December 17, 2012

Point of View: The Changing Landscape is Muddying the Waters

From the: The Hufhand Report: Friday, Dec. 7, 2012

I’ve been thinking about this for sometime. I think we are confusing a lot of people and complicating this matter of getting saved.  I keep getting comments from people that I’m being too caustic toward Calvinism.  Maybe so. However, the thing that concerns me, is not what comes first as it relates to the process in salvation.  My concern has to do with man’s depravity.  Is man totally depraved or isn’t he?  That’s the question.  Given that our creator God, in the beginning said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness,” after which, He reached down into the red clay of Mesopotamia and took a hand full of dirt and fashioned man in His image, then “He breathed into him the breath of life and man became a living soul,” how does all this figure in as it relates to us getting saved and going to heaven?  Let's begin with what is meant by His likeness and His image?  We know it was not His physical appearance, because “God is a spirit.” (John 4:24)  From what we can understand for other Scripture, besides all of His other attributes he is distinct in that He has intellect, emotion, and will.  He knows, He feels, and He acts.  This, I believe, is what God had in mind when He created man in His image, after His likeness.
That being said, what happened when Adam fell and became a sinner by nature?  We do not have to consult Augustine, or Plagius, or Arminias, or Calvin, or Zwingli or Wesley, or any of the modern theologians.  All we have to do is go to the first couple chapters of Genesis, and then study the Book of Romans and especially the first three chapters to realize that when man was put to the test to see if he would be morally and spiritually righteous or if he would be morally and spiritually sinful, he chose the latter.  So when he failed the test and ate of the forbidden fruit, he plunged himself, along with his wife Eve, and all of mankind into the darkness of depravity.  Adam died both spiritually and physically. In other words, he died to everything spiritual; he died to everything physical, which included, his mind, his emotions, and his will. Every part of Adam was affected, dramatically.  The likeness of God was taken from him.  Adam could no longer think like God; he could no longer feel like God; and he could no longer act like God. He died intellectually; he died emotionally; and he died willfully.  We all accept that he began to die physically, but to what extend did he die intellectually, emotionally, and willfully?  The Bible says that by “one man, sin entered into the world and death by sin, so that death passed upon all men.”  Cf. Eph. 2:1
       In order for us not to be identified with Augustine and Calvin, we have thrown the baby out with the bath water.  We claim to be neither Arminian or Calvinistic but rather to be Biblicists.  Then let’s be Biblicists. Our roots are not found in the theology of the Reformers; our roots are in the Bible, so let’s just believe the Bible. Let not dilute man’s depravity and rob God of His glory.  Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners and he did that by dying a wretched and horrible death on the cross; He was buried and rose again to reverse all that happened in and through Adam in the garden.
       Paul makes it perfectly clear in Romans that man is totally depraved.  In studying the Scholastics of the 11th thru the 14th centuries, they combined the philosophy of Aristotle, the writing of the early church fathers and the dogma already laid down by the Catholic Church, and determined that altho’ man died physically and spiritually, which affected his body, as well as his soul, yet his intellect was unaffected.  In other words, he had the ability to reason things out logically, because his mind was unaffected by the fall. We as Bible believing fundamental Baptists reject that flat out. Up until this present controversy started, we all believed and preached that may is totally depraved, but now because “total depravity” doesn’t seems to be strong enough for Calvinist, they have added a new twist to it, by adding the word, “inability” to their doctrine of the fall of man.  That is, “man has no ability to do anything for himself.”
Somehow he has to be regenerated before he can exercise faith and believe.  This is all foolish thinking and a lot of nonsense.
From the very beginning of my Biblical studies, I came to understand that Man is totally depraved and at that time I had never even heard of John Calvin.  From simply studying the Bible I understood that man is depraved in his intellect; he’s depraved in his emotions and he is depraved in his will. When he sinned, he died spiritually, morally, and physically. The question comes, “By what means then does he respond to the free gift of salvation that is offered to him in Christ?”  Eph. 2:1 says, “You hath HE made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins…”  Paul goes on to say in Eph. 2:8,9 “For by GRACE are ye SAVED thru FAITH AND THAT NOT OF YOURSEVES, IT IS THE GIFT OF GOD, NOT OF WORKS, LEST ANY MAN SHOULD BOAST.” Paul goes on to say in Titus 3:5, "It's not by works of righteousness which we have done buy by His MERCY that He saves us…."  I can accept that from start to finish, that salvation is all of God and nothing of man. Even the faith necessary to reach out and accept God’s free offer of salvation, is granted to us by God's GRACE and MERCY. We don’t have to understand all that transpires when a person gets saved; the trouble comes when we try to logically figure it all out. Listen folks, we simply have to accept it for what it is and get in on it.  If I understand what Jesus said in John 3:8, salvation is a mystery.  We don’t have to understand how God’s grace and mercy works in conjunction with our faith, granting us the forgiveness of our sins and saving us from eternal damnation, we simply have to experience it.  After all, how do you explain the wind?  So it is with getting saved.
       This isn’t Calvinism folks; this is Bible. Why don’t we just let God be God and let us be witnesses to the truth that man can be saved simply by repenting of his sins and accepting Jesus Christ into his life as His personal Lord and Saviour. This is what I was taught through college and seminary.  I see no reason to change now, simply because it has become controversial.  Winning people to Jesus is easy.  It is not complicated.  If people have enough sense to eat a piece of bread, they have enough sense to get saved, because Jesus is the bread of life.  Lets not make salvation hard, when God has made it easy.  Maybe, I’ll do more on this later.

Dr. Lawrence Hufhand

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December 11, 2012

The Danger of Teaching that Regeneration Precedes Faith

Last week were considered the question, What is Hyper-Calvinism?  A thoughtful discussion thread ensued and has continued into this week.

Recently, at the pseudo-fundamentalist Sharper Ironsite there was a discussion over depravity, regeneration and sanctification. The discussion centered on a critical review of Tullian Tchividjian’s disconcerting theology by Mark Snoeberger from his Theologically Driven blog. Alex Guggenheim left a comment in the SI thread from which I share the following excerpt. Alex wrote,
“There should be no outcry toward [Mark] Snoeberger, rather it should be quite the opposite. It should be that the objections of a fundamental misunderstanding and articulations by Tchividjian are the loud sound being heard and intense concern over this prominent Pastor and Teacher saying such things (I say this while making clear Snoeberger remains Neo-Calvinisticly wrong about regeneration preceding faith and his exegesis and theology on the matter easily rebutted).” (Bold his)
Because a right understanding of this doctrinal issue, which Alex drew attention to, is crucial to a right understanding of the one true gospel of Jesus Christ I am providing an answer to the question, Does Regeneration Precede Faith? Brother George Zeller has written extensively on a wide range of subjects, including Calvinism and its inherent theological errors. Following is George Zeller’s article titled,

The Danger of Teaching that Regeneration Precedes Faith 
The doctrine of man’s total depravity has been distorted by extreme Calvinists resulting in a wrong understanding of man’s inability. The Philippian jailer once asked, “WHAT MUST I DO TO BE SAVED?” (Acts 16:30–31 and compare Acts 2:37–38). Some extreme Calvinists, if they had been in Paul’s place, would have answered as follows: What must you do to be saved? Nothing! Absolutely nothing! You are spiritually DEAD and totally unable to respond to God until you are regenerated! 
Extreme Calvinists teach that regeneration must precede faith, and that a person must be born again before he can believe. They would say that a person must have eternal life before he can believe because a person dead in sins is unable to believe. They teach that faith is impossible apart from regeneration. Such teaching seems logical and reasonable to them based on the theological system which they have adopted. But “WHAT SAITH THE SCRIPTURES?” 
The Bible clearly teaches this: BELIEVE AND THOU SHALT LIVE! “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life” (John 6:47).  “That whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:15). The extreme Calvinist says, “LIVE AND THOU SHALT BELIEVE!” Please notice that John 1:12 does not say this: “But as many as have been regenerated, to them gave He the power to believe on His Name, even to those who have become the children of God.” Notice also that John 20:31 says, “believing ye might have life.” It does not say, “having life ye might believe.” In his helpless and hopeless condition the sinner is told to LOOK to the Lord Jesus Christ AND LIVE (John 3:14–16)! [We sing the hymn **“LOOK AND LIVE.” The extreme Calvinist should change the words to “LIVE AND LOOK”].  
For a moment, let’s assume that what the extreme Calvinists are saying is true. If regeneration precedes faith, then what must a sinner do to be regenerated? The extreme Calvinists have never satisfactorily answered this. Shedd’s answer is typical: Because the sinner cannot believe, he is instructed to perform the following duties: (1) Read and hear the divine Word. (2) Give serious application of the mind to the truth. (3) Pray for the gift of the Holy Spirit for conviction and regeneration. [See W. G. T. Shedd, Dogmatic Theology, Vol. II, pp. 472, 512, 513.] 
Roy Aldrich’s response to this is penetrating: “A doctrine of total depravity that excludes the possibility of faith must also exclude the possibilities of ‘hearing the word,’ ‘giving serious application to divine truth,’ and ‘praying for the Holy Spirit for conviction and regeneration.’ The extreme Calvinist deals with a rather lively spiritual corpse after all.  [Roy L. Aldrich’s article is highly recommended. It is found in the July, 1965 issue of Bibliotheca Sacra and is entitled, “The Gift of God” (pages 248–253).] 
The tragedy of this position is that it perverts the gospel. The sinner is told that the condition of salvation is prayer instead of faith. How contrary this is to Acts 16:31. The sinner is not told to pray for conviction and for regeneration. The sinner is told to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. 
Some Reformed men, including R. C. Sproul, even teach that a person can be regenerated as an infant, and then not come to faith in Christ until years later.  For documentation of this, and a more detailed analysis of this issue see, Does Regeneration Precede Faith?  
Pastor George Zeller  
The Danger of Teaching that RegenerationPrecedes Faith  
Middletown Bible Church
Site Publishers Commentary:
In my opinion, regeneration before faith is an extra-biblical presupposition. Because Calvinism’s regeneration precedes faith is a significant contributor to the theology of the works based Lordship Salvation interpretation of the Gospel I address this issue in my book In Defense of the Gospel: Biblical Answers to Lordship Salvation.
“John MacArthur uses the following statement to prepare the way for the hard demands of the Lordship gospel: ‘Thus conversion is not simply a sinner’s decision for Christ; it is first the sovereign work of God in transforming the individual.’ Is MacArthur suggesting that a sinner must first be transformed through regeneration into a child of God before he can believe and respond in faith to the gospel of Jesus Christ? Regeneration before faith under girds Lordship Salvation. There are a growing number of preachers that believe regeneration occurs prior to and apart from repentance toward God and faith in Jesus Christ.” (IDOTG, p. 63.)
The Calvinist believes man is so 'dead in trespasses and sins' that he must first be regenerated: That is to say, born again, made alive by the Spirit of God, and given the new nature prior to personal repentance and faith. Even faith, according to Calvinism, is a gift that was given to him after regeneration.” (IDOTG, p. 264.)
I encourage each of my guests to read George Zeller’s Does Regeneration Precede Faith? The article is George Zeller’s extended and penetrating answer to the danger of teaching that regeneration occurs prior to and part from faith in Jesus Christ.
Today there are those of a Reformed persuasion who teach that regeneration precedes faith. They would say that a person must be born again before he believes. They would say that a person must have God’s LIFE before he can believe on Christ…. The doctrine of man’s total depravity has been carried to the extreme by some Calvinists resulting in a wrong understanding of man’s inability.  They believe that the sinner is dead in sin and therefore he is like a corpse, totally unable to do anything.  They believe he must first be regenerated and have life and only then will he be able to believe the gospel. But the Scripture teaches that he must believe in order to have life. (John 20:31).”
Yours faithfully,


**Listen and Sing along to, Look & Live
  • Life is offered unto you, hallelujah!
  • Eternal life thy soul shall have,

  • If you’ll only look to Him, hallelujah!

  • Look to Jesus who alone can save. (3rd stanza)
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December 7, 2012

Kent Brandenburg’s Separation and Sectarianism, An Article Review

Dr. Lance Ketchum’s article The Subtlety of “Good Words and Fair Speeches” was first published at his Line Upon Line blog and then by permission repeated here at IDOTG.  Dr. Ketchum’s article generated a reaction from Dr. Dave Doran.  Dr. Doran’s reaction was quite typical of previous reactions he has had when his doctrine and/or practice has come under legitimate scrutiny.  From his What is Truth blog Kent Brandenburg reviewed and discussed Dr. Ketchum’s article and Dave Doran’s reaction to it.

Following are excerpts from Kent Brandenburg’s December 5 article Applying Biblical Texts to Ecclesiastical Separation.
So in his next post, he [Dave Doran] attempts to read Ketchum’s mind in a blog debate.  Bravo!  His [Doran’s] number one was treating arguments like they are an attack on a person, when they are an attack on a text.  What text did Doran really deal with?  Voila.  Nothing.  All he did was smack down Ketchum.” 
 I think Ketchum is concerned about the Bible being followed and obeyed.  He sees fundamentalism changing and he doesn’t think in a good way, and he wants to do something about it, so he uses a lot of exegesis to do so.  Doran says bad exegesis with no proof, but Ketchum does in fact refer to scripture in a serious way to make his point, unlike ironically what Doran does.  Doran just blasts Ketchum without providing proof…. And I think the plain reading has Doran judging Ketchums motives.” 
 I got what Ketchum was talking about.  Doran serves up ambiguity that then comes across as a smear job.  It is a smear job.  So, it is a false accusation against Ketchum about Ketchum making a false accusation.  If you are going to say someone is making a false accusation, you've got to do better than this, or you yourself are making one.” 
 Doran seems to think that the sheer weight of his personality or self-perceived gravitas is enough authority here, all very much like the fundamentalism that I witnessed when I was in it.” 
Kent’s analysis of Dave Doranjudging motives, smear job and self-perceived gravitas deserves a wide reading. I encourage each of you to read and then share a link to Kent’s article to folks within your sphere of influence and friendship. Link them to Separation and Sectarianism, An Article Review.

I am hopeful Brother Doran has made a careful read of and has given Brandenburg’s thoughts serious, prayerful consideration.

Yours faithfully,


Site Publisher Addendum:
To All: I just added the following at Kent's blog in reply to a portion of a comment left there by Dave Doran.


You wrote, “I think he [Lance Ketchum] is wrong and being wrong like this hurts the case for genuine separatism.”

First, like Kent I believe Dr. Ketchum’s interpretation of Romans 16:17-ff is correct. The passage can and is at times necessary to make application to believers within the body of Christ.

Second, you have redefined the principle of separation as if the God-given mandate for separation is a Gospel-Driven, a Gospel-Only application. Your new definition for Separation in “Academic Contexts” for expanded fellowship and cooperative ministry, then your fellowship and joint ministry (at Lansdale) with New Evangelicals like Mark Dever who teaches aberrant theology, is on faculty at Gordon-Conwell a flagship New Evangelical school and who promotes the CCM/RAP music genre in his own church.

In 1995 you wrote an article titled, “In Defense of Militancy.” In recent years we clearly see a huge and widening disconnect from what you do in practice of separation to what you wrote of separation in 1995.

Add these things up and IMO they identify you as one who hurts the case for authentic biblical separatism.


See here

December 3, 2012

What is Hyper-Calvinism?

I am uncomfortable with, and reject all five points of Calvinism.  There are Calvinists who are uncomfortable with the extremes of the so-called hyper-Calvinism, but what is hyper-Calvinism? I have found that people vary in their definition of what constitutes a hyper-Calvinist. Some believe, for example, that if a man holds to the Limited Atonement position (Christ’s blood was shed only for the elect) he is a hyper-Calvinist. Although I believe that Calvinism’s limited atonement is out of balance with and contradicts the Scriptures, I do not agree that holding to that position necessarily makes one a hyper-Calvinist.

So how do I specifically define hyper-Calvinism? For me there is one historically definitive mark of hyper-Calvinism. This identifying mark of a hyper-Calvinist is when he refuses to preach the gospel to every sinner, when he has little concern for missions and evangelism, when he refuses to offer an open and universal invitation to every sinner. In his book Spurgeon v. Hyper-Calvinism: The Battle for Gospel Preaching Iain H. Murray accurately defines this form of hyper-Calvinism,

Hyper-Calvinism views gospel preaching solely as a means for the ingathering of God’s elect. It argues that such words as, “Trust in Christ and you will be saved,” should only be addressed to elect sinners for it is their salvation alone which the preacher should have in view. . . . Gospel preaching for Hyper-Calvinists means a declaration of the facts of the gospel but nothing should be said by way of encouraging individuals to believe that the promises of Christ are made to them particularly until there is evidence that the Spirit of God has begun a saving work in their hearts, convicting them and making them ‘sensible’ of their need. . . . A universal proclamation of good news, with a warrant for every creature, lay at the heart of his (Spurgeon’s) understanding of Scripture.

Another area of concern that flows from Calvinistic theology, which I mentioned above, is: regeneration must precede faith. Earlier I mentioned Calvinism takes the total depravity of man (Jeremiah 17:9), but push it to the position of total inability. The Bible says that man is dead in his sins (Eph. 2:1). The problem begins where the Calvinist believes lost men cannot understand or respond to the gospel unless he has first been regenerated, that is: born again by the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit. The Calvinist maintains that only after a lost man has been regenerated can he express faith in Jesus Christ and call upon the name of the Lord. I address this issue here and elsewhere because it appears to be the position of most pro-Lordship [Salvation] advocates, and is a presupposition that leads to Lordship’s theology.

In my opinion, if a man teaches regeneration must precede faith, he has the ordo salutis (order of salvation) out-of-order. Faith, not regeneration is the trigger for the events that occur simultaneously at the moment of salvation. Those simultaneous events are: faith, repentance, regeneration, conversion, justification and adoption.

Through interaction with Reformed theologians I have found that regeneration before faith, while in my opinion is error in its own right, leads to even greater error. What is the “greater error?” Some of the men I have interacted with in online discussions take the regeneration before faith position to such an extreme they insist God regenerates some infants in the womb, who years later will express faith in Christ. The infant regeneration position is just about as far to the left as one can go in Reformed circles. Men I have interacted with, who hold to infant regeneration, have cited the following passages in support.

Jeremiah 1:5  Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.

Luke 1:15  For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother’s womb.

Doctrinal buildings should not be set up with these ambiguous passages. What happened to Jeremiah and John the Baptist was a totally unique, one of a kind experience. Taking an infant regeneration position places regeneration in a chronological order that can be far removed from personal faith in Jesus Christ. The events in the ordo salutis become chronological far beyond the “casual” or “logical” order as expressed by some Calvinists. Years ago some Puritan types were preaching regeneration as an infant and then acceptance of the gospel well down the road of life. Consequently, one ends up with regenerate unbelievers, which is a true heresy.

Is regeneration before faith a mark of hyper-Calvinism? Admittedly, regeneration before faith does not necessarily fit the classic definition of hyper-Calvinism. As some men slide deeper into extremes, such as infant regeneration, we may one day have to reopen a discussion over the potential inclusion of additional defining characteristics of hyper-Calvinism.

Whenever possible, I choose to exercise Christian charity and allow for a believer to exercise his own conscience, and I allow for the autonomy of local churches. Once, however, a man’s Calvinism leads him to withhold an open proclamation of the gospel, with an invitation to every sinner, I would no longer in good conscience be willing to fellowship with him, and would not hesitate to identify him as a man to be scrutinized and avoided.

Romans 16:17-18  Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them.  For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple.

If I may recommend an excellent book, which I quoted from above, it would be Spurgeon v. Hyper-Calvinism: The Battle for Gospel Preaching by Iain H. Murray. There is no doubt that Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892) was an ardent Calvinist, while at the same time an eminent winner of souls. Spurgeon preached the “whosoever shall call” gospel and passionately invited all sinners to respond the gospel and receive Christ. Many of his early years in ministry were, in part, embroiled in a theological battle against the hyper-Calvinists of England. Spurgeon vigorously resisted the extremes and proliferation of hyper-Calvinism in his day. Many are familiar with Spurgeon’s resistance to modernism and ultimate separation from the Baptist Union of England. That controversy may have led to his early demise. However, the former battle against the advocates of hyper-Calvinism was for Charles Spurgeon just as important and intense with very much at stake.


Related Reading:

Ps. Bob Topartzer, Calvinism Today: Neo-Calvinism