Hardshell baptists denying justification by faith

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Pergamum

Ordinary Guy (TM)
Justification by Christ's blood and a justification by believing in Christ's blood, are clearly not the same. How can a faith in your ransom accomplish more than the payment of that ransom which sets you free?

I am once again in discussion with several Primitive (Hardshell) baptists who don't seem to grasp the distinction between faith being an "instrumental cause" of our justification, joining us to Christ and faith being a "meritorious cause" (i.e. producing faith in our own strength such that God justifies us because of it...thus making faith into a work).

They charge me with "works salvation" and say I do not believe in salvation "wholly" by grace because I speak of the ordinary means of the instrumentality of the Spirit working through the Word of God and that faith is what unites us to Christ. When I state, "Though faith is a gift, we believe...God does not believe for us"....they make me out to be a wholesale Arminian.

Any advice on how to deal with these? Anyone experienced with Primitive Baptists here?
 

Pergamum

Ordinary Guy (TM)
Isa. 45:25 and 53:11 God said Christ would justify the many [....not that our FAITH would justify many]

Isa. 45:25 "In the LORD shall all the seed of Israel be justified, and shall glory."

Isa. 53:11 "He shall see of the travail of HIS soul, and shall be SATISFIED: (it is the work of Christ that satisfies the justice of God and allow the just to justify)
by his knowledge shall MY RIGHTEOUS SERVANT justify many;
for he shall bear their iniquities." (No talk of faith)

When the Scripture seem to contradict each another, those expressions that ascribe most to Christ are the clearest and nearest the focus. The rest are to follow that point, and be interpreted by them. The Scriptures are to be interpreted for Christ, and not against Him.

The whole testimony of the Scriptures set up, and exalt Jesus Christ alone, to acknowledge Him to be all in all. He is called, "The Author of salvation," Heb. 5:9, and the means of our salvation through His blood, Eph. 1:7, Col. 1:14 and Salvation itself, Isa. 49:6. If we do not ascribe our justification to God, to Christ alone, God could not be all in all, 1 Cor. 15:28; Col. 3:11.

Everything besides God are but means of our knowing and enjoying him that is the substance. All that faith can do, is only to receive remission of sins, Acts 26:18. It cannot give remission of sins. Faith cannot satisfy justice nor merit pardon for the least sin. Scripture says, "We are justified by his blood:" Rom. 5:9. These and all the other verses that clearly say we are justified by the person and work of Christ causes me to have to hold that we are justified only by Christ alone. And you cannot have justification by Christ alone AND faith alone. Alone means "by itself" and we are justified by Christ and himself alone.

I have quoted Romans 4 to them (Abraham's faith), but he rejects that this proves justification by/through faith.
 

Pergamum

Ordinary Guy (TM)
I like how William Kiffen put it "That the Scripture holds forth justification by faith in a sense is very clear, but yet under no other consideration, but by way of evidence, Heb. 11:1, 2." However, I would say that him saying "under no other consideration" would be amiss because it speaks of the "faith of Christ". So if he means "no other consideration" as it pertains to man, then I agree.

In other words, "justification by faith" must mean "justification by the faith of Christ" - i.e., he doesn't believe that our faith justifies us. For this would mean works-righteousness (faith being that work).
 

BGF

Puritan Board Sophomore
On another thread I asked you to define Hardshell Baptists. You've done do here, so thanks. I've never heard Primitive Baptists called Hardshelled.
 

Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
Berkhof:

1. JUSTIFICATION FROM ETERNITY. The Antinomians held that the justification of the sinner took place in eternity, or in the resurrection of Christ. They either confounded it with the eternal decree of election, or with the objective justification of Christ when He was raised from the dead. They did not properly distinguish between the divine purpose in eternity and its execution in time, nor between the work of Christ in procuring, and that of the Holy Spirit in applying the blessings of redemption. According to this position we are justified even before we believe, though we are unconscious of it, and faith simply conveys to us the declaration of this fact. Moreover, the fact that our sins were imputed to Christ made Him personally a sinner, and the imputation of His righteousness to us makes us personally righteous, so that God can see no sin in believers at all. Some Reformed theologians also speak of justification from eternity, but at the same time refuse to subscribe to the Antinomian construction of this doctrine. The grounds on which they believe in justification from eternity deserve brief consideration.

a. Grounds for the doctrine of justification from eternity.
(1) Scripture speaks of a grace or mercy of God which is from everlasting, Ps. 25:6; 103:17. Now all grace or mercy that is from eternity must have as its judicial or legal basis a justification that is from eternity. But in answer to this it may be said that there are eternal mercies and lovingkindnesses of God which are not based on any justification of the sinner, as, for instance, His plan of redemption, the gift of His Son, and the willing suretyship of Christ in the pactum salutis.
(2) In the pactum salutis the guilt of the sins of the elect was transferred to Christ, and the righteousness of Christ was imputed to them. This means that the burden of sin was lifted from their shoulders and that they were justified. Now there is no doubt about it that there was a certain imputation of the righteousness of Christ to the sinner in the counsel of redemption, but not all imputation can be called justification in the Scriptural sense of the term. We must distinguish between what was merely ideal in the counsel of God and what is realized in the course of history.
(3) The sinner receives the initial grace of regeneration on the basis of the imputed righteousness of Christ. Consequently, the merits of Christ must have been imputed to him before his regeneration. But while this consideration leads to the conclusion that justification logically precedes regeneration, it does not prove the priority of justification in a temporal sense. The sinner can receive the grace of regeneration on the basis of a justification, ideally existing in the counsel of God and certain to be realized in the life of the sinner.
(4) Children also need justification, in order to be saved, and yet it is quite impossible that they should experience justification by faith. But though it is perfectly true that children, who have not yet come to maturity, cannot experience passive justification, they can be actively justified in the tribunal of God and thus be in possession of that which is absolutely essential.
(5) Justification is an immanent act of God, and as such must be from eternity. It is hardly correct, however, to speak of justification as an actus immanens in God; it is rather an actus transiens, just as creation, incarnation, and so on. The advocates of justification from eternity feel the weight of this consideration, and therefore hasten to give us the assurance that they do not mean to teach that the elect are justified from eternity actualiter, but only in the intention of God, in the divine decree. This leads us back to the usual distinction between the counsel of God and its execution. If this justification in the intention of God warrants our speaking of a justification from eternity, then there is absolutely no reason why we should not speak of a creation from eternity as well.

b. Objections against the doctrine of justification from eternity.
(1) The Bible teaches uniformly that justification takes place by faith or out of faith. This, of course, applies to passive or subjective justification, which, however, cannot be separated temporally from active or objective justification except in the case of children. But if justification takes place by faith, it certainly does not precede faith in a temporal sense. Now it is true that the advocates of a justification from eternity also speak of a justification by faith. But in their representation this can only mean that man by faith becomes conscious of what God has done in eternity.
(2) In Rom. 8:29, 30, where we find some of the scalae of the ordo salutis, justification stands between two acts of God in time, namely, calling and glorification, which begins in time but is completed in a future eternity. And these three together are the result of two others which are explicitly indicated as eternal. Dr. Kuyper is not warranted in saying that Rom. 8:30 refers to what took place with the regenerated before they were born, as even Dr. De Moor, who also believes in a justification from eternity, is quite willing to admit.1
(3) In teaching justification from eternity, the decree of God respecting the justification of the sinner, which is an actus immanens, is identified with justification itself, which is an actus transiens. This only leads to confusion. What took place in the pactum salutis cannot be identified with what results from it. All imputation is not yet justification. Justification is one of the fruits of Christ’s redemptive work, applied to believers by the Holy Spirit. But the Spirit did not and could not apply this or any other fruit of the work of Christ from eternity.

2. JUSTIFICATION IN THE RESURRECTION OF Christ. The idea that sinners are in some sense of the word justified in the resurrection of Christ was stressed by some Antinomians, is taught by those Reformed theologians who believe in a justification from eternity, and is also held by some other Reformed scholars. This view is based on the following grounds:

a. By His atoning work Christ satisfied all the demands of the law for His people. In the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead the Father publicly declared that all the requirements of the law were met for all the elect and thereby justified them. But here too careful distinction is required. Even though it be true that there was an objective justification of Christ and of the whole body of Christ in His resurrection, this should not be confounded with the justification of the sinner of which Scripture speaks. It is not true that, when Christ rendered full satisfaction to the Father for all His people, their guilt naturally terminated. A penal debt is not like a pecuniary debt in this respect. Even after the payment of a ransom, the removal of guilt may depend on certain conditions, and does not follow as a matter of course. The elect are not personally justified in the Scriptural sense until they accept Christ by faith and thus appropriate His merits.

b. In Rom. 4:25 we read that Christ was “raised up for (dia, causal, on account of) our justification,” that is, to effect our justification. Now it is undoubtedly true that dia with the accusative is causal here. At the same time it need not be retrospective, but can also be prospective and therefore mean “with a view to our justification,” which is equivalent to saying, “in order that we may be justified.” The retrospective interpretation would be in conflict with the immediately following context, which clearly shows (1) that Paul is not thinking of the objective justification of the whole body of Christ, but of the personal justification of sinners; and (2) that he conceives of this as taking place through faith.

c. In 2 Cor. 5:19 we read: “God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself, not reckoning unto them their trespasses.” From this passage the inference is drawn that the objective reconciliation of the world in Christ involves the non-imputation of sin to the sinner. But this interpretation is not correct. The evident meaning of the apostle is: God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself, as appears from the fact that He does not impute to men their sins, and that He has entrusted to His servants the word of reconciliation. Notice that me logizomenos (present tense) refers to what is constantly going on. This cannot be conceived as a part of the objective reconciliation, for then the following clause, “and having committed to us the word of reconciliation,” would also have to be so interpreted, and this is quite impossible.
In connection with this matter it may be said that we can speak of a justification of the body of Christ as a whole in His resurrection, but this is purely objective and should not be confounded with the personal justification of the sinner.


Berkhof, L. (1938). Systematic theology (pp. 517–520). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans publishing co.
 

arapahoepark

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
Look for the free pdf of Vindication of Imputation by DA Carson. In it he argues for imputation and an instrumental faith over against Gundry who holds an Arminian view similar to the one your baptist friends espouse.
 

Pergamum

Ordinary Guy (TM)
Thanks! Just what the doctor ordered!

Berkhof:

1. JUSTIFICATION FROM ETERNITY. The Antinomians held that the justification of the sinner took place in eternity, or in the resurrection of Christ. They either confounded it with the eternal decree of election, or with the objective justification of Christ when He was raised from the dead. They did not properly distinguish between the divine purpose in eternity and its execution in time, nor between the work of Christ in procuring, and that of the Holy Spirit in applying the blessings of redemption. According to this position we are justified even before we believe, though we are unconscious of it, and faith simply conveys to us the declaration of this fact. Moreover, the fact that our sins were imputed to Christ made Him personally a sinner, and the imputation of His righteousness to us makes us personally righteous, so that God can see no sin in believers at all. Some Reformed theologians also speak of justification from eternity, but at the same time refuse to subscribe to the Antinomian construction of this doctrine. The grounds on which they believe in justification from eternity deserve brief consideration.

a. Grounds for the doctrine of justification from eternity.
(1) Scripture speaks of a grace or mercy of God which is from everlasting, Ps. 25:6; 103:17. Now all grace or mercy that is from eternity must have as its judicial or legal basis a justification that is from eternity. But in answer to this it may be said that there are eternal mercies and lovingkindnesses of God which are not based on any justification of the sinner, as, for instance, His plan of redemption, the gift of His Son, and the willing suretyship of Christ in the pactum salutis.
(2) In the pactum salutis the guilt of the sins of the elect was transferred to Christ, and the righteousness of Christ was imputed to them. This means that the burden of sin was lifted from their shoulders and that they were justified. Now there is no doubt about it that there was a certain imputation of the righteousness of Christ to the sinner in the counsel of redemption, but not all imputation can be called justification in the Scriptural sense of the term. We must distinguish between what was merely ideal in the counsel of God and what is realized in the course of history.
(3) The sinner receives the initial grace of regeneration on the basis of the imputed righteousness of Christ. Consequently, the merits of Christ must have been imputed to him before his regeneration. But while this consideration leads to the conclusion that justification logically precedes regeneration, it does not prove the priority of justification in a temporal sense. The sinner can receive the grace of regeneration on the basis of a justification, ideally existing in the counsel of God and certain to be realized in the life of the sinner.
(4) Children also need justification, in order to be saved, and yet it is quite impossible that they should experience justification by faith. But though it is perfectly true that children, who have not yet come to maturity, cannot experience passive justification, they can be actively justified in the tribunal of God and thus be in possession of that which is absolutely essential.
(5) Justification is an immanent act of God, and as such must be from eternity. It is hardly correct, however, to speak of justification as an actus immanens in God; it is rather an actus transiens, just as creation, incarnation, and so on. The advocates of justification from eternity feel the weight of this consideration, and therefore hasten to give us the assurance that they do not mean to teach that the elect are justified from eternity actualiter, but only in the intention of God, in the divine decree. This leads us back to the usual distinction between the counsel of God and its execution. If this justification in the intention of God warrants our speaking of a justification from eternity, then there is absolutely no reason why we should not speak of a creation from eternity as well.

b. Objections against the doctrine of justification from eternity.
(1) The Bible teaches uniformly that justification takes place by faith or out of faith. This, of course, applies to passive or subjective justification, which, however, cannot be separated temporally from active or objective justification except in the case of children. But if justification takes place by faith, it certainly does not precede faith in a temporal sense. Now it is true that the advocates of a justification from eternity also speak of a justification by faith. But in their representation this can only mean that man by faith becomes conscious of what God has done in eternity.
(2) In Rom. 8:29, 30, where we find some of the scalae of the ordo salutis, justification stands between two acts of God in time, namely, calling and glorification, which begins in time but is completed in a future eternity. And these three together are the result of two others which are explicitly indicated as eternal. Dr. Kuyper is not warranted in saying that Rom. 8:30 refers to what took place with the regenerated before they were born, as even Dr. De Moor, who also believes in a justification from eternity, is quite willing to admit.1
(3) In teaching justification from eternity, the decree of God respecting the justification of the sinner, which is an actus immanens, is identified with justification itself, which is an actus transiens. This only leads to confusion. What took place in the pactum salutis cannot be identified with what results from it. All imputation is not yet justification. Justification is one of the fruits of Christ’s redemptive work, applied to believers by the Holy Spirit. But the Spirit did not and could not apply this or any other fruit of the work of Christ from eternity.

2. JUSTIFICATION IN THE RESURRECTION OF Christ. The idea that sinners are in some sense of the word justified in the resurrection of Christ was stressed by some Antinomians, is taught by those Reformed theologians who believe in a justification from eternity, and is also held by some other Reformed scholars. This view is based on the following grounds:

a. By His atoning work Christ satisfied all the demands of the law for His people. In the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead the Father publicly declared that all the requirements of the law were met for all the elect and thereby justified them. But here too careful distinction is required. Even though it be true that there was an objective justification of Christ and of the whole body of Christ in His resurrection, this should not be confounded with the justification of the sinner of which Scripture speaks. It is not true that, when Christ rendered full satisfaction to the Father for all His people, their guilt naturally terminated. A penal debt is not like a pecuniary debt in this respect. Even after the payment of a ransom, the removal of guilt may depend on certain conditions, and does not follow as a matter of course. The elect are not personally justified in the Scriptural sense until they accept Christ by faith and thus appropriate His merits.

b. In Rom. 4:25 we read that Christ was “raised up for (dia, causal, on account of) our justification,” that is, to effect our justification. Now it is undoubtedly true that dia with the accusative is causal here. At the same time it need not be retrospective, but can also be prospective and therefore mean “with a view to our justification,” which is equivalent to saying, “in order that we may be justified.” The retrospective interpretation would be in conflict with the immediately following context, which clearly shows (1) that Paul is not thinking of the objective justification of the whole body of Christ, but of the personal justification of sinners; and (2) that he conceives of this as taking place through faith.

c. In 2 Cor. 5:19 we read: “God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself, not reckoning unto them their trespasses.” From this passage the inference is drawn that the objective reconciliation of the world in Christ involves the non-imputation of sin to the sinner. But this interpretation is not correct. The evident meaning of the apostle is: God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself, as appears from the fact that He does not impute to men their sins, and that He has entrusted to His servants the word of reconciliation. Notice that me logizomenos (present tense) refers to what is constantly going on. This cannot be conceived as a part of the objective reconciliation, for then the following clause, “and having committed to us the word of reconciliation,” would also have to be so interpreted, and this is quite impossible.
In connection with this matter it may be said that we can speak of a justification of the body of Christ as a whole in His resurrection, but this is purely objective and should not be confounded with the personal justification of the sinner.


Berkhof, L. (1938). Systematic theology (pp. 517–520). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans publishing co.
 

Pergamum

Ordinary Guy (TM)
Look for the free pdf of Vindication of Imputation by DA Carson. In it he argues for imputation and an instrumental faith over against Gundry who holds an Arminian view similar to the one your baptist friends espouse.

Thanks! Searching now.
 

Nomad

Puritan Board Freshman
Justification by Christ's blood and a justification by believing in Christ's blood, are clearly not the same. How can a faith in your ransom accomplish more than the payment of that ransom which sets you free?

I am once again in discussion with several Primitive (Hardshell) baptists who don't seem to grasp the distinction between faith being an "instrumental cause" of our justification, joining us to Christ and faith being a "meritorious cause" (i.e. producing faith in our own strength such that God justifies us because of it...thus making faith into a work).

They charge me with "works salvation" and say I do not believe in salvation "wholly" by grace because I speak of the ordinary means of the instrumentality of the Spirit working through the Word of God and that faith is what unites us to Christ. When I state, "Though faith is a gift, we believe...God does not believe for us"....they make me out to be a wholesale Arminian.

Any advice on how to deal with these? Anyone experienced with Primitive Baptists here?

This sounds like an encounter I had with the admin, Brandon Kraft, at the Predestinarian Network forum. My advice would be to study the issues in question so that you know what you believe and why. As far as dealing with these "hardshellers" I usually just state my case, answer a few objections, and then let it go for the sake of my own sanity. Going around in circles accomplishes nothing.
 

Alan D. Strange

Puritan Board Senior
These are always interesting sorts of folk. There are others than Primitive Baptists who have the mistaken notion that faith is Christ's faith, because if it's our faith in any sense, then faith is rendered a work and salvation by grace alone is denied.

I always talk with such about a biblical definition of saving faith (knowledge, assent, and trust). As to the last element especially, I emphasize that Christ is the object of our faith and faith involves knowing and believing the truth of the gospel and believing and entrusting ourselves to Him. The point is that faith involves our coming to Christ, leaning on Christ, receiving Christ, trusting Christ. If our faith is Christ's faith, then Christ is believing in Himself for us? Christ in us is believing for us in Himself? This is neither what the Bible teaches nor is it coherent.

And as for repentance (which no one can deny that the Bible teaches always accompanies saving faith), is Jesus repenting for us? Of what is He repenting? Our sin that He did not commit? Again, the notion that faith is not our believing and trusting and that repentance is not our seeing and hating our sin with an endeavor after new obedience is simply nonsense and finds no biblical support. To be sure, the Holy Spirit works faith and repentance in the elect, but when He does, we are the ones who are trusting Christ and repenting of our sin. Christ does not need to trust Himself savingly and He certainly has no sin of which to repent.

There was someone (a minister, in fact, and not a Baptist one) who taught this some years back and it turns out that he was using this as a cloak for maliciousness, engaging in heinous sin with which he was not dealing and for which he was not taking responsibility. This sort of antinomianism is not only a serious error but often used as such a cloak, not always for sins so heinous but just for dealing with the sins that all of us need regularly to deal with as Christians.

Peace,
Alan
 

fralo4truth

Puritan Board Freshman
Perg,

Why not refer these folks to my blog which is devoted to refuting their cultic teachings? You can tell them I'm newly deliveried from their heretical notions. As you know I was one of them for about ten years before the Lord saw fit to rescue me from this cult.

You should not be surprised that they are confused about justification. Ever since they began to reject the gospel means pattern of salvation in the late 1800s they have had to come up with unorthodox stands on the doctrines which involve the gifts of the gospel. Hence, they deny that faith or justification by faith is necessary to be eternally saved. To the Hardshells salvation by grace means that there is absolutely no action required by man to be saved. He doesn't have to repent, believe, or practice holiness. He can be a heathen or some outright idolator having no faith in Christ, and yet be saved!!!

One thing you can challenge them on is this. Ask them to cite the name of one living breathing soul prior to 1850 who believes as they do. They will not be able to do so. Their claim to being Primitive is a misnomer, for they are no such thing. They are a new sect who began in the early 1800s being opposed to the modern missionary movement. Over the next several decades they slowly developed their own theology in order to justify their opposition to missions.
 

C. M. Sheffield

Puritan Board Senior
I've never heard Primitive Baptists called Hardshelled.

In southeast Georgia, the term "Hardshell" is more common than "Primitive." At least it was when I was growing up. I was nearly grown before I heard them referred to as "primitive baptists."
 

whirlingmerc

Puritan Board Sophomore
I don't remmember running into this in New York

If we look at the example of Abraham believing as Isaiah instructs those who long for righteousness to examine... we see Abraham had a personal faiith, he blieved and was counted rightous
 

Mushroom

Puritan Board Doctor
There was one of their Churches where I used to live, always wondered if they were Fred Flintstone types... :D

There's a new one starting nearby. My question to them would be why even have a Church? Seems like a lot of unnecessary expense.
 
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