Friday, October 25, 2013

Apologetics Can Be Frustrating

In the past few days I have come to learn first-hand the frustration that can come when trying to lead one to see the error of his way. This is especially true when it is apparent that the one you are trying to correct is so ingrained in his set of beliefs that it seems almost a hopeless pursuit. Do you continue the conversation? If you do not, this may suggest that you’ve been stumped, and the opposing view has gained the upper hand. If you do, you know that your pearls will continue to be trampled underfoot with little consideration to your own beliefs.

A few days ago I commented on a “Primitive Baptist” blog posting "Was Solomon a Child of God?" from The case was argued that Solomon is an example of a regenerate child of God who was preserved by God, but did not persevere in his profession. I left a comment asking the author if he agreed with the teaching found in the confession of his own order! The 1900 Fulton Confession of Faith, despite its other flaws, condoned the Perseverance of the Saints as defined by the London brethren!

After just a couple of exchanges by us both, I became disheartened. The number of errors and caricatures of Calvinism were so many it was hard to find motivation to respond. Where to start?

In their apologetics Hardshells often make assertions which sweep over finer points of systematic theology as if they are trivial matters. Conditions, necessities, or saying that our salvation depends upon something are subjects that need defining before they are presumptuously thrown in the waste basket as having no place in the salvation of sinners. I saw this whenever I was growing in my knowledge of the scriptures. These terms are ambiguous in the hands of men, and we need to know what writers mean when they use them.

That being said, here are some brief points I would like for the blog editor to consider, as well as anyone else who is equally misguided.

1. History cannot be ignored. The author hid from my question as to whether he agreed with the Fulton Confession of Faith and the 1777 Kehukee Association Articles on the matter of perseverance. He flew to the refuge that the scriptures, and not historical documents, are our authority. Correct. No one denies that they are. Yet the title “Primitive” is a claim to historicity, in which you are basically saying that my views are the old, original views. I suppose ignoring the question is the only alternative when one comes to realize that answering it would be an admission that he or she is advocating something new. Those today who deny perseverance have not only departed from the London Confession, but the Fulton as well. This is just more evidence of the evolution of doctrine over the past 150 years or so.

2. Perseverance is not “works” salvation. The new life of the regenerate is Christ within us (Gal. 2:20). He is the author of our good works (Philip. 1:11; 2:13). Hardshells generally do not understand this, but have a free-will view of man’s nature after the new birth. They are post-regeneration free-willers. In their view the "few" elect who do persevere have become their own Savior. They are "saving themselves" since there is no decree from God to guarantee they shall, and the Spirit’s work in regeneration can’t or won’t effect it. This is the Arminianism within conditional time salvation.

3. Perseverance is a definite fruit of regeneration. The scriptures teach what shall definitely happen to the elect after regeneration. They shall hold on their way (Job 17:9). They fall down but rise again (Prov. 24:6). They will continue in the faith (Col. 1:23; 1 John 2:19).

4. The "finished work" of Christ cannot be carried to the point of fatalism. Case and point. "If Christ died for a man, then that man will go to heaven even if he remains an unchanged rebel in unbelief and sin." Perish the thought! Many Hardshells shout of the "finished work" of Christ as if nothing else needs to happen for the elect to be saved. Anything else is said to be an "addition" to the work of Christ. But do not sinners have to be born again to go to heaven? This proves that something else needs to happen to the elect after the death of Christ. And so they should not be so close-minded on the subject of what yet remains for the elect to be fitted for heaven after Christ suffered and died. The redeeming work of Christ must be communicated in the new birth for starters.

5. Ambiguous terms must be properly understood. The term condition and similar expressions belong in the conversation of how sinners are saved. The Hardshell error lies in equating them with efficient causes, thus allowing them to make the charge that Calvinists are denying that the blood of Christ, the death of Christ, or the grace of God are the reasons for our salvation. When Calvinists speak of conditions within the context of eternal salvation they simply mean that something must be in place for the salvation transaction to transpire. We could say that my salvation "depended upon" those who crucified our Lord. If they do not do so, then Christ would not die, and no one would be redeemed! I could say that regeneration was a "condition" that had to be met for my final salvation into glory. Probably the worst error in this discussion is to confuse the decree of salvation with its administration. We were unconditionally elected to receive certain conditions in time, which God’s grace will provide (Romans 8:32); namely, faith, repentance, and holiness.

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