This weekend, a Youtube channel specializing in describing the theology and practice of various denominations released a video on Primitive Baptists, using Marchtozion.com as their primary source, as well as a book written by contributor David Wise. The video presented PB in our own words, for which I am thankful. Said another way, it wasn’t a caricature of our beliefs but an accurate presentation, though I’m sure the nuances of a few parts could be expressed differently, depending on which preacher was doing the explaining (more on that later).
In less than a week, the video has around 20k views and as you’d expect, there are many proponents of “free will salvation” in the comment section calling the Doctrines of Grace a damnable heresy. Some called us evil Calvinists. And of course, some of them spelled that “Calvanist.” Others linked us with their favorite modern Boogey Man, contemporary preachers like John MacArthur and the like (with whom we have our own disagreements).
One thing that baffles me is how outraged modern Baptists are at the concept of a Baptist believing in Predestination. Nearly every Baptist church in the US in the early 19th Century was Predestinarian (many of which are now SBC). And their forefathers, the English Particular Baptists, vehemently defended Particular Redemption. I understand being unaware of some of our distinctions, but the outrage over that particular issue just shows how ignorant most modern American Baptists are of their history. Of course, cognitive dissonance is a thing as well. I have encountered quite a number of people who refuse to believe Baptists ever held to the Doctrines of Grace, regardless of whatever evidence shown.
There were a few things from the video that I wanted to clarify. They basically quoted from resources verbatim, but soundbites without context don’t always present the full story. More could be said, but I left a comment addressing three points. Namely, I clarified that we do believe in evangelism, that assurance comes at receiving the gospel, and the reason most PB now shun the label “Calvinist.” Here’s my comment:
“You’ve presented Primitive Baptists in their own words and I appreciate that. I only want to clarify a few points:
- I believe very much in evangelism and making disciples (Mth 28). Our contention with Missions had to do with boards and missionaries replacing churches and elders. The Black Rock Address clarifies this point with the following quote, “Previous to stating our objections to the mission plans, we will meet some of the false charges brought against us relative to this subject, by a simple and unequivocal declaration, that we do regard as of the first importance the command given of Christ, primarily to His apostles, and through them to his ministers in every age, to “Go into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature,” and do feel an earnest desire to be found acting in obedience thereunto, as the providence of God directs our way, and opens a door of utterance for us. We also believe it to be the duty of individuals and churches to contribute according to their abilities, for the support, not only of their pastors, but also of those who go preaching the gospel of Christ among the destitute. But we at the same time contend, that we have no right to depart from the order which the Master himself has seen fit to lay down, relative to the ministration of the word. We therefore cannot fellowship the plans for spreading the gospel, generally adopted at this day, under the name of Missions; because we consider those plans throughout a subversion of the order marked out in the New Testament.”
- While we believe in Immediate Spirit Regeneration (the Spirit quickens without human means) we believe the gospel brings conversion and assurance of salvation. John Gill described regeneration as God only, conversion being our response back to God. For this cause, ministries such as Marchtozion.com exist. While only God can quicken, we preach to the conversion of His people, their assurance, instruction, etc. I preach indiscriminately to all, knowing that I bear the savor of life to the living and the savor of death to the dead. Particular Baptists referred to our audience as “sensible sinners.”
- Modern Primitive Baptists only shied away from the “Calvinist” label because the face of Calvinism in the US became men such as John MacArthur and John Piper. When PB say they’re not Calvinists, what they mean is 1) they’re not Fullerites (well meant offer), 2) They reject Lordship Salvation, and 3) they hold to historic Baptist theology rather than Reformed theology on justification (your video did highlight one such quote). This rejection of the label only came after a period of theology controversy of men who held a position closer to MacArthur.”
Along the lines of sharing the gospel, I recognize there are some PB who actually oppose evangelism. I’ve heard it from pulpits and I disagree in the strongest of terms. This is no surprise to anyone, I’ve been vocal about this for nearly two decades. Others consider it evangelism to make a Methodist into a PB. While this does help in their discipleship, it’s not really evangelism. I consider evangelism preaching to an unchurched person, converting them as a follower of Christ. It’s about following Christ, not bolstering our “brand.” For this cause, I have engaged in public preaching, after school devotions, a regional radio ministry, and our livestream (which is sometimes run as a local advertisement on social media). To make Flint River a bigger church? No, because the fields are white unto harvest and I’m a fisher of men. If one hears of Jesus of Nazareth from me and begins to follow Him, praise God, even if he never darkens our doorstep! It’s not about us.
Lastly, regarding point two, I recognize that men such as Gill and others, though they did place a biblical distinction between regeneration and conversion, had them normally occurring at the same time. So to them, regeneration and conversion were different but usually simultaneous. Primitive Baptists differ in that we allow that a lapse of time can pass between regeneration and conversion because of cases such as Cornelius, who was a God fearing man prior to Peter’s arrival. In fact, God SENT Peter to Cornelius after hearing Cornelius’ prayers (this is undeniable). Have there ever been people who were converted simultaneous to and in direct response to regeneration? I’m sure. I am also sure that there have been people who heard preaching dozens or hundreds of times prior to regeneration to no effect, and when they were quickened, the words they had heard flooded their mind with great emotion and they sought after Christ. Saul of Tarsus is a great example of this. Further, there are men who hear the word repeatedly, and since God never regenerates them, they are never converted (Simon Magus, Judas Iscariot, etc). And then there are those like Cornelius, who are regenerated well before hearing the preached word and converted at hearing the gospel. Hear me carefully: In every case, it is God alone who quickens. Then God uses the preached word to convert a quickened soul as a follower. Regeneration is immediate and monergistic (Jn 3:8). Conversion follows after and is synergistic. In every case, regeneration precedes faith and God alone is He who quickeneth.
Anyway, here’s the video. I watched it on 1.5 speed as it’s about 18 minutes long.