What Should We Think of the Carnal Christian?
by Carlton Pruitt
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What Should We Think of the Carnal Christian? is a booklet
written by the late Ernest C. Reisinger and this is a brief overview of the contents of that book.
If you wish to see a more in depth coverage of this topic please go to copy and paste the following link into your address bar to view the videos.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M8er-1BRAZ8
In the introduction to this booklet pastor Reisinger states: "Many who regularly occupy church pews, fill church rolls, and are intellectually acquainted with the facts of the gospel never strike one blow for Christ. They seem to be at peace with his enemies. They have no quarrel with sin and, apart from a few sentimental expressions about Christ, there is no biblical evidence that they have experienced anything of the power of the gospel in their lives. Yet in spite of the evidence against them, they consider themselves to be just what their teachers teach them-that they are 'carnal Christians'. And as carnal they believe they will go to heaven, though perhaps not first-class, and with few rewards.
That something is seriously wrong in lives which reveal such features will readily be admitted by most readers of these pages; no argument is needed to prove it. But the most serious aspect of this situation is too often not recognized at all. The chief mistake is not the carelessness of these church-goers, it is the error of their teachers who, by preaching the theory of 'the carnal Christian', have led them to believe that there are three groups of men,- the unconverted man, the 'carnal Christian' and the 'spiritual Christian'.
Pastor Reisinger goes on to state that there is no record of such a teaching until the last two hundred years in the churches of North America. With more than a modest touch of humility Resinger points out that a Christian's experience may be genuine even though his understanding of divine truth is tainted with error or ignorance. The opposite he said he also possible-a man's intellectual understanding may be good but his experience poor.
One of the fundamental questions which need to be faced according to pastor Reisinger is:
1. Are we sanctified passively, that is, 'by faith' only, without obedience to the law of God and Christ? If sanctification is passive- a view represented by the slogan "Let go and let God"- then how do we understand such apostolic statements as 'I fight', ' I run', 'I keep under my body', 'let us cleanse ourselves', 'let us labour', 'let us lay aside every weight'? Surely, he says, these statements do not express a passive condition, nor do they indicate that by one single act we may possess the experience of 'victory' and thus become spiritual and mature Christians.
In chapter 1 entitled The Issue in Controversy Reisinger mentioned that he had attened a church service in which the preacher, a sincere minister, was expounding 1 Corinthians 3 and telling his large congregation that, "Now after you become a Christian you have another choice- either to grow in grace, follow the Lord and become a spiritual Christian, or to remain a babe in Christ and live like natural men.' He based this idea on the passage in 1 Corinthians 3:1-4 to state that there are three categories of men-
1. the natural man,
2. the spiritual man and
3 the carnal man.
The only difference between the natural man and the carnal man is that the natural man is unconverted while the carnal man is supposedly a Christian but who is living like the devil, with no hunger for God and is somebody who is in love with the world as evidence by his lifestyle.
This idea came about in the church through the Scofield Reference Bible and through Bill Brights tract where he show a diagram of three circles depicting three types of persons with a picture of the throne with the ego representing self on the throne in the life of the natural man and the carnal man. The spiritual man has Christ on the throne and ego or self is under submission trusting Christ.
While pastor Reisinger acknowledges the fact that there are degrees of carnality within some Christians and that sanctification is a process admitting of various degrees with many hills and valleys and stumblings, falls and crooked steps" yet his main contention is with the assertion as found in the Scofield Bible and Bill Bright's tract "Does the Bible divide men into three categories?"
A valid ;point that Reisinger makes in the next chapter is the truth that we have no reason to believe that Christ's blood covers our sins in the record of heaven if the Spirit has not changed our hearts on earth.
***Saving Faith and Spurious Faith Are Not Distinguished***
The problem with the carnal Christian idea is that it makes no distinction between "Saving faith" and "spurious faith."
That there is such a distinction taught in holy scripture can be seen by the following verses: "Many believed in his name...But Jesus did not commit himself to them" (John 2:23-24)
"Many believed on him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess him" (John 12:42, 43)
"These have no root, which for a while believe." (Luke 8:13)
Simon Magus "believed" and was baptized but his heart was 'not right in the sight of God'. (Acts 8:12-22)
By these verses we see that there can be a belief in God without a changed heart .In fact this was Simon's condition so that Peter after discerning Simon's state or condition told him emphatically that his heart was not right and that unless he repented he would perish. Simon Magus was indeed unsaved as noted by his prayer. He was only concerned with the consequence of sin and made no request to be pardoned and cleansed from the impurity of sin. This is true of all unconverted people. They don't want to perish in hell but they would love to enjoy their sin if they could and still go to heaven. This is not the condition of the saved or regenerated person.
So from these scriptures Reisinger shows that men may have a type of faith which is not saving and this is true of the carnal Christian who says he or she believes but that faith is not always saving faith.
The carnal Christian teaching omits the necessity of repentance from the conversion experience. This is seen in that the carnal Christian claims to have received Christ without there being any real change other than perhaps a head knowledge of Christianity and salvation. For all practical purposes he or she lives just like the natural man who is unconverted and makes no profession of being a Christian.
***Wrong Teaching On Assurance***
Another serious error of the carnal Christian teaching according to pastor Reisinger is that is has a wrong teaching on assurance.
It is prone to give assurance to those who were never really converted but because of their profession of faith individuals instead of being suspects of a spurious faith or false conversion instead they are labeled "carnal Christians" and admitted to the fellowship of believers.
There are always two possibilities says Reisinger
1. He may be a true Christian in a condition of back-sliding or
2. it is quite possible he was never savingly united to Christ.
Thus two errors must be avoided
1. Saying unequivocally that he is not a Christian;
2. Saying unequivocally that he is a Christian.
Only God knows for certain those that are his but there is a danger of course in
leading men and women to think they are converted or saved when they are not.
Think about how dangerous this is. If a man or woman already believes they are saved when they are not then they will never cry out to God for that supernatural change of heart but will continue in their self delusion right on to hell. This condition is worse than that of the natural man who knows he is not converted
and makes no pretensions thereto.
A few verses to check ourselves in this matter of assurance are given as marks whereby a person can know they are converted such as 1 John 3:9; 5:18.
"Hereby we know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him. 2:3-5)
The Bible says Reisinger makes it quite clear the close connection between assurance and obedience. The problem with the carnal Christian teaching is that it gives assurance to those who are at home in the realm of sin. Many times this is a false and damning assurance because the evidence for a genuine conversion experience is missing.
***A Low View of Sin***
Reisinger says this low view of sin is present under the teaching of Antinomianism which Paul attacks in Romans 6:1,2 when he asks, "What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace nmay abound? God forbid..."
The implication of the carnal Christian to Paul's question is "Yes, you can continue in sin and be a carnal Christian. This says Reisinger is the fruit of
***A Second Work of Grace Made Necessary***
This teaching also leads to the second work of grace teachings and other similar errors which minimize the radical change of true conversion and instead substitute the second step of speaking in tongues or some other phenomena which make a person a "spiritual Christian."
***A Wrong View of Christ***
Here is where so many opposers of Lordship salvation go wrong. They often embrace this idea that you can take Christ as your saviour while making his Lordship optional. Christ can not be divided thus wrongly without doing injury to his person. The Saviour and Lord are one. Over and over again in the New Testament we find the apostles calling Jesus Lord.
"For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus' sake" (2 Corinthians 4:5)
"As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him" ( Col. 2:6)
The word saviour occurs only twice in the Acts of the Apostles (5:31; 13:23) while the title "Lord" is mentioned 92 times, "Lord Jesus" 13 times, and "The Lord Jesus Christ" 6 times in the same book.
Toward the end of his booklet Reisinger quotes the noted theologian A. A. Hodge
who said: "You cannot take Christ for justification unless you take him for sanctification. Think of the sinner coming to Christ and saying, "I do not want to be holy;" "I do not want to be saved from sin;" "I would like to be saved in my sins." "Do not sanctify me now but justify me now." What would be the answer? Could he be accepted by God? You can no more separate justification from sanctification than you can separate the circulation of the blood from the inhalation of the air. Breathing and circulation are two different things but you can not have the one without the other; they go together..."
This type of teaching according to Reisinger also leads to a type of Pharisaism or the so called "spiritual Christian." This type of person has supposedly attained to a great level of spirituality because of some man-made standard.
Finally in conclusion there is the problem and great danger in modern evangelism to seek out "decisions" for Christ at any price using man-centered evangelistic methods. When such decisions do not turn out to have the marks of what some would call a spiritual Christian then these lesser Christians are given the label of carnal Christian and instead of calling such people to repentance and an examination of their faith they are given an unscriptural status which is not consistent with true Biblical or saving faith. This is how many churches are growing today in the midst of an apostate post Christian culture. Such false teachings as the carnal Christian have infiltrated the churches through false teachers and have done much harm to the gospel and the local churches.
Evangelism is at the heart of the Christian's calling today and it is needed not only in the world says Reisigner but in the local assemblies of professing Christians.
Carlton Pruitt ministers the gospel to the Los Angeles area. Formerly a Hollywood actor (SAG member)and junk removal expert he now spends most of his time studying the scriptures, writing articles, hymns and poems and doing street preaching.
See his videos on http://www.youtube.com Type LAStreetPreacher in the search bar. CONTACT at Carlton2061@gmail.
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