Apr 7, 2011

Hardshell Origins

Being a student of the history of the "Anti-Mission Movement" among Baptists, and the creation of the "Primitive Baptist" (aka "Hardshell") denomination, the leading by-product of that movement, I am convinced that one of the leading causes for the creation of the Hardshell sect or schism was the preaching and "harping on" the proposition that "regeneration precedes faith," what is today known as the "Reformed" view of the "ordo salutis." The debate over the "ordo salutis" was hotly debated in the late 18th, and early 19th century among Baptists. Most, if not all, Arminian leaning Baptists argued that faith preceded regeneration, while many Calvinist leaning Baptists argued that regeneration preceded faith. There were other Baptist Calvinists who insisted that faith could not be said to be before or after regeneration, and likewise, that regeneration could not be said to be before or after faith. These taught that faith and regeneration were concurrent and that the debate over which is before and which is after was unproductive and dangerous.

Some thought that the proposition "regeneration precedes faith" was an oracle of God and one that must be accepted to be sound in the doctrine of salvation. These individuals spent their whole time insisting on this proposition and condemning those who would not subscribe to it. The "harping on" this proposition led to a negative style of preaching, the harpers thinking that preaching "regeneration precedes faith" was equal to preaching the gospel. In defending this proposition the harpers were forced into extremes in soteriology.

Antinomian and Hyper Calvinistic views created these harpers on the "reformed ordo salutis" and many of them became the promotors of the anti-mission movement and creators of the "Primitive Baptist Church." These harpers, in arguing so vehemently for the proposition that "regeneration precedes faith," logically were forced into divorcing faith, and repentance, from regeneration. If one is regenerated "before" faith and repentance, then faith and repentance can be no integral part of the phenomenal experience of "regeneration."

Faith and repentance became a by-product of regeneration, "fruit" that comes after the tree is made alive. Many began to put a considerable distance in time between regeneration and "conversion," the latter becoming the term that was applied, by them, to the time when regeneration fruit was produced, when one believed and repented.

Further, some began to affirm that a person could be "regenerated" and never, in this life, become "converted," or come to faith and repentance. Many of these first Hardshells taught that spiritual birth was in every way like natural physical birth. They taught that "regeneration" was comparable to impregnation of sperm (seed) while spiritual "birth" was comparable to the emergence from the womb of the baby, or to the time of "delivery," to the "conversion" experience. In this analogy, the Hardshells taught, in line with W. T. Shedd and the Presbyterian Hyperists, that "regeneration," so understood," was accomplished directly by God without the use of means, without the hearing and belief of the gospel, without faith and repentance, without "conversion."

Further, since there is always a gap in time between the time of impregnation and delivery, in natural birth, so there likewise is a gap in time between regeneration and conversion. As impregnation always precedes delivery from the womb, so regeneration always precedes conversion. Since one can be "alive" in the womb, before birth from the womb, so one can be "regenerated" before "conversion." Since many die in the womb, and are never delivered alive from the womb, many are regenerated who are never converted. Some Calvinistic Baptists refused to divorce regeneration and conversion, arguing that they were concurrent and that it was not profitable nor scriptural to divorce them. These Baptists, in denouncing this Hyperism, began to deny that there were, in scripture, any person who could be said to be a "regenerated unbeliever," no such character as a "unconverted regenerate." These affirmed that regeneration and conversion were terms denoting the same experience, and that there was no strict analogy between physical birth and spiritual birth. They insisted that men were regenerated or born again by faith, by the preaching and believing of the gospel, pointing to scriptures such as I Peter 1: 23-25, I Cor. 4: 15, James 1: 18, etc.

In birth, one has both a father and a mother. In spiritual birth the father is God the Father, and the mother is the church. There can be no birth without both. But, today's Hardshells, deny that all the elect must be "born" of God, for birth requires a mother as an instrument, but Hardshells deny that the church and the gospel are means in this birth.