Imputed Righteousness Again (2)

By Mike Willis

Last week, I gave somewhat of an update regarding imputed righteousness with reference to some of the reviews which R. L. Kilpatrick, editor of Ensign Fair, has been giving to my articles on imputation. Brother Arnold Hardin has written just as voluminously in the bulletin published by the Scyene Road Church of Christ in Dallas, Texas. As a matter of fact, of the number of issues which have been written since the first of the year, more of them have reviewed my material or commented about Truth Magazine than have not mentioned something to do with us. I have patiently withheld making a reply to Brother Hardin lest we allow this paper to degenerate into endless harangues with brethren. Now, it is time to say something else about the matter.

Proposition For Debate Ignored

In the last issue of my exchange with Brother Hardin, I proposed that we engage in either a written discussion to be concurrently published in a paper sympathetic to his cause and in Truth Magazine or an oral discussion. Though some have criticized me for demanding that a written discussion be carried in some other paper at the same time that it runs in Truth Magazine, I still demand that it be done. Brother Hardin is so identical in belief with Brother Kilpatrick that I see no reason why Engisn Fair could not carry that exchange. However, if no one will endorse Brother Hardin, let us engage in an oral debate on imputed righteousness in Dallas, Texas. I am perfectly willing to see the issue further discussed. Brother Hardin, are you willing to meet on these propositions:

Resolved: The perfect obedience of Jesus Christ is imputed to the believer so that sins of the weakness of the flesh and ignorant sins are automatically covered.

Affirm: Arnold Hardin Deny: Mike Willis

Resolved: The doctrine of the imputation of the perfect obedience of Christ to the believer’s account is unscriptural.

Affirm: Mike Willis Deny: Arnold Hardin

Or, had you rather continue to harangue in your bulletin, quoting Calvinist commentaries (and some non-Calvinist), without giving a man the opportunity to respond to what you teach? If you are as interested in the propagation of truth as you say that you are, you would have agreed to a discussion when I proposed it last January. Frankly, I do not believe that you are willing to see an open discussion of the subject in the Dallas area.

Evidences Considered

Brother Arnold Hardin has used only one passage to teach the doctrine of the imputation of the perfect obedience of Jesus Christ to the believer’s account since the first of January (after my review of his material) so far as I can determine. That passage is Romans 3:22. This passage reads as follows: “Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference.” The critical point of this verse is “by faith of Jesus Christ” (dia pisteos lesou Christou), whether it should be interpreted subjectively or objectively. By interpreting “by faith of Jesus Christ” subjectively, this phrase is interpreted to refer to the faith which Jesus had. By interpreting the phrase objectively, the phrase refers to man’s faith with Jesus as its object.

Hardin accepts the former interpretation (the subjective genitive) and quoted Burton Coffman as evidence that this was so. That position states that Jesus’ faithfulness to God is the means through which we are justified. Since I do not have Coffman’s commentary on Romans, I shall quote Hardin’s citation of it:

The aforegoing verses are the theme of Romans; it is the doctrine of salvation “in Christ”. The resolution of the problem of how God can make men righteous is determined thus: God himself, in the person of Christ, entered our earth life, lived the absolutely perfect life, fulfilling all the law of God, and paying the penalty of all sin through death upon the cross. Through God’s regard for the perfect righteousness of Christ, called by Paul “the faith of Christ,” a descendant of Adam, through perfect union with and identification with Christ, can receive the benefits of Christ’s righteousness (the righteousness of God) as his own, not while retaining his identity as a sinner, but upon the condition of his dying to himself, clothing himself with Christ, even taking his name, and being faithful to that new identity “in Christ”. The righteousness which God, by such a device, “imputes” to men is no mystery or magical byproduct of sinner’s faith, but is a bona fide, honest-to-goodness righteousness that was lived and wrought by Jesus Christ upon this earth; and all who receive it shall not be able to do so within the perimeter of their own identity, but only through their identity and union with Christ (The Persuader, March, 19, 1978).

The idea expressed is that the righteousness of Christ, His perfect obedience, becomes that of the believer.

However, most reputable Greek scholars treat this verse as the objective genitive (see A. T. Robertson’s A Grammar of the Greek New Testament in the Light of Historical Research, p. 500 and Word Pictures in the New Testament, Vol. IV, p. 346). The rendering should be “through faith in Jesus Christ” according to this excellent student of the Greek language. This has been rather universally accepted among students of the Greek as manifested by the fact that all of the following translations render dia piatoeoa Jesou Christou as “through faith in Jesus Christ”: Revised Version, American Standard Version, Revised Standard Version, New International Version, New American Standard Bible, F. F. Bruce’s Expanded Paraphrase. Hence, the phrase in Rom. 3:22 does not offer any support for the idea that the perfect obedience of Jesus Christ is imputed to the believer’s account.

Though Brother Hardin has sputtered around and complained through many issues of The Persuader about the treatment he has received in Truth Magazine, the fact is that he has not yet cited the passage which shows that the perfect obedience of Christ is imputed to the believer’s account so that God sees the perfect obedience of Jesus rather than the wavering faith of a Christian. Brother Hardin, will you please send me the passage which proves that doctrine? I will be delighted to examine it as carefully as I can. I have searched through the past issues of The Persuader and your comments on Rom. 3:22 are the closest that I can come to finding a scriptural defense of the doctrine. You have not examined my replies to your heresy; instead, you sputter around about how badly you have been treated. We want scriptures not excuses!

Mutual Admiration Society

As I read the bulletin of Brother Hardin, he frequently refers to something some “respected” (by whom?) brother had to say which agrees with him. I have begun to notice the mutual admiration society which occurs among the heretics which have departed from the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints. For example, Brother Hardin writes about Brother Kilpatrick as follows:

We wish now to quote from the May issue of Ensign Fair edited by R. L. Kilpatrick. It is published in Huntsville, AL. 35801, 2710 Day Rd. It is the most stimulating magazine published by brethren. It will challenge you to think though you will not always agree with each and everything written-but why should you concerning any paper? We highly recommend it for study and enlightenment (The Persuader, May 28, 1978).

Earlier, Brother Kilpatrick had already patted Arnold on the back. Here is what he wrote:

In the December issue of Truth Magazine, edited by Mike Willis, this editor has formally charged Bro. Arnold Hardin (editor of the Persuader) with heresy for teaching exactly what we have taught in this editorial. I have been reading Bro. Hardin for more than a year on these above subjects and as far as I can tell we have the same understanding on the subjects of grace and the imputation of righteousness (The Ensign Fair, Vol. V, No. 10, February, 1978).

I would have to agree with Brother Kilpatrick that I cannot see a dime’s worth of difference in the position of either one of them. I am equally opposed to each of them! However, Kilpatrick assessed Arnold’s position correctly so far as his having departed from what he once believed as he wrote as follows:

The only thing Bro. Hardin is guilty of is learning too much! He has simply studied himself out of the narrow confines of this particular segment of the church (non-cooperative), and they have turned on him with such ferocity that it doesn’t seem possible that it could come from those claiming to love the Lord! (Ibid.).

Brother Kilpatrick recognized where Arnold stands! However, Arnold did not seem nearly so upset when Brother Kilpatrick stated that he has left us as he did when I said the same thing. Wonder why?

Brother Wright Randolph exposed Bruce Edward’s position as stated in A Journey Toward Jesus in Gospel Truths, edited by J. T. Smith. Who do you think wrote condemningly of Brother Randolph for exposing Bruce? None other than Arnold Hardin and Edward Fudge! These men applaud each other, encourage each other, and defend each other because they are all spewing forth the same kind of poison.

Arnold Hardin On Instrumental Music

I hesitate to charge a man with believing something that he may not believe so rather than making any comments, I shall just reproduce Arnold’s comments from “Good Old Fashion Honesty” from the May 14, 1978 issue of The Persuader. Here is what he wrote:

Things “stranger than fiction” continue. Whenever brethren disagree in their understanding of truth someone is heard to charge — “They do not respect divine authority.” Rarely are such human judgments correct though to be sure every generation produces such characters. But we believe that the automatic use of such a charge is being dishonest. One reads not far until such charges are made relative to those using instruments of music. (Wait! Don’t read into that your conclusion that I am now advocating such things!) I’m just simply telling “it like it is.” (Excuse me, Mr. Cossel.) Honestly being mistaken about a matter is a far cry from being void of respect for divine authority. If such be not the case then only those among us who understand everything will be exempt.

Brethren, you can draw your own conclusions from this statement. Neither Leroy Garrett nor Carl Ketcherside could have stated it better. You do not need my help to let you see from which direction Brother Hardin is coming.

The Place of Faith

Brother Hardin has been writing considerably about brethren teaching that faith is a work of human merit. So far as I have been able to read, most brethren (there might be an isolated case here and there of a brother who teaches otherwise) teach that faith is a condition for receiving grace and not the grounds for receiving God’s grace. Yet, Brother Hardin would have us to believe that on every hand, men are teaching that one can earn his salvation through human works. On April 30, 1978, Hardin wrote, “Brethren everywhere are turning faith into a work (under a law system) and making it not the instrument, but the ground of justification.” Brethren, have you noticed that “brethren everywhere” are turning faith into a work whereby men earn their salvation? I must confess that I have not read that. Perhaps Brother Hardin’s concept of faith differs from ours in this regard. Brother Hardin, does preaching that faith is a condition for receiving salvation result in one preaching salvation through works? We are anxious to find out the answer to this question. Too, please give us the sources from which you are quoting when you say that brethren everywhere are making faith a work for salvation through a law system. I want to know who has been teaching that in what paper on what date. Documentation please! Remember, a citation of an isolated case does not prove “brethren everywhere”!


I must confess that I am not too optimistic about seeing the answers which I have requested or seeing a debate arranged in Dallas to discuss these issues. I think that Brother Hardin had rather spew and sputter around about these matters in his local bulletin than to have an honorable discussion of them. However, we will keep brethren informed about the matter. Brethren, remember the propositions which we have offered to discuss with Brother Hardin the next time you hear someone maligning me about the manner in which this discussion has been handled.

Truth Magazine XXII: 37, pp. 595-597
September 21, 1978