Saturday, July 12, 2008

Dispensational Men of Straw Demolished: 4

We conclude our remarks with some little defence of what we have said.

The question will be asked “what then about Roman Catholic claims that they believe in salvation through grace? Do you believe them?” In one sense, yes. You see, the Reformers never claimed that Rome taught salvation apart from grace. The Council of Trent is explicit that men are never saved apart from grace. But there is a word missing from Rome that the Reformers affirmed: ALONE. Rome has never claimed to teach salvation by grace ALONE, or by faith ALONE. Rome is actually quite open and honest.

The ‘cults’ are another matter. They redefine words, and that is why they can make statements that sound quite protestant and sound, but are in fact anything but - because words like ‘grace’ and ‘works’ have been redefined.

Let us emphasise that we know it is very possible for a person to unconsciously deny that which they consciously affirm, but we are always very reluctant to consider this and to charge people with holding positions that they explicitly deny. We Particular Baptists are historically very reluctant to accept inferences from Scripture. WE are still more reluctant to accept inferences from people’s writings as definitions of what they believe, particularly inferences that they themselves would deny. This was an unwarranted and tyrannical procedure when the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland used it to condemn the Marrow of Modern Divinity for teaching antinomianism (it actually teaches against it), it is just as unwarranted today. Again, when men accused J.C. Philpot of antinomianism ’by inference’ though he preached against it, that was uncharitable. We believe that it is always uncharitable to accuse a man by inference alone, particularly when he denies the charge inferred. Let us give the example of the ‘Marrow’. A Moderate minister might say to Thomas Boston: “You high-flyers are antinomians! Look at that book, it teaches rank antinomianism.”
Boston: “Indeed, sir, it does not. Look, one of the characters in the book is an antinomian, and his views are roundly condemned.”
Moderate: “It may do so, but nevertheless, as I read it I find that throughout it tends towards the teaching that Christians are under no obligation to live a holy life.”
Boston: “I deny that inference. Antinomianism is a horrible doctrine that both I and that book stand against.”

Or Mr. Philpot:
A Wesleyan: “Mr. Philpot, you are an antinomian.”
Mr. Philpot: “No, sir, I am not. Indeed, I believe that should a man teach that a Christian may live as he will without reference to God’s demands, that man is a false teacher.”
Wesleyan: “You may say so, but by teaching that believers are not under the law, your teaching tends to antinomianism.”
Philpot: “I deny that inference, I think antinomianism to be the most pernicious of teaching, and have stood against it ever since I was called by God’s grace.”

There is a direct parallel, in our opinion, between the argument of our hypothetical Moderate and Wesleyan and that of Mr. Phillips. We think both are unfair and could be used in a devastating fashion against Mr. Phillips’ own side, just as Mr. Boston could have used it to argue that the Moderate was a legalist. But we prefer to act as Mr. Boston did and act according to that famous dictum:

“In all things Charity.”

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