Monday, February 13, 2006

The Biblical Recorder on Calvinism

Tony Cartledge, the editor of the Biblical Recorder, the newspaper of the NC Baptist State Convention has taken time to write an article on the rise of Calvinism in the SBC. I see also that Centuri0n has responded. Since, for some reason, I can't register there, I thought I would take a look at some of the comments there instead.

Brightertulip writes:




Like most Christians, reformed Bapist pull many verses out of context to prove what they believe. When you study the context of the passage, you find that the passage does not teach what they interpret. I am not trying to be mean. I love Reformed brethren. My pastor leans to the Reformed view. I just like to
show the true meaning of the Word. An example of this is in Romans Chaper 3. They like to pull out Romans 3:10-18. However, if you study the whole chapter and compare it to the whole counsel of God you are enlightened to the true meaning of these verses. The context of Romans 3 is that no one is righteous and the Jews are no better of spiritually than the Gentiles. The context of Paul's message is not that man is so depraved that he cannot respond to God's call for repentance and faith. Paul quotes from the Psalms in these verses to use hyperbole to emphasize the points I stated above. If you read each of the Psalms quoted, you will find that they are actually speaking of "the fool" Psalm 14, and historical enimies of Isreal in other Psalms, and other groups.

The Reformed agree, and we wonder why he believes Psalms 14 and 53 should inform our understanding of Romans 3? Romans 3 has its own context and Paul uses those texts to establish the universality of men's sin. We do not derive the inability of man from Romans 3. If Brightertulip is as familiar with Reformed theology as he claims he would know this. The doctrine of the inability of man is grounded in John 6, John 8, Romans 8, and 1 Cor. 2. I have yet to see any exegesis from the other side of the aisle that deals with these texts in their own contexts. Typically, they will run off to John 12 or another text to explain those texts. Jesus does not tell folks they are not his sheep because they cannot hear Him. He tells them that they cannot hear Him, because they are not His sheep. Reformed theology teaches exactly what Deut. 7 teaches about election. One looks in vain for any references to "foreseen faith" or any such thing in that text. If the OT is to inform us of the NT, then we would ask the other side of the aisle where in the OT they believe we find anything that would lead us to believe that Paul, a Pharisee of Pharisees would ground a doctrine of election based on the exercise of foreseen faith? I'd also add that standard Arminian commentaries will often agree with the Reformed interpretation of 1 Tim 2:4 and other standard Arminian prooftexts, so it's not as if the Reformed are not joined in their interpretation by others on the other side of the aisle.



In New England, however, as Gura shows, the Baptists were reading books on
baptism by Matthew Lamb (a radical General Baptist in England) and John
Spilsbury (part of the JLJ Particular Baptist church in London). What seems to
have been the case is that the Baptists in 17th century New England were more
interested in the ecclesiological question of baptism than the theological
question of election. So from the beginning in America the lines were blurred.
Most of the Baptists in New England were of a more particular (Calvinist)
stripe, but the strict particular (hyperCalvinist version) was not dominant. The
mainstream was a "blended" theology.

By the 18th century as most Baptists joined the New Lights in spreading the evangelical gospel of the
Awakening, their Calvinism became even more Arminianized. John Leland was a Regular Baptist (Calvinist) from Massachusetts before he ended up in Revolutionary era Virginia. He represents well the Arminianized Calvinism that came to be dominant among Baptists in the South. Leland opined: "I conclude that the eternal purposes of God, and the freedom of the human will, are both truths;
and it is a matter of fact, that the preaching that has been most blessed of God, and most profitable to men, is the doctrine of sovereign grace in the salvation of souls, mixed with a little of what is called Arminianism"

You mention the Primitive Baptists which in Appalachia, the Piedmont, and Wiregrass regions of the South were the stronghold of the strict and particular version of Calvinism. Primitives defined themselves in the "Black Rock Address" over against the Missionary Baptists, most of which joined other
Arminianized Calvinists in with the formation of the SBC.

The Founders movement can indeed point to Boyce and other Gentlemen theologians of "the
Abstract and Principles" sort to find a high Calvinism among Baptists in the South. But at the popular level, the doctrines of grace were joined with a little admixture of Arminianism, which is as some of the blog entries note a hybridized theology. What I guess all this suggests is that Baptists are and
pretty much always have been at both ends of the doctrinal spectrum, but in the South most of us were somewhere in the middle.

Let's take the founding churches of the SBC, they all affirmed the Philadelphia Confession, which is itself a recapitulation of the 2nd LCBF. Mr. Curtis Freeman above should read the confessional documents of those churches. Each and every one of them held the Philadelphia Confession. Their Calvinism was not "hybridized" at all. Founders Ministry is not pointing to a few gentleman theologians, they are pointing to the confessional documents of the founding churches themselves.

Elder Lemuel Burkitt, the writer of the Kihokee Association history traveled with Stearns and Marshall himself and testified to their solid belief in the doctrines of predestination and election. Would Elder Burkitt have desired fellowship with the Separates if they were free-will Baptists or "moderate" Calvinists, after having just helped write primitive Articles of Faith for the Kihokee Association which denounce free-willism and which explicitly articulate sovereign election, total depravity, irresistible grace, and perseverance of the saints? No church which Stearns and Marshall formed include statements of "moderate" Calvinism or free-willism.

Daniel Marshall established the churches of the Georgia Association, daughters of Sandy Creek. Article four of the Georgia Association Articles of Faith reads;"We believe in the everlasting love of God to his people, and the eternal election of a definite number of the human race, to grace and glory: And that there was a covenant of Grace or redemption made between the Father and the Son, before the world began, in which salvation is secure, and that they in particular are redeemed."

Article six further demonstrates Daniel Marshall believed in sovereign grace. "We believe that all those who were chosen in Christ, will be effectually called, regenerated, converted, sanctified, and supported by the spirit and power of God, so that they shall persevere in grace and not one of them be finally lost."

In 1833, John Leland wrote of Separate Baptist preacher John Waller: "Waller is not ordained to wrath,/ But to employ his vital breath/ In the Redeemer's praise;/ His sins, thro' Christ, shall be forgiv'n, / and he shall ever reign in heav'n/ Thro' free and sov'reign grace." He pictures Waller himself, who suffered much at the hands of hostile authorities pleading for mercy for his hearers: "Father, forgive the stubborn race/ Subdue their hearts to sov'reign grace,/ That they may be forgiv'n, (Powell)

Robert Semple wrote of the Separates, "A large majority believed "as much in their confession of faith [the Philadelphia Confession] as they [the Regulars]did themselves." Oliver Hart of FBC Charleston called a meeting of the Charleston Assoc. to secure missionary labors to the interior of neighboring states, before Sandy Creek was founded. Later Richard Furman helped organize the General Missionary Convention.

The reason that some of the early 19th century confessions, including the New Hampshire Confession seem "softer" is that The LCBF2 and the Philadelphia are 95 % from the WCF and are highly restrictive for doing church. This is the same reason many Reformed Baptist churches today use that Confession. There is simply no record that "moderate Calvinism" played a role in this shift. Churches and associations had been moving away from those confessions since the 1770's, because they are unwieldy. When they wrote their own, they agreed with the LCBF and Philadelphia Confessions. They tended to remove articles that dealt with church order, not articles dealing with soteriology.

Perhaps Mr. Freeman would like to define "hyper-Calvinist" for us. I see in his comments the idea that, somehow, the Calvinism of the Philadelphia Confession is somehow "hybridized." It contains a statement meant to address the hyper-Calvinists, but it is, other than that, a recapitulation of the 2nd LCBF.

I've interacted with Tony Cartledge before, so, before I comment on some of his own comments, let me just say that I have always found him to be highly irenic, and I admire him for serving all NC Baptists and not just one particular group. On this, however, I believe he should take a closer look at Reformed theology. Some of the issues he raises are, to be honest, fairly elementary distinctions.


"Choose you this day whom you will serve"

A. First, this comes from the Law. God gave the Law to expose sin and increase the consciousness of our inability to keep the Law so we would know we are condemned sinners and without excuse for our sins. The Law’s purpose is to show us that we do not have the ability to keep it, not to show us our ability to keep it. “The Law came in so that transgression might increase.” (Rom.6:20a).

The Law is good, but it is our love of evil that keeps us from keeping it. “By the works of the Law, shall no flesh be justified.” (Rom.3:20, Gal.2:16). If men have the ability to keep the Law, then there are two ways of salvation: works and grace. Such an idea ultimately negates the need for the gospel itself. Paul specifically calls such a thing an anathema in Galatians.

The Law cannot justify because of the weakness of the flesh (Romans 8:3). Paul tells us more about exactly what makes the flesh weak. Romans 8:5-8; For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

Ergo, the text cited only proves man has a choice, but it proves nothing about his ability to act accordingly or his motive for doing so. Scripture teaches that man cannot submit his mind to the law of God in Romans 8 does it not? The issue here is that man can choose, but his motive must be congruent with his choice. Why does one man believe and not another.

Nothing can be deduced about abilities from a command. One can command someone to do something to show them their inability and increase their guilt. Remember, the reason that men cannot obey is moral. They cannot obey, because, by nature, they do not want to obey.

God commands men to repent in Isa. 6, yet He also told Isaiah that, in issuing that command, He would harden men through this action, confirming them in their sins according to their own sinful natures

B. A "choice" not "free will." Reformed theology does not deny "choice." It denies libertarian choice, aka contracausal freedom. The standard definition of "libertarian choice" is:

(1) “The essence of this view is that a free action is one that does not have a sufficient condition or cause prior to its occurrence…the common experience of deliberation assumes that our choices are undetermined.”

(2) “…It seems intuitively and immediately evident that many of our actions are up to us in the sense that when faced with a decision, both (or more) options are within our power to choose…Libertarians argue that our immediate sense of power to choose between alternative courses of action is more certain and trustworthy than any theory that denies we have power.

(3) “Libertarians take very seriously the widespread judgment that we are morally responsible for our actions and that moral responsibility requires freedom” That is, a person cannot be held morally responsible for an act unless he or she was free to perform that act and free to refrain from it. This is basic moral intuition.” (Walls and Dongell, Why I'm Not a Calvinist)

Calvinism denies this. It is irrational, because it means choices are uncaused.

I'll just borrow from John Hendryx here to keep from reinventing the wheel: Compatibilism, or "free agency" is the belief that we make choices for a reason, that the will is not independent of the person and we will always choose what we want (Deut 30:16,17,19; Matt 17:12; James 1:14). It means that we can act freely (without coercion), not independent from God or free from our desires, but free to act according to our desires and nature. In other words, a self-determining will (to chose to act as we please) is compatible with determinism. The Scripture itself testifies that




“…no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit, for each tree is known by its own fruit. For figs are not gathered from thorn bushes, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil
treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks. (Luke 6:42-45)


Fig trees, of necessity, grow figs, not thorns. According to Jesus, then, nature produces a necessary result or fruit at the exclusion of something else. One cannot produce a result that is contrary to nature. While libertarians uphold the philosophy that “choice without sufficient cause” is what makes one responsible, the compatibilist, on the other hand, looks to Scripture which testifies that it is because our choices have motives and desires that moral responsibility is actually established. Responsibility requires that our acts, of necessity, be intentional.

Jesus continually points to reasons or motives as the determining factor for believing and rejecting the gospel: they are “determined to kill me”, “their heart is far from me”, they “want to carry out their father’s desire” and they reject me because they “do not belong to God.” Libertarian causeless choice is, therefore, an idea foreign to Scripture and basically goes against all sound logic. If our choice to receive Christ is causeless, not arising of necessity from our affections or desire when we see God’s beauty and excellence, then it is made, as it were, out of thin air, for no other reason but that we chose, as if the person wills to choose something he doesn’t want.




If, however, atonement is truly limited to the "elect," and grace is ultimately "irresistable" to those God had chosen, it appears that neither the elect or the damned have much free will regarding their eternal destination. At the end of the day, it's God's choice of them, not their choice of Him.
This objection overlooks the reason why people are condemned and confounds the difference between a necessary and a sufficient condition. People are condemned on account of their sins, and for this reason, they are lost, and for this reason, they are, apart from Christ, sent to hell. At least, that's the way it seems to me.

First, election renders a thing certain. However, election alone is insufficient to render a person justified. Reprobation as preterition (passing over) of a sinner is a necessary, but alone an insufficient condition to result in condemnation. Faith in Christ is both necessary and sufficient to guarantee justification. Sin is both necessary and sufficient to guarantee condemnation. All men are sinners, and all men without exception are unable to believe in Christ and repent of their sins. This inability is moral, not natural. They “can’t” because they “won’t.” Apart from grace, this is their natural condition. Therefore, men are lost because they are sinners, not because they are not elected. Not all sinners are elected, but then, apart from election, no man would desire to not be a sinner. The entire objection ultimately tries to center itself on the notion that it is wrong for God to “violate” men’s free wills. Since Calvinism maintains that men’s “free will” decision apart from effectual grace and uncondiitional election is, in fact, to be lost, why is the Arminian objecting?

How do men come by saving faith? Through calling. How do they come by calling? Through election. Without election, men could not be saved. The objection would be valid if and only if men could, of their own free wills muster saving faith, but their wills are bound by their love of evil. The implication of the objection is that men are condemned apart from their sin. This is false. It seeks to imply that Calvinists teach men who want into the kingdom are left out, and men who don’t want in are “dragged kicking and screaming.” This is also false. None who wish to enter are left out; none who wish to be left out get into the kingdom. The question the synergist must answer is: Why do some believe and not others?

Jesus continually points to reasons or motives as the determining factor for believing and rejecting the gospel: they are “determined to kill me”, “their heart is far from me”, they “want to carry out their father’s desire” and they reject me because they “do not belong to God.” Libertarian causeless choice is, therefore, an idea foreign to Scripture and basically goes against all sound logic. If our choice to receive Christ is causeless, not arising of necessity from our affections or desire when we see God’s beauty and excellence, then it is made, as it were, out of thin air, for no other reason but that we chose, as if the person wills to choose something he doesn’t want.


Re: limited atonement:

Tony, I love you brother, but one wonders how general atonement is the preferrable position. On an Arminian theory of the will, all might believe, or some, or none at all. In Calvinism, the atonement is underwritten by election and the results of evangelism have a guaranteed 100 percent success rate. Only God knows the percentages, but the point here is that one of these two is infallible and perfectly accomplished; the other is not.

Christians who deny special redemption typically appeal to the “pantos” (“all’) passages of Scripture. But this confuses extension (referent) with intension (sense). A universal quantifier has a standard intension, but a variable extension. That follows from the nature of a quantifier, which is necessarily general and abstract rather than specific and concrete marker in the text. That’s what makes it possible to plug in concrete content. A universal quantifier is a class quantifier. As such, it can have no fixed range of reference. In each case, that must be supplied by the concrete context and specific referent. In other words, a universal quantifier has a definite intension but indefinite extension. So its extension is relative to the level of generality of the reference-class in view. Thus, there is no presumption in favor of taking “all” or “every” as meaning everyone without exception. “All” or “every” is always relative to all of something.

So, when you see passages on the atonement, you have to ask yourself "What world," the "world' of what?

Take 1 John 5: 19 "We know that we are of God, and that the whole world lies in the power of the evil one."

Does this include Christians? No, for the previous verse excludes them: 18We know that no one who is born of God sins; but He who was born of God keeps him, and the evil one does not touch him.

So "the whole world" is the "world of unbelievers, the world system."

The standard text for general atonement is 1 John 2:2.

2and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.

Why should we take this to mean "all persons without exception?" Why not let John define what he means for us? John 11:51 and 52 is an exact linguistic parallel.

51Now he did not say this on his own initiative, but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus was going to die for the nation,

52and not for the nation only, but in order that He might also gather together into one the children of God who are scattered abroad.

1 John 2:2

And
He Himself
is the propitiation for
our sins
and not for ours only
but also
for
the world

John 11:51 - 52

he prophesied that
Jesus
would die for
the nation
and not for the nation only
but also
that He would gather together in one
the children of God scattered abroad

As to Roman5 and 2 Cor.5, which are the standard texts to which those espousing general atonement appeal, why does "all" mean "every man without exception." The way the text is diagramed, its quite clear that it is "all who are represented by Adam and Christ," and those are two different groups in the text. One falls, the other is imputed as righteous. If we take the fall of Adam to have truly resulted in actual sin in man, then why not assume Christ's work is also actual? The general atonement position says that the atonement of Christ is potential, not actual. I would add also that if Christ died for all the sins of mankind, then why are men condemned? If you answer "unbelief" isn't unbelief in Christ a sin for which Christ died? Doesn't 1 John say that God commands us to believe? Doesn't Paul say that all are commanded to repent?

Re: Irresistible grace, isn't that exactly what John 6:44 says?

No man can come to me, unless the Father who sent me draws Him, and I will raise Him up on the last day.

Are the ones drawn and the ones who come and are raised here different groups? Not according to the text, for the next verse tells us: "It is written in the prophets, 'AND THEY SHALL ALL BE TAUGHT OF GOD.' Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father, comes to Me. This discourse is an explanation of unbelief and why some believe and not others. The conclusion of which is ut there are some of you who do not believe " For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who it was that would betray Him. and He was saying, "For this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father." Who comes? "All that the Father gives to Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out." The ones given all come. None are cast out. They, and only they, are the ones drawn, and only they believe and are raised on the last day. If you appeal to the "all" of John 12:32 to interpret John 6 you end up with universalism, and you ignore the context, in which Greeks are coming to Christ. John 12:32 is discussing "all" kinds of persons, Gentiles as well as Jews.

Re: John 3:16



For God so loved the world...

What world? What does this mean? Is this the world system? Is it all people without exception? Is it simply the place God loves?

First, hats off to Cent. He did a great job on this. I'm just doing a clean up operation here.

That He gave His only begotten Son....God loved this world enough to give His unique (one and only) Son
That whosoever believes in Him might not perish but have everlasting life. What does "whosoever believes" mean?

Repeating "whosoever" as an invitation that opens up the possibility to salvation is not in this passage. "Whosoever believes" is a present participle in Greek that literally means "believing ones." It is an indicative statement, a statement of fact. It means "so that the believing ones in the world" might be saved. There is nothing here about those in the world having some sort of universal ability to believe. In fact, John explicitly denies this is John 6.

Those who have eternal life in the world God loves are the ones believing. Why? Because God loved the world in which they lived enough to give His one and only unique Son to the world to make this come to pass. That's all. In fact, John 3:3 - 5 is an explicit affirmation of monergism. The reason they believe in John 3 is that they are born again by the Spirit's work. He works like the wind, with a will of His own. We see the effects of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going, "so is everyone who is born of the Spirit." These are the believing ones, and John explicitly says in 1 John 5:1 that we believe because we are born again. If you reverse that, you end up affirming salvation by works, for, in 1 John 5, we also have three parallel statements:

2:29If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone also who practices
righteousness is born of Him.

4:7Beloved, let us love one another, for love is
from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.

5:1Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and whoever loves the
Father loves the child born of Him.


John 8:47 provides the causal template in the same linguistic constructions: 8:47 He who is of God hears the words of God; for this reason you do not hear them, because you are not of God.

He who is of God hears the words of God.

They hear because they are "of God."

You do not hear them because you are not of God

They do not hear because they are not of God

Everyone who practices righteousness is born of Him.

They practice righteousness because they are born again.

Everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.

They love because they are born again and know God.

Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God.

They believe because they are born again.



This is divine monergism. If that is true, then Reformed theology is correct.


My use of the term "anti-missionary" was historical -- that was the term used in the 1830s when the debate was hot and heavy in the South, and thoroughgoing Calvinists did not believe in missions.

But, Tony, this is an a-historical statement, *some* Calvinists did not believe in missions. Let's not generalize. It's true that hyper-Calvinism was an issue in those days, but, then so was the Campbellite movement. Each played its own role, but how does this lead us to conclude that Calvinism was somehow "modified" and this is what lead to the missions spirit?

The "throughgoing Calvinists in the South" who did not believe in missions were the Primitive Baptists like those in Kiohee Association and the Sandy Creek Primitive Baptist Church. The Charleston Association and the daughter associations of Sandy Creek Association, with the exemption of Kiohee were *strongly* pro-missions. Reformed theology has a long history of missions from its very inception, and this includes the majority, not the minority, of Reformed Baptists. To characterize missions oriented Calvinism as a "modified" variety is simply a-historical. It was the hyper-Calvinists who modified Reformed theology, not vice versa.

In fact, the Sandy Creek Confession of 1816 is itself is a *highly* Calvinistic document, and every one of the daughter associations of Sandy Creek adopted the Philadelphia Confession:


1. We believe that there is only one true and living God; the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. equal in essence, power and glory; and yet there are not three Gods but one God.

2. That Scriptures of the Old and New Testament are the Word of God, and only rule of
faith and practice.

3. That Adam fell from his original state of purity, and that his sin is imputed to his posterity; that human nature is corrupt, and that man, of his own free will and ability, is impotent to
regain the state in which he was primarily placed.

4. We believe in election from eternity, effectual calling by the Holy Spirit, and justification in his sight only by imputation of Christ righteousness. And we believe that they who are thus elected, effectually called, and justified, will persevere through grace to the end, that none of them be lost.

5. We believe that there will be a resurrection from the dead, and a general judgment, and that the happiness of the righteous and punishment of the wicked will be eternal.

6. The visible Church of Christ is a congregation of faithful persons, who have obtained fellowship with each other, and have given themselves up to the Lord and one another; having agreed to keep up a godly discipline, according to the rules of the Gospel.

7. That Jesus Christ is the great head of the church and that the government thereof is with the body.

8. That baptism and the Lord’s Supper are ordinances of the Lord, and to be continued by his church until his second coming.

9. That true believers are the only fit subjects of baptism; and that immersion is the only mode.

10. Thatthe church has no right to admit any but regular baptized church members to
communion at the Lord’s Table.

Between the writing of the 1816 Abstract and the founding of Sandy Creek Church itself, controversy erupted in VA in the Kiohee Association. That Association began as an association of Arminian churches, until 1765. Calvinism's introduction is attributed to Stearns before coming to NC after stopping in Kehukee Association. When they reformed, they adopted the Philadelphia Confession and then later developed their own confession. In 1777, the wrote their own confession. On this issue, it said:


3. We believe that God, before the foundation of the world, for a purpose of His own glory, did elect a certain number of men and angels to eternal life and that His election is particular, eternal and unconditional on the creature's part.

4. We believe that, when God made man first, he was perfect, holy and upright, able to keep the law, but liable to fall, and that he stood as a federal head, or representative, of all his natural
offspring and that they were partakers of the benefits of his obedience or exposed to the misery which sprang from his disobedience.

5. We believe that Adam fell from his state of moral rectitude, and that he involved himself and all his natural offspring in a state of death; and, for that original transgression, we are both guilty and filthy in the sight of our holy God.

6. We believe that it is utterly out of the power of men, as fallen creatures, to keep the law of God
perfectly, repent of their sins truly, or believe in Jesus Christ, except they
be drawn by the Holy Ghost.

7. We believe in God's appointed time and way (by means which He has obtained) the elect shall
be called, justified and sanctified, and that it is impossible they can utterly refuse the call, but shall be made willing by divine grace to receive the offers of mercy. (emphasis mine)
Note the point in parenthesis points to hyper-Calvinism, in fact Primitive Baptist historians, I believe, point to this document in order to document a confession of their doctrines on this point. (See A Welsh Succession of Primitive Baptist Faith and Practice by Elder Michael N. Ivey @ www.pb.org/pbdocs/chhist5.html ).

Here is where Article 4 of the 1816 Sandy Creek Association strongly differs:

We believe in election from eternity, effectual calling by the Holy Spirit of God, and justification in his sight only by the imputation of Christ's righteousness. And we believe that they who are thus elected, effectually called, and justified, will persevere through grace to the end, that none of
them be lost.
Note the absence of the parenthetical statement. I think they are affirming the traditional Reformed understandings of election, calling, justification, and perseverance and, at the same time, denying equal ultimacy and affirming the free offer of the gospel, in contrast to their daughter association in Article 7 of their confession. I don't think it is a stretch to think that this would very likely have been on their minds when they wrote the Abstract. One of their daughters had fallen toward hyper-Calvinism.

However, that same association started out as a General Baptist association, not a Particular Baptist Association, and it was Stearns and his association that worked hard among them to change their theological affirmations. It's difficult to see how this is somehow a "modified" Calvinist association, then, when it worked to move Free Will Associations to Calvinism, and its daughters adopted the Philadelphia Confession while both the "high Calvinists" of Philadelphia and Charleston Associations made attempts at union.

In 1781, Sandy Creek Association supervised a group of TN churches, which became Holston Association (in E. TN) in 1786. Until they organized formally they submitted to the inspection and direction of Sandy Creek Association. The distance involved made this relationship difficult to maintain, so, with the approval of the parent Association, they formally organized. It was composed of 7 churches. Kendrick’s Creek, Bent Creek, Beaver Creek, Greasy Cove, Cherokee, North Fork of Holston, and Lower French Broad. These churches were composed of Separate and Regular Baptists, but the two groups are known to have agreed in matters of theology. Holston Association adopted the Philadelphia Confession.

Sandy Creek church did split in 1830, but the church that split was a Primitive Church. They cited missions and Sunday School, not soteriology as the difference. This is a methodological Primitivism, not a theological hyper-Calvinism.

The brevity of the confessions and lack of borrowing from the LCBF or the Philadelphia Confession can be attributed to the general reticence to the use of creeds and confession by the Separate Baptists in this region as a whole. These were folks who wrote letters praying for their Arminian cousins to embrace the doctrines of grace. One would expect, if there was a softening due to a moderating in theology itself, that we would have some record of it. To my knowledge the opposite is true, particularly if you consider the daughter churches and associations this association mothered. I think "toning down" of the confessions in NC at this time can be accounted for as a general trend, not a result of soteriological differences, and for this reason I would think it is more likely anachronistic reading that says otherwise, since this particular phenomenon can be accounted for by other means that, at least to me, makes more sense. In 1815, Francis Oliver said of creeds and confessions, as Moderator of Neuse Association, the neighbor association wrote:



They cast contempt upon the Scriptures, and their authors, assuming the prerogative of Christ, they presuppose that the Scriptures are imperfect, and short of being in themselves a sufficient rule for a Church; forasmuch as they add traditions that are not to be found in the word of God and bind them upon their adherents by which they are led to read and consider those writings more than the Scriptures, thereby lay a greater stress upon them, and so to be like those that seem somewhat in the Church and less regard Christ and his word. This
is contempt indeed.”


Daniel Marshall established the churches of the Georgia Association, daughters of Sandy Creek. Article four of the Georgia Association Articles of Faith reads;"We believe in the everlasting love of God to his people, and the eternal election of a definite number of the human race, to grace and glory: And that there was a covenant of Grace or redemption made between the Father and the Son, before the world began, in which salvation is secure, and that they in particular are redeemed."

Article six further demonstrates Daniel Marshall believed in sovereign grace. "We believe that all those who were chosen in Christ, will be effectually called, regenerated, converted, sanctified, and supported by the spirit and power of God, so that they shall persevere in grace and not one of them be finally lost."

When John Gano came from Philadelphia Association, he did not complain about their theology, he was miffed about their practices. He specifically said they had the heart of the matter correct, which, in his vernacular, referred directly to their soteriology. Benjamin Miller in 1754 examined the Opekon and Ketocton churches in VA and received them into the Philadelphia Association. He examined those churches the same months that Shubal Stearns and Daniel Marshall were in them. He gave them a very warm report and rendered positive judgment.

Miller had previously accepted the judgment of his Association that it "cannot allow that any are true members of our churches who deny the said principles" of total depravity, unconditional election, effectual calling, and the certain perseverance of God's elect. He was not offended by their practices or their theology, and spoke of both warmly. You'd have to believe he had a major lapse in discernment to give such positive reports about these churches, Daniel Marshall, and Shubal Stearns himself to Philadelphia Association in order to hold a contrarry hesis.

In 1763 Charleston Association attempted a union with Sandy Creek Association. In 1769 Kekocton Association attempted a union. They did not join Kekocton or Charleston because they felt parts of their confession (Philadelphia) were too binding and that confessions gave the impression that confessions, not Scripture grounded the authority of conscience on believers. They did not disagree with the theology of the Philadelphia Confession.

If these had been "moderate Calvinists" theologically, these associations would never have extended their fellowship to them or attempted union with them. The reason the Separates in Sandy Creek Association did not affect union with them is because they were reticent to practice confessionalism, believing confessions were inordinately binding, and more formal worship, not because they disagreed with the confession's content. In fact, we know from their daughter associations discussions of their reticence to adopt confessions that they were united with those in Charleston, Kekocton, and Philadelphia on theological content, because they unanimously stipulate to agreement on those areas in their discussions.


In 1833, John Leland wrote of Separate Baptist preacher John Waller: "Waller is not ordained to wrath,/ But to employ his vital breath/ In the Redeemer's praise;/ His sins, thro' Christ, shall be forgiv'n, / and he shall ever reign in heav'n/ Thro' free and sov'reign grace." He pictures Waller himself, who suffered much at the hands of hostile authorities pleading for mercy for his hearers: "Father, forgive the stubborn race/ Subdue their hearts to sov'reign grace,/ That they may be forgiv'n, (Powell)

Robert Semple wrote of the Separates, "A large majority believed "as much in their confession of faith [the Philadelphia Confession] as they [the Regulars]did themselves." Oliver Hart of FBC Charleston called a meeting of the Charleston Assoc. to secure missionary labors to the interior of neighboring states, before Sandy Creek was founded. Later Richard Furman helped organize the General Missionary Convention.

The reason that some of the early 19th century confessions, including the New Hampshire Confession seem "softer" is that The LCBF2 and the Philadelphia are 95 % from the WCF and are highly restrictive for doing church. This is the same reason many Reformed Baptist churches today use that Confession. There is simply no record that "moderate Calvinism" played a role in this shift. Churches and associations had been moving away from those confessions since the 1770's, because they are unwieldy. When they wrote their own, they agreed with the LCBF and Philadelphia Confessions. They tended to remove articles that dealt with church order, not articles dealing with soteriology.

Let's recap.

Looking at this, I think, in order to read election via foreseen faith or any other non-Reformed doctrine into the Abstract, one would have to conclude that a Primitive Baptist Church split from the parent church and all the Calvinists went there, but that would also mean that there was a group of dyed in the wool Calvinists in the church that sat there for 70 years before splitting from the church 15 odd years after the Abstract, with no record of a dispute over theology within the church or between the 2 churches or the association before or after the split...during an age where there was much less disparity between what persons believed and what they did not believe with respect to adhering to confessions, abstracts, and creeds, if they were used at all; in addition to the church covenant reading in a Reformed manner and nobody raising concerns that Free Will doctrine was being believed and taught within the parent church, whose covenant likely formed the basis of the Abstract, in a region in which Arminian/General Baptist churches intentionally self-identified (to this very day) as "Free Will Baptists," specifically to distinguish themselves from their Particular (Separate and Regular) Baptist brothers, and with no Free Will Baptist historian (to my knowledge) claiming that the 1816 Confession could be read in any way other than a traditionally Reformed manner.

Additionally, one would have to believe that, in their union with the Charleston Association later on, that Sandy Creek did the opposite of the Kiohee Association (who had begun Arminian) by moderating its doctrine but then later they reformed like Kiohee. It would be, to my knowledge, the only association to have begun as Reformed, moderated itself, then tightened its reforms, while, at the same time, supervising associations during the gap in which the "moderation" would have occurred that, when they (those daughters) organized adopted the Philadelphia Confession, and that also helped spawn Georgia Association through the parent church's own brother-in-law who is known to have held to the beliefs of the parent pastor, and this daughter association also very clearly affirmed the doctrines of grace, while the parent association moderated its stance.

I don't know about you, but that requires some hefty mental gymnastics that border on the gymnastics on higher biblical critical theories. What would those words have meant to those individuals in that time and place? This is the same question we ask of the Biblical text. We should do that here. I think the simplest conclusion based on the available evidence points toward Sandy Creek's abstract being quite solidly in the Reformed tradition, supporting the traditional understanding of the doctrines of grace. A non-Reformed reading of the Sandy Creek documents and their work requires too many ad hoc explanations. The simplest, most straightforward reading of their history points to them being Reformed and simply not feeling the need to spell out their beliefs in a detailed confession for reasons that can be attributed to their own life situation at that time and place.


I'd add to that, that I have in my possession a paper on the American Bible Society Controversies over the translation/transliteration of the Greek terms for baptism / baptize for the publication of the Bengalese Bible. The entire board, as well as that of the Baptist organization that split from it, was composed of Calvinists, and this all transpired in the very time period that Tony cites. This, in turn, spawned years of ecclesiological polemics between Presbyterians and Baptists and questions about the validity of the immersions of Presbyterians on the frontier, precisely because Baptists and Presbyterians were close allies in the missons work on the frontiers. Tony is overamplifiying the significance of the hyper-Calvinism movement of that day.

1 comment:

  1. Beloved GMB:

    The thoroughness with which you present your case is most refreshing! Thanks!


    If you were a surgeon and I needed your knowledge and skills (fortunately I do not
    need surgery) ~ I would joyfully jump on your table, believing that you would do all my sick body needed!


    I love the way you
    leave no stone unturned! Nothing would be missed or overlooked if you performed any operation I needed!



    PERSEVERE! Physician of the soul, PERSEVERE!


    If you are a pastor, I dare say none of the sheep leave your services hungry. As they have say of another THOROUGH teacher of the Bible: He doesn't simply feed us,He gorges the food down us! We leave his services stuffed!


    PERSEVERE! Continue to give your readers/listeners their moneys worth!


    PERSEVERE!

    ReplyDelete