Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
April 11, 1963
NUMBER 48, PAGE 5,13c

The Holy Spirit In Conviction And Conversion

James W. Adams

Every conversion to Christ which has occurred from the beginning of the Lord's church, on the first Pentecost after his resurrection from the dead, until this present hour has been begun, carried on, and consummated as a result of the operation of the Holy Spirit upon the sinner's heart. There is almost universal agreement among Bible students on this point. This treatise, therefore, does not concern itself with the fact of the operation of the Holy Spirit in this realm, but rather with the manner of his operation.

Superstition and mysticism have shrouded our subject with uncertainty and confusion to the point of making it incomprehensible to the average mind. Many suppose that the teaching of the Bible relative to this subject is hazy, abstruse, and ambiguous. Such is not the case. Bible teaching on the subject is just as clear as it is on any other theme which is related to the salvation of the soul. The trouble is that men have endeavored to make mysterious and difficult that which is lucid and easy. No difficulty will be encountered by any student in ascertaining the truth on the subject if he is willing to let the word of God speak and to hear and accept what it says.

The Proposition Stated

Someone has said, "A proposition well stated is half argued." This is particularly true in dealing with the work of the Holy Spirit in any realm. Let the reader keep constantly in mind a fact already stated; namely, that our study has to do, not with the fact of the operation of the Holy Spirit in conviction and conversion, but with the manner of his operation. The question is: In the conviction and conversion of the sinner to Christ, how does the Holy Spirit exercise his influence upon the heart? Does he operate directly or indirectly? Does he operate immediately (without means) or intermediately (through means)? The Bible teaches that, in the conviction and conversion of the sinner to Christ, the Holy Spirit operates upon the sinner's heart through the agency of the Spirit-revealed and Spirit-inspired word of God — through the agency of Divine Truth, hence that the operation of the Holy Spirit in this realm is indirect and intermediate. To the establishment, development, and application of this proposition this tract is reverently dedicated. Our appeal for proof, shall be to the word of God as revealed in the Bible — the Old and New Testaments.

Denominational Dogma And Practice

Denominational dogma and practice have greatly obscured the truth concerning the manner of the Holy Spirit's operation in conviction and conversion. The Calvinistic theory of "hereditary total depravity" has been the occasion of much of the false doctrine and practice in this realm. It Is argued that: "In conversion and sanctification there is an influence of the Spirit in addition to that of the Word, and distinct from it — an influence, without which the arguments and motives of the gospel would never convert and sanctify one of Adam's ruined race."....'Why, then, it will be asked, is it necessary that there should be an influence of the Spirit, in addition to that of the Word, and distinct from it? The necessity arises simply from the depravity of the human heart...." men are sinful — deeply depraved. Hence, the necessity of a special divine influence, in addition to, and distinct from, the Word." (N. L. Rice In Campbell-Rice Debate, pp. 628, 630.) " is so depraved that he is unable without the direct enabling power of the Holy Spirit to obey the gospel of the Son of God." (J. B. Moody, Missionary Baptist, in Nashville Debate.) "Our first Parents by this Sin, fell from their original righteousness and communion with God, and we in them, whereby death came upon all; all becoming dead in Sin, and wholly defiled, in all the faculties, and parts of soul, and body.... From this original corruption, whereby we are utterly indisposed, disabled and made opposite to all good, and wholly inclined to all evil, do proceed all actual transgressions." (London Confession — Baptist, Chap. VI, Part 2, 4) "I, by natural birth, then am too wicked to live, too sinful to die, and too vile to meet God Total Hereditary Depravity means that man in his entire self is bad. He inherited this nature from Adam through the human race. Rom. 5:12. Consequently, he is entirely inherently conceived in badness. I mean by total that man is bad, mind, body, and spirit. Yes, a sinner by nature.... Before God, I by nature am depraved and unclean. Our best is but odious and obnoxious to the nostril of Him until the life is changed by a new nature that is imparted." (Albert Garner, Missionary Baptist, in The Royal Birth A Life Of Liberty, pp. 8, 9.)

The doctrine of hereditary total depravity is a creation of the fallible wisdom of theologians, but is nowhere taught in the Bible. Every passage of Scripture used by such teachers to sustain the doctrine is tortured and perverted. A child is born into a disordered world, a world of temptation and sin. Yet, in his essential nature, is as innocent as was Adam when he fell from the plastic hand of God. Every child inherits from Adam a fleshly nature characterized by the same strength and weakness that characterized his fleshly nature. Adam and Eve, on the basis of the information supplied in the Divine Record, sinned at their first temptation. Whatever caused the first pair thus to sin is that in human nature which causes men to be prone to sin today. Adam was not created with a "depraved nature." God pronounced man as created "good." (Gen. 1:31) Since the sin of Adam and Eve did not proceed from a totally depraved nature, why should it be thought that the sins of men today proceed from such? Jesus recognized the fact of the uncorrupted nature and practical innocency of man before "actual transgression" when he said to his disciples, "Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God." (Lk. 18:18)

Since the sinner is not hereditarily totally depraved, there exists no real basis for the concept of direct, immediate, miraculous operation of the Holy Spirit upon the sinner's heart in conviction and conversion. Someone has said, "Necessity 1s the mother of invention." Necessity, created by the false theory of hereditary total depravity, gave birth to the equally false concept of the direct, immediate operation of the Holy Spirit on the sinner's heart in conviction and conversion. Neither is true, hence they fall together.