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.
"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.
"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"?
"...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)
"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?
"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?
"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)
"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.
"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 teaching...in 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.
"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.