Saturday, August 31, 2013

Hardshells & Mission Opposition XI

Chapter 154

In the preceding chapter the claim of the Hardshells that Sunday Schools or structured Bible classes were a new thing in Christendom, and among Baptists, was shown to be false. It was shown that the church has always been involved in specialized and systematic teaching of the Scriptures. In this posting we will add to this argument the fact that the education that Christ received, undoubtedly in the synagogue at Nazareth, was in all essential points, similar to today's Sunday Schools. In describing "THE SYNAGOGUE SCHOOL," an author at (see here) says:

"Boys and girls went to school in Galilee though boys continued till they were 15 if they displayed unusual ability while the girls were married by that time. Students probably attended school in the synagogue and were taught by the hazzan or a local Torah Teacher. Study began at age five or six in elementary school, called bet sefer. The subject was the Torah and the method was memorization. Since the learning of the community was passed orally, memorization of tradition and God's Word were essential."

Now, if Christian education today in Sunday schools simply involves teaching the Bible and teaching young people to memorize the Scriptures, then how is that any different than what was done in the synagogue at the time of Christ?

The author continues:

"At first students studied only the Torah. Later they began to study the more complicated oral interpretations of the Torah. Question-and-answer sessions between teacher and student were added to the memorization drills. The more gifted students might continue after age 12 or 13 in beth midrash (meaning "house of study," or secondary school). Here began the more intense process of understanding and applying the Torah and oral tradition to specific situations. The truly gifted would leave home to study with a famous rabbi to "become like him" as a talmid (disciple). Although their discussion and study might be held in the synagogue, these disciples would travel with their rabbi, learning the wisdom of Torah and oral tradition applied to the daily situations they faced."

These words show us that the instruction in the typical Jewish synagogue involved teaching the Scriptures, the very thing that the Black Rockers called an evil thing! Further, a kind of catechetical type of instruction was done in that Bible questions were raised and answered. This also involved instruction in apologetics. Further, it is witnessed that the synagogue schools had levels of instruction, the students being divided according to age and learning. There was also a kind of college education that went beyond the common elementary and secondary education. Again, this is similar to what now exists in the Christian world.

The author continues:

"By the time a person was an adult, he knew most of the Scriptures by heart. If someone recited a passage, the audience would know whether it was quoted accurately or not. Jesus, in keeping with his culture, would simply begin with "It is written ..." knowing his audience would recognize an accurate quote."

If Sunday schools taught children to memorize Scripture, then by the time they became adult they would also know the Scriptures as well as those who attended synagogue. I wonder if children raised by Hardshells would know the Scriptures as well as children who went through years in a Sunday School where they were taught the Scriptures? But, our Black Rockers tell us that to simply teach lost sinners the Scriptures implies that one believes that the Scriptures alone are able to save a person, or somehow denies total depravity and the necessity of the physical (non moral) energy of the Holy Spirit.

The author continues:

"The Mishnah (the written record of the oral traditions of Jesus' time and after) recorded that the gifted student began study of the written Torah at age five, studied oral traditions at age 12, became a religious adult at 13, studied the application of Torah and tradition at 15, learned a trade at 20, and entered his full ability at 30. Although this was written after Jesus, it represents the practice of his time. It is significant that he came to Jerusalem at age 12, already wise; then he learned a trade from His father until his ministry began at age 30. His life seemed to follow the education practices of his people quite closely. He surely attended the local school of Nazareth and learned from great rabbis as well. Being addressed as "Rabbi" certainly indicated someone who had learned from a rabbi. He certainly selected a group of students who followed him, learning as they went. And everywhere his audience had the knowledge of the Bible on which Jesus so often based his teaching."

Again, such instruction that Jesus received in the synagogue is quite similar to what is taught in properly conducted Sunday schools.

According to Holman's Bible dictionary, we learn this about the synagogue schools in existence when Jesus was a child. (see here)

"The synagogue apparently came into existence during the Babylonian captivity when the Jews were deprived of the services of the Temple. During captivity they began meeting in small groups for prayer and Scripture reading. When they returned to Israel the synagogue spread rapidly and developed into an important educational institution. Synagogue services made an important educational contribution to the religious life of the community. The elementary school system among the Jews developed in connection with the synagogue. Even before the days of Jesus, schools for the young were located in practically every important Jewish community."

The synagogue was a place of worship but it was more than this. It was also a school with instruction in class form where the class was divided. Hardshells say that the church is simply a place of worship but has no schools for instruction for the young and for other groups. But, this was not the case with the synagogue in which Jesus himself worshipped and went to school. Further, according to Matthew 4: 23, "Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom." Notice that the "teaching" was distinct from the "preaching." He did this in the synagogue in a school setting. In fact, the Gospel records show that this was a common practice for Christ. John records that Jesus said - "I ever taught in the synagogue." (John 18: 20)

The article continued:

"The teacher was generally the synagogue “attendant.” An assistant was provided if there were more than twenty-five students. The primary aim of education at the synagogue school was religious. The Old Testament was the subject matter for this instruction. Reading, writing and arithmetic were also taught. Memorization, drill and review were used as approaches to teaching."

The fact that the synagogue school taught other subjects besides religion is important to note, and will especially relate to our discussion of theological education for ministers. No doubt this teaching of various subjects involved more than one teacher.

The article continued:

"Boys usually began formal schooling at the “house of the book” at age five. He would spend at least a half day, six days a week for about five years, studying at the synagogue. Parents brought their son at daybreak and came for him at midday. While not at school the boy was usually learning a trade, such as farming or carpentry...If a boy wanted training beyond that given in a synagogue, he would go to a scholarly scribe. Saul of Tarsus received such advanced theological training “at the feet of Gamaliel” in Jerusalem (Acts 22:3 )."

The article also says:

"While the synagogue school still existed, the home was still considered a primary place of education for children. Timothy is a notable example of a child who had been educated in the Scriptures in the home (2 Timothy 1:5 )."

Certainly believers ought to instruct their children in the Scriptures at home, but the error of the Hardshells is to think that this was the only place where children ought to be taught. Jesus received instruction in the home and in the synagogue. The parents have the right to delegate the authority to teach to others.

In answer to the question - "Why do Primitive Baptists not have Sunday schools?" - ( see here) a Hardshell web page answers by saying:

"Bible study is greatly to be commended, and there are definite benefits to studying and discussing scriptures with other Christians; however, scriptural example dictates that such activities should be conducted in contexts other than formal church worship. There is nothing in scriptures to indicate that worshippers, either in the church or in the law, were ever segregated by knowledge, age, sex, marital status, or any other criterion. Instead, all worshipped in a common assembly."

What is said in these words is clearly against the Scriptures and I have already disproven it by showing that the teaching in the synagogue segregated people by knowledge, age, sex, and marital status. It is true that the synagogue was a place of worship, but it was also a place for schooling. Notice how the Hardshells refer to "scriptural example." By this they mean that "Sunday School" must be specifically referred to. Again, this is part of their hermeneutic that is called "patternism," concerning which I will have somewhat to say shortly.

The same web page adds these remarks:

"The importance of adherence to scriptural example on this and other matters is considered in the question treating scriptural precedent."

One must ask, in light of these words, where is the "scriptural example" and "scriptural precedent" for associations? For many other things the Hardshells use and practice?

In explaining this hermeneutic principle, the same web page writes:

"Some will say that Sunday schools are necessary for the instruction of children; however, the Lord cautions against assuming a posture which views the understanding of children with slight or disdain. He tells us that their understanding can exceed that of the wise and prudent (Mt 11:25, Mt 21:15), and that God has ordained praise in the utterances of babes (Mt 21:16). Accordingly, Jesus rebuked His disciples for denying admittance of children to His presence (Mt 19:13-15, Mk 9:36-37, Mk 10:13-15). Hence, it should not be assumed that children are incapable of receiving proper instruction from the general assembly. The modern practice of denying children entrance to church sanctuaries is very much against the spirit of the scriptures."

The passages referred to in reference to children and babes knowing the Scriptures and praising God only show that they were taught in their childhood, both at home and in the synagogue and religious schools. Further, most churches that have Sunday schools have them before the regular worship service and allow the students of the Sunday schools to be present in it. The only exception to this is in the case of babies, where many churches have nurseries and this so that screaming babies will not disrupt the worship service. In this day and time, many of these nurseries have speakers which allow the nurses to hear the singing, prayer, and sermon. Even some Hardshell churches now have such nurseries.

The web page adds these words:

"Scriptures themselves teach that adherence to scriptural example is not a matter of indifference. Paul told the Corinthians, Be ye followers of me, even as I also am a follower of Christ. Now I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances (traditions), as I delivered them to you (I Cor 11:1-2). Accordingly, he told the Thessalonians, Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word or our epistle (II Thes 2:15). One chapter later he wrote, Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us (II Thes 3:6)."

But, it has already been shown that Jesus attended the synagogue school and that he, and his apostles, often "taught" in these schools. Thus, there is biblical example and precedent for schools for children being a part of the church institution in keeping with them being an institution in the synagogue.

Then the web page adds this:

"Traditions which have no biblical authority are nonobligatory, and to make them otherwise can reduce worship to vanity (Mk 7:5-13). On the other hand, traditions which have biblical authority are clearly expected of us, and are sufficiently important to be criteria of fellowship." (Question: How do Primitive Baptists use scriptural precedent to resolve questions of church practice? ibid)

But, it has been shown that there is biblical precedent for such teaching tradition. Further, it is wrong for the Hardshells to claim that having such schools is a "criteria of fellowship." How uncharitable are the Hardshells to declare churches in disorder for having schools to teach the Scriptures. Had the Hardshells been in existence in the time when Christ was a student in the synagogue, they would have disfellowshipped him and his parents!

From the web page of Aberdeen Primitive Baptist church we find these words relative to Sunday Schools:

"While we believe in Bible Study, we do not have Sunday Schools or other auxiliaries because of the absence of a New Testament command or precedent. Sunday Schools are modern in origin, not existing in the gospel church for almost 1800 years. Primitive Baptists believe that the gospel minister is the only public teacher of the Word of God authorized by Jesus Christ, the Head of His Church. Private instruction of children is the responsibility of the heads of the households. (See Ephesians 6:4.) Further objections to the Sunday school system of today can be raised on the grounds that it is contrary to the teaching of the Apostle Paul in I Timothy 2:11-12, “Let your women learn in silence with all subjection, but I suffer not a woman to teach nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.” (See also I Corinthians 14:34-35.) (see here)

But, all these objections have been shown to be false. Sunday schools are not entirely new. Further, the ordained clergy, as we have seen, is not the only teacher of the Scriptures. It is true that parents are responsible for the education of their children, but they are allowed to delegate this authority to others. Do they not allow the ordained clergy to teach them? Do they not send their children to secular schools where teachers, other than the parents, teach them? Further, as we have seen, women are not forbidden to do any teaching at all, but are simply restricted in this teaching.

In his book "History and Heresies of Hardshellism" (see here) Bob Ross wrote on "Patternism" and said:

"One of the notions shared in common by all three of these schisms (Campbellism, Hardshellism, and Landmarkism - SG) is what is sometimes called "patternism."

"PATTTERNISM is the idea that the Bible presents a specific pattern, plan, method, procedure, or precedent, given for the purpose of subsequent conformity by succeeding generations of Christians. Campbellites are fond of the term "pattern," the Hardshells like the word "order," and Landmarkers like the term "scriptural." Of course, these are not the only terms used by these various groups, but whatever the term used, the concept is the same -- the idea of a "Divine Pattern" given in the Scriptures designed for our conformity."

"If any one of these groups "lived up" to their own contention, there might at least be one incentive for us to give their teaching a moment's serious consideration; however, the only thing to result from the theory of "patternism" is open hypocrisy, endless contentions, and crystallized, sectarian legalism. In every instance wherein the alleged "divine pattern" is defined and applied, it comes down to being whatever the strongest "leader"of the sect holds to be the "truth." When two or more "leaders" butt heads over some point of doctrine and practice in the "pattern," then factions develop, and non-fellowship is declared. This accounts for many of the endless controversies and divisions which have taken place in the history of Campbellism, Hardshellism, and Landmarkism."

"Among the Hardshells, the curse of "patternism" was very well demonstrated in their history in the state of Alabama. Reading the history of the Alabama Hardshells is akin to reading the history of gang warfare. Arminianism, Missionism, New Schoolism, nor any other outside "ism" has done as much damage to Hardshellism in Alabama as their own committal to "patternism," with its natural consequences. A trip through Alabama Hardshell history is like a visit to a leper's colony or some plaque-stricken area of the world -- conflict, division, dissolution, and death abound."

"If nothing else refuted the theory of "patternism," the changes that invariably take place over a period of time would be sufficient. Among the Hardshells, the changes have been many, despite their congratulating themselves as being one with the "Old Baptists." Elder Watts says:

Whether we accept it willingly or not, the first hundred years of the Primitive Baptists in Alabama, and elsewhere, saw several drastic changes of policy in churches and in associations. The first of these was the revolt against systematic missions which came about in the 1830's and early 1840's. Up to this time, most, if not all, Baptist churches respected "domestic missions" or to be more specific, "itinerant preaching" within the bounds of the associations. It was not until the churches and associations became agents of the Baptist State Convention, did they abandon the support of missions in every form . . .revivals and protracted meetings were commonplace among most, if not all, the Baptists before the division (page 113)."

These remarks by brother Ross reveal the hypocrisy of the Hardshells in the practice of their hermeneutics. They do not live up to it. They practice many things for which they can find no specific mention of in Scripture. Historically, many of them have had "singing schools" to teach shape note and sacred harp singing. But, where is such a practice mentioned in Scripture? And, as has been asked already, where is their "scriptural example" for associations?

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Hardshells & Mission Opposition X

Chapter 153

One of the arguments that Hardshells also make against Sunday Schools, besides the one that says they are wrong because not specifically mentioned in Scripture, is to say that they are a new thing among Baptists. But, how do they know this? Further, though some Baptists, and other denominations, did not have Sunday Schools, as we have them now, in the centuries before the 19th, yet they did have Bible classes and other methods for instructing the young and the ignorant. Catechisms once did the work of the Sunday School. But, before we notice the Old Baptist use of chatechisms, before the Sunday School phenomenon, let us consider how the early church involved herself in Christian education.

In the book "Exploring the History & Philosophy of Christian Education: Principles for the 21st Century," by Michael J. Anthony and Warren S. Benson, the authors wrote the following about Christian education in the early church: (see here)

"The apostles' teachings continued to establish and strengthen the church body. As new believers were added to the church, some systematic form of instruction was necessary to ensure authenticity of faith and consistency in practice. People with the gift of teaching and shepherding took the lead in providing this training." (pg. 107)

The church has always seen the need for instructing men, women, and children in the Christian faith and special classes for this purpose have been a part of the church from the earliest ages. Yes, sermons by the clergy were instructive, but the church was not limited to this method. When one considers the fact that Hardshell churches have typically met only once or twice per month for most their history, one or two sermons per month is hardly adequate for instructing people systematically in the Christian faith.

Notice that the authors of the above work not only speak of the early church providing "some systematic form of instruction," but also used "people with the gift of teaching," and this was not limited to members of the clergy.

The authors say further:

"The words catechism and catechumen are derived from the Greek workd that is translated "instruct." They occur in the New Testament seven times (Luke 1:4; Acts 18:25; 21:21, 24; Rom. 2:18; I Cor. 14:19; Gal. 6:6). These passages reveal the systematic nature of the instruction that was provided as preparation for accepting the new convert into fellowship. The period of preparation lasted two to three years and was comprised of three distinct levels. Those in the first level were called hearers because they were allowed to listen to the reading of the Scriptures and to sermons in the church service. They also received instruction in the basic tenets of the faith. Those at the second level were referred to as kneelers because they remained for corporate prayer after the hearers were dismissed from class. They received more detailed instruction in matters pertaining to living the Christian life. Finally, the chosen were people who received intensive training in doctrines and church liturgy and were prepared to receive baptism." (pg. 108)

Notice that the instruction given in the early church was structured, providing "levels" for the various students. Is this not what is done in modern Sunday Schools?

The authors also wrote:

"Eventually, a learned generation of believers recognized the value of educating their children. Heretical philosophies of Greek and Roman origin began to creep into the church and required an educated and rational response. Scholarly preparation in the literature and the philosophical teachings of ancient Greece and Rome put one at par in a rhetorical debate. Soon, believers began attending schools where they could be taught sound biblical doctrine integrated with the seven liberal arts. The result was a powerful defense of the faith among the learned class...The educational institutions that prepared these learned Christian leaders were known as catechetical schools." (pg. 110)

These remarks show that the idea of having schools and Bible classes was a practice of the early church and so the assertion that such is a new phenomenon in the church is an error. There is practically very little difference in the early church's "catechetical schools" and Sunday Schools.

The authors also wrote about educational practices during the Renaissance. During the Renaissance, the above authors refer to a group of Christians in the Netherlands who were called the Brethren of the Common Life. It is said that this "movement spread across the Netherlands, Europe, and eventually to North America itself." (pg. 169) "One book that has survived, the Imitation of Christ, attributed to Thomas a Kempis, reveals the heart of the movement." (pg. 170) "Erasmus's (the famous opponent of Luther - SG) early training was in the school of the Brethren of the Common Life at the famous church school at Deventer." (pg. 173)

Concerning these Christians, the authors say:

"They sought to influence the church and society as a whole through their unique curriculum and instructional methodologies. Their curriculum emphasized Bible study in the vernacular so people could form their own understanding of a passage's meanings and applications." (ibid) And that "They initiated a different means of dividing the class. The grade plan taught students in smaller groups according to the students' levels of progress. These and other innovations were responsible for radical educational reforms in schools across Europe." (Ibid)

How can it be claimed by the Hardshells that Sunday Schools, in the early 19th century, were an entirely new thing?

Tom Nettles, Baptist history professor at Southern Baptist theological seminary, wrote:

"Although literally hundreds of catechisms were produced in English in the seventeenth century, the most influential catechisms were those that arose from the Westminster Assembly, the Larger and Shorter Catechisms. The Shorter Catechism especially influenced Baptist life, as it formed the basis for Keach's (or The Baptist) Catechism and subsequently Spurgeon's Catechism. In America, the Philadelphia Association catechism and the Charleston Association catechism were duplicates of Keach's catechism. Richard Furman used it faithfully and effectively."

He says further:

"Several principles appeared to govern the theory of catechisms. One, many catechist believed that catechisms of different levels should be produced. Luther had published two as did the Scottish divine Craig and the Puritan John Owen (Two Short Catechisms). Richard Baxter had three, suited for childhood, youth, and mature age. The Westminster Assembly's two catechisms are will known. Henry Jessey, another of the leading early Baptists, had three catechisms, all bound together, one of which contained only four questions: What man was, is, may be, and must be. John A. Broadus includes sections of "advanced questions" at the end of each respective section in the body of his catechism. This graduated difficulty in catechism rests on the theory that the earlier the stamping on the mind, the more indelible the result."

This testimony simply shows that the Baptist Church, along with other Puritan groups, believed in the church's mission to educate people in the Christian religion. The method employed by our Old Baptist forefathers of the 17th century was to instruct people by the use of catechisms and these catechisms recognized various levels of instruction. This is what the Sunday School does.

Nettles also wrote:

"Two, exact memory is generally considered important. The power of words to substantiate reality enforces the necessity of some precision at this point. "I serve a precise God," said Richard Rogers. Luther instructed those teaching the Small Catechism "to avoid changes or variation in the text and wording." We should teach these things, he continued, "in such a way that we do not alter a single syllable or recite the catechism differently from year to year."

Nettles continued:

"Exact head knowledge, however, is obviously not the end of catechetical instruction. Rather, catechizing aims ultimately at the eyes of understanding, heart knowledge. Even in the Westminster Assembly some were concerned that "people will come to learn things by rote, and answer it as a parrot but not understand the thing." The design of the catechism is, under God, to chase the darkness from a sinner's understanding, so that he may be enlightened in the knowledge of Christ and freely embrace him in forgiveness of sin. John Bunyan specifically wrote his catechism, "Instruction for the Ignorant," that God might bless it to the awakening of many sinners, and the salvation of their souls by faith in Jesus Christ. The major purpose of Henry Jessey's "Catechism for Babes" was to give instruction concerning how God could forgive those who "deserve death, and God's curse," and could still "be honoured in thus forgiving, naughty ones as we are."

With this testimony, how can Hardshells claim that instructing varying groups in a class setting is entirely new? John Bunyan was a Baptist. Also, though the Black Rockers thought it an error to expect conversions to occur from Bible classes and tracts, Bunyan felt differently.

Nettles also wrote:

"Henry Fish, an American Baptist, screwed in tightly the application of each section of his catechism by a poignant rhetorical question sealing discussion of each doctrine. For example, "Are you a believer, or does the wrath of God abide on you for unbelief?"

A catechism written by the English Baptist John Sutcliffe pinpoints this same concern as the goal of catechetical instruction.

Q. To conclude: what do you learn from the catechism you have now been repeating? A. I learn that the affairs of my soul are of the greatest importance, and ought to employ my chief concern."

Again, the purpose of Bible teaching is to bring about the conversion of sinners, something the Hyper Calvinist Black Rockers thought was blasphemous.

Nettles continued:

"A charming reminiscence of one of the children Furman catechized gives a clear picture of the importance he attached to this process and these doctrines. A 1926 edition of In Royal Service quotes the remembrance a grandchild had of her grandmother's experience under Furman."

We had no Sabbath school then, but we had the Baptist Catechism, with which we were as familiar as with the Lord's Prayer. At our quarterly seasons, we children of the congregation repeated the Baptist Catechism standing, in a circle round the font. We numbered from sixty to a hundred. The girls standing at the south of the pulpit, the boys meeting them in the center from the north, Dr. Furman would, in his majestic, winning manner, walk down the pulpit steps and with book in hand, commence asking questions, beginning with the little ones (very small indeed some were, but well taught and drilled at home). We had to memorize the whole book, for none knew which question would fall to them. I think I hear at this very moment the dear voice of our pastor saying, "A little louder, my child," and then the trembling, sweet voice would be raised a little too loud. It was a marvel to visitors on these occasions, the wonderful self-possession and accuracy manifested by the whole class. This practice was of incalculable benefit, for when it pleased God to change our hearts, and when offering ourselves to the church for membership, we knew what the church doctrines meant and were quite familiar with answering questions before the whole congregation, and did not quake when pastor or deacon or anyone else asked what we understood by Baptism, the Lord's Supper, Justification, Adoption, Sanctification. Oh, no; we had been well taught...What a pity that such a course of instruction has been abandoned."

Furman was a leading Baptist and followed that practice of the early American Baptists in teaching the young to memorize and study the catechism.

Nettles continued:

"John A. Broadus felt the same tension when writing his "Catechism of Bible Teaching." Reflecting on finishing Lesson 1 entitled "God," Broadus said, "It is, of course, an extremely difficult task to make questions and answers about the existence and attributes of the Divine Being, that shall be intelligible to children, adequate as the foundation for future thinking, and correct as far as they go." Those three guidelines should serve well to judge any catechism."

This shows that the early Baptists, prior to the rise of the Hardshells, believed in giving special instruction to the young through the means of special classes to learn the Baptist catechism.

Nettles continued:

"Baptist catechisms have existed virtually since the appearance of modern-day Baptists in the seventeenth century. Typical of early Baptist commitment to catechizing is an admonition that appears in the circular letter of 1777 from the Baptist ministers and messengers assembled at Oakham in Rutlandshire, England."

Again, if if be allowed that the use of catechisms showed that our Baptist forefathers believed in giving special teaching to the young and ignorant, then this shows that the Sunday School is but an outgrowth of this practice.

Nettles continued:

"Our confession of faith and our catechism for the instruction of our young people, are published to the world; and from these glorious principles we hope you will never depart...At present, blessed be God, we believe there is no apparent apostasy in our ministers and people from the glorious principles we profess; but, at the same time, we must in great plainness and faithfulness tell you, that catechizing of children is most sadly neglected, both in private families and in public congregations."

Sunday Schools, if properly conducted, are in keeping with the historical practice of the early church and of our Old Baptist forefathers in conducting catechism schools and classes.

Nettles continued:

"Our honoured brethren, the ministers at Bristol, have lately encouraged the publication of two editions of our catechism,...and we do most earnestly entreat you to furnish yourselves with this excellent compendium of true divinity, and that you would teach it diligently to your children in private, and desire your pastors to instruct them, at least for the summer season, in public."

("An Encouragement to Use Catechisms" - see here)

Our Baptist forefathers encouraged parents to teach the Baptist catechism to their children, but they also had special classes for these young people to learn the catechism and the teachings of the Bible.

In an article titled "The Lost Art Of Catechesis It's a tried and true way of teaching, among other things, Christian doctrine," J. I. Packer and Gary A. Parrett - see here) wrote:

"Historically, the church's ministry of grounding new believers in the rudiments of Christianity has been known as catechesis—the growing of God's people in the gospel and its implications for doctrine, devotion, duty, and delight. It is a ministry that has waxed and waned through the centuries. It flourished between the second and fifth centuries in the ancient church. Those who became Christians often moved into the faith from radically different worldviews. The churches rightly sought to ensure that these life-revolutions were processed carefully, prayerfully, and intentionally, with thorough understanding at each stage."

If catechetical schools are so similar to Sunday schools, and they are, then the argument that Sunday schools are new is a falsehood.

The authors continue:

"With the tightening of the alignment between church and state in the West, combined with the impact of the Dark Ages, the ministry of catechesis floundered. The Reformers, led by heavyweights Luther and Calvin, sought with great resolve to reverse matters. Luther restored the office of catechist to the churches. And seizing upon the providential invention of the printing press, Luther, Calvin, and others made every effort to print and distribute catechisms—small handbooks to instruct children and "the simple" in the essentials of Christian belief, prayer, worship, and behavior (like the Westminster Shorter Catechism). Catechisms of greater depth were produced for Christian adults and leaders (like Luther's Larger Catechism). Furthermore, entire congregations were instructed through unapologetically catechetical preaching and the regular catechizing of children in Sunday worship."

These words show that both tract ministries and classes for Bible instruction are not new but in keeping with the practice of our Christian forefathers.

The authors continue:

"The conviction of the Reformers that such catechetical work must be primary is unmistakable. Calvin, writing in 1548 to the Lord Protector of England, declared, "Believe me, Monseigneur, the church of God will never be preserved without catechesis." The Church of Rome, responding to the growing influence of the Protestant catechisms, soon began to produce its own. The rigorous work of nurturing believers and converts in the faith once for all delivered to the saints, a didactic discipline largely lost for most of the previous millennium, had become normative again for both Catholics and Protestants."

Again, special instruction for the young and for new converts, as well as for those ignorant of the Christian faith, are not new.

The authors continue:

"The critical role of catechesis in sustaining the church continued to be apparent to subsequent evangelical trailblazers of the English-speaking world. Richard Baxter, John Owen, Charles Spurgeon, and countless other pastors and leaders saw catechesis as one of their most obvious and basic pastoral duties. If they could not wholeheartedly embrace and utilize an existing catechism for such instruction, they would adapt or edit one or would simply write their own. A pastor's chief task, it was widely understood, was to be the teacher of the flock."

Again, there is very little difference between these ancient schools and of the Sunday schools we have today.

In writing under the sub title "The Problem with Sunday School," the authors wrote:

"Today, however, things are quite different, and that for a host of reasons. The church in the West has largely abandoned serious catechesis as a normative practice. Among the more surprising of the factors that have contributed to this decline are the unintended consequences of the great Sunday school movement. This lay-driven phenomenon swept across North America in the 1800s and came to dominate educational efforts in most evangelical churches through the 20th century. It effectively replaced pastor-catechists with relatively untrained lay workers, and substituted an instilling of familiarity (or shall we say, perhaps, over-familiarity) with Bible stories for any form of grounding in the basic beliefs, practices, and ethics of the faith."

Yes, Sunday schools did replace the catechism schools, but it can be reasonably argued that Sunday schools can be conducted in such a way that catechisms are taught, as well as teaching the doctrines of the Bible.

The authors continued:

"Thus, for most contemporary evangelicals the entire idea of catechesis is largely an alien concept. The very word itself—catechesis, or any of its associated terms, including catechism—is greeted with suspicion by most evangelicals today." ("Wait, isn't that a Roman Catholic thing?")

But, it ought not to be so. Many Baptist Sunday schools are conducted that are equal to, or superior to, the schools of our forefathers. If the Bible is being taught by qualified men and women, then it is indeed but an outgrowth and improvement upon the religious education given by our Baptist ancestors.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

An Error With "Only One Way"

During the time that I spent among the “Primitive Baptists” I noticed many cliché expressions in the ministry. They were mostly apologetic responses against the specifics of Calvinism. “We don’t fish for dead fish!” was one of the primary one-liners used to justify the opposition to preaching to the lost. ”While we live here below” was an apologetic tag for time salvation, uttered to convince the people of something that applies to this present life without eternal consequence. Or the one which actually serves as the primary hermeneutic for this doctrine:

“When we read the word ‘saved’ in scripture, we gotta ask ourselves ‘Saved from what?’”

I used to read and hear these cliché statements over and over and over again!

In this brief posting, though, I would like to focus on which occupies no small place in the Hardshell defense:

”God has only one way of saving His people.”

Pick up any article in which the Hardshell is defending his position on immediate regeneration and this phrase or some similar expression will more than likely appear. The sole reason this one-liner exists, like so many others, is that it serves as an objection to the claim that God uses the gospel to save His people. Refusing our forefathers’ conviction that infants and the mentally disabled are possible exceptions to the ordinary way in which God calls His people, they create their own hermeneutic here. If these cannot be called and saved by the gospel, then neither can the average adult, for God only has “one way”. For those familiar with the London Confession they know that this is a turning of the tenth chapter on its head! It is simply bad hermeneutics to make the mystery of how God saves those who we think are mentally incapable into a proof, plain and simple.

What I eventually came to see, though, is what Hardshells are actually trying to say when they say "all are saved the same way" is...

”All the elect are regenerated the same way.”

But these are not entirely the same thing. In scripture salvation is not limited to just being born again yet Hardshells focus on this particular step in the order of salvation as it serves their purpose in responding to the specific Calvinistic claim of gospel regeneration. The moment that when realizes, however, that regeneration is not the summation of salvation, but only a step towards the achievement of final salvation in glory, their apologetic breaks down.

And so I ask them the following, according to their own dogmatic premise.

"Will all of the elect be finally saved the same way?"

If two sinners go to heaven, one believing in Christ while the other does not, then they were not “saved the same way”, were they?

If one sinner receives BOTH his eternal salvation and his “time” salvation, while another is content with just the former, and does not “save himself” “while he lives here below”, then were they “saved the same way”?

If only a few of the elect are experimentally sanctified…

If only a few of the elect practice holiness…

If only a few of the elect hear the gospel…

If only a few of the elect walk the straight and narrow...

If only a few of the elect know they are saved…

If only a few of the elect worship the one true God of the Bible…

If only a few of the elect receive gospel faith

While many of God’s elect do not, then obviously they will not all be saved the same way, will they?

And so, it is really the Hardshell entrenched in his time salvation paradigm who does not feel that all the elect will be saved the same way. He has declared so many subjective elements of salvation as an optional supplement to regeneration that, in his view, various roads are created through which they may attain to heaven. He may go as a believer or an unbeliever, penitent or impenitent, a Christian or an idolator. The Calvinist, and other orthodox Christians, do no such thing. That God has only "one way" of saving His people is far more visible in his system than that of the Hardshells. He sees not various groups attaining to heaven, but ONLY repentant believers in the Lord Jesus Christ. He understands that salvation is to be understood in its maximum connotation involving initial conversion, sanctification, and glorification; not as do the Hardshells, who in the discussion of how God saves His people seek to restrict the issue to regeneration.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Hardshells & Mission Opposition IX

Chapter 152

In the previous chapter we showed that the Great Commission gives the authority for the church, and for each individual Christian, to teach the Scriptures and to proclaim the Gospel. This is important because one of the objections that the Hardshells and other opponents of Sunday Schools and Bible classes give is that there is no Scriptural basis for it. The Great Commission and other new testament texts do not give detailed instructions for how this teaching is to be done, and to insist that such is necessary to justify Bible classes is ludicrous. This is typical of those who adhere to "patternism," a concept I will deal with later in this series. Those who insist that the Bible must specifically mention every aspect of a church's or Christian's practice do not fully follow their own rule. Hardshells have many practices that they cannot find a specific reference to in Scripture, so their insistence that Sunday Schools and Bible classes be specifically mentioned is hypocritical.

Paul wrote:

"The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things; That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed." (Titus 2: 3-5)

One of the objections that Hardshells make against Sunday Schools is the fact that they often, though not always and necessarily, have women teachers. But, clearly Paul thought it proper that women teach, albeit with restrictions. If an aged woman in the church holds classes for younger women in order to teach the things Paul mentions, is this not in keeping with his counsel?

Many cite these words of Paul in order to affirm that women are not to do any teaching at all.

"But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence." (I Tim. 2: 12)

But, these words do not forbid women doing any teaching at all. If it did, then it would contradict what Paul said in Titus 2: 3-5. "Over the man" connects both with "to teach" and "to usurp," that is, women are not to teach over the man nor usurp authority over the man. She may teach, but not so as to teach over men or to usurp the authority of men. Also, the word for "man" is anēr and refers to adult men.

They will also cite these words of Paul:

"Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience as also saith the law." (I Cor. 14: 34)

But, clearly this prohibition cannot possbily mean absolute silence or else women would not be able to sing in the church. But, other Scriptures command all the members of the church to sing unto the Lord. (Col. 3: 16, Eph. 5: 19) Further, she sometimes is called upon to bear witness in disciplinary cases. What Paul is condemning is the practice of allowing women to teach the entire assembled church, or a mixed assembly. But, interesting is the fact that Paul also mentions women prophesying in the church. (See I Cor. 11: 5) This was in fulfillment of the prophecy of Joel that “your sons and daughters shall prophesy” (Acts 2:17). It seems to me that what Paul forbids is the speaking of women ahead of men. If men are talking then women are to remain silent. But, it there is no man who desires to speak, then women may. Women are to give way to men.

Further we read this about Priscilla:

"And a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man, and mighty in the scriptures, came to Ephesus. This man was instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in the spirit, he spake and taught diligently the things of the Lord, knowing only the baptism of John. And he began to speak boldly in the synagogue: whom when Aquila and Priscilla had heard, they took him unto them, and expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly." (Acts 18: 24-26)

Though this was in the private home of Aquila and Priscilla, yet they both "expounded" unto Apollos, a preacher, "the way of God more perfectly." Thus, it is not forbidden that women should do absolutely no teaching at all. Further, women are commanded to teach their own children, along with their husbands, "training them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord." (Eph. 6: 4) Further, Peter said that every Christian ought to be able to give an apology or defence of his/her faith. (I Peter 3: 15)

But, Sunday Schools may be conducted with only male teachers, so the objection against Sunday Schools and Bible clases on this ground does not invalidate the appropriateness of such with adult men. Further, churches have historically had men who were gifted as either "lay preachers" or as exhorters. These make excellent teachers in Sunday Schools and Bible classes. So should deacons. It is an error to think that only those specially called to preach and rule in the church should teach.

Now let us resume our look at the objections given by the Black Rockers. The Address continued:

"Secondly, because such schools were never established by the apostles, nor commanded by Christ. There were children in the days of the apostles. The apostles possessed as great a desire for the salvation of souls, as much love to the cause of Christ, and knew as well what God would own for bringing persons to the knowledge of salvation, as any do at this day. We therefore must believe that if these schools were of God, we should find some account of them in the New Testament."

This is an argument from silence and carries very little weight. Just because there is no mention of Bible classes by churches is no proof that they did not have them. In fact, as I shall show, the early church often taught people various levels of catechism. It is interesting how such logic as is employed in the above does not seem to apply to associations. Where is there mention of associations in Scripture? If Hardshells followed their own advice, they would do away with associations for the same reason they do away with Bible classes.

We have already seen how Paul mentions older women in the church teaching the younger women. Is this not a special Bible class, whether done on Monday, Tuesday, etc.? Also, did we not notice Paul's admonition in Heb. 5: 12? Where Paul willed that all the members mature into teachers? Did he not divide people into two classes? There were those who were styled as "babes," and those who were "of full age." Those who are babes or novices should not be fed "meat" but "milk" only. Would it be wrong then to divide people into at least these two classes and feed them accordingly? Certainly it would. In fact, Paul does not think it good to feed meat to babes, and so, by implication, it justifies separating them from the meat eaters and feeding them milk. It is the duty of the father especially to teach his children, and this is not limited to religious instruction. And, though he bears the chief responsibility to see that his children are educated, this does not preclude him delegating authority to others, such as his wife, and others. When he sends his children to school to be taught by teachers, they do it by his authority. Paul alluded to this practice in Galatians 4: 1-2 where he said regarding children:

"Now I say, That the heir, as long as he is a child, differeth nothing from a servant, though he be lord of all; But is under tutors and governors until the time appointed of the father."

These "tutors and governors" were the teachers and guardians of infants and children and were given the authority by the father to instruct and care for his children. What is Sunday School for children but the appointing of "tutors and governors" for the education of children? And a father who had many children of various ages would not have them all in the same class, but would separate them by age and learning just as we do in public education.

The Address continues:

"Thirdly. We have exemplified in the case of the Pharisees, the evil consequences of instructing children in the letter of the Scripture, under the notion that this instruction constitutes a saving acquaintance with the word of God. We see in that instance it only made hypocrites of the Jews; and as the Scriptures declare that Christ's words are spirit and life, and that the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, we cannot believe it will have any better effect on the children in our day."

One is simply stunned and bewildered to hear any Christian speak of "the evil consequences of instructing children in the letter of the Scripture." Did God order the Israelites to do such an evil thing when he commanded the Israelites to teach their children the Scriptures? The Black Rockers added - "under the notion that this instruction constitutes a saving acquaintance with the word of God." If not with the intention that their children would be saved by hearing and obeying the word of God, then for what other reason? Do the Hardshells not know that the Bible says that the word of God is the instrument of salvation? Certainly the word alone is not sufficient, but there is no salvation apart from it either. Does not the whole 119 Psalm glorify the word of God as a means of salvation? Did not the Psalmist say - "Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word"? (vs. 9)

The Black Rockers, in the above, speak evil of the teaching of the word of God to others! For shame! They say that teaching the Scriptures "only made hypocrites"! Did it do so in the case of David? Of the other godly men and women in the Old Testament? They say that "Christ's words are spirit and life" as if the Scriptures are not also words of spirit and life! By this they mean that only the words that Christ, supposedly, speaks to the sinner directly and personally are spirit and life, but that there is no life or spirit in the words of Scripture. Further, when they speak of the inability of the natural man to receive the words of Scripture, they use it as an excuse to not teach the word to any lost soul! But, the prophets and apostles, nor even Jesus, believed such nonsense, for they were often found teaching the Scriptures to natural men.

The Address continued:

"The Scriptures enjoin upon parents to bring up their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord; but this, instead of countenancing, forbids the idea of parents entrusting the religious education of their children to giddy, unregenerated young persons, who know no better than to build them up in the belief that they are learning the religion of Christ, and to confirm them in their natural notions of their own goodness."

Just how does supporting Sunday School and Bible classes lead to "parents entrusting the religious education of their children to giddy, unregenerated young persons"? Are the Hardshells saying that because some church has had someone teach a Bible class who fits this description, who is unregenerate, therefore the whole idea of Bible classes are wrong? If we accept that kind of logic, we would have to quit holding church services because some minister was unqualified! Just because some churches put unqualified people into teaching Sunday School does not mean that Sunday Schools themselves are the problem.

Further, as I have already shown, though the parents have the responsibility to insure that their children are educated, this does not preclude them delegating to others the authority to teach their children.

The Address continued:

"But whilst we thus stand opposed to the plan and use of these Sunday Schools, and the S.S. Union, in every point, we wish to be distinctly understood that we consider Sunday Schools for the purpose of teaching poor children to read, whereby they may be enabled to read the Scriptures for themselves, in neighborhoods where there is occasion for them, and when properly conducted, without that ostentation so commonly connected with them, to be useful and benevolent institutions, worthy of the patronage of all the friends of civil liberty."

Again, this is pure nonsense. No Christian in his right mind will accept such reasoning. It is okay to teach children to read, so that they can read the Scriptures, but it is not okay to also teach them the Scriptures? What if the only thing that was done in Sunday School classes was to read Scripture? Would not the Hardshells find fault even in this?

Monday, August 26, 2013

Hardshells & Mission Opposition VIII

Chapter 151

The Black Rock Address, in condemning Sunday Schools, said:

"Sunday Schools come next under consideration. These assume the same high stand as do Tract Societies. They claim the honor of converting their tens of thousands; of leading the tender minds of children to the knowledge of Jesus; of being as properly the instituted means of bringing children to the knowledge of salvation, as the preaching of the gospel that of bringing adults to the same knowledge, &c. Such arrogant pretensions we feel bound to oppose. First, because these as well as the pretensions of the Tract Societies are grounded upon the notion that conversion or regeneration is produced by impressions made upon the natural mind by means of religious sentiments instilled into it; and if the Holy Ghost is allowed to be at all concerned in the thing, it is in a way which implies his being somehow blended with the instruction, or necessarily attendant upon it; all of which we know to be wrong."

Though Sunday Schools may have at first been directed towards the young, it soon became a way of teaching the Bible to all age groups. Today, Sunday Schools have classes for all ages, even for adults. So, really, the opposition is not simply to having Bible classes for children only, but for having Bible classes at all. Today's Hardshells are not only against Sunday Schools for children but against having organized Bible classes for anyone.

As time passed after this declaration against teaching the Bible to children in a class setting, various Hardshells came to see how this was an extreme view and the Address itself would come to be a detriment to all efforts at teaching people the Bible in a class setting. The Black Rock Address took on an authority itself, equal with the Bible itself. When any Hardshell church recognized the extremism of the Address, and tried to begin Bible classes, the stiff and stern Hardshells would cry foul, and say that such was a violation of the principles of the Black Rock Address, as if it was an authority and could not possibly be in error.

One of the objections made against Sunday School Bible classes for young people is that it is claimed that they have been a means of converting sinners to Christ. But, who can deny that teaching the Scriptures to people does result in people being converted to Christ? To successfully deny this fact, the Hardshells would have to prove two things. First, they would have to prove that the teaching of the Scriptures is not a means in conversion. Second, they would have to prove that the Bible is not taught in Sunday Schools and Bible classes. The first they do not deny, as this is clearly taught in Scripture. For instance, Psalm 19: 7 says - "The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple." The second cannot be denied either, at least in the overwhelming majority of cases. Let us ask - if the Bible is taught in church sponsored Bible classes, is it "arrogant pretensions" to believe that many will come to a saving knowledge of the truth by such means? Are the Hardshells saying that people cannot come to such knowledge by Bible classes? Do they think that such knowledge can only come by the preacher preaching in regular worship services?

It is interesting how the Black Rockers, in the above words, equated being "regenerated" with being "converted," something that later Hardshells would not do. They say "conversion or regeneration." As we have already noted, the Black Rockers did not deny the use of means in "conversion or regeneration." When they condemned protracted and evangelistic meetings, they gave as one of their objections that there was often little doctrine preached and that this could produce no "conversion or regeneration" because, they affirmed, God had chosen his people to salvation "through belief of the truth." So, in condemning Sunday Schools they are not denying that the word of God is a means, but denying that Sunday Schools are a means of the means.

However, when the Hardshells say that Sunday School advocates believe "that conversion or regeneration is produced by impressions made upon the natural mind by means of religious sentiments instilled into it," they must be condemning those who think that moral suasion alone, or the word alone, is sufficient to bring about "conversion or regeneration." This kind of argument, however, I have already dealt with.

The Address says - "if the Holy Ghost is allowed to be at all concerned in the thing, it is in a way which implies his being somehow blended with the instruction, or necessarily attendant upon it." This is just what was noted in the previous chapter, a "speaking evil one of another," which is done, Dr. Gill says, "either by raising false reports, and bringing false charges; or by aggravating failings and infirmities; or by lessening and depreciating characters, and endeavouring to bring others into discredit and disesteem among men." But, are we not to expect that the Holy Spirit will attend the preaching of the word? The Hardshells seem to think it an evil to expect such. Did not Peter say that those who have "reported" the Scriptures have also "preached the gospel unto you with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven"? (I Peter 1: 12)

Making Disciples Of All Nations.

"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations..." (Matt. 28: 19 NKJV) This is the authority that churches have for having classes for teaching the Bible to others. The word "disciple" does not denote in itself a born again child of God, but rather denotes one who is a learner or student. In the KJV it is "teach all nations." The Greek word mathēteuō means to teach, instruct, educate, or make students or disciples.

The Hardshells often argue that the command to teach was limited strictly to the ministry, but this is a falsehood. I have already proven, in the series on the Great Commission, that the Commission was given to the church, or to the whole Christian community. I shall recall two of those arguments here. First, if the Commission be limited to the ministry, then so must the Lord's Supper. The Lord told the apostles to keep the Lord's Supper that he instituted in their presence just as he instituted the Commission in their presence. Second, the Lord told those addressed, in the Commission, to teach the disciples to "observe ALL THINGS I HAVE COMMANDED YOU." Did he not command them to go into all the nations and teach the Gospel? If so, then how can we exclude this command to go and to teach from the "all things"? He did not say "teach the disciples to observe all things I have commanded you, except for the command to go and teach."

Every disciple is to be taught to observe the command to "go and teach." But, the Hardshells do not teach that it is the duty of every disciple to "go and teach," that it is not the duty of the church as a whole, and that it is not the duty of every disciple.

Now, it is true that not all Christians have a special gift or calling to teach, yet all have the duty to teach. Notice this verse.

"And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also." (II Tim. 2: 2)

The Greek word for "men" is not the word that denotes a male, but is "anthropos" which denotes a human being of any gender. Therefore, everyone who has been instructed in the Gospel is called upon to instruct others. But, Hardshells do not believe that it is the calling of every Christian to teach others, but that it is a calling limited to those who are gifted to preach. The word "faithful" simply means people who have faith in Christ and the Gospel. Therefore, all who are people of faith are to "teach others" what they have learned. Now notice the same thing from this verse.

"For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe." (Heb. 5: 12-13)

This was spoken to all the Hebrew Christians and not just to the ministry. Paul says that God wants all to become adults (mature) in the word and thus become teachers. A teacher Paul identifies as one who has passed from sucking the milk of the word to eating the meat of it. Those who have grown in their knowledge of the word have grown into spiritual adults and have become skilled in the word.

Why is it that Hardshells reject such a plain teaching of the word? They limit teaching to the clergy and yet they are the ones who were constantly warning others about the supposed "priestcraft" of ministers who attended theological schools and who were financially supported by the churches. To limit all teaching of the Bible to the ordained clergy comes closer to priestcraft than what the Hardshells pointed to as such.

Not only is it the duty of all Christians, in one way or another, to teach others the blessed truth of the Gospel, but it is also their joy and privilege to do so. If it is not, then why do the Hardshells sing the song "I Love To Tell The Story"?

I love to tell the story
of unseen things above,
of Jesus and his glory,
of Jesus and his love.
I love to tell the story,
because I know 'tis true;
it satisfies my longings
as nothing else can do

Is this true only of the Hardshell clergy? If so, why do all the members sing it as if it expressed their own desire? Is it the "longing" only of the elders? Every Christian is called to this duty and this privilege and is a desire that is begotten in their hearts. When they hear of Christ and fall in love with him, they immediately want to find others to tell them the message.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Hardshells & Mission Opposition VII

Chapter 150

Bible Society

"We pass to the consideration of the Bible Society. We are aware, brethren, that this institution presents itself to the mind of the Christian as supported by the most plausible pretext. The idea of giving the Bible, without note or comment, to those who are unable to procure it for themselves, is in itself considered, calculated to meet the approbation of all who know the importance of the sacred Scriptures. But under this auspicious guise, we see reared in the case of the American Bible Society, an institution as foreign from anything which the gospel of Christ calls for, as are the kingdoms of this world from the kingdom of Christ. We see a combination formed, in which are united the man of the world, the vaunting professor, and the humble follower of Jesus; the leading characters in politics, the dignitaries in church, and from them some of every grade, down to the poor servant girl, who can snatch from her hard-earned wages fifty cents a year for the privilege of being a member. We see united in this combination all parties in politics, and all sects in religion; and the distinctive differences of the one, and the sectarian barriers of the other, in part thrown aside to form the union."

The Hardshells are infamous for attacking the motives of many people and organizations. They are well known for making ad hominem attacks. The Black Rockers condemn Bible societies because they are supported by people that they judge as being unworthy and unqualified to be involved in Bible distribution. If the presence of an unregenerate or worldly person in an othewise holy and good organization makes that organization evil, then why would not such a criterion condemn many churches, including those of the Hardshell denomination? One wonders what Bibles the Hardshells use? Who printed such Bibles? Was not the King James Version, so highly esteemed by most Hardshells, translated by men of denominations that the Hardshells would condemn?

The Hardshells speak of the guise or "pretext" of Christian religious organizations, such as Bible societies, as if those who are involved in such organizations are intentionally deceiving people about their purposes, and that they cannot possibly be pure and sincere in their motives. Who gave them the right to so sit in judgment of the motives of others? This is the very kind of judgment of others that the Lord condemns. (See I Cor. 4: 5 & James 4: 11) On the latter verse Dr. Gill wrote:

"Speak not evil one of another, brethren - The apostle here returns to his former subject, concerning the vices of the tongue, he had been upon in the preceding chapter, ( James 3:6-10 ) , and here mentions one, which professors of religion were too much guilty of, and that is, speaking evil one of another; which is done either by raising false reports, and bringing false charges; or by aggravating failings and infirmities; or by lessening and depreciating characters, and endeavouring to bring others into discredit and disesteem among men: this is a very great evil, and what the men of the world do, and from them it is expected; but for the saints to speak evil one of another, to sit and speak against a brother, and slander an own mother's son, is barbarous and unnatural."

Much of what is said against the supporters of Bible publishers and distributors is of this nature as is much of the entire Black Rock Address. The Hardshells condemn passing out Bibles because it is not totally supported by men who the Hardshells judge as being worthy. Because the motives of some who support Bible distribution societies may not be good, therefore the whole society is to be condemned! What kind of logic is that? Since Judas was a part of the college of apostles, therefore that college was no good? Because the church has members such as Diotrephes, Demas, Simon Magus, etc., therefore the church is not to be supported? If we accept the logic given above by the Black Rockers, then such can be concluded.

If the Gideon organization were in existence at the time of the Black Rock Address, I am sure it would be condemned also. It seems that the only organization that can publish and distribute Bibles is a Hardshell church, and yet none of them do it! Thus, if it were left up to them, there would be no Bibles! Again, what a glaring example of extremism is this condemnation of Bible publishing and distribution!

One thing is very obvious in these kinds of charges made by these extremist Black Rockers. They can countenance very little that others do in the name of Christ. This is nothing but what one would expect from self righteous cults. They condemn any kind of cooperation between Christians, any inter-denominational work. They are very standoffish. Is this attitude in keeping with the spirit of Christ? I think not. This reminds us of this instance recorded in the Gospels:

"And John answered him, saying, Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name, and he followeth not us: and we forbad him, because he followeth not us. But Jesus said, Forbid him not: for there is no man which shall do a miracle in my name, that can lightly speak evil of me. For he that is not against us is on our part." (Mark 9: 38-40)

The Hardshells condemn the good that other Christian churches and organizations do because they do not "follow" the Hardshells! "They follow not us"! Therefore, whatever good they do is to be condemned!

The Black Rockers continue:

"At the head of this vast body we see placed a few leading characters, who have in their hands the management of its enormous printing establishment, and its immense funds; and the control of its powerful influence, extended by means of agents and auxiliaries to every part of the United States. We behold its anniversary meetings converted into a great religious parade, and forming a theatre for the orator who is ambitious of preferment, either in pulpit, in the legislative hall, or at the bar, to display his eloquence, and elicit the cheers of the grave assemblage. Now, brethren, to justify our opposition to the Bible Society, it is not necessary for us to say that any of its members have manifested a disposition to employ its power for the subversion of our liberties."

What is this but more ad hominem attacks? Such attacks prove nothing! What they are saying against Bible publishing and distribution is simply sinister. It makes me think that they were inspired by the Devil in attacking such a noble enterprise. If the Devil wanted to attack Bible distribution, in a cloaked manner, could he have done any better than the Black Rockers? It seems to me that the Hardshells manifest jealousy and envy at such organizations. They have had large publishing organizations themselves, at times, but nothing as large as some Bible publishing organizations. Should we condemn Hardshell publishing companies because the leaders of those companies have charge of large sums of money? Or, because some of their leaders are not Simon pure? Further, how does supporting the American Bible society "manifest a disposition to employ its power for the subversion of our liberties"? How can they make such unfounded charges? Is it because some politicians support the society in order to win votes and win favor with the populace? If we can condemn Bible publishing societies for such a reason, then we can condemn the Christian church itself!

The Address continued:

"It is enough for us to say, lst, That such a monstrous combination, concentrating so much power in the hands of a few individuals, could never be necessary for supplying the destitute with Bibles. Individual printing establishments would readily be extended so as to supply Bibles to any amount, and in any language that might be called for, and at as cheap a rate as they have ever been sold by the Bible Society."

What are Hardshells advocating then? That the only legitimate Bible publishing and distribution organizations must not have leaders and officers? Have the Hardshells ever shown us a better way to publish and distribute Bibles? Further, it is laughable that they would condemn Bible societies being run by a group of individuals but condone it being done by a single individual! If done by a single person, would not that one person have all the power? If the attack is made under the pretense that power ought to be divided, then would it not be better for a society of individuals to do it than one person? Further, it takes lots of money to print and distribute Bibles! Should this noble work be confined to a single rich Christian? The work of translating Bibles into other languages and printing and distributing them should then be left to single individuals? And, if the only qualified individuals are the Hardshells, then the world will never have Bibles!

The Address continued:

"2nd, That the humble followers of Jesus could accomplish their benevolent wishes for supplying the needy with Bibles, with more effect, and more to their satisfaction, by managing the purchase and distribution of them for themselves; and such will never seek popular applause by having their liberality trumpeted abroad through the medium of the Bible Society."

Okay, good advice. But, when have the Hardshells ever followed their own advice? When have they ever been involved in Bible translating, publishing, and distribution? They then condemn that Bible society for seeking "popular applause." But, again, who made them the judges of the hearts of Christians? Further, to seek the support and approbation of Christians is not the same as seeking "popular applause."

The Black Rocker Hardshells then say:

"3rd, That the Bible Society, whether we consider it in its monied foundation for membership and directorship, in its hoarding up of funds, in its blending together all distinctions between the church and the world, or in its concentration of power, is an institution never contemplated by the Lord Jesus as connected with his kingdom; therefore not a command concerning it is given in the decree published, nor a sketch of it drawn in the pattern showed."

One cannot but wag his head in shame and disgust when the Hardshells condemn Bible publishers and distributors because of "its monied foundation." Do they not know that it takes money to print and distribute Bibles? Can they do it without money? How can anyone take them seriously when they argue this way? Also, why are they condemning Bible societies for "hoarding up of funds"? Doesn't any business enterprise reserve some of the profits for emergencies and for using such in the future for expansion? Do the Scriptures not condone prudence in business, especially in the Lord's business, in the business of publishing Bibles and in disseminating the word of God? The Hardshells like to condemn money, as if anything that requires it is evil. But, again, this is just pure nonsense.

Further, how do Bible societies, which are primarily run and supported by Christians, a "blending together all distinctions between the church and the world"? Because these societies do not refuse donations from non-Christians? But, do not unsaved visitors at Hardshell churches sometimes put money into their offering boxes? Or, do they refuse to allow anyone to give money that they do not know is saved, or is a member of their denomination? By allowing any to make donations into their collection boxes, are they also "blending together all distinctions between the church and the world"?

Further, they speak of the Bible Society as having a "concentration of power." But, this is untrue. As long as there are many groups publishing Bibles there will be no monopoly. If the Hardshells feared that only one society would have all the power of producing Bibles, and therefore have monopolistic power, then why did they not organize their own Bible publishing company? Today there are numerous Bible publishers, and no one has supreme power over it. The thing the Hardshells feared was never a reality.

Did the Lord not contemplate that there would be people who would involve themselves in making copies of the word? Did he not expect his own people to be involved in it? Who did the Lord think would do it? Why have the Hardshells done nothing to help publish Bibles?

Finally, the Black Rockers say:

"4th, That its vast combination of worldly power and influence lodged in the hands of a few renders it a dangerous engine against the liberties, both civil and religious, of our country, should it come under control of those disposed so to employ it. The above remarks apply with equal force to the other great national institutions, as the American Tract Society, and Sunday School Union."

The Bible Society's "vast combination of worldly power and influence"? Would it not have been better for the Hardshells, if they really fear such a concentration of power, to promote the creation of other Bible societies so that there would be competition in the Bible publishing business? Further, has time not proved that the fears expressed by the Hardshells were unfounded? Were they not acting like "chicken little" in the fears they were expressing?

It is no surprise that the Hardshells have often been called "do nothings." They can lambast and condemn the noble work of others, in printing Bibles and disimmenating knowledge of the word of God, but will not lift the finger to do anything in these things. Condemning others for simply printing and distributing Bibles, oftentimes for free to those who do not have them! Who can take the Black Rockers seriously?

Friday, August 23, 2013

Hardshells & Mission Opposition VI

Chapter 149

The Hardshells condemned the use of tracts, and of tract organizations, in their denunciations in the "Black Rock Address." Having considered their objections to revival and protracted meetings, we will now consider their objections to the use of tracts. They wrote:

"We commence with the Tract Societies. These claim to be extensively useful. Tracts claim their thousands converted. They claim the prerogative of carrying the news of salvation into holes and corners, where the gospel would otherwise never come; of going as on the wings of the wind, carrying salvation in their train; and they claim each to contain gospel enough, should it go where the Bible has never come, to lead a soul to the knowledge of Christ. The nature and extent of these and the like claims, made in favor of tracts by their advocates, constitute a good reason why we should reject them. These claims represent tracts as possessing in these respects a superiority over the Bible, and over the institution of the gospel ministry, which is charging the great I Am with a deficiency of wisdom. Yea, they charge God with folly; for why has he given us the extensive revelation contained in the Bible, and given the Holy Spirit to take the things of Christ and show them to us, if a little tract of four pages can lead a soul to the knowledge of Christ?"

When the Black Rockers referred to what tract distributors were claiming, in the time period of 1832, it would have been good for them to have substantiated those claims. It is doubtful that tract publishers were claiming all that they are charged with by the Black Rock Address. I don't think that any Christian tract publisher claimed that his tracts contained a sufficient amount of Gospel information to lead someone who was totally ignorant of the Christian religion, such as many of the heathen, especially in the times of the Address, to a saving knowledge of the Gospel. Many tracts then, as now, are designed to reach lost people who already have some knowledge of the facts of the Gospel. Passing out Gospel tracts in America, for example, where there is already some basic general knowledge of the Christian religion, are designed to waken sinners to their lost condition, and to point them to Christ, and advise them to seek the Lord.

But, it is interesting to me how hypocritical the Hardshells have been on this point. What can we say about their own periodicals? Immediately after the Black Rock Address the signers of it created "The Signs of the Times" religious magazine. The same condemnation that the Black Rockers made against tracts and pamphlets could legitimately be leveled against their own publications. Were those publications not designed to convert Arminians and Mission Baptists to hardshellism? It is also interesting how Joshua Lawrence, like many other of his fellow Hardshells, "continued to write pointed tracts targeted at an audience very distrustful of the mission societies and the other benevolent organizations." (James R. Mathis in "Making of the Primitive Baptists" - pg. 92 - see here) Further, I suppose that I have over a hundred small pamphlets or tracts that Hardshells have published on various subjects. It has become another way for them to disseminate their beliefs. Why can they do it but not allow others the freedom to do so? When others do it, they cry that such is an unwarranted "institute," but when they do it, it is no "instituted means."

Further, it seems as though the Black Rockers are condemning distribution of tracts because they do not contain enough information to convert someone. But, I doubt that any Christian tract publisher has ever claimed that his tracts had a superiority over the Bible or Gospel preaching. The Address speaks of tracts of "four pages," thinking that such would be insufficient to lead a soul to Christ. I wonder: if those four page tracts simply contained one of the sermons of Christ, would the Hardshells then condemn them? Are they saying that any one individual sermon given by Christ, which likely would fit into the parameters of "four pages," is insufficient to lead a soul to Christ? Apparently they do based upon the criterion they are using. Further, the Black Rock itself could possibly be only four pages in length! Did they not distribute it? Why is that okay but not tracts directed to the lost?

It is interesting that the Hardshells think that it takes the whole Bible to convert a sinner and yet condemn Bible distribution! But, more on that later. Suppose a Christian distributor simply passed out copies of the Gospel of John. Would that be sufficient to convert a sinner?

I have read numerous accounts by Hardshells of their experiences in being converted. In many of them they have testified that it was a result of one particular verse of Scripture that the Holy Spirit brought to their hearts with conviction. Yet, according to the reasoning given by the Black Rockers against tracts, such experiences should be condemned.

The Address continued:

"But let us consider the more rational claims presented by others in favor of tracts, as that they constitute a convenient way of disseminating religious instruction among the more indigent and thoughtless classes of society. Admitting the propriety of this claim, could it be kept separated from other pretensions, still can we submit to the distribution of tracts becoming an order of our churches or our associations, without countenancing the prevalent idea that tracts have become an instituted means approved of God for the conversion of sinners, and hence that the distribution of them is a religious act, and on a footing with supporting the gospel ministry?"

This Hardshell logic, were it followed fully, would lead us to quit having church services! Or to quit preaching the Gospel altogether. The Black Rockers said that they could not practice tract distribution because some abused it, as though the abuse of a thing made the thing itself a bad thing. But, do not some abuse church services? Was this not the case with the church at Corinth? Did not Paul say to them - "ye come together not for the better, but for the worse"? (I Cor. 11: 17) Did Paul tell them to quit meeting together? The Black Rockers say that, despite the fact, which they admit, that good has come from tract distribution, they still will not "countenance" tract publishing and distribution because it will give some the impression that the Hardshells support the abuses. But, again, such logic if followed in other areas would lead them to discard everything they do, because all has been abused at some point by some group.

Again, the Black Rockers speak of "instituted means." By this they decry tracts because they cannot find anything in the Scriptures that specifically mentions them. Again, this is bad logic, and if followed in other areas, would lead the Hardshells to abandon their having periodicals, and pamphlets, radio preaching, associations, etc. It is the error of "patternism," and similar to what some call the "regulative principle" in worship. Surely all that we do should be based upon Scripture and its principles, but to think that something must be specifically mentioned to be accepted is an absurdity. The Hardshells themselves do not follow such a policy, being inconsistent. But, I will have more to say on these points in the conclusion of this series.

The Address continued:

"If we were to admit that tracts have occasionally been made instrumental by the Holy Ghost for imparting instruction or comfort to inquiring minds, it would by no means imply that tracts are an instituted means of salvation, to speak after the manner of the popular religionists, nor that they should be placed on a footing with the Bible and the preached gospel, in respect to imparting the knowledge of salvation."

This is nothing but gobbledygook, pure nonsense. No Christian in his right mind can abide by such sentiments. The Hardshells found it difficult to admit that any good ever came from any tract, and so they continually say "IF we admit." Again, the Hardshells show how hypocritical and inconsistent they are. Are not many of their periodicals nothing but tracts? Some small, and some large? Are these not designed to be instrumental in imparting instruction and for comforting inquiring minds? They then once again condemn tracts becoming an "instituted means." The Baptists who were involved in tract publishing and distribution never intended to force such a practice on churches! Also, it is to be disbelieved when the Hardshells accuse tract publishers as placing their tracts on a footing with the Bible! The Black Rock Address is full of such false accusations and misrepresentations.

The Address continued:

"Again, we readily admit the propriety of an individual's publishing and distributing, or of several individuals uniting to publish and distribute what they wish circulated, whether in the form of tracts, or otherwise; but still we cannot admit the propriety of uniting with or upon the plans of existing Tract Societies, even laying aside the idea of their being attempted to be palmed upon us as religious institutions. Because that upon the plan of these societies, those who unite with them pay their money for publishing and distributing they know not what, under the name of religious truth; and what is worse, they submit to have sent into their families weekly or monthly, and to circulate among their neighbors, anything and everything for religious reading, which the agent or publishing committee may see fit to publish. They thus become accustomed to receive everything as good which comes under the name of religion, whether it be according to the word of God or not; and are trained to the habit of letting others judge for them in matters of religion, and are therefore fast preparing to become the dupes of priestcraft. Can any conscientious follower of the Lamb submit to such plans? If others can, we cannot."

The Hardshells were in a tough spot in condemning tracts. It was hard for them to deny that some good had been accomplished by them. It was also hard for them to deny that it was the right of Christians to publish and distribute tracts and pamphlets on religious subjects. Such a blanket condemnation would also condemn their own efforts at distributing printed materials. So, the real objections are narrowed down to two. The first is that it is wrong because it gives the appearance of being in agreement with Arminians, and second, that the tract publishers and distributors claim that many have been converted by them. The first of these objections has been abundantly shown to be an extreme, and a criterion that the Hardshells do not follow in every respect. Why don't they quit having church services since others abuse them? The second objection also is an extreme and one that has been fully disproved. Have the Hardshells not put out numerous periodicals and pamphlets for the purpose of converting others to hardshellism? Was the Black Rock Address not a kind of tract intended to convert others?

In all this Hardshells show themselves to be nitpickers and do-nothings. Any Christian in his right mind will view such objections to tract publishing as made by "straight jackets," a term that has been applied to Hardshells. They will see them as weirdos and as an extremist cult.

Debate over the means of the means

The Gospel and the word of God are the appointed means of salvation. This the Bible abundantly states and is also what the oldest Old Baptist confessions affirm. It is also what the first generation of Hardshells acknowledged. So, the debate is really over the means of the appointed means. In other words, is tract publishing and distribution a legitimate means of the means? Is it a means of disseminating the word of God? Who can deny that it is? If it is not a means of making the Gospel available, then why have the Hardshells themselves produced printed materials as means of conveying the word of God? The debate over Sunday Schools, theological schools, and protracted meetings, and such like, are all debates concerning the means of the means.

Jesus said - "What I tell you in private, that proclaim from the roof tops." (Matt. 10: 27) And, Paul said - "I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some." (I Cor. 9: 22) These words justify the use of all available means to spread the word of God. Had the radio or printing press been available in the days of Paul, I doubt that he would have refused to make use of them.

New Articles of Faith

With a change in major points of doctrine must necessarily come a reflection of the same in the local church's Articles of Faith. It is with great sadness that I must announce that strange, unorthodox views have finally made their way into churches whom I pray could be rescued from such a stance.

"We believe that while the gospel of Jesus Christ is in no way involved in the regeneration (new birth) of the elect, it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believes. There are timely, daily, and personal deliverances for the child of God through faith in believing the gospel and obedience to the same." (see Here)


Temporal Salvation. We believe the gospel is the good news of God's salvation by the finished work of Jesus Christ. It is intended solely for God's elect born again children, for their good, joy and happiness. It brings life and immortality to light, and by it, we are fed spiritually. Belief and obedience to the gospel by the performing of "good works" provides a great reward in this life and a timely deliverance (temporal salvation) from spiritual ignorance, a life displeasing to God, and from the pitfalls of this world, our flesh and the devil. We also avoid the chastening rod of God's wrath here in this life by living in obedience to His word. The gospel has no role in the eternal salvation of God's children and many of God's elect will never be converted to the truth of the gospel unto discipleship (infant deaths, mentally afflicted, those in remote parts of the world, or those who in an act of rebellion reject the gospel in unbelief). (Augusta Primitive Baptist Church, May 2012)

To what page in history may we turn to see such beliefs endorsed? The gospel is only for the regenerate and only procures temporal blessings, having nothing to do with eternal salvation? Many of the elect who hear it will reject it, yet still be finally saved? They go to heaven as unchanged rebels?