Mar 23, 2012

Arguments Against Modalism IV

Dr. Gill wrote:

"1c. A plurality in the Deity may be proved from those passages of scripture which speak of the angel of Jehovah, who also is Jehovah; now if there is a Jehovah that is sent, and therefore called an angel, and a Jehovah that sends, there must be more persons than one who are Jehovah.

The first instance of this kind is in Genesis 16:7, where the angel of Jehovah is said to find Hagar, Sarah's maid, in the wilderness, and bid her return to her mistress; which angel appears to be Jehovah, since he promises to do that for her, and acquaints her with future things, which no created angel, and none but Jehovah could, (Gen. 16:10-12) and what proves it beyond all dispute that he must be Jehovah, is, what is said, (Gen. 16:13) "She called the name of the Lord, or Jehovah, that spake unto her, thou; God, seest".

In Genesis 18:2 we read of three men who stood by Abraham in the plains of Mamre, who were angels in an human form, as two of them are expressly said to be (Gen. 19:1). Dr. Lightfoot[11] is of opinion, that they were the three divine Persons; and scruples not to say, that at such a time the Trinity dined with Abraham; but the Father, and the Holy Spirit, never assumed an human form; nor are they ever called angels. However, one of these was undoubtedly a divine Person, the Son of God in an human form; who is expressly called Jehovah, the Judge of all the earth, (Gen. 18:13, 20, 25, 26) and to whom omnipotence and omniscience are ascribed, (Gen. 18:14, 17-19) and to whom Abraham showed the utmost reverence and respect, (Gen. 18:27, 30, 31) and now he is distinguished, being Jehovah in human form on earth, from Jehovah in heaven, from whom he is said to rain brimstone and fire on Sodom and Gomorrah, (Gen. 19:24) which conflagration was not made by the ministry of created angels, but is always represented as the work of Elohim, of the divine Persons (Jer. 50:40; Amos 4:11).

An angel also appeared to Abraham at the offering up of his son Isaac, and bid him desist from it; and who appears plainly to be the same with him who ordered him to do it; expressly called God, (Gen. 22:11, 12 compared with Gen. 22:1, 2) and Jehovah, who swore by himself, and promised to do what none but God could do, (Gen. 22:16-18; Heb. 6:13, 14) where what is here said is expressly ascribed to God. Add to this, the name Abraham gave the place on this occasion, Jehovah-Jireh, because the Lord had appeared, and would hereafter appear in this place.

The angel invoked by Jacob, (Gen. 48:15, 16) is put upon a level with the God of his fathers Abraham and Isaac; yea, is represented as the same; and the work of redeeming him from all evil, equal to that of feeding him all his life long, is ascribed to him; as well as a blessing on the sons of Joseph, is prayed for from him; all which would never have been said of, nor done to, a created angel.

The angel which appeared to Moses in the bush, (Ex. 3:2) was not a created angel, but a divine person; as is evident from the names by which he is called, Jehovah, God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, "I AM that I AM", (Ex. 3:4, 6, 14) and from the things ascribed to him; seeing the afflictions of the Israelites, coming to deliver them out of Egyptian bondage, and promising to bring them into the land of Canaan, (Ex. 3:7, 8) to which may be added, the prayer of Moses for a blessing on Joseph, because of the good will of him that dwelt in the bush, (Deut. 33:16) and the application of this passage to God, by our Lord Jesus Christ, (Mark 12:26).

Once more, the angel that was promised to go before the children of Israel, to keep and guide them in the way through the wilderness to the land of Canaan, is no other than Jehovah; since not only the obedience of the children of Israel to him is required; but it is suggested, that should they disobey him, he would not, though he could, pardon their iniquities; which none but God can do: and also it is said, the name of the Lord was in him; that is, his nature and perfections; and since it is the same the children of Israel rebelled against, he could be no other than Christ, the Son of God, whom they tempted; the angel of God's presence; who, notwithstanding, saved and carried them all the days of old (Isa. 63:9; 1 Cor. 10:9).

Again, we read of the angel of the Lord, before whom Joshua the high priest was brought and stood, being accused by Satan, (Zech. 3:1) who is not only called Jehovah, (Zech. 3:2) but takes upon him to do and order such things, which none but God could do; as causing the iniquity of Joshua to pass from him, and clothing him with change of raiment (see Isa. 61:10).

To these may be added, all such scriptures which speak of two, as distinct from each other, under the same name of Jehovah; as in the above mentioned text, (Gen. 19:24) where Jehovah is said to rain fire and brimstone from Jehovah, out of heaven; and in Jeremiah 23:5, 6, where Jehovah promises to raise up a righteous branch to David, whose name should be called "Jehovah our righteousness"; and in Hosea 1:7 where Jehovah resolves he would save his people by Jehovah their God." (A Body of Doctrinal Divinity, Book 1—Chapter 27, "Of A Plurality In The Godhead; Or, A Trinity Of Persons In The Unity Of The Divine Essence")

Mar 15, 2012

Arguments Against Modalism III

John Gill wrote:

"That there is such a plurality of persons, will appear more clearly,

1a. From the plural names and epithets of God. His great and incommunicable name Jehovah, is always in the singular number, and is never used plurally; the reason of which is, because it is expressive of his essence, which is but one; it is the same with "I AM that I AM"; but the first name of God we meet with in scripture, and that in the first verse of it, is plural; "In the beginning God (Elohim) created the heaven and the earth", (Gen. 1:1) and therefore must design more than one, at least two, and yet not precisely two, or two only; then it would have been dual; but it is plural; and, as the Jews themselves say, cannot design fewer than three[2]. Now Moses might have made use of other names of God, in his account of the creation; as his name Jehovah, by which he made himself known to him, and to the people of Israel; or Eloah, the singular of Elohim, which is used by him, (Deut. 32:15, 16) and in the book of Job frequently; so that it was not want of singular names of God, nor the barrenness of the Hebrew language, which obliged him to use a plural word; it was no doubt of choice, and with design; and which will be more evident when it is observed, that one end of the writings of Moses is to extirpate the polytheism of the heathens, and to prevent the people of Israel from going into it; and therefore it may seem strange, that he should begin his history with a plural name of God; he must have some design in it, which could not be to inculcate a plurality of gods, for that would be directly contrary to what he had in view in writing, and to what he asserts, (Deut. 6:4). "Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord": nor a plurality of mere names and characters, to which creative powers cannot be ascribed; but a plurality of persons, for so the words may be rendered, distributively, according to the idiom of the Hebrew language; "In the beginning everyone, or each of the divine persons, created the heaven and the earth". And then the historian goes on to make mention of them; who, besides the Father, included in this name, are the Spirit of God, that moved upon the face of the waters, and the word of God, (Gen. 1:2) which said, "Let there be light, and there was light"; and which spoke that, and all things, out of nothing; see (John 1:1-3). And it may be further observed, that this plural word Elohim, is, in this passage, in construction with a verb singular, "bara", rendered "created"; which some have thought is designed to point out a plurality of persons, in the unity of the divine essence: but if this is not judged sufficient to build it upon, let it be further observed, that the word Elohim is sometimes in construction with a verb plural, as in (Gen. 20:13; Gen. 35:7; 2 Sam. 7:23) where Elohim, the gods, or divine persons, are said to cause Abraham to wander from his father's house; to appear to Jacob; and to go forth to redeem Israel: all which are personal actions: and likewise it is in construction with adjectives and participles plural, (Deut. 4:7, 5:26; Josh. 24:19; 2 Sam. 7:26, 27; Ps. 58:11, Prov. 30:3; Jer. 10:10) in which places Elohim, gods, or the divine persons, are said to be nigh to the people of Israel; to be living, holy, and to judge in the earth; characters which belong to persons; and now, as a learned man[3] well observes, "that however the construction of a noun plural with a verb singular, may render it doubtful to some whether these words express a plurality or not, yet certainly there can be no doubt in those places, where a verb or adjective plural are joined with the word Elohim''. No such stress is laid on this word, as if it was the clearest and strongest proof of a plurality in the Deity; it is only mentioned, and mentioned first, because it is the most usual name of God, being used of him many hundreds of times in scripture; and what stress is laid upon it, is not merely because it is plural, but because it appears often in an unusual form of construction; it is used of others, but not in such a form; as has been observed. It is used of angels, (Ps. 8:5) they being not only many, but are often messengers of God, of the divine Persons in the Godhead, represent them, and speak in their name. And it is used of civil magistrates, (Ps. 82:6) and so of Moses, as a god to Pharaoh, (Ex. 7:1) as they well may be called, since they are the vicegerents and representatives of the Elohim, the divine Persons, the Triune God; nor need it be wondered at, that it should be sometimes used of a single Person in the Deity, it being common to them all; and since each of them possess the whole divine nature and essence undivided, (Ps. 45:6, 7). The ancient Jews not only concluded a plurality, but even a Trinity, from the word Elohim[4]. With respect to the passage in (Num. 15:16) they say[5], "There is no judgment less than three"; and that three persons sitting in judgment, the divine Majesty is with them, they conclude from (Ps. 82:1) "he judgeth among the gods", Myhla. Hence they further observes[6], that "no sanhedrin, or court of judicature, is called Myhla unless it consists of three". From whence it is manifest, that the ancient Jews believed that this name not only inferred a plurality of persons, but such a plurality which consisted of three at least."

"A plurality in the Deity may be proved from plural expressions used by God, when speaking of himself, respecting the works of creation, providence, and grace. At the creation of man he said, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness", (Gen. 1:26) the pronouns "us" and "our", manifestly express a plurality of persons; these being personal plural characters; as image and likeness being in the singular number, secure the unity of the divine essence; and that there were more than one concerned in the creation of man, is clear from the plural expressions used of the divine Being, when he is spoken of as the Creator of men, (Job 35:10; Ps. 149:2; Eccl. 12:1; Isa.. 54:5) in all which places, in the original text, it is my Makers, his Makers, thy Creators, thy Makers; for which no other reason can be given, than that more persons than one had an hand herein; as for the angels, they are creatures themselves, and not possessed of creative powers; nor were they concerned in the creation of man, nor was he made after their image and likeness; nor can it be reasonably thought, that God spoke to them, and held a consultation with them about it; for "with whom took he counsel?" (Isa. 40:14). Not with any of his creatures; no, not with the highest angel in heaven; they are not of his privy council. Nor is it to be thought that God, in the above passage, speaks "regio more", after the manner of kings; who, in their edicts and proclamations, use the plural number, to express their honour and majesty; and even they are not to be considered alone, but as connotating their ministers and privy council, by whose advice they act; and, besides, this courtly way of speaking, was not so ancient as the times of Moses; none of the kings of Israel use if; nor even any of those proud and haughty monarchs, Pharaoh and Nebuchadnezzar; the first appearance of it is in the letters of Artaxerxes, king of Persia, (Ezra 4:18, 7:23) which might take its rise from the conjunction of Darius and Cyrus, in the Persian empire, in both whose names edicts might be made, and letters wrote; which might give rise to such a way of speaking, and be continued by their successors, to express their power and glory: but, as a learned man[7] observes, "it is a very extravagant fancy, to suppose that Moses alludes to a custom that was not (for what appears) in being at that time, nor a great while after." The Jews themselves are sensible that this passage furnishes with an argument for a plurality in the Deity[8]. A like way of speaking is used concerning men, in (Gen. 3:22). "And the Lord God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us"; not as one of the angels, for they are not of the Deity, nor the companions of God, and equal to him; for whatever private secret meaning Satan might have in saying, "Ye shall be as gods"; he would have it understood by Eve, and so she understood it, that they should be not like the angels merely, but like God himself..."

"God sometimes uses the plural number when speaking of himself, with respect to some particular affairs of providence, as the confusion of languages; "Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language"; which also cannot be said to angels; had it, it would rather have been, go "ye", and do "ye" confound their language: but, alas! this work was above the power of angels to do; none but God, that gave to man the faculty of speech, and the use of language, could confound it; which was as great an instance of divine power, as to bestow the gift of tongues on the apostles, at Pentecost; and the same God that did the one, did the other; and so the us here, are after explained of Jehovah, in the following verse, to whom the confounding the language of men, and scattering them abroad on the face of the earth, are ascribed, (Acts 2:8-11). In another affair of providence, smiting the Jewish nation with judicial blindness; this plural way of speaking is used by the divine Being; says the prophet Isaiah, "I heard the voice of the Lord saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?" (Isa. 6:8) not the seraphim say this, but Jehovah; for to them neither the name Jehovah, nor the work agree; and though there is but one Jehovah that here speaks, yet more persons than one are intended by him; of Christ, the Son of God no question can be made, since the Evangelist applies them to him; and observes, that Isaiah said the words when he saw his glory, and spoke of him, (John 12:40, 41) nor of the Holy Ghost, to whom they are also applied (Acts 28:25, 26). There is another passage in Isaiah 41:21-23 where Jehovah, the King of Jacob, challenges the heathens, and their gods, to bring proof of their Deity, by prediction of future events; and, in which, he all along uses the plural number; "show us what shall happen, that we may consider them; declare unto us things for to come, that we may know that ye, are gods, and that we may be dismayed; '' See also Isaiah 43:9."

"Another plural name of God is Adonim; "If I am (Adoaim) Lords, where is my fear?" (Mal.. 1:6) now, though this may be said of one in the second and third persons plural, yet never of one in the first person, as it is here said of God by himself; "I am Lords"; and we are sure there are two, "The Lord said to my Lord", &c. (Ps. 110:1). In Daniel 4:17 the most high God is called the watchers and the Holy Ones; "This matter is by the decree of the watchers, and the demand by the word of the Holy Ones"; which respects the revolution and destruction of the Babylonian monarchy; an affair of such moment and importance as not to be ascribed to angels, which some understand by watchers and Holy Ones; but however applicable these epithets may be to them, and they may be allowed to be the executioners of the decrees of God, yet not the makers of them; nor can anything in this world, and much less an affair of such consequence as this, be said to be done in virtue of any decree of theirs: besides, this decree is expressly called, the decree of the most High, (Dan. 4:24) so that the watchers and Holy Ones, are no other than the divine Persons in the Godhead; who are holy in their nature, and watch over the saints to do them good; and over the wicked, to bring evil upon them: and as they are so called in the plural number, to express the plurality of them in the Deity; so to preserve the unity of the divine essence, this same decree is called, the decree of the most High, (Dan. 4:24) and they the watcher and Holy One, in the singular number in (Dan. 4:13)."  (A Body of Doctrinal Divinity, Book 1—Chapter 27, "Of A Plurality In The Godhead; Or, A Trinity Of Persons In The Unity Of The Divine Essence")

Mar 13, 2012

Arguments Against Modalism II

John Gill wrote:

"The Hebrew word paniym which answers to the Greek word prosopa, is used of the divine persons, "My persons shall go with thee", (Ex.. 33:14) and if "thy persons go not with me, (Ex.. 33:15) and "he brought thee out by his persons", (Deut. 4:37). The word is used three times in (Ps. 27:8, 9) and in each clause the Septuagint has the word prosopon, and which, as Suidas observes, is expressive of the sacred Trinity."  (A Body of Doctrinal Divinity, Book 1—Chapter 27, "Of A Plurality In The Godhead; Or, A Trinity Of Persons In The Unity Of The Divine Essence")

According to Strong "paniym" means faces, presences, persons.  If God were not three persons then it would be wrong for the Old Testament writers to speak of his faces and persons in plural form. 

Prosopon is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew paniym and persona is the Latin equivalent of prosopon.  Further, the English word "person" is the equivalent of the Latin persona.  Thus, it is clearly shown how God is one God in three persons.

Mar 12, 2012

Arguments Against Modalism I

Many of the arguments that will be presented to prove that God is revealed in scripture to be three persons in unity will come from writers of the past, particularly from the work of Dr. John Gill.

The word "Trinity" simply denotes a Tri-Unity, and affirms that God is in some respect one, and in some respects three. The Apostle John, in speaking of the Father, the Word (Son), and the Holy Spirit, says "and these three are one." (I John 5: 7)

The first argument to prove that the oneness of God does not exclude his being three persons is evident from his words from John 17: 20-23:

"Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me."

It is argued by the deniers of the Trinity of persons in the Godhead (divine nature) that the oneness of God excludes his being in any sense more than one, or a plurality.  When Jesus says that he and his Father are "one" (John 10: 30), the Modalists affirm that Jesus is saying that he and the Father are the same one, the same person, that there are not two identities but one.  But, this is clearly not the teaching of Christ and the verses cited above prove it beyond dispute.  Jesus prays that his people all become "one" in the exact same way that he and his Father are "one."  But, surely all persons will not loose their individual persons and identities, and all become one person.  If the oneness of God necessitates oneness of person, then so does the oneness of saints necessitate oneness in person. 

Further, Jesus did not say "I am my Father am one," or "is one," but "are one." 

A further argument for a Trinity of persons in the divine nature is the fact that Jesus, in the above passage, uses plural personal pronouns when he speaks of the Father in relation to himsel. 

All the saved will enjoy a composite unity, the kind enjoyed by married people, when "the two shall become as one," and the kind enjoyed by the three persons of the Godhead.

The Scriptures teach the Unity of the Trinity and the Trinity of the Unity.

Upcoming Series on the Trinity


I plan to begin a series of postings (chapters) on proving that God is one in three persons with a purpose to disprove Sabellianism and Modalism.

As an introduction to this study, I cite from ISSUE: 3 - "Trinity: A Historical and Theological Analysis" on the historical background to the doctrine of the Tinity. (see here)

"A distinctive feature of Christianity is its doctrine of the Trinity. Simply put, the doctrine holds that there exists one true and living God, and that this God, without contradiction, can be denominated in terms of three distinct persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Trinitarian belief has long been a standard of orthodoxy. And no doctrine more effectively demarcates biblical Christianity from a variety of modern cults. Given the historical and contemporary significance of the doctrine, it is lamentable that many Christians today are unable to provide an account of the doctrine’s historical development and its present formulation - a shortcoming we seek to correct in the following brief survey.

"The natural starting point is the New Testament. Here we find the authoritative writings of Jesus’ apostles and their close associates, who articulate the fundamental normative beliefs of the New Testament church. These are largely based upon and entirely consistent with the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. While description of God as a Trinity is not offered as such in the New Testament, many passages make important and revealing affirmations about God in general, and the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit in particular. These passages provide the raw data used by the post-apostolic church to formulate its doctrine of the Trinity in the centuries to come.

The key texts fall into three groups: (1) those that stress continuity with Jewish monotheism in affirming that there is only one God (Mk 12:29; Rom 3:29-30; 1 Cor 8:4; 1 Tim 2:5; Jas 2:19), (2) those that represent the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as three distinct individuals or persons (Mt 11:27; 26:39; 28:19; Mk 1:9-12; Lk 11:13; Jn 14:16-17, 26), and (3) those that variously refer to God in the person of the Father (Mt 6:9; cf. Is 63:16), the Son (Jn 1:1-3, 18; 20:28; Rom 9:5; Col 1:15-20; Tit 2:13; Heb 1:1-4, 8-12; 1 Jn 5:20), or the Holy Spirit (Acts 5:3-4). From these texts it is clear that the New Testament church, without yet formulating with precision the doctrine of the Trinity, fully endorsed the three key theological strands that would later be woven into a tight doctrinal cord: only one God exists; the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are three distinct persons; and the title “God” befits each of them.

The prima facie irreconcilability of these three beliefs is well known. How can one God be three persons? It would seem that if there is only one God, then either the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are not each properly called God, or they are one and the same person. Or, if the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are all properly called God and they are distinct persons, then there must be three Gods. During the early history of the Christian church, a few influential figures pursued these tempting resolutions of the apparent conflict. Their daring departures from the New Testament portrayal of God culminated in the great Trinitarian controversy of the fourth century. An ironic boon to the Christian church, this controversy ultimately resulted in a progressive refinement of the doctrine and its permanent and official creedal formulation.

Initial attempts at refinement occurred among the Greek Apologists of the second century. Utilizing the resources of the Hellenistic philosophy of Philo of Alexandria, defenders of Christianity (including Justin Martyr, Tatian, Theophilus, and Athenagoras) developed what is now referred to as Logos Christology. They claimed that the man Jesus Christ was the incarnation of the logos of the Father, or of “God’s reason”—that is, the rational principle behind the creation and ordering of the universe. Though not yet a mature conception of the Trinity, this perspective recognized God as a differentiated unity. There is one God, but one in whom the Logos is begotten of the Father as an individual.

In the third century, the waters of overt doctrinal controversy began to stir with the rise of a drastically different conception of God, variously referred to as “modalism,” “monarchianism,” or “Sabellianism.” Advanced by figures such as Noetus, Praxeus, and Sabellius, this unequivocally Unitarian view of God denied the numerical distinctness of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and instead regarded each as a different face or mode of one and the same divine individual. On this view, the one God assumes various roles as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, depending on what befits the state of the created world.

North African church father Tertullian responded to modalism with a two-pronged refutation. First, he observed that the distinctness of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is not in tension with monotheism so long as that which is one in God and that which is three can be specified and distinguished. Tertullian introduced terminology that would later become standard in creedal formulations of the doctrine of the Trinity. Tertullian insisted that the assertion “there is one God” means that there is but one divine substance, though that substance is shared by three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The term “substance,” borrowed from Aristotle, was used to identify the respect in which God is one: God is exactly one existing thing or being, with one essential divine nature that is shared by each of the three persons of the Godhead (in the same way that three human beings each share one and the same human nature). In all likelihood, when Tertullian used the term “persons,” he meant something more than mere individuals, something approximating centers of self-consciousness.

Second, Tertullian cited numerous Scriptural passages that use personal pronouns to indicate an I-Thou relationship among members of the Trinity. He noted that the use of these pronouns does not fit comfortably with the idea that members of the Trinity are merely modes of one and the same individual. For example, Jesus’ practice of referring to himself as “I” and to the Father and Spirit as “Thou” and “He” entails distinctness of person among the members of the Godhead. With such arguments, Tertullian and other church fathers convinced the church to reject modalism in favor of tri-personal diversity within the Godhead.

The fourth century witnessed the great Trinitarian controversy followed by the formulation of two official church creeds. The controversy was sparked by the development of Arianism, a view advanced by an Alexandrian presbyter named Arius who took the extreme alternative to modalism. Whereas modalism denied personal distinctions between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in order to maintain the oneness of God, Arianism sought to preserve monotheism by holding that while the three persons are indeed distinct, only one of them is properly called God, namely, the Father. The Son, in contrast, was held to be a preeminent but wholly created and non-divine being who does not share the same substance with the Father and has a determinate starting point to his existence.

The growing popularity of this Arianism, and the resulting threat of schism within Roman Christendom prompted the emperor to convene an ecumenical council in Nicea in AD 325, with the goal of settling the dispute with Arius. The result: the Nicene Creed, the first of two historic creedal formulations of the doctrine of the Trinity. Particularly significant was its affirmation that Jesus is “from the essence of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten not created, of the same essence as the Father.” This phraseology sought to cement the orthodoxy of the conviction (contra Arianism) that Jesus is in fact properly called God, that He shares the same essence (nature) as the Father, and that while eternally begotten of the Father, He was never literally created.

The Nicene Creed established the heterodoxy of Arianism, but a terminological confusion within the creed left room for a new controversy. The creed, composed in Greek, used the terms hypostasis and ousia interchangeably to designate that which is one in God and common to the three persons, namely, the divine essence or nature or substance. But for many Eastern, Greek-speaking theologians, the two terms were not synonymous: while ousia was taken to mean “substance,” hypostasis was understood to refer to a concrete individual, one properly referred to by a name. Hence, for Eastern thinkers, the creed’s denial that the Father and the Son are different hypostaseis was tantamount to claiming that there are no differentiated individuals within God, and this suggested a return to modalism.

Decades of further debate concluded with final resolution in two additional councils, the Council of Alexandria in AD 362 and the Council of Constantinople in AD 381. At Alexandria, the church fathers settled upon a use of terms that explicitly identified the members of the Trinity as one ousios (nature/substance) but different hypostaseis (individuals/persons). At Constantinople, the Nicene Creed was revised to underscore the deity of both the Son and the Holy Spirit, resulting in what came to be known as the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed."

By the end of the fourth century, then, the official creedal formulation of the doctrine of the Trinity was complete. Its central claim is that there is but one God—one thing that is God and that instances the divine nature—and this God is three distinct persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

- John Y. Kwak & Douglas Geivett
John Y.Kwak & R. Douglas Geivett, Talbot Department of Philosophy, Biola University, U.S.A

Mar 10, 2012

Keach on Regeneration

Benjamin Keach, one of the great leaders of the English Particular Baptist, signer of the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith, author and pastor, and predecessor of John Gill and Charles Spurgeon, in his “Exposition of the Parables” (page 546) wrote he following about God's use of means in effectual calling (regeneration and conversion): (emphasis mine)

“Therefore this compulsion only denotes the powerful argument they should use, together with those efficacious influences and operations of the Spirit, which Christ put forth with the preaching of the gospel; it being by the ministration of the word, that he makes the souls of obstinate sinners willing; they are said to compel them, whereas indeed it is Christ by them; they are but instruments in Christ’s hand in the doing of it: ‘We have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us,’ 2 Cor. IV. 7. The gospel hath to do with men as rational creatures, and as such Christ is presented unto them, and arguments are used to persuade them to accept him, but because all men are naturally blind, and their wills are stubborn and obstinate, ‘ye will not come to me, that you may have life,’ John V. 40. Christ, by the preaching of the gospel, and operations of his Spirit, enlighteneth their understandings, and bows and inclines their wills. And this is that which is only meant by compelling them to come to the wedding. Neither can this seem strange to any that observe divers places of scripture, where the same word is used, it is said Christ ‘Compelled his disciples to go into a ship.’"

"It is true, all that believe and receive Jesus Christ are compelled; grace hath such power in it, that it doth in some sense constrain the soul, ‘the love of Christ constraineth us,’ 2 Cor. V. 15. And as the spouse says, Cant. I. 4, it draws, but how is it? Is it against the consent of the will? Is there any force put upon that noble faculty? No sure, the will acts freely, and is not denied its own proper choice, but it is overruled and persuaded by the working of the Holy Ghost, cheerfully and freely to choose accept of Jesus Christ. ‘My people shall be willing in the day of my power.’ Psa, XC, 3. Jesus Christ, as I have formerly told you, will accept of no pressed soldiers, no, no, they must be all volunteers, but naturally the will is corrupt, depraved, and wills only that which is evil, and it is averse to all things that are truly and Spiritually good and so remains, until grace, or the Holy Spirit takes away that enmity and averseness which is in it, and so makes it willing; and this is done generally by the powerful preaching of the gospel, God being pleased to accompany it with the operations of his own Spirit and divine power; and this is all, no doubt, which is meant by compelling them to come in."

These words of Keach uproot both the Campbellite notion of "word alone" regeneration and the Hardshell notion of "Spirit alone" regeneration.  They also show that he believed that salvation has its active and passive aspects.  God compels and yet the sinner chooses freely.  The five point Calvinism of Keach did not keep him from preaching to the lost and trying to persuade them to accept Christ and be saved.  It also did not keep Spurgeon from doing as his predecessor.

Mar 2, 2012

R. B. C. Howell on Hardshellism

Dr. Howell was the first president of the Southern Baptist Convention and was an ardent opposer of both Campbellism and Hardshellism.

Howell wrote, in his paper, "The Baptist," these able comments:

"I was eight years pastor of the Baptist Church in Norfolk Virginia. The Churches, and brethren there, are all predestinarian, and all missionary. The doctrine of predestination is missionary doctrine. If God carries on his work by means—in other words, if he accomplishes his purposes by instrumentalities—and you believe he does—then the purposes are the doctrine, and the missionary labors are the means, or instrumentalities. The true doctrine of predestination is one thing; and the antinomian doctrine, preached by many, and called predestination, is another, and a very different thing. Antinomianism discards the use and efficacy of means, and leads men to oppose missions; but predestination teaches men the right use and value of means, and leads them to embrace missionary principles." (pg. 137 - see here)

Mar 1, 2012

Dr. Graves on Hardshell Origins

The Tri-lemma:  OR, DEATH BY THREE HORNS BY J. R. GRAVES (see here)


"They Are Not Primitive but Derivative Baptists—Historical Proof by Dr. T. H. Pritchard, N. C.—If the Baptisms of Missionary Baptists Are Not Valid, Then the Anti-Missionaries Are All Unbaptized and No ChurchesA Tri-lemma for the Hard Shells.

That the Anti-missionary Baptists are not Regular or Primitive Baptists, but an unscriptural sect and apostate from the faith and practice of the Apostolic Baptists, has been repeatedly shown from accredited history and even from their own. The fact is, they were Derivatives and not Primitives. They “fell away” from the Regular Baptists in 1827-32, about the time the Campbellites did, and are no more Baptists than the Campbellites are. They went out from us, because not of us, and when they had the majority in the churches they drove out the Regular Baptists from the church houses they had built. In the following historical sketch from the pen of Dr. T. H. Pritchard, President of Wake Forest College, North Carolina, we find a brief and conclusive demonstration of the whole matter at issue:


“I propose to show that the term Old School and Primitive, when applied to that class of Baptists who oppose Foreign Missions, Sunday-schools, revivals of religion, Bible societies, etc., are misnomers, and that the real Primitive or Old School Baptists are the Missionary Baptists of this day. This is a question of fact, not of opinion, and I shall submit testimony drawn from their own records establishing the position. The evidence adduced is taken from the “History of the Sandy Creek Association,” written by Dr. Geo. W. Purefoy, and I shall sometimes use his language and sometimes my own, quoting the names of authors, with chapter and verse, that there may be no question as to the authenticity of the testimony presented. Taking it for granted that the Christians of the apostolic age were Baptists, which I assuredly believe, two things are clear: First, that God called and directed men to preach to the heathen (Acts xiii, 2; Gal. i.15); and, second, that funds were raised by the churches and paid as “wages” to the missionaries (2 Cor. Xi: 7, 8, 9). The original and Primitive Baptists were, therefore Missionary Baptists, like those of the present day, who sent men called of God to preach the Gospel to the heathen and collect funds which are paid as wages of the missionaries.

I shall now prove from unquestionable historical facts that the Associations which are now anti-missionary were in favor of foreign missions up to the years 1826-27-30, and hence have no claim to the title of Old School Baptists.

I will begin with the Baltimore Association, perhaps the most famous body of this modern sect in the United States. Their minutes for 1814 contain the following record: “Received a corresponding letter from Bro. Rice, one of our missionary brethren, on the subject of encouraging missionary societies.” This Bro. Rice was Luther Rice, who was then just from Burmah, whither he had gone as a missionary with Adoniran Judson.

In 1816, these minutes, in their circular letter, say: “The many revivals of religion which are witnessed in various parts of the country—the multiplication of Bible societies, Missionary societies, and Sunday-schools, both in our own and foreign countries—are viewed by us as showing indications of the near approach of that day when the knowledge of the Lord shall cover the earth.”

The minutes of the same year state that “the Standing Clerk was instructed to supply the Corresponding Secretary of the Foreign Mission Board with a copy of our minutes annually.”

In 1817, “Bro Luther Rice presented himself as the messenger of the Baptists Board for Foreign Missions, and was cordially received.”

Elder James Osborne was a member of this body which cordially received a Foreign Missionary, and at this very session was appointed a Home Missionary. This man Osborne, who was a leader in the Anti-mission secession, both in Maryland and North Carolina, I remember to have seen in Charlotte when I was a small boy. He was a handsome, dressy man, full of conceit, and very fond of talking of himself and of selling his own books.

From the same authentic source, the minutes of the Baltimore Association, we learn that in 1828 they called themselves “Regular Baptists,” just as we do now. The same year they express their joy at the intelligence of the conversion of the heathen, and as late as 1827 the association expressed by formal resolutions their sorrow at the death of Mrs. Ann H. Judson, and their great interest in the mission with which she was connected, and it was not till 1836, when the association met with the Black Rock Church, and then by a vote of sixteen to nine, that fellowship was withdrawn from churches favoring foreign missions, Sunday-schools, etc.

To come back now to North Carline, I can prove that the Kehukee and Country Line Associations, two of the most influential of the Anti-mission party, were once missionary bodies. In Burkett & Read’s History of the Kehukee Association it is stated on page 139 that in 1794, a special day was appointed to pray God for a revival of religion, and on page 145, that it was the custom of ministers of that date to invite penitents to come forward and keel down to be prayed for, just as we do in our revival meetings now.

In the Bigg’s History, Kehukee Association, page 162, it appears that this Association appointed delegates to meet at Cashie Church, Bertie county, in June, 1805, with delegates from Virginia, Portsmouth, and Neuse Association, and at this meeting arrangements were made to collect money for missionary purposes. Thus it appears that the Kehukee was not only in fellowship with the Portsmouth and other missionary Baptist Associations, but that the very first missionary society every organized in the State was in the bounds of this body.

In 1812, this association sent $3; in 1813, $5; and in 1814, $5, to the general meeting of correspondence of North Carolina, which was an organization of the Missionary Baptists.

The same history of the Association shows that in 1817 it was in correspondence with the General Convention of the Baptists, which met that year in Philadelphia, and which was supporting Judson and other foreign missionaries, and it was not till 1827 that this Association took a decided anti-missionary ground.

The evidence to show that the Country Line Association was a missionary body up to the year 1832 is perfectly overwhelming. Its minutes show that in 1816, ’17 and ’18, that body sent delegates to the general meeting of correspondence, and in 1816 Elder Geo. Roberts, one of the ministers of this Association, was the Moderator of the general meeting of correspondence of which Robert T. Daniel was the agent, and which developed into the North Carolina Baptist State Convention. In 1818 this association sent $32.45 to the North Carolina Missionary Society by the hands of Bro. John Campbell.

And what is still more remarkable, there was a very prosperous Woman’s Mission Society in this Association, the minutes of which, kept by John Campbell, show that the “Hyco Female Cent Society” was formed at Tynch’s Creek meeting-house, in Caswell county, in October, 1816; in March, 1817, it met at Bush Arbor meeting house; in March, 1818, it met at the same place; in 1819 at Grave’s meeting-house, and the fifth annual meeting was held in September, 1820, at Arbor. All of these churches are now anti-mission, but were then missionary bodies, and the persons who preached the annual sermons—R. Dishong, J. Landus, Barzillar Graves, Abner W. Clopton, and S. Chandler—were all Missionary Baptist Ministers.

In 1832, the Country Line Association was in regular correspondence with the Flat River and Sandy Creek Associations, both of which were then and still are missionary bodies.

In 1832 James Osborne, of Baltimore, visited this Association, and under his influence it was induced to withdraw fellowship from the Missionary Baptists of the State.

Now from this brief statement of unvarnished facts we see that the Missionary Baptists are just where the apostles were till 1827-28, when a new sect arose, calling themselves, according to Elder Bennett’s Review, page 8, at first the Reformed Baptists in North Carolina, and then the Old Baptists, the Old Sort of Baptists, Baptists of the old Stamp, and finally adopted the name of the Primitive Baptists.

There are many things about these brethren which I like, and I would not needlessly call them by an offensive name, but I can not style them either Old School or Primitive Baptists, for in so doing I should falsify the facts of history and acknowledge that I and my brethren have departed from the faith of the apostles and Baptist fathers. In no invidious sense, therefore, but from necessity, I am obliged to call them New School or Anti-missionary Baptists.

The short statement of the whole matter is this:

1. The Regular Baptists of Europe are Missionary Baptists.

2. The first Baptists of England were Missionary Baptists.

3. The first association ever formed in England was a Missionary Baptist Association.

4. The first Baptist Church in America, at Newport, R. I., was a Missionary Baptist Church.

5. The first Baptist Association ever organized in America, the Philadelphia, which included all known Baptist churches, was a Missionary Baptist Association, and annually raised money for ministerial education and missionary operations. That Association has ever been a missionary body.

6. The first Association that was organized in new England, the Warren Association, which embraced all the Baptist churches in New England, was a missionary body, and is to this day.

7. The first Baptist Association every formed in Virginia was a Missionary Baptist Association.

8. The first Association organized in North Carolina, in South Carolina, in Georgia, in Tennessee, and in every Southern State, were Missionary Baptist Associations.

9. All the fathers, founders, and originators of this new sect, who claim the name of primitive Baptists, once belonged to Missionary Baptist churches, and co-operated in the missionary work, and some of them, like James Osborne, the originator of anti-missionism in Maryland and North Carolina, were actually missionaries of the boards. Now this is the unenviable position in which the “Anti-missionaries” have placed themselves. So far as I can learn, they deny that Missionary Baptist churches are churches of Christ, or that they can, or ever could administer Gospel ordinances. Whence, then, did the Anti-missionaries get their baptisms and ordinations?


Missionary Baptist Churches are either true churches of Christ or they are not. If true churches, then those who apostatized from them are sectaries and no churches, and have no right to administer the ordinances. But if false churches, they were always so, and therefore they never could, or did, administer scriptural ordinances, and all those immersed or ordained by them are today unbaptized and unordained; in which case the Anti-missionaries are themselves unbaptized and no churches of Christ. The fact is, the Anti-missionaries are not Baptists, neither are they churches of Christ. Their faith is not the faith of the Gospel—the faith once delivered to the saints. Their preaching is another gospel than Paul preached, and we are commanded to condemn it and withdraw altogether from those who preach it, and hold another gospel than that he preached. They, by organic law, deny and refuse to execute the mission for which Christ organized His churches, and exclude and persecute those who do, and thereby they forfeit all claims to be regarded or treated as scriptural churches. If not churches of Christ, their ordinances are null and void, and ought not to be accredited by us. If they are indeed scriptural churches, then Missionary Baptist churches evidently are not. Missionary Baptists have no more bitter and malignant enemies than the Anti-missionaries. They deny our churches to be scriptural. They deny the faith we hold and teach. They deny our ordinances to be scriptural or valid. They openly and constantly proclaim all our efforts to build up and extend the kingdom of Christ, our Sunday-schools, our missionary efforts, our Bible Societies, our efforts to educate young ministers, our efforts to circulate pure versions of the Bible at home and in heathen lands, and our boards through which we send and support missionaries to preach the everlasting Gospel of the blessed God, even our Saviour, as the very work of the devil, and promptly exclude from their duty to assist in these efforts to evangelize the world."