By Ron Halbrook
After reading Arnold Hardin on “A Real Life Drama” in The Persuader (8 June 1980), published by the Scyene Road Church of Christ in Dallas, Texas, I am persuaded that he will pay my plane fare to Texas. His article follows:
A man lies in the hospital, at this time, here in Dallas near death. Some time back a preacher began studying with him and finally while in the hospital the man wished to obey the Lord in baptism. The preacher relayed the request to the Doctor. The Doctor refused saying that such an action would surely kill his patient due to the circumstances attendant to the illness.
The preacher went back and told the patient the doctor’s decision. But that is not all the preacher told the dying (?) man. He also told him that if he is not baptized, and death comes, he will surely go to hell. The patient became frightened and a terrible mental condition is being experienced.
The final outcome is not known at this time. I wish I could talk to members of the church all over this country and get a first hand view of this situation. Do you see anything wrong here? Do you believe, as this preacher, that under such “death circumstances” this man would indeed go to hell if death overtakes him without his being able to be baptized? Would you question in any way the teaching processes of this preacher? Do you feel that God could never forgive a believing penitent under these circumstances over which he has absolutely no control? We all agree, do we not, that under normal circumstances a believing sinner reaches the forgiving grace of God, made possible by the blood of Christ, only at the point of faith being embodied in that one’s burial and resurrection spiritually with Christ?
I would be happy to hear from any as to your own views concerning such a matter. How do you view it? Could God forgive the dying thief in a dying situation, but not such a believing penitent as this man? If you would like to express yourselves we will not mention your name. Others, I believe, will enjoy having your views.
The reason Arnold will pay my plane fare to Texas is so that I can sprinkle water on the man who needs baptism. Being older than I, Arnold is too tradition-bound, legalistic, and prejudiced to perform a sprinkling. Only those who are younger can be uninhibited in carrying out the principles which he preaches. We all agree that “under normal circumstances” a person must upon penitent faith be baptized for the remission of sins. But under “death circumstances” a person may be justified to substitute forgiveness “at the point of faith” only – or, why not at the point of sprinkling? There are an equal number of passages assuring forgiveness at both these points.
In keeping with the well-known maxim, “God accepts the intent for the act,” sprinkling would be a wonderful manifestation of a dying man’s intent. This would provide an impressive testimony of his intent to all who witness the act, saints and sinners alike. It is a sure way to remove the distraught dying sinner’s anxiety, fear, and mental disturbance. Who could believe that “God could never forgive a believing penitent under these circumstances?” Surely not Arnold Hardin. Who could deny a dying man this token of assurance? Surely not Arnold Hardin. If he will just send the plane fare, I will be there pronto! Will our readers kindly urge him to do so? We prefer to fly first class.
We suggest Arnold Hardin get his readers’ opinions on the following dilemmas:
1. What about the dying skeptic who has been brought to the point of doubting his skepticism and fully intends to believe the gospel if sufficient evidence is given? Who could believe that “God could never forgive” a dying skeptic “under these circumstances”? Why not offer him some assurance rather than have him suffer “a terrible mental condition” under such “death circumstances”?
2. What about the believer whose sorrow is advancing but has not yet advanced to the point of godly sorrow and repentance? The doctor warns that further discussion would irritate the suffering and “would surely kill his patient due to the circumstances attendant to the illness.” “Do you feel that God could never forgive a believing almost penitent person under these circumstances over which he has absolutely no control?” Keep in mind that we all agree repentance is required “under normal circumstances.”
3. What about the penitent believer who has not yet had the courage to confess Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God? “Under normal circumstances” we must teach him the necessity of doing so unto salvation. But under “death circumstances,” is this man really in danger of hell if the doctor fears that further study with the patient will bring on a state of fear and mental anguish leading to death? “Could God forgive the dying thief, in a dying situation, but not such a believing penitent as this man?”
Since Arnold asks our views on the conditions of forgiveness under various circumstances, we offer all the information God has given us on the subject “under normal circumstances” or any others:
1. “Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God” (Rom. 10:17).
2. “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, but he that beliveth not shall be damned” (Mk. 16:16).
3. “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost” (Acts 2:38).
4. “With the heart man believeth unto righteousness and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (Rom. 10:10).
5. “He that beliveth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned” (Mk. 16:16).
Certainly, anyone facing death without obeying the gospel is tragic. It is equally tragic to teach that people can die in the blessed hope of the gospel without obeying it, in the absence of any revelation which teaches this. Such teaching is nothing more or less than human speculation! Would Arnold Hardin also ask his readers whether we should send people into the great eternity embracing for their hope a human speculation? We can preach the necessity of man meeting. the conditions of pardon because they are plainly revealed. Speculation about God setting aside the conditions of pardon offers man the delusion of a hope for which we have not one line of positive Divine revelation.
It is our job to preach the conditions of pardon – for the alien sinner and for the erring child of God – along with the consequences of not meeting them. That is written and is too plain for anyone to misunderstand. It is not our job to pronounce clemency. That will be God’s job in judgment and He has not given us one line of revelation from which we can pronounce the clemency. Let us preach the gospel with all its facts, commands, and promises just as it is revealed in Scripture. This gives people all the assurance which Divine revelation gives – no more and no less. We really do not know anything about God’s character, will, or forgiveness except what is written.
If we can deviate from Divine revelation, what do our readers think of Arnold Hardin paying our plane fare to Texas for a sprinkling service? “If you would like to express yourselves we will not mention your name. Others, I believe, will enjoy having your views.”
Truth Magazine XXIV: 35, pp. 570-571
September 4, 1980