Saturday, May 31, 2008

The Image of God In Herschel Hobbs

There is no such thing as "the Baptist faith" or "the historic Baptist faith." These phrases imply a creedal faith, something which Baptists have always 10.

Baptists always have been creedal. As James A. Smith says:

Either the opponents are unaware of Baptist history or they willfully misrepresent our history. In either case, the historical record on this matter is clear and convincing: Baptists are creedal, and we have used confessions of faith as doctrinal measuring tools in employing our denominational servants.
One might ask why Hobbs would make this gaffe. Further, Elmer L. Towns infers that a vote could be taken which would force Calvinists from the fold of the SBC. Which is the same as saying that a vote could be taken forcing Southern Baptists to adhere to the approved creed as interpreted by the party policy police.

My series on the image of God in man and the fall was intended to lead us to this point: Was Herschel Hobbs wrong and did error lead millions of Southern Baptists into the morass of doctrinal ignorance? Well, he was wrong about the Baptists not being a creedal people so there might just be some reason to doubt the dependability of other things he said concerning the faith. My last insertion of conspiracy data indicated that Hx3 was a Freemason. That leads us to even greater speculation as to his ability to discern truth. Whether he was or not a Mason, I will let others confirm. I insinuated that the dualism of Masonic teachings is similar to Hobbs.

I will be quoting out of the 1971 edition of The Baptist Faith and Message which is a commentary on the 1963 BFM, published by Convention Press, Nashville Tennessee, and authored by Herschel H. Hobbs. There have been revisions, but as of now I do not have access to them. If anyone sees where what I quote has been corrected in later editions, please inform me. If anyone has a link to online editions, it would be greatly appreciated.

This commentary was widely distributed and studied. My copy came from my former Adult Sunday School teacher and Senior Deacon who also left the SBC church from which I self-expelled. Just how many over the past half-century were affected by the doctrine contained in it is unsearchable. But, I know this for a fact: adults with whom I interacted in Sunday School and elsewhere, believed as Herschel taught. A half century before this commentary was published, Hx3's theology was the prominent influential teaching base of the SBC. In total, nearly a century worth of Southern Baptists have been indoctrinated into the Hobbsian paradigm. It should be no wonder then that the Founders' doctrines appear an intrusion into the SBC. Let's then examine The Image of God In Herschel Hobbs.

Hx3 quotes on page 17 of his commentary "It is the purpose of this statement of faith and message to set for certain teachings which we believe" from the 1963 BFM introduction, setting it up as definitional and his own commentary on it as definitional of what it means to be both Christian and Baptist. Of God's omniscience he says:
God has all knowledge. He knows all things simultaneously...immediate...does not necessarily mean that he predetermined them...
Of omnipotence:
The only limits to his power are self-imposed...cannot lie or act contrary to his...laws...
Of miracles:
...acts of God contrary to man's knowledge of natural law, but not contrary to God's knowledge of such...
pg 36-37. Hobbs completes this thought in his section on God's purpose of Grace:
In the abstract, God's sovereignty means that he can act as he will without any outside counsel of permission. But in the concrete, as taught in the Bible, God has placed certain limitations upon himself. In that sense his sovereignty must be viewd as his power to act as he wills in keeping with his own laws and according to his naure as righteousness and love, pg. 66.
Hobb's had said earlier that Deut. 6:4 denies dualism, pg. 37.

What can be noted here is that even though Hx3 denies dualism, by stating that God has erected a set of laws that he obeys he has set up a dualism within God that is no different than dualism. More precisely, God, according to this scheme has set laws and has subjugated himself to them such that they are actually outside of God as a god to whom he must give account. This I suppose was necessary for Hobbs to be able to express the image of God in man who has choice. Dualism can also be formulated as alternatives. But, free-choice as was held by Hobbs means more than just alternatives, for law speaks of that which can be violated. Thus, for Hobbs, God's freedom includes the freedom of contrary choice. It is this way: God could choose to violate his own laws but does not because of his nature. However, if it is indeed the case that God has LFW then he could. And in fact, if LFW in God is true, it must be true in all cases. As the perfection of perfections, the infinite goodness of God's nature extends to every aspect of his being. If a choice of God could be made contrary to the infinitude of his goodness, it would be less than that goodness, and consequently other than God. Therefore, laws which might be violated even though erected by God establishes another other than God to which God is subject- a god outside of God. The final analysis is that God making laws to govern himself is contrary to his infinite nature, which is good. Another way to look at this is to say that God has the power of contemplation of alternative choice which includes the ability to conceive of himself as violating the greatest good choice by opting for the lesser. The power of contrary choice in God then would necessitate an inherent ability to contradict himself. That is to say, that God is both good and evil essentially; yin and yang.

Do I actually think that Herschel thought of God having the power of contrary choice? We'll have to see next time as we examine more closely Hx3 view of the image of God in man.


Gordan Runyan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rev. said...

FYI: Herschel Hobbs's commentary on the BFM related to the 1963 edition (not '71).

The 1925, 1963 and 2000 editions may be compared online at:

Strong Tower said...

Thanks rev. I know that, but the commentary is copy righted 1971. If that was unclear, I am sorry. It is actually called The Baptist Faith and Message. I just added Commentary for clarification. I guess it wasn't all that clear. I'll go back and make it clearer. Then let me know if it is...

As far as I know there are later editions of the commentary, and because I do not have them available I'm asking for known changes if any have been made, especially reversals. If you know of any copies freely available, especially of the latest one, 87 or 97, I think, my address is available upon request. Online versions would be great. Let me know, ahright?

Highland Host said...

Hobbs certainly appears to be teaching the highly questionable idea of God having 'Potentia Absoluta' (absolute power), in saying that God's power is governed only by a law, rather than by His own righteous character. This is a view few Calvinists (including high Calvinists) would agree with. Calvin certainly did not.

Strong Tower said...


Good to hear from you.

I have been trying to work out what HHH could have possibly meant by: "Of miracles: ...acts of God contrary to man's knowledge of natural law, but not contrary to God's knowledge of 36-37."

Hobbs seems to be saying that God works miracles through the law of nature. That in reality they are not supernatural, but hyper-natural. While it is true that God can work miracles within natures laws, he is certainly free to act creatively without them. Again, it appears that Hobbs places the effective agency outside of God, divesting himself of some of his power. God is therefore required to operate by these laws, and cannot go outside of them.

Gordan Runyan said...

Throw out the Trinity, then, since simple laws of addition tell us plainly that one plus one plus one cannot in any way equal one. God is bound by the law to either be one or three, but not both.