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Contending for the Faith: Calvinism and Adam – A Parallel

Editor’s Note: The Guardian of Truth Foundation recently published a new book by Larry, entitled The Christ, The Cross, and The Church. Larry has graciously consented to our excerpting a few passages from the book for the benefit of our readers. These excerpts will appear this month, and next in Watchman. Ordering information is available following the article for those who wish to purchase the book itself.

Calvinism tells us three things. (1) Man is born in sin. This is the doctrine of total, hereditary depravity. Total means all, whole or complete. Hereditary means one receives it from his parents, which in this case means from Adam, hence, adamic, original sin. Depravity means bad, wicked, evil. Thus, every person born into this world is, at birth, thoroughly, utterly sinful. (2) The Holy Spirit regenerates the sinner directly. Man can do nothing to effect his deliverance from his unhappy state of depravity. Man is wholly passive in his redemption. The “enabling power” of the Spirit must regenerate the totally wicked sinner before he can respond to the call of the gospel. This “direct operation of the Holy Spirit” is performed without the subject’s will or choice. Since one is totally dead, he must be given life before he can act. Therefore, the Holy Spirit, without means or agency, regenerates, gives life, to the soul. (3) Those regenerated cannot die. Once the Spirit infuses life, that life cannot be lost — “once saved, always saved.” As man cannot undo his fleshly birth, so he cannot surrender his spiritual birth, says Calvinism. Once born of the flesh, one cannot be unborn; so, once born of the Spirit, one cannot be unborn — “once in grace, always in grace.”

The above analysis and description is a fair representation of the creeds and beliefs of denominationalism. Our line of attack in this chapter shall be focused on the events in the garden of Eden from whence this theology allegedly, initially sprang. Because of Adam’s sin, we are all born in sin, utterly disposed to all evil, totally foreign to all good, and in need of the generation of the Spirit in our dead hearts to give us life which cannot be forfeited. So, we shall go to the root of it all, to Adam, Eve, and the bowers of their paradise.

The creeds explain to us our sin, but they do not tell us why or how the first pair was led to sin. Let us look at it from a parallel perspective.

First, “Total Hereditary Righteousness.” Adam was created, body, soul, and spirit, by Jehovah himself. He did not experience a human or animal birth. He came directly from God. We may safely assume, therefore, that he was totally, hereditarily righteous. His parent, his Creator, had no sin, and he was sinless at his birth. Later, we learn that he sinned, but how did he come to sin? If we are born totally, hereditarily depraved, and, consequently, can do no good, how could Adam, born totally, hereditarily righteous, do any evil? That question must be addressed by the Calvinist. When he answers it, he will answer himself and dissolve his position, but answer it he must.

Second, “The Direct Operation of the Devil.” Did the devil’s unholy spirit perform a direct operation on the heart of Adam, this totally, hereditarily righteous man, to give him death and enable him to sin? That is what we should expect. If a totally depraved man requires a direct working of the Spirit on his heart to give him life and empower him to obey God, why would not a totally righteous man require a direct work of the devil on his heart to give him death and empower him to obey the devil?

The sinner is “dead in trespasses and sins” (Eph. 2:1; Col. 2:13), and as a dead man cannot act until he is given life, so the sinner cannot respond to God until the Spirit gives him life. So Calvinism says. Keep the parallel in mind — Adam was just as “dead to sins” (cf. Rom. 6:2; Col. 3:3; 1 Pet. 2:24) as the sinner is said to be “dead in sins.” Now, did it take a direct work of the devil on Adam’s heart to enable or to empower him to sin? If one dead in sins is unable to effect righteousness until the Spirit gives him spiritual life, is one who is dead to sin unable to effect unrighteousness until the devil gives him spiritual death? Adam was “dead to sin,” yet he was able to sin without a miraculous act of the devil’s unholy spirit on his heart. So, one who is “dead in sins” is able to obey God without a miraculous act of the Holy spirit on his heart. If not, why not?

Adam was led to sin by the spoken word of the devil. By means of lying, through incentive, inducement, and enticement, Adam was led to sin (Gen. 3:1-6; Jas. 1:13-15). The word of the devil allured this totally righteous man, this man who was dead to sins, to commit sin and die. The word of God can allure, therefore, totally depraved man, the man dead in sins, to obey God and live (John 5:25), or else the word of the devil is more powerful than the word of God (Rom. 1:16; Heb. 4:12). From this conclusion there is no escape.

Third, “Once Lost, Always Lost.” Once Adam sinned, he should have been lost, irretrievably lost, if the parallel holds true. He should have been unable to hear the word of God and respond to it after he died spiritually, but is that what we find? Notice that Calvinism says that when the totally depraved sinner receives life, he is impervious to the call of the devil; he cannot be led by the devil to eternal ruin. What was the state of Adam? He could hear and obey God after his sin (Gen. 3:7f), but we are told that the regenerated child of God cannot hear and obey the devil after his regeneration. But since Adam could hear, reason, and follow God after his fall, then, the saved one can hear, reason and follow the devil after his salvation (2 Pet. 3:17; Heb. 3:12).

To summarize, observe some chart comparisons:

  • Total Hereditary Depravity (Cannot Obey God)
  • Direct Operation of Holy Spirit Required
  • Once Saved, Always Saved
  • Total Hereditary Righteousness
  • Direct Operation of Devil Required
  • Once Lost, Always Lost

The Facts Are
Man sins when drawn by lust and enticed (Jas. 1:13-15; 2 Pet. 1:4). Adam sinned when drawn away by lust and enticed (Gen. 3; 2 Cor. 11:3).
The devil appeals by word, offering motive (2 Pet. 3:17; 2 Tim. 2:26). The devil enticed Adam by word, offering motive (Gen. 3; 2 Cor. 11:3).
Sin produces death (Rom. 6:23; Jas. 1:15). Sin produced death in Eden (Gen. 3; Rom. 6:23).
Dead siners, “dead in sin,” can “Hear the voice of the Son of God” and “live” (John 5:25). Adam, “dead to sin,” could hear the voice of the devil and die (Gen. 3).
After receiving life, saved may hear and obey devil (2 Tim. 4:2-4; Ps. 106:12, 24; 2 Pet. 3:17). After receiving death, Adam could hear and obey God (Gen. 3:7f).

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Guardian of Truth Publications
238 pages

Description of Book:

    This new work by Larry Hafley discusses issues that are current among brethren with reference to salvation and the church. His material begins with a discussion of salvation, showing that man has free will to choose to be saved or lost. In this section, Hafley demonstrates that God affects man through the word, just as Satan appeals to man through his words. In conjunction with the discussion on Calvinism and salvation, Hafley also presents an excellent chapter on the perseverance of the saints. There are two chapters that contrast the Lord’s church with denominationalism. Inasmuch as these topics are so rarely covered in much of today’s preaching, this material is especially relevant. Some brethren are still preaching the identifying marks of the New Testament and, in so doing, giving honor and glory to the God who revealed the church rather than exalting themselves. This is followed by an excellent chapter on “What Must I Do To Be Saved?”In his chapter “Jesus Keep Me Near the Cross,” Hafley emphasizes that one stays near the cross by adhering to the teachings of Christ Jesus. To the degree that one departs from God’s revelation, he moves away from the cross, without regard to how much piety he may claim.

    The chapter entitled “The Bodiless Spirit of Error” addresses a change in mindset among brethren that inevitably leads to apostasy. By the bodiless spirit concept, Hafley means that this mindset is looking for an issue with which to be identified. The error to which this mindset may attach itself may be the divorce and remarriage issue, the creation issue, or some other. However, the mindset is developed long before the issue becomes focused.

    In “What Is Wrong With The Church of Christ,” brother Hafley addresses the complaints that critics within the church are making about the church. These include: “too much emphasis on doctrine,” “there’s not enough love shown,” “preachers call names,” “we need more preaching on grace,” and such like complaints. Brother Hafley clearly identifies the hook that hides under these baits so that brethren will not be deceived by those who are undermining the pattern of the New Testament church.

    This book contains excellent material that will be appreciated by those who wish to cling to the teaching of New Testament scripture.