Wednesday, June 4, 2014

A neo Hardshell on the new birth

A neo Hardshell whose writings brother Fralick and I have previously examined wrote a piece wherein he sought to correct the views of Billy Graham on the new birth.  (see here)  I would like to examine some of the things this Hardshell spokesman wrote on the subject.

He wrote:

"The new birth happens the same way to everybody who is born again.  It is a passing from death unto life (John 5:24) and thus is it an instantaneous event, because there are no gradations of life.  Jesus said that the new birth is like the blowing of the wind and "so is everyone that is born of the Spirit." (John 3:8) meaning that it happens the exact same way to every one of God's sheep."

Okay, the new birth happens the same way to everybody.  But, what do we mean by "the same way"? Do we mean "exactly the same way," without the least difference, as this Hardshell affirms? If so, then all are born again as was the Apostle Paul. Was he not converted to faith in Christ at the moment of his new birth? Yet, ironically, the Hardshell above does not believe that all are converted to Christ when they are newly born of the Spirit.  The very argument he thinks proves his anti means view actually disproves it.  Isn't that funny?

Further, the first Christians were "born again...of incorruptible seed, by the word of God" (I Peter 1: 23), were begotten "with the word of truth" (James 1: 18), were "begotten by the gospel" (I Cor. 4: 15), so all are born again this way. Thus, again, the argument "all are born again the same way" does not lead one to Hardshellism but away from it.

Is coming to life always "an instantaneous event"? Was it so with the coming to life of the dead in the story of Ezekiel and the dry dead bones? Is natural birth always instantaneous?

"There are no gradations of life"? Do we not read of one who was "half dead"? (Luke 10: 30) If one can be half dead, then he can be half alive. Further, people have dead skin as a part of their living body, and dead cells too, and if they are terminally sick, may have body parts that have already died.

The Hardshell also wrote:

"This teaching is a denial of depravity.  The natural man lacks faith because he lacks the indwelling spirit of God (Romans 8:9) of which faith is a fruit. (Galatians 5:22)  Stated bluntly, if the natural man must produce faith in order to be born again, then no one will be born again.  If a man has faith, he is ALREADY born again because "whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God." (I John 5:1)"

He begins this paragraph with a stated falsehood.  He gives no evidence to prove his assertion.  He merely gives his opinion, which proves nothing of course. 

John Gill, because he taught the Lord's use of the Gospel in new birth, denied the doctrine of depravity?  The other great Baptist leaders in the Particular Baptist tradition also denied the doctrine of depravity by teaching the Lord's use of means? 

Does the doctrine of depravity make it impossible for the omnipotent God to use the Gospel as a means in overcoming that depravity?  Is God unable to use the Gospel to raise the spiritually dead in the same way that he can't make a rock bigger than he can move?  Is the use of the Gospel in new birth a logical impossibility?

This Hardshell argues for a strict ordo salutis in which one must have the Spirit of God before he can hear the word of God.  Yet, this is in direct contradiction to the teaching of Paul in Galatians 3:2, for Paul says that they had received the Spirit "by the hearing of faith."

Here is what Dr. Gill wrote in his commentary on this passage:

"received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? This question supposes they had received the Spirit; that is, the Spirit of God, as a spirit of wisdom and knowledge in the revelation of Christ; as a spirit of regeneration and sanctification; as a spirit of faith and adoption; and as the earnest, seal, and pledge of their future glory. Now the apostle asks, whether they received this Spirit "by the works of the law"; meaning, either whether they could imagine, that they by their obedience to the law had merited and procured the Spirit of God; or whether they thought that the Spirit came to them, and into their hearts, through the doctrine or preaching of the law: the former could not be true, for if they could not obtain righteousness and life by the works of the law, then not the Spirit; besides, works done without the Spirit of God, are not properly good works: not the latter, for though by the law is the knowledge of sin, yet this leaves nothing but a sense of wrath and damnation in the conscience; it is the killing letter, and a ministration of condemnation and death, and not of the Spirit, and of life; this belongs to the Gospel, "or the hearing of faith"; for by "faith", is meant the Gospel, and particularly the doctrine of justification by faith in Christ's righteousness; and by "the hearing" of it, the preaching of it, the report of it, Isa 53:1 which, in the Hebrew text, is wntemv, "our hearing", that by which the Gospel is heard and understood. Now in this way the Spirit of God is received; while the Gospel is preaching he falls on them that hear it, conveys himself into their hearts, and begets them again by the word of truth: and in this way the Galatians came by the Spirit, and which is another aggravation of their folly, that they should enjoy so great an advantage by the Gospel, and yet be so easily removed from it."

This brother, like the Hardshells in general, like to cite Galatians 5: 22 that says "faith" is a "fruit of the Spirit" and affirms that this proves that one has the Spirit, and spiritual life, before he believes.  I have written on this before (see here) .  I have also written against the allegations of the Hardshells about I John 5: 1 (see here).  Certainly faith is begotten of God.  (See also I John 5: 3-4)  But, it is not a Hardshell faith that believes or knows nothing.

Further, not only does Paul say that the Spirit was received by faith, in Galatians, but he also says "for you are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus." (Gal. 3: 26) Why does this Hardshell not see how these words overthrow his interpretation and presupposition on Gal. 5: 22? Further, Jesus said the same thing.

"While ye have light, believe in the light, that ye may be the children of light." (John 12: 36 KJV)

Believe in order that you may be the children of light? Do not the Hardshells rather say - "believe because you already are the children of light"?

Further, if those who believe Jesus is the Christ are they who have been born again, then those who have not believed have not been born again.  John equated being a believer in Jesus with being born again. 

The Hardshell apologist continued:

"Since faith is the "gift of God" (Ephesians 2:8-9) and "all men have not faith" (II Thessalonians 3:2) it follows that God has not given the faith that Graham claims is required for the new birth to every man. It is therefore abundantly evident that God does not want every man to be born again and thus Graham's statement is both unscriptural and inconsistent with his own assertions.  The testimony of scripture is that God did not purpose to save all men (Matthew 25:41) and so he does NOT desire that all men be born again (John 8:44).  Indeed, if he had, they most certainly would be. (Daniel 4:35-36)"

While it is true that God especially desires the salvation of the elect, this does not preclude him having a general desire for the salvation of all.

What this brother is saying is that God does not want all men to be saved, and yet this is what the Bible teaches. This brother says that God wants men to reject Christ and his word, that he wants them to be unbelievers. Yet, in the word of God, we find God saying these things to unregenerate people.

"Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no more stiffnecked." (Deut. 10: 16)

"Circumcise yourselves to the Lord, and take away the foreskins of your heart, ye men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem: lest my fury come forth like fire, and burn that none can quench it, because of the evil of your doings." (Jer. 4: 4)

"Cast away from you all your transgressions, whereby ye have transgressed; and make you a new heart and a new spirit: for why will ye die, O house of Israel?" (Eze. 18: 31)

It is to God's credit that any man has saving faith, yet he cannot be blamed for men refusing to believe. Yet, this Hardshell's apology would shift blame to God for men not believing, not circumcising their hearts, etc. He would also justify men for their unbelief by saying it is not God's will for them to believe.

The Hardshell apologist continued:

"The natural man is enmity against God (Romans 8:7). Can such a man ever be said to be "willing to yield to God"?  Absolutely not.  If such willingness is the requirement for being born again, no one will be saved.  Graham's assertion makes it plain that he has a distorted view of the effects of the fall (Romans 3:10-18)."

"If such willingness is the requirement for being born again, no one will be saved."

So, what can we conclude by this statement? Why, simply, that "willingness" is not essential to having been born of God, for having spiritual life. Not only is willingness not essential to being spiritually alive in Christ, but neither is faith and repentance. God save us from this Hardshell "new birth."

Further, I have shown before, in my book and elsewhere, how the Hardshells err in attempting to deduce their theory of regeneration from the doctrine of total depravity.

The Hardshell apologist continued:

"This teaching is as common in Christianity today as it is wrong.  Zacchaeus was looking for Jesus because he already had a hunger and thirst for righteousness, which is a sign of his born again state (Matthew 5:6).  Additionally, Zacchaeus does not tell Jesus that he will start making things right, he tells Jesus that this is his current practice (Luke 19:8)  So when Jesus tells Zacchaeus, "This day salvation has come to this house" he is NOT saying that His visit marks the moment of Zacchaeus's new birth.  Rather he is saying that the very Lord of Zacchaeus's salvation is there in his presence - indeed Christ is our salvation."

I'll take what is plain in the text. Salvation came to the house of Zaccheus that day, in the full sense of the word.

Notice the kind of hermeneutics practiced by the Hardshells. Notice how he reads things into the text that none but those trained in the Hardshell cult can see.

The Hardshell apologist continued:

"Both Graham and MacArthur teach salvation by commitment, their only argument is with respect to degree."

And, what is the Hardshell teaching? Salvation without commitment to Christ! Salvation without faith and repentance! Salvation without the word of God!

Jesus said "If you believe not that I am he you will die in your sins." (John 8: 24) Hardshells, however, say that many of those who "believe not" will escape dying in their sins. John said that the wrath of God abides on those who are unbelievers in Jesus (John 3: 36) but the Hardshells say that many non Christians have been delivered from the wrath of God.

The Hardshell apologist continued:

"A man who is willing and able to repent is ALREADY born again, else man is not totally depraved as Paul asserts in Romans 3:10-18. There's simply no way for repentance to be found in such a man. To require spiritual repentance from the spiritually dead in order to be made spiritually alive is as silly as requiring the physically dead to come forth from the grave so that they may partake of a quickening cure."

Again, we have written against such "reasonings" before. Yet, in the Scriptures, and in the 1689 Confession, repentance is "unto life." (Acts 11: 18) Further, as Calvin and Edwards taught, repentance is in essence regeneration. Further, the reasoning of this Hardshell creates a creature who is "regenerated" but who has experienced no repentance, conversion, or bibilical faith. Absurd!

"Believing is your response to God's offer of mercy, love and forgiveness." (Graham, p.161)

"No, believing is the exercise of God given faith.  Man does not have the capacity of faith until God regenerates him. Faith is not a response to God's offer of mercy, it is a fruit of the spirit, the ears to hear, whereby a born again child of God can receive the truth of his salvation found in the gospel of Jesus Christ."

Again, it is asserted that there are people out there who have been "regenerated" but are still impenitent, still an unbeliever, still unforgiven. What saith the Scriptures?

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

Hardshellism teaches differently, however. They say there is forgiveness without repentance and conversion!

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