Jul 31, 2011

Decisional Regeneration?


I dislike my Calvinist brothers decrying "decisional regeneration." I think they go to extremes in opposing Arminianism. Those Calvinists who decry "decisional regeneration" are either Hyper Calvinists or are borderline Hyperists. I also dislike those Calvinists who constantly say that one must be born again, or have spiritual life, before he can believe, repent, or be converted, and ride this message like a "hobby horse."

In this posting I want to affirm that true Calvinism does not divorce conversion from regeneration, does not separate an act of the will, in choosing Christ, from the experience of salvation, but believe that in regeneration the will acts, being moved upon by the power of God and his grace. Here are scriptures that overthrow the Calvinist extremist's objections.

Scriptures that put "asking" and "believing" before regeneration (or the obtaining of spiritual life).

"He asked life of thee, and thou gavest it him, even length of days for ever and ever." (Psalm 21: 4)

"But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name." (John 20: 31)

"And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life." (John 5: 40)

Clearly asking, believing, choosing, and coming to Christ are all put before life and salvation in these verses.

"Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you." (Matt. 7: 7)

Can it not be said of the wicked who refuse to believe in Christ that they were not saved because they did not ask to be saved?

"Jesus answered and said unto her, If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water." (John 4: 10)

Does one not receive the water of life by petition? By a choice?

"If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed." (James 1: 5, 6)

"ye have not, because ye ask not." (James 4: 2)

If one lacks salvation, is it not because he has not asked for it of the Lord? If he lacks that wisdom which is unto salvation, is it not because he did not ask and believe?

"If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?" (Luke 11: 13)

Is this not the case with all the damned? That they did not ask the Lord to give them the Holy Spirit?

"Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me." (Rev. 3: 20)

Is opening the heart's door for Christ and life to enter not a result of a choice to open the heart?

"And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive." (Matt. 21: 22)

Can this not be said to every lost soul? If not, why not? Is life and salvation not part of the "all things"?

How can we divorce "asking" and "choosing" from what it means to "call upon" the Lord?

Decisional regeneration? Can we have regeneration apart from a decision? Apart from a change of the will?

Jul 30, 2011

Gill on Invitations


Dr. John Gill wrote:

"Faith is a motion of the soul unto Christ; having looked and gazed at him with wonder and pleasure, it moves towards him; this is expressed by coming unto him; "He that cometh to me", says Christ, "shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me", which explains what is meant by coming, "shall never thirst", John 6:35 which coming to Christ is upon an invitation given, encouraging to it; not only by others, by the Spirit and the bride, who say "come", Rev. 22:17 and by the ministers of the word; "Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters; and he that hath no money, come!" and who, through the gospel trumpet being blown with power, and the sound of it attended with efficacious grace, they that are "ready to perish" come, Isa. 55:1 27:13 but also by Christ himself, who says, "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest!" Mt 11:28 such souls come, being influenced and powerfully wrought upon by the grace of God; "All that the Father giveth me", says Christ, "shall come to me"; efficacious grace will cause them to come, will bring them to him, through all discouragements, difficulties, and objections, and which are all removed by what follows; "and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out", John 6:37." (A Body of PRACTICAL Divinity, Book 1, Chapter 6 - "Of Faith in God and in Christ," section 2b2b)

One of the criticisms of the great Calvinistic Baptist theologian, Dr. John Gill, is that he was guilty of Hyper Calvinism, but this is a false charge. That some Arminians would claim such is not surprising, for they call any Calvinist, moderate or otherwise, a Hyper Calvinist. But, that any Calvinist or honest Arminian would do so, after reading Gill thoroughly, is shocking and unjustified. The major criticism and justification for calling Gill a Hyper Calvinist lies in his supposed denial of giving "invitations" or "offers" of grace and salvation to the lost and unregenerate. Now, Gill may have said some things in some places where he may have seemed to deny such offers and invitations, he certainly endorses them in the above words from his "Body of Divinity," that work which he wrote later in his life.

Jul 14, 2011

Online Debate on Hardshellism

Over the past couple weeks I have been blog debating with a Hardshell "apologist" by the name of Jason Brown from Oklahoma. He started his blog, called the Primitive Baptist Apologist - see here, for the sole purpose of answering my writings against Hardshellism.

You can read the unedited chapters of my book on "The Hardshell Baptist Cult" here. I have eighty six chapters written and plan to write additional chapters.

I have also written a good many articles in the Baptist Gadfly blog against Hardshellism and Hyper Calvinism. I have also recently written several articles in the new blog, "The Old Baptist," that I began with former Hardshell Kevin Fralick, here, and this is where I have been posting my rebuttals to apologist Brown's rebuttals.

I have been trying to get the Hardshells to debate since the early 90s and have had no takers. I credit Jason for being willing to do so. I don't know anything about Jason. I don't know if he is a member or elder in the "Primitive Baptist Church," or what faction he endorses. As far as I know he could be using a pseudonym or pen name. If one checks his blogger profile he will find no information about him. Perhaps he will tell us something about himself and his standing in the Hardshell church, seeing he has come forward to speak for them?

I hope all who are interested in the "Old Baptist" faith will want to read our debate postings.

Bogard, Hardeman & Hardshellism


In the famed debate (1938) between Ben Bogard, Missionary Baptist, and N. B. Hardeman, Campbellite, on the "work of the Holy Spirit," there were exchanges concerning the pre-faith regeneration theory of the Hardshells and some other Hyper Calvinistic Baptists. The following are excerpts from the speeches of both these men, followed by my own observations.

In Hardeman's first speech in the negative, he said:

"He (Bogard) uses the word "direct" and "immediate" which mean one and the same thing. Therefore, there is no difference in the position which his proposition requires and that occupied by what he called the Hardshell Baptist theory." (Hardeman-Bogard debate, page 18)

"Baptist doctrine teaches the theory of pre-regeneration. That word means salvation without response; regeneration before all other graces; redemption without any act of obedience on the sinner's part. A sinner, therefore, is passive and inactive, and unless God, the Almighty, sends his Spirit before the sinner performs any act, even repentance and faith, nothing can be brought to bear upon his heart that will lead him to life." (pg. 19)


Was Hardeman correct? Is the "pre-regeneration" (or "pre-faith" or "pre-conversion" kind of "regeneration") theory the historic view of Particular Baptists? Does he accurately describe the "pre-faith" view of "regeneration" correctly? What about the work of regeneration being "direct" and "immediate"? What have Baptists traditionally taught?

Hardeman is correct in his description of the "pre-faith" view of "regeneration." He is also correct that this view has been taught by some Particular Baptists, historically speaking. It is true that some have used the adjectives "direct" and "immediate" to refer to the work of regeneration, but who, unlike the Hardshells, believe it is also at the same time, indirect and mediate, as did Dr. Bogard. The pre-faith view of regeneration is not the traditional or common view among Baptists.

Hardeman does acknowledge that the "pre-regeneration theory" is the same as the "Hardshell Baptist theory."

Hardeman also said:

"I have here a number of statements--first from the Philadelphia Confession of Faith; second, from the New Hampshire Confession; and, third, from the late Dr. Graves. We may also call attention to the teaching of Dr. J. P. Boyce whose book is the text in Louisville Seminary, a Baptist school. This will present the Baptist doctrine from representative Baptists, and I take it that their teaching will not be questioned by Dr. Bogard. I quote Philadelphia Confession, chapter 10, section 2. "This effectual call is of God's free and special grace alone, not from anything at all foreseen in man, nor from any power or agency in the creature, being wholly passive therein, being dead in sins and trespasses until being quickened and renewed by the Holy Spirit: he is therefore enabled to answer this call and to embrace the grace offered and conveyed in it, and that by no less power than which raised Christ from the dead." The New Hampshire Confession is quoted in Bogard's Waybook and in Pendleton's Church Manual and declares that "regeneration comes first and that such shows itself in the holy fruits of repentance and faith."


Concerning J. M. Pendleton, here is what he wrote elswhere:

"This change is, in theological writings, usually called Regeneration, and it is inseparable from "repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ." Acts 20:21. For this reason the heading of this chapter has been selected, and I purposely present in closest connection Regeneration, Repentance, and Faith. Nor is it my intention to dwell on what has been termed "the order of time." Indeed, if the view of Calvin and Jonathan Edwards is correct, regeneration and repentance are in substance the same so that the question as to order of time is ruled out." ("Regeneration, With Its Attendants, Repentance And Faith")

And again, he said:

"But if we turn to Galatians 3:26, "For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus," the obvious view is that we become God's children by faith, or, in other words, that faith is instrumental in effecting regeneration."

See this previous posting of mine about Pendleton on this issue. These citations show that Pendleton did not believe that faith and regeneration could be separated and so "order of time" was inconsequential. Yet, he did acknowledge that there are scriptures that do put faith before life.

What about the two confessions cited? Do they teach what he says? No, they do not. The confession declared that one is not effectually called till he embraces by faith the gospel message. Coming to life includes coming to faith. Also, Hardeman uses the word "therefore" instead of "whereby," which the confession used.

Hardeman, after quoting the above from Pendleton, quotes the following, supposedly from Pendleton's "Church Manual." Yet, in the debate, Hardeman gave no page number or section for the supposed citation.

"Regeneration always comes first. It may exist without faith and repentance, but these cannot exist without first regeneration. There is not only antecedence, but in some cases an appreciable interval."

Now, I have looked for this citation in Pendleton's "Church Manuel" and have not found it. Yet, I do find that J. P. Boyce did say that. Yet, Hardeman, in some respects, is citing Boyce out of context. In the same section, Boyce said:

"From the Scriptural teaching we see that the whole work of Regeneration and Conversion is included under the one term regeneration."

I have plans to review Boyce in the future, so this observation is all for now.

Hardeman continued, saying:

"Dr. J. R. Graves endorses the same idea and enlarges upon it in "Seven Dispensations," p. 131."

I have looked at page 131 and Graves does imply that the work of preparing the soil, is a "quickening" of the soil that prepares it to receive the word. Yet, on the next page, Graves wrote:

"The quickening, life-giving act of the Spirit is direct and immediate, but exercised only upon those who have heard the Gospel preached, or heard and believed its truths."

Hardeman continued:

J. H. Grime says, "This is grand old Baptist doctrine which has come to us through the ages, and is held by the great Baptist brotherhood of today."

Now I should like to ask: If a man who has been born again--there yet being an interval of time before repentance and faith--should die and that before the interval elapses, what will be the result? There will be either a regenerated soul in hell, or a soul in heaven who has not yet exercised himself to repent and believe the gospel. (p. 19, 20)

Bogard responded with these comments:

"He (Hardeman) says Baptist doctrine requires the idea of a pre-regeneration; regenerated before you repent and believe, before you do anything. That is Hardshell Baptist doctrine. I certainly do think my friend ought to know the difference between the Hardshell doctrine and that of the Missionary Baptists, who do not teach anything of that sort. If he could get me to take the position of the Hardshell, the pre-regeneration idea, he would have no trouble in the world in defeating me in this debate. I will take the scriptural position, not the Hardshell position. (notice how Bogard associates the pre-faith view of regeneration with Hardshellism - SG)

Then he quoted from the Philadelphia Confession of Faith. Also from J. R. Graves, where Graves says that the evidence of the salvation is the holy fruit of repentance and faith. I believe with all my soul in the fruit produced by repentance and faith, the holy fruit of (produced by) repentance and faith." (p. 28)

"I am glad my friend calls attention that the Hardshells say, "Let God do it all." Professor Hardeman says, "Do it all by the preaching." Missionary Baptists do all we can and leave the results with God, asking God's blessings to rest upon it." (p. 29)

"The Hardshell would say that since the bones are dead it would be senseless and useless to preach to dry bones, hence the Hardshell refuses to preach to sinners. He would leave the whole thing to the Spirit. My friend, Professor Hardeman, would take it out in talking, thinking all the power is in the word. But both are wrong. Our Hardshell friends think the Spirit does it all and my opponent and his people think the entire power is in the preaching, and the Holy Spirit has nothing to do with it except as he may influence the sinner by the words. But Missionary Baptists step right in between these two extremes and preach the word of God as the Bible commands, and then we trust in the "breath of God' to come and the work is done." (p. 35, 36)

Hardeman then says, in his next speech:

"The point I made regarding pre-regeneration was that, if this Baptist doctrine truly represents him, then he would have the sinner born again, and that before repentance and faith, for these are fruits of the new birth. If repentance and faith result in the new birth, then it necessarily follows that by those acts the new birth is brought about. Which will he take? If he stays with representative Baptist and with his own past writings and statements, he will cling to the idea of pre-regeneration--that you must be born again before repentance and faith. And if that is true, we just wonder: Should that man die following his regeneration but before his repentance and faith, what would be the result? You would either have a regenerated soul in hell or an unbeliever in heaven. Now which?" (p. 37, 38)

Bogard then responds.

"My friend quoted from my good friend and brother, that great man of Lebannon, Tennessee, J. H. Grime, a statement on pre-regeneration, stating that Baptists believe in pre-regeneration. Brother Grime, while a great and good man, and personal friend of mine, is not a representative Baptist, and not so taken and accepted among his fellow Baptists. A good man he is, but you can find a great many individuals like him who will express doctrines contrary to the general body of faith held by their brethren. Brother Grime, with the best intention, misrepresented Baptists when he said what he did. Baptists do not believe in pre-regeneration, and I wish to drop this thought to Professor Hardeman. Would it not really be better to debate with Ben M. Bogard rather than bring up J. R. Graves and J. H. Grime and others?" (p. 48)

Hardeman then responds.

"When I call attention to the Baptist Waybook, which states precisely what Mr. Grime says, what the confessions of faith teach, and what all accepted Baptist authorities contend, Elder Bogard changes it and says, "Hardeman, they are all wrong. I don't teach that!" The books by representative Baptists teach pre-regeneration--that the birth by the Spirit produces the fruits of repentance and faith. But Dr. Bogard says, "Hardeman, it is the repentance and faith that produces the fruit." May I truly say that is not what is written in your books. "I have always taught that in order for a sinner to be saved he must be born again." And again he misses the point. Baptist doctrine is that one must be born again before repentance and faith. Now here is a fellow that has been born again, in that sense, but has not repented or believed. Is that man saved or lost?" (p. 77)

"I repeat: There are only two sensible positions on the matter of the operation of the Holy Spirit. The first one is taken by the Hardshell Baptists. They come out and say there is no word in it at all--the Holy Spirit operates wholly apart, separate and distinct from, and without the aid of the word. The second is that the truth of God is the means of salvation and the Holy Spirit uses that means in the conviction and conversion of sinners. There is no middle ground--you must accept one or the other. The Spirit either operates with or without the word. And it cannot do both." (p. 79)

Final Observations

Bogard, no doubt, felt the burden of trying to defend his Baptist forefathers who were Hyperistic in their understanding of the "ordo salutis" and of the relationship of faith to regeneration. I too have felt this burden. I too, also, agree with Bogard that this view is properly "Hardshell" and "Hyperism," and is not the traditional, common, or historic orthodox view of Particular Baptists.

Jul 13, 2011

Responding to Mark Green


Mark Green has left a few comments in my last posting. I have responded to his comments in the comment section. But, his last comment deserves a reply via an editorial posting.

Mark said:

"First of all, I never said I was an Old Baptist. I may have grown up in the Church, but I never joined."

One wonders why Mark never obeyed the Lord in being baptized and becoming a member of a local church? I suspect that his Hardshell ideas are the cause.

Mark said;

"I supposed I took what I was brought up with too literally. You shouldn't join a church to reform it."

I guess he was not brought up to take baptism and church membership seriously either. I grant that joining the church should not be for the purpose of reforming it, but once in a church, and discovering errors in it, should he not work towards repentance and reformation? Does he not know that the first Hardshells considered themselves "reformers" and even adopted, for a short time, the name of "Reform Baptists"? Alexander Campbell also considered himself a "reformer." But, even though Mark doesn't feel like he should join the Hardshell church with the intent of reforming it, he nevertheless believes the Hardshell church needs to be reformed! He believes, however, that he should seek its reformation as a non-member. Here is what he said next:

"Too many things of the world have found their way amongst the Old Baptist. Divorced women are now allowed to remarry. Women speak during conferences. It amazes me the things that I have seen change in my short lifetime. I never thought I would see a Primitive Baptist church yard sale or even a cookbook. They even have baptismal pools. Gone are the days, in some Old Baptist churches, when a preacher like Elder Mills would break the ice on a pond to baptize a new member in living water. There are even churches who use individual communion cups because they are afraid of catching something from their brethren."

This is interesting testimony about the Hardshell church by one who was reared up in it. He says that the Hardshells have changed in many things. But, the Hardshells claim that they have remained changeless over the past 180 years! I will not address the particular issues Mark addressed. What I will say, however, is that he seems to "strain at a gnat" while "swallowing" the proverbial "camel." He ought to see how the Hardshells need to reform in more serious errors, like the no means view of regeneration and of the view that says unbelievers will be saved.

Mark said:

"Anyway, on to your points. Why are you worried about the eternal salvation of other people? If Jesus needed man's help to save his people, he would have let Peter go with him and be nailed to the cross."

"Worried" is probably not the correct word. We out to "be anxious (worried) about nothing." (Phil. 4: 6) Concerned for the salvation of others? Yes. Desirous of the salvation of others? Yes. Why is he not? Has he not read all the verses in scripture where the men of God showed a deep concern for the salvation of others? Did not Paul say - "my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they might be saved"? (Rom. 10: 1) Paul said that Christians ought to imitate him. So, why does Mark and the Hardshells not imitate him in this? Further, did Paul not say that he "could wish myself accursed from Christ for my brethren" if it could save them? That he was "in great heaviness" and in "continual sorrow" about their salvation? (Rom. 9: 3, 4) Sounds like he was deeply concerned for the salvation of his unbelieving Jewish brethren. Did not Paul say to the Galatians that he "travailed (was in pain) in birth until Christ be formed in them"? (Gal. 4: 19) Did he not say, regarding their salvation, that he was "afraid" for them? (Gal. 4: 11)

Mark wrote:

"When Jesus said the work is finished, I believe he meant what he said. He saved his people, and all of them will live in heaven and immortal glory with him."

Salvation is not only in the past. Salvation is a continuous work, not in every respect a completed action. God is still saving people and so that work is not yet finished. Yes, he finished one aspect of it, but not the totality of it. Further, what does "saving" his people mean? Does it include saving them from idolatry and from unbelief and impenitence? Does this "saving" not include their conversion?

Mark wrote:

"You say I use human reasoning, and that may be true, but I am human after all."

Yes, of course, you are human, but we are told to "lean not on your own understanding." (Prov. 3: 5) What does that mean? Paul said that "the world through its wisdom knew not God." (I Cor. 1: 21) When Paul spoke of "casting down reasonings (imaginations)" (II Cor. 10: 5), what was he condemning but human reasoning as pertaining to finding out the truth of God?

Mark wrote:

"I'm glad I don't have to depend on me, you, or some other human being for my salvation."

Why are you glad? Because it gives you an excuse to bury your talent? An excuse not to witness to your neighbors? Did the salvation of God's people "depend" upon the death of Christ? And, did the death of Christ not depend upon "humans" putting him to death? But, I thought you said that salvation doesn't depend upon humans? Did Christ have to be born for us to be saved? Did his birth depend upon Mary the human? God depends upon us, not because he needs us, but because he has ordained it this way. I heard Sonny Pyles say one time that "sheep make sheep." Do you disagree with him? In Acts 26: 18 the Lord made the salvation of the Gentiles to depend upon Paul's missionary labors. God would use him to open the eyes of the lost, to turn sinners from the power of Satan unto God, to be the means of them receiving inheritance among the sanctified.

Mark wrote:

"Why do you continue to quote the flawed works of men? I don't remember reading the London Confession in the Bible."

I cite these old works to prove that the "Primitive Baptist" are not really "primitive" at all. Surely you know this. I do believe the scriptures should settle our controversies and my writings against Hardshellism are filled with arguments and proofs from scripture. But, when I am addressing their claim to being "original" I will cite the ancient records. Did not the PBs profess allegiance to the London Confession throughout the 19th century? Why do they not now generally do so? Of course confessions are not in the bible, but if they are right they will be based upon the bible. The old London confession gives the scriptures that uphold their views on each particular article.

Mark wrote:

"Men have a tendency to stray from the truth."

Is that not true with the "Primitive Baptist" denomination? Is it not true of you? Is it not a reason why you ought to be in a local church where elders and members can watch over you for your good?

Mark wrote:

"It's fine to read the works of Old Baptist writers about the Bible and Bible truths, but I believe you should always be judging what they say against what the Bible has to say about the matter."

You think I disagree with that? But, you here say it is okay to read the Old Baptist writers but earlier you chastised me for citing them. Is that not contradictory? Also, did Paul not cite authors from outside of the bible?

Mark wrote:

"You know, when my dad was told his cancer was terminal, he didn't shed a tear, he didn't worry about himself and what he was facing. His worry was for my mother and the Church."

You chastised me for "worrying" about the salvation of others, but it is okay for your dad to "worry" about the Church? Was his worrying only in regard to their temporal condition?

Mark wrote:

"He lay on his death bed worrying about how the Church was not standing for what it had stood for down through the ages. The Bible says there will be a remnant standing for the truth when Jesus returns, and that remnant is getting smaller all the time."

Who do you think this "remnant" is? The "Primitive Baptist" church? If so, then you are at least a Hardshell in sentiment. Do you not think that God will use the means of grace to insure that this "remnant" remain faithful to the Lord? Is this "remnant" not the elect? Why is this remnant "getting smaller all the time"? Could it be due to thinking it is the Lord's work and not in any way your work too? Are you "worried" about it getting smaller?

Mark wrote:

"I'm not a Bible scholar, and I haven't read as many old books as you have. I just try to make it through life hoping and praying that I am one of the elect."

Hoping that you are one of the elect? Do you not know?