Monday, July 23, 2007

Nelson Price does not know what Calvinists believe concerning perseverence

The following is a complete refutation of a passage in the review article : 'A Review of Calvinism and Southern Baptists' by Nelson Price

In this article Nelson Price makes the following remarks:


Southern Baptists are in general agreement on the concept of the security of the believer known as “once saved always saved” or preservation of the saints.

There is a slight semantic difference in what Calvinists believe on this topic. They believe in the perseverance of the saints.

(The following two paragraphs are a sidebar to the book review.)

Put side by side the difference becomes clear.

Preservation of the saints Perseverance of the saints
God does it Man does it
It is based on God’s promises It is based on man’s performance
It is absolute It is relative

Contrary to the concept of “it is all about grace” this last point actually means the Calvinists position on the subject is works based. This leaves some Calvinists hoping they have done enough good work. Baptist know for sure God has done a perfect work."

Nothing could be further from the truth than this disingenuous statement. The Calvinist does NOT believe that his salvation is conditional on his works. Let us see what official Calvinist documents have to say on the matter. We shall also look at two high Calvinists who no-one will accuse of Arminian tendencies.

First of all, let us see what the Westminster Confession, a document Dr. Price elsewhere regards as authoritative on the definition of Calvinistic belief, has to say:
"II. This perseverance of the saints depends not upon their own free will, but upon the immutability of the decree of election, flowing from the free and unchangeable love of God the Father; upon the efficacy of the merit and intercession of Jesus Christ, the abiding of the Spirit, and of the seed of God within them, and the nature of the covenant of grace: from all which arises also the certainty and infallibility thereof" (article 17, identical to chapter 17 of the 1689 Baptist Confession)

The Synod of Dort, generally regarded as THE standard of Calvinism, reads: "Because of these remnants of sin dwelling in them and also because of the temptations of the world and Satan, those who have been converted could not remain standing in this grace if left to their own resources. But God is faithful, mercifully strengthening them in the grace once conferred on them and powerfully preserving them in it to the end." (Fifth main Point of Doctrine, article 3) Article 8 says: "So it is not by their own merits or strength but by God's undeserved mercy that they neither forfeit faith and grace totally nor remain in their downfalls to the end and are lost. With respect to themselves this not only easily could happen, but also undoubtedly would happen; but with respect to God it cannot possibly happen, since his plan cannot be changed, his promise cannot fail, the calling according to his purpose cannot be revoked, the merit of Christ as well as his interceding and preserving cannot be nullified, and the sealing of the Holy Spirit can neither be invalidated nor wiped out." The synod condemns those, "Who teach that God does provide the believer with sufficient strength to persevere and is ready to preserve this strength in him if he performs his duty, but that even with all those things in place which are necessary to persevere in faith and which God is pleased to use to preserve faith, it still always depends on the choice of man's will whether or not he perseveres." (second error rejected under the fifth head of doctrine)

Article 11 of the New Hampshire Baptist Confession of 1833 reads: "We believe that such only are real believers as endure unto the end; that their persevering attachment to Christ is the grand mark which distinguishes them from superficial professors; that a special Providence watches over their welfare;60 and they are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation."

Article 4 of the Sandy Creek Association reads: "We believe in election from eternity, effectual calling by the Holy Spirit of God, and justification in his sight only by the imputation of Christ's righteousness. And we believe that they who are thus elected, effectually called, and justified, will persevere through grace to the end, that none of them be lost."

The First London Baptist Confession of 1644 reads: "Those that have this precious faith wrought in them by the Spirit, can never finally nor totally fall away; and though many storms and floods do arise and beat against them, yet they shall never be able to take them off that foundation and rock which by faith they are fastened upon, but shall be kept by the power of God to salvation, where they shall enjoy their purchased possession, they being formerly engraven upon the palms of God's hands." (Article 22)

William Huntington, a rather eccentric preacher accused by some of hyper-Calvinism, wrote in his personal Confession in 1745: "I believe, that wherever the Spirit of God begins a work of grace, the carries it on. What God doth, it is done for ever, all his work is perfect; the Spirit is a well of living water in the believer, that springs up into everlasting life; the Comforter abides for ever, he shall never depart from the chosen seed, world without end."

William Gadsby, in his Catechism, writes of believers: "they shall never perish; but, in spite of sin, Satan, the world and the flesh, shall have everlasting life; for their life is hid with Christ in God, and because He lives, they shall live also." (answer to Question 92)

Dr. John Gill, in his reply to John Wesley (who DID believe that our continuance in gace is conditional on our works) writes: "Blessed be God, we have a better foundation for joy and comfort than all this; the true believer, though he lives by faith, does not live upon it... a believer lives not on his faith, but upon Christ, and the grace of Christ, faith brings nigh unto him. He has better things than uncertain precarious frames to live upon and recieve his comforts from; even the unchangable love of God; the unalterable covenant of grace; the faithfulness of God, who, though 'we believe not, yet He abideth faithful' (II Timothy 2.13); absolute and unconditional promises; Jesus Christ, the same to-day, yesterday, and for ever; His precious blood, perfect righteousness, atoning sacrifice, and that fulness of grace which is in Him.
"To conclude: if a man may be confident of one thing in this world, he may be 'confident of this very thing', that in whomsoever, whether in himself or in any other, God 'hath begun a good work,' he 'will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ' (Phil 1.9); and that 'all' the true 'Israel' of God 'shall be saved in the Lord with an everlasting salvation' (Isa 45.17); and that not one of them shall eternally perish." ('Sermons and Tracts by the late Reverend and Learned John Gill, D.D.' (London, H. Lyon, 1815) Pp. 99-100).
The Carter Lane Declaration of Faith and Practice, drawn up by Dr. Gill, says: "We believe, That all those who are chosen by the Father, redeemed by the Son, and sanctified by the Spirit, shall certainly persevere, so that not one of them shall ever perish but shall have everlasting life." (article 9. Found On. P. 560 of the volume just referred to
If any Baptist may be said to have been a Calvinist, it is John Gill. In fact, Gill has been accused of being hyper-Calvinist. Yet Gill reprobated the very belief Price attributes to Calvinists as Arminian.

We see, then, that nine witnesses (and we could call dozens more) contradict Dr. Price. Seven of these are official statements of dorctine admitted by churches and two very high Calvinists. So why is Dr. Price so wrong? I can only assume that Dr. Price has not researched what Calvinists actually believe on this matter, but has accepted on second hand a bad criticism of the Calvinistic position. What Dr. Price has done is perpetuated a straw man. He has taken the word 'perseverence' and given it, not the meaning that Calvinists give it, but a definition devised by an unscrupulous anti-Calvinist in the past. This is a mean-spirited and just plain nasty way of dealing with someone you disagree with, and I am sorry that Dr. Price has been taken in by the word-games of the spiteful man who came up with this piece of nastiness. His criticism strikes at the Arminians, but it totally misses every Calvinist who ever lived.

I have already written to Dr. Price to make him aware of my concerns, and I have asked him to amend the article accordingly. If he does not do so, it evidences a refusal to be taught.


gordan said...

Well, brother, almost seven months later, I'm wondering if you ever heard back from Price on this?

I want to hear that he took your correction on board and reformed; and not that he obstinately continued on.

Thank you for a very informative post. I love Dr. Gill.

Rhett said...

Price replied to me quickly when I emailed him once...

I wonder what's the deal?