"WHAT ABOUT A DEBATE WITH JAMES WHITE"
ON HIS THEORIES ABOUT THE NEW BIRTH? [04/01/04]
morning's email, I received the following comment from a Southern Baptist
Amen on your quotes! Godís Word creates
something out of nothing. He didnít need to start with a germ before
saying, ďLet there be. . .Ē in Genesis one. Nor did Lazarus need to
spend a nanosecond alive in the dark tomb before he could hear the Word of God
the Son! Theistic evolutionists and pre-faith regenerationists both err,
not knowing the Power or the Word of God.
I appreciate this
comment, for it comes from one on the "seminary level" holding to conservative
views in contrast to the situation in SBC seminaries in the mid to latter 1900s.
Also, another party has suggested a debate with James White on his
pre-faith new birth theory. Well, I would have no objection to debating Brother
James in a formal debate format, with Moderators and the normal order and
procedures according to Hedge's Rules of Debate.
I doubt serioiusly that
James would be interested in such a debate, however, as he is not accustomed to
debating Calvinists. It appears that most if not all of his debates have been
with a different type opponent, such as Romanists, Mormons, Oneness, Open
Theists, Pedopbaptists, Arminians, King James Onlyites, etc. I think these are
"easier" targets, for in such debates with these types James has the weight of
Baptist orthodoxy in his corner. I am sure he has debated very capable
representatives of these heterodox or aberrant theological views, but they are
all severely theologically handicapped by their divergence from historic Baptist
Also, in the recent past, I have been a somewhat "touch not,
taste not, handle not" item with James, as he seems to be more comfortable with
simply ignoring my critiques of his views. In fact, ever since he got a "black
eye" after getting onto my case in regard to my writings about the
"incarnational Sonship" theory that used to be taught by John MacArthur, I have
had little to no communication with James. I think I last saw him at a CBA
Convention, but other than that I don't think I have either seen or heard from
My sincere hope for James is that he won't wind up among the
Hardshell Primitive Baptists, like what happened to Lassere Bradley Jr.
in the late 1950s and some other very capable young preachers who "went to
seed" on the theory of "pre-faith regeneration." It's sad to recall
that over my 50 years of observing the Calvinist camp of persuasion in various
sections of the country, several young men became obsessed with a
metaphysical-type interest in the internal mystery of the Holy Spirit's work in
the new birth and they wound up going into Hardshellism. In fact, a Georgia
Hardshell minister once told me that they "got most of their preachers from
missionary Baptists" who went from Calvinism into Hardshellism, just like the
Hardshells got started in the 1830s.
When Bradley and some of his young
preacher-companions in the Cincinnati area first departed into the Hardshell or
Primitive Baptist camp, I made it a point to give a careful study to the
question of why they he did so. I concluded that it was the "pre-faith
regeneration" theory which seduced them, and I have since seen the same type of
thing happen with some others. The views now being advocated by James White are
the very same views which ultimately led these men to shipwreck into
Hardshellism. My booklet on "The Killing
Effects of Hyper-Calvinism" grew out of my observations about why these
young men departed from the faith into Hardshellism. Nothing will kill
evangelistic, missionary, and soul-winning efforts any more thoroughly than the
theories involved in hyper-Calvinism. The Hardshell movement of today is as dead
as a doornail as to evangelism of the unsaved, and they only stay alive by
making proselytes primarily from Calvinists who adopt the "pre-faith
The following is a short article I wrote sometime
ago about early Hardshell history. It may be of interest to those of you who may
not be acquainted with this 19th century development.
Posted on the BaptistLife.com Forum, Aug. 16, 2000:
anti-missionary movement of the 1820-30s period, which gave rise to the
"Hardshell" movement, known as "Primitive Baptists," did not originally develop
from hyper-Calvinistic theological issues but from hotly contested missions
"methodology." The departure from orthodox Calvinism came later.
The Kehukee Association [in Virginia], which eventually
"went Hardshell," is said to have objected to "the modern missionary movement
and other institutions of men," and it specified "Missionary Societies, Bible
Societies, Tract Societies, Sunday Schools, Dorcas Societies, Mite Societies,
Religious Fairs and Theological Seminaries" (Kehukee Declaration, October 1827).
This Declaration makes no objection at that time to any theological differences
with the missionary Baptists on the new birth.
Even the famous "Black
Rock Address" put together by Gilbert Beebe (1800-1881), focused on mission
methods, not on theological differences. In fact, that address defends the use
of "means" as presented in the Philadelphia Confession, charging that the new
innovations in missionary methods "would make believers of their converts
without presenting any fixed TRUTHS to their minds to believe. Whereas God
has chosen his people to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and
belief of the TRUTH.-- 2 Thess. 2:13" (Black Rock Address, pp. 35, 36,
Primitive Publications reprint edition).
This position, however, would
be later abandoned by the Primitives in favor of a novel theory concocted by
Gilbert Beebe on regeneration (which I will soon explain).
leaders of the anti-mission movement, John Taylor of Kentucky, Daniel
Parker of Illinois, and Alexander Campbell of Virginia were all
opposed to mission methodology and they sought to prejudice people against
missions by focusing on the alleged evil campaigns to raise "monies," impeaching
the motives of the promoters of the missionary movement.
Campbell, of course, was nowhere close to being a Calvinist and was very
outspoken against Calvinism, as seen in his debates with Presbyterian debaters.
But he was perceived by B. H. Carroll Jr. as being the most outspoken
critic of the missions cause (Genesis of American Anti-Missionism, pages 93,
A "theological" defense of anti-missionism, however, was developed
by the anti's AFTER the 1832 split with the missionaries over methodology. Once
the anti-missionaries had split from the missionaries, Gilbert Beebe and
Samuel Trott (1783-1866) combined to develop a theological basis for
anti-missions, with Beebe's invention of the "Direct Voice Regeneration"
theory becoming the most prominent feature of Primitive Baptist theology
(Signs of the Times, Editorials, Volume 4, pages 21, 22; 9/11/1833).
According to Beebe, The "voice" of Christ is spoken "directly" to the
lost sinner's soul, and the sinner is thereby born again, with no
"instrumental means" such as the Gospel, or the written and spoken Wor of God,
having any part to play in this experience. Hence, there no need for preachers
or missionaries to evangelize the unregenerate.
When the Hardshells
later split into "Absoluter" and "Conditionalist" factions, both
factions continued to hold to the "Direct Voice Regeneration" theory and
used it to deprecate the preaching the Gospel to the unregenerate. The
Cayces (S. F., father, and son, Claud H.) in "The Primitive Baptist"
magazine were the chief advocates of that view for the "conditionalist" camp,
which eventually became the most predominant group.
therefore repudiate Calvinism as much as the Campbellites. Hardshells brand
Calvinists as "means Baptists" and they reject the Philadelphia Confession of
Not having a Confession of Faith for many years [they got their
theology from the leading papers of the predominant leaders], a group of 51 of
the choicest scribes of the "conditionalist" faction gathered together in
Fulton, Kentucky, November 1900, to "clarify" and "add some explanations to" the
London Confession, and published their disfiguration of the Confession under the
title of "A Comprehensive Confession of Faith," having whittled away the
"means" Calvinism of the Confession. Yet even this work by their most
distinguished "rabbis" has never been quite satisfactory, and some have since
called for the setting forth of another Confession.
R. V. Sarrels, who
wrote a Systematic Theology for the Primitives, says that the Fulton group tried
to make the London Confession "say what it did not say" on certain
doctrine, and that their effort was a "literary effort of torturing of
language" (pages 109, 110). He alleges that Primitives should "repudiate"
the London Confession on certain doctrine which Primitives do not believe (page
111). -- Bob L. Ross
NOTE: We have an entire series of articles on the
History and Heresies of Hardshellism
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