Condition: Anything called for as a requirement before the performance or completion of something else.
Conditional: Containing, implying, or dependent on a condition or conditions; qualified; not absolute. "Webster's New World Dictionary of the American Language. Second Edition."
Conditional Time Salvation: The doctrine of limited predestinarians, primarily those calling themselves Old Line Primitive Baptists, that attributes all salvation in time, except the work of the Holy Spirit in the new birth, to certain conditions performed by the born-again sinner. According to the doctrine of Conditionalism, to perform, or not to perform such conditions, is left up to them by Jehovah God; it is totally contingent on the freewill of the sinner; obedience to His commands brings ~ blessings, rewards, and joys; and disobedience brings chastisements, punishments, loss of joys, and even the possibility of an untimely death. (The definition of "conditional time salvation" as we see it.)
"Conditional time salvation" is the antithesis of salvation by grace alone, for it demands that the sinner saved for eternity must nevertheless work for this salvation in time, asserting that grace alone will not procure it.
It is more than interesting to observe that Webster's definition of the word conditional concludes with "Not Absolute". This is surely language well suited to describe the mentality and the beliefs of the Conditionalist, particularly as he regards this subject. No single word or definition in the English language arouses animosity among the Conditionalists as does "Absolute", or yet worse, "Absoluter". These are the primary scare words among them to whip up animosity toward the Old School Predestinarians.
Without attempting an exhaustive tracing out of the early history of this new doctrine, (a task that is not at all difficult) we will assert that the denial of the doctrine of absolute predestination is the foundational source of conditional time salvation with all its vagarious tenets.
Conditional time salvation is a very new doctrine, and can be traced back only to the latter part of the last century, and only in the United States. It has no identity in early history anywhere, and the New Testament is totally silent in its support. A few of the proponents of this system have, however, loosely gleaned a number of passages from the Old Testament accounts of God's governmental dealings with Israel. These they have saddled on the backs of those confused about the distinguishing differences between law and grace. Not a single sermon, tract, letter, or account of this doctrine can be produced dating back before the close of the War Between the States. Dissenters from this statement will search history's vaults and libraries in vain to produce contrary evidence. It simply does not exist.
This puerile doctrine was rooted in the Arminian nature of those that secretly despised the teaching of absolute predestination, which had predominated among the Old School Churches from the time of the division with the New School in the early 1800s. Like terrorists hidden in the hills, they lay in wait to attack. After the death of most of the old soldiers of the cross, then came these innovators, red-hot with their novel harangue. They wasted no time or effort in concocting sermons, articles, pamphlets, and whatever else was suitable to dish up this wild gourd pottage to all others that possibly had their Arminian itch. This was death in the pot; pure and simple. As was well stated by one old eye-witness, "It appeared as if they believed they were predestinated to rout out predestination." They did make every effort, and still do.
Today, the conditional doctrine has been distilled down to a homogenous liquor suited to intoxicate all who may imbibe. Swiftly through all the system will this stimulant interfuse. Much likes tipplers, grogged up on natural spirits, some of these imbibers will become sad and melancholy; others happy. Still others become rancorous, itching for a fight. They all, however, have one trait in common; they are verbally abusive towards the "Dreaded Absoluters". Sufficient could never be said regarding how embittered the Conditionalists truly are toward the little remnant of Absoluters. "I will be glad when they are all dead and gone" one writer recently proclaimed. We might suggest to him, "Worry not about the matter, Mr. Conditionalist, for 'To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted (Ecc. 3.1,2)"'. One dear old minister who became infatuated with the conditional system for a time pronounced that he was going to "bury all the Beebe Baptists." The Beebe Baptists, however, are still alive and well, and they attended to his burial.
It is not our purpose in this article to abuse or censure those that hold to this departure from the old order of doctrine. Before their own master they must stand or fall. Rather, we hope to set forth plainly what they really believe about salvation, and how it is obtained. Few, it appears, outside of the Conditionalist's camp, really know how far removed this doctrine is from the clear teaching of the Word of God as set forth by Absolute Predestinarians.
The Conditionalist believes that there are two salvations; one by grace and one by works; or, one which is conditional, and the other which is unconditional.
"Conditional salvation belongs to the children of God; those that are born again; and unconditional salvation belongs to those dead in trespasses and sin." Elder T. S. Dalton, A Treatise on Salvation, Page 22.
This method of dividing salvation is limited only by the capacity of the Conditionalist to come up with new and novel divisions. So we see salvation further divided by them into gospel or time salvation, and eternal salvation. This might all seem to be harmless distinction until one begins to find out what it takes, according to the Conditionalist, to obtain time salvation.
The Conditionalist agrees in a measure that the new birth (eternal salvation) is all of grace. They hold with the Absoluter that God elected some to eternal life, and that life is a gift of God. But here most of them part company with us. It is their contention that God only equips the saints to serve Him, and after being born again, leaves them to their own devices. Serving God is to them simply a matter of choice, or the product of a free will.
"When God quickens one by the Holy Spirit, sets him free from being a bond slave to sin, writes His law in the heart, He equips him with the ability to repent. Repentance on the outside is evidence of grace on the inside. Repentance is just as necessary today as it was in the days of John the Baptist or in the New Testament churches. God does not repent for us, He gives us the ability to do so. If we fail, we are without excuse." Elder E. D. McCutcheon, This we Believe, Page 42.
Notice very carefully the writer said "He equips him with the ability to repent." We had always believed that God did not just "give us the ability to repent" but actually gave us repentance. This was the understanding of the Apostle Paul as he wrote the following: "In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth (I Timothy 2.25)." Peter also expounded the same regarding the house of Cornelius: "When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life (Acts 11.18)." It would be difficult to understand that granted repentance is an optional matter.
The Conditionalist view on believing also takes a similar turn. To them the saved sinner may believe or not believe what God or the Bible says. Again, it is all up to the child of God. We quote again from This we Believe.
"This sin of not believing God's word has caused more grief to God's people than any other sin and is doing so today." Page 7.
That's saying a lot. We have uniformly found the Lord's people to be a believing people. True enough, they are beset by doubts and fears, but they still respond to the Word of the Lord as follows: "And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord I believe; help thou mine unbelief (Mark 9.24)." Why are they a believing people? Because: "And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed (Acts 13.48)." Their belief was a product of their spiritual life. They all, as many as were ordained to eternal life, believed. McCutcheon, however, thinks belief comes another way, as do most other Conditionalists.
"Belief is the exercise of faith that God has given by the Spirit: it is trust in the promises of God." Page 39. "Belief is the exercise of faith." Page 26.
We ask in all sincerity, how does one exercise faith? What tool would you employ to accomplish this feat? Whatever the saved sinner possesses of a spiritual nature, be it faith, or Christ in him the hope of glory, it will not be exercised by any of our depraved faculties. Rather, if the Lord so pleases, faith will exercise us, instead of it being the other way around. Let us settle this point with the following text: "And when he was disposed to pass into Achaia, the brethren wrote, exhorting the disciples to receive him: who, when he was come, helped them much which had believed through grace (Acts 18.27)." How did they believe? They believed through grace! Another text upon this point is as follows: "Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one that loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him (I John 5.1)." If, according to this text, believers are born of God, then are not unbelievers (those who do not believe through grace) yet dead in sin? "But ye believe not, because ye are not my sheep, as I said unto you (John 10.26)." Those that are not sheep do not believe. What then is the implied inference? That the sheep do believe, and that by grace. We consider the notion that belief comes by exercising faith to be totally absurd, and without example in the Bible. Conditional time salvation also sets forth views on the preaching of the gospel that are worse than simple error. We give a lengthy, but necessary quote.
"However, many do not know the wondrous story: probably millions of God's elect have died without the knowledge of God's works among the children of men. God left in the hands of men a system to take care of the distribution of this knowledge. Men have done a very poor job. What they have been given .. what has been assigned to them -- is called the gospel, the glad tidings. Because of the failure of men to carry the gospel.. to preach it properly -- very few of His children have the knowledge required for a full earnest of the inheritance --a blessed hope of what God has done, is doing and has promised to do." This we Believe, Page 27.
Neither Fuller, Carey, or Judson, the founders of modern missions, could have distorted the purpose of the gospel any worse. The view that "probably millions of God's elect have died without the knowledge of His work" is without Bible proof, no matter what one's opinion of the subject may be. "Men have done a very poor job." We agree! They always do, unless given strength from God. McCutcheon laments the failure of men to carry the gospel. What can he expect, since the men he wants to carry it have no authority from God to preach?
If we understand the last sentence of this quotation correctly, the Conditionalist believes that very few of the children of God have a blessed hope. Would they not then be without hope? Is there another position other than these? We suggest that this is one of the gravest departures that Conditionalists are guilty of committing.
"The gospel offers forgiveness of sins to God's born again people. It does not offer life nor justification by the blood of Christ, both of which are absolutely essential for eternal glory. The gospel offers an experimental forgiveness to the believer." This we Believe, Pages 29, 20.
If this is not an offer system, what is it?
"The gospel does not in any way offer the inheritance -- it offers the earnest of it." This we Believe, Page 27.
There is no doubt in the minds of most Bible readers that the earnest of the inheritance is not offered. The earnest is the Holy Spirit! That, according to Eph. 1.13,14.
Conditionalists also teach an offer theory for belonging to the Church that Jesus built.
"When one has been translated into the large enclosure, only by obedience to the gospel can he ascend to the higher plane, the church, of which Canaan was the type. The whole thrust of Primitive Baptist preaching has been toward this objective -- that God's elect might press into Canaan land, the gospel church today. Primitive Baptists have no worry that one of God's elect will fail to live in eternal glory but they do have great concern that many of the elect will fail to find the land of milk and honey, the gospel church. God's amazing grace puts them into the kingdom of His dear Son, then they are offered a temporary home while in this world, a home in the church and are commanded to press into it, to take it violently. (See Matt. 11.12)" This we Believe, Page 39.
Even a casual observer will notice that the writer puts the church on a higher plane than being in Christ. This comes "only by obedience to the gospel" according to the author. As for "then they are offered a temporary home" we quote the following: "Praising God, and having favour with the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved (Acts 2.47)." Jesus said "Upon this rock I will build my church." What assurance could He have possibly had that He would ever get it built if those to whom it was offered turned Him down? Does not an offer imply a NO answer as well as a yes answer? Is it not possible that Jesus could have attempted to build His church and at the last not a soul be a member of it, because they all declined His offer? Speaking of those that have been born again, McCutcheon makes the following statement:
"They have been set apart as potential members of the organized church." This we Believe, Page 32.
The expression, "potential members" says about all anyone would need to know about the system of contingencies known as conditional time salvation.
What exactly do the conditionalists believe (and not believe) about predestination?
"Some people believe that God could only know what would occur by determining in advance the course of events and ordering the whole process in such a manner that every thought, deed and happening is unalterable in any manner. This is the doctrine of absolute predestination. Primitive Baptists (except for a splinter group) do not believe this doctrine." This we Believe, Page 14.
We feel sure this sufficiently explains what they believe, and do not believe, about predestination. It is clear that they do not embrace the idea that "every thought, deed and happening is unalterable" so we may fairly conclude that they believe they are alterable. By what force or influence these alterations take place we are not informed by the writer. It may as well be by fate, chance or luck as their supposed free-will. One system of contingencies is probably as good as another once the government of God has been abandoned. Make no mistake about it, the conditionalist is as much an enemy of the government of God as any out and out Arminian. The difference between them is only in regards to being born again.
"While it is true that a few events in history were by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, (See Acts 2.23) yet predestination pertains to people, not to events, in every place it is used in the King James version." This we Believe, Page 17.
"A few events." No doubt but this is a bitter confession for a Conditionalist to have to make. By doing so they admit that there is really no difference in doctrine between them and the Absoluters. The difference is one of degree. They say a few events are ordered and sure; we contend that all events are ordered and sure. Is it not fair then to conclude that if the doctrine that says God declared all things to be sure is error, then the doctrine that says that God declared some things to be sure is some error?
Conditionalism also has perverted the promises of God to suit their system. We offer only one quote.
"However, God has left for us, while we live in this world many conditional promises." This we Believe, Page 17.
It appears to us that the Conditionalists have confused the word promise with the word, proposition. This is nothing, more or less, than the "if you will, God will, and if you don't, God won't" business so popular among the daughters of Babylon. How much confidence, however, may we then put in the promises of God? "For all the promises of God in him are yea, and in him Amen, unto the glory of God by us (II Cor. 1.20)." How much more comforting are the promises of God, viewed from that text, than when they are polluted with eventualities.
Before concluding we will point out one text that, to us at least, destroys any validity conditional time salvation might seem to have. "And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins (Matthew 1.21)." Surely we are a sinful people; surely Jesus is a glorious saviour. The promise in this text, given from the mouth of the angel of the Lord, was that the people of Jesus would (shall, in the text) be saved from their sins. This is a blessed certainty. No ambiguity here! No ifs, buts, maybe so, or peradventures; this is the holy promise of God to save His people. But--this is not just salvation; it is salvation from our sins. All of them! Now in time; forever into eternity. No one; no person but an infidel would dare to modify or confound this pure, free grace promise. Nothing in this text suggests, implies, or supports, in whole or in part, the absurd contention that this was only for eternity. Jesus, dear reader, saves us from all sin; now and forevermore. The absolute certainty of this -text is that when one of the people of Jesus sins Jesus will save them. It make no difference if they were past sins, present sins, or future sins. In fact, when the dear Son of God died for sinners, all of us now living, if we are His people, had all our sins washed away. They were all future sins at that time.
Time and space does not us permit us to go on at this time. Possibly in another article we may take up the Conditionalist position on rewards, blessings and other matters.
Should anyone feel we have only quoted from a limited number of their authors, we would state that the two we did use are widely accepted among the Limited Predestinanans. This we Believe is used by some of their churches as a handbook with the name of the church printed on the front cover. Elder Dalton's book, A Treatise on Salvation, has been generally circulated by the leading radio ministry of the Conditionalist camp.
If any wish to disavow (or, dispute) the quotations we have given in this brief article, we would be very pleased to hear from them.
We trust we are not so foolish as to believe that all Conditionalists understand alike on all points, no more than Absoluters are all agreed. What we have put forth is what is generally accepted among them. There is much more that is much worse too. We have intended no offense, and we hardly see how anyone could be offended by being quoted correctly. If we have wrongly wounded anyone, it was not by intention. Finally, as with the hymn writer, we say, "Grace 'tis a charming sound." God's sheep are charmed by grace. It is sad that there are some that are charmed by conditions.
J. F. Poole
January - February 1993