As one begins to investigate the doctrine of Grace the key terms often bring forth the teachings of those that embrace a form of Calvinism. As such, I believe it is important that the church clarify the differences between these two religions. Primitive Baptist are not Calvinist and they are not twin religions and here is why:
1. Baptist are Not Protestants
John Calvin was a protestant reformer and thus seceded from the Catholic Church. Baptist derive their existence from Christ and the apostles, and as such pre-date Catholicism and have maintained a seperate existence even through the dark ages.
2. The Means of Grace
Though the Reformed movement, or Calvinism, largely did away with the Roman Catholic sacramentalism they still maintained the same emphasis, namely, that salvation is applied to the individual by external means. In most Calvinistic camps, the phrase is “means of grace” (media gratiae). On the other side, Primitive Baptist believe and insist that Christ is the only mediator of saving grace. We further believe that the ordinances, communion and baptism, are for discipleship not for sonship.
2 Timothy 1: 9-10
“Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began,
But is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel”
3. Saving Faith
The doctrine of “Justification by Faith Alone” (Sola Fide) is a mainstay of Calvinism. By that statement they believe that sinners are justified in the sight of God only by the act of believing the gospel, not by their works. Primitive Baptist believe that the subject of justification has many phases, by grace, by blood, by faith, and by works. If we, as Primitive Baptist, were forced to use the word alone, we would much prefer to say “justification by blood alone” or “justification by grace alone”. Furthermore, we interpret justification by faith as meaning the assurance of salvation not the act of redemption.
“Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus”
“Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.”
Calvinism asserts that the elect will perserver in faith and holiness. If one does not perserver, they take this as proof that the individual was only a professor of eternal life not a possessor. Primitive Baptist on the other hand lay claim to the fact that the bible teaches that preservation not perserverance is the biblical teaching. A child of God may very well fall away from their faith in this life time, and will experience parental chastisement in this lifetime, but the punishment is not punitive. In other words, the individual is still a child of God, and is still an inheritor of eternal life according to the Love of God, despite their falling away in this lifetime.
“Jude, the servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James, to them that are sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ, and called”
“All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.
For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me.
And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day.”
5. Double Predestination
Calvinism, or Reformed Theology, holds to the belief that God has chosen salvation for some through election and damnation for others through reprobation. This makes God the first cause of sin. Primitive Baptist believe that predestination only refers to the elect and that those that are not chosen are simply left in their fallen state. This belief of course also is founded on a belief in total depravity caused by the original sin of Adam and the wicked ways of men (Isa. 64). Note that the word predestinate appears in its various forms four times in the bible and always refers to people not events.
Romans 8: 29-30
“For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.
30Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.”
“Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will.”
6. Absolute Predestination
Calvinism holds to the belief that God predestinated all events that are to come to pass. As stated above, Primitive Baptist, only believe in the predestination of people, not all the events down through time. In this way, Primitive Baptist do believe in a portion of free will. We do not believe that people have free will to choose or deny eternal salvation, but we do believe that people have the ability to choose whether or not to be disciples in this lifetime. (I will provide scripture if desired)
Other areas of disagreement that I can detail more later are:
Seperation of Church and State
Persecution of Detractors
Well done, brother. This is a point of confusion for many and you’ve explained it in clear and simple terms. I’ll be referring a few to this essay. I appreciate it.
I am glad that it may be of benefit for a few. I think it is important for people to see these differences. There are so many untruths that can sneak in when we align ourselves with the Calvinists.
Enjoyed your writing on this subject. Clarity that is sorely needed today.