Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Most Heretical Book I've Ever Read

Several years ago I attended the annual Smoky Mountain meeting in Pigeon Forge, TN.  Near the front entrance was a table where various books could be purchased.  I selected one called Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth by Tom Hagler Jr, with the subtitle “God’s sovereignty versus man’s free will…the doctrinal paradox is solved by an ancient bible doctrine”.  At the time I knew little about the deeper things of theology, so I didn’t really understand what this meant. Nevertheless, upon venturing into its pages it’s sad to say that I would have agreed with much of what was written. Fast forward 5 or 6 years and I can now say that Hagler’s book is easily the most heretical work that I have ever read.  I exaggerate not, for I honestly can think of no other book published under the Christian name which performs such a systematic butchering and ignorant exegesis of scripture. If anyone is interested in seeing Hardshellism for what it is in its extreme form, its gross assertions laid bare, this is the one to pick up.  In his apology, available via google search, Hagler goes to work full steam ahead with all the anti-means premises consistent with the “Primitive” Baptist grid, making men, as Spurgeon would say, less responsible than an ox.  The subtitle, mentioned above, confirms what I have charged in the past; namely, that extreme Hardshellism fails to recognize that God’s sovereignty and the will of men are compatible (see Here).  The most brilliant minds have engaged the question of how these two are to be reconciled and it is a great arrogance to claim superiority over these learned scholars.  To think that the proper way to cut this Gordian knot of theology escaped the Christian community and some of its greatest pillars for 19 centuries, only to be discovered by a little band in the late 1800s who over-reacted to the modern missionary movement which ensued a century earlier is ridiculous.  And not only that, but to claim that the solution all along was very simple.  All one has to do is this.  If he confronts a bible text or doctrine enforcing man’s responsibility (atleast in a conscious manner), just put that in the unnecessary temporal salvation category.  Problem solved!  What a cheap, irreverent solution to one of the great mysteries (atleast in part) of truth!

As I look through the table of contents I see what I expect to see.  All the traditional arguments in favor of the conditional time salvation paradigm are made, and those particular points of the TULIP scheme which emphasize man’s responsibility to his maker are perverted and redefined in order to make them consistent with the doctrine of do-nothing.  The author labors to prove that the existence of temporal deliverances in the Bible, such as that from physical danger, is enough to conclude that anti-means conditional time salvation is a truth, an inference I have previously overthrown (see Here).  He addresses the passages (again, as expected) which practically everyone else in Christianity understands as teaching the necessity of hearing the gospel to be saved, violating all manner of sound hermeneutics in order to force them to say what he wants. And he does all of this firmly persuaded that this is an "ancient" way of handling the scripture!!  Yeah right. It's about an ancient as the late 1800s, and that's it.

At the beginning of his work is a special section dedicated to responding to a certain "Elder Adam" who preached a sermon on June 30, 2002 entitled "Rethinking My Position on Time Salvation".  This was actually a reference to Elder Thomas Mann, who did a fabulous job of critiquing and exposing the many errors in that heretical system.  I have wanted for the longest time to post Mann's entire sermon on this blog for readers to view. If and when I discover the technology to transcribe audio to text, I promise to post it.

Getting back to Hagler's work, it's most loathsome feature, atleast in my mind, is the portrait that one gets of the family of God.  By the time you are done reading it you are left with the impression that the children of God and that of the devil are virtually indistinguishable.  All throughout the book the point is made that the elect of God are to be found among those who reject the gospel message and live in defiant rebellion to their God. The chief rulers, the Pharisees, and King Agrippa, which the average Christian immediately sees as enemies to the cause of Christ, are welcomed with open arms as regenerate children of God, despite their open opposition to the faith.  This is certainly different than the family which was elected to holiness (Eph. 1:4) and obedience (1 Peter 1:2), the people for which Christ died in order to purify, making them zealous of good works (Titus 2:14).  It's not like those whom regeneration delivers from the prince of the power of the air (Eph. 2:2) so that they might become servants of righteousness (Rom. 6:18) and followers of the Lamb (John 10:27; Rev. 14:4).  And it’s certainly not like those whom God has ordained to be sanctified (1 Thes. 4:3; 2 Thes. 2:13; 1 Peter 1:2), in whom He works the willing and doing of His good pleasure (Phil.2:13).

Unfortunately, such a depiction is inevitable.  When one adopts a scheme which endeavors to prove that gospel conversion is only achieved by a “few” of God’s people, and that by their own Arminian free-will, he has no choice but to include many of those who never hear it or those which hear it but reject it in the family of God. 

What a mess has divorcing those things which God has joined together created for those in grave error!

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