Old Doxoblogy

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Calvangelism

About a block from the church I attend, there is another church. Actually there are about five churches in a one block radius of our church. Hey, it's East Tennessee, the buckle of the Bible Belt. But one of these churches is a Primitive Baptist Church.

For those of you who don't know, Primitive Baptist does not mean old Baptist. Primitive Baptists are Baptists who are Calvinists. They have been mischaracterized by some as being hyper-calvinists, but this is not so. They are simply Baptists who will not use any means whatsoever to evangelize. It is not that they are against evangelism, but against the use of tracts, missions agencies, etc. They also deny the proclamation of the Gospel as the means of regeneration. Notice that I said that they deny that the proclamation of the Gospel is the means of regeneration and not that they deny the need to proclaim the Gospel to the lost.
Instead they believe that the proclamation of the Gospel is needed for faith, with which we would all agree. But where we differ is in that they believe that the proclamation of the Gospel is only received once that one has been regenerated by the Spirit, whereas Southern Baptist Calvinists generally believe that the Spirit uses the proclamation of the Gospel to regenerate the lost so that they may receive the Gospel.

It's a small difference, but a difference big enough to cause them to distance themselves from other Calvinistic Baptists by creating their own denomination. Which brings us to our point, There are no Calvinists who oppose the proclamation of the Gospel to the lost. To be sure, there are hyper-calvinists who have adopted a fatalistic view of salvation where God is willy-nilly picking whoever he wants to be saved and there is nothing we can do about it. But they are not Calvinists.

Calvinists have always been an evangelizing lot. Especially the Calvinists among the Southern Baptist denomination. (For the record, you cannot be a Southern Baptist and be against evangelization. The whole denomination is a mission board.) While there have been disagreements with others as to the methods of evangelization or whether methods should even be used in evangelization, the fact of the matter is that Calvinistic Baptists have always spread the Gospel among the lost.

So where did the idea come from that Calvinists don't spread the Gospel? Well, to begin with it comes from a misunderstanding of the doctrine of election. Secondly, it comes from a misunderstanding of the doctrine of Total Depravity. But mostly it comes from a misunderstanding of the Calvinists understanding of the role of Scripture and preaching in salvation.

For the Calvinist verses like 1Peter 1:23 (since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God;) are not without meaning.
It is clear from this verse that regeneration takes place in connection with the word of God, but only by the power of the Spirit who blows where He wills. So Calvinists do not believe that just the words by themselves have the ability to regenerate, otherwise everyone who ever heard the Gospel would be saved, but that the Spirit uses the Gospel as His vehicle by which He blows new life into the elect.
Adding to this is the belief that conversion is a response to the Gospel. It is impossible to have true biblical faith unless that faith is focused upon Christ who is proclaimed in the Gospel message. Repentance form dead works and sin is a response to the commands of the Gospel. Turning from self-reliance, sin, and self-love are responses to the command of Christ to leave all and follow Him.

So for the Calvinist evangelism is an imperative. We must preach the Gospel to every creature. The preaching of the Gospel is God's ordained means of bringing the elect to Himself. His Spirit uses the word preached to regenerate the dead and create faith in Christ in the unbeliever. So...why do Calvinists evangelize the lost? Well, because we are commanded to (Luke 24:46,47), but also because the evangel is the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes. (Romans 1:16, I Corinthians 1:21)

6 comments:

Broadstone said...

Hmmm, I was surprised to find anyone commenting on Primitive Baptists. I have a friend who recently joined such a fellowship. His reasoning was that there were no other reformed baptistic churches in the area and he didn't want to "settle" with going to a Presbyterian church.

Interestingly enough, I have made several friends with Pastors in a couple of the nearby churches as a result of my friend. True brothers in the Faith.

The problem/debate we've had has been over the requirement of Primitive Baptists to rebaptize new members, even if they have been authentically baptized before. They just want to do it again to make sure it is real and since you are obviously leaving other denominations you ought to be baptized because if you join us then you must be saying your fellowship with the other was invalid. thus, so was your baptism. I have had two Primitive Baptist Pastors tell me that exactly. Pb.org is a great resource for understanding a bit more of them.

Grace and peace,

kelly bridenstine

rebecca said...

What you've described is one branch of Primitive Baptists--the one that affirms what they call the absolute predestination of all things, and they are not hypercalvinistic. This particular branch believes that all those God elects come to what they call "real time salvation", since God predestines all things--the means as well as the end--and what he decrees in eternity he works in time.

The other branch doesn't believe in the absolute predestination of all things, so they believe that God elects people to salvation, and on the basis of election alone people are saved, even though they may not actually hear and believe the gospel in real time, since God isn't in the business of predestining all things, and there's no assurance that all the elect will hear the gospel so they can believe it. I would label this last group hypercalvinistic.

I used to know someone who was raised in this last branch of the primitive baptists (which, I think, is the smallest group) and the aunt who raised him was upset when he decided to be a missionary.

I also met someone online who was from this branch of primitive baptist. He wouldn't accept the label of calvinist because since he didn't believe in the absolute predestination of all things, he didn't believe in irresistible grace or perseverence of the saints, at least as a calvinist would define them, and he didn't balk at all at the label hypercalvinist.

I'm a little embarrassed that I know this stuff....

Jeremy Weaver said...

broadstone,
Thanks for visiting! I had heard that about some Primitive Baptists before but wasn't sure if it true or not.

Rebecca,
You are correct. And it's O. K. to know stuff.

Sojourner said...

I thought I was a "primitive" baptist because I am from Alabama, and because I now live in a swamp. I am proven wrong once again.

coconutsteve said...

PREACH ON BROTHER! The Founders Group in the SBC is doing a great job in teaching the SC their roots!
Blessings,
coconutsteve/missionary to Trinidad

D.J. Cimino said...

Very informative for a new SBC calvinist... Thanks Jeremy!