Sent: Tuesday, March 30, 2004 8:40 PM

In a message dated 3/30/2004 12:01:37 PM Central Standard Time, a reader writes:

Hi Bob,
In case you haven't already been made aware of it, Dr. White posted a blog re. your comments about his debate book with Hunt.  You can see it here.
Your brother, T. H.

Dear Brother:

Thanks for informing me about Brother James' comment. I had not seen it, and I will herewith reprint it for the convenient reference of those who receive this email:

3/27/04:  Bob Ross and Debating Calvinism
     I received at least three copies of Bob L. Ross's "review" of Debating Calvinism over the past 24 hours or so.  I recall Bob Ross going after The Potter's Freedom as well.  Despite how often I say "God ordains the ends as well as the means," or "God uses the proclamation of the gospel as the means by which he draws His elect to Himself," Ross insists on not seeing this, or accepting it, and writes that I promote the idea of "regeneration apart from means."  And sorry, but saying I hold to a form of Pelagianism of any kind is just silly (I guess taking Romans 8:7-8 seriously is somehow akin to holding to a form of Pelagianism).  Oh well, that's OK.  Bob's a nice guy.  Just a tad confused is all.  J

I think I sent James one article, so I suppose some others on my list sent him the other two, but it looks like he failed to get the message in any one of the three.

This will not have been the first time James thought I was a "tad confused." A few years ago, when I published some critiques of John MacArthur's view of "incarnational Sonship" as being in conflict with the orthodox or confessional view, James got a little "steamed" at me and emailed me a few "cracks" in objection to my writings. He even asked to be removed from my email list, so he would be spared any more of my critiques. He probably thought I was a "tad confused." However, MacArthur later published a retraction of the "incarnational Sonship" view and endorsed the confessional view of Eternal Sonship. See Re-examining the Eternal Sonship of Christ

So, after all, perhaps James was the one who was then a "tad confused." If so, I hope James has read MacArthur's article and has dispelled that tad of confusion.  

If James is really a believer in the type of Calvinism which incorporates the use of the Gospel in the new birth, why does he fail to emphasize that matter in his "Statement of Faith"?

On the Internet, James has the following:

>>We believe that God, in His sovereign grace and mercy, regenerates sinful men by the power of the Holy Spirit, not by any action of their own, bringing them to new life. God grants to them the gifts of faith and repentance, which they then exercise by believing in Christ and turning from their sins in love for God. As a result of this faith, based upon the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ, God justifies or makes righteous the one who believes. God's gift of faith, and the continuing work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of the elect, results in good works. These good works flow from true, saving faith; they are a necessary result of faith, but are not to be considered necessary to the gaining of justification, which is by God's grace through faith alone, so that no man can boast.>>

While I am in full agreement with the fact that is it solely that efficient power of the Holy Spirit that regenerates men, and that there is a pre-faith work of the Holy Spirit in a lost person, I see nothing in this Statement of Faith about the Word, the Gospel, or the use of means. This is not the Calvinism I have come to know and believe from the confessions of faith. It is not the historic Calvinism of the Baptists who stood against the hyper-Calvinism of the Hardshells who split off in the 1830s.

The confessional "standards" of Calvinistic communions are the Canons of Dort, the Westminster Confession, the 1644 London Baptist Confession, and the 1689 London Baptist Confession (Philadelphia Confession, in America), and all clearly affirm the use of means, quite different from the Statement on James' website.

The Westminster and 1689 Baptist Confession state it as follows:

>>1. Those whom God hath predestinated unto life, he is pleased in his appointed, and accepted time, effectually to call, by his Word and Spirit, out of that state of sin and death in which they are by nature, to grace and salvation by Jesus Christ; enlightening their minds spiritually and savingly to understand the things of God; taking away their heart of stone, and giving unto them a heart of flesh; renewing their wills, and by his almighty power determining them to that which is good, and effectually drawing them to Jesus Christ; yet so as they come most freely, being made willing by his grace.
( Romans 8:30; Romans 11:7; Ephesians 1:10, 11; 2 Thessalonians 2:13, 14; Ephesians 2:1-6; Acts 26:18; Ephesians 1:17, 18; Ezekiel 36:26; Deuteronomy 30:6; Ezekiel 36:27; Ephesians 1:19; Psalm 110:3; Song of Solomon 1:4 )>>

The Synod of Dort put it this way:

>>THIRD AND FOURTH HEAD: ARTICLE 6. What, therefore, neither the light of nature nor the law could do, that God performs by the operation of the Holy Spirit through the word or ministry of reconciliation; which is the glad tidings concerning the Messiah, by means whereof it has pleased God to save such as believe, as well under the Old as under the New Testament.>>

>>FIRST HEAD: ARTICLE 7. Election . . . This elect number, though by nature neither better nor more deserving than others, but with them involved in one common misery, God has decreed to give to Christ to be saved by Him, and effectually to call and draw them to His communion by His Word and Spirit; to bestow upon them true faith, justification, and sanctification; and having powerfully preserved them in the fellowship of His son, finally to glorify them for the demonstration of His mercy, and for the praise of the riches of His glorious grace; as it is written "For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and willó to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves." (Eph 1:4-6). And elsewhere: "And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified." (Rom 8:30).>>

>>THIRD AND FOURTH HEAD: ARTICLE 17. As the almighty operation of God whereby He brings forth and supports this our natural life does not exclude but require the use of means by which God, of His infinite mercy and goodness, has chosen to exert His influence, so also the aforementioned supernatural operation of God by which we are regenerated in no wise excludes or subverts the use of the gospel, which the most wise God has ordained to be the seed of regeneration and food of the soul.>>

The 1644 London Baptist Confession, in articles 21 - 25, has the following:

>>That Faith is the gift of God wrought in the hearts of the elect by the Spirit of God, whereby they come to see, know, and believe the truth of the Scriptures . . .

That faith is ordinarily begot by the preaching of the Gospel, or word of Christ, without respect to any power or capacity in the creature, but it is wholly passive, being dead in sins and trespasses, doth believe, and is converted by no less power, than that which raised Christ from the dead. . . .

That the tenders of the Gospel to the conversion of sinners, is absolutely free, no way requiring, as absolutely necessary, any qualifications, preparations, terrors of the Law, or preceding Ministry of the Law, but only and alone the naked soul, as a sinner and ungodly to receive Christ, as crucified, dead, and buried, and risen again, being made a Prince and a Saviour for such sinners.>>

It seems to me that James could have done a better job of it than merely emphasizing that God "regenerates sinful men by the power of the Holy Spirit." Very few would deny that fact, not even Dave Hunt. All Calvinists, to my knowledge, believe that every ounce of efficient power in the new birth is the Holy Spirit's power. But where does James say anything about the "means" in the new birth in his Statement of Faith? He seems so primarily concerned about emphasizing the necessary the pre-faith work of the Holy Spirit that he neglects to say much, if anything, about the means which are in accompaniment. He would be much more convincing if he would put more emphasis on the means, if he indeed affirms their necessity.

Must not the Word, or Gospel, FIRST be preached to lost sinners, similar to Ezekiel's first preaching the Word to the dry bones? Or, is it like the anti-missionary Hardshells teach, there is no necessity of the preaching of the Word or Gospel, for the Spirit may sovereignly regenerate the elect whether they ever hear the Gospel or not?

I hope on this subject that James will follow the example of John MacArthur who reexamined his former view of "incarnational Sonship" and retracted it to affirm the confessional view. Until he does a better job of emphazing means, it will be difficult for confessional Calvinists to identify with his efforts to be an apologist on behalf of Calvinism. As it now stands, he seems be more of an "appallingist" than an apologist.  
J -- Bob L. Ross

"If I am to preach faiti in Christ to a man who is regenerated, then the man, being regenerated, is saved already, and it is an unnecessary and ridiculous thing for me to preach Christ to him, and bid him to believe in order to be saved when he is saved already, being regenerate" (C. H. Spurgeon, The Warrant of Faith, #531, page 532).

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