Garner Versus Garner?

By Larry Ray Hafley

Dr. Albert Garner is a Missionary Baptist preacher, author, and debater. He is one of the most capable Baptist debaters. He has written numerous tracts, booklets, and books defending Baptist doctrine. He is well educated. He has served as the head and director of Missionary Baptist schools and organizations. He is editor of The Baptist Anchor, a monthly magazine. When Mr. Garner speaks, he speaks as an eminently qualified representative of Missionary Baptist doctrine.

Mr. Garner has a brother, Eugene. Though his brother is not as well known, he is an able student and exponent of Baptist doctrine. Eugene Garner is an excellent writer. Eugene has assisted his brother, Albert, in debate. This shows the confidence that the esteemed Dr. has in his brother’s ability.

Gatherings and Gleanings of the Garner’s on Apostasy

On the subject of apostasy, the doctrine of perseverance, better known as “once saved, always saved” or “once in grace, always in grace,” the Garner brothers are apparently poles apart. As witness thereto, note:

Albert Garner’s views on the doctrine of the impossibility of apostasy are a matter of public record. See the Kelley-Garner Debate and the Garner-Smith Debate. J. T. Smith and asked Dr. Garner, “Is the eternal salvation of the child of God, saved by the blood, absolutely unconditional in that he is not required to do anything to go to heaven? Dr. Garner’s Answer: ‘YES.’ ” Smith inquired further, “Is it possible for a child of God, saved by the blood, to commit all the sins listed in Rom. 1:28-32 and Gal. 5:19-21 and die without repenting of any of them and still go to heaven? Dr. Garner’s Answer: ‘Yes.'” Along with Hoyt Chastain, Wayne Camp, and other Baptist preachers, Garner believes that a child of God may die drunk, guilty of adultery and murder and still go to heaven!

Eugene Garner’s views are not as widely known as his brother’s are. Eugene sat as the side of his brother when he took the positions above on the doctrine of apostasy. However, he has made statements which are diametrically opposed to those of his more famous brother. But let Eugene speak for himself:

“On the other hand, this faith may be: denied (1 Tim. 5:8; Rev. 2:13); departed or erred from (1 Tim. 4:1; 6:101; cast off (1 Tim. 5:12!; and overthrown (2 Tim. 2:181. . . “Whatever these verses may infer, they certainly do not teach an inevitable perseverance of all the saved in a walk that be acceptable to God. They do not teach the principle of ‘once-in-the-faith, always-in-the-faith.’ They do not hold forth the promise of a glorious inheritance in the kingdom of God for any who fall to: continue, abide, or walk in the divinely appointed paths of faith-obedience.

“It is dangerous to be presumptuous; it is wise, even for saved men, to heed the warnings of the Scriptures (1 Cor. 10:12). Such as are truly wise will give earnest, diligent heed to the things they have heard-lest the stream of eternal blessings pass them by.

“. . . But to assume that such a one-point-in-time exercise of faith guarantees the experience of ‘every spiritual blessing’ in perpetuity is to go beyond the promise of the Scriptures and to deceive one’s self. The experience of ‘all spiritual blessings’ is contingent upon one’s continuance in faith-whatever trusted preacher, prophet, angel, missionary or grandmother may teach to the contrary (1 Tim. 2:15; Col. 1:23; comp. Heb. 3:12-14)” (Eugene Garner, “The Real Danger!!,” The Clarion Herald, October 9, 1974, pp. 3, 4).

. . “Any doctrine of ‘perseverance’ that tends to confuse or compromise the doctrine of responsible Christian behavior needs more careful consideration in the light of the Scriptures” (Eugene Garner, The Clarion Hearald, May 18, 1977. p. 21).

“Absolutely Unconditional” Vs.”Is Contingent”

Albert Garner says the salvation of the child of God is “absolutely unconditional.” Eugene Garner says, “The experience of ‘all spiritual blessings’ is contingent upon one’s continuance in faith. ” There can be no harmony or reconciliation of these two positions. It is Albert versus Eugene, or Garner versus Garner. One or the other is wrong; both cannot be right. If Eugene is correct, he had better straighten out his brother. If Albert has the truth, it does not matter. Eugene can be wrong, teach false doctrine, contradict his brother and Baptist doctrine and be saved in heaven regardless of how much harm he does. After all, Albert Garner believes that all the sins a child of God may commit “from idolatry to murder will not make his soul in any more danger.” So, even if Eugene is wrong, even if he perverts the truth, he has nothing to worry about!

Now, either the salvation of the child of God is “absolutely unconditional,” or it “is contingent upon one’s continuance in faith?” Which is it? Will either one of the Garner brothers explain?

“Confuse Or Compromise”

Was Albert Garner guilty of confusing or compromising the doctrine of “Responsible Christian Behavior” when he said that a child of God may die guilty of the works of the flesh and still be saved? Was he, Eugene? Oh, well, if Albert is right, it will not matter anyway. According to him, a child of God may die guilty of the most hideous, heinous sins and still enter eternal glory. Surely, then, a little confusing or compromising of “Responsible Christian Behavior” will not condemn!

Conclusion: No, we are not making light of the seriousness of these issues. I believe Eugene Garner has stated the truth in the quotations cited above. If he has indeed stated the truth, all his Baptist brethren are wrong. If I have somehow misinterpreted these men, I would appreciate a clarification. If there is a reply, we will be happy to consider it and to make correction if necessary.

Truth Magazine XXI: 37, p. 583
September 22, 1977