Thursday, October 10, 2013

Hardshells & Mission Opposition XXIII

Chapter 166

In closing out this series on the Hardshells and their opposition to fulfilling the mission of the Great Commission and of the church, and of my analysis of the Black Rock Address, I would like to cite from an article titled "AN “OPEN-HEART” LETTER TO PRIMITIVE BAPTISTS...AND ALL OTHERS" by Charles Carrin (2012), an eighty plus year old Hardshell elder. Elder Carrin wrote (see here):

"I had moved to Atlanta the year before, 1949, having been ordained in Miami, and was pastor at the Memorial P.B. Church just a mile from the Atlanta Church were Brother Thomas spoke. Half a mile from my church was the East Atlanta P.B. Church and a mile beyond that was Bethany Church. There were probably 25 Primitive Baptist Churches in the area now occupied by metropolitan Atlanta. Many had fine brick buildings and historic cemeteries. Some 500 other P.B. congregations were scattered across Georgia. But the outlook was frightening. The churches were divided into a myriad of warring groups that forbade fellowship with each other. Each of the three congregations nearest my church represented a different faction. Where Jesus had called His disciples “together”, Luke 9:1, Primitive Baptists had defiantly torn them apart."

What Elder Carrin bears witness to is nothing new. It is not simply a characteristic of the mid twentieth century, but of the entire history of the Hardshell denomination. They are schismatics, backbiters, and heretical.

Elder Carrin wrote:

"The rejection I experienced had a positive effect. It motivated me even more to discover why Primitive Baptists treated each other like enemies. Little Flock Church in Miami where I grew up and had loved me as a child now held my ministry in contempt–even though we were agreed theologically. It, like most others, was locked into the mind-set of 18th century pioneer-tradition. Old customs held equal authority with Scripture. Though my Atlanta congregation was growing I still knew that “death was in the pot” and eventually awaited all of us. II Kings 4:38-40. Something was stalking the denomination that we did not know how to stop."

Others have had a similar experience in the Hardshell church and such experiences have had the positive effect of waking up the person to see the perils of being in the Hardshell cult. I had such an experience. Elder Fralick who is co-editor of our "Old Baptist" blog also had a bad experience with the Hardshells that the Lord turned into a blessing, using it to pull us away from a cult. The amount of divisions and schisms in the Hardshell denomination shows how schismatic they are as a people. There is very little longsuffering and forbearance among the Hardshells, who are quick to cast off all who do not conform to what tradition and local Hardshell popes decree.

Elder Carrin wrote:

"In 1953, I could endure the pain no longer and asked the Primitive Western Union–of which my congregation was a member–to authorize me to write a letter to all Primitive Baptist Churches in the United States. The purpose was an appeal that we pray for each others restoration to the unity and power of former years. With the Session’s approval I then hand-addressed letters to more than 3,000 Primitive Baptist Churches in the U.S. I remember the number very well. Every state was represented. After mailing them I waited fearfully. When responses began arriving they were not only discouraging but in some cases hostile. I was rebuked angrily for thinking that churches “needed the petition of designing men for their health and well-being”. In some cases, I was ordered to remove church names from the list. My weeping intensified."

Many other Hardshells, over the past 180 years, having a burden to see the Hardshells repent of their errors and anti spirit, sought to reform the denomination, but all met with failure. The Hardshell spirit was just too stubborn and obstinate.

Elder Carrin wrote:

"Today I doubt that 500 of those 3,000 churches are still alive–and all these are tragically small. They wield no power beyond their own membership. Unlike our ancestors who helped shape America, P.B. influence in public life today is non-existent. Because of that spiritual decline, I must share some observations I gained over the past 62 years of ministry. Part of this will be facts you may not want to hear. Even so, the motive behind my letter is love for you and the churches we have mutually served. Regardless of your faction, I ask you to hear me to the end. Like most of you, I came from a long Primitive Baptist background."

I believe that Elder Carrin was sincere, though the Hardshells will probably want to attack the motives of men like Carrin, as they have all who write against their errors. Our goal is to save a few Hardshells. We are under no delusions that there will be any great numbers of them who will repent and turn back to the Old Baptist faith of their fathers.

Elder Carrin wrote:

"I waited a long time for God's answer to my question about the decline, but when the first part came–as if by thunder–it was in our history–. You probably know that in 1832 at Black Rock Church in Baltimore County, Maryland, a large number of Baptist Pastors and laymen met to protest changes that were appearing in the churches. Specifically, they opposed six new practices: Tract Societies, Sunday Schools, Bible Societies, Missions, Theological Schools, and Protracted Meetings. Other efforts that would have promoted church unity were also opposed. –Their concerns were not about doctrinal issues but practical–."

When Elder Carrin speaks of the problem with the Hardshell church, he attributes it to their history, a point I have made throughout this book. Most Hardshells have been told lies about their history. They do not know their real history. The truth is, they do not believe what their founding fathers believed and if they were alive today, they would not be accepted by today's Hardshells. There has truly been a coverup of the history of the Hardshells, particularly up until the 1860s. The authors that Hardshells today cite as expressive of the view of their forefathers are second and third generation Hardshells. They do not keep in print anything written in the time period before the 1860s because they cannot find their views being advocated prior to that time. Nearly all Hardshells today think that the founding fathers of Hardshellism all believed that the Gospel was no means in accomplishing the eternal salvation of the elect, and that conversion was not necessary to be eternally saved, but if they would read what the first Hardshells wrote, they will see that this is false.

Elder Carrin wrote:

"My personal view of Black Rock or these six topics is of no value. –The only thing of importance is what history has confirmed:– A century and a half after the Black Rock meeting thousands of its participating churches were dead. Disastrous fighting and declarations of non-fellowship broke out and infected every congregation that joined the movement. Even peace-loving churches who later took part were affected by it. These churches were not killed by Sunday Schools, Missions, Tract Societies, etc. Not at all. On those issues the churches were strongly agreed. The villain was something totally different."

Jesus said that one can identify the kind of tree by the fruit it bears. By this standard we judge that the fruit of the Black Rock Address was destruction to many churches. The Hardshells must face the music about these facts of their history. They will continue to dwindle and die because they have departed from the Scriptures and the Old Baptist faith. Today their church members know very little of the Bible, and their being against teaching the Bible to their members in classes has contributed to this. Likewise, their ministers are generally ignorant of systematic theology and the rudimental principles of biblical hermeneutics, all of which could have been corrected had they been for training of ministers.

Elder Carrin wrote:

"My conviction is this: If such dangerous, divisive spirits could infect the disciples in Jesus’ day they are certainly more capable of doing so now–and I am convinced it was this kind of villain that secretly embedded itself in the 1832 meeting. Why do I say that? Look at the results! Thousands of churches have been destroyed. That was not the work of the Holy Spirit! Even churches that temporarily escaped later became victimized by it."

All that Elder Carrin is doing is judging by looking at the fruit of the Hardshell denunciations in the Black Rock Address.

Elder Carrin wrote:

"Listen carefully to these words: Churches either bear good fruit or God removes them from His garden. There is no exception. I looked for Primitive Baptist fruit. There was none. Evangelism was dead. Charity was non-existent. The churches existed solely for themselves; no one else. All fruit-bearing practices–by default–died at Black Rock. As a result, hundreds of fruitless congregations had fallen victim to God's axe. This shocked me: God Himself had been the executioner. He was the one who cut down barren ministries and cast them away."

Elder Carrin is accurate in his analysis of what has befallen the Hardshell churches. His statement that "evangelism is dead" is correct, and where evangelism is dead in churches, so will the churches be dead. Elder Watson spoke of this in his book "The Old Baptist Test" as I have already observed. He decried the Hardshell "ultraist" giving up the practice of exhorting sinners and calling those who do practice it "Arminians." If the Hardshell church is ever to be saved from death, it will have to once again begin the practice of exhorting all, both saints and sinners, about their duty and about what they must do to be saved. Elder Carrin lays the cause of the Hardshell rot at the Black Rock Address and this is true, but it is also true that it springs from their Hyper Calvinism.

Elder Carrin wrote:

"Primitive Baptists emphatically refused foreign missions and all other fruit-bearing action. We happily preached "grace" as a doctrine but rejected it as a vital practice in the life of the church."

Again, all this is very true. But, I would add that the chief blame lies in the fact that the Hardshells would later alter their doctrine on regeneration by means of Gospel preaching, and the necessity of evangelical faith and repentance for salvation, and on perseverance. It was their antinomian spirit that brought death, the idea that salvation was solely God's responsibility and that those saved had no responsibility in the matter.

Elder Carrin wrote:

"P.B. claims to being the “original church” are an insult to Jesus who "loved the church and gave Himself for it," Ephesians 5:25, but to the Holy Spirit who empowered it at Pentecost. Acts 2 .,,Where there is no power, the Holy Spirit has not come. In spite of that fact, dying P.B. churches and powerless ministries arrogantly claim to have the only valid baptism, the only valid communion, the only valid gospel...After 2,000 years of work on the earth if the dysfunctional P.B. Church is the only church the Holy Spirit has been able to produce He is a total, utter, failure. Read that statement again. It is true. As a long-term P.B. Elder I am willing to say it. Millions of believers around the world are legitimately receiving both baptism and communion in which Primitive Baptist have no part. In spite of their efforts to make changes, my own progressive P.B's. are in as tragic decline as the original old-line. Why? They are still trying to evangelize the doctrines of election and predestination instead of evangelizing Christ. Acts 26:18. They refuse to deal with their theological-bias and admit their rejection of authentic Scriptural truths."

These statements by Elder Carrin are spot on and need little comment. They reflect the same judgment that I have consistently made throughout this book. Today's Hardshells are like a person dying with cancer but who refuses to believe it. They are living in denial.

Elder Carrin wrote:

"But, I need to confess my own sin and failure as a P.B. Pastor. For 30+ years on the radio and in my pulpit, I too desperately tried to evangelize the doctrines of election and predestination. I failed. I tried to convert people to our church instead of converting them to Christ. I failed again. I tried to convince people of the validity of our baptism above all others. That also failed. I re-baptized all who came. I denied Communion to those who had no P.B. baptism. Worse still, I was ignorant of Jesus’ teaching about the Kingdom of God."

What Elder Carrin is really acknowledging is the fact that the Hardshells are a cult and that their Landmark views are part of the problem. Further, Elder Carrin is simply stating what Elder Watson had warned about in 1866. The Hardshells will never save themselves from death until they return to the Old Baptist faith.

Elder Carrin wrote:

"A Primitive Baptist-gospel is pointless and powerless. It is self-centered and destructive. If the gospel we preach is not impacting the world around it we have the wrong gospel. I don't care how expert we may be in Bible doctrine, if the Holy Spirit is not using our message to bring others to Christ and submission to the Kingdom our preaching is a failure. Where is the grief-stricken conscience that drives P.B. pastors to their knees, asking “Am I to blame for the death of my church? What is wrong with my preaching?! Why am I not getting New Testament results?” If we genuinely ask God He will tell us."

Would to God that this message by Elder Carrin were taken to heart by the Hardshells. He writes out of grief and love for the cause. All honest Hardshells who read such words know in their hearts that what he says is right. The Hardshells think that evangelism is simply proselyting people to Hardshellism. Recall that Elder Leland had a burden to see sinners saved, weeping over the fact, and yet Hardshells have the audacity to claim that they are in league with Leland.

Elder Carrin wrote:

"I will go further in acknowledging my own sin. For 30 years of ministry there were certain New Testament scriptures which I was unable to preach. Why? I felt honor-bound to interpret every Bible verse through our Articles of Faith. If scriptures did not agree with the Articles I thought I was confused about the Scripture. The Articles were right. If I had preached any Scripture contrary to the Articles I would have been excommunicated. I am convinced many other godly pastors are submitting to the same tragic error--and getting the same zero-results in their ministry. Today I realize that the enormity of Scripture can never be reduced to a few humanly-composed statements of faith. But, you don't have to believe me. Look at facts! Look at history! Look at statistics! Look at what the Holy Spirit is now doing in China, Africa, South America, where millions are coming to Christ and the church is exploding. In the years of my own ministry believers in China have grown from 50,000 to more than 100,000,000. And that occurred under vicious Communist persecution. Are these Christians real? Yes! They are true lovers of Jesus."

These are the same things I have been saying throughout this book.

Elder Carrin wrote:

"Am I concerned? Of course I am. Angered? Yes! I was concerned 60 years ago when I heard Brother Thomas’ preach! I wept. I mourned about it. That night I went home groaning over the danger we were in. What we were forewarned that evening has fully come to pass. Vainly, I pleaded with the churches 60 years ago. And I am doing so again. Jesus has not changed His mind since He said, “Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away”. Did you hear that? If your ministry and your P.B. church are not bearing fruit for the Kingdom of God expect to be cut off!"

Elder Carrin speaks of how he tried to bring the Hardshells to their senses, how he tried to call them to repent and reform, and how his efforts failed. He is not the first to try to save the Hardshells for many throughout their history tried it and failed, for the most part.

Elder Carrin wrote:

"Primitive Baptists, hear me! Preachers had better come to terms with God. He is not going to adjust His word to your religious absurdity. Don't fight against Him. Acts 5:39. The New Testament is not a book–it is an unbreakable Covenant! You have dared to use your religious scissors to cut out parts that did not fit your doctrine. Stop it! No part of God’s Word is expendable."

Elder Carrin is again correct in his affirmation about how the Hardshells interpret Scripture. On this I hope to speak about in upcoming chapters. Though they boast of how they are the only ones who rightly divide the word of truth, it is really just the opposite. They are guilty of eisegesis and know little about exegesis. Their preachers would have been well served to have attended seminary and learned about hermeneutics.

Elder Carrin wrote:

"Little Flock Church where I grew up is dead. The once-beautiful and crowded Miami Church that baptized and ordained me is dead. My first church in Atlanta is dead. Utoy is dead. The church served by Elder Gilbert Beebe, Moderator of the Black Rock Conference, is dead. Thousands of great churches are dead. Others have a name that they are alive but in reality are dead. Revelation 3:1. Jesus said, “The words that I speak to you they are spirit and they are life.” John 6:63. It is impossible to speak Jesus’ words through the gospel and death to prevail. Genuine, authentic gospel imparts life! It is “spirit”! These churches died because they did not have a full New Testament gospel. They had a Primitive Baptist substitute. The substitute killed them. That terrifies me. It ought to terrify you. Churches do not die of old age; they have to be killed. What kills them? Preachers with a synthetic gospel!"

Hyper Calvinism killed the Hardshells! Failure to preach to sinners has killed them. Opposing efforts to fulfill the Great Commission has killed them.

Elder Carrin wrote:

"I am fully convinced of this: God saw the fruitlessness, religious legalism, and fighting, in P.B. churches, and removed the Candlestick. It is gone. Gone forever! The Candlestick is not coming back. Hear me: Nothing will ever restore it. The denomination cannot be revived. Stop trying. It is finished. Bury the dead past and get on with reality! The “tree” has been cut down." "The crown is fallen from our head: woe unto us that we have sinned!” Lamentations 5:16. Do I believe this? Yes!  Absolutely! Nor will I be quiet about it. The Holy Spirit will never be tied to a dead tree stump. Don’t try to keep Him there. Brother Thomas’ 1950 warning was prophetic. Acts 2:17. Whether you like my saying it or not is not my concern. My only desire is to see you rescue whatever time remains and move on with an authentic New Testament ministry. This is not 1832. It is 2012! God expects us to act accordingly. We are in the end-times of human history. Wake up! We were not sent to embalm the dead but to raise the dead."

I agree that the Hardshells, as a denomination, cannot be saved. But, it is possible to save some of them. It is also possible that those Hardshells today who are seeing their errors, such as those in the "liberal movement," may be successful in at least setting up a counter set of "Primitive Baptist" churches. Let us hope so.

1 comment:

Kevin Fralick said...

Brother Stephen,

It's hard to read this without donning sackcloth and ashes. The really sad thing is how they see such decline, not as a sign of apostasy, but the evidence that they are the one true church. God's "timely elect".