"Thou hast given a banner to them that fear thee, that it may be displayed because of truth." — (Psalm 60:4)
"Lift ye up a banner upon the high mountain, exalt the voice unto them." — (Isaiah 13:2)
Devoted To The Defense Of The Church Against All Errors And Innovations
Vol.X No.VII Pg.11-12,16b
July 1948

Some Old Doctrines Restated And Examined

R. L. Whiteside

False Arguments And Perversions Of Scriptures

It is not my purpose to notice all the false arguments and perversions of which religious people are guilty—not even all I know about. First, let us notice some peculiar notions people have formed about the results of the sin of Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden. Read Genesis 3.

When I was in the Nashville Bible School, a visiting preacher of great ability said in a sermon, "When Adam sinned the seeds of mortality were sown in the human body." I did not believe that theory then, nor do I now. Recently some brother said that if Adam had not sinned, we would have remained immortal. That is a wild guess. There is not the least indication that man's physical nature was affected by his eating the forbidden fruit. Had he been permitted to have continued access to the tree of life he would have lived on in sin. You do not believe it? Then read this: "And Jehovah God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil; and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever—therefore Jehovah God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken. So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden the Cherubim, and the flame of a sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life." So it was the fruit of the tree of life that kept them alive; separated from it they died. Not having access to it we die. To say that Adam and Eve by sinning changed their bodies from immortal bodies to mortal bodies is to say that by sinning they worked a great miracle on themselves! Then I have seen in print where brethren refer to "our fallen nature". I do not think they know what they mean by the expression. What do they think happened to our nature? Do they think our nature fell into a state of sin and depravity? What else can they mean, if they mean anything? It all sounds very much like the Augustinian-Calvinistic doctrine of inherited depravity.

When, as a youngster, I began to pay any real attention to preaching, I heard more than one gospel preacher on what I think they called the "Fall and Reinstatement of Man." It was argued that the steps that were taken to get away from the tree of life must be retraced to get back. As they enumerated the steps they stepped them off on the rostrum. "They heard a lie-step no. 1; they believed a lie-step no. 2; they obeyed a lie-step no. 3. To get back you must retrace the steps. You must hear the truth-step no. 1; you must believe the truth--step no. 2; you must obey the truth-step no. 3." That all looked plain and simple to me: so when I began to try to preach, I followed that pattern for some time. With a little more maturity of thinking I saw that the line of thought contained too much error. For one thing, Adam did not believe the lie, for Paul says he was not deceived. It is not certain that Eve told him what had been said to her. He was not influenced by the devil's lie, but by his wife. She gave the fruit to her husband, "and he did eat". And so, what I had thought was a good sermon exploded. I did not save any of its pieces.

Another theory about the effects of the sin of Adam and Eve is the Calvinistic theory of inherited depravity and sin. Let some standard works tell what the doctrine is. The Presbyterian Confession of Faith says; "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."

They usually try to soften the doctrine till they begin to make their arguments for the supposed necessity for a direct operation of the Holy Spirit in conversion; then they make the sinner utterly depraved, dead, with no ability to do anything. We shall examine some of the fallacious arguments built on perversions of certain passages in efforts to sustain this hurtful doctrine, Jeremiah 13:23-25. "Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? Then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil. Therefore will I scatter them, as the stubble that passeth away, by the wind of the wilderness. This is thy lot, the portion measured unto thee from me, saith Jehovah; because thou hast forgotten me, and trusted in falsehood." It is argued that a sinner cannot do anything toward changing his condition any more than an Ethiopian can change his skin or a leopard his spots—that this illustrates the condition of an unregenerate sinner. But some things are overlooked. It is not said that these Jews were born evil, but were "accustomed to do evil". Also, Jehovah said evils would come upon them "because thou hast forgotten me". So they had known Jehovah, for people cannot forget what they had never known. Because they had become hopelessly corrupt, the Lord would "scatter them, as stubble that passeth away, by the wind of the wilderness". (Their condition was hopeless. Verse 27: "Woe unto thee, O Jerusalem! thou will not be made clean". It is argued that nothing but the direct power of Jehovah can change an Ethiopians skin, or a leopard's spots. But did the Lord ever by direct power change people who have become wholly corrupt? Because Jerusalem had reached that condition the Lord abandoned them, and had them carried into captivity. And when the Jews again became so hopelessly corrupt that they crucified, the Lord, and then, by bitter persecution and slaughter, tried to destroy his church, the Romans utterly destroyed their nation, killing multiplied thousands of them and carrying the remainder into captivity. That is the way the Lord deals with people when they become hopelessly corrupt. Other examples illustrate the same truth.

What happened to the people at the flood shows what God did to people who became depraved beyond remedy, though what is said about them is perverted into an argument in support of the doctrine of hereditary total depravity. Genesis 6:5 "And Jehovah saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his of his heart was only evil continually". But it is not said that they were born such corrupt sinners. That point is assumed, and the assumption not only lacks proof, but it flatly contradicts what is said in verse 12: "And God saw the earth, and, behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted their way upon the earth." Their corruption was of their own doing—they corrupted their way. And because they had reached such corruption, and would not heed Noah's preaching God destroyed them with a flood. And also when Sodom and Gomorrah reached the wholly corrupt condition, which the creeds wrongfully charge upon all men, the Lord destroyed them. And so he did with Pharaoh and his hosts. And such endings came to people who were "utterly indisposed, disabled, and made opposite to all good, and wholly inclined to all evil". People may reach that state of depravity by their own doings, but they are not born in that condition.

Another argument is built on an unwarranted use of the word dead in Eph. 2:1. It is believed that a dead man can do nothing—cannot even hear, and cannot believe, till God; makes him alive by some direct influence of the Holy Spirit. But the prodigal son was dead, but he returned to his father without any direct operation of the spirit of his father. When I debated the Holy Spirit question with Ben M. Bogard, in his first speech he put in his time: trying to prove that the sinner is so depraved, so dead, that he can do nothing till he is made alive by the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit in addition to the word. I knew he would accuse me of limiting the power of God; and so I decided to beat him to it and put him in a dilemma so that he would get hurt no matter which way he went. I began my reply by saying, "One objection I have to Mr. Bogard's theory is, he limits the power of God. He has the sinner so depraved and so dead that God could not make a gospel that would reach him. I then waited for results—they came in his next speech. He came up waving his arms and talking louder than usual, saying, "It is not a question of what God can do. God can do anything he wants to do. He could have made a gospel that would reach that dead sinner, if he had wanted to." I replied, "Oh, well, the sinner is not as dead as we have heard he is, for God could have made a gospel that would reach him, if-he-had-wanted to. So the trouble is not with the inability of the sinner at all: it is with the ineffectiveness of the gospel God made! But I maintain that God made the very gospel Bogard said he could have made, and I will proceed to prove it, for it is useless in the face of Bogard's admission to talk any more about depravity and the dead sinner". Then I proceeded to show by numerous passages that the gospel is God's power for salvation, and that sinners were able to hear, believe, and obey that gospel. Search the book of Acts, and not one time will you find that any sinner was told that he could not obey the gospel without a direct work of the Spirit. Will any one say that Luke an inspired historian failed to mention an absolutely essential thing, really the only essential thing? He did, if the advocates of the direct operation theory are correct, Who can believe it?