Thursday, February 27, 2014

Regenerated Heathen?

The common belief of today's Hardshells that there are now millions of heathen who are "regenerated" (and therefore sure of Heaven when they die) is among the worst of heretical beliefs, and one that has caused much harm to the body of Christ. It is a "damnable heresy." (II Peter 2: 1)

The belief that there are regenerated heathen people gives a definition to regeneration totally at odds with the biblical teaching. This error, in a nutshell, creates a mere fictional character (though imagined as real by today's Hardshell heretics). In reality there is no such character as a "regenerate unbeliever," nor any "unconverted regenerate."

The Hardshells created this fictional character when they first adopted the Pelagian idea that a command implies ability, and second, when they further deduced that ability must be given by God in regeneration before hearing the Gospel, and before evangelical faith and repentance, or before conversion, and deducing still further, "before" faith and conversion = "without" faith and conversion. After all this "false reasoning" (Demolishing Hardshell Reasoning) there was nothing left but the conclusion, or as I may say, the reductio ad absurdum, which affirms that there are millions who are now regenerated who are practicing Muslims, non-Christian Jews, Hindus, etc. Yes, they are not "converted," and do not have evangelical "faith" in "the truth," but there is no doubt that they are of the elect and have experienced biblical regeneration. This is the conclusion that the Hardshell takes as his presupposition and by which he interprets Scripture.

The Old Baptist forefathers of the Hardshells believed that regeneration did not exist apart from conversion, and likewise, that conversion did not exist apart from regeneration. They kept together what God has joined together.  They did this because, like I do, they viewed the idea of a born again heathen monstrous and utterly repugnant.

One of the arguments offered by Hardshell apologists on this point is to say that anyone who is convicted of sin, who is worried about the coming day of judgment for his sins, and who is sorry for his moral failings, is "regenerated" or "born again." One can easily see why such a view of regeneration would easily lead Hardshells to semi-universalism. In fact, having this belief is a boast of today's Hardshells. They say their view makes them popular as funeral preachers. Their view would give hope to people that their loved ones, who may have been worshippers of some false god, or irreligious persons, that they were of the elect and had been "regenerated" though not converted, though not a believer in Jesus.

Hardshellism is indeed a dangerous heresy and one that ought to be opposed.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Hermeneutical Problems for Hardshells VI

In the concluding entry of my three part review of Hardshell apologist Joe Holder's commentary on Romans 6: 19-22, I cited some comments from Holder in which he affirmed that regeneration or new birth involved having God write his word upon the heart. I promised to examine this proposition in light of what Hardshells have historically taught relative to it, and this I will do in the conclusion of this two part entry for Hardshell Hermeneutical Problem VI. First, however, I will look at the Scriptures on the subject and see whether they are consistent with neo Hardshellism's understanding of it. As we will see, to say that regeneration involves having God's word written in the inner being gives modern Hardshells great difficulty, representing another hermeneutical problem.

A Truth Proposition

It is indeed a truth taught clearly in Scripture that God, in that work called "regeneration" or being "born again," writes upon, or puts within man's inner being his word, law, statutes, etc., but chiefly the Gospel.

For Holder and the Hardshells to affirm this proposition is good, and is a place to "take the battle to the gate," (Isa. 28: 6) for as we will see, such an affirmation is inconsistent with their other statements on the nature of the new birth experience. It represents a point of discussion that, when pressed, ought to convict every Hardshell of his error on the nature of regeneration. Keep in mind also, that the error the Hardshells have regarding the nature of regeneration is a result of another error regarding the denial of means used to effect it. The first Hardshells who believed in means, in the 1830s, for instance, believed that regeneration and conversion could not be divorced, but those Hardshells who forsook the means view were forced to alter their description of regeneration.

What is the Hardshell View?

This is not always an easy question to ask - "what is the Hardshell view?" This is because there is not unanimity of opinion on certain issues. Also, the first generation of Hardshell leaders, in the 1830's, believed much differently on certain things than do today's Hardshells.

Let us now look at the chief passages involved in this discussion.

Passage #1

"But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more." (Jer. 31: 33-34)

Notice the two expressions "I will put" and "I will write." God puts or places his law in the "inward parts" and writes his words in the heart. There is no need to ascertain the precise distinction between "inward parts" and "heart." Both denote the very core of being, the soul and its spiritual, moral, and rational faculties.

Other similar prophecies, as we shall see, speak of this same work being done in the "mind" as well as in the heart. In fact, Paul's citation of Jeremiah's prophecy has "mind" for "inward parts."

What Is The Intended Effect?

The effect of this work of God in the inward parts, in the heart, and in the soul, is to cause people to "know" Lord God. Knowing God, in this context, implies understanding and cognition. This represents a great difficulty or hermeneutical problem for the Hardshells. Another effect is to know the truth, about God, and the scheme of salvation through the work of Christ. What did David mean when he said - "Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part thou shalt make me to know wisdom"? (Psa. 51: 6) Notice that having the truth in the heart of the soul involves knowledge, or cognition. It involves conscious thought.

What is the intended effect of God's work of putting his law into the inward parts and of writing his word upon the tablet of the heart? This is a very difficult question for a Hardshell. All that they can do is to retreat to that common way of speaking of the purpose of regeneration, which is to simply give an "ability" to act spiritually and righteously. But, this is hardly what is intended by the Lord. He does not merely make sinners capable of learning, by writing his word upon the heart, but actually teaches them. They are not only given ability to know God, but they actually come to know him.

To write something upon the heart is the same thing as to write it in the memory. When something is written on paper, an impression is made in the paper. Job spoke of a pen of iron writing on stone as on paper. It is a kind of engraving. God engraves his word upon the heart and mind by impressing his word upon the thinking faculties. We might say, in keeping with Scriptural metaphor, that he "burns" his word into the moral fiber of our rational and spiritual being. Notice these verses:

"Let not mercy and truth forsake thee: bind them about thy neck; write them upon the table of thine heart." (Prov. 3: 3)

"My son, keep my words, and lay up my commandments with thee. Keep my commandments, and live; and my law as the apple of thine eye. Bind them upon thy fingers, write them upon the table of thine heart." (Prov. 7: 1-3)

In these verses people are commanded to write God's word upon their hearts, the very thing he promised to do himself. Is there a contradiction? How do the Hardshells solve the difficulty?

It is not uncommon for God to command the people to do what he promises to do himself. For instance, God promises, and actually does, "circumcise" the heart (Rom. 2: 29; Phi. 3: 3; etc.), yet he also says to people - "Circumcise yourselves to the Lord" (Jer. 4: 4: Deut. 10: 16). Also, he promises to give a "new heart" and to put a "new spirit" within people (Eze. 36: 26-27), yet he also says to them - "make you a new heart and a new spirit" (Eze. 18: 31). Only Hardshells see these things as contradictory. Because of their unscriptural presuppositions and false premises they cannot admit that the same thing is being denoted. Doing so would force him into giving up his anti means view.

So, what is our intended effect when we do as commanded and write God's word upon our hearts? Is it not that we will have God's word "always in remembrance"? (II Peter 1: 12) That it will be burned into our conscious memory? Of course. Is it any different when God writes his word upon our hearts or places in our minds his teachings? Further, Peter said this was his assigned work, to keep the saints reminded, to keep writing things upon the mind's memory. Remember too that God was working through Peter so that it was the work of God to keep the believer always in remembrance, and this is in fulfillment of his promise to write his word continuously in hearts and minds.

David prayed:

"Your word I have hidden in my heart, That I might not sin against You" (Psalm 119:11).

David placed God's word in his heart! The very thing God said he would do! When will the Hardshells understand that one does not exclude the other? They think that if God writes, then this excludes any writing done by the apostles in their teaching ministries, and also excludes the writing the believer himself does. But, this is just illogical and also against plain scripture.

How Does One Come To Know?

As stated, the prophecy of Jeremiah speaks of people coming to know the Lord and this via coming to know his word by the teaching work of God. He, like a teacher, will put within the mind of his students the lessons he has designed for them to learn and know. He, as a teacher, writes upon the heart and memory those lessons. Did not Jesus explain this?

“No one can come to Me, unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day. It is written in the prophets, ‘and they shall all be taught of God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father, comes to Me." (John 6: 44-45)

Notice that it is the work of the Father to teach all the chosen people, so that they hear and learn from the Father. Who can doubt that this is the manner in which God puts his law in the inward parts and the manner in which he writes his word in the heart and mind? All this cries COGNITION. People do not hear and learn on the subconscious level. How can they know a God that they have heard and learned nothing about?

God's Continuous Writing

Further, the words "I will put," means "continually giving my laws." The Hebrew tense denotes what is an ongoing or continuous action rather than what is done in an instant. This is detrimental to the Hardshell idea that all the laws are written, or secretly encoded, in the soul's DNA, when it is regenerated or divinely begotten. The work of writing the word of God on the heart then, is not only what takes place in the instant of regeneration, but what takes place throughout the life after regeneration, being a part of sanctification.

It is doubtful that any Hardshell today would affirm that God is continually writing his word in the hearts of his covenant people after their regeneration, because 1) this would tend to overthrow their thesis that the word written in the heart is all done in the subconscious region of the heart and mind (since a continual writing would lend towards a writing that results in cognition of truth propositions), and 2) they do not believe that there is any work after regeneration in which the believer is passive.

The Covenant With God

The covenant that is the source or reason for the regenerating work of God is made between God and the people saved. In the text it is "I will make a covenant with the house of Israel." It is a covenant between God and people. This poses another difficulty for the Hardshells. Where, in their understanding of the experience of regeneration, does a person agree with God, and enter into covenant with him? Of course, the Hardshell can only respond by saying that Jesus, representing him, made the covenant with God (the Father) on his behalf. Of course this is true, the error of the Hardshell consists in his not seeing how people enter into the blessings of the new covenant (all which pertain to salvation) by faith, by agreeing with God, which is the chief meaning of homologeo, the Greek word for confess.

Entering the Covenant by Heartfelt Confession

"That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved." (Rom. 10: 9)

Strong says that the Greek word means "to say the same thing as another, i.e. to agree with, assent." He also says it means "to concede, to promise." When two people get married, they each say the same thing, "I do." That is, I agree, I assent, I confess or acknowledge. They not only agree, but they make promises. So too when sinners join with Christ and become one with him.

Hardshells acknowledge that people make covenant with God, as literally, really, and personally, as did the Israelites on Mt. Sinai. In the making of that covenant, the terms were clear to both parties. So, also in the new. Christ agrees to save and lead and the sinner agrees for Christ to save and lead him. That is the covenant and it is entered into by a God given faith. But, the Hardshell insists that such a making of covenant with God, or being converted, is not necessary to be finally and eternally saved.

Vital Union With Christ

The adept Hardshell apologist will often attempt to solve many difficulties about the necessity of union with Christ for salvation by ignoring "vital union" and stressing representative or federal union through Christ. The latter does not require regeneration, conversion, faith, repentance, etc., as does the former. He will also affirm that a real "vital union" does occur in Hardshell definitions of "regeneration," but insist that faith and repentance are not means or conditions to such a union with Christ.

So, then, is that union with Christ, per Romans 7:4, an essential aspect of regeneration? Does one have to have a vital marital union with Christ to be eternally saved? How can the anti means Hardshell say yes without contradicting himself? Will he not hold on to his anti means proposition so that he will be forced to say that one does not have to have a marital union with Christ, or enter into covenant with him, to be saved? He will have to say that the "vital union" that occurs in a Hardshell "regeneration" does not include being joined to Christ as a spouse?

Wrote Paul:

"But he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit." (I Cor. 6: 17)

In the context of this verse Paul contrasts being joined in body versus being joined in heart and spirit. A man who has sexual intercourse with a whore, said Paul, becomes "one" with her, that is, one in body. How does one become united with, or one with, Christ? How does he enter into covenant with him? It is all by saying and confessing "I will" to the Spirit who testifies of Christ. There are many verses that speak of a faith union with Christ.

It is doubtful that Hardshells will deny that there is a union with Christ by faith, but they will insist that 1) this is no part of the "vital union" created in regeneration apart from faith, and that 2) this is not necessary for being eternally saved.

Passage #2

"A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them." (Eze. 36: 26-27)

What does it mean to have a "new heart" and a "new spirit"? Does it represent a physical change in the soul and spirit, as many of today's Hardshells teach, rather than a moral change? Is it something that actually changes a man's thoughts and beliefs? Or, is it the mere giving of an ability to perhaps later change thought and belief? If a man was a pagan or polytheist before obtaining a new heart and spirit, will he remain such? That is the crucial question. Nearly all of today's Hardshells insist that many people who live and die believing in a false religion, and in false gods, nevertheless were people who had that new heart and spirit.

Whatever the precise nature of the new heart and spirit, it is given for the purpose of effecting a change in behavior. Belief always changes behavior. Behavior reflects belief. Notice the three links in the chain of causes and effects.  God gives a new heart and spirit, which causes change in belief, which then causes change in behavior. The new heart and spirit signify a change in the moral nature, in character. It is simply absurd for the Hardshells to say that many have experienced this change and are yet "unbelievers." A regenerated unbeliever! The Bible knows of no such character. He is a figment of the Hardshell imagination.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Hindsight From A Former Hardshell III continued

Part Three - The Primitive Baptist Grid continued

There is in theology something known as the balance of truth. It is the recognition that the sovereignty of God and the responsibility of men are both taught in the Bible, and that each is to be given due attention. To emphasize one at the expense of the other is to err. The truth, as the saying often goes, lies somewhere in the middle. In our previous we stated that at the core of the paradigm held to by the Conditionalist Hardshells is the failure to preserve this balance. It is a brand of Hyper-Calvinism which completely severs the two, with the persuasion that human responsibility has no function in the outworking of eternal salvation.

This is the fundamental error of today’s moderns. Once I started learning more about systematic theology as a young minister, I saw this was what lied at the center of all the false teachings. Behind all the unorthodox interpretations of the seemingly conditional passages in the Bible is the Hardshells’ failure to submit to the existence of the balance of truth. What is being proposed to the people as rightly dividing the word of truth at this juncture is in reality a dividing asunder of what God has joined together: sovereignty and responsibility. To prove our point it need only be considered that every single passage upon which this generation places their bizarre “timely” interpretation is a text emphasizing our duty towards God. The conditional time salvation paradigm is nothing more than a systematic manner of taking any and all such passages out of their eternal context. A denial of human responsibility in the salvation of the soul is where all the false teachings find their ultimate origin.

Now when we speak of responsibility we speak of the human or subjective side of salvation, what men think and do. It naturally follows, then, that the second premise (in following our top-down approach) employed in the Primitive Baptist Grid is somewhat of an extension of the first.

Divorcing the Subjective From the Objective

”There’s a wall built between the objective reality of salvation and the subjective experience of salvation.” - Elder Thomas Mann, 2002

The typical Christian feels that to be saved is to experience some subjective change. The newly delivered are now converts to the Christian religion as they repent of their sins, have faith in Christ, and proceed to live godly lives. That’s what it means to be saved, right? That someone would deny that this is what absolutely happens when one is born again would probably strike the average reader as decidedly strange and unorthodox. The Hardshells are notorious, though, for proposing the dogma that one can be saved without experiencing anything of the subjective side of salvation. He may be regenerated yet never repent, practice holiness, or have any understanding of the true God of the Bible or of His Son Jesus Christ for the rest of his life. All of this culminates in the idea that one can be saved and not know it. In our previous entry we saw where Elder Michael Gowens tries to convince his readers of this tenet based on his conviction that, on the subject of salvation, one may divorce the objective from the subjective (see Here for my refutation of this). He wrote:

“Does the objective fact of redemption by Christ depend on man’s subjective perception of understanding of that fact?”

In his debate with co-editor Stephen Garrett on this blog, apologist Jason Brown also asserted that one be united to Christ but yet not be cognizant of it:

“It does not follow from this that vital union is impossible without propositional knowledge of critical cognizance of the union…”

As a young member/elder I can recall this being one of the “comforting truths” of Hardshellism. We need not worry about the American Indians before 1492 or our loved ones who had no interest in coming to church. Most of them were saved, yet simply didn’t know they were. Sentimental minds pervade throughout this order because of a perverted view of God’s sovereignty which actually will not allow God to be sovereign in reprobation as much as He is in salvation. They have little to no knowledge of the holiness of God and the requirements He has placed upon sinners. The persuasion that there will be multitudes of regenerated children of God who are oblivious to their salvation only fuels these sentiments, making it that much more difficult for them to be rescued from their woeful error.


In the interpretation of scripture several premises have become firmly established in order to uphold The Primitive Baptist Grid. I cannot say that every elder or indoctrinated church member follows them all, yet the following are generally accepted rules to partition the Bible. Or, as it is being proclaimed today, “rightly dividing the word of truth”.

i) If you see a condition.

If there is one area where Hardshells have over-reacted, it is with the concept of the conditionality of salvation. If a condition is seen in a particular passage, many automatically assign the passage into the category of conditional time salvation. A statement by the late Elder S.N. Redford illustrates:

“I told him further that God’s Word teaches that the eternal salvation of sinners is unconditional on the sinner’s part, and that in every instance where it bases salvation on conditions it has reference to a temporal, or time salvation of God’s people.” (Elder S.N. Redford)

He then references a passage to “prove” his point.

“He that endureth to the end shall be saved.” (Matthew 10:22)

As expected, he responds with the following:

“This salvation could not mean eternal salvation because it is based on conditions, and we know our eternal salvation depends alone upon what Christ does for us. Then it must mean a Time or Common salvation.”

ii) If you see a verb.

In like manner, many Hardshells have adopted a verb hermeneutic. If one is seen in a passage, it is without hesitation deemed a “work”; and since the rule is not of works, lest any man should boast, the conclusion is reached that the passage cannot be speaking of eternal salvation.

Thus, any cognitive activity on the part of the sinner (e.g. believing, repenting, overcoming, persevering) or any evangelical activity such as preaching to the lost or urging believers onto final salvation are seen as having no place in the outworking of God’s scheme of salvation.

iii) If you see a man.

Instrumentality is too a no-no in the Hardshell grid. It is caricatured as “helping God’ for men to be involved in the saving of God’s people. Consequently, all evangelical passages where men appear to be means in the hands of God for salvation have to be squeezed as well into the conditional time salvation paradigm. Sample passages are:

“If by any means I may provoke to emulation them which are my flesh, and might save some of them.” (Romans 11:14)

”Therefore I endure all things for the elect's sakes, that they may also obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.” (2 Tim. 2:10)

iv) If you see the gospel.

Not just men, but the gospel itself is rejected as an instrument in the saving of God’s people. All passages which involve men hearing the gospel and being converted by it is claimed to be an optional temporal salvation. The most popular texts butchered are these.

”For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.” (Rom. 1:16)

”Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain.” (1 Cor. 15:1-2)

”And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.” (Mark 16:16)

”For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God. For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent. Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.” (1 Cor. 1:18-21)


According to Hardshellism, none of the passages cited in this article have anything to do with the eternal salvation of sinners. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that this amounts to a doctrine of do-nothing, on the part of saint or sinner. Though each of the individual premises upholding the grid can be considered by themselves, they actually can be summed up in one. If any passage shows a sinner or saint “doing something”, then the Primitive Baptist grid says to put it in the category of temporal salvation.

Sadly, I did it for several years.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Cincinnati PB Church's Recent Tension

I heard that sometime in the recent past Cincinnati Primitive Baptist Church, pastored by Elder Lasserre Bradley, Jr., had a dispute that resulted in several members being excluded. The controversy was over the fact that Elder Bradley began using the NIV translation in his services, citing from it rather than from the KJV. Well, due to the adoption of "King James Onlyism" by a large number of Hardshell churches in the latter quarter of the twentieth century, such a thing was sure to cause a disturbance. Thankfully, the overwhelming majority thought that Elder Bradley should be able to use that translation and excluded the few for their unwillingness to submit to the will of the church.

Elder Bradley deserves a lot of credit for coming back to his first roots, and away from Hardshellism, in his later days. It would be good if he would come out forcefully, as have some of the young preachers associated with him, for the means position and help to bring the Hardshells back to the Old Baptist faith.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Hardshell Holder on Romans 6 (part 3)

This posting will complete my review of Elder Joe Holder's Hardshell commentary on Romans 6: 19-22, verses which pose great difficulty for today's Hardshell Baptists. In the next posting, we will begin looking at what other Hardshells have written on the subject.

Holder continued:

"They now possess two natures, one the same nature that drove their former appetites for sin, and one a new spiritual and moral nature that they received in the new birth. It is not automatic or the result of an irresistible divine decree, but the result of cognitive and willing choices that Paul now commands them to make their new spiritual and moral nature the dominant nature in their present conduct."

Again, "now" when? Before they were free from sin and before they became the servants of God and righteousness? They had two natures, and were born of God, and yet remained in bondage and servitude to sin? Only Hardshells would affirm such things. They do not realize how they have made "regeneration" or being "born again" into a changeless or "hollow log" experience.

Holder's argumentation is invalid because it assumes propositions as true which have not been proven to be true: 1) that says "cognitive and willing choices" cannot be "the result of an irresistible divine decree." and 2) that says "exhortations are never means for executing what God has decreed to do." and 3) that says "exhortations are never used as means in eternal salvation." The Hardshells cannot show how these propositions are supported by Scripture. In fact, as I have shown throughout my writings on Hardshellism, they are by the Scriptures clearly shown to be false.

Holder said:

"Paul now commands them to make their new spiritual and moral nature the dominant nature..."

So, it is not God's eternal will that the new nature dominate and conquer the old nature? The new nature's victory is dependent upon the believer himself, rather than upon itself? This is not the teaching of Scripture. For example:

"Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God." (I John 3: 9)

Every person who has been "born of God," according to these words of the apostle John, "cannot sin." Also, the reasons for this universal phenomena of the spiritually begotten are stated. It is because 1) "his seed remains in him" and 2) "he is born of God."

The tense of the Greek verb "commit" (poieo) is present tense linear, depicting continuous action rather than what is instantaneous. Many translations make this clear, saying "will continue to sin" (NIV), "makes a practice of sinning" (Eng. Standard), etc.

Dr. Gill, in commenting upon "does not commit sin," wrote:

"...does not make it his trade and business; it is not the constant course of his life; he does not live and walk in sin, or give up himself to it; he is not without the being of it in him, or free from acts of sin in his life and conversation, but he does not so commit it as to be the servant of it, a slave unto it, or to continue in it..." (Commentary)

So, John is affirming this proposition - "everyone who is born of God cannot continue sinning." I know this is a proposition that most of today's Hardshells deny, however. Many want to say that John is simply saying that the "new man," or the new nature, "cannot sin." When a believer sins, it is not his new nature that is committing sin but his old nature. But, grammatically this will not work because John does not say "and his seed (representing the source of the divine nature) cannot sin," but says rather "and HE cannot sin because his seed remains in HIM." Anyone should be able to see that the pronouns "he" and "him" show that it is the person who cannot sin. The person is clearly contrasted from "his seed."

The one born of God cannot go on sinning (as before when he was lost) because the seed and divine nature will not allow it. This is John's argument. "He cannot sin." Why, John? "Because he is born of God." But, if many of those who are born of God do continue in sin, then John's statement is false. The ablest commentators say the same. There is something in the new and divine nature that guarantees that it will win the battle with the flesh and with unbelief.

Paul says the same thing as John in these words:

"For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would."  (Gal. 5: 17)

Paul says that the presence of the Spirit (as a result of being born of God) makes certain that "you cannot do the things that you would," i.e., cannot sin, cannot practice sin as you did when you did not have the Spirit's abiding presence.

It is true that Paul exhorts the Roman believers to "make their new spiritual and moral nature dominant" but Holder's Hardshell presuppositions get in his way and block his reasoning. He thinks that because there are exhortations to believers to continue serving righteousness, the purpose therefore for continuing to serve righteousness cannot possibly be for the purpose of eternal salvation, nor to fulfill God's eternal purpose or decree. Paul, however, can believe, like John, that the new nature will get the victory over the flesh, and that the divine nature will dominate the life, and yet believe that such is consistent with the use of exhortations as means in that victory.

Notice that Holder says that the sinful nature is what "drove their former appetites for sin." The word "drove" however contradicts what Holder has previously said about the wicked deeds of those who serve sin. He has said that those who are "servants of sin" do not sin involuntarily, or by irresistible or compelling power. But, now, by the use of the word "drove," a word denoting forced obedience and involuntary conduct, he contradicts himself.

I know the Hardshells believe that all "go astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies." (Psa. 58: 3) Sounds like speaking lies is "automatic" after birth, doesn't it?

Further, if Holder can say that the sinful nature formerly "drove" the Roman believers into acts of transgression, when they were slaves to sin, why should he find it difficult to believe that the new nature, received in the new birth, likewise later "drove" them into acts of righteousness? The sinful nature can compel obedience to itself but the Christ nature cannot compel? How can he say then - "It is not automatic"? How can he deny plain Scripture? What is universally true in actuality? That people who are born with a sinful nature "automatically" sin? Surely Holder will not want to explicitly deny this. Thus, if the parallel holds, people who become partakers of the divine nature in new birth will likewise begin to actually obey and work righteousness.  Further, keep in mind, that we are not talking about a specific sin, but sin in general, or the practice of sin.

It is amazing to me how often Holder contradicts himself in this commentary. He has said things that would lead one to believe that he believed in the traditional Calvinistic and Hardshell belief about "total depravity" and "original sin." It has always been a principle with the Old Baptists, in regard to these things (pertaining to the doctrine of sin or hamartiology) that, excepting Adam and Eve, "we do what we do because of what we are" rather than affirming as do the Pelagians, that "we are what we are because of what we do."

I am sure that Holder and today's Hardshells would still agree with these words. But, is the reverse not true, according to the parallel? That is, that we who are born again, and slaves of Christ, "do what we do because of what we are"?

Holder wrote:

"...he bases the Romans' present righteous conduct on their choices, knowingly and willing (sic) made."

This is true, but Holder fails to add "and their choices he bases upon the effectual working of God's sovereign power." This is crucial. He says the choices cause the conduct. But, has he not also said that the nature causes the choices? So, we have several links in this chain of causes (the effect is obedience to God and righteousness). This effect resulted first from a willing and voluntary choice to obey. But, this was itself an effect, being caused by something else. That cause was the "new nature," and the cause of the new nature is the new birth which itself is caused by the Spirit of God, who purposed to do so from eternity. Ergo, their choices were the result of the divine decree, the thing Holder denies. Further, remember how Paul said "it is God who works in you to will." (Phi. 2: 13)

Holder wrote:

"We predict our future habits, either of sin or of righteousness, by our daily choices in the here and now."

Here is where he contradicts himself and he can't even see it! If future choices, or acts of the will, can be predicted, or foreseen, then they are predetermined. In fact, if I understand fully what Holder is saying, he is using the word "predict" in the sense of predetermine. Thus, "we predict our future habits" includes the idea that "we predetermine our future habits." But, if future acts of the will are predetermined by past acts of the will, then how is the will acting freely and without compulsion?

Every psychologist knows that if choices are predictable shows then they are to some degree determined by prior causes. If there were no causes to human choices then there could be no predictions of them.

Actually, there are "predeterminants" to human choice.  Holder should know all this. The depraved fallen nature is the major predeterminant of human choice, but there are many other predeterminants, each of which is a variable to consider in every human decision. Surely the new nature of the believer is also a predeterminant to future behavior.

Holder admits that he can predetermine his future behavior by present choices. I agree with this. But, why does Holder think that God cannot determine the future behavior of his creatures? There are many skilled people who can talk people into making choices, such as sales people. Is God so limited in skill to be able to cause people to make decisions?

Holder wrote:

"A servant, literally a slave, was required to obey the commands of his master or face his master's wrath. He was not compelled irresistibly to obey."

So, the slave was compelled but not irresistibly? Was not the wrath of the master, and the threat of torturous punishment, not effectual causes of the slave's obedience? How can Holder say that the slave is obeying freely? No, the slaved is "forced" to obey, and the obedience given is anything but "voluntary."

Absurd consequences result from the propositions uttered by Holder. Also, the premise of Holder which says, of slaves, that they are "not compelled irresistibly to obey" sin, contradicts what Hardshells teach about the fallen state of man, as I have stated. Most people would look at the case of the slaves and say about their servitude that they had no choice and is why it is called "involuntary servitude." But, Holder and his modern Hardshell brethren look at the same slave's bondage and see it a picture of a man making free choices without any compelling power that to him is irresistible.

Consider, a man who is a terrorist prisoner of the United States and who is being compelled by water torture to choose to do what their interrogators ask. Is this water torture not irresistible? The terrorist, he chooses to do what he is asked to keep from being tortured. Was his choice still a choice? Was it freely made? Could his decision have been predicted? Would Holder say that such threats of torture do not compel irresistibly to obedience?

Holder wrote:

"Once we choose to become God's "servants" we are directed to implement God's commandments faithfully, voluntarily, and consistently. Paul framed his teaching in this lesson as a commandment, an exhortation, not as a divine guarantee based on an irresistible divine decree."

Again, Holder says there is no "divine guarantee" that the one born of God will "become God's servants." However, as we have seen, both John and Paul said that there is such a guarantee! Holder and his Hardshell brethren are denying what is plainly revealed in Scripture. Holder, of course, does not give God the credit for his being made free from sin and for becoming a servant of God, but reserves it for himself. He makes himself different from others, a thing he cannot legitimately do. (I Cor. 4: 7)

Holder wrote:

"A balanced view of Biblical discipleship includes the concise and understandable communication of God's instructions to His people through the work of regeneration (God's law written in the heart), the leadership of the Holy Spirit through the believer's conscience, the divinely preserved writings of Scripture, and the preaching of the gospel."

The "communication of God's instructions to His people through the work of regeneration"? God communicates his instructions to his people through regeneration? I thought Hardshells today affirm that regeneration involves no teaching, being non cognitive and not on the conscious level? And, that God does not use the medium of the word? Is he saying, as did Elder Sylvestor Hassell, that God, through the Spirit, preaches the Gospel to his people in their regeneration? (see this posting and this posting

I suspect that the more adept Hardshell apologist would try to say that this "law," or set of divine "instructions," that are by God communicated to his people through regeneration, is written into the nature of the person in the same manner in which God's moral laws, or instinctual knowledge, is written into the nature of all men. (See Romans 2: 15)

Just as all men know instinctually that it is wrong to murder, steal, and to bear false witness (and, I might add, that there is a Creator), so these adept ones will say that this is what Holder is talking about. They will also add that when the regenerated person, who has this code written into his spiritual DNA, hears a word or instruction preached by a man, he will automatically accept it because it will agree with that same word or instruction that is already secretly written in the DNA of the soul. Of course, under this paradigm, hearing the word audibly, or with cognition and a conscious mind, or with acquired knowledge, does not change the fact that a prior regeneration has taken place, and thus, cannot be necessary to be finally saved. This is the reasoning of the more adept Hardshell apologists.

I certainly do agree that God's word, law, or instructions, are "communicated" to a person when he is "regenerated." I agree with Hassell that such teaching as is given in regeneration involves knowledge of the Gospel. A person who is regenerated, according to Hassell, and even to neo Hardshell Holder, has received in his soul the good news message. I appreciate those Hardshells today who would so adeptly defend their case against the idea that God uses preachers as means in "communicating" that revelation given in regeneration. But, it is the conclusions that Holder deduces from facts of truth, relative to knowledge being written into a person's nature, whether human or divine, that are to be rejected as dangerous beliefs.

How can we settle this issue as to whether the revelation communicated in regeneration is all outside of the conscious mind, like instinctual or intuitive knowledge? "To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them." (Isa, 8: 20) "What saith the scripture?" (Rom. 4: 3)

I will not deal with this in this posting because 1) this entry is long enough already, and 2) it needs adequate space, and 3) it will make a good entry in my recent series "Hermeneutical Problems for Hardshells." So, let me finish by commenting on a couple other things Holder wrote.

Holder wrote:

"Paul's teaching regarding the necessity of a cognitive and voluntary response by us to faith and obedience in no way diminishes these divine influences.

What "necessity"? What is necessary and for what purpose? What is it that requires a "cognitive and voluntary response"? What requires "faith and obedience"? Holder agrees that being freed from sin and becoming servants of righteousness requires it. He also agrees that the preaching of the Gospel, or hearing "that form of doctrine," is a requirement for giving it a "cognitive and voluntary response."

What does Holder mean when he says that "Paul's no way diminishes these divine influences"? Of course, Paul's teaching does not do that! So, why the word of caution from Holder? Is it not because, in the eyes of Holder's Hardshell audience, what Holder means by "Paul's teaching" is really the same as "Holder's twisted interpretation of Paul's teaching"? A teaching that says that this experience of being made free from sin, and becoming God's servants, is not the effectual working of God's power as is their regeneration. A teaching that says such an experience is not an essential accompaniment of regeneration and new birth. A teaching that says that death that comes to all who are servants of sin represents a mere temporal death to joy and peace. A teaching that confesses that being made a servant of God and being liberated from sin is not the work of God, and one that God cannot get the credit for.

Holder wrote:

"None of these responses are described in Scripture as guaranteed or divinely and irresistibly ordained."

Here is the heresy of Hardshellism! Here is where we do battle with the good of souls and the glory of God at stake.

From what Holder just said, you would think he was an Arminian, certainly not a Predestinarian or Calvinist. Certainly not an "Old Baptist"! The founding fathers of the "Primitive Baptist Church" would have considered anyone saying such a thing to be nothing but an Arminian Free Willer. I have already disproven these propositions. In the above remarks, he is simply restating his former remarks, and which I have already examined. But, I thought how the sentence, taken by itself, speaks volumes about the Arminianism of today's Hardshells.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Hardshell Holder on Rom. 6 (part 2)

This posting will be part two of my review and analysis of Elder Joseph Holder's writing "Studies in Romans: Chap 6:19-22."

Holder wrote:

"Logically this teaching reduces the obedient disciple to something of a robot, mechanistically and irresistibly responding to the divine decree, making even the believer's willingness itself the result of a divine decree."

Clearly this is an example of "errant thinking," the thing Holder thought that other Christians had experienced. We would ask Holder 1) whether God has predestined or caused any righteous acts of his people? and 2) whether it is only true in cases where God has caused every good deed? Are his people "robots" only when he "irresistibly" causes them to do a righteous act? Further, in that single divinely caused act of obedience, are his people acting "mechanistically and irresistibly"?

Further, why is it a bad thing, or a falsehood, to say that regeneration, transformation, sanctification, etc., are, in some respects, "mechanistic" and "irresistible"? Have not the Hardshells historically taught that God calls his elect people to life and salvation "irresistibly"? Have they not also traditionally taught that people, in effectual calling (according to Ephesians 1: 19, Eph. 2: 8, etc.), "believe"? Would not "believe" be a righteous act that God caused?

However, Holder and today's Hardshells either deny what their forefathers taught on this issue, or they are speaking out of both sides of their mouths, i.e. contradicting themselves.

When the person is regenerated, is he not made or caused by God to believe and repent? Further, would this not be "irresistibly responding to the divine decree"? Let us consider the sinner who has been convicted of his sins by the Spirit. Every Hardshell would say that such a conviction is what is instantly produced in regeneration. It is an immediate and certain effect. Now, this being the work of the Spirit, he certainly determined to convict the sinner before he actually did so, since the Spirit has only what are eternal purposes. It is clear that his conviction of the sinner shows that sinner "irresistibly responding to the divine decree" (or prior divine purpose). Holder's Hardshell premised demolished!

Holder objects to the idea of "making even the believer's willingness itself the result of a divine decree." This is quite interesting in view of the fact that, until recent times, the Hardshells have, like other Calvinists, saw Philippians 2: 13 as applicable to the experience of regeneration or effectual calling. That passage says that God is working in the believer "to will" in relation to pleasing God. Surely God did not do this without forethought, but as a result of "the divine decree"

Keep in mind that Holder is coming from the perspective that says it is not possible for there to be such a thing as "forced obedience." (tell that to the man in prison!) By this rule, there is of course no "obedience" of the heart in Hardshell regeneration. He therefore would not interpret Philippians 2: 13 as did his forefathers nor see that it completely overthrows his man made proposition. Holder's proposition says that it cannot be true that God causes the "willingness" of his people (for this would make them into robots, a thing which cannot be true). But, here his proposition is positively denied. God is working in his people such a willingness.

Also, keep in mind that Holder is also coming from the perspective that says that God cannot be credited, praised, or thanked for the righteous acts that his regenerated people do, for once he is credited with them, he must be blamed for his people not doing righteous acts. So, who will Holder credit for his believing? Himself! Who will he credit for his repenting? Not God! Oh no! He must protect God's purity by taking away from him any presupposed blame.

Holder wrote:

"…even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness." These words describe a personal, voluntary, and cognitive decision to do something-something altogether righteous. "…yield" is in the active voice; it requires a conscious decision by the Roman believers. It does not describe an involuntary response to a divine decree."

Holder is correct in saying that the yielding of the text, (as well as the obeying) shows that the actions described result from a "personal, voluntary, and cognitive decision." He thinks that it is an impossibility that such a voluntary response to the Gospel and its call could be the result of a divine decree. He upholds the idea that all "responses" (or effects?) to a divine decree, respecting acts of rational creatures, can only be "involuntary." But, where is his proof for this proposition?

Holder's Syllogism

1. All human acts that result from a divine decree are involuntary
2. The acts of yielding and obeying in Rom. 6 are voluntary
3. The acts do not result from a divine decree

Anyone can see how Holder's major premise (or proposition) is what is false. Where did he get that proposition? Is it found in Scripture? Or, is the opposite found there? I have already shown, in other postings previously referred to, what false premises and presuppositions that Hardshells have invented and which they take to the Scriptures and interpret Scripture in conformity with those premises. This is but another example.

Ephesians 1: 19, as we have seen, overthrows the major premise of Holder. Holder's forefathers would not have accepted Holder's premise, but would have viewed it as false. They were constantly citing Isaiah 26: 12 "Lord, you have wrought all our works in us," a verse that clearly overthrows Holder's premise.

"Now the God of peace...Make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is well pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ." (Heb. 13: 20-21)

Notice that becoming "perfect in every good work to do his will" is the result of the omnipotent God "working in you," and that this working was itself the result of his good pleasure, and "through Jesus Christ." What does Holder and today's Hardshells say about God's working? Do they believe that God fails in his working? Do they believe that the experience of sanctification and perseverance in Christ are the works of God or not? What possible response can they give to this difficulty?

He could again say that this is not God's work, and refuse to give him the credit for it. After all, by Holder's thinking, he cannot say that it is God's work and responsibility to perfect the believer, which entails causing him to do those good activities that please him. One wonders what Holder thinks about life in Heaven in the eternal state. Does he believe that it will be possible to sin? If he says no, then why will it be impossible? Could it be because the people there have been so made, so programmed, that they cannot sin? Will not this eternal obedience to God be the result of a divine work and decree? Does this fact not also demolish the Hardshell reasoning of Holder?

Holder wrote:

"If we accept that their (our) sins were not the result of an irresistible divine decree, we must accept that their righteous conduct was also not the result of an irresistible divine decree. Otherwise the "as…even so" parallel cannot hold."

Holder here argues that whatever is true in regard to God causing righteous acts must also be true in regard to his causing unrighteous acts. Of course, Holder is speaking about what he thinks is only hypothetical, for he does not believe that God has ever irresistibly or effectually caused either a righteous or unrighteous act of any human being.

It is true that both righteous acts and unrighteous acts are included in the eternal divine decree respecting all things, as the old reformed confessions affirm. But, it is not true that how and why each occurs is the same. Further, Holder is assuming one of his unproved presuppositions, in arguing as he does here, which says that a voluntary free will decision cannot possibly be the result of a divine decree.

We have already seen in previous postings that "all things" are of God (Rom. 11: 36), as well as "through" him and "unto" him. We have seen how it is the "work of God" to bring his people further and further into the likeness of Christ, to bring them to the end for which he created them, which is "unto good works." (Eph. 2: 8-10) As God is constantly at work in the regenerated soul to bring him to perfection, it must be the result of his eternal purpose and divine decree because "known unto God are all his works from the beginning." (Acts 15: 18)

We have already seen how the major premise of Holder is shown to be false by the words of Eze. 36: 27 where God promised that he would cause his regenerated people to walk in his statutes. In that passage God is revealing his eternal purpose to so work in the hearts of his chosen people as to cause them to willingly obey him. Why does Holder think that God cannot effectually create a willing heart and mind? Holder's whole argumentation is nothing but an example of "errant thinking."

Holder wrote:

"Conscious and voluntary choice is the driving force of our lesson. What motivated the Romans to pursue sin so enthusiastically as to be termed "servants" of sin, literally its slaves? Was it a mechanistic response to a divine decree? No! It was a conscious and voluntary choice to practice that conduct. It was based on their dominant nature at the time, depraved and godless sinners."

Here Holder shows how far removed he is from the views of the first generation of his Hardshell forefathers.

One of the first errors to notice is how Holder errs in giving the reason for people being styled "servants of sin." Holder thinks that one is only a servant to sin because of "conscious and voluntary choice."

First of all, the Greek word "doulos" translated "servant" in the KJV, means a bond slave, someone born into slavery (See Luke 7:2). Thus, one who is a slave to sin, initially at least, is one involuntarily! The thing Holder says can't be! I know that Holder believes that all are born in sin and under condemnation. Were they "slaves to sin" at the moment they were born? Was it the result of a voluntary choice alone? Obviously not.

Holder could respond and say that he does not deny that people are born into the slavery of sin, but that this is not the kind of slavery being talked about in Romans 6, for it is wholly voluntary. But, this would be hard to do because of all the Greek words for "slaves" Paul chose "doulos," denoting one who is born into slavery as well as someone committed to his master.

Of course, being a slave is not to be restricted in definition to one merely born into slavery. It will also include living the life of a slave. It will involve existing for the pleasure of one's master. It will involve obedience to the will of the master. Such a servitude is most often what is called “involuntary servitude.” A slave can either love or hate his master. If he love his master, he will not seek to be free from his servitude. If he hates him, he will seek to be free from him. Further, his obedience can be either voluntary or involuntary. But, Holder would deny that being a servant to sin is ever involuntary!

Let it be remembered also that the premise of Holder is also refuted by the fact that God created all men and that they were created to serve his purpose. We were not consulted as to whether we wanted to be created or as to what purpose we would serve. Is this not a kind of "involuntary servitude"?

Does Holder not know that "The king's heart is in the hand of the LORD, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will"? (Prov. 21: 1) Notice also these passages:

"Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain." (Acts 2: 23)

"Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together, For to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done." (Acts 4: 27-28)

These verses demolish the idea that God's decree does not cause the acts of men, including sinful acts. They were voluntary. But, they were the result of God's eternal purpose.

Holder says that the choices and deeds of those who have only a sinful nature are all voluntary and made without any compelling power. But, he also said that such choices and deeds are "based on their dominant nature at the time, depraved and godless sinners." We might ask Holder - "is the sinful nature resistible?" Can men live a life without acts of sin? Does not the depraved nature compel men to sin?

Holder wrote:

"What distinguishes them now from what they were then? Now they have been born of God."

"Now" when? Surely not when they "yielded" and "obeyed that form of doctrine," nor when they were "made free from from sin" nor when they "became servants of righteousness"! Such a view would demolish Hardshellism's faulty, yet beloved, presuppositions.

If Paul is talking about being "born of God" in this passage, he does it not by express use of the terminology, as Holder would admit, so he must do it some other way. How so? First, by contrast with "doulos." One becomes a slave to sin when he is born into it. One becomes a slave to God when he is born into it by a new birth. The birth into sin began a life of service to sin. The second birth begins a life of service to God and righteousness.

Holder is not being careful here in protecting Hardshellism's propositions. He seems to be equating the experience of being liberated from being servants of sin with being born again. But, it only seems this way because he is not being careful, not thinking that his writing would be given the thoughtful review that it is now getting from me.

In the next posting, I will complete my review of Holder's commentary on Romans 6: 19-22.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Hardshell Holder on Romans 6 (part 1)

Elder Joe Holder, present day Hardshell apologist, in an article titled "Studies in Romans: Chap 6:19-22" (see here), wrote on the passage I just examined in my previous posting. I want to cite from this writing by Holder and respond to it. Part of Holder's writing deals directly with the passage while other parts deal with the general idea of predestination and the divine decrees, and with the subject of causality, responsibility, and blame, in relation to the choices and activities of rational creatures.

Holder wrote:

"Occasionally people fall prey to errant thinking that imputes the active or immediate cause of everything that occurs on to God."

It is interesting that Holder should speak about becoming "prey to errant thinking" since this is what has happened to Hyper Calvinists and Hardshells. This I have fully shown throughout my writings against Hardshellism. Holder, ironically, is himself, as we will see, an example of the very "errant thinking" he warns about.

I am not sure what Holder means by "immediate cause." However, by the use of the word "immediate" he implies that he believes in other kinds of causes. If there are "immediate causes" then there are, logically, "mediate causes." Further, he speaks of God not being an "active" cause and couples the words "active" and "immediate." Does he believe then in passive causes?

For a particular kind of cause to merit blame, must it be both immediate and active? He seems to believe that these two adjectives go together since he used the term "cause" in the singular, not saying "active and immediate cause(s)." In other words, Holder thinks that all "immediate" causes are also "active" causes, and vice verso.

The old 1689 London Confession, which Holder's forefathers endorsed, speaks of the divine decree as encompassing all things and all events, and yet they speak of things occurring according to the nature of "second causes." They believed that God was the first cause, or as the Scriptures say "the First and the Last" (Isa. 44: 6) Surely God being "the First" would identify him as the "First Cause." Further, God is "the Last," which would include God being the "final cause," the reason behind all things, or the reason behind all other reasons. I do not think that Holder denies these things.

So, when Holder denies that God is either the "active" or the "immediate cause" of all things, it is probably because he not only equates "active and immediate cause" with that cause that is next to the effect but with that which must be blamed, or found guilty. No doubt, in Holder's mind, to say that God was not the "immediate cause" was a way of exonerating God of moral wrongdoing. The problem is, most of today's Hardshells will not allow that God is any kind of "cause" of men's choices and behavior, so ignorant are they on the subject of causality.  Further, if God is a mediate cause of an act, is he to be blamed?

Notice how Holder elaborates:

"The obvious problem with this idea is that it logically blames God for sin, so advocates must creatively find ways to hold to their error but contradict their own logical belief by saying that God causes everything except sin. So is sin not part of "everything"?"

Thus, Holder affirms that to say that God is the "immediate cause" of a sinful act makes him to be blamed, or makes him into an immoral and evil God. However, Holder as yet has not explicitly denied that God is (in some sense other than in an "immediate," "active" or blameworthy sense) a "cause" of all that occurs. But, he does seem to do so implicitly in attacking the view that says "God causes everything."  Does he deny that God is in some sense the cause of all things? Does he affirm that God is, in no sense, a cause of all things (including the choices and deeds of his rational creatures)? 

Note that he is not objecting to the statement that "God immediately causes everything" but to the statement without the adverbs "active" and "immediate" before "cause." He is opposing the statement that God is the cause of all things.  As I said, most Hardshells today think like many Arminians and proponents of "Libertarian Free Will" in this regard, and think that if God is any kind of "cause" for an evil act, then he is to be judged guilty of wrongdoing. But, this is simply neither logical nor scriptural as I have shown in my writings, and especially in that series of chapters "Hardshells and Predestination."

Recall also the single text of Romans 11: 36 where Paul says that "all things" (or 'everything') are "of" and "through" God and "to" God. That is plain enough and overthrows Holder's denial that God is in any sense the cause of all things. Recall also how Isaiah said "You Lord have worked all our works in us." (Isa. 26: 12)

I certainly do agree with Holder that God is not the "immediate cause" nor the kind of cause that would make God guilty of wrongdoing or of some injustice or unrighteousness. The difference in my views and those of most of today's Hardshells consists in the fact that I do not believe that all causes of an evil act, by intelligent beings, deserve the attribution of guilt or of criminal responsibility. For example: I am the cause of my son existing. But, I am not morally responsible for what he does. Without my causing his existence, however, he would have done no evil. Yet my indirect causation does not deserve condemnation. It is a well known fact that causation of an event by itself is not sufficient to create legal liability.

Does God Get The Credit?

In this article Holder upholds the argument used by the deniers of Predestination and Sovereign management of all things, by those who uphold Arminian and Semi-Pelagian ideas. He says that he cannot credit God for any good work that he does for doing so would force him to also blame God for God not doing good work. This argument says - "God, I know I did not believe you today, but it is your fault because you did not give me faith."  By such reasoning, Holder admits that he cannot give God the credit for his good thoughts, his good behavior, his obedience to God and righteousness.

This line of argument has been put forth by many since primitive times.  It says that if a person is capable of getting the praise (or credit) for what is good, then he is also capable of getting the blame (or guilt).  Holder, being an aged Bible teacher and pastor, ought to know better than to argue in such a fashion.  He is a defender of the doctrine of unconditional election.  Does he not know that this same line of argument is used by the deniers of it?  Holder praises God for his being chosen to salvation.  But, what will he say of the person who was not chosen by God?  Will he say that such a person has the right to blame God for his not being chosen?  If Holder applies his standard, he would have to agree that such a person had a right to blame God.

Surely Holder would rebut by saying that God is not to be blamed because:

1) he does not owe fallen unworthy creatures anything and his choosing to show a favor to one does not make him blameworthy, and

2) he is not under law to any, and

3) a finite creature, with limited knowledge, cannot judge God

The same principle may be applied to God's bestowal of good upon his own saved people. He gives more grace, more faith, more holiness, etc., to one than he does to another, so that some become the great men and women of faith, apostles and prophets, and bear forth fruit a hundred fold. Can the other children, who are given less, rightly complain and charge God with injustice? Holder thinks that such indeed may blame God. Yet, the Scriptures are clearly against him. For instance, Paul asks the rhetorical question:

"For who maketh thee to differ from another? and what hast thou that thou didst not receive? now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?" (I Cor. 4: 7)

Holder's answer to the Apostle, based upon his idea about God deserving praise or blame, would be to say, in regard to his growth in Christ and his sanctification, that God was not to be given the credit. He would have to say that he can give himself the credit, for this is the only way, in his mind, to exonerate God of the charge of injustice, of guilt and blame.

Holder wrote:

"A permutation of this excessive view of predestination holds that God effectually and irresistibly causes righteousness but not sin. Advocates of this idea attempt to make every act of faith and obedience the result of a divine decree that rejects any sense of a voluntary act on the part of the obedient believer."

How is it an "excessive view of predestination" to believe that God "effectually and irresistibly causes righteousness"? God did not predestine righteousness? I thought Paul said that God chose and predestined men that they might be "holy" and "without blame"? (Eph. 1: 3-4) Is that not predestining people to be righteous? Holder surely does not mean to include that imputed righteousness that men have placed to their account. I also don't think that he means to exclude the soul being made righteous, in some sense, in regeneration. By "causes righteousness," therefore, I take him to mean acts of righteousness, or righteous behavior.

We have already seen how this proposition is against the Scriptures, denying what it clearly affirms. The Scriptures uphold the reverse proposition, that says that God is the cause of all the good works and righteous acts of his people. Further, Holder wants to see only universal categories. God either causes all or none of the acts of his rational creatures. He does not think that it could be true that God causes some of the acts of his creatures, and others he causes not. So, to overthrow Holder's proposition, all one has to do is to show where God caused a single moral act to overthrow his proposition.

There is some sense in which God is the cause of all things, and there is a sense in which he is not the cause. There is such a thing as "contributing causes" because often certain effects are "multi causal." This is why we use all kinds of adjectives with "cause," such as efficient, material, mediate, immediate, direct, indirect, formal, material, first, second, etc.

God is clearly the first cause of all things. He created all matter and energy. He created all souls and spirits, all rational and accountable beings. Had God not done this, there would be no evil. Further, when God created all things he foreknew the results; And, in spite of seeing the birth of evil and sin, he chooses to create any way. Further, God could have originally created a world where sin and evil were an impossibility, the kind of world that we hope to one day inherit. Creating a product with the foreknowledge that evil will result from that product makes the Creator in some sense a cause of that evil. He is in some sense responsible for it. To use the famous legal "but for" line of reasoning, we can say "but for" the creator producing that product with its foreknown harms, the harms would not have occurred.

God is also the "efficient cause" all things as Acts 17: 26 teaches - "for in Him we live and move and have our being."

In the next posting, I will complete my review of what Holder wrote on the passage under discussion.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Being my Own Savior

In one of Brother Stephen’s recent postings he touched on a verse of scripture usually referred to by moderns today as teaching the existence of an optional timely salvation to the child of God who is “already regenerated”. That text was Philippians 2:12:

“Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.”

As a young elder I can remember this text of scripture frequently cited. Because it contains the word work there is a felt need to “rightly divide” it, as if it contradicts our belief in salvation by grace. It reminded me of a recent quote I read in the November 2013 issue of The Banner of Love, in which conditionalist elder Hulan Bass contributed a thought in his “THE TRUTH IS” section. He writes:

THE TRUTH IS--- The Eternal Salvation God “works in you,” gives you the ability to “work out” your own Timely Salvation. You do not “work out” so God can “work in.” God first Saves you Eternally; Then you can Save Yourself Timely. Phil. 2:12-13; Acts 2:40.”

The statement is plain so that there can be no confusion.

”…you can Save Yourself Timely”

After regeneration, it is affirmed that the sinner can SAVE HIMSELF! He needs not Christ to do it, but the sinner is HIS OWN SAVIOR with respect to this “timely salvation”.

According to this scheme the regenerate child of God must acquire his own repentance, become the author of his own evangelical faith, and be the cause of his own practical holiness.

In their teaching of conditional time salvation, Hardshells are affirming that the regenerate child of God can become His own Savior!

If this is not bordering on blasphemy, I know not what is.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Hermeneutical Problems for Hardshells V

"Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness? But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness." (Rom. 6: 16-18)

"But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end (telos) everlasting life." (Rom. 6: 22)

This section of Scripture gives the Hardshells great difficulty as they try to apply their presuppositions to it (see here for a listing of these false premises - and see "Demolishing Hardshell Reasoning" here). It gave to me difficulties when I studied this passage as a young Hardshell elder. Those Hardshell propositions seemed clearly to be overthrown by the words of the Apostle in this passage (and in other passages also). What are those false propositions that the Hardshells bring to this passage and which lead them to deny its plain teachings and to twist, distort, and pervert its clear teaching?

Presupposition #1 - No Means in Regeneration/Eternal Salvation

Obviously the experience of being "made free from sin" and "becoming servants of righteousness" are works of God, works wherein he used Gospel truth, which is what is denoted by "that form of doctrine," as his instrument.

When did the Roman Christians stop being "servants to sin"? Likewise, when did they become "servants to righteousness"? There can be no disagreement about this as Paul is very clear, using the words "then," "now," and "became" to point to that line of demarcation. "You obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered unto you, being THEN made free from sin, you BECAME the servants of righteousness." The order is clear. First, "the teaching" was brought to their attention. Second, they believed and obeyed that instruction. Third, they were made free from sin and became servants of righteousness. Obviously the "form of doctrine" was a means used by God to produce that faith and obedience which brought liberation from bondage to sin and a new state and condition as "servants of righteousness."

Every Hardshell knows the difficulty that I am talking about in regard to this verse. He knows that he must either 1) see that his "no means" proposition is wrong, being demolished by this passage, or 2) say that this experience is not regeneration, and is not necessary to being eternally saved.

Presupposition #2 - Evangelical Faith Unessential

Hardshells have their man made proposition that says "propositional truth is not a means God uses in saving sinners from eternal damnation." Such a proposition necessitates another of its kind, one which says "evangelical or cognitive faith is not essential to being regenerated nor for any aspect of eternal salvation." But, if this is true, then (thinks the Hardshell) "being made free from sin" and "becoming servants of righteousness," cannot possibly be necessary for being eternally saved. So, the Hardshell reasons that being "made free from sin" and "becoming servants of righteousness" must be talking about a mere time salvation.

Presupposition #3 - No Divine Cause of Obedience

It is a generally received belief of neo Hardshells that God does not cause either the choices or activities of people. Thus, all the acts of obedience that a regenerated person does, he does by his own free will. None are the result of any effectual working of God's power. It is argued that a compelled obedience is not real obedience (a false notion I have dealt with elsewhere in my writings). This was argued by men like Elder J. H. Oliphant. Under this section, we might add the like proposition that says - "eternal salvation is in no way conditioned upon people believing, repenting, or obeying the Gospel."

If, however, the experience that Paul is describing (being freed from sin, becoming servants of God) is indeed included in the regeneration experience, then the Hardshell premises thus far described are demolished.

And, as far as the proposition being true that God does not cause people to obey, it is positively denied in Scripture. For example:

"And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them." (Eze. 36: 27)

Problem #1 - Regeneration or Conversion?

Because of the faith that the Hardshells place in their unscriptural propositions, they will not accept the fact that Paul is describing an experience that is essential for being regenerated, or for being finally and eternally saved.

It is a fact that today's Hardshells do not interpret the passage as did the Old Baptists who existed before the birth of the Hardshell denomination nor as did the founding fathers of their own denomination. The oldest Baptists, first of all, did not separate regeneration and conversion, as do today's Hardshell. Secondly, the Old Baptist forefathers believed that the experience described in this passage was a necessary one for all who would be saved.

Absurd Consequences

#1 - Regenerated Sin Slaves?

Just as it is impossible for a person to be an obedient servant of righteousness in an unregenerate state, so it is impossible for a person to be an obedient servant of sin in a regenerate state. Whoever is a servant of sin is dead in sin and whoever is a servant of righteousness is alive in righteousness. The Scriptures know nothing of a "regenerated unbeliever"? Likewise, it knows no such characters as a regenerated servant of sin. There is no such thing as regenerated heathen, or regenerated Antichrists. But, this is what is denied by today's Hardshells. Since they say that this experience of being made free from sin and becoming servants of righteousness is evangelical conversion, they do not see it as something that all the regenerated will experience. Ergo, there are far more "regenerated" people who have never obeyed "that form of doctrine" and who are therefore still slaves to sin, in bondage, and still "bringing forth fruit unto death." It is a laughingstock of a doctrine. It is preposterous, ludicrous. The Bible simply knows nothing about calling people regenerated who are yet in slavery to sin.

#2 - Temporal Death for Slaves of Sin?

Hardshells must deny that the death threatened in the passage is eternal death. He does this in order to save his precious and beloved presuppositions. He must deny that being a slave of sin will necessarily bring eternal death. So, not only does he deny that one must have been freed from sin by obeying the Gospel in order to be regenerated (saved initially), but denies that it is necessary for final salvation. Such a position brings absurd consequences, some of which I have already mentioned. For instance, the Hardshell must deny what the text says, that is, that "death," eternal death, is the destiny of all who are not liberated from the bondage of sin and who do not become the servants of righteousness, or the servants of Christ.

Obeying Sin Brings Death

One who is a slave to sin has sin for a master will be "unto death." (The "sin unto death" is mentioned in other places by Paul. The Apostle John also spoke of sin that is unto death and contrasted it with sin that was not unto death) Is this a mere temporal death? A death to mere present enjoyment of blessings? The context simply will not allow such a view. If a Hardshell apologist argues that the death promised to the servants of sin is mere temporal death, then he must also affirm that the life promised to the servants of righteousness is likewise mere temporal life. This is because the terms life and death are contrasted in the passage.

Obeying the Gospel Brings Life

"But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end (telos) everlasting life."

We have already seen how being made free from sin and becoming servants to God results from the Gospel being heard and obeyed. In these words Paul tells us what follows being liberated from sin. He says "you have your fruit unto holiness." No Hardshell would have any problem with the words "but now being regenerated you have your fruit unto holiness." But, Paul equates, don't you see, regeneration with conversion, with the experience of hearing the Gospel, believing it, converting to Christ, and beginning life as a professed servant of Christ.

Next, after having a life characterized by "fruit unto holiness," what comes next as a result? "ye have...the end (telos) everlasting life." So, this helps us to know that the death due to the servants of sin is not a mere temporal death for it is set in opposition to "everlasting life." The contrast is between everlasting death and everlasting life. Those in bondage to sin "bring forth fruit UNTO DEATH." Those liberated from that bondage, and who become servants of God, however, have their fruit "UNTO holiness" and unto "the end" which is "everlasting life."

General Overview of the Text

In this passage Paul used the figure of slavery to illustrate death to sin and resurrection to new life in Christ. Several figures are used in Scripture to describe the initial saving experience, what is called regeneration and conversion. In the next chapter, for instance, Paul will use the marriage relationship to illustrate the union between Christ and the believer in Jesus. As I have pointed out in my book on the Hardshell cult, many of these figures are favorites of the Hardshells, but many also are avoided by them.

They love to think of regeneration as being a resurrection from the dead, for they can (in their minds) more easily defend their no means doctrinal paradigm. They love to think of regeneration as being a creation from nothing, for they think again that they can defend their no means proposition more easily by such a figure.

But, other figures used in Scripture to describe the initial saving experience of believers are avoided. Using the figure of slaves changing masters, or people being married, do not fit with the general neo Hardshell concept of what it means to be regenerated or born again. Getting married involves people making a decision, and thus the Hardshells are reluctant to use the marital union to describe regeneration.

Dr. John MacArthur, well known Calvinist pastor and Bible teacher, in commenting on this section of Romans 6, wrote (see here):

"We're talking now about the issue of spiritual transformation. Spiritual transformation began for us with the great doctrine of regeneration when in our deadness we were given life. It included conversion, when we were transformed into a new kind of person. That launched us into a lifelong experience of sanctification."

Bingo! Spot on! Spiritual transformation is indeed the general idea behind what Paul writes in this section of the Roman epistle. MacArthur is also correct to say that spiritual transformation begins with regeneration, though it does not end there. He is also correct to say that our regeneration includes our conversion. These teachings, though clear from this section of Scripture, are denied by the Hardshells.

MacArthur continued:

"I think it's so critical for us to understand the marvelous spiritual transformation that's going on all the time in the life of a believer."

Here he clearly affirms what I have affirmed in the last few postings in this series, that the Bible teaches that spiritual transformation is what takes place "all the time in the life of a believer." As I have shown in the previous postings in this series, these are teachings denied by today's Hardshells.

MacArthur continued (emphasis mine):

"What he means, that form of teaching, what he means by...that's the word tupos. It is the word basically that means mold. It's a mold. And what he really is saying here is you were poured into a mold of saving truth, like molten metal is poured into a mold...gospel truth is a mold into which a person is poured like hot metal and when the metal is cooled, it can be lifted out in solid form exactly in the shape of that mold. You were molded in the shape of the gospel. Just a great thought, rich thought. You have been poured into biblical truth and you have come out in the very image of that truth. You're like living patterns of what you believe. You are like models of holiness and models of righteousness. Another way to say it would be that the teaching to which you have submitted has reshaped you, has stamped you with its image. God saves you, He pours you into this mold of gospel truth, of regeneration, conversion and sanctification."

Well said! Again, the first Hardshells would give a hearty "amen" to these words of MacArthus, but today's Hardshells would reject it, for they would not want to believe that the Gospel is God's instrument for molding sinners into the image of Christ.

MacArthur wrote:

"A true understanding of sound doctrine related to the gospel is foundational, it is into that mold that we are poured and genuinely transformed. And once you come out, you come out totally different...This is the new casting of the Christian."

Again, amen! Would to God today's Hardshells would accept the clear teachings of this section of Romans! I hope I can help some see the truth.

Study Notes

Below are some notes that the reader might want to read. Many concern what is meant by the word "form" in "that form (Greek 'tupos') of doctrine."

Jamieson commenting on form writes that...

"The idea is, that the teaching to which they had heartily yielded themselves had stamped its own impress upon them." (Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R., Fausset, A. R., Brown, D., & Brown, D. A Commentary, Critical and Explanatory, on the Old and New Testaments)

Barnes, in his commentary, wrote:

"The form or type of doctrine means that shape or model of instruction which was communicated. It does not differ materially from the doctrine itself, "you have obeyed that doctrine," etc. You have yielded obedience to the instructions, the rules, the tenor of the Christian revelation. The word "doctrine" does not refer to an abstract dogma, but means instruction, that which is taught. And the meaning of the whole expression is simply, that they had yielded a cheerful and hearty obedience to what had been communicated to them by the teachers of the Christian religion."

"Which was delivered you - Margin, "Whereto ye were delivered." This is a literal translation of the Greek; and the sense is simply in which you have been instructed."

Wrote Dr. Adam Clark:

"That form of doctrine - Τυπον διδαχης; here Christianity is represented under the notion of a mould, or die, into which they were cast, and from which they took the impression of its excellence. The figure upon this die is the image of God, righteousness and true holiness, which was stamped on their souls in believing the Gospel and receiving the Holy Ghost. The words εις ὁν παρεδοθητε τυπον refer to the melting of metal; which, when it is liquefied, is cast into the mould, that it may receive the impression that is sunk or cut in the mould; and therefore the words may be literally translated, into which mould of doctrine ye have been cast. They were melted down under the preaching of the word, and then were capable of receiving the stamp of its purity."

Wrote Dr. John Gill:

"By "the form of doctrine", is meant the Gospel, which is the "doctrine" of the Scriptures, of Christ and his apostles, and is sound and according to godliness; and is a "form", or contains a summary and compendium of truths, and is a pattern or exemplar, according to which ministers are to preach, and people to hear and receive."

The Pulpit commentary has these comments:

"Usually elsewhere, where St. Paul uses the word τύπος, it is of persons being examples or patterns to others (1 Corinthians 10:6; Philippians 3:17; 1 Thessalonians 1:7; 2 Thessalonians 3:9; 1 Timothy 4:12; Titus 2:7)...Here, therefore, it may be best to understand it (so as to retain the idea of pattern) as the general Christian code into which converts had been indoctrinated."

Does "form of teaching" point to a special and precisely defined type of christian instruction?

"yield" is often translated as "present" in other English versions and is from the Greek word "paristemi" which literally means "to place or set beside or near" and hence "to place at someone's disposal" or to "present oneself for service." It is present tense linear and therefore looks at what is taking place over time rather than to what takes place in an instant.

"Note that the KJV translation "doctrine was delivered you" is not accurate to the original Greek. J B Phillips more accurately conveys the meaning of the Greek writing that the readers had "honestly responded to the impact of Christ's teaching when you came under its influence."

"This form of doctrine was "obeyed" by them; by which is meant, not a mere obedience to the ordinances of the Gospel; nor a bare hearing of the doctrines of it, and giving an assent unto them; but an embracing of them by faith for themselves, so as to lay hold on Christ in them, submit to his righteousness therein revealed, and be willing to be saved by him, and him alone, in his own way; and this is the obedience of faith..." (Commentary)