This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come.
For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,
Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good,
Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God;
Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.
For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts,
Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.
Now as Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, reprobate concerning the faith.
But they shall proceed no further: for their folly shall be manifest unto all [men], as theirs also was. - II Timothy 3:1-9
But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived.
But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them;
And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.
All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:
That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works. - II Timothy 3:13-17
(To Be Read)
The tragedy of this confrontation in our day is that there are many individuals on both sides who attempt to argue their position on the issue without addressing, or even acknowledging the former controversy. This is likely done in an attempt to avoid being 'labeled' by those on the opposing side. Most individuals fear that such labeling will prevent others from giving a fair hearing to their point of view. While this may be true in some instances, those who are truly interested in truth will be ready to listen, as their desire is to 'know and be assured' of that which is 'able to make one wise unto salvation.'
It must be remembered, with regard to labels, that we did not give ourselves the name 'Baptists.' It was placed upon our predecessors by those who sought to discredit them and to prevent others from giving heed to their doctrines and practices. Originally, of course, the name was 'Ana-Baptist,' which means 'to baptize again,' or 'to baptize anew.' Over time, whenever the doctrines of the Scripture were preached by these men, they would be labeled simply 'Baptists.' These preachers of old finally used the term themselves, as it immediately identified what they believed. It also distanced them from other denominations which had come into being without having to present their entire doctrinal position. Today we have no problem with others calling us Baptists, and we readily identify ourselves as Baptists.
Since Satan was unable to eliminate the influence of the great preachers of old by labeling them Baptists, he has sought to prevent the truth from being preached in our day by a subtle attack from within the ranks of Baptists themselves. This has been done by infiltrating the churches with doctrines foreign to those preached by our forefathers in the faith.
Tragically, this has led to most Baptist church members being ignorant of what our forefathers in the Baptist faith actually believed and preached. The deception has been so successful that, when the historical doctrines are preached, they are presumed to actually be 'new doctrines.' As a result, individuals who preach or hold to these beliefs are vigorously opposed even by most Baptist preachers and are labeled in an attempt to dismiss them out of hand.
This ought not to surprise us, however, as Paul spoke of such a time in the Scriptures listed at the opening of this booklet. He also warned Timothy to beware of those who opposed sound doctrine.
I would advise the reader at this point that I will likely be accused by many, including many Baptist preachers, of being one of these preaching new doctrine. Some would warn you to avoid giving me a fair hearing, even as they have warned others. They tell will tell you that I may 'confuse' you. In my defense let me state that the truth will never confuse an individual, but will, in the words of our Lord Jesus, 'make you free.'
I would that we were able to get past the labels and just set forth truth. However, I know that those who disagree with certain doctrines, and who are unable to refute them with Scripture taken in context, will invariably resort to attempts at discrediting those with whom they do not agree.
I do not openly invite labels, nor do I advocate doing so, as some sort of 'badge of honor' -- 'suffering for Jesus,' so to speak, but neither will I attempt to avoid being labeled by side-stepping controversial doctrines. This would only lead to a continuation of the deception and the spiritual ruin of precious individuals!
Some terms will be used in this booklet which I believe are necessary to use, since they will be used by others when referring to the doctrines set out within these pages. Again, I would that it was not so, but it is. In order to present a clear and concise case, we must be able to see these terms and look beyond them to the substance of the actual doctrine being set forth.
It should also be noted that many will use various terms and make statements concerning them out of ignorance of actual fact. By this I do mean they are unintelligent, but that they merely repeat things they have heard others say and state them as fact without researching to see if they be true. This booklet will clarify much that has been mis-represented, although I do not presume to present it as an exhaustive work. Much more could and should likely be written due to the gravity of this topic.
Let me state emphatically at this point that I am a BAPTIST, and a HISTORICAL BAPTIST at that. I have no desire to be anything else, as my study of the Scriptures has led me to the conviction that the historical Baptist doctrines are the true doctrines set forth in the Scriptures. It is true that I was raised a Baptist, but had the Scriptures taught the doctrines espoused by some other denomination, I trust that God would have convinced me of such and I would have fled to that position. My desire to know the truth, and to walk in it, outweighs my allegiance to any individual, denomination, fellowship, or institution. Yet, I was one those within the very ranks of Baptists who was ignorant of the truth for many years due to the deception which has been perpetrated upon our members!
The Scriptures teach in II Thessalonians 2:10, that many will perish because they 'received not the love of the truth.' To walk in truth, one must really have a love for it, because it is a hard road to walk! Further, in order for one to actually love truth, that love has to be worked in them by God. This is because the natural man is repulsed by, and rebels against, the truth.
Let me hasten to say that I only have a love for the truth because God has worked it in me to love it. I am no better than anyone else. My natural tendency was the same as any individual until God worked in me a desire to know the truth at any cost. And it certainly will cost one to come to a knowledge of the truth. First, because the truth will point out the reality of who we, as natural men, really are - enemies of that truth and of God Himself.
Then, too, the truth is costly in that when one comes to embrace the truth, he finds that he lives in a world where the vast majority do not want the truth and turn on those who do. He becomes an enemy of many in his own family and of many who were at one time considered to be his friends!
This should not surprise us, in light of what Jesus taught when He walked among His own people. In Matthew chapter 10, He told the disciples, "Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man's foes shall be they of his own household."
The truth sets free the one who receives it, but it also alienates that individual from those who do not want to embrace the truth. This has ever been so and ever will be so.
While this booklet is, at its core, a work on decisional regeneration, other topics will be introduced and discussed. Some of these will be dealt with only briefly, while others may even seem to override the central issue. This is necessary however, as decisional regeneration did not simply appear in the churches one day. Decisional regeneration is a fruit, not the root.
To get readers to allow that there is validity to what is presented regarding decisional regeneration, I realize I must show beyond reasonable doubt that I know whereof I speak. This applies to both what decisional regeneration is, as well as where it came from and how it has infiltrated the Baptist churches.
Therefore, I ask the reader to prayerfully consider some areas which may seem, at first, to be unrelated. It will be seen, as the booklet unfolds, that while some topics may be peripheral to the central issue, it is certainly important that they be understood.
This booklet will use four appeals to make the case for the position set forth herein.
First and foremost will be an appeal to the Scriptures, for two reasons. Even as Paul told Timothy, it is the Scriptures which are able to make one wise unto salvation, and secondly, it is historically what has made us Baptists. Baptists throughout history have been noted for making the Scriptures the primary rule for governing their lives. This ought to be so in all who would know God and His salvation!
Then, because I am a Baptist, I will appeal to the historical Baptist position on salvation as seen in the Scriptures which will be set forth. While we must be careful not to look at 'vain traditions of men,' we must also realize that whenever a conflict over doctrine exists within our own ranks, we must not simply accept the position held by the majority at the present time. The fact that a certain doctrinal position has come to be held by many, or even a majority, it is not necessarily proof positive that such a position is correct.
The third appeal that I will use in this booklet is to the reader's reason. In the book of Isaiah, the LORD appealed to reason when He said, 'Come now, and let us reason together.' If reason is taken in connection with Scripture and historical evidence, one will arrive at truth. One does not have to give up their ability to think and reason, and indeed must not do so, when examining doctrinal and other spiritual truths.
In addition to the three appeals mentioned above, I will appeal to the Holy Spirit of God. I ask that the reader prayerfully and honestly approach the reading of this booklet with an attitude of seeking the truth. I also pray that the Spirit of God may energize that which is set forth. If this is done, and the Spirit of God does not bear witness with what is set forth here, then it certainly may be rejected. I do not believe this will be the case if one is a lover of the truth and is fair in their approach to receiving this booklet.
I want to thank the reader who gives some of their precious time to the examination of what is undoubtedly one of the most serious issues of the present day. May the LORD richly bless you, and may He use this work to honor and glorify His name.
A New Baptist Theology
What Is Decisional Regeneration?
The first thing we must do, is define what is meant by the term 'decisional regeneration,' in the context which will be referred to in this booklet. Some might get the idea that this term is speaking of what has come to be called 'easy-believism.' This is true to a point, but what most would call easy-believism is actually just one form of decisional regeneration. There is a great trunk with many branches which have grown up out of the root of decisional regeneration. In addition, there are many differing definitions of what easy-believism actually is.
Decisional regeneration, simply stated, is any doctrine which maintains that an individual is saved by a mere 'decision of the will.' That is, doctrine which teaches that men can be saved by merely making a conscious choice to be saved. This doctrine emphasizes the 'free will' of man, and is actually a free will doctrine. Decisional regeneration ultimately proclaims that if a person sincerely desires salvation and makes a decision to act on that desire, they can be saved. As set forth above, this decision may lead to any one of a number of acts, none of which are sufficient to produce genuine salvation.
One form of decisional regeneration may instruct the sinner to 'invite Christ into the heart,' another may teach that salvation comes through praying 'the sinner's prayer,' yet another may promote 'giving one's life to Christ,' another might instruct the seeker to 'claim the promise.' There are a multitude of means employed by those who practice this, but the doctrine which is at the root of these means is one which relies on an individual making a decision based primarily on their will.
It should be pointed out that those who teach and practice a decisional regeneration doctrine would likely never state that they are doing so, and may not even realize they are. Yet it may often be recognized by what they preach regarding how salvation is obtained. It will surely be evident in what they practice when dealing with individuals seeking salvation.
In some instances a preacher may preach the truth regarding salvation, but one must then watch how these preachers apply what they preach. That is, one must observe what is practiced when dealing with an individual at the altar, or in their evangelistic methods, to really see decisional regeneration at work. Some preachers actually go contrary to what they have just preached when it comes to personally dealing with individuals seeking salvation. In other words, their 'application' does not align with their 'declaration.'
One might wonder how a preacher could go contrary to what they have just preached, or be unaware that they are actually holding to a doctrine of decisional regeneration while denying such is true.
The answer is found in the fact that Satan is a deceiver and the heart is deceitful above all things. Without the Holy Spirit of God illuminating the mind, men can believe one thing and say and practice something totally contrary without seeing the contradiction in it. The quote from II Timothy 3, which was given at the beginning of this booklet makes it clear that there would be men who had been deceived in the area of doctrine, and would deceive others also.
We know, too, from I Corinthians 2:14, that spiritual things cannot be understood without the Holy Spirit giving illumination.
Also, a lack of understanding regarding what certain doctrines actually are, can lead to confusion when defending or refuting them. For example, one may have been told by those who taught them that they are not Free Will Baptists. But if that individual doesn't know what constitutes free will doctrine, he could easily preach and practice it without even being aware of such. Merely stating or repeating certain words, phrases or doctrines does not mean that one necessarily believes them, or even that they are true. It has been said that 'a lie if repeated often enough becomes the truth.' While this is not literally true, it is often the case that the lie will come to be perceived to be the truth, and thus accepted as the truth, though it still be a lie.
Whether decisional regeneration is preached and practiced, or whether it is practiced in spite of what is preached, it will certainly be manifested in the way that seeking sinners are dealt with. This is where one must observe closely what takes place, lest decisional regeneration is overlooked.
This is not to imply that all preachers who practice decisional regeneration are consciously deceiving people. Many preachers do not even see that there is difference in what they preach and how they apply what they have preached.
Decisional regeneration will also tend to over-emphasize the 'responsibility of man.'
Some may already be tempted to label me at this point, but let me say that it is certainly true that man is a 'free moral agent' in the sense that he is not a robot, and he has a will which he can exercise. But man's will is not truly free in the sense that some would teach.
It is certainly true as well that man has a 'moral responsibility' toward God. Man is obligated to 'repent and believe the gospel.' Acts 17:30 makes this clear when it says, 'And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent:' If an individual does not do this, he cannot be saved. This is plainly seen in Luke 13:3&5, where we read in both verses, '...except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.' The problem is that there are several hindrances and obstacles in man's way which prevent him from doing so on his own.
Finally, it is also true that an individual is willing to be saved when God has worked completely in them. No individual is saved against his will. But let it be perfectly clear, that man is only willing after a divine operation of the Spirit of God on their heart. David wrote in Psalm 110:3, 'Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power...' We also know from Philippians 2:13, 'For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of [his] good pleasure.' It is true that one becomes a willing participant in salvation, but only after God has worked on their depraved will.
Decisional regeneration's roots are as old as the
gospel itself, and this booklet is not sufficient to fully detail all of
the branches which have shot forth from its resulting trunk. I will attempt
in this booklet to address the branches which I believe have had the greatest
detrimental effect on the doctrines taught in many of today's Baptist churches.
Much more could be presented, and indeed may be in future works.
A Look Back In History
There has been a controversy over this doctrine before, and the terms which many individuals are using in their attempts to discredit others actually come to us from that conflict. Therefore, though we are somewhat reluctant to do so, we must get a clear understanding of that conflict if we are to intelligently discuss the issue in our day. We cannot simply repeat what we have heard others say, nor can we attempt to avoid labels by coming up with new ones that sound more palatable.
The entire controversy will boil down to a determination of man's part in salvation and God's part in salvation.
There are ultimately only two schools of teaching with regards to salvation. One has come to be called, by some, 'Calvinism,' and the other, 'Arminianism.' Some have attempted to come up with a third position by saying they are neither Calvinist nor Arminian, but that they are 'Biblicists,' or some other word meant to avoid labeling. This merely confuses the issue even more, because all reasonable men of either persuasion will use the Bible as their foundation for argument. If the Scriptures are not used to present either point of view, one can reject the argument immediately. A Biblicist by definition would be 'one who believes the Bible,' and 'one who would use the Scriptures as the basis of their position on any issue.' Men on both sides of the issue will use the Scriptures in the defense of their position.
In his book 'Are Baptists Calvinists?,' Kenneth H. Good writes, '...the desire to be known as a 'Biblicist,' rather than a 'Calvinist' or an 'Arminian,' may stem from a careful, in-depth study of historical theology and the mature conclusion that both systems bearing the names of men are less than perfect. On the other hand it may originate, and more often than not does, in the failure to make such a study and the neglect or inability to arrive at mature judgment. Sometimes loud proclamations of 'Biblicist' merely means that the title of the owner has not 'done his homework' and seeks a simple slogan in order to evade the issues and avoid the studies.'1
To the above statement, I would add that there are likely also some who have studied, and who have arrived at the correct position on the issue, but are afraid of being labeled, or are afraid of not being heard. As a result these, too, have attempted to come up with a 'neutral sounding position.'
Some would attempt to avoid a label by stating that they are neither Calvinist nor Arminian, but are simply 'Baptists,' or even 'historical Baptists.' I would hasten to add that I hold to the claim of being a Baptist, and an historical Baptist, at that. But that, in itself, does not give a clear indication of where one stands on the issue of salvation either. One needs only to look to the Baptist ranks and, here too, they can find men on both sides of the issue. Some of these are men of great respect and distinction, I might add.
Therefore, let us look at where the terms Calvinist and Arminian came from and what they really are. I submit to the reader that most of those who are of either persuasion are ignorant of much of the actual history regarding this controversy. I would dare say that 99% of what most people claim to know about this issue is merely repetition of what they have been told by others. Few individuals in this day and time have actually taken time to do the research necessary to intelligently discuss what is undeniably the most important doctrine - that is, the doctrine of salvation.
Let me briefly point out that the positions held by those on both sides of this controversy hold to positions which did not originate with John Calvin & Jacobus Arminius, even though these are the two men for whom these positions are named.
In his book, 'The five points of Calvinism,' Edwin H. Palmer states, '...Calvinism does not have five points; and neither is Calvin the author of the five points...at first glance, many believe that Calvin is the author of the five points. Such a misconception ignores the fact that Calvin simply expounded the Bible. Calvin did not invent a new teaching any more than Columbus invented America or Newton the law of gravity. As Columbus and Newton merely discovered what had existed all along, so Calvin uncovered truths that had been in the Bible all the time. And Calvin was not the first nor the last to uncover these Biblical truths. Many others confessed them too, from Augustine to Gottschalk to Spurgeon; from Lutherans to Baptists to Dominicans, from Dutch to Scottish to French; from individuals to associations to church confessions; from laymen to hymn-writers to theologians. The name Calvinism has often been used, not because Calvin was the first or sole teacher, but because after the long silence of the Middle Ages, he was the most eloquent and systematic expositor of these truths. To the novitiate, however, it seemed as if Calvin originated them.'2
As early as the third century A.D., there was a form of the very doctrines Arminius and his followers set forth espoused by one Clemens Alexandrinus. Also, there was also a great debate between Augustine and Pelagius in the fifth century regarding the same basic doctrines, though Pelagius (see addendum) was farther off in his doctrine than Arminius and his followers.3
Regarding these doctrines which have come to be referred to as Calvinism, C. H. Spurgeon said, 'We only use the term 'Calvinism' for shortness. That doctrine that is called 'Calvinist' did not spring from Calvin; we believe that it sprang from the great founder of all truth. Perhaps Calvin himself derived it mainly from the writings of Augustine. Augustine obtained his views, without doubt, through the Spirit of God, from the diligent study of the writings of Paul, and Paul received them of the Holy Ghost, from Jesus Christ, the great founder of the Christian dispensation. We use the term then, not because we impute any extraordinary importance to Calvin's having taught these doctrines.
The old truth that Calvin preached, that Augustine preached, that Paul preached, is the truth that I must preach today, or else be false to my conscience and my God. I cannot shape the truth; I know of no such thing as paring off the rough edge of a doctrine.'4
From these words of the great Baptist preacher, we see that he recognized the controversy originated long before Calvin and Arminius. He further understood that which is being condemned by many today is the truth as set forth in the Scriptures by the Apostles and believed by 'faithful men' to whom they committed it, and who were 'able to teach others also,' (II Timothy 2:2).
I am limited by space as to the content in a booklet
of this size, and few in our Baptist churches today have even heard of
Alexandrinus, Pelagius, or Augustine, much less their teachings. Sufficient
for the discussion herein will be the so-called Calvinist and Arminian
positions, since these are the names and labels understood in our day.
Roots Of Calvinism And Arminianism
I want to repeat at this point that neither John Calvin nor Jacobus Arminius originated the positions which bear their name today, and that, as we saw in the previous chapter, there had been adherents to both positions before their time.
It should be further noted that John Calvin did not, and I repeat, did not even put forth the five points which have come to be known by the acronym 'TULIP.' These were not put forth until well after Calvin's death. Calvin died in 1564,1 and the controversy began in 1610 and came to a head in 1618.
While it is true that these five points agreed in the main with what Calvin had believed and set forth, they were actually set out as a response to a challenge by Arminius' followers to the established doctrine of the churches of Holland at that time - The Belgic Confession of Faith and the Heidelberg Catechism.2 However, Arminius, too, was dead by the time the controversy came to a head, having died in 1609.3
It should also be noted that even among those who hold to the TULIP, there are many who believe in some, but not all, of the points. There are also some who believe them in differing degrees and with varying interpretations of exactly what each point signifies.
There are those who have been labeled 'hyper-Calvinists,' and those who are 'moderate Calvinists.' There are those who would be described as 'supralapsarians,' 'sublapsarians,' and 'infralapsarians.'4
There are certainly varying opinions also on some of the points among those who espouse doctrines which can be described as Arminian. Indeed, many today who are Arminian in doctrine to a great extent will deny that they are such merely because they hold to the point of the 'perseverance of the saints,' or 'eternal security.' I will deal with this in greater detail later in this work.
The purpose of this booklet is not to enumerate and differentiate between these variations of the doctrines, nor is there space to do so. It is likely that it would not significantly effect the argument at hand at any rate.
Let us take a look at where the issue first presented itself in the form known by most individuals today.
The five points represented by TULIP were set in order at the Synod of Dort, held in Dordrecht, the Netherlands, which began in November, 1618, some 54 years after John Calvin's death and 9 years after the death of Jacobus Arminius!!
This council convened on November 13, 1618, and lasted for 7 months, until May 9, 1619. The Synod was composed of 84 members and 18 secular commissioners. Included were 27 delegates from Germany, the Palatinate, Switzerland, and England. Some 154 sessions were held in the seven month period.5
The result of the Synod was the Canon of Dort, which is now referred to as 'the five points of Calvinism,' or TULIP.
The five points were actually only a fraction of the doctrines set out by Calvin in his 'Institutes of the Christian Religion,' which he published in 1536, at the age of 26.6
These particular five points were enumerated, as stated earlier, in response to those doctrines which the followers of Jacobus Arminius had challenged.
Jacobus Arminius was originally an adherent to the established doctrines of the Dutch church, and thus would have been labeled today as a Calvinist, but not because he was a follower of Calvin. He simply believed the articles of the Belgic Confession of Faith which was the confession of the Dutch Reformed Church, of which he was a member.
Arminius was called upon to reply to the challenge of a layman by the name of Dirk Koornhert, who denied predestination was based on 'unconditional election,' and who demanded a change be made to the Belgic Confession, the Dutch equivalent of the Baptist Confession of Faith.7 Arminius was chosen as he was a preacher and was seen as one who would be well able to determine how to reply in a clear and concise manner.
Unfortunately, as Arminius studied, he became convinced of the 'free will' of man even as Koornhert had been. Arminius argued that predestination was based on 'forseen faith,'8 which is also the position found in Weslyan Arminianism. Instead of replying against Koornhert, he became an advocate of change to the Confession as well.
Before the challenge could be brought before the church, Arminius died.
The actual five points were drawn up after the death of Arminius, by Simon Episcopius and Jan Uytenbogaert. These points were called the 'Arminian Articles of Remonstrance.'9 A remonstrance comes from the word 'remonstrate,' which means 'to exhibit or present strong reasons against an act, measure, or any course or proceedings; to expostulate; to protest; to object. To say or plead in protest, objection, complaint, etc.'10 In other words, they were a protest to, or an attempt to correct, the established church doctrines as set forth in the Belgic Confession.
The five articles proposed that:
1. Man can neither of himself nor of his free will do anything truly good until he is born again of God, in Christ, through the Holy Spirit. [Except for the term 'free will,' this is actually in close harmony with 'total depravity' as presented by Calvinism. From this we see that the remonstrants were not Pelagians as they have been accused by some. (see addendum) - JMG].
2. God has decreed to save through Jesus Christ those of the fallen and sinful race who through the grace of the Holy Spirit believe in him, but leaves in sin the incorrigible and unbelieving. [Thus, predestination was 'conditioned' by God's foreknowledge of who would respond to the gospel, so predestination was based on 'foreseen faith' - JMG].
3. Christ died for all men, but no one except the believer has remission of sin. [According to this view the salvation of every individual would be 'potentially' possible, though not necessarily achieved - JMG].
4. All good deeds or movements in the regenerate must be ascribed to the grace of God but his grace is not irresistible. [Thus, God might ultimately be frustrated in His purpose, or be forced to alter it on occasion - JMG].
5. Those who are incorporated into Christ by a true faith have power given them through the assisting grace of the Holy Spirit to persevere in the faith. But it is possible for a believer to fall from grace. [This is the natural outcome of 'free will' doctrine - JMG].
It is interesting to note that the remonstrants' position was closer to what many label as Calvinistic doctrine than that of some Baptists of our day!
One Franciscus Gomarus, set forth the church's position in a point for point response to the remonstrants. The five points of response became the Canon of Dort and proposed that:
1. Fallen man was totally unable to save himself. [Total Depravity - JMG]
2. God's electing purpose was not conditioned by anything in man. [Unconditional Election - JMG]
3. Christ's atoning death was sufficient to save all men, but efficient only for the elect. [Limited Atonement - JMG]
4. The gift of faith, sovereignly given by God's Holy Spirit, cannot be resisted by the elect. [Irresistible Grace - JMG]
5. Those who are regenerated and justified will persevere in the faith. [Perseverance of the saints - JMG]
At the Synod of Dort, the remonstrants were not allowed to present their views as a challenge, or reproof to the established doctrine, but were instructed to defend their position. This they would not do if not allowed to speak against the accepted doctrine. As a result, some 200 of the remonstrants were removed from their positions and another 80, including Simon Episcopius,11 were banished from Holland. Many who continued to preach were imprisoned for life. This is how serious the challenge was considered to be.
From this we see that neither John Calvin nor Jacobus Arminius were actually involved in the controversy, and Calvin was never even aware of any conflict since he was long dead before it arose! It should also be noted that these five points were not necessarily exactly as they were originally set forth and/or believed by either of these two men. They were enlarged upon by those who came after them.
If we were historically correct, we ought to be using
the labels 'Episcopiusists' or 'Gomarusists,' but then those
names are too hard to pronounce. So it falls upon poor Calvin and Arminius
to bear the reproach of our labeling, although Arminius is more aptly chargeable,
since he at least was aware of the conflict and had a part in its inception.
The Danger Of Labeling:
Dismissed Without A Fair Hearing
As I stated earlier in this work, any who hold to the position set out in this booklet will likely be the subject of labeling as an attempt to discredit their preaching in the area of salvation more than in any other area. But merely because one preaches or holds to the same or a similar doctrine to another, that does not make him a 'ist' or 'ite.'
For example, if one preaches that drunkenness is a sin, does that make him a 'Sundayist' or 'Sundayite,' since Billy Sunday was a great crusader against the 'booze industry' and drunkenness? It certainly does not, we preach it because it is Scriptural, it is a historical Baptist position, and it is reasonable to do it.
Similarly, do we, as Baptists, neglect to preach against drunkenness out of a concern that we might be labeled Presbyterian, since Sunday was a Presbyterian?1 Of course not. We preach what the Bible declares regardless of who else may now preach, or has preached the same doctrine. We preach without regard for the possibility that some may falsely presume that we are in total agreement with what others have believed in other doctrinal areas.
If one can be truly labeled a Calvinist simply because they preach some doctrine that John Calvin held to, then I submit that all Baptists other than 'Free Will Baptists' are Calvinists because they all hold to the doctrine of 'perseverance of the Saints,' even if they reject the other four. So then it simply becomes a matter of degree as to how much of a Calvinist one is!
If one can correctly be called a Calvinist on this basis, then we can also say that Charles G. Finney was a Calvinist since he believed in the 'total moral depravity of man.'
In his work 'Systematic Theology,' under the topic of MORAL DEPRAVITY, Finney states:
'VII. The moral depravity of the unregenerate moral agents of our race, is total [emphasis added - JMG].
By this is intended, that the moral depravity of the unregenerate is without any mixture of moral goodness or virtue, that while they remain unregenerate, they never in any instance, nor in any degree, exercise true love to God and to man.'2
Does this, then mean that Finney was a Calvinist? Certainly not, for in the same work he proposes the following under the topic UNITY OF MORAL ACTION:
'Objection. Can a man be born again, and then be unborn? I answer: If there were anything impossible in this, then perseverance would be no virtue...That a Christian is able to apostatize, is evident, from the many warnings addressed to Christians in the Bible. A Christian may certainly fall into sin and unbelief, and afterwards be renewed, both to repentance and faith.'3
From the above statement we can clearly see that Finney did not hold to the 'Calvinistic' position of perseverance of the saints. While he believed that perseverance was possible, he certainly did not believe it to be guaranteed by the work of salvation.
Additionally, if we look further into his work, we can see plainly that Finney was a great proponent of man's free will and his natural ability to obey entirely the commandments of God. Under the topic of NATURAL ABILITY, Finney writes:
'VI. The human will is free, therefore men have power or ability to do all their duty [Emphasis added - JMG].
1. The moral government of God everywhere assumes and implies the liberty of the human will, and the natural ability of men to obey God. Every command, every, threatening, every expostulation and denunciation in the Bible implies and assumes this. Nor does the Bible do violence to the human intelligence in this assumption; for, ---
2. The human mind necessarily assumes the freedom of the human will as a first truth [Emphasis added - JMG].
First truths, let it be remembered, are those that are necessarily assumed by every moral agent. They are assumed always and necessarily by a law of the intelligence, although they may seldom be the direct objects of thought or attention. It is a universal law of the intelligence, to assume the truths of causality, the existence and the infinity of space, the existence and infinity of duration, and many other truths. These assumptions every moral agent always and necessarily take with him, whether these things are matters of attention or not. And even should he deny any one or all of these first truths, he knows them to be true notwith-standing, and cannot but assume their truth in all his practical judgements. Thus should any one deny the law and the doctrine of causality, as some in theory have done, he knows, and cannot but know, -- he assumes, and cannot but assume its truth at every moment.'4
Mr. Finney is absolutely correct in his statement that the moral government of God assumes and implies the liberty of the human will. That is, if by liberty of the will, he means that man can make decisions based on their own desires and purposes. None would dare claim that we are mere puppets, but Finney makes a fundamental mistake when he boldly declares that having what he refers to as a 'free' will necessarily proves a natural ability to entirely obey God.
Nor does the fact that God, throughout the scriptures, lays down laws and commandments and demands obedience to them necessarily prove any 'natural ability' to 'totally obey' them.
The laws and commands of God actually work to prove that man is unable to keep them, even if he was willing to do so. Indeed, these laws and commandments actually point to the inability, and unwillingness of man to obey them, and demonstrate his need for a Savior! The scriptures tell us they were given to bring us to Christ. This is done by proving beyond doubt that we are both unwilling and unable to obey God's law!
If man had a natural ability to entirely obey God, there would be no need for a Divine Savior, as every individual would be responsible to be his own savior through the work of entire obedience! Yet the scripture is plain in Romans 3:20, where we read, 'Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.'
Thus it is clear that the law was not given as a route to follow, through natural ability, to get to God. On the contrary, it was given to magnify man's inability and unwillingness to even try to do so. It was given to show the need to rely on the work of Jesus Christ!
Under the topic OBEDIENCE TO THE LAW, Finney states:
'15. Entire obedience does not imply the same degree of faith that might have been exercised but for our ignorance and past sin. We cannot believe anything about God of which we have neither evidence nor knowledge. Our faith must therefore be limited by our intellectual perceptions of truth. The heathen are under no obligation to believe in Christ, and thousands of other things of which they have no knowledge. [Emphasis added - JMG] Perfection in a heathen would imply much less faith than in a Christian. Perfection in an adult would imply much more and greater faith than in a child. And perfection in an angel would imply much more faith than in a man, just as in proportion as he knows more of God than man does. Let it be always understood, that entire obedience to God never implies that which is naturally impossible.'5 [Emphasis added - JMG]
From all of the above statements from Finney himself, we can see that he was by no means in agreement with most of the points of the Canon of Dort, and so not likely to be labeled a Calvinist. Rather, Finney is much more in alignment with the teachings of the Arminian remonstrants, and if labeled, would have to be labeled as an Arminian of high order.
But suppose Finney had agreed with two points of TULIP rather than the one regarding man's depravity. Would he then be a Calvinist? And would he be subject to that label even if he agreed with some points by a personal conviction borne solely out of his study of the Bible and if the five points had no influence on his coming to believe those points: or if he had never heard of Calvin or the Synod of Dort?
Would one have to hold to three points before they could be considered a Calvinist, since three points would be a majority of the five?
Merely holding to a doctrine which aligns entirely
or in part to the
Canon of Dort, does not make one a Calvinist
as if to imply that this position was somehow due to the influence of John
Calvin. If that were so, we could label all Baptists who preach the perseverance
of the saints, and even Charles Finney as such. But we have adequately
shown that this is not the case.
Charles G. Finney:
A Foundation Stone Of Decisional Regeneration
I used Finney, in particular, in the previous section because much of what is taught in Baptist churches today in the form of decisional regeneration can be traced directly to the doctrines and practices of Mr. Finney.
The Wesleys, also had a hand in the promotion of this doctrine due to their position on man's free will, but Finney especially argued from the point of individuals making logical decisions based on intellectual faculties.
It must be remembered that Finney was first a lawyer and after conversion became a preacher. As a result, his lawyer background had a tremendous impact on both his doctrine and his practices as a preacher. Due to his previously mentioned belief that men had a natural ability to entirely obey the commandments of God, he appealed primarily to the intellect of the individual. He urged them to weigh the evidence he presented and act appropriately based on the logic of his argument.
Finney further urged an immediate action based upon the argument presented. For this reason, Finney became what could be called the 'father' of the altar call as it is practiced in most churches today, Baptists included.
Finney's belief was that men had merely to be convinced that Christianity was logical and they would naturally turn to it. Let me add here that Finney did allow that the Holy Spirit was a necessary agent in convincing men, as he stated '...I admit and maintain that regeneration is always induced and effected by the personal agency of the Holy Spirit.'1 But Finney did not allow that there was a work of the Holy Spirit which actually effected a change in the nature of an individual. Since man was inherently able through his natural ability, no change in nature was necessary. Finney apparently held that the Holy Spirit merely provided a motivation to proper responsibility before God.
Finney's error was brought about by at least two factors. Let us take a brief look at both.
Finney's first mistake was definitely a result of his lawyer background which was firmly established on a belief in 'humanistic rationalization.' This belief can be seen first in his statement that man has a natural ability to obey God, and secondly, in Finney's appeal to man's reason to get him to do so. Even though Finney claimed he believed that the Holy Spirit was necessary to aid in the change of mind, he did not allow that there was a need for a change of man's very nature. Finney's approach to evangelism was mainly an appeal to reason as seen in his attempts to get man to make an immediate decision for Christ. He did not believe an individual had to wait on God for salvation. While Finney may have believed that a seeker was not fully persuaded, he did not allow that God would withhold salvation for a time.
Let me add here that man is by nature a rationalizer. One need only look at the father and mother of our race to see this. We know that Eve was deceived, but it was because, 'when the woman saw that the tree [was] good for food, and that it [was] pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make [one] wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat...' Thus Eve rationalized that eating of the tree would be all right and, in fact, would prove to be beneficial. After all, what she saw appeared to be good.
In addition to what she saw, she had the serpent appealing to her rationale as well. The serpent managed to get Eve to change her mind through rationalizing. Remember that when the serpent first approached her and questioned her she responded with the very words God had spoken. What the serpent managed to do was cause her to change her mind about what those words meant and why God had spoken them. Her human reasoning caused her to be manipulated by Satan.
The Scriptures go on to tell us, '...and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.' Adam obviously saw that Eve had eaten of the forbidden tree and yet had not died physically. He also could see the same characteristics of desirability in the fruit that Eve had seen. He then likely rationalized that it would be a reasonable thing for him to eat it as well as he would not die either. This has to be why he ate without having been deceived. Adam's choice was based solely on what he saw and deduced.
As a result of their sin, Adam and Eve saw their nakedness, became ashamed, and rationalized that they needed to cover up. They rationalized that fig leaves would be the best way to accomplish this. Where did this idea come from? They certainly had no prior word from God on this. It was man's first attempt at dealing with sin based on a decision springing from an intellectual evaluation of circumstance and natural ability. Adam and Eve saw that they were naked, they became ashamed, and rationalized that 'covering it up' was the appropriate response. Their decision was born out of what they reasoned, and what they were able to do.
It is interesting that Adam's rationalization prompted a 'religious' response - the first man-made religion, if you will. Adam, then, was the first 'Arminian.' Man's rationalistic religion, in whatever form it manifests itself, leads only to a covering up of the sin problem. It does not offer sufficient means to deal with, or correct, the sin problem.
Adam and Eve must have realized that even their 'fig leaf religion' was insufficient to fully atone for what they had done, however, because when they heard God approaching, rationalizing led both of them to hide among the trees. It led them away from God rather than to Him! In similar manner, man's Arminian forms of religion today do not bring sufficient peace of mind, but lead men to hide themselves among others who are even as they are.
Adam and Eve determined it would not be good for God to see them in the condition they were in. When they were called out of hiding by God and confronted with their sin, they rationalized that blaming others was the best way to escape judgement.
Here we see a prime example of how man deals with sin. He rationalizes a way to minimize it, or to escape judgement for it. When one of his self-determined actions fails to provide adequately, man simply thinks up another course of action. When that fails, he comes up with another, etc., etc.
Instead of immediately going to God for help, man is continually attempting to devise a means to avoid having to do so, or even to deny the need to do so.
Yet man's intellect alone, and the resulting course of action, can never lead him to salvation, as seen in Proverbs 14:12, where we read, 'There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof [are] the ways of death.' It is so important, that it is reiterated in Proverbs 16:25. Man's intellectual reasoning alone will lead him in a way which makes sense to him, but which will always lead only to spiritual death.
Finney's second mistake, which led him to preach what must be termed decisional regeneration, was his misunderstanding of what constituted the heart of an individual and saw it as something that man can control. Under the topic REGENERATION, he writes:
'6. The term heart, when applied to mind, is figurative and means something in the mind that has some point of resemblance to the bodily organ of that name, and a consideration of the function of the bodily organ will suggest the true idea of the heart of the mind...This heart is represented not only as the source or fountain of good and evil, but as being either good or evil in itself, as constituting the character of man, and not merely as becoming capable of moral character.'
'It is also represented as something over which we have control, for which we are responsible, and which, in case it is wicked, we are bound to change on pain of death.'2
Finney may have been right about the heart existing somewhere in the mind, if we understand the mind to be what comprises our consciousness. However, the heart is not merely within the intellect of an individual. The intellect is an avenue to the heart, but in essence the heart is the very soul and character of man, and it is the heart which must be regenerated, not the intellect. Further, despite what Finney taught, the heart is something that man cannot control until it is regenerated.
In his autobiography, Finney wrote, 'Instead of telling sinners to use the means of grace, and pray for a new heart, I call on them to make themselves a new heart and spirit...[emphasis added - JMG]'3
From this statement, in particular, we see that Finney was totally off base on the heart of man. It is unclear whether Finney perceived a wrong view of natural ability due to his misconception of man's heart or whether his view of man's heart was wrongly discerned from his view of man's natural ability. It makes no difference in the end. What is clear is that he was wrong on both counts!
The Scriptures teach us in Jeremiah 17:9, that the heart is 'deceitful above all things and desperately wicked,' and poses the question, ' who can know it?' The Scriptures further tell us in Ezekiel 11:19, 'And I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within you; and I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them an heart of flesh:' Again in Ezekiel 36:26, we read, 'A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.' This makes it clear that God has to change the heart, as man's heart in its natural state is not one which can be controlled by man.
It is significant that God did not promise man a 'new mind,' but rather due to a change of mind and the operation of God man would receive a 'new heart!'
While it is true that the mind is the gateway to the heart, it is not the heart itself. A man may, through reason and by his will, change his mind, but he cannot change his heart!
For example, an alcoholic who determines to take a drink may change his mind and, by sheer power of his will, refuse to do so. Yet that in no way means he doesn't still have the desire to drink! It is still in his heart to desire it. Even those who have been through the 'alcoholics anonymous' program still consider themselves to be alcoholics. They refer to themselves as 'recovering' not 'recovered!' They have changed their minds about drinking, but the desire is not necessarily gone.
With regards to God, an individual can have his mind changed about Him and yet still be evil in his heart. Indeed, the mind must be changed to get an individual to even seek a heart change! I would submit that many in our Baptist churches have had their minds changed about living a life of sin and joined the church as result, yet they have not been regenerated in their hearts and are not saved. A reasonable individual will understand that a Christian lifestyle will yield much better results than a life of debauchery and wickedness. Indeed, this is why we teach our children morality and standards.
Let me say that I had a mind for God and the things associated with religion from childhood. I wanted to please God, and even had an experience in my teens which I believe was wrought by a work of God and which produced a change to a degree. The problem lies in the fact that it is entirely possible that is was merely a result of reason working on my mind, conscience, and emotions, as the change was not sufficient to change my nature. Even though this change was wrought by a work of God, it was not sufficient in regenerating my heart. Until that took place, I was not saved.
Every work of God is not necessarily a work that produces salvation in an individual. A work of God is necessary to even cause an individual to turn from the world and toward God. This will cause him to become a 'seeker' of God, but that alone does not save him. The scriptures teach us that it is the goodness of God which leads us repentance. God may do several works in an individual before the great work resulting in salvation.
Surely the reader has seen individuals who appeared to be deeply moved in a church service that did not get saved as a result. While in some of these instances, this may have been a result of a guilty conscience, and nothing more, it is very reasonable to say that in many instances a work of God was responsible. It is also very possible that such a work helped draw them closer to their eventual salvation.
Finney's fundamental misunderstanding led him to a most serious error of conclusion. He reasoned that since God would not require what man could not perform, and since man was responsible for, and able to control his heart, that man could achieve a state of perfection. Finney referred to this as a state of 'entire sanctification.'
Under the topic SANCTIFICATION, in the section defining terms, Finney gives the following definition of what entire sanctification is.
'In this discussion, then, I shall use the term entire sanctification to designate a state of confirmed, and entire consecration of body, soul, and spirit, or of the whole being to God - confirmed, not in the sense, (1.) That a soul entirely sanctified cannot sin, but that as a matter of fact, he does not, and will not sin [emphasis added - JMG].'4
We see that Finney allowed that it was possible for a saint to sin, which we also know from Finney's assertion that a saint could 'fall from grace,' but that by his own efforts the saint would not do so. To prevent one from accusing me of misrepresenting Finney in this regard, let me add that he did insist that the Holy Spirit was the necessary agent for the saint achieving and maintaining this state of being. However, since Finney believed man was able to entirely obey God due to natural ability, and obligated to entirely obey God by the Law, we can say that the Holy Spirit was merely a motivator, not an enabler.
Finney continues, and argues that entire sanctification is attainable in this life, by stating the following:
'1. It is self-evident, that entire obedience to God's law is possible on the grounds of natural ability. To deny this, is to deny that a man is able to do as well as he can. The very language of the law is such as to level its claims to the capacity of the subject, however great or small that capacity may be. "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy mind, with all thy heart, with all thy soul, with all thy mind, and with all thy strength." Here then it is plain, that all the law demands, is the exercise of whatever strength we have, in the service of God. [Emphasis added - JMG] Now as entire sanctification consists in perfect obedience to the law of God, and as the law requires nothing more than the right use of whatever strength we have, it is, of course, forever settled, that a state of entire sanctification is attainable in this life, on the ground of natural ability.'
'This is generally admitted by those who are called moderate Calvinists [emphasis added - JMG]. Or, perhaps I should say, it generally has been admitted by them, though at present some of them seem inclined to give up the doctrine of natural ability, and to take refuge in constitutional depravity, rather than admit the attainableness of a state of entire sanctification in this life.'5
I have included the second paragraph for a significant purpose, though not because I believe in man's natural ability. But Finney points out that there are some who would be labeled 'Calvinists,' and some who would be labeled 'Arminians,' who may have common ground in some areas of doctrine. Therefore, one of the fundamental dangers of dismissing any individual merely because they have been labeled 'such-and-such' by others, is that it does not necessarily mean that we know all that they believe and preach. It is incumbent upon all of us, then, to carefully examine the preaching and teaching of an individual before labeling them or before dismissing them as being in error if they have been labeled by others.
At the same time, let me hasten to add that we must also be careful not to accept every individual who claims to hold to the truth merely because of their label either. There are many who claim the name 'Baptist' in our day and time who could never pass muster should we actually examine their messages and methods.
Every professed man of God must stand or fall based on what they actually preach and teach, not what they have been assumed to hold to.
I believe from the evidence I have set forth from Finney's own pen, that we could rightly label him an 'Arminian.' But had I merely stated that he was such, with nothing to support the claim, would the reader fully comprehend what was meant by that? Or would the reader even have believed it simply because it was stated?
I believe it should be clear that decisional regeneration has its roots in the doctrine of man's natural ability, as evidenced by the appeal of both to the intellect of the individual. It should be further evident that one of the major proponents of this doctrine in modern times was Charles G. Finney.
Since Finney could in no wise be labeled a Baptist,
one might wonder how this doctrine ever managed to infiltrate the Baptist
churches to the degree it has today.
Introduction of Armianism to the Baptist Church
A significant door for an entrance of Arminian influence into the Baptist churches to a great extent in modern times was opened by an individual who came from within their own ranks by the time Finney rose to prominence.
Converted in the latter part of the 1770's, under the ministry and preaching of George Whitfield, Benjamin Randall did not retain Whitfield's doctrines in the area of man's natural ability. Whether Randall came to his view as result of the influence of such men as John Wesley is uncertain, and is really of little significance as it relates to this work. Of great importance, however, is what his decidedly Arminian views produced.
After being denounced by the Baptist church of which he was a member, Randall went on to birth a new group who still claimed to be Baptist, but who did not subscribe to historical Baptist doctrines.
According to the Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, 'Randall's followers continued to claim to be Baptist; but the claim was repudiated by the original Baptists, who called them 'free-willers,' ... a designation which they themselves subsequently adopted,'1
There are several significant points to be made here.
First is the fact that, up until this time, Baptists had been almost universally in agreement on the doctrines of salvation. Certainly there were some others who have held to the views espoused by Randall, before his time. Indeed, according to the National Association of Free Will Baptist's web page, there was one Paul Palmer, who organized a church in the South in 1727.2 This church was in Chowan, North Carolina. But their influence was minor as compared to Randall's as evident from the fact that Randall has come to be known as the primary introducing agent of the free will doctrines among Baptists.
The second factor of significance is that this group eventually came to embrace the label 'Free Will Baptist.' While these Arminian Baptists may have initially resisted the label, it became clear that when their doctrines were set forth, it would identify them as free will. So today they boldly proclaim on their church signs the title 'Free Will Baptist Church.'
In fact, the Northern branch of the Free Will Baptists organized on December 28, 1916, into the Cooperative General Association of Free Will Baptists. The Southern branch organized into a General Conference by 1921, and the two merged in Nashville, Tennessee, on November 5, 1935, to become the National Association of Free Will Baptists.3
From this it is obvious that the Free Will Baptists have become comfortable with the term and use it themselves, and they readily admit to being Arminian in doctrine.4
For many years, those who held to the historical Baptist doctrines were sometimes referred to as 'Regular,' or 'Particular,' Baptists, but when the simple title Baptist was used, it was usually understood to refer to those who were not of the Free Will persuasion.
Schaff-Herzog also states, 'The Free Will Baptists differ also from the Baptists...,'5 and again, 'With the Regular Baptists they practice baptism by immersion. They differ from the Baptists on the questions of predestination, the extent of the atonement, and the ability of the sinner to repent,'6 making it clear that when the simple term 'Baptist' was used, it referred to the mainstream Baptists who were the original Baptists on this continent, and who would be said to be 'Calvinistic' in doctrine as set out in the Philadelphia Confession of Faith.
Certainly we would admit that there have been those who considered themselves Baptists and have held to the Arminian doctrines going back for centuries. It would be a serious error to say or even to imply that all Baptists have always been Calvinistic, or that Randall was the first Baptist to hold to Arminian views.
Indeed, there have long been those who were 'general' Baptists - who believed in the 'general atonement,' (by this is meant that Christ's atonement could have been effectual for all mankind,) but who did not identify with the label 'free will Baptists.' In fact, there was a group known as the General Baptists in England as early as the 1600's, and who published a confession of faith in 1660 and another in 1678.
In contrast to these individuals were the above mentioned 'particular,' or 'regular' Baptists who held that Christ's atonement was effectual for the 'elect in particular.'
The point to be made here is that the Baptists who held to the Arminian point of view, whether they went by the descriptive term general Baptists, or free will Baptists, they were not the mainstream Baptists.
The tragedy of our day is that while the openly Arminian Baptists are not ashamed to identify themselves as such, the vast majority of the non-Arminians refuse to acknowledge that which is their heritage. A fear of labeling and rejection has led us to attempt to establish some middle ground between what is called Calvinism and what is called Arminianism. As stated earlier in this booklet, the term 'Biblicist' is often put forth in an attempt to distance one from either label. Yet as recently as 75 to 100 years ago, the mere rejection of free will doctrine would have immediately let most others know an individual was a 'regular Baptist,' and hence, what could be called a Calvinist.
I submit that every Baptist preacher will have a doctrinal position on the five points which have been debated by both sides. There will be a position taken on man's degree of depravity - he was either injured in the fall (Arminian position) or he fell totally (Calvinist position). There is no middle ground on this point, unless one would be so foolish as to deny the fall entirely, which no Baptist of either camp would dare to do.
Similarly, there will be a position on election - either it is determined by foreseen faith or some other quality in an individual & thus conditional (Arminian position) or it is out of the mere good pleasure of the will of God & not conditioned by anything in man (Calvinist position).
Likewise, the atonement was either effectual for all mankind or for the elect only; God's grace can either be frustrated or it cannot; and the saints are either going to persevere or it is possible for them to fall back into unbelief and be lost again.
Certainly there will be some who could be labeled 5 point Arminians and some who could be labeled 5 point Calvinists, and there will be some who take one side on some points and the opposite side on others, but all will have a position on the 5 points. This is of necessity.
When a preacher sets forth his position on the 5 points, he will fit into one category or the other regardless of whether he likes labels or not.
I will give the reader an example. I have a 1965 Ford pick-up. There are characteristics specific to this model truck which are evident in my truck. There are also identifying markers on the truck which indicate it as such. The truck has the letters F O R D in the grill and on the tailgate, and it says F-100 on the fender. Suppose I run into a Chevy truck owner and in order to win his friendship, or to avoid any conflict with him, I decide to remove all of the markers from my truck and simply tell him I drive a 1965 pick-up truck. When he looks at my truck, he will immediately recognize it as a Ford truck and will call it a Ford truck. I may as well leave the markers on it.
Now suppose further I decide I want to race my truck and decide a Chevrolet motor would be better in the truck than the original Ford motor and so I put one in it. Is the truck now a Chevrolet? By no means. It is still a Ford truck, but with a Chevrolet motor.
The same goes for Bible doctrines of salvation. Even if we determine to remove all controversial labels, these doctrines will be immediately recognizable by anyone who has studied the Bible and knows anything of history. By listening to a preacher's sermons and watching how he deals with seeking sinners, it will immediately show which side of the issue they fall on regardless of what they may continue to assert to the contrary. Further, in order to discredit one another, if one is so inclined, they simply label each other.
Then too, simply because an individual decides to drop the doctrine of eternal security into his Arminian position, does he now have sufficient grounds to deny his Arminianism?
The reader may wonder why one individual would want to discredit another by using labels. There are at least three possible motivating factors.
Sadly, this is often done out of an inability to effectively argue ones' own position from the Scriptures due to ignorance of the truth! To keep from losing those they have indoctrinated, they attempt to prevent them from objectively and prayerfully searching the Scriptures to see if these things be so.
In other instances it is done out of a mean spiritedness which seems to be pervading our Baptist leadership.
It may also be done out of fear, and a concern that
others whom they respect and desire fellowship with will withdraw from
Certainly a case can be made that Alexander Campbell can be blamed in part for the great destructive influence of decisional regeneration on the Baptist Churches of today as well, though he never fully embraced Baptist doctrine. Campbell linked up with Baptists for a time, but later disassociated with the Baptists and started the movement known initially as the Disciples of Christ, which eventually became the Church of Christ.1
Campbell, originally a Scotch Irish Presbyterian minister, left the denomination along with his father, Thomas, in the early 1800's. This was after they had migrated to America from Ireland.2 Initially, in 1809, they formed the nondenominational 'Christian Association of Washington,' desiring to be known as 'Christians only.'3
In 1811, the father and son changed the group's identification to the 'Brush Run Church,' in order to celebrate the Lord's Supper. In 1813 they joined with the Redstone Baptist Association. Although Campbell was actually nondenominational in philosophy as seen in his desire to be known as Christians only, he remained attached in part to the Baptists from 1813 to 1830. He published a paper in 1823 which he called the 'Christian Baptist,' but the name was changed in 1829 to 'Millenial Harbinger.'4 In his publication, Campbell took the name of 'Reformer,' challenged traditional Baptist teachings, and attempted to cleanse the church of all 'human traditions,' and return to 'primitive order.'5
Campbell was, by all accounts, an excellent speaker, and this, in conjunction with his publications proved extremely effective in influencing many away from accepted Baptist doctrine. It is reported that fully half of the Baptist churches in Kentucky switched to the Disciples movement. 6
Campbell's movement split many Baptist churches and even entire associations. Many Baptist churches changed to Churches of Christ, including the First Baptist Church of Nashville.7
Campbellites were never Baptists really, as seen from the following words of Mr. Campbell. 'We are not Reformed Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians, or any such thing.'8
The following quote from Campbell is extremely disturbing, and at the same time very revealing. "When we drew up our pro-spectus for our first publication, we headed it 'The Christian,' and had it not been that we found ourselves anticipated, we should have adhered to that title. I hesitated between the title 'Baptist Christian,' and 'Christian Baptist,' and on suggesting my embarrassment to a friend ... he thought the latter, [Christian Baptist] was a better passport to favor than either of the others. We never fully approved, but from expediency adopted it."9
From his own words we see that Alexander Campbell identified with the Baptists merely to 'elicit favor' for his movement and 'out of expediency.' That this deceitful strategy worked to his advantage is clearly seen in the afore-mentioned fact that, while unsuccessful at 'reforming' the Baptist churches, Campbell was very successful in pulling many Baptist church members into error. It has also had a prolonged negative impact on the entire Baptist church community even to this day.
One might wonder how it can be said that Campbell has had an influence on decisional regeneration in our day since he left any affiliation with the Baptist church to establish the Church of Christ so long ago. The answer actually has to do with four important factors.
The first is that while many churches and church members left to become Church of Christ bodies and members, Campbell's writings and teachings surely affected many who did not fully embrace his ideas to the point of leaving. Yet these individuals retained sufficient similarities so as to alter the beliefs of the Baptist churches where they were members. The heretical doctrines they held were then passed on and are with us in sufficient form to continue to produce decisional regeneration among Baptists even today.
Secondly, and likely the most crucial factor has to do with Campbell's idea of 'saving faith.' To him, the term believe was to be taken to mean that one had merely to believe, in the most rationalistic sense, that Jesus is the Christ in order to be saved. In his own words, Campbell stated, "...faith is only an historical belief in facts stated in the Bible..."10 This is what one could rightly define as 'mental assent,' or 'head knowledge.'
Campbell further stated at one point, as he snapped his fingers, that he "...would not give that much for the person who weeps," referring to an individual who experienced what he considered to be an 'emotional expression.'11
Campbell believed and taught that, "The belief in one fact, ...is all that is requisite as far as faith goes to salvation. The belief of one fact, and submission to the institution, expressive of it [baptism - JMG], is all that is required." That one historical fact, according to Campbell is "...that Jesus, the Nazarene, is the Messiah."12
Unfortunately, this is the belief of multitudes in the Baptist churches of our day!
A third factor that has led to a continuing influence among the Baptist churches of today, is the fact that, in the early stages of the ecumenical movement, Baptists attempted to continue fellowship with other denominations and thus some of the beliefs bled over into Baptist churches.
The Northern Baptist Convention was a charter member of the Federal Council of Churches in 1908, and in 1950 helped transform it into the present day National Council of Churches.13
In the 1960's the American Baptist Convention participated with eight other denominations in the Council on Churches Uniting (COCU).
In 1911, the Freewill Baptists of New England merged with the Northern Baptists, and Merger talks between Baptists and the Disciples of Christ continued into the twentieth century.14
This factor will be dealt with more in Chapter IX.
The fourth significant factor in the tremendous impact Campbell's beliefs have had on the Baptist churches in our time has to do with the appeal that decisional regeneration has to the natural man. It is much more desirable and more readily accepted by man that he can 'choose Christ,' rather than live with the realization that man is at the mercy of Christ to choose him!
Man's pride will not allow him to think of himself as he actually is - depraved, deceived, and dead. Without a true work of God in one's heart to allow them to be enlightened to their true condition, that person will fall prey to the flesh pleasing idea that he naturally wants God.
Alexander Campbell was no different than many others in the Baptist churches of our day when he fell victim to the false notion that a mere decision of the will and a mental assent to the historical facts of the Bible are all that are necessary to attain salvation!
His beliefs were certainly more appealing to many
in the churches than the truth of the Scriptures that clearly state there
must be a 'spiritual rebirth,' and a 'new creature' produced
in order to say that salvation has actually been wrought. The fact that
this 'new creature' is literally a 'new creation,' makes
it abundantly clear that this is not something an individual can do himself
by merely assenting to, or affirming certain Biblical facts! This can only
be performed by a miraculous, divine operation of the Holy Spirit of God.
A Modified Arminianism
The above term 'Calvi-minianism' is not really a term used by anyone that I am aware of. I have used it to describe a relatively new doctrine that has appeared in modern day Churches and in Baptist churches to a tremendous degree.
In his treatise 'Divine Election or Human Effort,' Manfred E. Kober speaks of a form of modified or hybrid Arminianism which has developed somewhere along the way.1
Those who espouse this form of doctrine hold to all of the points of the Arminian remonstrance with one notable exception - they have embraced the doctrine of 'eternal security,' or 'perseverance of the saints.'
In the words of Kenneth H. Good, 'It becomes apparent that there are some Arminians who do not know that they are Arminians - or at least do not want others to know it. It has become a term upon which much opprobrium [reproach mingled with contempt or disdain - JMG] has been heaped in past days. In some circles it also is a 'bad word.' So it appears that there are those who are actually four-fifths Arminian who have created a quasi hybrid theology that attempts to find foundation somewhere between Arminianism and Calvinism, but who wish to be identified as neither.'2
C. H. Spurgeon spoke of this in his sermon 'The Minister's Stock Taking,' where he said "But some people say the truth lies between Calvinism and Arminianism. It does not; there is nothing between them but a barren wilderness..."
Indeed, Spurgeon unashamedly identified himself as a Calvinist, saying, "The old truth that Calvin preached, that Augustine preached, That Paul preached, is the truth that I must preach to-day, or else be false to my conscience and my God. I cannot shape the truth; I know of no such thing as paring off the rough edges of a doctrine. John Knox's gospel is my gospel. That which thundered through Scotland must thunder through England again."3
This hybrid form of Arminianism is the doctrine held by a majority of the educational hierarchy of the Baptist Bible colleges in our day. They have taught this position for several decades and have produced a situation whereby majority of the pastors filling the pulpits across our land hold to the same doctrinal position.
Tragically, because these pastors hold to the doctrine of eternal security, they assume they are not Arminian in persuasion. Satan has used a subtle means to beguile them, even as he did Eve in the garden of Eden.
We now have pews filled with church members who have been reared under this same form of doctrine and who have fallen for the same subtle deception.
This pseudo-Arminianism has resulted in a weakened confession of faith even in most of our fundamental Baptist churches. This, in turn, has opened the door to co-operation with other denominations which would have never been possible 75 to 100 years ago.
The Door to Arminianism Opens Wider
In modern times there has been a conscious effort made by many, including Baptists, to move toward a more moderate position with regard to salvation to make it more appealing to the multitudes, and in order for different denominations to work together to 'win the world to Christ.' In order to be able to co-operate with various denominations, many important doctrines have been cast aside. These important doctrines are said to be 'secondary,' but in reality they are the fundamentals of the faith. Much has been sacrificed to expediency in this effort to reach the masses.
Many prominent Baptist preachers of our day have fallen into the trap of this movement. These preachers can be recognized by their willingness to accept and promote heretical doctrines which Baptists have openly denounced in days gone by.
Because of the stature of these preachers and the respect they command, multitudes of Baptist church members and even preachers of lesser degree have been influenced by their error. It seems multitudes consider these prominent preachers to be infallible and never do any research in the Scriptures to see if the things they say be so. We need more individuals with the mentality of the Berean believers who were more noble than the Thessalonicans, in that they searched the Scriptures to ensure they were being told the truth!
The most recognized among Baptist evangelists has even reached the point of allowing Jews, Catholics, Charismatics, and others to act as 'altar workers,' or 'counselors,' and deal with seeking individuals at his crusades! These seekers are then often recommended to attend churches which are not Baptist churches.
The Baptist preachers who have been taken in by this movement have come to be known as 'Neo-evangelicals.' The very name means 'new evangelicals,' and implies a new way of evangelizing. What makes it new is its appeal to the intellect of man and its call for one to make a 'decision' for Christ during a time of public 'invitation.' While this is contrary to practices of historical Baptists, it is a practice initiated by the previously mentioned Charles G. Finney that has become a fixture at the close of virtually every Baptist service in our day.
Since co-operation among differing denominations has become an acceptable means to the desired end, a liberal interpretation of scripture has been necessitated as well. In order to get all denominations to agree, there must naturally be an avoidance of controversial differences in historical doctrine. There are only two ways in which this can be accomplished; one is to avoid discussion of certain doctrines altogether, while the other is to allow that there is more than one interpretation of the Scriptures.
This liberal approach to the Scriptures and avoidance of certain doctrines has necessitated a significant weakening of the articles of faith. This is true today, even among the Baptist churches. Whereas the Baptist confessions of the 1600's to 1800's had as many as 32 to 34 articles, (the London and Philadelphia confessions, et al) the current articles in most Baptist churches have significantly less than that. What has resulted are articles of faith which could be interchangeable among Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, inter-denominational, and non-denominational churches as well.
Ecumenicalism's influence on the Baptists and its associated forsaking of strong doctrine naturally led to a de-emphasizing of God's work in salvation. What naturally resulted was an increased emphasis on the responsibility of man.
There is certainly a responsibility on man's part to repent and believe, as taught in the Scriptures. But if the necessity of a work of God in order for man to do so is not preached along with it, the hearer will assume he has the natural ability to do this. While some preachers may believe in man's natural ability, most are preaching this doctrine out of ignorance, when they fail to stress the necessity of the work of the Holy Spirit of God in salvation. What results from this is decisional regeneration.
For many years there was a resistance among the majority of Baptists to the ecumenical movement, especially among the Independent and Fundamental Baptists. Indeed, throughout history mainstream Baptists have denounced any and all attempts to bring differing denominations together. In fact, the ecumenical move-ment and the resultant religious system was said by many Baptist preachers to be the 'Great Whore' spoken of in the book of Revelation.
The reader, then, might wonder how this liberal attitude
has now spread to such an extent even among Baptists who have a decidedly
conservative history. The answer, to a great degree, will be seen in the
Liberalism In Institutes Of Learning:
Arminianism Ascends To The Throne
While the weakening of the articles of the Baptist Confessions and the ecumenical movement had an influence among the Baptists, there is another great evil which has caused the doctrine of decisional regeneration to spread to an even greater extent and more rapidly.
The Baptist Bible colleges were infiltrated by liberal professors, many of whom denied the most fundamental Baptist doctrines. They denied the Deity of Christ, denied the virgin birth, and most importantly, denied the inspiration and inerrancy of the Scriptures. At best, these liberal professors acknowledged that the Scriptures 'contained' the Word of God, but many secretly held the view that the Scriptures were not inspired at all and, thus, were subject to error.
Many of these professors began to denounce the King James Bible for its supposed mistranslations, and to introduce versions of the Bible which have Arminian leanings due to the fact that so-called 'scholars' from differing denominations worked on the translation.
Not only was there an inherent danger in these translations due to the mix of beliefs among the translators, but the method of reconciling the differences was flawed as well. In many instances, when a question over a word or phrase arose, a vote was taken and the majority opinion was accepted and inserted into the text.
As these professors and the new translations they promote have exerted influence over graduating class after graduating class of young men entering the ministry, what has been produced is a huge number of preachers with liberal, Arminian beliefs regarding the doctrines of salvation. These beliefs have likewise been passed on to multitudes of their 'converts' who now fill the pews of the Baptist churches.
One of the greatest tragedies of this situation is that it has now gone on for so long and spread to such a degree, that it is the belief of the majority of preachers and church members in Baptist churches today. In addition, there is an ignorance among nearly all of these that it has not always been this way! There is an ever increasing number of preachers and church members who have little or no knowledge of Baptist history, and thus little knowledge of historical Baptist doctrine.
Another sad fact is that even preachers who admire great Baptist preachers of the past can read their writings and sermons and see that they believed differently, yet not question why this is so. Nor do they seem to wonder how this came to be.
Many will read Spurgeon, Whitfield, Edwards, Pink, Keatch and others, and will speak of the tremendous power they had with God. At the same time these preachers will denounce or avoid men today who preach and teach the identical truths! Neither will they sit down and reasonably discuss the differences.
Even among preachers who recognize and admit the liberal leanings of the Baptist institutes of higher learning, there is a willingness to ship their young men and women off to these schools to be taught daily the heresies that the professors put forth.
These poor students are expected to overlook or ignore the errors, or in cases where the sending pastor has been seduced into accepting the doctrines taught by these schools, the student is likely going to openly embrace those erroneous doctrines.
Even the strongest young Bible College students who are well grounded in truth cannot help but be influenced to some degree by false doctrine if it is taught day in and day out over the entire College experience! It must be remembered that, for the most part, open disagreement with the established doctrinal position of any Bible College is frowned upon, if not prohibited!
Then too, the majority of these students who enter the Baptist Colleges are just coming out of High School and have not had much intensive doctrinal instruction. This is the reason they are attending College in the first place. These young minds are fertile ground for the introduction of 'bad seed.'
It is also a requirement of many Bible Colleges, that the students attend the Campus Church. It goes without saying that these bodies will obviously mirror the philosophy of the school. The preaching in these services will be a further influence on the young students in attendance.
I am personally acquainted with several Bible College graduates who, if they are honest in the telling of it, had to tolerate much that was not in line with the doctrines set out by the churches they came from.
As a result of this problem, there are many pastors today who are attempting to correct this problem to some degree by starting 'Bible Institutes' in their local church. This is certainly admirable, as this is the method the Scriptures set forth as the ideal way to train young men for the ministry.
In II Timothy 2:2, Paul told Timothy, 'And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.' Here we can see that Paul, who was Timothy's pastor, taught Timothy, and told Timothy, who was a pastor, to teach his men also.
The problem with the Bible Institutes in many instances,
is that the doctrines they teach are not historical Baptist doctrines either,
rather they are the doctrines taught to the pastor by a Bible college in
his younger days.
Aggressive 'Soul Winning' & Mega-Ministries:
Liberalism, Arminianism, & Political Correctness
Another problem facing the Baptist churches today and compounding the problem in the realm of decisional regeneration is the emphasis placed on 'numbers.' Even though Baptists have traditionally avoided this practice, a fear of criticism by other churches and preachers within a convention or fellowship, has placed a tremendous 'peer pressure' upon pastors within those groups to keep up with, or even outdo their brethren.
There is so much competition in the churches today, that many preachers seek to be recognized in the periodicals of these groups as having the greatest increase in membership, or having the most baptisms in a given period of time. This one act can elevate an unknown preacher to immediate pre-eminence among his brethren, with little or no examination of how these results were achieved.
Seminars and conferences on rapid church growth are sponsored by men of renown within the Baptist circles, and attended by hosts of preachers, often at great cost and requiring travel over great distances to get there.
Soul winning 'programs' have been devised in an attempt to win the multitudes, and many Baptist preachers are even crossing denominational lines to obtain the latest program which is claimed to be 'it.'
Let me hasten to say that evangelism is necessary, and the more people who come to salvation in Christ, the better. But let it be evangelism that produces genuine conversion through faith in the Lord Jesus, not some sales presentation designed to appeal to the masses.
The majority of programs which have been devised and shared among churches today, have been designed with the express intent of presenting salvation in a most favorable light, by way of a 'sales pitch' type delivery. At the end of the presentation there is an attempt to 'close,' just as if selling a product or service.
Most presentations end by leading the individual being dealt with in some form of 'sinner's prayer' if the close has been successful. While much could be said about what is wrong with these methods, that is not necessary at this point. They were mentioned to lend support to the contention that a work of God in salvation has been minimized or, at least, indirectly denied.
These programs are designed after the pattern of a sales presentation as demonstrated by their implied reliance on an assumed natural ability of man. The problem lies in the fact that man's natural ability is implied rather than stated. One must study carefully the presentation in light of scriptural precedence to see the problem in many of these 'slick' programs.
The natural outgrowth or result of such practices is a progressively greater liberalization of the evangelistic outreach. Not only has the necessity of a work of the Holy Spirit of God been relegated to relative unimportance, but such crucial aspects of salvation as 'godly sorrow,' and 'repentance,' have also been left out of many gospel presentations.
One notable evangelist, Curtis Hutson, stated, in one of his booklets, that 'repentance and faith are the same, they are not two separate DECISIONS [emphasis added - JMG].'1
In other words, this evangelist refused to stress the importance of repentance because he claimed one could not exercise faith if they had not repented. When this evangelist did preach on repentance, he made it a mere change of mind.
He also made the mistake of relegating repentance and faith both to 'decisions.' Repentance and faith are 'actions,' not decisions. Deciding to repent is not repentance, nor is deciding to believe believing. That they cannot be the same action is proven by Acts 20:21 which says, in part, '...repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.'
It is literally true one can not exercise true 'saving faith' without having repentance as they are definitely linked together. Yet we must look beyond the statement itself and investigate the preaching of the afore-mentioned evangelist and others of his breed to see what the statement means in reality.
The reason these preachers have to say that repentance and faith are the same, is that they don't preach repentance as the Scriptures present it. Bible repentance is not preached by these men because it is not palatable to listeners. Men do not like repentance preaching. They didn't like it in John the Baptist's day, nor Jesus' day, and they have not grown to like it any more in our day. For this reason many preachers have sought to present the gospel in a manner which would be the least offensive to their hearers. Sadly they have missed a crucial element necessary in salvation. If you preach that one must have repented if they have believed, you can emphasize faith and possibly mention repentance in passing. It is interesting, however, that John and Jesus both preached 'repent,' they did not merely preach 'believe.' While Jesus certainly told His listeners they had to believe, His emphasis was on repentance. Without repentance, it is impossible for an individual to believe!
In the same booklet, Mr. Hutson gives us an insight as to why he believed repentance and faith were one and the same. To him repentance had to be a mere decision because it could not also be 'to turn from sin.' We know that he believed this because he wrote, 'Perhaps the most popular false idea is that repentance is turning from sin.'2 He goes on to state, 'If repentance means turning from sin, and turning from sin means to stop sinning, then a person must live a sinless life in order to be saved. And if that is the case, then nobody could ever be saved, because there are no perfect people.'3
Our response to this statement is that that repentance definitely involves a change of mind; one couldn't repent with the old mind-set still in place. But to merely make it a change of mind and no more, does not do justice to the word. In Vine's Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, under METANOIA, the Greek word translated repentance, we find the following: 'In the New Testament the subject chiefly has reference to repentance from sin, and this change of mind involves BOTH A TURNING FROM SIN AND A TURNING TO GOD [emphasis added - JMG]. The parable of the prodigal son is an outstanding illustration of this.'
William Evans wrote, 'One of the Hebrew words for repent means 'to turn.' The prodigal said, "I will arise...and he arose' (Luke 15:18.20). He not only thought upon his ways, and felt sorry because of them, but he turned his steps in the direction of home. So that in a very real sense repentance is a crisis with a changed experience in view. Repentance is not only a heart broken for sin, but from sin also. We must forsake what we would have God remit. In the writings of Paul repentance is more of an experience than a single act. The part of the will and disposition in repentance is shown...a) In the confession of sin to God...Psalm 38:18...b) In the forsaking of sin...Isaiah 55:7...c) In turning unto God.'4
Especially noteworthy is that Evans also presents repentance as an experience. If repentance was simply a change of mind, it would be a single act taking place when the change of mind took place.
A. A. Hodge wrote, '2. What is saving repentance? See "Con. Faith," Chap. 15.; "Larger Cat.," Q. 76; "Shorter Cat.," Q. 87. It includes - 1st. A sense of personal guilt, pollution, and helplessness. 2d. An apprehension of the mercy of God in Christ. 3d. Grief and hatred of sin, a resolute turning from it [emphasis added - JMG] unto God, and a persistent endeavor after a new life of holy obedience.'5
Turning from sin does not mean to stop sinning entirely, but to make a purposeful change in direction away from it. Will there be a possibility of a lapse in obedience? There certainly may be, but this does not mean that one has not repented. In fact, one who continues to habitually practice sin has never even changed his mind about sin. Surely the prodigal son had changed his mind as well as his direction as seen by his returning home. Are we to believe that he was a 'perfectly obedient son' after his return? Likely not.
In order for an individual to come to salvation, there must be a recognition of a need for salvation by that individual. There must be a 'law work' performed in the heart of the sinner. That is, an individual must come under condemnation of the law of God. This is why the law was given. If a preacher is going to eliminate repentance from their gospel presentation, they must, of necessity, eliminate condemnation of the law.
When this is done, salvation becomes merely a matter of 'believing in Jesus.' Faith, then, is no more than a mental assent to historical facts. One can believe that Jesus existed, and even that He died to save men from their sins, but it not be an effectual faith which produces genuine regeneration.
When an individual comes under condemnation of the law, their first inclination is the same as that of Adam and Eve - they will attempt to change for the better. There will be an apparent change associated with this, also seen in Adam and Eve. This may be likened to an individual getting in the 'narrow way,' but is not the same as 'entering at the strait gate.' Our Baptist churches are full of individuals who have changed in appearance, but have not been regenerated through a divine work of the Spirit of God.
To be saved, one must also recognize a genuine need for a Savior. This is more than a belief that one needs what Christ has done to be saved. Nearly all Baptists grow up believing that Jesus died to save individuals from their sins and that one must have this work credited to them. But it must be 'effectually believed.'
This effectual believing, or faith, is the result of a demonstrated working of God. I Thessalonians 2:13 says, 'For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe.'
The words 'effectually worketh' in this verse are actually one Greek word which means 'to put forth power, to display one's activity, to show one's self operative.' From this we see that salvation demonstrates God at work through power. It is more than a mental assent in an individual or a decision he makes based on facts and information presented.
Salvation comes as a result of the individual being 'convicted' (pronounced guilty) of their sin by the Holy Spirit of God and realizing their 'total inability' to effectively meet the demands of the law which has pronounced them guilty. These individuals will come to a realization of their need for a Savior Who must actually perform a divine work in them to change their very nature. This is genuine Bible conversion or salvation.
Unless one senses the reality of this inability, (which can only be done as they struggle to work salvation on their own even as Adam and Eve did), they will merely get an experience produced by their own efforts based on a decision of their will doing that which seems rational to them. They will 'pray a prayer,' 'claim a verse,' or some other man-directed work which will not produce genuine conversion.
Another problem that has led to a weakening of the preaching in our day is the pressure to be 'politically correct.' By this, it is meant that one cannot criticize any other individual or say that what they believe or how they live is not right.
Those whom the Bible calls 'drunkards,' came to be 'alcoholics,' and now are said to have a 'sickness.'
'Sodomites' came to be 'homosexuals,' and then 'gays,' and now are merely 'living an alternate lifestyle.'
There is no such thing as sin today in the minds of most people. All is excused by one means or another.
Preachers who preach what the Scriptures say about man and his natural condition are said to be 'narrow minded,' 'bigoted,' 'judgmental,' or some such label.
It will not be long until preachers across this land who preach genuine salvation will run the risk of being sued, jailed, or both. Laws protecting the supposed minorities is rapidly making decisional regeneration type evangelism to the only type of evangelism which can flourish.
A natural by-product of this pressure to be politically correct, has been a salvation which does not condemn anyone. This new concept of evangelism simply urges individuals to 'invite Jesus into your heart,' 'give your heart and life to Jesus,' or some other act which demands no change in that individual, because no demand to change may be made.
Salvation has become something meant only to benefit the individual, not that which produces a genuine regeneration in an individual and reconciles that one to God.
An example of the mind set of the average church goer today can be seen in a comment made to me by an individual who didn't like hard preaching. I was told, 'You can attract more bees with sugar than with vinegar.' While this comment may be so, we are not in the bee keeping business. Somewhere along the line, man's sinful condition must be dealt with before he can or will come to God.
Jesus fed the 5,000, but then He told them what spirit was in them. One need only read the account in John 6:1-66, to see that when what is in man is revealed, folks raise up against it. Verse 66 says, 'From that [time] many of his disciples went back, and walked with him no more.'
The same holds true today, and especially today, in what most would admit are the 'last days.' People will attend church as long as there are lots of activities, outings, singings, plays, ministries, etc. But when the truth is preached, the crowds dwindle rapidly.
This is the real reason many preachers refuse to preach the necessity of a law work and of repentance in the life of an individual before that individual can be saved.
The phrase 'repentance and faith are the same,' sounds logical, and can readily be accepted by most individuals. After all, as long as you 'say' you repented, there is no pain. But actually going through condemnation and repentance is impossible without a work of God.
Telling folks they must have repented simply because they claim to believe now, is deceiving them into a false sense of security. If an individual can not find a time and place where they were guilty before God and genuinely repented of their sinful condition, they are yet in their sin!
The demand that society has placed on all individuals to be politically correct, also includes pastors, churches, Bible colleges, and every 'Christian' ministry. This, of course, means Baptists as well.
The mediums of radio and television have done the most to weaken the gospel message by this forced political correctness.
There is actually pressure from two fronts on any ministry which desires to have a radio or television presence.
The first is a demand by listeners that will not tolerate strong doctrinal teaching regarding salvation. Since the Arminian point of view is most palatable to mankind, due to it's emphasis on man's ability, programs which preach and teach that a divine work of God is necessary to salvation struggle to endure.
A second pressure which eliminates those that the audience pressure cannot, is the station policy which will not allow all of the truth to be presented. This is due to pressure which is placed on them by the audience base, competition for 'market share,' and advertising revenues.
The result is that a weak, generic gospel is presented which is either non-denominational or inter-denominational, and one that only serves to lead individuals into a salvation that is wrought by the will of man. This is not a genuine salvation that will be acceptable to God in the day of judgement, however.
Few programs, including Baptists, will openly advertise what denomination they are affiliated with, if they affiliate with one at all. As a result, even if a listener or viewer does happen to hear the truth, they have heard so much contradictory doctrine that the truth is 'choked out' by the error.
In the course of a day, the listener or viewer may be exposed to Baptist doctrine, Methodist doctrine, Church of Christ doctrine, Catholic doctrine, Assembly of God doctrine, non-denominational doctrine, and a myriad of other doctrines as well. Even as they are exposed to these various doctrines, the audience can seldom make a determination as to the origin of any of the doctrines. Again, this is due to the afore-mentioned reluctance of the various programs to identify their denominational affiliation, or the fact that they have none!
The ultimate outcome of this pressure to be politically correct, the competition among programs for listener and viewer audience, and the deception among even the most prominent preachers as to what genuine salvation actually is, has been a decidedly Arminian position being set forth almost exclusively.
The vast majority of the audience would be comfortable listening to and enjoying programs presented by denominations which in the past have been diametrically opposed to one another, but which today are indiscernible from one another.
Sadly, this includes Baptist audiences as well.
I want to conclude this section with one final factor that has caused literally thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of individuals to be given a so-called salvation experience which was merely a work of man. This tragedy is directly attributable to one man in particular, but has been promulgated by many others who have followed his teachings. It is the result of a numbers oriented mentality, but involves actual deception of individuals and calling the result salvation. I am going to present a lengthy passage here, in order to avoid being accused of taking what was written out of context. The following is word for word as it appeared in print -
15. Find Someway to Get Them Lost
Let me explain. Often I've gone out
to win souls and asked, "Are you a Christian?" If he said, "Yes, I am,"
I would let it go at that. But some people will answer yes to "Are you
a Christian?" who are not really Christians and you need to get the Gospel
to them. To do this we must get them to a verse like Romans 3:10. I've
got to figure some way to get them to Romans 3:10 and get them to let me
tell them how to be saved. Do you see what I mean?
Let me illustrate. A family comes to talk to me and I know they are lost. "Brother Hyles, we have a home problem. Do you know any Bible verses that would help our home?"
"Ah, yes. There is a verse in the Bible that will help anybody's home. Turn to Romans 3:10."
Somebody comes in, "Brother Hyles, my business is going bankrupt. What does the Bible say about business?"
"Ah, it says a great deal about business. The best scriptures about business in the Bible begin at Romans 3:10." Then tell them about Jesus. He will solve any problem.
Now let me give you an illustration that will prove what I am trying to say. This is the only time that it has ever happened but it is a most vivid illustration to explain this point.
I went to visit a family. Let's call the name Hill. It was up on the second floor of an apartment building. They had three lovely children. I walked in and said, "How do you do, Mr. Hill. Are you a Christian?"
"Oh, yes," he said, "I was saved when I was three years old."
Well I didn't know what to say. Then I asked Mrs. Hill, "Are you a Christian?
"Oh, yes," she said, "I was saved when I was a baby."
Well, now I didn't think they were saved. If they had said they weren't Christians. I could have shown them Romans 3:10 but I couldn't when they said they were Christians. So I asked, "Have you been born again?"
Oh, yes; both of them were born again. He was born again when he was three and she was born again when she was a baby.
"Have you been converted, saved?"
That's right; they had been saved.
"If you died, do you know if you would go to heaven?"
Yes, yes; they knew if they died they would go to heaven.
Well, I didn't know what to do. I wanted to get to Romans 3:10. So I said, Well let me ask you this: do you ever wish you knew how to pray? If I could show you some Scriptures on prayer, would you be willing to learn how to pray better?"
I was going to show them a good Scripture about prayer - Romans 3:10 - but she said, "Oh, we have family altar and private devotions; we took a correspondence course on prayer recently."
"Well," I said, "did you ever wish you had a Bible study, some Scriptures to show you how to study the Bible?"
If they had said, "No, we don't study the Bible much," I was going to say, "Listen, there are some Scriptures that will unlock the entire Bible and the first one is Romans 3:10."
But she said, "Oh, yes; we are taking a Bible course right now, a correspondence course."
I tried every way I could to get to Romans 3:10, but I couldn't do it. I said, "Well is your home what it ought to be? Would you love to hear some Scriptures on the home - how to have a better home and a good Christian home?" I was going to show them Romans 3:10 - how it would lead you to have a better home, etc. I couldn't do it, so I prayed, "Lord help me." Finally I said, This is a good home. You are saved; you pray and are taking Bible study courses. You know, there is one thing that a home like this ought to have."
They asked what.
I said, "A formal dedication service."
Now that sounded good to them, and Mr. Hill said, "Honey, that sounds real good. When could we schedule that?"
I said, "It so happens that I have one of the services with me right now."
He said, "Could we do it here?"
I said, "We can do it right here."
Listen, she went in and changed clothes, combed her hair, put clean little dresses and shirts on the children. They came in like a group going to Sunday School. I said, "Now, then , we are going to read some Scriptures on home dedication. It says in Romans 3:10, 'As it is written, There is 'no home' righteous, no, not one.' In Romans 5:12 it says that sin came into the first home and it was that first home that brought the first curse upon man." I went through the same old Scriptures, Romans 3:10, 5:12, 6:23, 5:8, and I said, Those are Scriptures about the dedication of the home. Now would you like to pray a prayer of home dedication?"
They said that would be real nice. So we all got on our knees. I prayed and then said, "Mr. Hill, you want to pray a prayer of dedication for your home don't you?"
"Yes, sir," he said.
I said, "Mr. Hill, this is the prayer to pray: Dear Lord, be merciful to me a sinner and forgive my sins and save my soul. I do now repent of my sins and trust Jesus to save me."
He prayed the prayer. She prayed the same prayer.
We got off our knees and they were both crying. I said, "That's wonderful! Now you said you were saved when you were three didn't you?"
Mr. Hill looked at me and said, "No, I just got saved a minute ago."6
There are so many errors in the above incident that I am not going to deal at length attempting to point them out. The reader should be able to discern them for himself. In fact, if this incident actually took place, (I hesitate to believe it, but must accept it because it was presented by the preacher involved), it would be laughable if it were not so tragic!
The first and most obvious problem with this preacher's approach to salvation lies in the fact that he believed Romans 3:10 is a universal starting point in dealing with the lost. We as Baptists tend to belittle the Pentecostals for their infatuation with Acts 2:38, and the Church of Christ for their overemphasis of water, yet among most Baptists there is a near exaltation of what has come to be known as the 'Romans Road' to salvation. Lost folks are individuals and must be dealt with as such. Jesus never used the same approach on all whom He dealt with. If there was a universal 'plan of salvation,' surely the Savior would have used it. Have 20th century Baptists become so enlightened that they know more than God? Have we somehow managed to discover that which has escaped the Almighty? It would seem as though this is the case if we look at the practices of modern day evangelism!
The second error of the above account, that is so blatantly obvious, is the twisting and misapplication of the Scriptures this preacher revered so much! Romans 3:10 in no way refers to the home, even though what the verse deals with certainly have an effect on the home. Such 'wresting of the Scriptures' is specifically spoken of by Peter in II Peter 3:16. It is interesting that the Scriptures that Peter refers to are the writings of the Apostle Paul, and must surely, then, include Epistle to the Romans!
It is also rather apparent that there was little or no leadership of the Holy Spirit involved in this incident, and hence, ended as nearly all instances end in which the individual is taken down the Romans Road; having the individual repeat a preacher crafted prayer. Such a prayer must be worded by the preacher, as the individual dealt with is still as ignorant of what salvation is when they reach the end of the road as they were before taking the trip. Sadly there is an end of another road that awaits these individuals, and it is the road of this life. To have to stand before the judgement bar of God with what these individuals have come to rely on is truly frightening to consider.
The thing that is most disturbing about this and other means which have been devised by modern day evangelistic leaders, is that those who have been victimized by these appeals to man's intellectual faculties will be even harder to reach with the truth. This is because such methods have been presented to multitudes of others who have accepted them as well. It has become what the majority of church members have been through and what they all have in common. When confronted with the truth, their response is nearly always, "Surely we can't all be wrong!" But unfortunately, such is the case in the Baptist churches today!
Further, because the men who have devised these plans, and those who use them the most effectively, have become so well respected as a result, the attitude of the majority of those who have been deceived is, "All of the most influential preachers do it this way and how can you argue with the results?"
The booklet from which the incident related above was taken was first published in 1962. The 1977 edition of twelve years later claimed 300,000 copies had been printed! Imagine how many have been printed in the twenty-five years since that time, and the effect that a full forty years has had to bear fruit from this unbelievable ideology among those in our Baptist churches!!
As a result of this preacher's concept of salvation, the church he pastored for many years is now pastored by his son-in-law who's testimony, taken directly from the church's website, is, 'At the age of five, **** was led to the Lord by his ten-year-old sister ****** as he sat on the edge of the bathtub.'7 One might argue that this does not necessarily reflect the views of the afore-mentioned pastor, except the new pastor was, as pointed out, his son-in-law. He was married to the daughter of the well-known preacher! He was also on the staff under the former pastor's administration for 'over twenty years.'8
The fact that 96% of the membership9 of this church accepts such a testimony from the one that is to be their spiritual leader proves, beyond doubt, the point this booklet attempts to make.
Until there is a willingness to closely examine the
methods and the membership, the tares in the Baptist churches will
continue to be mistaken for wheat and the real wheat will be choked into
smaller and smaller clusters.
The 'Baptist Reform Movement'
A New 'Great Awakening?'
In recent times a movement among Baptists has sprung up with the intent to 'reform' the Baptist churches. Many Baptist churches have incorporated the word reformed into their name. These churches have embraced the Calvinistic doctrines, or what are also referred to as 'the doctrines of Grace.'
Due to the descriptive term 'reformed,' one may be tempted to dismiss the significance of this movement, or to label these churches as heretics.
The Baptist tendency to identify the word reform with the 'reformation period' has given a sour taste to it. It is the movement of the middle ages which attempted to reform the Catholic church that has prompted many to mistakenly identify Baptists as 'Protestants.'
Actually, the true Protestants were those who were in the Catholic church and who protested the doctrines held and set forth in the church. Baptists were never a part of the Church of Rome and, in fact, were greatly persecuted by the Catholic church.
There is also a stigma attached to the word 'reformed,' due to the Dutch Reformed church which was born out of the Catholic church and by men such as Calvin and Zwingli. It is the Dutch reformed church which has been one of the main defenders of Calvinistic doctrines since the 1600's. (One need only look to the great publishing houses of Grand Rapids, Michigan to see the truth of this in our day especially. It is here that Baker, Zondervan, Eerdmans, and Kregel publish great volumes of Calvinistic materials).
Yet we need to resist the temptation to dismiss this reform movement among Baptists too quickly. One need not endorse this movement to see that it has great significance.
We need to examine why this movement has found any acceptance at all in the Baptist churches in particular. It is the mere fact that such a movement exists among the Baptists, that ought to cause all Baptists to stop and take stock of what is happening.
I would suggest that this reform movement among Baptist churches in our day is the result of the same conditions which spawned the Great Awakening in this country in days gone by.
The 'Great Awakening' in this country was largely a movement which resulted from the strong Calvinistic preaching of men such as Jonathan Edwards, George Whitfield, and Samuel Davies in the mid 1700's.
In particular, Edwards was staunchly opposed to Arminianism, which he saw having more and more influence in the churches of the day.
Thus, in his sermon, 'Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,' Edwards warns that, "unconverted men walk over the pit of hell on a rotten covering,"1 He also repeats throughout the sermon the idea of the determined will and the sovereignty of God, which are essential components of Calvinism. He writes that human beings are defenseless against God's will, their, "hands cannot be strong when God rises up."2 Also, every human being's fate rests completely in God's hand, and, "the reason why they are not fallen already, and do not fall now, is only that God's appointed time is not come."3 Towards the conclusion of the sermon, Edwards asks everyone to escape damnation by taking advantage of this, "extraordinary opportunity, a day wherein Christ has thrown the door of mercy wide open, and stands in calling and crying with a loud voice to poor sinners; a day wherin many are flocking to Him, and pressing into the kingdom of God ."4
This move of God which has come to be known as the Great Awakening could also be called a 'reformation' movement. It was born out of strong preaching of the doctrines of grace by men of God who were deeply moved by the inroads of Arminianism into the churches of their day, and who wanted to stop its further spread.
As a result, there was a great change or reformation which took place.
To say that reform, in and of itself, is bad, is to do disservice to the idea of reform. To reform something is, by definition, to 'form over,' or to 'return to a former state.'
The problem with the reformation movement among Baptists, in the majority of instances, is that there is a presumption that a return to the doctrines of grace, or what has come to be called 'Calvinistic' doctrine is the entire remedy. It is true that the preaching may be reformed in such a manner, but the sad fact is that a great percentage of the members in the churches have no salvation. A mere embracing of doctrines will not make them saved, regardless of which doctrines they turn to.
Many reform preachers in our day would equate embracing the doctrines of Calvinism with salvation. That is, they believe, although they would likely deny this, that when one accepts these doctrines they are saved.
What many of them have come to call 'their journey of grace' has merely been a road which takes them from Arminian doctrines to Calvinistic doctrines without giving them regeneration.
The Charismatics have a lot of spirit (although it is the wrong spirit), but little truth. The modern day Baptist 'reformers' that I have seen have a lot of truth and little or no true Spirit. Their faith is in doctrines rather than the Person of Christ, and thus is dead and cold.
In the end, the religion of the majority of these reformers is much the same as any others who preach and practice decisional regeneration. While one group relies on a decision of man's will and praying a prayer of affirmation regarding certain Bible truths, these individuals rely on their 'arrival at the doctrines of grace' as their salvation experience.
Salvation to many reformers has become simply a change of mind, or repentance, regarding doctrine.
I stated at the beginning of this section that we ought not to be hasty in dismissing the reform movement, yet I do not advocate actively embracing and/or promoting it either.
I wanted to include it in this work, in particular, to make the point that the movement itself demonstrates that there are a growing number of individuals among our Baptist ranks who realize that there is a tremendous problem with the doctrines and practices set forth in the mainstream Baptist churches.
The reform movement ought to cause us to stop and examine what is being preached if nothing else.
There is great concern among Southern Baptists in particular with regard to the Arminian doctrine's growing influence. The 'Founder's Journal' publication has emerged as a result of this conflict.
The GARBC, which stands for 'General Association Of Regular Baptists,' was founded on Calvinistic doctrine, and as I have previously pointed out, the name itself would have made that clear in days gone by. Yet, they too, have been invaded by the doctrines of Arminianism.
Looking again to Kenneth Good's book 'Are Baptists Calvinists?' we read, 'The GARBC needs now to defend its original Calvinism with a vigor similar to that which characterized its original defense of its fundamentalism.'5
Let me state that I am not promoting or defending the Southern Baptists nor the GARBC, neither am I going to criticize either one. This booklet has no such purpose. These are mentioned merely because they are large Baptist organizations and are representative of the Arminianism problem among the Baptists.
The Independent movement is far too diverse to deal with at length in this work, but from what we have seen so far, it should be clear that they, too, come from Calvinistic roots, unless they have come out of Arminian ones.
I know Independents tend to come from a point of view that they are, by nature, immune and isolated from the problems associated with 'Conventions,' etc. Regretfully this presumption has led to an arrogance among many that has blinded them to the truth of the scripture which warns, 'Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.' (I Corinthians 10:12).
We need not look too closely at the Independent Baptists before we see that many of the so-called 'fellowships' are little more than small conventions. Local churches must still submit their missionaries to a mission board to obtain approval for them to go, and titles to the missionary homes are often held by the fellowship, etc. They elect state and national officers, and support common colleges, and so forth.
Of course this is not a work meant to approve of disapprove of the Independent Baptist movement either. I merely assert that anyone who takes a serious and honest look at the situation in the Baptist churches of day, cannot deny the fact that a serious problem in the area of doctrine exists among all Baptists. A reformation and restoration is greatly needed.
We have gone beyond the point of needing 'revival,' The term revival means 'to restore to life,' but today would mean just another meeting where an evangelist is brought in to try to stir up that which has no life. There may be an honest and sincere attempt to get things in the church back on track. But the problem lies in the fact that, in most instances, the tracks are gone and need to be relaid!
The Bible warns against removing the old landmarks, but that is exactly what has happened in the Baptist churches and has left us in a place where there is no direction to be found until we go back and restore them.
I want to be clear on one more point here as well. As sad as the condition among Baptist churches is today, there has always been, is today, and always will be, a remnant who have been, are, and will be faithful to the truth. I have heard the truth here and there over the years from a few men of God, but sadly their voices were drowned out by the majority who preached decisional regeneration. Like so many others in our Baptist churches, I was not exposed to enough truth without admixture of error to enable me to get a hold on it for many years.
When I speak of a need for reformation, I do not
imply, as Joseph Smith did, that all churches have gone into apostasy and
that there is a need for some 'new revelation.' We need only look
to the old paths and old ways and pick up the eternal never-changing truth
which has fallen in the streets and return it to the pulpits and publications
of our present day in our Baptist churches. We do not need to replace
it, but restore it. We don't need to reform, but to
SOME CLOSING THOUGHTS
Certainly no one thing can be said to be entirely responsible for decisional regeneration becoming so prevalent in the Baptist churches of our day. Nor can we say which of the things dealt with above has had the greatest influence on its successful infiltration of so many and to such a degree as it has. What we do know for certain is that decisional regeneration is the greatest threat to individuals truly coming to a saving knowledge of Christ due to its tremendous inroads even into conservative Baptist circles.
It is also certain that the damage caused by the labeling of one another, in an attempt to discredit each other, will prevent a remedy to any of the churches' problems. Until we look beyond the label to the associated doctrines which that label implies, and weigh out whether they be scriptural or not, there can be no hope of reconciling our differences. If any of us are to be labeled, let it be free of malice and let others at least take the time to consider what that label actually means.
Until we are willing to do this, and unless God moves in a mighty way, much as during the 'great awakening' of years gone by, we will have but one answer to the question Jesus put forth in Luke 18:8. In that passage Jesus asked, "Nevertheless, when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?" The only response possible will be that there are multitudes who can say 'Lord, Lord, have we not...,' but few who can say they have truly come to salvation through repentance and faith as the result of a work of God in their lives. Decisional regeneration will have left the vast majority of Baptist churches virtual wastelands rather than the sheep-folds they were intended to be.
It is my prayer that this work has been presented
in such a way as to help the reader understand the dire situation we find
ourselves in today, and that I have made it evident that we must do something
to correct it now! It has not been my intent to divide individuals or destroy
any work, but to present in a clear and concise manner, the truth of the
Scriptures. - JMG
Chapter II -
1. Kenneth H. Good, Are Baptists Calvinists? (Oberlin, OH: Regular Baptist Heritage Fellowship, 1975): p. 11
2. Edwin H. Palmer, The Five Points Of Calvinism (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House Co., 1972): pp. 5,6
3. William Cunningham, Historical Theology Vol. 2, p.374
4. Lewis Drummond, Spurgeon Prince Of Preachers (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1992) p. 612
Chapter III -
1. Encyclopedia Americana, International Edition (Danbury, CT: Grolier, Inc., 1998) Vol. 5, p. 240
3. Encyclopedia Americana, Vol. 2, p. 339
4. Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdman's Publishing Co., 1995 reprint) vol. II pp. 316-320
5. Encyclopedia Americana, Vol. 9, p. 300
6. Ibid., Vol 13, p. 719
8. Encyclopedia Americana, Vol. 5, p. 241
10. Webster's New Twentieth Century Dictionary: (New York and Toronto: Library Guild, Inc. 1964): p. 1529
11. Encyclopedia Americana, Vol. 10, p. 516
Chapter IV -
1. William Ellis, LL.D., "Billy" Sunday - The Man And His Message (Philadelphia, PA: Universal Book and Bible House 1914): p. 46
2. Charles Finney, Systematic Theology (Minneapolis, MN: Bethany Fellowship, Inc. 1976): p. 170
3. Ibid., p. 47
4. Ibid., p. 261
5. Ibid., p. 67
Chapter V -
1. Charles Finney, Systematic Theology, p. 232
2. Ibid., p. 222
3. C.G. Finney, Autobiography (New York, NY: Barnes, 1876): p. 103
4. Charles Finney, Systematic Theology, pp. 341-342
5. Ibid., p. 343
Chapter VI -
1. Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, Vol. 1, (New York: Funk & Wagnalls, 1882), p. 836
2. National Association of Free Will Baptists Web Site - http://www.nafwb.org/GeneralInfoFrameset.html
5. Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, vol. 1, (New York: Funk & Wagnalls, 1882), p. 837
6. Ibid., p. 836
Chapter VII -
1. Leon McBeth, The Baptist Heritage - Four Centuries Of Baptist Witness (Nashville, TN: Broadman Press, 1987) p. 377
2. Ibid., p. 377
3. Ibid., p. 377
4. Ibid., p. 375
5. Ibid., p. 375
6. Ibid., p. 377
7. Ibid., p. 378
8. D. B. Ray, Text On Campbellism (Memphis, TN: South-Western Publishing House, 1867) pp. 40-41
9. Ibid., p. 41
10.Leon McBeth, The Baptist Heritage p. 378
11. Ibid., p. 378
12. Ibid., p. 378
13. Ibid., p. 601
14. Ibid., p. 601
Chapter VIII -
1. Manfred E. Kober, Divine Election or Human Effort? (Ankeny, IA:Faith Baptist Bible College Print Shop, 1971): pp. 10-11
2. Kenneth H. Good, Are Baptists Calvinists? pp. 69-70
3. C. H. Spurgeon's Autobiography - Reprint of the original 1897 edition, (Pasadena, TX: Pilgrim Publications, 1992): Vol. I, p. 167
Chapter XI -
1. Curtis Hutson, REPENTANCE, What Does The Bible Teach? (Murfreesboro, TN: Sword of the Lord Foundation, 1986): p. 18
2. Ibid., p. 4
3. Ibid., p. 5
4. William Evans, The Great Doctrines of the Bible (Chicago, IL: Moody Press,1976 printing): p. 141
5. A. A. Hodge, Outlines of Bible Topics (Princeton, NJ: 1878): Chapter 32
6. Dr. Jack Hyles, Let's Go Soul Winning (Murfreesboro, TN: Sword of the Lord Foundation, 1977 edition): pp. 27-30
Chapter XII -
1. Baym, Nina, ed., The Norton Anthology of American Literature, 5th ed. (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1998): Vol. I, p. 477
2. Ibid., p. 475
3. Ibid., p. 475
4. Ibid., p. 484
5. Kenneth H. Good, Are Baptists Calvinists?, p. 190
- ADDENDUM -
So named after Pelagius.
"Pelagianism, in Christian theology, a rationalistic and naturalistic heretical doctrine concerning grace and morals, which emphasizes human free will as the decisive element in human perfectibility andminimizes or denies the need for divine grace and redemption [emphasis added - JMG]. The doctrine was formulated by the Romano-British monk Pelagius, a man of considerable learning and austere moral character. About 390 he went to Rome, where, appalled by the lax morals of Roman Christians, he preached Christian asceticism and recruited many followers. His strict moral teaching had particular success in southern Italy and Sicily and was preached openly there until the death (circa 455) of his foremost disciple, Julian of Eclanum.
Pelagius denied the existence of original sin and the need for infant baptism. He argued that the corruption of the human race is not inborn, but is due to bad example and habit, and that the natural faculties of humanity were not adversely affected by Adam's fall. Human beings can lead lives of righteousness and thereby merit heaven by their own efforts. Pelagius asserted that true grace lies in the natural gifts of humanity, including free will, reason, and conscience. He also recognized what he called external graces, including the Mosaic law and the teaching and example of Christ, which stimulate the will from the outside but have no indwelling divine power. For Pelagius, faith and dogma hardly matter because the essence of religion is moral action. His belief in the moral perfectibility of humanity was evidently derived from Stoicism.
Pelagius settled in Palestine about 412 and enjoyed the support of John, bishop of Jerusalem. His views were popular in the East, especially among the Origenists (see Origen). Later, his disciples Celestius and Julian were welcomed in Constantinople (present-day Istanbul) by the patriarch Nestorius, who sympathized with their doctrine of the integrity and independence of the will (see Nestorianism).
Starting in 412, St. Augustine wrote a series of works in which he attacked the Pelagian doctrine of human moral autonomy and developed his own subtle formulation of the relation of human freedom to divine grace. As a result of Augustine's criticisms, Pelagius was accused of heresy, but he was acquitted at synods at Jerusalem and Diospolis. In 418, however, a council at Carthage condemned Pelagius and his followers. Soon afterward Pope Zosimus also condemned him. Nothing more is known of Pelagius after this time.
MSN Encarta Encyclopedia - Contributed By:
Margaret A. Schatkin, M.A., Ph.D., Th.D.
Associate Professor of Theology, Boston College. Editor, Bibliographia Patristica. Coeditor, The Heritage of the Early Church. Author of Saint John Chrysostom.
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