CAMPBELLITES and HARDSHELLS
It is rather paradoxical that the Campbellites and Hardshells can seemingly be so different, yet be so much alike at the root.
Both of them were born about the same time (early 1800s), and both of them took the ecclesiastical routes of "patternism" and "exclusivism" to formulate themselves into significant movements. In both groups, a person who maintained a profession of Christianity was held "at arm's length" if that one was not of their faith and order. Both movements arose during a period of history which was characterized by "anti-missionism," and both emphasized their forms of ecclesiastical "patternism" to undermine what they perceived as evils of the "innovation" of modern missions. While at first their target was the "methodologies" of missions, in due time they concocted theoretical views of the "Gospel" and the "New Birth" as a more subtle theological basis for their mutual cause -- opposition to Gospel preaching.
While Campbellism is more frequently identified with original Pelagianism, Hardshellism is as equally committed to the view that "command implies ability."
Both of these "isms" reject the Baptist Confession concerning the New Birth's being by both the Word and Spirit. Campbellism denies the application of any personal presence (power) by the Holy Spirit in the New Birth, while Hardshellism denies the necessity of the presence (power) of the Word (written or proclaimed) in the New Birth. Campbellism champions the "Word Alone" theory, and Hardshellism champions the "Spirit Alone" theory.
But the more "fundamental" agreement of Campbellism and Hardshellism is at the point of "ability." Both affirm that the one to whom a Gospel "command" is given, and whose "duty" it is to obey, is capable (able) to comply. In other words, if one is commanded to "repent and believe," that one must necessarily be capable of fulfilling his "duty." The person to whom such commands are addressed is said to be "alive," otherwise he could not justly be required to "repent and believe."
Consequently, the Campbellite theology views such a man as being in a natural condition of ability, and Hardshellism views such a man as having been supernaturally endowed with ability by a "direct operation" of the Spirit which they regard as "regeneration."
Their only difference lies in the fact that Campbellites believe a man is given such ability by God at birth, while Hardshells believe a man has it imparted to him by God subsequent to his birth.
So with both groups, the "duties" of repentance and faith do not result from the creative work of the Holy Spirit as He uses the Word (Gospel) upon the "dead" sinner, but repentance and faith are the "effects" of an "ability" or enablement already given to man. When such a man is addressed by the Gospel, he is already able to obey, as a result of the previously given ability.
Consequently, neither Campbellites nor Hardshells believe that the Gospel is addressed to men who are "dead in trespasses and in sins." Both believe they address their Gospel to those who are already "alive." As Hardshell Lassere Bradley once put it, "I don't fish for dead fish, but living fish."
Both the Campbellites and the Hardshells believe that repentance and faith are not the result of the Holy Spirit's use of the Gospel as the instrumental "means," but repentance and faith are "effects" of an ability already imparted by God.
A third party to this concept is the modern Reformed theorist who holds that there is prior regeneration which enables man to respond to the command to believe the Gospel. The argument is made that man is incapable of faith until he is first made alive -- or, in Pelagian terms -- has the ability to believe. This is what I call "Backdoor Pelagianism." They denounce Pelagianism on the front porch, but welcome it into the house thru the backdoor.
This theory, as delineated in writers such as Shedd (Dogmatic Theology) and Berkhof (Systematic Theology), denies the "creative" power of the Word of God as a creative, instrumental means in regeneration.
According to Shedd, with whom the Hardshells agree, the Holy Spirit's operation is "directly upon the human spirit, and is independent even of the word itself" (II:501) ; "regeneration is a DIRECT operation of the Holy Spirit upon the human spirit" (II:506), and "is not effected by the use of means" (page 507).
According to Berkhof, this theory holds that the instrumentality of the Gospel "has no effect on the dead" (page 474). Berkhof then dismisses a few of the passages of Scripture which "seem to prove the contrary" (pages 475-476) and goes on to allege that earlier Calvinistic sources failed "to discriminate carefully between the various elements which we distinguish in regeneration" (page 476).
According to Berkhof, the Word "does not operate creatively" and the Word therefore can "work only in the conscious life of man" (page 470) -- by which Berkhof means, in one who is able to receive the Word on account of a prior "regeneration" in which the sinner is endowed with a "spiritual ear." With this new ability (which parallels the Pelagian ability), "the gospel is NOW heard by the sinner" (page 471).
It appears to us that all three of these groups are advocating the principle of Pelagianism, that the Gospel is addressed to the "living" and not to those who are "dead in the trespasses and in sins." In fact, I have seen this very argument used against giving public invitations -- that is, against addressing the Gospel to "dead" sinners and urging them to accept it at that very moment of time.
This argument against exhorting and inviting the sinner to immediately believe the Gospel is tantamount to a denial of the creative power of the Word of God. It makes the "dead" sinner stronger than the Holy Spirit-empowered Word of God.
They obviously believe the sinner is "dead," but they apparently do not believe that the Word of God is stronger, being "quick and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart" (Heb. 4:12).
In John 6:63, Jesus said:
"It is the Spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life."
-- Bob L. Ross
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