Sunday, October 7, 2012


The recent posting by Elder Fralick made me think of all the divisiveness that was prevalent among the "Primitive Baptists" during the years that I was an elder with them.  In fact, their entire history is one of division.  They are the epitome of what it means to be  a schismatic.  Easton's Bible dictionary says:

"From a Greek word signifying (1) a choice, (2) the opinion chosen, and (3) the sect holding the opinion. In the Acts of the Apostles (5:17; 15:5; 24:5, 14; 26:5) it denotes a sect, without reference to its character. Elsewhere, however, in the New Testament it has a different meaning attached to it. Paul ranks “heresies” with crimes and seditions (Gal. 5:20). This word also denotes divisions or schisms in the church (1 Cor. 11:19). In Titus 3:10 a “heretical person” is one who follows his own self-willed “questions,” and who is to be avoided. Heresies thus came to signify self-chosen doctrines not emanating from God (2 Pet. 2:1)."  (see here)

Heretics, schismatics, are also known as sectarians

1.  of or pertaining to sectaries or sects.
2.  narrowly confined or devoted to a particular sect.
3.  narrowly confined or limited in interest, purpose, scope, etc.  (see here)

The "Primitive Baptist Church" manifests a party spirit, a characteristic of a cult.  Their history is one in which factions have multiplied, each declaring the other in disorder by their "declarations of non-fellowship."  It reminds one of the apostolic warning - "But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another."  (Gal. 5: 15) 

I have thought about how I could never again be a part of such a sect.  If I chose to preach with sermon notes, I would be crucified.  If I supported Bible classes and ministerial education, I would be cast off.  If I supported musical instruments in the church, I would be viewed as a reprobate.  If I did not spend half my time talking about how I could not preach, about how unworthy I was, I would be rejected.  If I called upon sinners to repent and believe the Gospel in order to be saved, I would be esteemed the worst of heretics.  If I said anything that was not already established as "the" accepted dogma of the sect, I would be "called on the carpet." 

Hardshells, according to their own statistics, exclude more than they receive as members.  They are even fond of the adjective "strict" when applied to them.  There is very little mercy, compassion, and tolerance among them.  Again, anyone familiar with their history knows this to be true.

What is ironic about all this is the fact that they think they are the one and only "kingdom of God" on earth and that all other Christian churches are of "antichrist."  They will not cooperate with other Christians but spend all their time denouncing all others and extolling themselves.  For my own self, I am glad to be free from this cult and work and pray for others to be delivered from them.

"Ephraim is joined to idols: let him alone."  (Hosea 4: 17)


Jeremy Sarber said...

First of all, I agree with the overall message of your post. Christianity is divisive on its own. We don't need to make matters worse by doing things--big or small--contrary to the spirit of peace.

I know I've been on the losing end of the hardshells' sword a few times. As I've often said, I may be too "progressive" for some, but not nearly as progressive as they think I am. Regardless, I've made a few unjustifiable enemies along the way.

However, I didn't gain those enemies by attacking anyone. I made them by simply professing what I believe is right.

My approach to anyone who disagrees (or attacks me) is to keep my own sword in its sheath. I let those who bite and devour consume themselves as I try to stay clear of it.

At the same time, doesn't a blog almost entirely devoted to criticizing a particular group like the Primitive Baptists undermine the message of this post to some degree?

Stephen Garrett said...

Dear Brother Barber:

Thanks for your comment. I agree with what you have written.

I don't think what we are doing here on this blog can be characterized as being heretical and schismatic. We are battling those who are schismatic. We decry the kind of divisiveness that is characteristic of the "Primitive Baptist" church. We believe the Hardshells have become a cult and we are an anti cult ministry.



Ryan Poe said...

Bro. Garrett,

I think you go too far, par usual. Yes, some Primitive Baptists are strict Landmarkers. Yes, some divide at the drop of a hat. Yes, some make sport out of doctrinal disputes and infighting. But there are many who aren't and don't, including Bro. Sarber.

Broadly labeling PBs as heretical members of a cult is extremely schismatic and offensive. For someone so concerned with PBs biting and devouring each other, you seem to enjoy regularly sinking your teeth into the group as a whole. Something to think about.

Obviously, PBs – and Baptists as a whole – have struggled with divisions. This pains me. But the issue is a complex one, and Baptists don't have the theological framework that Protestants and Roman Catholics do. That, I think, is the main problem, and is why I'm writing a series about how Christians should approach division on my blog,

Sadly, no one is perfect yet. And until the great Prince of Peace returns, charity is the name of the game.

Stephen Garrett said...

Dear Ryan:

I am sorry you feel the way you do. However, you agree with me regarding "some" PB's.

As I said, however, if one studies the history of the PBs, then he will surely agree with what I have said.

The experiences that I have personally had with the PBs also verifies the schismatic nature of the denomination. Brother Fralick also has firsthand experience of their schismatic nature.

I write to warn others of the dangers of the Hardshell cult. It is not surprising to me that members of the cult would attack me personally and my motives.

It is out of charity that I write against the Hardshells. I want to keep Christians from being destroyed by association with the Hardshell cult.

You ought to prove the non-schismatic nature of the PB denomination rather than simply making unfounded assertions and ad hominem attacks.



Ryan Poe said...

Bro. Garrett,

I've studied PB history, and you're right: There have been splits. Of course there have been splits. What denomination hasn't had splits?

The more important question is, what were the splits about? I think it's to the denomination's credit that most of the petty splits have been reversed or are being reversed by cooler heads. This is the point I was making with my "unfounded assertions" – what you may call "the experiences I've had personally." It's not fair to the denomination to paint with a broad brush, as you tend to do.

But the bigger splits prove that PBs have made principled, historic stands for scriptural truths. Look at the 1689 London Confession of Faith. At the Blackrock Address. At the Fulton Confession.

It's easy to say the PBs who made these stands should have shown more charity, shouldn't have split, etc. But it takes two sides to have a disagreement, and apparently the sides couldn't be reconciled. In such cases, a split is necessary, and not only necessary, but commanded by scriptures (Rom. 16:17, Titus 3:10).

If I offended you with my comments, I apologize. I didn't mean to offend, but to make you reconsider your ad hominem attacks on PBs. The words "cult" and "heretic" are emotionally charged, offensive words that are hardly conductive to a reasoned discussion on important theological disagreements.

I know you and Bro. Fralick have personal grievances against PBs, and I'm also sorry for that. People can do horrible things when they're not walking according to the Spirit. But the PBs I know are generally good Christian people who are doing their best to serve God according to the scriptures. Perhaps a little more respect is warranted, and I hope you'll consider that in your future critiques.

Stephen Garrett said...

Dear Ryan:

I gave examples where PB's are intolerant. Musical instruments, bible classes, preaching with notes, etc. Suppose I preach premillenialism? Would that produce division or not? If I give invitations to sinners to believe and be saved, would that cause division or not? If I preach that Satan fell from heaven, would that cause division or not? If I teach that one must persevere in faith in Christ to be finally saved, would that produce division or not? If I use a different translation other than the KJV, would that produce division or not?

The Black Rock Address declared non-fellowship for those who hold revival and protracted meetings, and who believed in ministerial education and Sunday Schools. That showed their schismatic nature.



Ryan Poe said...

Bro. Garrett,

Every church is different, of course. Church strife depends on a number of factors, including how you and and the rest of a church approach issues. Also, I think ministers who are teaching from God's word have a greater responsibility to hold to the truth.

But I'm sure you could find churches among the PBs that wouldn't split over the issues you mentioned. Really, it's a very eclectic group, and is becoming even more so.

As for the Black Rock Address, the problem wasn't just with Sunday schools or seminaries or revival meetings. It was about whether the church should be a place of family worship, about following the sola scriptura pattern of ministerial education, and about how scaring people into heaven is wrong.

These are still principles that PBs generally believe, and I'm glad this is the case. In the historical context, I think these were important stands on truth, not division for division's sake, as you imply.

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