Monday, March 17, 2014

Hardshell Philosophizing and Revelation 5:9

“And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation;” (Rev. 5:9)

Sentiments, more than biblically acquired knowledge, prevent most “Primitive” or Hardshell Baptists from submitting to the idea that all men who die without knowledge of the one true God and His Son Jesus Christ are doomed to everlasting torment. Much hindsight about the fate of unevangelized heathens in centuries gone by occupies their apologetics. A popular text among them, Revelation 5:9 is often set forth in an attempt to justify the belief that history is full of unconverted regenerates whom despite never hearing the gospel were nevertheless saved into heaven. However, the redeemed “out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation” is a portrait of the total number of God’s elect, not what the family of God is at every given moment in time. This is a crucial observation, and one which having escaped the Hardshell interpreter, has led him to the tragic conclusion that God’s elect are to be found among those who live and die in heathendom. Yet even if the text were to be understood as a continuous portrait of the family of God throughout history, it should be remembered that the text only specifically says where the elect were found. It does not specifically state 1) what their new life in Christ is like, and 2) what state they are in at the time of death. Even if it were true that there remained an elect among the heathen nations at all times in history, Rev. 5:9 provides no basis for believing that they would have remained in heathendom till they die. Heathens across the globe shall obviously be quickened by the Holy Spirit, thus fulfilling the fact of Rev. 5:9. Yet they then become converts to the Christian religion! They do not remain spiritual vegetables void of any awareness of their salvation, as predicated by Hardshellism. In order to be a friend to this heretical system, Revelation 5:9 would not only have to demonstrate from where some of God’s elect are found, but that they remain unconverted, having a hollow-log regeneration and sanctification experience.

To be specific, the question I heard most often when I was among this people was “What about the American Indians before 1492?” I have to admit that this used to remain on the top of my tongue as well when I imbibed this heresy.

The first thing that I now say in response to this is that such a question is a prime example of philosophizing, of which the Hardshells are notorious for doing when trying to refute the claims of Calvinisim. Instead of simply accepting the Bible truth that one must abide in the doctrine of Christ (i.e. be a Christian) in order to have God (2 John 9), they resort to speculation to settle the matter. Since most Hardshells have been made overly sentimental by hearing much of God’s sovereignty in salvation, but not in reprobation, they have a difficult time accepting the possibility that vast numbers of unevangelized people were not of God’s elect. They boast of the broad scope of their doctrine as including more souls than any other taught in Christendom, not realizing that the broadness is not supposed to go beyond what God himself has set. God’s salvation is indeed broad, but not as Hardshellism suggests, which stretches it to the point that many of the reprobate are thought to be God’s elect.

Instead of philosophizing about spiritual matters, we do well to stick to the word of God. Let me demonstrate how the Hardshell speculation and sentimental conviction that multitudes of unevangelized souls are heaven-bound falls flat with not just the Bible, but one of their very own popular passages.

In John 10:27 Jesus says:

“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.”

I can remember discussing in the past with Brother Stephen what a difficult task it would be for Hardshells to answer the question:

”Did the American Indians who were elect follow Christ?”

Since I was once a hollow-log heretic myself, I’m glad I was never asked it. Many Hardshells today would place the concept of following Christ in the category of discipleship, something which their modern time salvation paradigm says is not necessary to be finally saved into heaven. The problem is that Jesus specifically states his sheep DO follow Him, not might. Furthermore, following Christ is descriptive of the subjective experience of salvation, razing to the ground their imagination that such may not follow regeneration, and that only the objective fact of salvation is certain.

So on one hand we have the Hardshell sentiment and preconceived grid that multitudes of elect heathens void of knowledge of Christ die and go to heaven, and on the other an affirmative from Christ himself that His sheep would follow Him in this life. Which one is to be given the preeminence? If I lived at an earlier time and didn’t have the benefit of hindsight in which I could speculate about the fate of past peoples, would I not affirm without hesitation the truth that God's sheep, all of them, will follow Christ?

I’m quite sure at this point that instead of submitting to the obvious teaching here, Hardshells would attempt to wiggle out by saying one of the following:

1) Elect heathens follow Christ below the level of consciousness.

2) Elect heathens follow Christ in regeneration only, but not in the subsequent life.

3) There are two kinds of following Christ; one necessary without the gospel as a means, and the other unnecessary with gospel means. Elect heathens get the former, but not the latter.

All of this is simply avoiding what is the Bible truth. Jesus saves, not just to populate heaven, but to change mens’ lives and turn them to be followers of Him. Why, oh why, my Hardshell brethren, can you not see this? Or will not see it? Cast to the dunghill your endless philosophizing about who lived at what time and where in trying to deny the certainty of Christian conversion as part of salvation, and get your beliefs from Biblical exegesis!

Wherever the elect are found, they shall be made followers of the Lord Jesus Christ!

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