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.

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