Straw Men and Baptist Doctrine

Jerry C. Brewer

Resurrecting a dispute between Thomas Warren and Guy N. Woods in the Open Forum at the 1967 Freed-Hardeman lectures over the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, Mac Deaver says Warren handed Woods a dilemma regarding his position.1 Deaver’s article in the Sept./Oct., 1996 issue of Biblical Notes infers that Woods was unable to answer Warren’s argument since a dilemma is, by definition, unanswerable:

A necessary choice between equally undesirable alternatives, a perplexing predicament. Logic A syllogistic argument which presents an antagonist with two (or more) alternatives, but is equally conclusive against him, whichever alternative he chooses—the horns of a dilemma. The equally undesirable alternatives between which a choice must be made.2

Outlining the two positions argued in the Open Forum, Deaver claims Warren’s argument on Acts 2:41 is destructive of Woods’, position.

Brother Woods took the position that the Holy Spirit dwells in a Christian only through the word. Brother Warren took the position that the Holy Spirit indwells the Christian in conjunction with the word—never separate and apart from the word…Brother Warren pointed out that if a person receives the Spirit when he receives the word, “then based on Acts 2:41 we can conclude that (1) either the Holy Spirit can indwell a child of the devil or that (2) a person is saved prior to baptism.3

Passing over Woods’ reply, brother Deaver infers that Warren presented an unanswerable argument. But the tape recording of their exchange indicates that Warren was answered by Woods, evaporating Deaver’s claim that Woods was on the horns of a dilemma.

I pointed out that when a person obeys the gospel, of course the word enters into his heart and governs his life. But may I point out to you, that that is because as brother Lipscomb said, it permeates his life. Now it’s very true, you take a little leaven and put in a meal. There’s a time when it’s just the leaven by itself and the meal is separated. That would represent the fact that the word is preached and perhaps is received. But then as it influences the life, controls the life, as brother Lipscomb so ably pointed out, then of course he is filled with the Spirit, as Paul said, Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly.”4

Using Warren’s 1967 argument to support his own position that the Holy Spirit personally dwells in the Christian, Deaver says the “representative view” [of the Holy Spirit’s indwelling] “is false.”5 He then proceeds to construct and defeat a straw man in his article. Pleading for toleration from those holding opposing views, some of those who teach the direct indwelling and influence of the Holy Spirit are inconsistent. Saying lines of fellowship shouldn’t be drawn over the issue, they label opposing views as false thereby drawing the line themselves.

There isn’t a hair’s breadth of difference between Thomas Warren’s doctrine on the Holy Spirit’s direct influence on the Christian in 1967, Mac Deaver’s position today, or Ben M. Bogard’s Baptist doctrine which he defended in debate with N. B. Hardeman in 1938:

The Spirit works as if there were no word and the word is used as if there were no Spirit. Not separate and apart from each other but together, side by side on the same thing. The gospel is the sword of the Spirit (Eph. 6:15) and as the sword is distinct from the soldier and the soldier distinct from the sword, yet both soldier and sword work together to slay the enemy, even as the Spirit and the word work together in the conviction and conversion of the sinner. My friend was very, very correct. He said that if you put that hand on the book, it is immediate; but if you put something between your hand and the book, that is intermediate. That is exactly what I’m coming to now, the Holy Spirit actually touches the human heart! Nothing between at all. My friend knows English as well as Greek, and he knows that with is one thing and through is another thing. God does not work through the word but with it. (Emph. BMB).6

Bogard said the Spirit and the word work “side by side on the same thing” and Warren said the Spirit works “in addition to the word.” Warren knew the Greek as well as the English and he knew that “in addition to the word” is one thing and “through the word” is another. While Warren’s statement indicates no difference between him and Bogard on how the Spirit operates, it is only fair to point out that Warren has the Spirit operating directly in the Christian after conversion and Bogard affirms a direct operation both before and after conversion. “Paul prayed that the brethren might be strengthened by his Spirit in the inward man, and as I’ve indicated in First Corinthians six, the Holy Spirit is given as a deterrent to sin, in addition to the word of God, in conjunction with the word of God.”7

In the conviction and conversion of sinners and the sanctification, leading and indwelling of Christians the Holy Spirit operates only through the word of God. There is a vast difference in saying that, and saying the Spirit works in conjunction with the word of God. Brother Warren said, “Now there are four things that the Holy Spirit does, not separate and apart or independent of the word, but in conjunction with the word.”8 To say the Spirit works only through the word is to say the word is the Spirit’s medium. To say He works “in conjunction with the word” is to say “separate and apart from” the word. Two entities, even in conjunction with each other, remain separate entities. Brother Warren cannot have it both ways.

In the nature of things it is impossible for spirit to contact spirit without medium, except through miraculous process, as upon the prophets of God and the apostles of Christ, and to assert it now is to assume inspiration. The influence of the Holy Spirit is either by direct entrance into the heart or it is mediated by the truth—there is no third method thinkable or possible—nor can it be both.9

In conjunction with” is not “through.” It is “separate and apart from.” Brother Warren said the Spirit and the word of God operate in the lives of Christians and that statement places him squarely on the same theological ground with Baptist Ben M. Bogard.

Moreover, Warren affirmed that the Holy Spirit not only dwells directly in the Christian’s body, but does something “not separate and apart or independent of the word, but in conjunction with the word.”10 He said “…the Holy Spirit is given as a deterrent to sin, in addition to the word of God, in conjunction with the word of God.” That’s pretty plain. The Spirit, in addition to the word of God, deters sin. If the word deters sin and the Spirit deters sin, then we have two entities which deter sin and they are separate and apart. There’s no getting around it. It’s not the Spirit through the word but the Spirit and the word—the Spirit “in conjunction with the word,” and that’s what Ben Bogard affirmed as Baptist doctrine at Little Rock in 1938.

While we have always admired and respected brother Warren for his fidelity to the inspiration of the scriptures, we must recognize that his doctrine not only can, but, in many cases, ultimately will lead to erroneous conclusions. He not only affirmed the direct indwelling of the Holy Spirit, but the direct operation on the heart when he said “…the Holy Spirit is given as a deterrent to sin, in addition to the word of God, in conjunction with the word of God.” With that affirmation Thomas Warren took a step down the slippery slope of Calvinistic error.

Believing and teaching that the Spirit works through the medium of the word, we are often accused of equating the Spirit with the word. While I’m unaware of anyone who contends the Spirit is the word, brother Deaver makes that accusation while echoing Warren’s argument for the personal indwelling of the Holy Spirit “in conjunction with the word.” “The word is not the Spirit and the Spirit is not the word; the word is the Spirit’s sword (Eph. 6:17). If the Spirit indwells anyone, he indwells personally in conjunction with his word—never separate and apart from the word.”11

In final exhortations to the Ephesians, Paul urged them to “be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might” (Eph. 6:10). Exhorting them to put on the whole armor of God, he delineated its items and told them to take “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God,” (Eph. 6:17). Making the same mistake Bogard made, Mac Deaver assumes the Spirit wields the sword. The Holy Spirit forged the sword. The Christian soldier wields it. The word is the instrument through which the Spirit works and is all-sufficient in conviction, conversion and sanctification, (2 Tim. 3:16-17), but the Holy Spirit does not personally wield it. Executing wrath upon those who do evil, God punishes them through His sword of civil authority (Rom. 13:4). While it is God’s sword, He does not personally wield it but executes wrath through it in the hands of civil rulers. Neither does the Holy Spirit personally wield the spiritual sword of the word. To say that is to endorse Bogard’s Calvinistic theology.

Deaver endorses Warren’s statement that the Holy Spirit dwells in the Christian “in conjunction with…never separate and apart from the word.” Like Warren, Mac Deaver cannot have it both ways. “In conjunction with” the word of God is “separate and apart from the word.” The Holy Spirit either influences and dwells in the Christian through medium or immediately, but not both ways. What Warren advocated in 1967 and what Deaver advocates today is the same old worn- out Calvinistic error expounded by heretics in the 1960s:

The Holy Spirit works dynamically in sanctifying believers; His work is not limited to the effects of the words of the Bible on the human heart and mind. He works when, and where, and how He pleases, rather than according to predictable and fixed patterns.12

The immediate, personal influence of the Holy Spirit in the New Testament was, without exception, manifested in miraculous signs. To claim an immediate personal indwelling and influence of the Holy Spirit today is to claim miraculous power. “As goes the proposition, so must be the demonstration.”

End Notes

  1. Mac Deaver, “Acts 2:41 and The Holy Spirit Issue,” Biblical Notes, Vol. XXV, No. 5, Sept./Oct., 1996, p. 1.
  2. Standard Dictionary of The English Language, Funk and Wagnalls Co., NY, 1960.
  3. Deaver, p. 1
  4. Guy N. Woods, Open Forum, Freed-Hardeman College Lectures, Feb. 8-9, 1967.
  5. Deaver, p. 5.
  6. Ben M. Bogard “The Work of The Holy Spirit,” Affirmative, Second Speech, Hardeman-Bogard Debate, Gospel Advocate Co., Nashville, 1938, p. 31.
  7. Thomas B. Warren, Open Forum, Freed-Hardeman College Lectures, Feb. 8-9, 1967.
  8. Ibid.
  9. Foy E. Wallace, Jr., The Mission and Medium of The Holy Spirit, Foy E. Wallace, Jr. Publications, Nashville, 1967, p. 6.
  10. Thomas B. Warren, Open Forum, Freed-Hardeman College Lectures.
  11. Deaver, p. 6.
  12. Ralph V. Graham, “Why I left The Churches of Christ,” Voices of Concern, Mission Messenger, St. Louis, 1966, p. 134.
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