Saturday, February 21, 2015

Deniers of God's Universal Love

Hyper Calvinists deny God's universal love to all men. They affirm that "God loves only his elect." This is a fundamental tenet. But, if this is so, then we can state the same proposition in negative form, i.e., "God does not love the non-elect." Or, "God has no love for the non-elect."

Further, if such a proposition be true, then other facts can be deduced from it. For instance, these negative propositions:

"God does not desire the salvation of the non-elect," And,
"God does not call the non-elect to salvation."

The cure for this serious error of Hyper Calvinism and Hardshellism is to first administer a dose of Scripture which overthrows the proposition assumed to be true. Next in the treatment, is to show how God's universal love for all men does not negate the fact of his unconditional love and choice of but a small portion of men.

God's Universal Love for All

This is positively stated in Scripture, and absolutely inferred or implied in others. For instance:

"God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son" (John 3: 16)

What "world" is this? Is it not a reference to the entire race of men? Is it not the same world that is condemned and in need of salvation? (vs. 17) The same world of men into which Christ entered?

Further, God is said to be "good" and "kind" to all (Psa. 145: 9), and this cannot be said to be void of love, that is, that they are not acts of love.  In fact, the Scriptures affirm that God's goodness towards all is an intended incentive to bring men to repentance and salvation.  (Rom. 2: 4)  The testimony of Scripture is:

"Nevertheless he left not himself without witness, in that he did good, and gave us rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness." (Acts 14: 17)

This "witness" is God's goodness and kindness to men. And, to what does it bear witness? Is it not to the person and character of God? Further, creation may witness to God's power and essential divinity (Rom. 1: 17), but his goodness to men is a particular witness to the moral character of God, showing him to be Omni benevolent, merciful, and gracious.

Paul, in preaching to fallen unregenerate sinners, in Athens, bore witness to God's general love for men. Paul not only affirmed that God was the Creator of all men, but the benefactor of all and this in spite of their enmity towards him. All along God has been a giving God, giving to all "life and breath and all things." Surely these gifts are from divine grace, love, and mercy. And, again, what is the purpose of showing such love to his fallen creatures? "That they might seek the Lord and find him." (Acts 17: 24-28) In this God shows himself to be "a faithful Creator" (I Peter 4: 19).

"Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead." (Acts 17: 31)

According to Paul, God has given man "all things," so that no man can say that what he has was not a gift of God. Now, God either gives these things in love or in hate. But, the Hyper Calvinist cannot confess that God gives "all things" to men from a principle of love, nor of grace and mercy. Further, he must even deny that God's showing temporal mercies to the lost are acts of love.

Further, Paul looks at a special and particular gift that God has "given" to all men in addition to "life, and breath, and all things." What is that gift? "He has given assurance to all men" by his raising up Christ from the dead.

The word "assurance."

It is interesting that the Greek word translated "assurance" is translated "faith" or "belief" elsewhere.  Thus, the passage says that God has given faith to all men.

"If the gift be the nature of a proof or ground for faith, then it is a kind of witness, and greater than the witness of God's goodness in giving rain and fruitful seasons. But, a witness or testimonial is given in order that men might be persuaded of a truth. Thus, since "all men," and not merely the elect or regenerated, have been "given" evidence to believe, then it must be the duty of all men to receive the proof. Thus, those who deny it to be the duty of all the believe the Gospel must face these facts."

General vs. Special Love

"For therefore we both labour and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Saviour of all men, specially of those that believe." (I Timothy 4: 10)

God is the Savior of all men generally speaking. The question must be asked - "Is saving men an act of love?" Is God's deliverance and preservation of men gracious or not? Solomon said that "safety is of the LORD" (Prov. 21: 31). All the safety and escape from danger is of the Lord. Are these daily deliverances not acts of goodness and love towards all? Who can deny it? Will the deniers of God's universal love say that all the good men receive from God originate in God's hatred and wrath?

But notice that God is "specially" the Savior of "those that believe." Thus, it is Paul who taught a general salvation for all and a special salvation for believers, or for the elect.

Further, the sentiment expressed by the Apostle is not altered in the least if we substitute the word "Savior" with other words, such as Benefactor. In other words, "He is the Benefactor of all men, specially of those who believe." Though God is good to all, he is specially good to his own. We could substitute the word "Lover" for "Savior" and read "He is the Lover of all men, specially of those who believe."

Even though God "hated" Esau, this does not eliminate God from having any love for him.

In Deuteronomy 23:5 we are told that because God loved Israel, he refused to curse them. In this context, God's love was for his covenant people. The covenant people certainly contained both elect (e.g. Moses, Joshua, etc.) and reprobate individuals (cf. Deut. 29:4).

In Matthew 5:44-46 Jesus taught that we are to love our enemies in order to be sons of the Father. That is, by loving our enemies we emulate God. The example Jesus provided for God's love of even the unrighteous was that God sends rain on the crops of the unrighteous.

Common vs. Special Grace

The discussion over the issue of general versus special love is about the same as that concerning common grace versus special grace and over common operations of the Spirit versus special operations.

Did Christ Love All Men?

It is said in the law that men are to love their neighbors, that is, they are to love all men. Further, Jesus taught his followers to love their enemies. Is God commanding men to do what he himself does not do?

Did Christ Love His Enemies?

Further, to deny that Christ loved all men is to deny that he fulfilled the law. Yet, Christ kept the law, which means that he loved his neighbor as himself, and loved his enemies. But, these are facts which the deniers of God's universal love must deny. Is what is true of Christ the Son not true of God the Father?

Thursday, February 19, 2015

As Long As It's Not Evangelical!

Remember how I stated in my latest posting that The Banner of Love periodical frequently publishes articles that promote the unbiblical anti-means pattern of salvation?  Well, a few weeks later another issue arrived in the mail proving what I then stated.  In the current January 2015 issue Elder Josh Winslett wrote an article entitled “Saved through faith”.  Since I was an enemy to the gospel for about 10 years I did not even need to read it to know the general arguments that would be made from Ephesians 2:8, cause I used to do the exact same thing.  The author’s primary task would be to interpret faith to be something other than evangelical faith.  From there he would pursue one of three courses.  He would either argue that men are saved by grace thru 1) seed faith or 2) the faith God had in Christ or 3) the faith Christ had in God.  One of the three, but certainly not the one which context proves involves the gospel (1:13)!  He takes the seed faith position, the majority one, throughout his article.

First, he denies the other views:

"Some have thought Ephesians 2:8 to describe either Christ's faithfulness as Savior or God's trust in His Son, or vice versa.  Could Paul be referring to Christ's legal work on the cross in verses 4-6, and possibly even verses 8-9? Possibly, but not likely." (“Saved through faith”, Banner of Love Jan. 2015)

And then he mentions his own view:

“…this is not an action performed by man, but instead, it is something possessed by the individual.”

However, a fairly new Hardshell website offers this alternate interpretation of the faith mentioned in the classic regeneration passage.

“The faith under consideration then, cannot be yours.  It is not your faith that saves you, and the next verse tells us that – ‘and that not of yourselves’.(Verse 9)

As we’ve shown it can’t be our faith, we conclude this is the faith God had in His Son, Jesus, to fulfill the agreement made before the world was formed.  Christ was faithful to be that sacrifice and pay that price.” ("Saved by Grace, but Whose Faith?")

So we have two different interpretations of one of the Hardshells' favorite passages, Ephesians 2:8, both offered from those of the Conditionalist faction.  I have in the past already called attention to this evolving view of Ephesians 2:8 as well as the general problems they have with this portion of God's Word:

The Faith of Ephesians 2:8
Consistent of Alternating Faith in Ephesians 1-2?
The Latest Invention on Ephesians 2:8

Winslett argues for seed faith throughout his particular article, while the pbgrace webpage feels it is the faith God had in His Son.  This demonstrates the confusion that prevails in the order on this subject as both views are being offered as an explanation to this passage (and others as well) which connect faith with eternal salvation.  Some believe the former; some the latter.  I would have to admit that Winslett gives what I would call the traditional Hardshell take on the passage ever since they became anti-means Baptists. Sinners are saved by grace through a faith which lies below the level of consciousness.  This necessary faith is said to be a gift of God, in contrast with the other unnecessary faith (i.e. evangelical) which is obtained by the works of the regenerate man.  The view held by pbgrace is definitely in the minority, but may be gaining in popularity.

Since those within the order who would assert that Ephesians 2:8 is to be understood as referencing evangelical faith are currently being ostracized, one might wonder why the opposing viewpoints above are not likewise causing a stir.  Why are those who believe that some faith which emanates from God is necessary for salvation not blackballing those who cling to seed faith, or vice versa?  If a big fuss is being made over those who contend for evangelical faith, then why not the same for those who hold to other viewpoints? The answer to this question is very enlightening, and reveals the true reason why such unorthodox explanations are being given to scripture.  You see, even though Elder Winslett’s traditional Hardshell take on the passage and the stance taken by are opposed to each other, they both give an anti-gospel, anti-means interpretation. Therein they agree, and that’s all that really matters!  As long as an explanation of faith is offered which does not make it evangelical, giving some credence to the gospel means pattern of salvation, then all is well.  I noticed this confusion during my later years I spent among them. I would occasionally hear elders talk about how there was a kind of faith necessary to be saved, and that this was a gift from God.  But at other times I would hear them teach from the same exact passage that the faith God had in His Son was under consideration!  And yet this contradiction was and is being tolerated because both viewpoints, though different, nevertheless agree that evangelical faith is NOT under consideration!

The true reason (a point it did not take long for me to see) behind such takes on the faith passages of the Bible are not because of an honest conviction that seed faith, God’s faith, or Christ’s faith are actually taught therein, but from a spirit which has a previous agenda in defying means theology, and will do anything to run from it.  There is absolutely no way that the average Bible reader would approach Ephesians 2:8 and give faith a description which robs it of all the qualities which make it that very thing, reducing it to some sort of dormant metaphysical deposit which we just happen to call faith.  And there is no way that an average Bible reader would understand the expression “and that not of ourselves” as speaking of someone else’s faith besides our own.  Rather, he would see Ephesians 2:8 as teaching that faith is part of being born again but we do nothing to get it.  “Not of ourselves” means it’s a gift of God.

But as I write, this confusion and contradiction exists.

Seed faith?

God’s faith in Christ?

Christ’s faith in God?

Doesn’t matter which one is offered.  Opposing viewpoints are tolerated as long as they remain in agreement on the point that really matters.

As long as it’s not evangelical!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Will This Article of Faith Be Rewritten?

Elder Ronald Lawrence, who pastors Bethel Primitive Baptist Church in Tennessee stated the following in a sermon entitled “Predestination & Providence/Perseverance & Preservation”:

"The last time we read anything about Lot in Genesis, chapter nineteen, he is in an immoral relationship with his two daughters; they are going to bear two sons by him, and he is drunk. Hardly an example of perseverance. He did not persevere, did he? Obviously not." (Predestination & Providence/Perseverance & Preservation, Elder Ronald Lawrence)

 Yet the article of faith per the church he pastors says:

"We believe that such as are called by His grace and justified shall finally persevere in Holiness, and never fall finally away." (see Here)

So the sermon denies perseverance, yet the article of faith confirms it.   What sort of message is being sent to the members of the church when they hear one thing from the pulpit, but read the exact opposite when they venture onto their home church’s website?  Why, which one are they to believe?  Perseverance is true or not true?

More than likely the local church is thoroughly ingrained in their anti-means, Antinomian system just like most of their contemporaries and are in firm opposition to the idea that the saints of God shall persevere in holiness.  However, they have yet to do what most of their sister churches have been doing in recent years, which is alter this particular article of faith to make it palatable to modern day Hardshellism.

When will the word perseverance be taken out and substituted with preserved? And what about that word holiness?  Surely, they can’t have people thinking that only “they that have done good” (John 5:29) will make it to Heaven!  Lots of unconverted folks that Jesus failed to save from the habit of sin must be given a place as well, correct?  Yeah, the article of faith can’t possibly say what the word of God says on this matter:

“Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.” (Heb. 12:14)

So that needs to be omitted as well.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

What the first Hardshells Believed IX

"If all the sins, that ever were conceived in thought, together with all the practical ungodliness, that was ever committed, from Adam to this hour, were together laid upon thee, the efficacy of Christ's blood is sufficient for the atonement of them all.  And if he gave thee faith in his atonement, thou wouldest be presented without spot or blemish before the throne of God.  On the other hand, if thou didst never commit but one sin, and that sin was only in thy thought, and if thou finally didst leave the world without faith in this Propitiation; that very little sin, as some might call it, would suffice to sink thee down into a world of woe."  (From the Dec. 1841 issue of "The Christian Doctrinal Advocate and Spiritual Monitor," page 99, - SEE HERE)

Notice that evangelical faith in the atonement, or faith in the Gospel, is that faith which is necessary to being regenerated and finally saved.  No one can believe in Christ' atonement and propitiation without being first informed (cognition) about the career of Christ.  But, today's Hardshells do not believe, like their forefathers, that such a cognitive, evangelical, or Gospel faith, is essential to "the faith of God's elect."

Monday, February 9, 2015

Gill on the Causes of Regeneration

John Gill wrote the following on Efficacious Grace in his "Cause of God and Truth."  (emphasis mine)  Please keep in mind that Gill, in referring to "conversion," is not referring to what is distinct from "regeneration."

"If such a divine unfrustrable operation is necessary to the conversion of a sinner then the word read or preached can be no instrument of their conversion, without this divine and infrustrable impulse, because that only acts by moral suasion." I answer it is very true that the word read or preached is not, nor can it be an instrument of conversion, without the powerful and efficacious grace of God ; (here Gill denies the 'word alone' view - SG) and it is abundantly evident, that it is read and preached to multitudes on whom it has no effect, and to whom it is of no use and service. Some persons are, indeed, begotten with the word of truth, and through the gospel; and are born again of incorruptible seed by the word of God; but then all this is by and through it, not as it comes in word only, or as it acts by moral suasion, or as it is a mere moral instrument, but as it comes in power and in the Holy Ghost, or with the demonstration of the Spirit and of power. The Spirit of God is the efficient cause of regeneration and conversion, the word is only a means which he makes use of when he pleases; for though he, generally speaking, works upon men by and under the means, yet not always; the work of grace upon the soul is not such an effect as doth entirely depend upon these two causes, so that, without the concurrence of them both, it will not be produced: wherefore the argument will not ­hold, that "he that hath it always in his power to resist, that is, to hinder the operation of the one upon him, must also frustrate the other, and consequently hinder the effect." For though the word, unattended with the Spirit and power of God, may be resisted, so as to be of no effect, yet neither the operations of the Spirit, nor the word, as attended with them, can be resisted, so as either of them should be ineffectual. And though the work of grace is wrought by an irresistible and unfrustrable operation, and the word without it is insufficient to produce it, yet it is not unnecessary; for it pleases God, by the foolishness of preaching, to save them that believe; whereby he confounds the wisdom of the world; and, by making use of weak means, he magnifies his own grace and power; he puts the treasure of the gospel in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power in conversion may appear to be of God, of his operation, and not of man's moral suasion."

Hardshells have historically argued that though John Gill advocated means in regeneration in his Commentary, written earlier in his life, he denied such in his Body of Divinity and Cause of God and Truth.  This claim, however, I have before disproven by giving such citations.  Notice how Gill clearly opposes hardshellism.  Gill, though he may have helped produce Hyper Calvinism, yet he can never be said to be a proponent of Hardshellism.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Brown's Admission

Jason Brown, Hardshell apologist, in one of his responses to me, wrote:

"Primitive Baptists who attempt to argue for the justification of the description "Primitive" on the basis of unchanged doctrinal purity are blind to history. There has certainly been an evolution or devolution (in Garrett's view) of doctrine within the Primitive Baptists in reaction to controversy. No doubt about that from a historical perspective."  (See the Saturday, October 29, 2011 posting "Jason Brown's Latest")

I would like for any Hardshell to come forward and prove Brown wrong.  Again, who then is the real old or primitive Baptist?  Those, like Kevin and I, who believe like the real old Baptists or those who cannot find exponents of their doctrine prior to the mid 19th century?