Sunday, November 3, 2013

Preservation but not Perseverance?

The Hardshell who writes at theearstohear blog has written another denial of the Bible doctrine of Perseverance (see here).  Both Elder Fralick and I have both recently interacted with this Hardshell on this issue and written in rebuttal to what he has written.  This Hardshell has written another article in an attempt to uphold his idea that "Primitive Baptists Rightly Divide Preservation and Perseverance."

Before I examine this article, I want to give the comment I left him. I commented, saying:

Dear Brother:

"Can you give a citation from any of your Baptist forefathers, prior to the mid 19th century, who denied perseverance as you do? Can you cite one of them who taught that perseverance was only for a time salvation? If you cannot, and yet you believe that believing as you do is required for a church to be a legitimate church, how can you claim to be a primitive Baptist?"

In response, this Hardshell wrote me a lengthy reply, similar to the reply that he recently gave to Brother Fralick. I need not cite the entire comment, but he first replied by writing:

"My belief regarding perseverance comes directly from my understanding of scripture, not from citations of “Baptist forefathers prior to the mid 19th century.” I make my arguments from a systematic approach to the bible, not from Baptist history. Were I to do so, it would prove nothing with respect to the validity of my theological position."

The first thing to notice is how this brother basically admits that his view is novel among Particular or Calvinistic or Sovereign Grace Baptists. He knows he can find no one among his Baptist forefathers who denied that preservation involved perseverance. So, what does he do? He skips over centuries and claims that he is a "Primitive" Baptist because Paul and the new testament writers were Primitive Baptists and that they did not teach the doctrine of perseverance. So, what is he saying? He is saying that the truth about preservation was lost for centuries until it was restored by him and his modern Hardshells. He is saying that his Baptist forefathers were in error on this point, were not "rightly dividing the word of truth," and were basing salvation on something other than the atonement because they taught perseverance. That is indeed an outlandish claim. It reminds me of Alexander Campbell who also thought that the church had lost important truth until he came along to restore it. But, Campbell did not take the name of "Primitive Baptist" because he realized that there were not any groups in the days of the apostles or afterward (till the 17th century) who called themselves Baptists. He and his followers therefore wanted only to be called "Christian" and "church of Christ." This ought to have been what this Hardshell ought to do also, seeing he cannot find any Baptists, besides the Arminian or General Baptists, who denied perseverance. His forefathers who first adopted the name "Primitive Baptist" did so because they believed that they were holding to the beliefs of their Baptist forefathers who endorsed the London and Philadelphia Confessions of faith.

This Hardshell wants us to believe that he is a "Primitive Baptist" because he teaches preservation as did the Apostle Paul. But, by this definition, his Hardshell forefathers who professed a belief in perseverance are not genuine "Primitive Baptists." He does not want us to define the label "Primitive Baptist" on the basis that one is teaching what is historic and traditional Baptist teaching. Of course, we know why. On this basis he is not a true old or primitive Baptist. But, all his Hardshell forefathers were express in saying that they believed that the new testament teaches what is expressed in their articles of faith.

How can this brother say that all his Baptist forefathers were in error in linking preservation with perseverance? How can he be so presumptuous as to think that he is wiser in the Scriptures than all of them? He also denies that they were "Primitive Baptists." He says "Primitive Baptists" believe in preservation but not in perseverance. So, all his Hardshell forefathers who assembled in Fulton, Kentucky to endorse the London Confession's statement on perseverance are not "Primitive Baptists." He did not say - "SOME Primitive Baptists" deny perseverance. The names of those who signed the Fulton Confession are recognized men in the Hardshell cult, men like S.F. and C.H. Cayce, J.M. Thompson, J.H. Oliphant, Lee Hanks, etc., are not "Primitive Baptists"!

He then says this:

"It follows by logical consequence that any attempt to validate the legitimacy of one’s theology by any measure other than scripture is quixotic sophistry."

It is true that the Scriptures are the final rule for deciding orthodoxy. But, it is difficult to think that such an important understanding about preservation and perseverance was lost by the Lord's church from the days of the Apostles until some few Hardshells in the latter end of the 19th century rediscovered it. Further, we have many Scriptures that teach clearly the doctrine of both preservation and perseverance and so we are willing to discuss with this brother what the Scriptues teach. But, we have already done this to some degree. Brother Fralick and I have cited Scriptures to this Hardshell brother that clearly teach perseverance and he has not demonstrated that those Scriptures do not teach it. We again invite this brother to read our series on "Hardshells and Perseverance."

This brother next writes to me, saying:

"You ask the question, “If you cannot (cite some old Baptist who agrees) and yet you believe that believing as you do is required for a church to be a legitimate church, how can you claim to be a Primitive Baptist?” In so doing you project a position onto me, namely that I believe that someone must believe as I do with respect to preservation/perseverance in order to be a legitimate church. I do not believe that. The bible is clear that mere doctrinal error is insufficient to make the determination as to whether or not a body of believers is a legitimate church."

I certainly do agree that an error in doctrine does not make a church illegitimate. But, it would be good if this brother practiced his beliefs. Have not the Hardshells said that they will not accept the baptisms and work of any church that is not of their fellowship? What doctrinal errors does he think invalidates a church? If a church believes, like the first Hardshell churches, that the Gospel is God's means in saving his elect from sin and damnation, and that they all will persevere in the faith of the Gospel, are they legitimate? If a church has musical instruments, is this church legitimate? If it is not legitimate, then is this brother not saying that an error regarding preservation/perseverance is not critical, but the musical instrument question is?

This brother then writes:

"That said, I believe that most Christian churches have done far more than merely stray-off-the-path into doctrinal error. They have canonized and institutionalized doctrinal error. In so doing they have hardened their hearts with respect to the truth and they visit great distress and confusion upon those of the Lord’s flock who find themselves in those assemblies. The unarguable fact that the VAST majority of professing Christian churches have doctrinal statements that are abjectly Arminian is proof positive of this statement."

According to this brother any church that is "Arminian" has doctrinal error that invalidates it as a church of Christ. But, we would first need to know what this brother would include in the label "Arminian." Many Hardshells do call certain doctrinal points "Arminian" when they are in fact not. We cited Elder John Watson and Elder John Clark who pointed out, in their day, how some Hardshells were calling those who believed in Gospel means, and in exhorting the lost, as "Arminian" when they were not. In fact, the Hardshells of today are contradictory on the point of whether the Gospel means position is either "Arminian" or "Calvinist." Many Hardshells today will say that the belief that God calls his elect by the Gospel, and who believe in the doctrines of grace, is "Calvinism," and they will tell us that "Primitive Baptists" are not Calvinists. So, which is it?

Consider also that what this brother teaches about conversion and "time salvation" is nothing but pure Arminianism. This is what Elder John Clark said about those Hardshells who think it unscriptual to preach to dead sinners. He wrote:

"To preach to men upon the ground that they have power to do what is commanded, or to refuse to preach to them because they have not the power, shows that the confidence is in the flesh and not in God; that they depend upon the will of the flesh and not upon the power God, and that is the very essence, double refined, of Arminianism."(see here for Clark's entire writing)

Further, this brother has already stated that error in doctrine does not necessarily make a church illegitimate so as to invalidate their baptisms. The church of Galatia, for instance, held to serious error but Paul still addressed them as churches of Christ. Does this Hardshell not realize that the Kehukee Association was once Arminian and that when they embraced Calvinism that they were not all re-baptized? Were those Kehukee churches illegitimate because they were not re-baptized? Further, Elder Sylvester Hassell said that the medieval churches that today's Hardshell churches descended from were Arminian?

This brother wrote further:

"These writings attribute the whole of our salvation to the work of God through the imputation of Christ’s righteousness to us, the imputation of our sins to Christ as our substitute...Paul said it best when he said that our salvation was "not by works of righteousness which we have done." (Tit 3:5) It follows that our righteous acts of perseverance have NOTHING to do with the work that populates heaven."

This false argumentation I answered in my previous posting "Demolishing Hardshell Reasoning." But, I wish to add to it the rebuttal observation that this kind of reasoning forces this brother to argue that his being converted was by his works, and not by grace; that his coming to know and believe in Christ was not by grace, and was not the work of God alone. His persevering loyalty to Christ and his word is not the work of God and his grace, but is his own work. In fact, any activity that this brother does he will not ascribe to the grace and work of God, but to himself, by his own reasoning.

This brother wrote further:

"We Primitive Baptists are in many respects quirky and imperfect. We are sinners saved by grace and nothing more. But I have yet to find a group of professing believers that is closer in doctrine and practice to what I find taught in the bible than the Primitive Baptist church."

When this Hardshell brother says that he is saved by grace, he certainly does not include his "time salvation," or his conversion to Christ. He will say that daily salvation from sin and trial is of works, by his own reasoning. And, as far as his thinking how the Hardshell cult is more perfect in doctrine and practice than any other group, this is just what we would expect from those in a cult would say. I am sure that those in the Jehovah's Witness, Mormon, and Catholic cults would say the same thing about their own denominations.

Now let me examine the writing of this brother to which I made comment. He wrote:

"In a recent internet discussion I was asked:

Could you clarify your beliefs on Perseverance? It sounds as if you don't believe that children of God will persevere in this world.

To which I provided the following response:

Primitive Baptists make a distinction between "Preservation" (Jude 1), which is the surety we have "in Christ" regarding our eternal destiny as a result of his finished work on behalf of his chosen people (Rom 8:31-39, John 10:28), and "Perseverance" which is a matter of temporal obedience to which God's people are admonished and exhorted. Failure to rightly divide these two results in a great deal of confusion."

The citation that this Hardshell brother refers to is that made by Elder Fralick. Of course, brother Fralick added Scripture to support his view that those who are chosen and called will certainly remain loyal to Christ and not fall totally and finally away. These Scriptures were never refuted by the Hardshell.

Further, as I have already pointed out, when he says "Primitive Baptists make a distinction between preservation and perseverance," he by this language says that those who do not make such a distinction are not "Primitive Baptists." But, in this he accuses his Hardshell forefathers of not being "Primitive Baptists." He also accuses his fellow Hardshells, such as Zack Guess and Lasserre Bradley, as not being "Primitive Baptists." And notice once again how he gives God all the credit for his being preserved but gives himself the credit for his persevering. His preservation is by God's grace and power but his persevering is by works and by his own power. Further, this disjointing of preservation and perseverance is not rightly dividing the word of truth but, as brother Fralick has said, is putting asunder what God has joined together. If this brother would take the time to read our series on "Hardshells and Perseverance" then he would see this to be the case.

He then wrote:

"Since the eternal salvation of God's chosen people is a monergistic work, that is, a work of God alone, there is therefore no room to include man's works in any way, shape, form, or fashion without denying the notion of monergism. Thus, there is simply no way to include those things which fall under the rubric of "perseverance" as conditions of our eternal salvation without the unavoidable logical consequence of leaving the realm of salvation by sovereign grace."

One can only guess what this Hardshell means when he says that eternal salvation "is a monergistic work." Does he mean that a person is saved whether he ever believes, repents, calls on the Lord, confesses Christ, etc.? Does he mean that the sinner in being quickened is entirely passive? If so, he ought to read our postings on "Active or Passive?" In these chapters I show how the sinner is indeed active in being saved and converted. He seems to define "monergistic work" as any work that involves only God being active. I wish this brother would apply his reasoning and argumentation to that passage we cited in an earlier posting where the prophet said "thou has wrought all our works in us." (Isa. 26: 12) Is this divine work of producing works in us monergistic? He says that "there is no way to include" our works into the "realm of sovereign grace." But, it seems to me that the prophet did this very thing in the passage just cited. So did Paul in I Cor. 15: 10. But, notice again how this Hardshell will not ascribe his conversion to Christ to sovereign grace.

He then wrote:

"That said, men are exhorted and admonished to persevere in the faith as a matter of obedient discipleship. To make this a condition of eternal salvation undeniably defines salvation as a matter of works, since all such obediences are undeniably works of righteousness. In stark contrast, Paul strictly excludes "works of righteousness which we have done" from having anything to do with the work that provided us eternal salvation. (Tit 3:5)"

Notice the presupposition that this brother has invented and which he takes to the Bible and tries to make the Bible to agree with it. His presupposition is that the Bible does not exhort men to persevere for being finally saved. But, the Bible is filled with such examples. For instance, see our posting titled Jesus Uproots Hardshellsim.  Jesus said to men who he identified as being spiritually dead and said to them - "but these things I say, that ye might be saved." (John 5: 34)  This cannot be a "time salvation" because the men he addressed were spiritually dead. Also, the early evangelists preached to multitudes and said to them:

"Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord." (Acts 3: 19)

Now, when a Hardshell comes to such a passage as this with his presupposition, he sees that it contradicts his presupposition. But, rather than discarding his presupposition and accepting the plain truth of the passage, he rather begins to devise ways in which he can twist the plain meaning of the passage to make it agree with his presupposition. He sees that the passage exhorts lost sinners to repent and convert and that it is to the end that they might have their sins blotted out, especially when the Lord returns, which is that time of refreshing. Most Hardshells, in the face of such texts, will add a word to the text, and though that word is not in the text, will nevertheless affirm that such a word is implied. They will say that it is not the actual blotting out of sins that is intended, but the knowledge that they are blotted out. But, the text does not say that, of course.

This Hardshell will not want to say that this blotting out of sins has to do with one's eternal salvation because repentance and conversion are put as conditions. His presupposition will force him to twist the verse to make it deal with a "time salvation." Thus, this blotting out of sins becomes not the work of God and his grace, but the work of the sinner himself! Away with such handling of the word of God! We could multiply examples but is unnecessary, for if a man will twist one verse to uphold his presuppositions, then he will do so with a multitude.

The Hardshell apologist then says:

"The admonitions to persevere (1 Cor 15:2, John 15) have respect to our temporal enjoyment of the truth of our salvation and to our capacity for fruit-bearing in the kingdom of God in this life, and have NO reference to our eternal standing before the throne of God. Indeed if such admonitions DID have respect to our eternal destiny, then salvation is most assuredly by works rather than by grace, and Paul was quite mistaken when he said that our salvation is "not according to our works." (II Tim 1:9). Paul was not mistaken."

This Hardshell thinks that his simply saying that the salvation being talked about in the passages mentioned is a temporal salvation is sufficient to prove his point? Why does he not prove what he says? We would be happy to debate these texts with him and show him his error, but we first want his proof for such a wild novel interpretation.

Further, he keeps repeating his same argument which we have completely demolished just as Paul told us to do. His argumentum ad nauseam proves nothing. Why does he not simply give us Scripture that plainly says that men will be saved who did not believe, repent, or persevere? No, Paul was not mistaken, but this Hardshell is mistaken in his reading of Paul.

He then wrote:

"It follows that the sense in which God's people can be said to "persevere" in this life, is in the sense that we are "preserved" in a state of grace by the imputed righteousness of Christ which is "all our righteousness" and which is "not of our works" and which is vastly superior to the best obedience offered by the best of saints on the best of days. At the end of the day...

What lands us in heaven is the imputation of Christ's perfect righteousness, not our imperfect attempts at righteousness as disciples."

In this statement this Hardshell seems to think that there is a sense in which it may be said that the Lord's people persevere. But, his idea of perseverance is simply to affirm that the life and righteousness continue in a believer. But, this is clearly not the extent of the Bible teaching about perseverance. Paul had a different idea, however. He wrote to the Roman Christians and said:

"For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live." (Rom. 8: 13)

Obviously the apostle is not talking about physical death, for the Christians addressed were going to die physically whether they lived after the flesh or Spirit. Surely he is talking about the second death. And, what do we find John writing in regard to this second death in the Lake of Fire? John wrote:

"He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death." (Rev. 2: 11)

Clearly overcoming (persevering) is what men are to do in order to not be hurt of the second death. John further says that it is the "unbelieving" who will suffer the second death. (21: 8) John also said "To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God." (2: 7)

So, when Paul says "if you live after the flesh you shall die," he means "if you live after the flesh (or fail to persevere in faith and holiness) you will die the second death," and "if you live after the Spirit you will eat of the tree of life and live forever."

And, who is the overcomer, the one who perseveres? Wrote John:

"For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world." (I John 5: 4)

Obviously the Apostle John did not have any doubts that those who were born of God would persevere and overcome. He also wrote:

"We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not; but he that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not." (vs. 18)

Thus, the doctrine of the saints sure and certain perseverence is plainly taught in Scripture and we need not rely upon trying to base it upon speculative reasoning as does our Hardshell brother.

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