The Churches of the Philadelphia Baptist Association were not Modern Day Calvinists
While visiting with an old-time Brother many years ago, this Brother made the statement that he was a Calvinist. I had read many of his writings before and knew that he was not a modern-day Calvinist. Upon further questioning, the Brother was adamant that he was a Calvinist because he wasn’t Arminian. By the end of the conversation, I understood that in the time he was fighting the fight of faith amongst Baptist Brethren, that an Arminian believed in losing one’s salvation and a “Calvinist” believed in security of the believer.
This brings us to the assumptions that have been made about the churches of the Philadelphia Baptist Association of churches being modern day Calvinists. As you read and study their history and documents, you can find the truth concerning their “fight” and why they worded things the way they did in their confession of faith. As we read and study their doctrines and practices carefully, we understand fully what they believed.
When reading history we must first understand the terms used by our forefathers were usually in regard to the heresies they were fighting against. The Brother referred to in the first paragraph used the term “Calvinist” differently than what we would use it today because of the fight against the heresy of losing one’s salvation. In the early churches in the Scriptures, they used the term “saints” solely with the common understanding that they were faithful, New Testament church members. However, today we use the term “saints” and we must clarify what that term means because of the heresy from Catholicism.
The following are some of the heresies the Philadelphia Baptist Association Churches were fighting against and the doctrinal stands they took. As we read and study carefully, we discover that their practice of their doctrine reveals that they did not believe that only a “select” or “elect” few were predetermined to be saved, nor did they believe in universal church.
Universal salvation: although all are fallen from God, all mankind will eventually be saved
1) allowances made for man to dictate to God; therefore man ultimately being responsible for his salvation
2) even though some would go to Hell, eventually they would be able to then go to Heaven (roots of purgatory)
3) man was somehow not really estranged from God and all really were saved
4) some say there is no Hell or at least none will go there
5) there was a notion that because some said the Spirit was present with all men that all were then saved
- Heresy of Arminianism:
1. That the will of God to save those who would believe and would persevere in faith and in the obedience of faith is the whole and entire decree of election, and that nothing else concerning this decree has been revealed in God’s Word.
2. That there are various kinds of election of God unto eternal life: the one general and indefinite, the other particular and definite; and that the latter in turn is either incomplete, revocable, non-decisive, and conditional, or complete, irrevocable, decisive, and absolute. Likewise: That there is one election unto faith and another unto salvation, so that election can be unto justifying faith, without being a decisive election unto salvation.
3. That the good pleasure and purpose of God, of which Scripture makes mention in the doctrine of election, does not consist in this, that God chose certain persons rather than others, but in this, that He chose out of all possible conditions (among which are also the works of the law), or out of the whole order of things, that act of faith which from its very nature is undeserving, as well as it incomplete obedience, as a condition of salvation, and that He would graciously consider this in itself as a complete obedience and count it worthy of the reward of eternal life.
4. That in the election unto faith this condition is beforehand demanded that man should use the light of nature aright, be pious, humble, meek, and fit for eternal life, as if on these things election were in any way dependent.
5. That the incomplete and non-decisive election of particular persons to salvation occurred because of a foreseen faith, conversion, holiness, godliness, which either began or continued for some time; but that the complete and decisive election occurred because of foreseen perseverance unto the end in faith, conversion, holiness, and godliness; and that this is the gracious and evangelical worthiness, for the sake of which he who is chose is more worthy than he who is not chosen; and that therefore faith, the obedience of faith, holiness, godliness, and perseverance are not fruits of the unchangeable election unto glory, but are conditions which, being required beforehand, were foreseen as being met by those who will be fully elected, and are causes without which the unchangeable election to glory does not occur.
6. That not every election unto salvation is unchangeable, but that some of the elect, any decree of God notwithstanding, can yet perish and do indeed perish.
7. That there is in this life no fruit and no consciousness of the unchangeable elect to glory, nor any certainty, except that which depends on a changeable and uncertain condition.
8. That God, simply by virtue of His righteous will, did not decide either to leave anyone in the fall of Adam and in the common state of sin and condemnation, or to pass anyone by in the communication of grace which is necessary for faith and conversion.
9. That the reason why God sends the gospel to one people rather than to another is not merely and solely the good pleasure of God, but rather the fact that one people is better and worthier than another to which the gospel is not communicated.
10. That God the Father has ordained His Son to the death of the cross without a certain and definite decree to save any, so that the necessity, profitableness, and worth of what Christ merited by His death might have existed, and might remain in all its parts complete, perfect, and intact, even if the merited redemption had never in fact been applied to any person.
11. That it was not the purpose of the death of Christ that He should confirm the new covenant of grace through His blood, but only that He should acquire for the Father the mere right to establish with man such a covenant as He might please, whether of grace or of works.
12. That Christ by His satisfaction merited neither salvation itself for any one, nor faith, whereby this satisfaction of Christ unto salvation is effectually appropriated; but that He merited for the Father only the authority or the perfect will to deal again with man, and to prescribe new conditions as He might desire, obedience to which, however, depended on the free will of man, so that it therefore might have come to pass that either none or all should fulfill these conditions.
13. That the new covenant of grace, which God the Father, through the mediation of the death of Christ, made with man does not herein consist that we by faith, in as much as it accepts the merits of Christ, are justified before God and saved, but in the fact that God, having revoked the demand of perfect obedience of faith, regards faith itself and the obedience of faith , although imperfect, as the perfect obedience of the law, and does esteem it worthy of the reward of eternal life though grace.
14. That all men have been accepted unto the state of reconciliation and unto the grace of the covenant, so that no one is worthy of condemnation on account of original sin, and that no one shall be condemned because of it, but that all are free from the guilt of original sin.
15. Who use the difference between meriting and appropriating, to the end that they may instill into the minds of the imprudent and inexperienced this teaching that God, as far as He is concerned, has been minded to apply to all equally the benefits gained by the death of Christ; but that, while some obtain the pardon of sin and eternal life, and others do not, this difference depends on their own free will, which joins itself to the grace that is offered without exception, and that it is not dependent on the special gift of mercy, which powerfully works in them, that they rather than others should appropriate unto themselves this grace. For these that feign that they present this distinction in a sound sense, seek to instill into the people the destructive poison of the Pelagian errors. (Pelagian errors: belief that original sin did not taint human nature and that mortal will is still capable of choosing good or evil without special Divine aid.)
16. That Christ neither could die, nor needed to die, and also did not die, for those whom God loved in the highest degree and elected to eternal life, since these do not need the death of Christ.
17. That it cannot properly be said that original sin in itself suffices to condemn the whole human race or to deserve temporal and eternal punishment.
18. That the spiritual gifts or the good qualities and virtues, such as goodness, holiness, righteousness, could not belong to the will of man when he was first created, and that these, therefore, cannot have been separated therefrom in the fall.
19. That in spiritual death the spiritual gifts are not separate from the will of man, since the will in itself has never been corrupted, but only hindered through the darkness of the understanding and the irregularity of the affection; and that, these hindrances having been removed, the will can then bring into operation its nature powers, that is, that the will of itself is able to will and to choose, or not to will and not to choose, all manner of good which may be presented to it.
20. That the unregenerate man is not really nor utterly dead in sin, nor destitute of all powers unto spiritual good, but that he can yet hunger and thirst after righteousness and life, and offer the sacrifice of a contrite and broken spirit, which is pleasing to God.
21. That the corrupt and natural man can so well use the common grace (by which they understand the light of nature), or the gifts still left him after the fall, that he can gradually gain by their good use a greater, that is, the evangelical or saving grace, and salvation itself; and that in this way God on His part shows Himself ready to reveal Christ unto all men, since He applies to all sufficiently and efficiently the means necessary to conversion.
22. That in the true conversion of man no new qualities, powers, or gifts can be infused by God into the will, and that therefore faith, through which we are first converted and because of which we are called believers, is not a quality or gift infused by God but only an act of man, and that it cannot be said to be a gift, except in respect of the power to attain to this faith.
23. That the grace whereby we are converted to God is only a gentle advising, or (as others explain it) that this is the noblest manner of working in the conversion of man, and that this manner of working, which consists in advising, is most in harmony with man’s nature; and that there is no reason why this advising grace alone should not be sufficient to make the natural man spiritual; indeed, that God does not produce the consent of the will except through this manner of advising; and that the power of the divine working, whereby it surpasses the working of Satan, consists in this that God promises eternal, while Satan promises only temporal good.
24. That God in the regeneration of man does not use such powers of His omnipotence as potently and infallibly bend man’s will to faith and conversion; but that all the works of grace having been accomplished, which God employs to convert man, man may yet so resist God and the Holy Spirit, when God intends man’s regeneration and wills to regenerate him, and indeed that man often does so resist that he prevents entirely his regeneration, and that it therefore remains in man’s power to be regenerated or not.
25. That grace and free will are partial causes which together work the beginning of conversion, and that grace, in order of working, does not precede the working of the will; that is, that God does not efficiently help the will of man unto conversion until the will of man moves and determines to do this.
26. That the perseverance of the true believers is not a fruit of election, or a gift of God gained by the death of Christ, but a condition of the new covenant which (as they declare) man before his decisive election and justification must fulfill through his free will.
27. That God does indeed provide the believer with sufficient powers to persevere, and is ever ready to preserve these in him if he will do his duty; but that, though all though which are necessary to persevere in faith and which God will use to preserve faith are made us of, even then it ever depends on the pleasure of the will whether it will persevere or not.
28. That the true believers and regenerate not only can fall from justifying faith and likewise from grace and salvation wholly and to the end, but indeed often do fall from this and are lost forever.
29. That true believers and regenerate can sin the sin unto death or against the Holy Spirit.
30. That without a special revelation we can have no certainty of future perseverance in this life.
31. That the doctrine of certainty of perseverance and of salvation from its own character and nature is a cause of indolence and is injurious to godliness, good morals, prayers, and other holy exercises, but that on the contrary it is praiseworthy to doubt.
32. That the faith of those who believe for a time does not differ from justifying and saving faith except only in duration.
33. That it is not absurd that one having lost his first regeneration is again and even often born anew.
34. That Christ has in no place prayed that believers should infallibly continue in faith.
(Synod of Dordrecht, Nov. 13, 1618-May 9, 1619)