abraham didn’t “…hold on his way.”

In response, let us consider this. If we have a verse from the inspired Word of God which explicitly states that the righteous “shall hold on his way” (Job 17:9) and an “example" from scripture where one did not, then one of two things must necessarily follow. Either the Word of God is wrong or our so-called example is no example at all!  If the New Testament includes Abraham as one of the heroes who “died in faith” (Heb. 11:13 w/8), then any microscopic examination of his life to prove otherwise is doomed to failure. The simple mistake Holder makes is feeling that times of disobedience on the part of God’s people is cause to reject the notion that they persevere. Yet the London Confession did not follow such a rule, but openly declared that though the saints can “fall into grievous sins”, they nevertheless persevere to the end! And to this agrees the Fulton Confession itself! More importantly, however, is the testimony of scripture:

“For a just man falleth seven times, and riseth up again…” (Prov. 24:16)

Perseverance is not that the just shall never fall, but that when they do fall they shall stand up!

Next, in a sermon-transcribed pamphlet entitled Predestination & Providence/Perseverance & Preservation, Elder Ronald Lawrence states:

“The last time we read anything about Lot in Genesis, chapter nineteen, he is in an immoral relationship with his two daughters; they are going to bear two sons by him, and he is drunk. Hardly an example of perseverance. He did not perseverance, did he? Obviously not.”

Later he says:

“…Agrippa made this statement. “Almost, Paul, thou persuades me to be a Christian.” Not all children of God are Christians. All true Christians are children of God, but not all God’s children are Christians."

We can reply to the case of Lot just as we did with Abraham. Times of sin in the lives of God's elect do not overthrow perseverance. As pertains to King Agrippa, the author’s conclusion is what happens when there’s a failure in distinguishing between saving and nominal faith. Possessing the latter is seen as evidence of regeneration. King Agrippa is thus treated as a born-again individual, only one who was not “converted” to the gospel. In Hardshell lingo, he didn’t get his time salvation. And then follows the inevitable deduction that men can be saved but not be Christians! Obviously, if this be the case, then perseverance must be wrong, for how can one continue in that to which he was never originally converted? It is this tendency in some of lumping nominal faith with true “saving faith” that has led those of such mind to view all the grounds mentioned in the parable of the seed-sower (Matt. 13:3-8) as representative of regenerate but unconverted children of God, something which Elder Sylvester Hassell saw in his day as a new theory.
Next, in an article entitled Warning to the Backslider: Hebrews 6, we read:
“How does one define perseverance? If perseverance means that every one of the regenerated elect will be a baptized, active, faithful, growing member of the church, the answer would have to be 'no'. Consider the Rich Young Ruler, whom Jesus loved, that walked away from the Lord because he was covetous. Lot, whom Peter calls a righteous man, was a compromiser. He certainly was not persevering in faith while in Sodom and Gomorrah. Lot's sermon lacked credibility to his daughters when he announced that God would judge the cities of the plain. Many are the sons of God for Jesus gave His life a ransom for many, but only a few are on the narrow way of discipleship.” (Bernard Gowens, Warning to the Backslider: Hebrews 6)

The error here lies in narrowing down the definition of perseverance below that which we should. This allows for ease of the teachings dismissal, as all it would take to overthrow the doctrine is to point out a case where a child of God was not baptized or became stagnant in his church growth. Then we have the case mentioned of the rich young ruler and Lot pointed out again as we’ve already seen, neither of which refute the doctrine of perseverance. Of course, the worst thing seen here is claiming that Heb. 6:4-6 is describing regenerated children of God!
Finally, one of the boldest quotes of which I’m acquainted:
Calvinism asserts that all the elect will persevere in faith and holiness. If an individual does not persevere, then he proves by his apostasy that he was merely a professor, not a possessor, of eternal life. Primitive Baptists insist that Divine Preservation, rather than human perseverance, is the Biblical emphasis, preservation being the term employed in Scripture to describe the eternal security of God’s people.” “A child of God may indeed fall from his own steadfastness in the faith, but will not fall from God's covenant favor. The chastisements upon God's children in disobedience are parental and remedial [corrective], not punitive. All of God's people will be preserved for they are "kept by His power", but they are responsible for "keeping the faith", "keeping their hearts with all diligence", and "keeping themselves in the love of God" (that is, behaving in such a way that He will manifest His blessing upon them and that they may adorn rather than reproach the doctrine they believe). Their preservation, not their perseverance, is guaranteed by covenant decree.”(Michael Gowens and Lonnie Mozingo, Jr., Ten Reasons Primitive Baptists Are Not Calvinists)

It is misleading to say that preservation is the aspect of eternal security emphasized by the Bible. Two truths may co-exist in which one may be said to occupy the forefront, but this is no denial that the second is false. The scriptures teach both preservation and perseverance. To deny the latter is the stubborn refusal to admit that the scriptures teach that there is such a thing as human responsibility within the context of eternal salvation. Whether intentional or not I do not know, but an important passage which teaches both viewpoints of our security in Christ is only partially quoted. Most likely a thought derived from 1 Peter 1:5, our authors tell us that we are "kept by His power" without the adjoining expression "through faith" as the text declares. Why the omission? Perhaps it would be destructive of the very thing sought to be erected here, that men may be kept by the power of God without faith. By including "through faith" countenance is given to the very thing denied, that God's elect do in fact persevere in faith unto final salvation (Heb. 10:39). They are kept by the power of God through faith! Moreover, the subjective experience of salvation and its objective fact would be viewed as joined, two things sought to be separated by the time salvation grid.
And the statement that only preservation and not perseverance, is guaranteed by God’s decree is simply false.


Jeremiah 32:40:
“And I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from them, to do them good; but I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me.”
Ezekiel 36:27:
“And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and you shall keep my judgments, and do them.”
Both of these passages speak of our security from the viewpoint of the creature. The fear of God having been placed in the hearts of His people, the result is guaranteed. They shall not depart from Him! The indwelling of the Spirit inevitably causes the soul to walk in God’s statutes.
As our forefathers rightly declared:
"This perseverance of the saints depends not upon their own free will, but upon immutability of the decree of election…”(1689 London Confession of Faith)
May more and more come to see this comforting fact.