[CORRECTION: I appear to have confused eschatological views and that of the eternal generation of the Son, as well a tendency toward absolute predestination and positive reprobation which I had previously attributed to primitive Baptists with those of many Strict and Particular Baptists; very similar groups which hold a number of positions in common, though also distinct in the aforementioned beliefs. I sincerely apologize for any confusion or misrepresentation. While Westboro both identifies as Primitive Baptist and adheres to the views to which I had attributed other Primitive Baptists, it has come to my attention that the latter disavow affiliation with Westboro and deny that they are representative of the positions taken by the mainstream primitive Baptist position].
In an exclusive interview with Steve Drain on June 14 2013, this writer was granted the opportunity to speak with a member of the controversial Westboro Baptist Church concerning certain of their beliefs. While this writer disagrees with some of the more controversial tactics of Westboro Baptist, it was enlightening to have an opportunity to speak objectively with one of their own in order to better understand how they understand their place in the Church.
Members of Westboro Baptist identify as primitive baptists. Like many other primitive baptists, their doctrine of salvation is strictly Calvinistic, especially when it comes to high grace positions such as active reprobation and absolute predestination. Primitive baptists hold to a number of doctrines considered highly controversial by the Church at large, even among Calvinists, who nonetheless share many of their beliefs. These beliefs oftentimes include, but are not limited to: The doctrine of time salvation, according to which the behavior of the regenerate sinner is irrelevant following conversion, such that they can live in any manner they please following conversion, to such a degree that one can even renounce one’s faith and be assured of one’s salvation. This is a doctrine called antinomianism, and is professed by many primitive baptists. However, Steve Drain emphatically affirms that the regenerate sinner, though far from perfect in this life, does not exhibit a life of habitual sin. Instead, the elect strive for holiness.
While most Calvinists believe that justification takes place at the time of faith and conversion, primitive baptists tend to place justification before faith and conversion, either upon Christ’s historical death, or even in eternity past. Steve Drain affirms that Westboro Baptist believes that justification of the elect took place objectively at the moment of Christ’s death, and is temporally antecedent to the coming to faith of the elect in time and space in time.
Like many primitive baptists, Steve Drain seems to reject both the eternal generation of the Son, according to which the Son derives either His Person or His divinity from the Father, as well as the ontological understanding of the procession of the Holy Spirit from either the Father or the Son, according to which the Father and/or the Son is the ontological “cause” of the Spirit. He attributes this belief to the scholastic and rationalistic tendencies of Roman Catholic philosophers like Anselm and Thomas Aquinas.
He also reflected a belief in premillennialism; a common belief among primitive baptists, according to which Christ’s Second Coming will initiate a 1,000 year reign during which Satan will be bound in a pit so that his activity of deception is completely restricted, as per the premillennialist reading of Rev. 20:1-6.
While some primitive baptists reject duty faith, Steve Drain affirms that Westboro Baptist, like most Calvinists, adheres to this position. According to those who reject the doctrine of “duty faith”, it is not the duty of the reprobate to believe in the Gospel. According to their reasoning, the Gospel teaches that Christ died for one’s sins. Since Christ did not die for the sins of the reprobate, to insist that it is the duty of the reprobate to believe the Gospel would be to insist that they believe in a lie. According to Steve Drain, Westboro Baptist does not accept such logic and instead affirms the duty of all sinners to believe in the Gospel.
Most importantly for many of us, how does Westboro Baptist scripturally justify some of their more controversial practices in light of passages like Matt. 5:43-48; 2 Tim. 2:24-25; 1 Pet. 3:15, which enjoin of the elect meekness in our interactions with others? Steve Drain argues that these passages have more particular reference to submission of our minds to God with respect to His will, and he refers to Jude 22-23, according to which distinction is to be made concerning certain kinds of sinners. Particularly stubborn sinners, Drain argues, with reference to this passage, are to be dealt with differently than those who are more malleable.
“if someone is going to be a stone-cold, stiff-necked person, you gotta say “listen buddy, your stiff-neckedness isn’t going to change God””, he said. “There’s kind of a polite-society Christianity…what I’m saying is, the Lord Jesus Christ cast people out of the Temple” he said, referring to Jesus’ overturning of the moneychanging tables in the Second Temple. Of course, Jesus Christ was God, and He exercises perfect judgment in all things. As sinners inclined to fleshly anger, the Christian would do well to pay special attention to horizontal elements of 1 Pet. 3:15; 2 Tim. 2:24-25, in order to keep from being moved to anger for unChristian reasons such as personal hatred or prideful contempt. Contemptible though unjust military intervention by America in the Middle East is, picketing funerals is better replaced simply with protesting the policies of unjust politicians through the preaching of the Gospel. After all, the families of those soldiers are no less victims than many of the soldiers themselves, who may not have expected such a tour. While there may be occasions during which we are justified in bolder expressions of righteous anger, as Jesus expressed when casting the moneychangers out of the Temple, it is also true that he wept at the death of Lazarus along with those who were weeping, despite their sinful lack of faith in His ability to bring Lazarus back(Jhn. 11:35).
“Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep“(Rom. 12:15).
Drain, S. (2013, June 14). Telephone interview.