Brethren With Arms Elbow Deep in Calvinism (I)
That there are men within the church advocating the idea of Neo-Calvinism, intentionally or unintentionally, cannot be denied by any honest Bible student. More and more in the writings of some brethren we see the tenets of Calvinism appearing at a tremendous pace. By tenets I mean an opinion, principle, dogma or doctrine that a person or organization believes or maintains to be true. I have no axes to grind, no intention of becoming a well-known writer, nor do I hold any malice toward those whom I believe guilty of the errors that are being presented to young preachers and the weak, untaught in the church. I would prefer not to use names of those who have written on the subjects I shall deal with in this series, but in all fairness and honesty to the reader who is seeking the truth, I feel I have no alternative. To use the name of a book from which material has been taken and not give the author due credit would likewise be unfair.
I cannot begin to name all who are leaning in this direction, but in fairness to those I do mention, may I say they are not alone. In fact, what prompted these articles is the effect some loose teaching is having upon the young. I, like countless others, do not wish to misquote another’s position, and if one feels his position is being taken out of context, I would suggest he tell the brethren what he does or does not believe in plain, simple terms and let the issue die.
My brother in Christ, Ed Fudge, who in his first outward ‘defense of his teachings concerning current problems which appeared in the Gospel Guardian, Vol. 25, No. 1, May 3, 1973, page 3 in an article entitled “For The Record,” made no defense but advised those who questioned the positions he held to purchase his published books and determine what he taught. I do not feel this was any defense, but to give him the benefit of the doubt, I purchased the booklet, The Grace Of God. I am not personally acquainted with Brother Fudge, but believe him to be a knowledgeable Bible student. His booklet has gone far and wide; therefore, discussing it in print does not do him an injustice. I believe he is on dangerous ground and should consider the words of Solomon, “Can a man take fire in his bosom, and his clothes not be burned?” (Prov. 6:27)
Two Fundamental Principles
(1) “God, by His very nature-because He is God-must both hate and punish sin.” This means that sin cannot be overlooked forever, or winked at indefinitely, or simply swept under the rug. On a par with this principle we read of the next. (2) “Man, because he is man, sins.” I assume he concludes these two principles to be self-evident. The second principle I question. I am aware “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). I do not believe man sins because he is man or that he sins because it is man’s nature to sin. This, to me, reads too much like The Standard Manual For Baptist Churches by Edward T. Hiscox. On page 60, in speaking of “The Fall Of Man” he writes, “. . . being by nature utterly void of that holiness required by the law of God, positively inclined to evil; and therefore under just condemnation, without defense or excuse.” He gives as a proof-text, in the footnotes, Eph. 2:3. The nature here refers to conduct practiced so long and habitually that it has become our natural way of living. The apostle Paul speaks of men being by nature children of wrath as the effect (rather than the cause) of our trespasses and sins. The quibble advanced by some theologians that, “We are not sinners because of sin; we sin because we are sinners,” lays the blame on God instead of upon ourselves where it belongs.
Why Question The Second Principle?
The Bible reads, “They have turned aside (or are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable . . .”) (Rom. 3:12). This implies a better condition from which to “turn.” Concerning man we see, “So God created man in his own image. . .” (Gen. 1:27). “And God saw everything that he had made; and behold it was very good.” (Gen. 1:31). In the NASB “Yet Thou bast made him a little lower than God, and doest crown him with glory and majesty” (Psa. 8:5). “Lo, this only have I found, that God hath made man upright; but they have sought out many inventions” (Eccl. 7:29). If the second principle is true, then how could a just God condemn man for doing what his inherent nature demands? Later, Ed states that God does not make man sin, and “God did not create him so that he had to sin.” Is the writer unaware of the implications of this second principle? Read all that Hiscox said on “The Fall of Man” page 60, ibid. Do you believe man is totally or partially depraved?
Why Does Man Sin or How Does He Sin?
John said, “. . . sin is the transgression of the law” (1 Jno. 3:4). Paul wrote, “. . . where no law is, there is no transgression” (Rom. 4:15). The conclusion then is that man sins because he transgresses the law. This is proven in the case of Adam and Eve. Was the commandment a law when Moses wrote, “And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” (Gen. 2:16-17)? Were Adam and Eve sinners because they were man or because they transgressed God’s law? Romans 5:14 tells the answer for Adam and 1 Timothy 2:14 gives the answer for Eve. Does a commandment constitute a law and can we be saved without keeping the commandments of God?
Let me at this time state emphatically that I do not believe a man can be saved by any humanly devised means. No combination of mere human power and ideas is sufficient to earn one his salvation. A proof-text would be Luke 17:10. His salvation is by the grace of God. It is by the favor or loving kindness or good will of God that we are saved, as set forth in Eph. 2:5. In the next verse we read, “And hath raised us up together . . .” (Eph. 2:6). Those who advocate grace only apart from keeping the law seem to observe the Passover on this verse. The religious world as a whole has always ignored it. Those who teach grace alone look the other way and men who do not believe baptism essential to salvation evade it. Here is my question: What about this “raising up?” It is not the final “raising up” at the end of time, for these Ephesians were very much alive. It could not be the final resurrection because again they were still in the flesh and alive in the church when this “raising up” was penned. How could they have been “raised up?” Paul explains in three passages: Rom. 6:4,5; Col. 2:12; Titus 3:5. The “raising up” took place when they were baptized. Thus the salvation by grace in the passage will be after being “raised up” (Baptized) and is dependent upon it.
Grace Not Legalism
On page 13 Brother Fudge states, “grace is not legalism.” The definition of legalism given is that it is not law-keeping, but law-depending. Funk and Wagnall’s Standard Dictionary defines legalism as, “strict conformity to law” (p. 728). Ed continually gives references to there being no justification by the law, but admits the texts referred to are referring to the law of Moses (Acts 15:1, 10-11; Gal. 2:16; Rom. 8:3; Gal. 3:19, 21). He seems to make the mistake of Calvinism in not being able to distinguish that there is more than the law of Moses in the Bible. Ed knows this as well as any man in the church. On page 17 he affirms the law of Moses was God’s law. It was holy and just and good. It was perfect for its purpose. He forgets to tell us what the purpose of the law was, so I shall attempt to clarify the matter for him. “Wherefore the law was our (Jews) schoolmaster to bring them to Christ, that they might be justified by faith” (Gal. 3:24). “But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith.” (Gal. 3:11) Paul informs us, “. . . Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law. . .” (Rom. 7:7). “. . . It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made . . .” (Gal. 3:19). (Transgression is lawlessness and keeps company with iniquity and unrighteousness.) The law of Moses fulfilled its purpose, but it was not its purpose to make perfect or to save or give life (Gal. 3:21). The Hebrew writer wrote, “For the law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did; by the which we draw nigh unto God” (Heb. 7:19).
Was this better hope the gospel? Again, “For when Moses had spoken every precept (entole) to all the people according to the law” (Heb. 9:19). “Entole” is from the same verb translated commandment in numerous passages including 1 Jno. 2:3 defined as “akin to the verb entello which signifies to enjoin upon, to charge with. The noun entole denotes in general, an injunction, charge, precept, commandment.” (Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, pages 209-210, Vol. 1 and page 203 in Vol. 3.) Can we know God and not keep His commandments as set forth in 1 Jno. 2:3? (KJV, ASV and NASB all use term “keep’). Going back to Hebrews 8:7-8 the writer speaks of the first covenant that had fault, and of the new covenant. What are these two covenants? Are they not the Old law and the New law? Ed mentions Heb. 10:5-7, 10. What about Heb. 10:9? “Then said he, lo, I come to do thy will O God, He taketh away the first, that he may establish the second.” Brother Moseley in his commentary on this passage comments, (and I agree) “God would not have two laws in effect at the same time. Therefore, the old being inferior was removed to establish the second, which was established on better promises. (Heb. 8:6) Thus, a covenant establishing obedience will replace the covenant that contained ineffectual sacrifices.” Is this not in harmony with Romans 7:1-4? “For by grace have ye been saved through faith” (Eph. 2:8). This expresses the divine part and the human part of salvation by the words “grace” and “faith” respectively. The grace or favor involved in salvation is of course divine favor; while faith is a human exercise. Neither the divine part nor the human part can successfully be dispensed with; both are necessary.
Faith And Legalism
If it were not for the grace of God no one could be saved, and it is equally true that if a man does not exercise faith he cannot be saved. “But without faith it is impossible to please him. . .” (Heb. 11:6). When we speak of faith, what kind of faith is needed? It is that faith which worketh by love. (Gal. 5:6). The grace of God is inseparably connected with the word of God. We have access to the grace of God by faith (Rom. 5:1-2), but faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the word of God. (Rom. 10:17). We see then that grace of God covers only what is by faith and nothing more. We are under the grace or favor of God only when we submit to the purposes of God revealed in the gospel. According to the Bible doctrine of grace, man is not the passive recipient of God’s grace, but must comply with the conditions of faith which God has ordained in order to enjoy the favor of God.
Denominationalists have for years called us “legalists.” Brethren who are liberal on the institutional and Herald Of Truth question also called us legalist. If belief in obeying God’s commands makes one a legalist, I must confess I am a legalist. In so doing, I find a legalist has good company. Jesus was a legalist when He made the following statement: “Strive to enter in at the strait gate . . .” (Lk. 13:24). Jesus sent the apostles out to bind and to loose what had been bound and loosed in heaven. (Matt. 16:19; 18:18). In the parable on fruitbearing, Jesus shows fruitbearing to be an essential if we hope to receive the reward. Notice also the Words of Jesus in Jno. 4:34; 6:38. Paul was one who would be classed as a legalistic and egotistical man by today’s standard. Read 1 Cor. 9:27 and 2 Tim. 4:7-8. The writer of Hebrews was legalistic in Heb. 12:1. Here he speaks of running the race “with patience” that is set before us. This term includes “both passive endurance and active persistence.” (Vincent’s Word Studies in the New Testament, page 537, Vol. 4.)
Obedience To The Law Of Christ Is Essential
By obedience I mean complying with or submission to command, prohibition, law or duty. Obey means to act in accordance with; be guided by; to obey the law. (Funk and Wagnall, p. 871) Vine, on page 124 of Vol. 3, in reference to the “obey” of Heb. 5:9 notes: “to listen, attend, and so, to submit, to obey, is used of obedience (a) to God . . . .” We shall look at some synonyms of law: rule, edict, regulation, command, commandment, mandate, (Dictionary of Synonyms and Antonyms by Joseph Devlin.) Concerning the law of Christ, I make mention of Gal. 6:2; “. . . the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus. . .” (Rom. 8:2); “The perfect law of liberty” (Jas. 1:25). And if lawkeeping is unimportant, how can a Just God judge us by the law of liberty (Jas. 2:12)? Paul full well knew his responsibility in keeping the law of God as stated in 1 Cor. 9:21. Paul states, “For the grace of God that bringeth salvation has appeared unto all men, teaching us that denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world” (Titus 2:11-12). Why teach us laws to live by if we do not need them? Also, if a person is not under law as a condition of salvation, then his violation of law would not affect his salvation; yet the scriptures teach that the “lawless” and “ungodly” cannot inherit eternal life. If one’s obedience, or lack of it, to the law of Christ is immaterial, then without saying it in so many words we are teaching “once in grace always in grace” and the impossibility of falling. How can one sin if he does not have to keep the law of Christ? Without law how does one know he is a sinner?
Doers Of The Law
In Paul’s writings he pens the following, “For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified . . .” (Rom. 2:13). The context in this chapter shows the Jews putting too much stress on their hearing the law and their knowledge of the law. As a result, they neglected the doing of the law. That was a fatal mistake; for not hearers but doers of the law were justified. Absolute justification by the law could be had only by perfect obedience to the law. But no one kept the law perfectly, and for that reason the law justified no one. Jesus said, “Not every one that saith unto me Lord, Lord, shall enter the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven” (Matt. 7:21). Talking of those who did not do His will he said, “. . . I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity” (Matt. 7:23). In short, depart from Me you that work without law, the lawless ones. In verse 24 He speaks of the wiseman, who heard and was a doer of the word. In verse 26 He speaks of the foolish man who heard but was not a doer of the word. James said, “But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves” (Jas. 1:22). He also mentions one that hears but does not do in verses 23-24. Then sums up with, “But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deeds” (Jas. 1:25).
Final Thoughts On Grace And Law
Something unbecoming of our brother is expressed on pages 14, 15, 17 and 18, (“Here are the rules; keep them and be saved-good luck.”) Perhaps I am overly critical, but it reminds me of the innuendo of Baptist ridiculing baptism, “If one is saved by baptism he comes up and then has to outrun the devil from the creek to heaven, if baptism is essential and one can fall from grace.” My last thoughts in this article are these: If man plays no part in his salvation, I would like someone to explain to me Peter’s statement, “. . . Save yourselves from this untoward (or crooked) generation” (Acts 2:40). Also, what did Paul mean when he said, “Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and do of his good pleasure” (Phil. 2:12-13). God works in us through the neglected statement made in Eph. 2:10, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” The idea that the gift of Eph. 2:9 means we can do nothing is false. We have to do the one thing that God cannot do for us; that is, receive the gift by obedience and baptism. If the old Calvinistic position were correct and we can do nothing, then the salvation would be as universal as the gift and the giver. Who will take this position? When told to grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, is knowledge of Jesus essential? Does it come to us miraculously or must we study and do something to attain it? James wrote, “Therefore, to him that knoweth to do good and doeth it not, to him it is sin” (Jas. 4:17). To say we will do it because we are saved by grace will lead us down the path of one young brother who has taken the position baptism is an outward sign of an inward grace. Brethren, tell us plainly where you stand and what you believe (1 Pet. 3:15; Col. 4:6 and give us book, chapter and verse, 1 Pet. 4:11).
My next article on “Brethren With Arms Elbow Deep in Calvinism” will be on the subject of “Faith versus Works” to be followed by an article on “Justification.”
This article was written by a friend and childhood mentor Milton Anderson.