Elder David Pyles, a present day leader of the Hardshells, wrote the following in "A Note on Rebaptism to the Prospective Primitive Baptist" (see here - emphasis mine):
"Some potential converts to the Primitive Baptists have difficulty understanding their policy of rebaptizing all who come to them from other orders. This ancient practice of Primitive Baptists has many points in its defense. I attempt to present some of them in what follows, and wish particularly to address the most common questions asked concerning the practice."
How "ancient" is the "practice of Primitive Baptists" to re-baptize those whose baptism was correct in every way except in regards (perhaps) to the administrator? Not that ancient at all! We have already shown how the first Particular Baptists would disagree with the Hardshells of today. Further, many of their own churches have, at times, in the 19th century, accepted the immersions of other Baptists groups, especially before the rise of the Landmark movement in the middle of the century. Some today even accept such baptisms today. I recall when I first started pastoring two Hardshell churches in eastern North Carolina in the late 70s that I found out that they had a Missionary Baptist preacher to come and baptize some for them when they had no pastor. At the time I was a Landmarker and recall telling them how that was not acceptable. Looking back on that time I am glad that I did not make a big issue about it, not trying to undo what I thought needed to be undone!
Why would any "potential converts" to the Hardshells "find difficulty" with being re-baptized? Is it not because they believe that their previous baptism was valid in all respects, except for it being done by an administrator who was not a Hardshell? Is it not because the Spirit has born witness to their baptism and they are satisfied with it? In such cases, ought not the Hardshells to give clear solid scriptural reasons for requiring them to violate their consciences?
Pyles next says - "This ancient practice of Primitive Baptists has many points in its defense." Really? "Many points"? Really?
"The denominationalism existing in our present world is a sad condition that Primitive Baptists did not cause and do not endorse; nevertheless, they must deal with it in a sound and consistent manner. Since the scriptures offer no New Testament precedent for denominationalism, the problem must be addressed using general scriptural principle and rules of sound reasoning. Under such approach, one is constrained to conclude that it is inconsistent to permanently sever fellowship with another denomination but to then receive the baptisms of that denomination. This follows because if the local churches in that denomination are indeed recognized by God as valid churches, then fellowship with them should not have been severed. Instead, scriptural labor should have been conducted for their correction. On the other hand, if these churches are not recognized by God as valid, then there is no authority for receiving their baptisms because there is nothing in scripture serving to qualify the baptisms of a nonchurch institution."
The "Primitive Baptist" seceders "did not cause" or contribute to the "denominationalism" that exists today? Really? Did they not cause the split in the Baptist family in the 1830s by their declarations of non fellowship? Did they not make themselves into a separate denomination? Did not R.B.C. Howell rightly call them "new test men" for this reason? Wrote Howell:
"The name given by them to the antimissionaries is the most appropriate we have yet seen--New Test men. We propose that the self styled Old School, be hereafter called New Test. What say you brethren? It is not reproachful, and conveys the exact description of those brethren and Churches, who have done so much evil by introducing a new test of fellowship that is, making friendship to the Convention a crime for which they will exclude a member, and enmity the ground of his reception." (Page 38 - "The Baptist" - Vol. V. Jan. 1839 No. 1)
Further, if one looks at the Hardshell's own history, every time they came up with a new "test of fellowship" they created another denomination! These new tests not only created the Missionaries and the "Primitive" or "Old School" Baptists, but have created various groups of "Primitive Baptists," such as the "Absoluters," "Conditionalists," "Universalists," "Liberals," "Old Line," "Progressives," etc.
Further, when one accepts the baptism administered by a non Hardshell administrator, from someone representing a denomination judged to have heresies, he is not thereby automatically accepting that denomination. That is false Hardshell reasoning. Accepting a person's baptism does not at all involve accepting the administrator! That is simply false implication. Do not Hardshells accept the marriage of individuals who were married by non Hardshell ministers? Does that acceptance mean they accept, in every way, the minister? Of course not.
Further, an individual's baptism should not be characterized as being a denomination's or a church's baptism. It is the Lord's baptism. When we speak of the communion, we say "the Lord's Supper," not "the church's supper." We should do the same with baptism. It is the Lord's Baptism, not the church's. It matters not who administers either one. In either case it is the Lord's ordinance. So, instead of looking at alien immersion as accepting and approving of an heretical church, look at it rather as accepting the Lord.
Pyle's reasoning suggests that churches that have serious error cannot do anything right. It asserts that one serious error nullifies everything else. Such reasoning says that "fellowship" and "cooperation" is an "all or nothing" thing. It is amazing that he cannot see how it is this very attitude that has created so many denominations! What are the Hardshells doing to bring denominations together?
"This reasoning might not pertain to an intra-denominational division wherein fellowship were temporarily suspended for corrective purposes, but it must be valid for those inter-denominational divisions that are viewed as permanent."
Notice that caveat and what it reveals! "This reasoning" does not work in some cases? It does not apply to "intra-denominational" divisions? What is he talking about? Let me tell you.
The Hardshells have been very schismatic throughout their history. Pyles knows this. Besides the major splits that created the above mentioned denominations, there have been minor divisions over many things. For instance, in my book on the Hardshells, in Chapter Three, under "personal experiences," I relate how my beloved father and the church he pastored, when it was in the Powell's Valley Association, had a division over the origin and fall of Satan and the angels. Because father believed that Satan fell from heaven, the third heaven, and because he would not agree to not preach it, he and the church were declared in "disorder" by most of the churches. From that time forward, all the official work of the church were considered invalid, just as much as if done by a "denominational church." So, for many churches who were alligned with the Powell's Valley Association, my ordination, which took place after this division, was viewed as being invalid. My baptism, which took place before the declaration of non fellowship, was accepted. In the view of Pyles, it would be wrong for each side in this division to require redoing all the official baptisms and ordinations in a reconciliation or coming together again. Pyles knows that this has often been a difficulty in trying to effect these kinds of reconciliation. Historically, the Hardshells, in these kinds of divisions that were wrong, or "temporary," have advised that each side 1) remove or "rescind" their declarations of non fellowship and disorder, and 2) accept the other side's baptisms and ordinations.
Pyles is willing to accept the baptisms of those groups within his denomination that have been at war with each other, and so he says his "reasoning" does not apply in such cases. His reasoning only applies to the big splits with "denominations." Surely Pyles is adept enough to see how he has destroyed his own "reasoning"! He can advise each side in such "intra" denominational splits to accept the other's baptisms, arguing no doubt that such acceptance does not imply acceptance of any error the other side may have entertained, but such reasoning does not work in "inter" denominational divisions!
Who decides which divisions are "temporary" and which are "permanent"? Who decides which divisions, which opposing groups or denominations, were intended for "corrective purposes" and which were not?
"In maintaining these permanent bars of fellowship against each other, the churches of the denominational world have in effect declared that they cannot certainly know that their rivals are Divinely recognized churches. This being the case, they cannot certainly know that the baptisms performed by their rivals are valid. It is therefore inconsistent to receive these baptisms as though there were no question concerning them."
This is not sound reasoning. A church may know that the Hardshell church is heretical and yet can know that their baptisms are valid nonetheless. Pyles argues that if there is a "question concerning them" in regard to their soundness in the faith, then that is sufficient grounds to declare that all their church sponsored baptisms are invalid. Of course, this is true only of certain church groups that are not fellowshipped "permanently" and for "non corrective" reasons!
Notice how Pyles is arguing his case based upon assumptions that he has not proven from scripture. He has not proven that baptism is performed by churches. He has not proven that baptisms are official church acts. He has not proven that accepting baptisms forces one to accept the administrators of them. He has not proven that a church having certain errors cannot do anything right. Yet, his argumentation is based upon all these assumptions. It is called "begging the question" fallacy.
"If the Primitive Baptists are what they claim, then they are of the same lineage, doctrine and practice as the true New Testament church. If the Primitive Baptists are not true to this claim, then one has no reason for leaving another order to come to them. Now there is only one instance in the Bible where people were baptized apart from this lineage (Acts 19:1-7), and in that one instance, those people were rebaptized. This was done notwithstanding the fact that those people were sincere in their convictions when they were first baptized, and notwithstanding the fact that the Bible considered them to be believers when they were first baptized."
"If the Primitive Baptists are what they claim"? But, this is assuming too much, for they clearly are not what they claim to be, i.e. the "only ones" who preach the Gospel and have authority as churches from Christ!
Pyles mentions the supposed re-baptism of Acts 19 as did Elder Hatfield, to which I have already responded and will have some more to say. In Pyle's remarks, he again makes many assumptions. He first assumes that Paul actually re-baptized those disciples who had undergone "John's baptism." He also assumes that the people were "sincere in their convictions" when they were baptized with "John's baptism." How does he know this? Does the text say so? He also assumes that the reason for their having been re-baptized was because it was done by an invalid administrator or by the authority of an invalid church. But, where is this said in the text? Until he proves these assumptions, upon which his argumentation is based, his "reasoning" is to be rejected.
"...the Jesus taught by the denominational world is not the same Jesus taught by the Primitive Baptists. Nor do they teach the same gospel and same Spirit. Anyone failing to see these differences is not truly ready to be a Primitive Baptist, and if their perceptions were correct, they would stand nothing to gain by becoming a Primitive Baptist. What could be gained by coming to the Primitive Baptists from another order if the Primitive Baptists teach the same Jesus, gospel and Spirit? But if Primitive Baptists indeed preach the true Jesus, and if world preaches another Jesus, then it is surely a feeble and dubious testimony when a person has willfully submitted to baptism for the other Jesus but has refused baptism for the true one. It is difficult to see how that this can be the proper answer of a good conscience towards God (1Pet 3:21)."
Notice the arrogance and cult thinking of Pyles and the Hardshells! Only the Hardshells believe and preach the real Jesus! Only they have received the Spirit! Only they preach the gospel! But, he only states this based upon his own authority, and not from scripture. He assumes and asserts and then expects all to accept what he says as if he were an apostle! What arrogance! What vain presumption!
He says that one must believe these things in order to become a "Primitive Baptist." In other words, in order to become a cult member, he must put his faith in the cult! He says "it is difficult to see how" a baptism that one obtained outside of the cult could possibly give one that coveted "answer of a good conscience towards God." But, his difficulty in seeing is not argument or proof of anything on the matter under discussion! Further, who made him the judge of the consciences of believers? Further, he keeps assuming that baptism is a rite that denotes allegiance to a denomination, which it is not! Rather, it is a rite that denotes allegiance to Christ!
Recall that Pyles at the outset of his polemic was going to give us strong and several reasons, from scripture, that prove all baptisms performed by churches in error are invalid. Has he done that yet? Absolutely not! Rather, he is using carnal reasonings that have no foundation in scripture. Has he proven his case? I think not!