Saturday, January 7, 2017

The Proper Use Of "Old Paths" and "Hyper-Calvinism"

I have a complaint with those of my movement, having come to Christ in 1973 and baptized shortly after that in an independent fundamental Baptist Church of the Baptist Bible Fellowship International persuasion, while also interacting a bit with some GARBC fellows. My complaint is related to the ignorant use of terminology, tossing two terms around as if they were never used before and therefore had no already accepted meaning by those already familiar with the terms’ use. The terms to which I refer are two; “old paths” and “hyper-Calvinism.”
It is an undisputed reality that independent Baptist preachers are for the most part an ill-educated lot. This is born out by a cursory glance of most IFB men’s schooling as well as some habits that persist by so many IFB men, a sometimes appalling ignorance of history. This is sad because real history is, in my opinion, the Baptist’s best friend. Of course, my claim will be disputed, but it will be disputed mostly by men with little or no educational background and zero research to support their disputations. Those same men will also seek to discredit the benefits of education, claiming that education is a threat to spirituality. Granted, knowledge puffeth, but all things considered it is better to be better informed than to be ill-informed.
Consider, first, the term “old paths.” For how many decades have we been exposed to urgent cries that we go back to the “old paths,” with those “old paths” remaining undefined by those who urge our return, and my suspicions being that the “old paths” urged upon us are habits and practices that actually arose for the first time in the 20th century! Excuse me, brethren, but nothing that appeared on the horizon as a Baptist practice in the 20th century can in any wise be rightly labeled an “old path.” Not even practices that appeared for the first time in the 19th century are rightly understood to be “old paths.” The first time in history that I know of that the phrase “old paths” was used was in the title of a book written by the late 19th century Anglican J. C. Ryle! How, then, can a 20th century Baptist or a 21st century Baptist use the term “old paths” without paying some homage to the man who may have been the first to use the phrase at the title of a book, J. C. Ryle? And is it not interesting to note the Table of Contents in his book, with the chapter titles being
Several things related to Ryle’s use of the phrase “old paths” and his book on the subject are amusing to me: First, his concern for “old paths” relates to specific issues that are raised in the Bible, but which issues are never what is referred to by IFBs who use the same phrase. Second, the fellow who seems to be better grounded in his use of the phrase “old paths” is was an Anglican, while those who use the phrase “old paths” to refer to issues not pointedly raised in Scripture are members of my community of IFBs! Thirdly, the Anglican uses terms that many IFBs that I have run with for forty years either disapprove of outright or use only when they are forced to do so, such as repentance, election, and perseverance.
May I suggest that we who are IFBs stop this nonsense of using an already established term to refer to a new notion that arose in the late 19th or early 20th century? For goodness sake, use the term as it was originally used or coin your own word or phrase to express your concern for late developing practices falling into disuse after a century or so. The Christian faith will not be adversely affected by any late developing practice or habit falling into disuse. Bishop Ryle’s concerns expressed in his book “Old Paths” are far more legitimate concerns for us to focus our attention on.
Next, consider the phrase “hyper-Calvinism.” For years I read the Sword of the Lord when it was edited by John R. Rice before I came to understand that he edited (sometimes severely) the sermons he printed to excise very obvious comments that reflected the classic Calvinism of the men whose sermons he printed, men who were wonderfully used of God to bring many souls to Christ and to spur others to engage in Biblical evangelism. At the very same time, John R. Rice engaged in what is rightly described as a veritable war against hyper-Calvinism. He wrote against it whenever possible and decried it at every opportunity as stifling to evangelism. And rightly so. I know of no one who would defend hyper-Calvinism against the charge that it stifles evangelistic fervor besides those who themselves are hyper-Calvinists. That said, John R. Rice and many since his time have blatantly mislabeled hyper-Calvinism and intentionally or ignorantly misrepresented what is and what is not hyper-Calvinism.
Let me set the record straight about two things: First, contrary to John R. Rice’s portrayal of the issue in the Sword of the Lord (and subsequent editors) subscribing to the five points of Calvinism does not make one a hyper-Calvinist. C. H. Spurgeon embraced the five points of Calvinism described using the acronym T-U-L-I-P but was not himself a hyper-Calvinist. In fact, he waged war against hyper-Calvinism early in his ministry.[1]As well, there were approximately 1,300 Baptist congregations in England during his lifetime that also embraced the five points of Calvinism without being hyper-Calvinists. The differences that distinguish Calvinism from hyper-Calvinism are real and ought to be understood by those who are intellectually honest, but the ignorant assertion that anyone who embraces the five points of Calvinism is a hyper-Calvinist is factually wrong.
William Carey was not a hyper-Calvinist, yet he embraced the five points of Calvinism. Adoniram Judson was not a hyper-Calvinist, yet he embraced the five points of Calvinism. Isaac Backus was not a hyper-Calvinist, yet he embraced the five points of Calvinism. John Gano was not a hyper-Calvinist, yet he embraced the five points of Calvinism. Daniel and Abraham Marshall were not hyper-Calvinists, yet they embraced the five points of Calvinism. Hezekiah Smith was not a hyper-Calvinist, yet he embraced the five points of Calvinism. J. L. Dagg was not a hyper-Calvinist, yet he embraced the five points of Calvinism. B. H. Carroll was not a hyper-Calvinist, yet he embraced the five points of Calvinism. Finally, my good friend Kenneth Connolly and his father Peter Connolly were not hyper-Calvinists, yet they were very much five point Calvinists.
I am not either explaining or defending Calvinism. I merely seek to point out for the sake of intellectual honesty and to put the record straight that five-point Calvinism is not hyper-Calvinism and has never been understood to be so by those who are well-informed and honest. Call Calvinists whatever you want to call them if you must, but please display the integrity to stop calling any man a hyper-Calvinist who preaches the Gospel to one and all, who urges all who hear the Gospel to turn from their sins to trust Christ, and upon whom our modern legacy of the Christian faith as modern Baptists has come to us.

[1] See Iain H. Murray, Spurgeon v. Hyper-Calvinism: The Battle for Gospel Preaching, (Carlisle, Pennsylvania: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1995)

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Labor Unions

I admit that I have a predisposition against labor unions. Oh, I know there are many arguments for labor unions, and members of my family used to swear by Jimmy Hoffa and the good he did for truck drivers. Still, labor unions are historically associated with corruption of the worst kinds. CBS News once interviewed philosopher and dock worker Eric Hoffer about the book he wrote, The True Believer. When asked about his longshoreman union brothers’ habit of stealing booze from ship’s cargo during loading and unloading, he exploded and insisted that pilferage was their inherent right for doing such difficult and thankless work. Then there was the televised interview of the president of the National Education Association responding to a journalist’s question about balancing teachers’ best interests with students’ welfare with the words, “I will concern myself with the welfare of school children when school children start paying union dues.” I even remember reading that the United Auto Workers targeted Henry Ford and his Ford Motor Company when they were the highest paid factory workers in the world and after Ford had already instituted profit-sharing for all of his employees.
This anecdotal history can be counterbalanced with stories of evil capitalists taking advantage of poor ignorant workers, taking a page from Karl Marx by treating management versus labor union issues as class struggle dynamics. However, the economic reality is that a large business enterprise pulls together the efforts of some smaller operations, be they subcontractors or factory workers, to produce a product. Consider a car manufacturer that builds several styles of automobiles. Though the car company may design the automobiles in-house and fabricate the engines and bodies used in the cars they produce and sell, such things as windshields, bumpers, brake systems, tires, bumpers, and the wire harnesses that operate windshield wipers, turn signals, and head and tail lights are usually subcontracted by smaller suppliers.
In a major propaganda coup pulled off by the big labor unions the reality that labor unions are merely companies that subcontract man-hours to manufacturing concerns is concealed by politically charged rhetoric that insists the interplay between the big corporation and their weak and helpless workers is a class struggle. It is not a class struggle, but the efforts of a company that supplies human labor (they call themselves labor unions) to the car manufacturer along with the products supplied by the other subcontractors. There are only two differences that exist between a labor union and a bumper or windshield subcontractor. #1, a labor union is a company by another name that supplies man-hours to produce inventory to sell. #2, a labor union engages in an ongoing public relations campaign and lobbying effort to disguise the reality of their business enterprise so that it appears to be part of a larger “class struggle” between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat.
Disagree with my view of economics if you want, but the underlying problem that I have with labor unions is the same issue I have with slavery, serfdom, and other constructs that deny individuals freedom to choose how they will spend their time. I favor the free exchange of goods and services between willing participants and am opposed to the use of force to coerce the behavior of other people that results in them doing what they do not want to engage in doing freely. And I see the Savior supporting that approach to human responsibility in a parable He taught in Matthew 20.1-16 in which He described a householder who hired a laborer at the beginning of the day, another laborer near the middle of the day, and yet a third laborer near the end of the work day, paying each of them what they agreed to work for at the time they were hired.
However, at the end of the day when the three men were paid the one hired first, who had worked the longest, objected that the three were paid the same despite not working the same and they all murmured. Despite their objections, the householder denied that he had done wrong (Matthew 20.13) and pointed out that he paid each of them the amount they had agreed upon. Further, he asked them (Matthew 20.15), “Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? Is thine eye evil, because I am good?”
What is my takeaway from this parable? Several things: First, there is nothing wrong with capital and labor (the householder and the laborers) entering into a mutually agreed upon exchange of goods and services. Second, it is entirely appropriate for the mutually agreed upon exchange of goods and services to be different with each worker, and there is no requirement for some concept of “fairness,” whatever that is. That is, the requirement that the three be paid the same rate for their time spent working is an invention, a social construct, and not inherently required between capital and labor to be just and proper.
Labor unions employ well-documented illegitimate means to achieve their desired ends, from extortion and threats to denials of individual freedom of choice for the workers they represent. Additionally, labor unions have proven throughout the 20th century to be illegal enterprises used by organized crime. Argue on behalf of a labor union all you want, but deny what happens when anyone in any union chooses to break with the labor union and enter into his own negotiations with his employer for his pay and benefits. It is now illegal to do so in much of the United States. And even if it is not illegal to do so, it is still dangerous to do so. Labor unions do not take kindly to one of their members breaking ranks for any reason.