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.