Thursday, April 29, 2021

The Theology of Robert Sandeman Part 1


                                                             ROBERT SANDEMAN

In tribute of Robert Sandeman's birthday I thought it would be helpful to give a quick glance of his theology as stated in his book Letters on Theron and Aspasio. While he wrote a few other books, this is his magnum opus and the one that most clearly defines his thoughts on theological topics. Robert Sandeman (April 29, 1718-April 2, 1771) was a contemporary of such theologians as Jonathan Edwards, John Gill and John Wesley. Books giving a more thorough history of his biography are The Perfect Rule of the Christian Religion: A History of Sandemanianism in the Eighteenth Century by John Howard Smith, Michael Faraday: Sandemanian and Scientist by Geoffrey Cantor and see https://www.era.lib.ed.ac.uk/bitstream/handle/1842/10142/0074170c.pdf?sequence=1  for a copy of the unpublished dissertation of J.T. Hornsby called John Glas (1695-1773).


My look at Sandeman will come from the 1803 Edinburgh publication of the fourth edition in two volumes. If you have or get a reprint today, it will probably be an reprint of the 1838 American publication of the fourth edition in one volume and so the paginations will be different. 


Limited Atonement- Page 14 "The gospel proposes nothing to be believed by us, but what is infallibly true, whether we believe it or not. For shall our own unbelief make the faith or veracity of God of none effect? Far be it! Heaven and earth shall pass away, but none of his words shall fall to the ground. The gospel, which fortells the final perdition of so many of its hearers, so many and zealously exercised about it, can never warrant us to persuade every one who hears it, to believe that Christ died for him; unless we shall say that Christ died for every individual of mankind, and consequently that none of mankind owe their salvation wholly to his death.

Offers of Christ- On page 22 states that we are witnesses for God to men and never bargain for God with men. They either believe the witness of do not.

Perverted Gospel- Page 85 Sandeman writes in reference to the current state of Protestant preaching that "We have got a perverted gospel. We have got some insipid sentiment about the cross of Christ, that, like the law of works, can do us no good, till it be reduced to practice. As for the bare work finished on the cross, or the bare report about it, however true we think it, so far have we mistaken it, that, setting aside our active operations about it, we do not see what comfort or benefit can be derived from it; ...".

Duty Faith?- Page 88 "Every one then, who is born of the Spirit, lives merely by what he hears, without his performing any duty at all; ..."

Sovereign Grace- Page 111 "... but according to that sovereign grace, which, acting, not contrary to law, but beyond the law of it, and high above it, placed him, who thought it no robbery to be equal with God, under the law, as the substitute of the guilty, to redeem them by being made a curse for them, he receives power over all flesh, to bestow eternal life on as many as were given him to be redeemed by him.".

Creation events in succession- Page 116 "... in order to our knowing his character, it is necessary that one part of his works appear before the other; even as it was necessary, that the earth should be first created a dark confused mass, that he might appear, by his working, the God not of darkness and confusion, but of light and order."

Premillennial- Page 129 "This church will receive no establishment on the earth, till the resurrection of the just, when the whole redeemed company shall reign with Christ a thousand years on the earth, after which they shall inherit the new heavens and the new earth for ever."

Against Alcoholic Beverages- Page 134 "How long shall we hold forth strong drink unto men, and still bemoan their intemperance? How long shall we pray that the cause may flourish, and the natural effects decrease?".

Chosen in Christ- Page 151 "When the whole company of them who were redeemed from among men, and chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world, shall fully experience what meaneth grace reigning through righteousness unto eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.".

God Inspired Scripture- Page 154 "The apostle's argument, then must run thus: Whereas prophecy came not by the will of man, it is not to be understood according to the fancy or pleasure of men, but according to the interpretation given of it by God himself, from whom it came.".

Elect Angels- Page 216 "... but to their being chosen of sovereign grace to be servants in the kingdom of the Son of God, and therefore they are called the elect angels.".

Several Days to Create- Page 236 "Prov. 8:30 plainly referring to the several days wherein the world was made.".






Saturday, September 12, 2020

Remarks on Studies on Saving Faith by A.W. Pink

 


In my ongoing analysis and discussion of obedience salvation I have come across a book by A.W. Pink called Studies on Saving Faith (a Biblical response to easy believism). I have never heard of this book until recently. I have been familiar with Pink ever since a teenager when I took up his classic work The Sovereignty of God (the unabridged version) and came to a clear understanding of “Calvinism”. I still count this as one of my all time favorite books. Studies on Saving Faith however is a different book and my opinion is different as well. I think there is a reason I have not heard of this book until now. Although Pink attempts his usual scripture saturation to prove his point, the scriptures he uses demand his presupposed definition of certain terms and are not proving the obedience salvation he is attempting to prove. In this post I want to make some remarks showing the fallacy of his position and how it is ultimately a form of Arminianism to be nice or Romanism to be harsh.

The edition I hold is edited by Don Kistler and has a foreword unsurprisingly by John MacArthur. Although a great debate on saving faith between calvinists Robert Sandeman and James Hervey as well as Baptists Archibald M’Lean and Andrew Fuller raged over a hundred years before his book, he nowhere mentions this. Pink starts off by attacking evangelists of his day for preaching Christ as a Savior from Hell and not sin (p.6). This is an ambiguous attack however as one goes to Hell because of sin and so if Christ saves us from Hell he has saved us from sin. Also, as Luther and the Reformers rightly noted we are simultaneously saved and sinners. While we are being sanctified and putting off sin and the old man every day we are not perfect until we are glorified. Perfectionism was a doctrine promulgated by Arminian John Wesley. Pink could be interpreted as being more akin to Wesley than Luther with this statement. On page 8, Pink make the ignorant and damnable statement that “Something more than ‘believing’ is necessary to salvation”. This is outright denial of sola fide. This statement puts the reliability of Christ into question who said “he that believeth in me shall not perish but have everlasting life”. 

In chapter three, Pink states that a no matter how comprehensive a person’s faith is it may not be saving. As a matter of fact, according to Pink, reprobates may know the gospel better than real Christians. He goes even further than those who say there is such a thing as “historical faith” in the reprobate and says that the reprobate may possess a faith given by the Holy Spirit and it not be a saving one (p.16). Pink goes on to say “Thus there is a people who can even show you their faith by their works, and yet it is not a saving one! It is impossible to say how far a non-saving faith may go, and how very closely it may resemble that faith which is saving. Saving faith has Christ for its object; so has a non-saving Faith (John 2:23-24). Saving faith is wrought by the Holy Spirit; so is a non-saving Faith (Hebrews 6:4). Saving faith is produced by the Word of God; so also is a non-saving Faith (Matthew 13:20-21). Saving faith will make a man prepare for the coming of the Lord, so also will a non-saving. Of both the foolish and wise virgins it is written, ‘then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps’ (Matthew 25:7). Saving faith is accompanied with joy; so also is a non-saving Faith (Matt. 13:20).” From this extensive quote you can plainly see that there is no difference between an elect believer and a reprobate according to Pink, which means you cannot know if you are saved! The book of 1 John contrarily states you can know you are saved. Only the elect can truly believe the Gospel of Christ (1 Corinthians 1:18, 2:7,8,14) and if you believe you can know you are saved.

One final quote from Pink on page 32 of his book where he says “Thus an essential element or ingredient in saving faith is a yielding to the authority of God, a submitting of myself to His rule. It is very much more than my understanding assenting and my will consenting to the fact that Christ is a Savior for sinners, and that He stands ready to receive all who trust Him.” This clearly shows “faith” for Pink is really obedience to the law and has nothing to do with the Gospel of Christ. Even for those who hold to “faith” as will such as James Buchanan (see his response to the Sandemanian system in his The Doctrine of Justification pages 174-175) would be astonished and saddened by such a deviation from truth.

To sum up, this is an awful book! It goes even further in error than most inconsistent theologians who claim faith is an aspect of the will or believe the reprobate have “historical faith” in the gospel or believe in a “temporary faith” in the reprobate. Call it Arminianism or Romanism but it is bad theology!


Sunday, June 07, 2020

Was Zane Hodges a Sandemanian? No!!!









Quite often in my discussions on faith I am associated with the late Dallas Seminary professor Zane Hodges or his group at the Grace Evangelical Society see https://faithalone.org/tag/zane-hodges/ . In my study of the “Lordship Salvation” view Zane Hodges is often referred to as a Sandemanian. This post is to dispel this nonsense.

Any cursory study of Robert Sandeman will find that Robert Sandeman believed that Faith was a gift of God and was a knowledge of the truth (1 Tim. 2:4, 2 Tim. 3:7) not involving the human will at all (John 1:12, Rom. 9:16). That same cursory study of Zane Hodges and the Grace Evangelical Society will show that they deny faith is a gift of God and that it is dependent on the human will. To put it succinctly, Sandeman was a Calvinist and Hodges was an Arminian. Fortunately, some critics have been scholarly enough to admit this. Lloyd-Jones in his work The Puritans: Their Origins and Successors is careful to admit this and even goes as far as to say that Sandeman was a high Calvinist. David Gay is another careful critic and in his book reviewed above called The Secret Stifler, he calls Sandemanianism a Reformed error. Compare this to the book The Faith That Saves by Arminians Fred Chay and John P. Correa https://wipfandstock.com/the-faith-that-saves.html and you can clearly see that no Arminian can be a Sandemanian. Faith for an Arminian will always necessitate free will as a part of faith which is antithetical to Sandemanianism.

After saying this I do want to say that most Arminians are “Lordship Salvationists” and so the Arminians are divided over certain aspects admittedly. A lot of Arminians agree with the “Lordship Salvation” taught in Arminian Baptist Robert Shank’s book Life In the Son see https://www.amazon.com/dp/091162001X/ref=nodl_?tag=duckduckgo-ipad-20&linkCode=osi&th=1&psc=1 . This book was listed as a source by John MacArthur in the first edition of his The Gospel According To Jesus by the way. But for Arminian dispensationalists, Zane Hodges seems to have more traction than Robert Shank.

I understand that theologians will keep calling Hodges a Sandemanian despite the truth of the matter. I know they will use some guilt by association trick to discourage thoughtful research into Robert Sandeman. I know they probably think that Sandemanianism will lead to the errors of Zane Hodges.
They just need to know that I will continue to say that their view will either lead to “Federal Vision”and Norman Shepherd theology of works justification or to the error of Robert Shank, that a Christian can lose his salvation if he does not obey enough.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Calvinist Baptist Groups

Calvinist Baptist Groups

I have compiled a list of major Calvinist Baptist groups in America below. I have placed next to them organizations or authors that are either part of or influential to these groups. If I had a question about the group the author has influenced more I put a question mark. I hope this is a helpful guide for those seeking a fellowship.

Credobaptist Evangelicals- Believe, teach and practice credobaptism only but allow for members who have never been scripturally baptized (Paedobaptized). (John Bunyan, Robert and James Haldane, A.W. Pink?, John MacArthur) (Fellowship of Independent Reformed Evangelicals?)

Founders Ministries- Hold to the Second London Baptist Confession as the Reformed Baptists but also support and fellowship with The Southern Baptist Convention, which includes Baptists of different stripes such as Arminian, AmyraldianMolinists and others. This group is staunchly Covenant in its theology and hold conferences promoting suchThey are content in being a subgroup of the larger group. (Andrew Fuller, James Boyce, John Dagg, Ernest Reisinger, Al Martin, Tom Ascol, Fred Malone, Tom Nettles)

Sovereign Grace Baptists- Align themselves according to the five Solas of the Reformation and the five points of Calvinism. May use a Baptist confession (1st London, 2nd London, Philadelphia or New Hampshire) or a Statement of Faith as their creed. May be Covenant, Dispensational, Progressive Dispensational, New Covenant or Progressive Covenant. (Sovereign Grace Baptist Association of Churches and Sovereign Grace Baptist Fellowship) (A.W. Pink?, Henry Mahan, John Reisinger and my personal favorite Archibald McLean)

Regular Baptists- This group lives in the GARBC. They are influential through their Regular Baptist Ministries and Regular Baptist Press. (Kenneth Good)

Reformed Baptists- Hold strictly to the Second London Baptist Confession and only fellowship with churches that do also. (Independent Reformed Baptists, ARBCA) (Benjamin KeachWalt Chantry, Sam Waldron, James Renihan, Richard Barcellos)

Primitive/Strict/Hard shell- This group is considered to be Hyper-Calvinist. While maintaining the five points of Calvinism they usually include doctrines like eternal justification and/or deny any natural means of grace. (John Gill, John Brine, J.C. PhilpotLasserre Bradley)

Landmark Baptists- The distinction in this group is ecclesiological. They hold similar to the Catholic Church an unbroken succession of Baptist churches since Jesus walked the earth. They only have fellowship with other Baptists. (J.R. Graves)


Charismatic Calvinist BaptistsThis is not a formal fellowship but more of a movement. They are Baptists that teach both Calvinism and Continuationism. They have been highly influential in books, conferences, blogs, Professorships and as Pastors. Wayne Grudem, Don Carson, John Piper and Sam Storms are popular for a bestselling Systematic Theology(Grudem), The Gospel Coalition ministry (Carson), Desiring God Ministries and book (Piper) and Enjoying God Ministries(Storms).


Generic- This group is hard to classify. They may be a mix of some of the above or stand alone. (Charles Spurgeon) 
1. Al Mohler (Southern Baptist) and Mark Dever (whose church uses the New Hampshire Baptist Confession and is Southern Baptist) hold conferences called Together For The Gospel with Presbyterian Ligon Duncan and Charismatic Evangelical C.J. Mahaney. They fellowship with the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals as well. 
2. Steven Lawson, a Southern Baptist, has been on the Board of Directors of dispensationalist John MacArthur’s Master’s Seminary and is a popular conference speaker but typically works alone with his OnePassion Ministry.
3. Tom Schreiner, Fred Zaspel, Michael Haykin are all highly influential through both their many books and as Professors at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.  These men are highly respected in Sovereign Grace Baptist circles.
4. James White is highly influential as an author, debater and through his ministry Alpha and Omega Ministries. Although an Elder in a Reformed Baptist Church, he is not Sabbatarian.
5. Jeffrey Johnson is a newer face on the scene, but as a Pastor, Author and now having started his own Seminary, has many outlets to influence Baptists. Seems open to Sovereign Grace circles but toes the line for Reformed Baptist Theology.
6. Timothy George is a Southern Baptist Author and Journalist. His book Theology of the Reformers, first published in 1988, is a classic that has influenced a number of Baptists.
7. Roger Nicole and R.K. MacGregor Wright, though no longer with us both have been influential through, his books and many Seminary Professorships (Nicole) and his ministry Aquila & Priscilla Study Center and book No Place for Sovereignty(Wright). Both are looked on as more liberal as they were both egalitarian.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Christian Identity



I do not spend a lot of time thinking of my identity. When I do, I simply look at my License and what that does not tell me my wife fills in the rest including some stuff I do not want to know. Identity seems to be an issue of discussion today not only in scholarly Christian circles but also in the Political realm. In this post I am only concerned about the scholarly Christian discussions. A recent book called On Being Reformed: Debates over a Theological Identity by Matthew Bingham, Chris Caughey, Scott Clark, Crawford Gribben and D.G. Hart discusses just this. The main question of the book is can Baptists be rightfully called Reformed. As a member of a Sovereign Grace Baptist Church, I have no ecclesiastical agenda in considering this topic. I couldn’t care less whether any Baptist group calls itself “Reformed” or not.

For myself growing up in an independent fundamental dispensational Baptist church, I at some point in my teens got hold of the classic The Sovereignty of God by A.W. Pink (unabridged version) and it changed the way I looked at scripture. I then started reading a variety of different authors that were called “Calvinists” and even Calvin himself. At some point some (Baptist) friends of mine said we should not call ourselves Calvinists because that glorifies a man and instead call ourselves Reformed because that just indicates the movement. So I said that sounds reasonable and started using the moniker informally. Then I came across some books by a Regular Baptist named Kenneth Good called Are Baptists Calvinists? (to which he answered Yes!) and Are Baptists Reformed? (to which he answered a resounding No!) who took the exact opposite opinion on the labels. Calvinist for him was essentially the doctrines of grace whereas Reformed was a whole system of doctrines that Baptist distinctives could not allow. I found some of his arguments convincing but I found I disagreed with him so much that I did not give him much heed. Then I later started coming into contact with other “Reformed Baptists” as I considered myself at the time and found that we did not see eye to eye on much. They were strict London Confessionalists who were Sabbatarian, loved Banner of Truth (Pietist Calvinist organization) and thought that Pink’s unabridged book was hyper-Calvinist as well as John Gill, whom I had grown a fondness for. I also came under the influence of the Scotch Baptists and so was labeled as a dreaded "Sandemanian". This led me away from using the term Reformed to identify myself, but realize it was because I could not identify with the group of Baptists using the name and not out of pity for a victimized denomination called “Reformed”.

                                                                      Who Are Baptists?

Baptists are so variegated that it is hard to have a specific identity. This is one of the criticisms of Baptists by other denominations and by the Reformed Baptists. Reformed Baptists often argue that in order to be a Baptist one must submit to the 1689 London Confession. This they say defines “Baptist” and so I guess they would have the rest of us stop calling ourselves Baptist, which is a little ironic considering they are upset over being denied the “Reformed” label. But Baptists are called General, Particular, Free Will, Regular, Missionary, Primitive, Landmark, Strict, English, Scotch, Swedish, Southern, Independent, American, Sovereign Grace, Reformed and probably more I am forgetting.

                                                                 On Being Reformed?

Now to the book mentioned above. The first chapter is written by Chris Caughey and Crawford Gribben. They take the position that the seventeenth century confessions are the roots of a Reformed theological family tree that has many branches. In this view Reformed can include "the more conservative 'new Calvinists' "(think John Piper). The second chapter is written by Matthew Bingham. He takes the position that "Reformed" should be restricted to covenant confessionalists only. He would include in this group Baptists who hold strictly to the London Baptist Confession. Chapter three is written by D.G. Hart. I am a little confused on this as Darryl is a Presbyterian and does not have a dog in this fight. After all there is no Association of Presbyterian Baptists that I am aware of. By his own standards he is not even Reformed as the Presbyterians wrote their own confession in Westminster and did not follow the Three Forms of Unity. They also were founded by John Knox and not Calvin and so may not be able to claim the term "Calvinist" for themselves. I doubt John Calvin would approve of the Westminster Confession in it's infralapsarian predestination and it's views of assurance and definition of the Sabbath. Nevertheless, in his chapter he argues that Baptists are different. He writes "Baptists did not simply revise the Westminster Standards but wrote a new confession of faith" (p. 57). One of his problems with the London Baptist Confession is that it does not have a chapter on marriage and divorce as Westminster does. He nowhere explains why he believes Westminster follows the "Reformed" tradition when it differs with the Three Forms of Unity on assurance being of the essence of faith and Sabbatarian definitions. The final chapter is written by R. Scott Clark. His main arguments are that historically Baptists never identified themselves with the Reformed and that paedo-baptism is essential to the definition of Reformed.

At this point I want to reiterate my lack of care if any Baptist fellowship calls itself Reformed or not. In a way Bingham is correct in that it is a signpost for those either looking for or to avoid strict confessionalism or Sabbatarianism. I do not think a Reformed Baptist church sign will cause any confusion for Three Forms of Unity advocates who may slip up and visit the wrong church. There are Methodist Episcopal, Reformed Episcopal, Reformed Presbyterian churches that are clearly understood as to their identity (there is a Primitive Baptist Church of Christ church near my house that confuses me, but since I am neither hyper-Calvinist nor Campbellite, I would not visit it anyway). One of the authors of this book is an Orthodox Presbyterian and to my knowledge they are not being picketed by a bunch of Greeks and Russians for stealing their name. I am sure no one expects a thurible to be used in the worship service of one of these churches either (although D.G. Hart is High Church!). In my opinion the chapter by Caughey and Griffen was the best argued but that does not make it the correct one. Bingham, Hart and Clark are right in that Reformed should not just mean the five points of Calvinism, as Jansenist Catholics would agree with them, and I do think Charismatics veer off the sola scriptura trail too far to be considered Reformed. So Reformed should at least include the five points of Calvinism and the five solas, but whether it necessitates strict adherence to a confession, Sabbatarianism, paedo-baptism, and a particular view of marriage and divorce I am not prepared to say. Maybe we all do need to ask ourselves whether we are Christians first, Baptists first, Calvinists first, Sandemanians first or what?     

                                                           

Friday, July 20, 2018

UNDERSTANDING FAITH OR FAITH AS UNDERSTANDING








The common definition of biblical faith involves a tripartism of notitia, assensus, and fiducia. Ligonier Ministries describes the situation like this:


Notitia. Notitia refers to the content of faith, or those things that we believe. We place our faith in something, or more appropriately, someone. In order to believe, we must know something about that someone, who is the Lord Jesus Christ.

Assensus. Assensus is our conviction that the content of our faith is true. You can know about the Christian faith and yet believe that it is not true. Genuine faith says that the content — the notitia taught by Holy Scripture — is true.

Fiducia. Fiducia refers to personal trust and reliance. Knowing and believing the content of the Christian faith is not enough, for even demons can do that (James 2:19). Faith is only effectual if, knowing about and assenting to the claims of Jesus, one personally trusts in Him alone for salvation.


Based on this description Notitia appears to be an intellectual element and can be said to be knowledge or understanding (I could have named this post “Knowing Faith or Faith is Knowing”). Assensus appears to be an element of the will in that one not only knows something to be true but of a will assents to it. Fiducia from the definition above wants to make the truth personal. This breakdown of faith has become official orthodoxy in most conservative circles despite not being scriptural or explicitly stated in any confession. In this post, I want to examine scripture on this to see if it makes the same conclusions that most theologians of our day do about “Faith”. I intend to show from scripture that faith and believing are used interchangeably and that they both ultimately are a faculty of intellect (knowing or understanding). I intend to show that faith is a gift and cannot be achieved by human willpower and so unbelievers not only do not believe the gospel but cannot believe without the regeneration of the Holy Spirit. I intend to show that the gospel is good news and therefore is something to be either believed or not. I intend to show that faith in the gospel will result in evidence of good works. Finally, I intend to show that despite faith being a gift, God normally uses the means of preaching to produce it in the elect and does not directly produce it in a vacuum.



                                                                KINDS OF FAITH?



The London Baptist Confession of 1689 states in chapter 14:3 This faith, although it be in different stages, and may be weak or strong,11 yet it is in the least degree of it different in the kind or nature of it, as is all other saving grace, from the faith and common grace of temporary believers”. This has led many theologians to break faith up in to different kinds.  Temporary, Historical, Speculative, Intellectual, Head and Demonic are just some of the types of labels given to Faith to indicate a belief in the gospel that is not saving and will lead eventually to Hell. The statement is correct in that faith has degrees, as shown in Mark 9:24, where the man clearly is a believer but in need of spiritual growth, however, errantly promotes the idea that unbelievers believe the gospel temporarily and that their faith is of a different nature than that of the elect. This a most Arminian statement and not in any way close to being scriptural. 1 John 2:19 tells us “They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, so that it would be shown that they are not of us.” clearly indicating that apostates were not really of us or true believers. It mentions nothing of them being “temporary believers” because their faith was deficient in kind or nature. Romans 1:16 states that Paul is “not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes…” showing that any one that believes the gospel is saved! It nowhere states how they are to believe the gospel just that they are to believe it. Matthew 13:20, 21 is often used to prove this idea of a “temporary faith’ but a few verses down in 23 we read only the good soil “hears the word and understands it”. This so-called temporary faith is in appearance only and not a different kind of faith. Judas never believed the gospel at all, he did not believe it with a temporary kind of faith (John 6:64, 71 & 17:8-12).

  

                                                Believing in Faith or Believing in Christ?



Saving faith or belief is always outward focused on Christ, what is often said to be “extra nos” by theologians. The opposite of this is “intra nos” which is focused on ourselves. To distinguish different kinds of faith makes it necessary to examine intra nos our faith or ultimately have faith in our faith. The same also goes for those that distinguish between “faith” and “believing”. These same groups try in vain to divide faith from belief. Often we read of an “easy believism” which is to be read as not saving but “faith alone” is read positively as saving. Scripture in contrast has no such distinctions. John 3:16 clearly says “… whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” and 1 John 5:4 states that we overcome the world by our faith. Paul advised the Philippian jailer to believe for salvation in Acts 16:31 but in Romans 3:28 he says we are justified by faith apart from works. Clearly there is no difference in faith and belief. We are justified by belief alone just as much as we are justified by faith alone.



                                                     Knowledge of the Truth



The strange thing about the common understanding of Faith is that despite theologians claim that it is made up of understanding, will and trust, is how easily they are willing to claim something as faith without the person having any understanding. The usual exposition of Matthew 13:20, 21 states that these stony soil people had a temporary faith because they lacked in either will and/or trust but they had a head faith (read understanding). Scripture contradicts this interpretation in verse 23 however where it says only the good soil understands. We often read in scripture that faith is a “knowledge of the truth”. 2 Timothy 3:7 describing apostates says that they are “always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truthand 1 Timothy 2:4 says God “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth”. 2 Timothy 2:25, 26 reiterates this by saying with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.” Clearly, faith is equivalent to understanding the gospel as true. Speculation is not faith! We all think of possibilities before accepting the veracity of something but this is not faith. King Agrippa in Acts 26:28 was never persuaded and so did not have a knowledge of the truth. Ephesians 4:13 calls it a “knowledge of the Son of God” and goes on to say in verse 18 that unbelievers are “darkened in their understanding” and “excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them”.



                                                     The Gift of Faith!



Faith is a gift of God! Ephesians 2:8, 9 say that “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Philippians 1:29 states that it has been granted to us to believe in him for Christ’s sake. Before God opened our eyes we were dead in our trespasses and sins and were not able in the slightest to come to the knowledge of the truth. In Mark 4:11 and 12 we are told “And He was saying to them, “To you has been given the mystery of the kingdom of God, but those who are outside get everything in parables, so that while seeing, they may see and not perceive, and while hearing, they may hear and not understand, otherwise they might return and be forgiven.” Only the elect see the gospel as truth. No one can say, “Jesus is Lord” except by the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 12:3).

  

                                                       Believing Unbelievers?


This leads us to the question of those that some theologians say believe without the Holy Spirit, after all don’t demons believe and go to hell. This reference is to James 2:19 where we are told “demons also believe and shudder”. The proper understanding of this is that demons faith (in their damnation) causes them to work (shudder). Our faith (in the gospel) will lead us to do works fit for the Kingdom. This is not saying demons believe the gospel as not even elect angels believe that (1 Peter 1:12) but that their faith works. Simon the sorcerer is another unbeliever said to believe (Acts 8:13) but once again whatever Simon believed it was not the gospel as he thought he could obtain the gift of God with money (Acts 8:20). The natural man cannot believe the things of God for they are foolishness to him (1 Corinthians 2:14). Notice that none of the rulers understood the wisdom of God, for if they had they would not have crucified the Lord of Glory (1 Corinthians 2:8, Acts 3:17), Jesus tells us that they do not know what they are doing (Luke 23:34). Apostates may have a zeal for God but it is not according to Knowledge (Romans 10:2). Unbelievers are blind, deaf and unreasoning animals (Isaiah 6:9-11, 2 Peter 2:12). God has hardened and blinded them from the truth (Romans 9:18, Romans 11:7, 8, 2 Corinthians 3:14 & 2 Corinthians 4:3-5). While people believe in God through natural theology (Romans 1:20, 21 & Genesis 4:13) no person believes in Christ unless the Father draws them (John 6:44) and anyone that does believe in Christ will most certainly go to heaven (John 6:37).

  

                                                            Gospel=Good News 



Many current theologians complain that the gospel is just “facts” and this cannot save anyone. They are right the gospel is facts but the alternative would be lies and of course that is what you believe if you deny the gospel. Paul told the Corinthians that they stand in the gospel unless they never really believed it in 1 Corinthians 15:1-11. In Galatians 1:6 we learn that to believe a different gospel is to desert Christ. Romans 1:16 tells us the gospel is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes. Read all about it, Christ died for the sin of man and conquered death in the resurrection and anyone that believes in him alone for salvation will be saved. 



                                                              Means of Grace



Despite faith being a gift, God has normally utilized the natural means of hearing or reading the gospel in the scriptures and not through some direct means such as personal conversation in a burning bush or white light. Romans 10:17 tells us that faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of Christ. 1 Corinthians 1:21 tells us that God is pleased to use preaching to save those who believe. We must be faithful witnesses always ready to give an account of the hope that is in us (1 Peter 3:15). 



                                                                Cause & Effect



Faith will produce works of righteousness. Faith without works is dead (James 2:26). Ephesians 2:10 tells us that we are God’s artwork created for good works, and we learn in Titus 2:14 that believers are “zealous for good works”. We must be careful to remember that faith is the root and works are the fruit and never try to get the cart before the horse. Without faith we cannot please him, a person that goes to God must first believe that he is and that he will reward him we learn in Hebrews 11:6. We are saved by grace not by works (Ephesians 2:8, 9 and Titus 3:5).  



                                                                     Conclusion 



Christ while on earth talked about his testimony and the testimony of scripture pointing to him (John 5:36, 39). If we receive the testimony of men the testimony of God is greater (1 John 5:9). Testimony is to be believed as truth or rejected as lies. God has given us, the elect, understanding to know the truth and set us free (1 John 5:20, Acts 13:48). We hear his voice and follow him (John 10:27). This faith is a gift and is passive.  Faith is an understanding or knowledge that Christ is the sacrifice for my sins and rose to prepare a place for me and is coming again. It excludes human will as Romans 9:16 tells us “…it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy”. How you define faith is how you believe you are justified. If you define faith as “affections” then you are justified by affections. John Calvin’s definition of faith is helpful here when he says “Now we shall possess a right definition of faith if we call it a firm and certain knowledge of God’s benevolence toward us, founded upon the truth of the freely given promise in Christ, both revealed to our minds and sealed upon our hearts through the Holy Spirit”. Soli Deo Gloria!



                                                               Further Reading



Letters on Theron and Aspasio by Robert Sandeman- The best work on faith. Congregational Theologian

Works of Archibald M’Lean in Six Volumes- Especially volumes 1, 4, and 2- Scotch Baptist Minister


The Miscellaneous Writings of the late William Braidwood- Scotch Baptist Minister


The Works of Mr. John Glas in Five Volumes- Especially volume 2- Congregational Minister

                                                             Other Books on Faith


What Is Saving Faith by Gordon Clark- Presbyterian Minister who advocates for faith=understanding & assent.


Faith, Obedience, and Justification: Current Evangelical Departures by Samuel Waldron- Reformed Baptist Minister.


Faith and Its Evidences by John Owen- Puritan Theologian


Free Grace Theology: 5 Ways it Diminishes the Gospel by Wayne Grudem- Charismatic Calvinist Baptist Theologian


The Secret Stifler: Incipient Sandemanianism and preaching the gospel to sinners by David H.J. Gay- Particular Baptist Minister


Calvin and English Calvinism to 1649 by R.T. Kendall- Faith from an Amyraldian perspective


The Gospel According to Jesus: What Does Jesus Mean When He Says "Follow Me" by John MacArthur- Evangelical Minister

What Pure Eyes Could See: Calvin's Doctrine of Faith in Its Exegetical Context by Barbara Pitkin

Final Destiny: The Future Reign of the Servant Kings by Joseph Dillow- Arminian Dispensationalist Theologian

The Current Justification Controversy by O. Palmer Robertson- Presbyterian Theologian

A Companion  to the Current Justification Controversy by John Robbins- Presbyterian Theologian

Life in the Son: A Study of the Doctrine of Perseverance by Robert Shank- Arminian Baptist minister

A Faith That is Never Alone: A Response to Westminster Seminary California by P. Andrew Sandlin

Salvation By Allegiance Alone: Rethinking Faith, Works, and the Gospel of Jesus the King by Matthew W. Bates

Not By Faith Alone: The Biblical Evidence for the Catholic Doctrine of Justification by Robert A. Sungenis- Catholic Theologian

Monday, April 02, 2018

A Review of The Secret Stifler: Incipient Sandemanianism and preaching the gospel to sinners by David Gay

Recently I came across a curious little book called The Secret Stifler. Its stated purpose is to save the church from incipient Sandemanianism, which was a movement that emphasized that Saving Faith is like any other faith except in the object of the Christian Gospel. Sandemanianism denies to Saving Faith any emotions, obedience or will and says it is a spiritual understanding or belief of the gospel alone. If Saving Faith is not belief of the Gospel alone then what is it?

The book is modest and unimpressive in its appearance and publication. The Preface is written by Southern Baptist Theological Seminary Professor, Michael Haykin. Haykin has been lambasting Sandemanianism for years being a Padawan of the teaching of Andrew Fuller. He sets the pace of the book by saying if Sandemanianism is true then we cannot distinguish true believers from nominal believers as even nominal believers "mentally assent to the truths of Christianity"(p.9). So for Haykin unbelievers believe that Christ died for their sins and rose again for their salvation, but they still go to hell because they just believed it with their mind. This is far from scripture which teaches "the gospel is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes..."(Rom.1:16).

The author then goes on to give a little helpful background of his theology in his Preamble. He is a five-point Calvinist, Particular Baptist. He does not like the term "Reformed Baptist" as he thinks it is an oxymoron. He does not agree with the 1689 London Confession strictly as he is not a Covenant Theologian. He declares himself a decided New Covenant Theologian.(p. 17)

Next the author goes on to announce that in this book he is just focusing on the understanding of "Faith" in Sandemanianism and not the system as a whole. He repeats the oft made proclamation that Andrew Fuller "effectively destroyed"(p. 24)  Sandemanianism back in the 19th century. Sandemanians do not agree with this assessment but I guess we got to take the author's word for it. He then includes Gordon Clark as a modern day Sandemanian by quoting from his book What is Saving Faith? (p. 25) David Gay does not seem to understand Clark in the quote. Clark says "Not all cases of assent, even assent to biblical propositions, are saving faith, but all saving faith is assent to one or more biblical propositions." (p.26) Clark simply meant believing in angels and demons although biblical propositions, do not save. Only believing the propositions of the Gospel save! This unbelievably and sadly causes David Gay confusion. David then goes on to assume that because Sandemanians deny that faith is emotional that it necessarily leads to dry dead Christianity. It seems to be foreign to him that faith leads to a heart of worship as its effect. He cannot fathom this concept.

David Gay declares that Sandemanianism produces passionless preaching. He is clear that preaching should not be cold hard facts but vibrant and dynamic and uses a case study of Christmas Evans to prove it. It is not surprising Gay feels this as scripture says "people will not endure sound teaching, but have itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions..." (2 Tim. 4:2-5). Finally, Gay does a comparative study of the exegesis of Sandemanian interpretations of Scripture with his own. This I found helpful in that he at least, unlike other critics, has grappled with the writings of Sandemanians directly. The main argument Gay uses is James 2:19 where demons are said to believe in one God. For him Demons believe Christ died for their sins and rose again for their salvation but they still go to hell (p. 60). Gay seems totally ignorant that Christ did not die for angels (Heb 2:16) and that the gospel is not even understood by elect angels much less demons (1 Pet. 1:12). Quite often John 2:23-25 is used to employ that something other than faith is necessary for salvation but Jesus in John 3:11,12 says these people (of which Nicodemus was one) did not receive his testimony by believing him. Simon the Sorceror (Acts 8:13) is another example often used to prove that believing the gospel is not enough but Simon believed he could "obtain the gift of God with money"(Acts 8:20) which is clearly not the gospel of Jesus Christ. These examples fall by the wayside as one examines them faithfully in scripture. Believers passively receive faith and are born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man at all but by the will of God alone (John 1:12,13). Soli Deo Gloria

Although I disagree with the author on almost all of his scriptural interpretation, I do recommend this book for the very helpful history of Sandemanianism and the usually careful quotations of Sandemanian exegesis which hopefully will lead people to the truth. His history is generally good with minor exceptions like saying the Sandemanians leading scholar was a man named William Robinson. I am unaware of such a scholar but am aware of a William Jones who wrote many books and articles on Sandemanians and Sandemanianism. Gay also says Sandemanianism is a Reformed error in one of his appendices (p. 209), showing rightly that they are five-point calvinists. The main problem with the book is where David Gay defines saving faith. He declares "We must be clear. Relying, leaning, trusting, obeying, resting, embracing, cleaving, holding, fleeing to, and casting myself on Christ are not mere accompaniments of saving faith; nor can they be limited to the effects of saving faith. They lie at the very heart of saving faith itself. They are saving faith."(p. 90) We see here clearly that he includes obedience in saving faith and he makes no bones about it. David Gay and Michael Haykin sadly teach a works salvation.

"I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me." (2 Tim. 1:12) Amen!