Saturday, May 25, 2013

A Proposal

My high school English teacher used to teach that it was not considered good literary practice to make reference to self. My guess was that she felt that writers were to remain as objective as possible, which isn’t easily done when one puts himself into the picture. And so from that day forward we were forbidden to use the pronoun ‘I’ in anything we wrote. A good while later, though, she read an article to us wherein the author was criticizing this understood rule in the literary world. He argued that by forbidding writers to make reference to self they were being robbed of the single greatest source of information they have available to them. It made a lot of sense to me at the time, for using ‘I’ was the best way that I, as a young teenager, could express a thought or an opinion.

What the accepted rule on this is today I do not know. If it is considered best to refrain from mentioning self when writing, I shall promptly ignore it. Having contributed on this blog for quite some now, and having thought about its potential benefits, the time has come for me to write specifically on my own experiences in the Primitive Baptist church. Motivated by others who have likewise been ostracized when they came to see the truth on important bible doctrines, I use this as an opportunity to present my own spiritual journey. In this series of postings which I propose to do I shall not only speak of doctrinal matters, but also some of the things that I noticed as a young member and minister within the church. As I consider this, I can’t help but be reminded of the first time I read Brother Stephen’s own chapter on this topic. My experience was so similar that I felt I could complete his sentences most of the time.

My desire in contributing to this site has never been about grinding an ax. I’ve wanted to say this for an awful long time. It’s probably the common lot of those engaged in apologetic ministries that they are charged with having some personal vendetta, so I guess I should expect this. That being said, I understand perfectly well that there will always be some measure of animosity between myself and those whom I left. We all struggle with our carnality, so I would be lying if I said that I didn’t have any emotional scars from how I and my family were treated. When I look within though, and see the hope that I have in Christ, I am able to lay aside any ill will. If I could have my wish, it would be for the Primitive Baptist churches to flourish everywhere. My reputation among the people matters very little. I am more than willing to be considered an afterthought as long as they will simply come to see their error and repent. Many of them are hoping and praying for growth, yet fail to recognize that their own doctrinal position is working against them, and is largely responsible for the demise and, saddest of all, closing of church doors.

So expect some postings from me in the near future in which I share my experience in the Primitive Baptist Church, including observations, lessons learned, and especially what I saw in scripture. I am not sure of the direction I shall take. I shall simply go where I’m led.

Stay tuned.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Hardshell Pelagianism VI

Chapter 143

Thus far in this series of chapters I have shown how Hardshells have imbibed the Pelagian idea that biblical commands imply ability to obey the commands.  I have shown that such an idea has led many of them to affirm that Gospel commands are limited to those who are already spiritually alive or regenerated.  I have shown how they have not spoken as a unified voice on this issue however.  Elder Hassell affirmed that the command to "repent" and to "seek" God, so as to "find him," as Paul preached in Acts chapter seventeen to the Athenian pagans, was to "all men," just as the text affirms.  Very few Hardshells today would agree with Hassell, however, because they believe the Pelagian idea that a Gospel command implies ability to obey.  Most Hardshells limit Gospel commands to those already regenerated because, as Elder Beebe asserted, such commands imply ability.  In those chapters under the series "Addresses to the Lost," it was clearly shown that Gospel commands are directed towards all men.  I have shown how many Hardshells, especially since the start of the twentieth century, have been in error on the nature of man's inability, believing that man's inability is not strictly moral, but physical, affirming that man could not obey the Lord even if the will was directed to do so; And, it is this error that has led many of them to believe that regeneration gives a physical ability and involves a change in the substance or essence of the soul. 

John Gill wrote:

"It is raised a spiritual body: not as to substance, but as to its quality; it will not be changed into a spirit; our Lord's risen body, to which ours will be conformed, was not a spirit, but, as before, consisted of flesh and bones: but the body will then be subject to the spirit and soul of man; it will be employed in spiritual service, for which it will be abundantly fitted and assisted by the Spirit of God; and it will be delighted with spiritual objects; it will be like the angels, those excellent spirits; it will live as spirits do, without natural helps and means, as meat, drink, clothes, sleep, and, as they, will never die..."  (Commentary upon I Corinthians chapter 15)

This citation is important because Elder Sarrels argued that the soul undergoes a physical change in substance in the same manner in which the body will undergo a physical change in the resurrection.  But, here, Gill denies that a physical change in substance occurs to the body in the resurrection.

Gill also wrote:

"and afterwards that which is spiritual; yea, even Christ's animal, or natural body, was before his spiritual one; his body taken from the virgin, and formed in her womb, and in which he lived here on earth, was an animal body, as before observed; and upon his resurrection, it commenced a spiritual one; being the same in substance as the former, only different in qualities; and just so it is, and will be, with the bodies of the saints'; which is the apostle's design and view, in observing this order; the natural body is first, and then the spiritual; it is first a natural body, as generated and nourished, as weak and dying, and it is afterwards a spiritual one, when raised from the dead."  (Ibid)

Again, just as Gill believed about the change that occurs to the soul in regeneration, so he also believes about the change to the body in the resurrection.  Neither the soul nor the body undergoes any change in substance.  Thus, the argument of Sarrels that there is a change in the substance of soul and body is not reflective of what the Old Baptists taught on the subject. 

Gill also wrote:

"This image also lies in the freedom of the will, and the power of it. As God is a free agent, so is man; and as the freedom of the divine will does not lie in an indifference and indetermination to good and evil, but is only to that which is good; so was the will of man in his state of integrity: as likewise the will of the good angels and glorified saints. And man had a power to obey the will of God, and do his commands; and as he had not only a positive law given him to abstain from the forbidden fruit, as a trial of his obedience; so he had the moral law written on his heart, as the rule of his obedience, and had power and ability to keep it; for as it was required of him to love the Lord his God with all his heart, and soul, and strength; so he could, if he would, have performed the same; and such strength and ability were due unto him, from the laws of creation; for if God required of him obedience to his holy law, it was but fit and right that he should give him a conformity of nature and will to it, and power to obey it; though, he was not obliged to give him grace and strength to persevere, nor to render him impeccable and immutable; wherefore, leaving him to the mutability of his will, he sinned, and fell from his former estate, which on that account is called "vanity" (Ps. 39:5)."  (A BODY OF DOCTRINAL DIVINITY Book 3—Chapter 3 OF THE CREATION OF MAN, 4b2c)

This is important because Sarrels and other Hardshells have erroneously argued that God's making man a "natural" person made him incapable to doing what is "spiritual."  Yet, as has been previously shown, the law of God is "spiritual" (Rom. 7: 14) and therefore obedience to it would be spiritual.  It seems that the view of Sarrels and other Hardshells who teach that man has no natural ability to do spiritual acts, either now or originally, are teaching that God commands men to do what they have never had the ability to do, the very proposition that some of them find repugnant.

In an 1842 Circular Letter of the South Carolina Primitive Baptist Association (see here), the writers addressed these issues and wrote the following.

"WHAT ARE WE TO UNDERSTAND by being born again?"

"It surely cannot mean, a mere external reformation from gross immortality; nor a change from one system of religion to another; nor even from heathen idolatry to the Christian faith; nor in submission to the ordinance of Baptism; nor yet in firm persuasion that we are the children of God; zealously doing the work of our heavenly Father. The memorable instance of Simon Magus and Saul of Tarsus illustrates these remarks; the former believed historically, but the latter by the power of the word and spirit of God, working on the dark powers of the soul and diffusing life divine. Then the expression born again, and all other [parallel] phrases found in the word of God, are too strong and distinct to admit of any consistent meaning, less than a radical change in the disposition of the soul."

The word "mere" is important to notice in the above words.  It shows that the first Hardshells were not denying that being "born again" involved "eternal reformation from gross immorality," or of being converted to the Christian faith, but simply affirmed that being "born again" included more than this.  Yet, it is to be remembered how today's Hardshells exclude conversion from what it means to be "born again."  These first Hardshells however included conversion.  They did not believe that Simon Magus was truly born again nor that Paul was born again prior to his conversion experience on the Damascus road.  In fact, these first Hardshells affirmed that Paul's being "born again" included his being made a believer in Jesus.  They aslso affirmed that being "born again" was by "the word and spirit of God," just as the old London Confession affirmed but which is denied by today's Hardshells.  They also affirm that the new birth was "a radical change in the disposition," not in the substance, "of the soul." 

The circular continues:

"We say a change or renewal in the disposition of the soul, because no new facilities are imparted to man in the new birth, none were lost by the fall and none are given in regeneration; the carnal mind or disposition of sinful man is enmity against God, and in the new birth a spiritual mind or disposition is given to man under the power and influence of the spirit of God, in which the powers and faculties of the soul receive a new and spiritual direction; the moral image of God was defaced in man by his apostasy. This image is restored in the new birth, by the word and spirit of God."

Clearly these first Hardshells denied that the substance of the soul was changed in the new birth, affirming that "no new faculties are imparted to man in the new birth," affirming that "none were lost by the fall and none are given in regeneration."  This is contrary to the Hardshells cited in previous chapters, such as Elder Sarrels.  Sarrels denied that the new birth was simply a giving of a new and spiritual direction to the soul.  Also, again, these first Hardshells affirmed that the new birth was "by the word and spirit of God." 

The circular continues:

"This change or renewal is radical. It reaches to the thoughts and dispositions; the aims and ends of the new born soul are to glorify God, in the gift of his grace and spirit. All this is effected by the same mighty power and energy of God, which first gave life and form to man; and which alone can rectify and restore that part of man, which was lost and disordered. Hence those who were the children of wrath, have now become the children of God by the blood of the covenant, and adopted heirs of Christ into the grace of life, and are said to be born again, or translated from darkness to light, and from the power of sin and Satan into the kingdom of Christ."

Again, the authors of the circular deny that the new birth or regeneration changes the substance of the soul, but rather define it in terms of what is called conversion.  They had no qualms calling the new birth a rectification and restoration, a truth denied by Sarrels and the other modern Hardshells previously cited.

The circular continued:

"For it is the office of the spirit to illuminate the dark faculties of the soul, and to give it that faith which works by love and purifies the heart. And so wonderfully develops itself in the new born soul, that it shows it all the beauty and graces of Jesus, and enables the creature to receive the Saviour as their prophet, priest, and king. This is to be born again. There the regenerated soul is said to be God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained, that we should walk in them. As such old things are done away, behold all things become new."

Notice again how the first Hardshells defined what it meant to be "born again."  It involved being illuminated in the Christian faith, of having faith in Christ.  It involves receiving Christ.  Rather than giving new faculties to the soul, it rather illuminates the existing dark faculties of the soul.

The circular continued:

"But again, how or what is the effect on the sinner’s heart? When wrought to a knowledge of sin, the dead soul is quickened and made alive to feel and see its lost and ruined state, and to feel the condemning power of God’s holy law and the justice of God in damning or banishing it from his presence forever. And thus the soul or sinner is brought to mourn on account of his sin, and to dread the terrors of God’s wrath, while God by his spirit sends his word into the hearts as a sharp two-edged sword, piercing or dividing asunder of soul and spirit; that spirit which defaced the glorious image of God, and put enmity between God and the sinner. And now he is brought to a knowledge of his sin by the power of the law, the sinner is now converted, convinced, and convicted, and sees himself a just monument of God’s wrath, while the thunders of Mount Sinai rolls against the guilty soul, and it is the schoolmaster, the Law, that takes the sinner and brings him to Christ."

Though I would disagree with the idea that mere conviction of sin is a result of being born again (see previous chapters on "Hardshells and Conviction"), nevertheless they did not limit their definition of what it means to be "born again" to mere conviction of sin but affirmed that it included being "converted" and being brought to Christ. 

The circular continued:

"And here, brethren, is the last blow the ax or the Law gives the sinner, it fells him and lays him at the foot of the cross, where that glorious fountain runs down. There is the time and place that Jesus comes with pardon, and applies his atoning blood. And now the sinner is enabled to look up to Jesus by faith, and see the streaming blood; this is the time of agonizing with soul, there the time of godly sorrow, that worketh repentance, unto salvation, not to be repented of. And then is the time that Jesus applies the water by the word and sanctifying graces of his spirit; and there it is that the soul is regenerated and born again."

When does Jesus apply his atoning blood, according to this first Primitive Baptist periodical?  When Jesus comes to the convicted soul "with pardon."  It is a description of Gospel conversion when Jesus applies his atoning blood by "the water by the word."  It is when the soul is thus converted to Jesus that the soul "is regenerated and born again." 

The circular continued:

"Jesus is formed in the soul, the hope of glory. Then it is mercy and truth meet together in the soul; then it is that righteousness and peace kiss each other in the soul; and then the sinner is justified and reconciled to God through the faith of Christ, and the soul filled with that joy that is unspeakable and full of glory: then it is that a new song is put into the mouth, even praise to God."

When is the soul justified and reconciled to God?  When is Jesus "formed in the soul" as the "hope of glory"?  Is it not when the sinner comes to faith in Christ?

Today's Hardshells who make the new birth to be a change in the soul substance without a conversion to Christ are not even in agreement with their own founding fathers.  When they make man's inability to be natural and physical, they are in disagreement with the great Calvinist authors and with their own leading founding fathers.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Hardshell Sabellianism IV

Elder Samuel Trott, early Hardshell leader, in his continued defense of his Sabellian views, and in answer to the charges of Elder John Clark's charge of Arianism, wrote the following in a Signs of the Times article titled "CALM REPLY TO A COMMUNICATION OF ELD. JOHN CLARK WRITTEN ORIGINALLY FOR THE "SIGNS" BUT PUBLISHED IN THE "PRIMITIVE BAPTIST," APRIL 30, 1853, WITH THAT COMMUNICATION INSERTED." (1854) (see here)

"Again, on page 114, Elder C., though he names no one in this letter, yet he evidently refers to those named in the accompanying communication, says:

"I have preached and written against their doctrine concerning the Son of God, and charged that it is Arianism – and I here repeat it."

In the foregoing paragraph, he speaks of being in readiness to prove upon us the sentiments with which he charges us: yes, just as he proved me an Arian, in the specimen I gave of his manner of proving it, on a preceding page...But we will come to the charge which Elder Clark boasts of having made against us. I entreat Elder C., and any others who unite with him in these charges, to follow me in the inquiry as to the truth of this charge, with candor. As to what Arius actually believed, I know not; but in speaking of Arianism, I speak of it as described by those who wrote of it. Elder C., and others with him, generally, will, I presume, admit that Athanasians, and Tri-personalists, generally, hold that the Son no otherwise exists as God, than as he is the Son of God, or than as he was begotten of the Father; that in his Godhead, therefore, as well as a person in the Godhead he was begotten of the Father; whilst they hold that he is of the same substance coequal and coeternal with the Father. They will, also, I think, admit that Arius occupied exactly the same starting ground with the other party, viz: that the Son no otherwise existed than as he was the Son of God, or begotten of the Father. But here they split in their conclusions from this common position. Arius drew the conclusion, that as the Son only existed in his Sonship, he, from the nature of that relation to the Father, and from the fact that his existence was a begotten existence, must necessarily be posterior in his individual existence to the Father who begat him, and hence was not coequal and coeternal with the Father. I must confess, if I had not the Scriptures for my guide, but had to take the same leading position which Athansius and Arius both occupied in the forming an opinion of the being of the Son of God, that I must take Arius' side of the question, as being far more consistent than the other. But I, and those with me, do not occupy the same original position with them, at all: hence, I have offered to prove, if any of those accusers would meet me in arguments on the point, that they are far more assimilated to Arianism than we are: but they have never consented to meet me on that point. The position which we occupy, and the ground on which we stand, is, that what God has revealed of himself in the Scriptures, we are safe in receiving as truth; what He has not revealed, it is presumption in mortals, and would be in angels, to attempt to inquire into; that God has revealed himself as three, as the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost, and that these three are one; that they are so three, that there are points of distinction by which they are severally declared in the Scripture; and so one, that to us there is but one God. Hence, when either of the three is spoken of as God, we understand it to be that one God in all his fullness of attributes and glory."

Is the view of Clark and other Trinitarians who affirm the eternal sonship of Christ more akin to the views of the heretic Arius or is the view of Trott more akin to them?  Trott thinks that those who affirm that Christ always existed as the Son of God in the Godhead is similar to Arianism because both affirm that Christ no otherwise existed except as the Son of God.  But, the likeness is only slight, for Arius did not believe that the sonship of Christ was eternal, just as the Fatherhood of God.  On the other hand, Arius and the view of Trott are much more alike in that they both affirm that the sonship of Christ is not eternal, but denotes a creation.  The difference is that Arius did not believe Christ existed in any sense prior to his becoming the Son of God while Trott believes that Christ existed as God before he became the Son of God.  The view of Trott is similar to those who say Christ was the eternal Word, or God, before his incarnational sonship via the virgin.  But, Trott can say that Christ was God before he became the Son of God because he believes that God is one person, the sonship only being a mode in which the one person God reveals himself. 

Trott continued:

"Hence our conclusion is, that if God exists absolutely independent of any one, or of any act by which he is brought into existence, then each of the three must alike so exist as God: and as we find it not declared in the Scriptures that God exists as three distinct persons, or that one of these persons was begotten of the other, and that the third is breathed into existence, we reject the whole, as fabulous. Again: we find the Son of God declared in the Scriptures, and all those characteristics, or attributes of Sonship, so ascribed to him, that we feel bound to believe that he is actually the Son of God, the only begotten of the Father. We further find this Son of God so identified with the Word, that we believe that the Son is the Word, in all his fullness of the Godhead. Hence, as we believe the Godhead cannot be changed from its absolutely independent self-existence, so as truly to sustain the relation and characteristics of Sonship, we believe the Word has that in himself, and has had from the beginning, which enables him fully to sustain this relation of Sonship, and of being begotten of the Father, without diminishing, or changing the attributes of his essential Godhead, or ceasing to be the one God. In reference to what his characteristics of Sonship consist in, I shall have to speak more fully in another place. But I have more summed up, in as definite and clear words I can, my belief of God, as existing in Trinity, for I do believe in a Trinity, but not in tripersonality; and in the Son of God, as being in his person, truly, both God and the Son of God."

Trott confesses that he denies the historic doctrine of the Trinity, that God is three persons, and favors the Sabellian economic or modalistic Trinity.  In doing so, he goes against the Old Baptist confessions and can hardly claim to be an Old Baptist.

Trott continued:

"I will now pass to notice the idea of creatureship as applied to Christ in the Scriptures, in distinction from his being made flesh. It will, I presume, be admitted that in God's Son being made of a woman, the idea of creatureship is ascribed to him in person, and that without derogating from his Godhead or making him a "created God;" strange, then, that such a general alarm should be produced at the idea of creatureship being applied to him, as he is the life of his people. But surely, if men inspired of God have, without reserve, in giving their testimony of Jesus, attached this idea to him, I think I need not be afraid to do it, though opposed by friends and foes. But I have never represented that as the Son he is inferior to the Father because God created him, as Elder C. has stated. I have based his subordination to the Father upon his relation as Son, as well as upon the testimony of Scripture, showing that he sustained such inferior relation. Elder C. admits that we have such expressions as these: "The beginning of the creation of God," – "The first born of every creature," to sustain our views; but he appears not to admit them to be Scripture. They, however, will be found Rev. 3:14, and Col. 1:15. How is Christ The beginning of the creation of God, according to the proper import of the words, if he was not in some sense the first of God's creating? And how the first born of every creature, if not in some sense a creature?"

It is easy to see how Elder Clark would charge Elder Trott with Arianism based upon Trott's remarks upon Rev. 3: 14 and Col. 1: 15.  They are the same views that Arius and his followers took upon the passages and the same views modern Arians also take upon them, such as "Jehovah's Witnesses."  Of course, these passages do not teach that the Son of God was begotten in time or created.  These passages speak of Christ being, besides the eikon (image) of God the Father, but as being the "prōtotokos" (firstborn) of every creature and the "archē" (beginning) of God's creation.    These terms do not denote origin but rank.  They do not denote being first made but first in rank.  Christ, the Son of God is "prōtotokos" because he is the rightful heir of all things.  Not only were all things created by him but "for him."  He is "the heir of all things."  (Heb. 1: 2)  Further, if Christ being "the beginning" ("archē") means that he had a beginning in time, then his being "the ending" or "the last" (Rev. 1: 8, 11; 21: 6; 22: 13) means that Christ will have an end, will one day be no more.  Also, as Elder Clark argued, Paul explains what he means by saying that Christ is the "prōtotokos"  by saying "for by him were all things created."  If the view of Arius or Trott were true, Paul should have said "for God created him first." 

Trott continued:

"How Christ is the begotten Son of God, may, I conceive, be illustrated by his second begetting as the Son of God; for there are evidently two begettings spoken of in the Scripture to him. John says, speaking of the Word being made flesh, "We beheld (not shall behold,) his glory, the glory as of the only begotten Son of the Father, &c." And at the baptism of Jesus, and in his transfiguration on the mount, the voice from heaven was, "This is (not shall be,) my beloved Son, &c." Thus he was declared to be already the begotten Son of God. But the begetting of which I speak as a second begetting, was an after event to these. It is named in Psalms 2:7, "Thou art my Son this day have I begotten thee." This was spoken prophetically, and therefore though spoken in the present tense, had a future reference. So an inspired Apostle applied it (Acts 13:33,) when he said, "God hath fulfilled the same unto us their children, in that he hath raised up Jesus again, as it is also written in the second Psalm, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee." The apostle makes this begetting to be the same with his being "The first begotten of the dead." Rev. 1:5."

Christ did not have multiple "begettings."  He has always been the Son of God, eternally the only begotten of the Father.  The begetting from the womb of the virgin and his being begotten from the dead did not make him the Son of God but only revealed him to be such. 

Trott continued:

"Thus it appears to me that the terms only begotten Son of God are according to their proper import, strictly descriptive of that relation which Christ as Mediator sustains to God. But as this exaltation of Christ was a being glorified with that glory which he as Son had with the Father before the world was, (See John, 17:1-5,) we may conclude that his relation as Son was the same before the world was."

Though Trott affirms that Christ was the Son of God before his incarnation and prior to his being begotten via the virgin and from the dead, yet he does not believe that the Son of God is eternally the Son of the Father.  Again, the views of Trott are a mixing of Arianism and Sabellianism.

Trott continued:

"But still, this life being in the Word imparted to him a distinct and compound personality, as has been noticed. This complex person could not as noticed, be in the station of a servant under the law, without being made under it, in an additional nature, neither could he in his complex person, though in that person he was God, sustain the relation of the absolute God, but was exactly adapted to sustain the relation of a Son, and was therefore set up, and brought forth in the everlasting covenant as the Son of God; and the same mighty power of God was manifested in thus bringing him forth as the Son of God and Head of his church and people, and they in him in that Life which was embraced in his distinct personality, as was manifested in raising Christ from the dead. See Eph., 1:19,20."

Here Trott seems to affirm that Christ was the eternal Son of God, but not so in actuality but only in the mind and purpose of God, or theoretically.  Trott is affirming that there would be no Son of God without creation or redemption. 

Trott continued:

"Again, the manhood of Christ was made of the seed of the woman; but we are not warranted to believe that the life was made of any created substance. The account we have is, that the new man, which must be the life, or Christ, in us, was After God created in righteousness and true holiness. From the testimony of Scripture, I conclude that the Word as the Son, occupied the same exalted station at the right hand of the Father, having the immediate government in his own hands, before the foundation of the world as after his exaltation from the dead. Hence the glory which he now has is the same that he had with the Father before the world was; and the Word was with God. Hence it is declared, that "All things were made by him, and without him was not any thing made that was made."

But these relative terms by no means imply that God did not exist antecedent to his being a Father; yea, the very relation implies that the Father had an existence independent of his paternity.

So of the Son, when we take into consideration the character given of him in the Scriptures, we must believe that he existed as God independently of his Sonship."

In these words Trott denies the eternal relation of God as Father and Son, affirming that God was once neither Father, Son, or Holy Spirit.  It is because of creation and redemption that God takes on the existences as such.  This is Sabellianism, or the affirmation of a modalistic or economic trinity.

In closing it must be understood that these views of Trott were widespread among the first generation Hardshells and it was not till many years later, when the views of Clark prevailed.  One must wonder how Hardshells will deal with the fact that their ancestors held such views.  What does this do to their Landmarker views about church succession?

Friday, May 10, 2013

Regeneration vs. New Birth

From the Signs of the Times of June 1851.

"The life and death of the dear Redeemer, met all the claims of the divine law, and satisfied the demands of timmutable justice.  But it must be seen by all intelligent christians that redemption did not impart divine life to his subjects, without which none can "know the only true God and Jesus Christ whom he hath sent."  This is the effect of regeneration, from whence springs the new birth, or "being born again."  (Elder Thomas P. Dudley - see here)

In my book on the Hardshell Baptist Cult, I have given evidence that a large majority of first generation Hardshells believed that regeneration and being born again were not the same thing, that they argued for a three stage model of spiritual birth, arguing that "regeneration" was equivalent to the implanting of the male seed (as in natural conception), and that conviction of sin was equivalent to being in the womb, or in darkness and prior to being "delivered" from the womb, and that the "birth" was the emergence from the womb of darkness and comparable to being converted by the Gospel.  Here is more evidence that such a view was again asserted.  Such a view does not make Gospel conversion optional, but necessary for being eternally saved.  When Jesus said - "you must be born again" - the first Hardshells believed, as their articles of faith stated, that the elect must be both regenerated AND converted.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Other "Elect" or Other "Salvation"?

I hardly know what title to give to this posting. Several seem fitting. I could borrow that of Brother Garrett's post Fanciful Interpretation because the quote I pen below certainly falls into that category. I could name it A Common Contradiction because the writer is guilty of committing one that I have seen numerous times from within his order. I have settled, however, on the one which it has as I want of focus on one particular error made.

2 Thes. 2:10 is a key passage in scripture which shows that God's decree of election is compatible with evangelism. The Apostle Paul did not let his allegiance to the former hinder him from preaching the gospel in its fullness.

He writes:

"Therefore I endure all things for the elect's sakes, that they may also obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory (2 Timothy 2:10).

Since this passage is an obvious gospel means passage it is necessary for the Conditional Hardshells to go to work in explaining it away so as to fit within their paradigm. One in particular, Elder Kerry Lathrop, has this to say on the passage in an article called The Middle Phase Of Salvation (a contradictory title for his system, by the way):

"It is also clear who the recipients of this salvation is, the elect. Paul rather dwells on the subject of obtaining another phase of salvation. He makes it clear by stating he has endured all things so that the elect may ALSO obtain this salvation. The using of the words 'also' and 'with' implies that it is associated with something else. The salvation that Paul is speaking of here is a timely salvation for the elect of God who are eternally secure in Christ."

So, according to the author the ALSO has nothing to do with Paul's desire for OTHER of God's elect to experience the eternal salvation he received, but for the elect to receive ANOTHER salvation in addition to the one they already had.

Fanciful interpretation?


Ignoring the context?


Approached with a preconceived gird?

This interpretation would not have been reached otherwise.

How come other writers, commentators, and theologians don't see Paul expressing his desire to see the elect get saved a second time? The learned John Gill comments on the phrase:

"that they may also obtain; as well as himself, and other chosen vessels of salvation, who were called by grace already; for the apostle is speaking of such of the elect, who were, as yet, in a state of nature:"

As well as HIMSELF, not as well as ANOTHER salvation! Gill correctly sees the true intent of the Apostle Paul's inscription as intending to convey his utmost desire to see other members of the elect family come to salvation.

Matthew Henry comments as well:

"Next to the salvation of our own souls we should be willing to do and suffer any thing to promote the salvation of the souls of others."

Let's see. The salvation is said to be the salvation which is "in Christ Jesus". If Lathrop is correct, then why are not all who are united to Christ in the new birth made definite recipients, but only the relative few who get to hear the gospel preached? Is there a salvation "in Christ" not conveyed to those who are made partakers of Christ?

The salvation is singular: THE salvation in Christ Jesus. If this qualifier has reference to time salvation then is Paul contrasting this with an eternal salvation which is NOT in Christ Jesus?

Since Paul is considering God’s elect as in their state of nature, as Gill correctly notes, the salvation he desires for them to see must be that particular one received in regeneration: that one great eternal salvation in Christ. Hardshells never speak of gospel time salvation forthcoming for the unregenerate. It is strictly a post-regeneration experience. Only if the Apostle was treating the elect as already regenerated could Lathrop’s theory gain any footing.

And should not a passage which explicitly clarifies the salvation under consideration is associated with "eternal glory" be interpreted as pertaining to eternal salvation? Do not the addition of these words stand in defiance of the reader who is trying to squeeze it into a temporal framework? In such a case, would not "temporal glory" be a more fitting expression? Only one who has an a priori commitment to anti-means could stare "eternal glory" in the face and continue with a temporal application!

Paul is not expressing in this place his desire to see those of God's elect, already saved, get saved yet again. He was no Hyper-Calvinist, but rightly understood himself as an instrument through whom God would administer salvation to those of His whom He had yet to call.

The "also" is not to be associated with "something else", but SOMEONE else.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Elder Clark on Faith & Rebirth

 Elder John Clark, first generation leader in the anti mission movement, and of the newly formed "Old School" or "Primitive" Baptist denomination, was one in agreement with Elder John Watson in affirming that the Gospel was the means God employed in the regeneration of sinners, as I have shown previously.  He started the famous periodical in the early 1850s called "Zion's Advocate."  Here is another couple citations which show his thinking on this topic.

"And as that which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit, and they that are in the flesh cannot please God, it follows, as a necessary consequence, that to please Him we must be born of the Spirit – born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth forever (1 Pet. i. 23).  In this change, the faith, without which we cannot please God, is given, which is the fruit of the Spirit, and the vic tory  that overcomes the world; and hence those who have faith are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, for “Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ, is born of God.” (1 John 1.)"

The "faith" that is given in regeneration is not the non cognitive faith that today's Hardshells describe as being given in regeneration because Elder Clark cites I John 5:1 which shows that it is evangelical faith that he has in mind.  This faith involves "believing" that Jesus is the Christ.

Clark also said:

"The people of God were in Christ before the world was, according to that choice, and they are in him in time by faith – become children of God by faith in Christ; and hence, some are in Christ, in this sense, before others, as the apostle stated on a particular occasion. (Rom. xvi. 7.)"  ("EXPOSURE OF HERESIES PROPAGATED BY SOME OLD SCHOOL BAPTISTS," CHAPTER SIXTH REGENERATION - see here)

Here Clark says, without equivocation, that sinners become the children of God by faith in Christ, just as Paul affirmed in Galatians 3: 26.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Thoughts On Acts 17:30-31

Elder C.H. Cayce, probably the foremost pioneer of the modern time salvation paradigm, stated of the Apostle Paul’s preaching to the idol-worshipping Greeks at Athens (Acts 17:22-34):

“Paul is here preaching to a people who are the offspring of God--born of God--a people who have been worshipping God ignorantly, having an altar erected to the unknown God. They are commanded to turn away from their ignorant or idolatrous worship, and all those who are born of God, the offspring of God everywhere, who are engaged in such worship are commanded to repent. There is nothing in this text for the unregenerate. It is to the children of God who are engaging in false worship, and it is the duty of the ministry to admonish all such persons to repent, turn away from it and worship the Lord as directed in His word."

This is a horrible take on the narrative, one which is sadly repeated by some today. His conclusions were all wrong, because his starting point was wrong. Cayce disagreed with Elder James Oliphant on the passage, who rightly understood that the “offspring of God” was a reference to all mankind as God’s creatures, and not exclusively the regenerate elect (see here). This of course fit perfectly well with his soteriological scheme. Interpreting the passage this way, he was allowed to deny the existence of duty-faith and could claim that gospel exhortations are to be addressed only to the regenerate elect. Having then adopted a system which said the post-regeneration experience had no bearing on salvation, all of a sudden, God’s requirement of repentance becomes no requirement at all. It is optional for the elect to repent, but not essential.

Notwithstanding the absurdity of this conclusion, the greater question is not whether the Athenians were already saved or not, but whether the text has eternal or only temporal implications. If Cayce and those of like mind are correct in saying that Paul is only suggesting that a temporal salvation is available for those “unconverted regenerates” who choose to repent of their sins, then what we should see is the Apostle Paul threatening the people with a temporal judgment upon their failure to do so. Instead, we read:

“Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead (v.31).”

If the judgment threatened upon failure to repent is eternal, then the repentance Paul mentions must be connected to the salvation which delivers a person from that day. Now what salvation is it which will rescue a person from God’s wrath on the day of judgment? An eternal one or a temporal one?

What change in a person’s life rescues him from the judgment of God revealed on that day? Going from death in sins to a life in Christ, or a hypothetical regenerated yet unconverted state to a converted one?

Indeed, what class of people will be standing on that day? The regenerate and the unregenerate, or (to use the spin created by Cayce), the regenerate who repented and the regenerate who did not?

Will God pronounce eternal woe upon those regenerate souls who failed to save themselves with a time salvation?

Will God declare temporal judgment on his elect on that day, or is there a temporal day of judgment which Paul has in mind?

On these issues, let our moderns answer.

If Cayce and his fellow heretics will admit that the judgment mentioned in v.31 is eternal, then they are faced with a major problem as repentance is here demonstrated as a necessary ingredient for salvation. The usual escape at such places in the Bible is to reduce the requirement to be something of a subconscious nature. Such argumentation fails in this place, for the repentance spoken of is evangelical, and thus cognitive.

In one sense, however, it does not matter if we decide if the Athenians were already regenerated or not. The job of the gospel proclaimer is not to busy himself with figuring out who is saved and not saved. He is to launch out into the deep, spreading the seed, letting if fall where it may. If he sees anyone who is engaged in sin, he is to exhort them to repentance. If that person is already regenerated, his words will contribute to that soul attaining to final salvation. If he is unregenerate, with God’s blessings it will be the means of their original conversion. The problem with Cayce and many of like mind is in thinking that if a person is already regenerated, that this does away with the necessity of continued gospel exhortations and warnings. It doesn’t. Men must still go on to final salvation, proving themselves not false professors. The unguarded expression “once saved, always saved”, however, together with a denial of perseverance has probably contributed not a little to this problem of viewing regeneration as the only sine qua non of salvation.