Was J.R. Graves A Calvinist?

Discussion in 'Baptist History' started by Mark Osgatharp, Oct 4, 2005.

  1. Mark Osgatharp

    Mark Osgatharp
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    In 1887 J.R. Graves edited and published the book "The First Baptist Church In America Not Founded By Roger Williams" which contains an historical discussion of the question by Samuel Adlam, pastor of the First Baptist Church of Newport, Rhode Island from 1849 to 1864. Adlam's history of the Newport church gives it's covenant which was adopted in 1727 and it's articles of faith. It is not stated whether these articles of faith were adopted at the same time as the covenant or at some earlier or later date.

    In any event, J.R. Graves gives this editorial note introducing the articles of faith:

    "These will be interesting to all Baptists, and perhaps many of our churches and brethren about to organize would like to adopt them, and so hold the faith of the First Baptist Church organized on this continent. All can see there is not a scintilla of Calvinism in them. Baptists were sound, held and taught in all the faith once delivered to the saints, fifteen hundred years before Calvin was born. What he added to it is Calvinism, and that we most heartily repudiate."

    Here is what the statement says on the subject of salvation. The bold print and italics are in the book and apparently were so highlighted by J.R. Graves.

    "The only way of deliverance from the state of sin and condemnation is through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ who is the Eternal Word in personal union with human nature. He freely offered himself as a substitute to suffer and die in behalf of all men. Thus he became a perfect savior by whom all who will may be saved. All men are invited to accept Him as the savior of their souls, and to all who do so accept Him, He is the actual ground of justification and eternal life."

    Also,

    "Those who truly obey the gospel were chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world by Him who sees the end from the beginning, and in consequence of God's purpose and grace they are regenerated by the Holy Spirit, whithout whose influence none would ever repent and believe."

    Mark Osgatharp
     
  2. rlvaughn

    rlvaughn
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    Perhaps J. R. Graves underwent a change in his beliefs between 1883 and 1887. I must say I am at a loss to explain it any other way. Here are some things he wrote only four years before he penned his words as editor of the Adlam book.

    "All men are by nature Arminians; and the absolute sovereignty of God is a doctrine hateful to the natural and depraved heart. False teachers have taken the advantage of this natural feeling, and have for ages inflamed the prejudices of Christian men and women against any exercise of sovereignty on the part of God in this Covenant, either as to his 'determinate counsels,' his electing love, or his distinguishing grace. They presumptuously and impiously assert, that, unless God extended the same grace to all the lost that he did to those who are saved, he is justly chargeable with partiality and injustice, and, if he saw fit, in the dispensation of his grace, when none would, if left to themselves, accept or desire it, and, indeed, all have rejected it, to so influence the wills of some that they would seek his grace, he is guilty of forcing some men to be saved, and others to be lost. But we know that the Omniscient God is incapable of doing wrong; and if it is plainly revealed that he passed by all the fallen angels, who will charge him with sin or wrong had he passed by all of Adam's race? How then, can he be charged with injustice, if he saw fit to save a portion of it?...

    "Now, will not, must not all unprejudiced Bible-read[ing?] Christians agree with the following propositions?
    1. That the Son undertook and will save all the Father, in the Covenant of Redemption, gave him to save.
    2. Since all are not saved, as all evangelical Christians admit, we must conclude that all were not given to the Son.
    3. That the Father, in the Covenant of Redemption, gave some of Adam's race to his Son to be redeemed."

    Following those paragraphs, Graves prints out John 6:37-39,44, 17:2,6,9-12,24, 18:9, and then writes, "In the face of these express declarations, who will deny that some were given to the Son to save."

    - From The Work of Christ in the Covenant of Redemption; Developed in Seven Dispensations by J. R. Graves, 1883 [copyright by Baptist Sunday School Committee, 1928; Reprinted 1971, Bogard Press, pp. 95-97]

    *Bolding is at it appears in the edition I have
     
  3. Mark Osgatharp

    Mark Osgatharp
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    Brother Vaughn,

    I read the whole chapter in "Seven Dispensations" last night and found very little of it with which I disagreed and very little of it that I would consider inherently Calvinistic. I agree 100% with the statements you quoted and there is nothing Calvinistic at all about them.

    I think one mistake that is often made is to assume that because a man speaks of the sovreignty of God, election, and foreknowledge that he means these things in a Calvinist sense. People even read the Bible the same way. If I approach Graves assuming he is a Calvinist then he will sound like a Calvinist, just as will Paul, and just as I personally have been accused of being a Calvinist though, in reality, I am the farthest thing from it.

    What I gather that Graves was saying - and it is absolutely true - that God never intended to save everyone or He would have. God created this world knowing that He would only save an elect minority. That is an indisputable Biblical fact.

    But Graves also said that Christ died for all so as to make it possible for God to offer salvation to all and therefore cannot be classed as a Calvinist. The statements quoted above from the Newport articles of faith affirm both of these very things - that God chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world and that Christ died for all so as to offer salvation to all.

    Where I part ways with Graves is in His assumption that any man is considered an elect sheep before he believes or that God gave any unbeliever to Christ to save. Paul plainly says that we are chosen "through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth" which, if words mean anything, mean that a man is not elected until he believes.

    The election that took place before the foundation of the world was the determination that redemption would be for those in Christ. But none are actually in Christ until they believe. Therefore we can say that personal election takes place in time while God choice of a certain class took place in eternity.

    The bottom line is, while God most certainly will have mercy on whom He will have mercy, He wills to have mercy on all who believe. As it is written,

    "Behold, I lay in Zion a stumblingstone and rock of offence; and whosoever believeth in him shall not be ashamed."

    Mark Osgatharp
     
  4. Mark Osgatharp

    Mark Osgatharp
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    Another way I can explain it is that Graves took it upon himself to delve into and to speak entirely too much about things he didn't understand, and therefore said some things that were not even consistent.

    For example, in the chapter you mention he said that Christ "did not pay the debt each sinner of the race owes to divine law" and then, in the next paragraph, said "We are free to admit that Christ died for all, and gave himself a ransom for all men, in the sense that he removed all legal and governmental obstructions, so that, in good faith, salvation by grace could be freely offered to all..."

    Now try reconciling those two statements!

    Mark Osgatharp
     
  5. whatever

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    Where does Paul say that? The closest statement that I can find to that is in 2 Thess. 2:13, but in all of the versions I checked there are some other words inserted between "chosen" and "through sanctification". If words mean anything then we ought not leave them out just because it makes proving our point easier.
     
  6. Mark Osgatharp

    Mark Osgatharp
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    Whatever,

    "But we are bound to gives thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth."

    Now the only words between "chosen" and "through sanctification" which I did not quote are "you to salvation" which does not change my contention one iota. And since election to salvation is what we were talking about I did not misrepresent the text at all.

    If words mean anything then you are guilty of falsely charging me with the awful crime of willfully wresting God's word.

    Mark Osgatharp
     
  7. whatever

    whatever
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    Oh, come on. We both know why you left those words out. If "through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth" refers to "chosen" then your point is made, but if it refers to "salvation" then your point is refuted. It refers to how we are saved, not why we were chosen.

    I am not sure what else you would expect from one of those whom you falsely charge is "so steeped in the hell inspired philosophies of man that he would deny that Jesus Christ tasted death for every man". [​IMG]
     
  8. rlvaughn

    rlvaughn
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    This does look like another good possibility, and could certainly be true of not only Graves, but of all of us when we try to use too much human reasoning to try to explain the deep things of God instead of just quoting Scripture.

    As far as approaching "Graves assuming he is a Calvinist", that was certainly not my case. I first read some of Graves' "Work of Christ" about 25 years ago (my note on the fly leaf indicates I bought the book in 1981), with no idea other than assuming that he was the same kind of Missionary Baptist I was. "Our" Bogard Press had printed the book, and "our" seminary bookstore was selling it.

    [ October 05, 2005, 11:22 PM: Message edited by: rlvaughn ]
     
  9. Barjonah

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    Was Graves a Calvinist? Is the Pope Catholic?

    Graves was a landmarkist, who hold strongly to Calvinism. At least that is my understanding (both of Graves and Landmarkism)
     
  10. Mark Osgatharp

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    There are certiainly some Landmarkers who who hold to Calvinism; but Landmarkism is by no means a Calvinist movement.

    In the quote I gave above Graves categorically denied being a Calvinist. The American Baptist Association is the primary heir of the Landmark movement and they are decidedly non-Calvinist.

    Mark Osgatharp
     
  11. Bro. James

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    "I am of Paul" "I am of Apollos"

    Ben M. Bogard (Bogard Press) was a Freemason, so was George Washington (1st president of the U.S).

    Now what?

    "What think ye of Christ?" "Who is He?"

    "Let God be found true--and every man a liar."

    Selah,

    Bro. James
     
  12. Kiffen

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    Such statements as He freely offered himself as a substitute to suffer and die in behalf of all men. Thus he became a perfect savior by whom all who will may be saved. All men are invited to accept Him as the savior of their souls, and to all who do so accept Him, He is the actual ground of justification and eternal life." is entirely consistent with Calvinism. No Calvinists denies Christ died for "all men" in that He was the sacrifice for all races of men . That He is the "perfect savior by whom all who will may be saved" is a Limited Atonement Statement. Christ death is for all who will believe. Calvinists of course believe they come to Christ because they are the Elect.

    In fairness I have read other Graves comments and I think he might be defined as a Amyrault "Calvinist" (4-4.5 Calvinist). Amyraults either reject or redefine Limited Atonement.
     
  13. rlvaughn

    rlvaughn
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    Kiffen, that is pretty much how I have looked at Graves' Calvinism. Whether I am right or wrong I may not know. Isn't "Fullerism" pretty much the same as Amyrauldism?
     
  14. Mark Osgatharp

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    I refuse to be defined either by Calvinism or Arminianism, or "Amyrault" whoever in the world he is.

    The Bible says that Jesus Christ tasted death for every man and that He is the propitiation for the sins of the whole world. He is the Savior of the whole world, specially of those who believe.

    Therefore it can rightly be said that the sacrifice of Christ is unlimited in it's provision but limited in it's application - limited to those who believe.

    Anyone who departs from that - either by asserting that Christ's death will save all or that His death was not sufficient for all - has redefined the gopsel of Jesus Christ and is worthy of top ranks of the hall of shame. As it is written,

    "If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed."

    Mark Osgatharp
     
  15. whatever

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    I do not know of any Calvinists who would disagree with any of that.
     
  16. R. Charles Blair

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    Back to Mark's first post in this chain, and the seeming contradiction noted in some of his other writings: by "Calvinism" in "7 Dispensations" Graves meant "Hardshellism," or "Anti-Missionism" which was such a burning issue in his day. He vigorously fought the anti-mission movement just as he fought A. Campbell's schism and the general Protestant world. Nor did he approve all of J. Calvin's theology, obviously: read what he wrote against Presbyterian "baptism of infants," etc.

    One may hold the sovereignty of God (as did Graves, obviously), without assuming that the infant children of at least one believing parent are part of the covenant and should be recognized as such with a "little dab" of water, or that other infant children dying are consigned to hell; one may hold divine election unto salvation through faith which is in Jesus Christ without calling oneself a Calvinist, or subscribing to anyone's "5 points" (Calvin's or those of Arminius, or the "5 fundamentals" of more recent times, or "old Landmarkism" (which I hold in a somewhat modified form), simply by quoting Scripture directly. "System-making" is also part of original sin! The desire to "get it all in order and fixed once and for all" is part of our very human lust for power, even when clad in attractive systems of theology. Read the text first, then the commentaries; the Bible throws a lot of light on the commentaries!

    Best- R. Charles Blair - Ro. 8:28 (Just getting in on this at the request of a friend)
     
  17. Mark Osgatharp

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    I do not know of any Calvinists who would disagree with any of that. </font>[/QUOTE]Well, my friend, I do. Calvinists teach that Jesus died only for a pre-selected group of people and that His death insures that they will believe and be saved. That is doctrine foreign to God's word.

    Mark Osgatharp
     
  18. Mark Osgatharp

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    Brother Blair,

    If you read the statements I quoted as they are given in the book I referenced, they clearly indicate that J.R. Graves believed in a general provision - which he also asserts in his "Seven Dispensations" and that he considered the limited provision idea to be Calvinism which he repudiated.

    Mark Osgatharp
     
  19. R. Charles Blair

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    Brother Mark - I read "7 Dispensations" and "1st Bap. Ch." nearly 50 years ago - am still convinced that Graves held sovereignty without what he would have considered "hardshellism" - death of Christ "sufficient for all, efficient for those who will believe." Unlimited capacity, targeted effect. I've used "1st Bap. Ch." in teaching Baptist history several times, recommended "7 Dispensations" to many students over the years. Hope you have a great day in the Lord - best - Charles - Ro. 8:28
     
  20. Kiffen

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    Hi Bro, rjvaugn. You are correct brother! [​IMG]
     

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