In Campus-Crusade-for-Christ activities, continued reference to the Holy Spirit is made and to His indispensable work; yet in the bustling business of “winning souls” He is allowed to do very little of it. Babes in Christ, “carnal Christians,” mature Christians, all treat the Spirit of God as though He were at their beck and call. When they become “filled with the Spirit” their will is said to be under the control of the Spirit, but the impression is given that He is under their control. The desire on the part of many Christians, say they, is for that which they do not have, to be “filled with the Holy Spirit.” They wonder why they lack that filling. The answer tendered is that the trouble lies in the will. It is -a problem of the will. At his conversion the will of man was temporarily (not unreservedly? RCH) yielded to God’s will. He strayed from the, Lord, failed to “walk in the light.” He no longer seeks to do the will of God. He must therefore be willing to repent. He must “allow the Holy Spirit to control” his life. It is that “act of the will” which must be performed in God’s favor. The Spirit “does not force us” and so cannot fill us unless we yield to Him and “invite Him” to take over our lives. This conception of the Spirit’s work is boldly offered, “because it is scriptural!” This imaginary scripturality has it. that seated on the throne of the natural man’s heart, and the carnal Christian’s heart, is that old ogre of Free Will, holding the mighty scepter of Adam’s natural ability to accept or reject, a scepter which man, Christian or not, holds in paralyzing sway over all, especially over against the three Persons of the Trinity.
Is it really true, if we want to be scriptural, that the will of man is still, even now after the Fall, as free as ever it was in the state of rectitude? Hardly! Adam in his sinless state had a will free to continue in righteousness or to choose the path of sin and death. He chose the latter, so that with his Fall he was found dead in trespasses and sins; a fatal fall which left his will incapable of any good and prone to all evil. His will was since then separated, as was the will of all his children, from the grace of God, and that which is separated from the grace of God is not good. Free will without the grace of God is not good, and without the grace of God the will is absolutely not free! It is, as Luther put it, “the servant and bond slave of evil,” because it cannot turn itself unto good. The testimony of Jesus was that an evil tree cannot bring forth good fruit. It can only produce evil fruit. Now man and his fallen will are an evil tree. Why then come out with the teaching that the tree is just as good as it ever was? or with what is even more strange, that though it is evil (“man is sinful”) it can, if it will, bring forth good? Why persist in being Esasmian when we are to be Christian? The will of regenerated man is something different from that of the natural man. The will of glorified man is something else yet, but the will of fallen man is certainly not free, except to evil. Its freedom is all down hill—free to “only evil continually.” “The carnal mind is enmity against God; it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be! So then they that are in the flesh (with that inimical, insubordinate, impotent will!) cannot please God!”
In the movement under consideration the features above described are very prominent. While there is a great deal of loose talk about the Holy Spirit and His great work, and while the Spirit is “allowed” to do certain things, His great work of resuscitating the dead sinner He is not allowed to do. This follows from the fact that there is no emphasis whatsoever on the total depravity of man due to the Fall and original sin. For that teaching would reveal the absolute necessity of the almighty power of the Holy Spirit in quickening those dead through trespasses and sins. That is a work most honoring to the Spirit of God, but too flesh-withering to this movement. The excuse for not teaching the total depravity of man’s nature, anyone can understand, is that it necessitates approaching men as dead wood, to have things done to them, but their never doing anything.
We must not teach this doctrine to men, they complain, lest we encourage them to sleep. Rational and moral beings must be treated as such, not as somnambulistic creatures who can only belch in their sleep. Now how does that mean that we should treat them? Apparently it means that we ought to conceal from them what they ought to know of their true condition by nature! How then shall they ever come to act as rational, moral beings with it said of them, “You who were dead in sins hath He quickened.” Can they be merely persuaded to turn to God, as if they are not what Jesus and Paul say they are? Here is a man not a Christian: a friend who is a Christian, inside of only a thirty-minute conversation leads him to Christ. Then the new and the old Christian go their separate ways rejoicing. But that “new convert” never heard a thing of spiritual death in sin, nor a hint of the truth of total depravity. What in the world, then, was he “saved” from? He was cheated; his understanding was duped. The so called “witness” or “soul-winner” suppressed the facts as they relate to the natural man, denied them to himself as well as to his subject. Why so? to ensure a larger hope-of success in winning souls to Christ? What sort of witnessing is that? If Christian collegians are not children, but men, let them think like men, and not like misguided Peter Pans.
Is it such a shock to learn that there is a work that only the Holy Spirit can do? that it is a work not of him that willeth, because it is God who worketh to will and to do for His good pleasure? Is it so unbearable to depend upon the quickening of the Spirit, because to do so means recognizing Him and His work as sovereign? If the Holy Spirit does this work of calling men to Christthrough a consecrated, Spirit-filled person, then is it not His doing, not man’s, and does He not do it by revealing to a sinner his deathly sins and the foul plague of his heart? How then dare a true witness hide that soul-searching truth of depravity from his auditors? That would only make him an incompetent witness, or worse, one who has no right to think himself a man of faith and those in need of his witness victims of unbelief. Man of faith he cannot be when his “faith” is faith in men, and men must be begged to “allow the Holy Spirit” to control the life! He is a true Christian spokesman for God who looks upon the natural man he would address as a Lazarus who can do nothing until the efficacious voice of the almighty Christ pierces his soul, and who views the unconverted mass of humanity as a valley of dry bones, and worse, as fast closed graves. There is a man of faith!
But an approach is hardly made to this high level of faith. For although regeneration or the new birth are presented, superficially, as necessary, the whole conception of regeneration is conceived according to some pet form of humanist philosophy which leaves that act of renewal in the power and ability of man to accomplish. “Jesus said, ‘Ye must be born again,'” the agent tells his subject. “That means you must be regenerated. How do you experience that great change?” Then the answer is given out of John 1:12, as Law Four of the Four Spiritual Laws has it, from which it is maintained that “if you believe, you will be regenerated.” This is invariably the answer given in present-day revivalist or “retreat” circles. On condition of faith, regeneration follows. In proof of this, John 1:12 is invariably appealed to, and just as invariably, verse 13 is forgotten or deliberately omitted. If faith must first come from man before he can be regenerated, then he was not, as God declares, dead in sins. If he was spiritually dead, how could he receive Christ and believe on His name? Where does a dead soul get regenerating faith to make himself alive? What the text teaches is that those who receive Him and now believe on His name were (already) born of God! So that their receiving and believing were the effect of their having been born of God. They were not born of man, nor of the will of the flesh!
It is often argued that the omniscient Lord is too wise to require men to do what they are not able to perform. But the Lord does exactly that to make the dead sinner feel his own insufficiency and to bring to complete dependence on His mighty power. God commands men to love Him with all the heart, soul, strength and mind. Can the natural man who is enmity against God do that? If so, where would the Christian instructor ever get to use the text, “The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (I Cor. 2:14)? No enlightened Christian who knows what his Master’s Word teaches will ever adopt the practice of hurrying lost men into a vague belief in “the love of God” and His “provision for man’s sin in the cross of Jesus.” John 1:12-13 is no invitation of Christ to all men. It is the statement of factas to how His people are saved from their sins. No true convert, like the Ethiopian eunuch, is satisfied with a watered-down gospel made palatable to the natural man. Nor would he be satisfied with thinking he is saved by grace through a faith owing to himself. He must have the faith which is the gift of God, and which is the effect of the new creation. Only then can he be sure he is saved by the gospel of God, and not deceived by alluring eclipses of the grace of God.