Sep 7, 2009

If It Looks Like A Duck...

What is the difference between the "Primitive Baptists," or "Hardshells," soteriologically speaking, and those today who call themselves "Reformed"?

When I have pointed out to several "Reformed" brethren how their views on "regeneration" are the same as those of the Hardshells and Hyper Calvinists, it is "hard" for them to "kick against the pricks" of this "goad." They will vehemently deny the supposed likeness and affinity! They will protest much, yea, "protesteth too much." They will most often attempt to prove their non-likeness by listing the points of disagreement with Hardshellism as it pertains to regeneration, re-birth, and salvation, while avoiding confessing agreement. The terms "Hardshell" and "Hyper Calvinist" are a "bugaboo" to these "Reformed" Calvinists. But, how "Hardshell" are they? How "Hyper" in their Calvinism? "If it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck..."

The Key Likeness

In my view, and in the view of others, the foundational error of Hardshell soteriology, in Calvinism, is its acceptance of a false unscriptural proposition, that says - "the eternal salvation of sinners (or of the elect) is not in any way effected by human means." This erroneous proposition is stated in other ways, of course, but in essence is summed up in the example I have given.

In my book on Hardshellism (still ongoing) I have demonstrated how absurd and unscriptural is this proposition. Mary was human and a means in the incarnation. Preachers are human and means in the salvation of others.

This proposition is applied to every aspect of a sinner's eternal salvation. So, in regeneration, new birth, and final deliverance, no human means are used. The gospel or word of God is not a means. Men are regenerated apart from all means. Regeneration is not conversion. Men are regenerated in order to be converted. Regeneration is a sub-conscious experience, and most often occurs in infancy. Conversion, faith and repentance, are not necessary to be regenerated. A man can be regenerated and yet an unbeliever, or pagan. All this is classic Hardshellism or Hyper Calvinism. It represents the "foundation" of the Hardshell/Hyperist paradigm.

What part of this foundation is accepted by today's "Reformed" Calvinists (Baptists or Presbyterian)? What part is rejected?

Today's "Reformed" brethren, men like Tom Ascol of the "Founder's Movement," and James White of Alpha and Omega ministries, John MacArthur, R.C. Sproul, Ligon Duncan III, etc., reject the following parts of the "foundation."

1. That all human means are excluded in God's saving of sinners.
2. That conversion is not necessary for eternal salvation.

Added to this is an affirmation of "duty faith," that the gospel is to be preached to the non-elect, and all indiscriminately invited to Christ, and that it is a means in conversion.

Phil Johnson, in his definition of "Hyper Calvinism," says that a denial of means in salvation has often been seen as an element of it. What Phil did not explain, however, is how today's "Reformed" brethren, including Phil himself, agree with the Hardshells that God does not use the means of the gospel in "regeneration," for this must occur, they affirm, before one can believe or be converted. Oh yes, they will affirm the necessity of means in conversion and post-regeneration "salvation," but not in initial quickening or regeneration. A sinner is first "made alive" without the word before he can be "saved" by the word.

According to most of those who today call themselves "Reformed," God first regenerates, apart from the gospel, and then instantaneously uses the gospel to beget faith and repentance, or to convert the already regenerated soul. Most will vehemently deny a "gap" in time between these two distinct experiences of regeneration and conversion. They will say, apologetically, how they believe that regeneration takes logical precedence, not temporal precedence. They say they argue only for "logical" order versus "chronological" order.

This is in keeping with a long tradition within the Calvinistic Baptists camp. Andrew Fuller promoted the idea that "regeneration," technically speaking, preceded conversion, and that it occurred by the Spirit alone without the means of gospel truth. He did not believe, as do today's Hardshells, that conversion was not necessary for salvation. He agreed that conversion was not necessary to regeneration, strictly speaking, but affirmed that it was necessary for "salvation."

So, though today's "Reformed" brethren have disagreements with Hardshells, and with the most "hyper" of the Hyper Calvinists, they nevertheless agree in the most foundational of points, which affirms that regeneration occurs before conversion and apart from the means of the gospel and apart from faith and repentance.

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