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The Helpless Hyles

November 1, 2007

The idea that God is helpless without man did not originate with Jack Hyles. For many centuries, men have taught the theory that God needed to create, that God somehow lacked something that could only be resolved by creating a universe. And essentially, that is what Hyles taught when he made statements about God’s need for man.

While it is certain that Hyles took these ideas of some sort of “synergy” between God and man to unique and shocking levels, it is also true that this is not a new thing, or a new doctrine. Hyles applied it to some areas that most have left alone, but this isn’t a case of Hyles making up his own theology. It is a case of Hyles applying it, sometimes more consistently than others have.

I have sometimes made the statement that “God will not overrule our free will.” To be honest, I have heard it said more often than I have said it myself, and it has been some time since I myself have made the statement. One reason I stopped making that statement is that I could find no basis for it in Scripture. Perhaps an astute reader of JackHammer could point me in the right direction. But I hope you won’t mind if I make some observations about this statement and its effect on theology.

If God will not overrule our free will, then God cannot save a man unless that man allows God to save him. If God cannot save a man unless that man allows God to save him, then in the work of salvation, God is dependent on man to make the right decision. If God depends on man to make the right decision, then God is helpless without man. The two must work together, or neither can work at all.

True, Hyles took this further than most are willing to take it. In other words, Hyles was willing to clearly state the conclusion, where others are not. And, it is equally true that the majority of those who affirm that God will not overrule our free will would vehemently deny that God is helpless without man. And rightfully so. Any statement that identifies God as helpless is a blasphemous statement, and should be repudiated in the strongest terms.

But Hyles’ doctrine did not come out of thin air. Which reminds us that while we often reject one theological tradition because it is “based in logic,” we find ourselves holding to another opposing theological tradition that is equally “based in logic.” Logic is inescapable. Deductions are made, and will be made. If I ask for a Biblical warrant for the statement that “God will not overrule our free will,” some will no doubt argue that “it only makes sense.” In other words, we reject one set of deductions in favor of another.

But if God will not overrule our free will, then I am saved because I chose to be (in a manner of speaking). Not that my choice saved me. Jesus still saved me, but he saved me because I chose to believe in Him. He would not have saved me if I hadn’t made that choice.

And thus, we see where the whole “easy-believism” of Hyles comes from. Since Jesus won’t save me unless I choose to believe in Him, it is important that I make the right choice. And since making the right choice is important, the soul winner must persuade the sinner to make the right choice. Once the soul winner does this, everything else is automatic. After all, only the hyperest of the Calvinists (and their Armenian counterparts) insist that a perfect knowledge of Christ and salvation is necessary for salvation. The rest of theology teaches that knowledge comes through Christian growth. We have but to call on the name of the Lord, and we will be saved. The sinner’s prayer unleashes the saving power of Christ on us. And since those are the ones who God saves, we have but to convince the sinner to pray the prayer.

In other words, since salvation comes originally by the will of God (but only in that he sent his Son to die – as in John 3:16), and comes presently and particularly by the will of man (man choosing to ask), the soul winner’s task is to convince the will of the man to turn to the Lord. Whatever method the soul winner uses to persuade is acceptable, so long as he persuades, even for a moment. After all, man’s free will is the one thing that holds God back from saving a man. And so, if the door of the will would but open for a moment, Christ’s saving power would be unleashed.

Again, I realize that the majority of those who would agree with the statement that “God will not overrule a man’s free will” would deny much of what Hyles taught about evangelism. And rightfully so. Hyles’ conclusions have led many astray, and caused many to remain in an unregenerate state. There is a common starting point, but the trails part from there.

God is not helpless. In the beginning, when God created the universe, He lacked nothing, He had no need or deficiency that could only be met by creating a universe (Acts 17:25). Nor does God lack anything today. In absolutely no way can we consider God to be helpless. God does not depend on man for anything, least of all for salvation.

Spurgeon once pointed out that nobody prays like an Arminian. How would one do that? “Lord, I thank thee that I have chosen thee to be my Savior, unlike those other idiots out there who chose another god. I thank thee that I made the right choice, that I believed on you and called on you so that you could save me.” Rather, in our prayers of thanksgiving, we tend to acknowledge the Sovereignty of God in our salvation. “Lord, I thank you for working in my heart, for showing me the way of salvation.”

I find that a similar statement could be made about the way we pray for the lost. “Lord, open their eyes so that they can see and believe. Lord, please prepare their hearts so that your Word can do its work in them.” In other words, we pray as if we are helpless, as if the sinner is helpless, as if only God can do this work.

And rightfully so. God can make believers out of rocks. God doesn’t need man to do anything. All that is to be done has already been done. But no man will believe unless God prepares his heart to believe (1 Corinthians 2:14; Romans 8:7).

It is man who is helpless. This helplessness pervades every part of our nature. And never is this helplessness more evident than when a man proclaims God to be helplessly dependent on man. For when man proclaims God’s dependence on man, then man becomes lifted up in pride. He develops for himself complex systems of merits and demerits. He invents Creative Score-Keeping Methods.  He believes that he is helping God to forgive his sins. He believes that he reaches sanctification through his own works. God needs him. God is in trouble without him.

Meanwhile, in the blindness of his own heart and the vanity of his own mind, he finds himself more and more incapable of resisting temptation and living any kind of victorious Christian life. The greater his conceit, the greater his fall (1 Corinthians 10:12; Proverbs 16:18; 18:12; 29:23).

To say that Hyles is helpless, or anyone else for that matter, is no insult. It is not blasphemy. It is not heresy. But to say, or infer, or imply that God is in any way helpless, is in any way dependent on man is all of those.

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  1. Michael Marshall
    November 1, 2007 at 3:54 pm

    In my humble opinion… Ok, that’s a lie, I repent.

    The Will of Man, as I understand it, is what we are willing (or not willing) to do based on our desires. The Will is associated with the Heart, but I don’t believe the Heart and the Will are one in the same. The Heart does affect the Will, and the Will often demonstrates what is in the Heart. But you can forcibly change the Will of man but you cannot forcibly change the Heart. The proverb the dog is turned to his own vomit comes to mind. You can train the dog to obey, and thus change his Will. But he is still a dog, and his heart is still the heart of a dog. The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked. Unless the Heart that is driving the Will is changed, force will only create a superficial and temporary change.

    The heart of the king is in the hand of the Lord. When it comes to matters of fulfillment of prophecy, God can and will affect the heart, and thus change the will of man, so that His divine will on earth is done, and the scripture is fulfilled. If the person is unreceptive to having their heart touched, then God can and will resort to force to fulfill His word. Pharaoh is a great example. God used force to cause Pharaoh to obey, but the change in Pharaoh’s Will did not profit Pharaoh and was short lived. We could also look at Cyrus and Nebuchadnezzar as examples of God moving and changing the will of man, sometimes with their heart, and sometimes not.

    But God will not impose force to change the will of man in matters of salvation. With the heart man believeth unto righteousness. If I put a gun to your head and say PRAY! I would change your will, but not your heart.

    God never used force or coercion (which is the Hyles method, like it or not) to create converts. We see force applied during the Millennial Kingdom. Any open disobedience results in instant death. I imagine the world will be a charming place for those thousand years. Yet at the end of that time when Satan is loosed, he gathers an army. From? Those who outwardly obeyed but who’s hearts were never converted. They were not willing to disobey, but they never obeyed from the heart either. Force and coercion never results in conversions. Never.

    On a side bar – The Hyles method is no original. I have worked in and have taught sales for 20 years. Zig Ziglar pioneered the “yes” method, so Jack (Hyles), give credit where credit is due. I don’t agree with the Hyles method of “CON-version” any more than I agreed with Zig’s ‘Get ‘em saying yes” sales technique. Jack’s method leaves the heart out, so I guess you could say it’s heartless.

    Here is a little poem for Hyleites:
    1,2,3, repeat after me.
    4,5,6 I hope it sticks.
    7,8,9, Um, I think I’m fine.
    10, 11, 12, I woke up in Hell.

  2. November 1, 2007 at 8:46 pm

    As a good jackhammer, you nail it when you show that Hyles’ practical and methodological incongruities comes out of his poor theology. He used God as a cover for his own will. Without a dependence on God, he took a methodological free-for-all. Good article.

    I found nothing in there that I disagreed with. I thought it was 100% Scriptural.

    Mike, interesting point about the millennial kingdom.

  3. November 2, 2007 at 3:57 am

    Got to be careful with that 100% stuff.

  4. November 2, 2007 at 6:16 am

    The article needs a conclusive statement. It is not that God CANNOT. It is that God WILL NOT. There are some things God CANNOT do because God WILL NOT do them. God CANNOT sin because God WILL NOT sin. God CANNOT override the will of man because God WILL NOT do so. However, God does create circumstances that motivates individuals to the choices He wants them to make. Chastisement is such an instrument of God. The threat of judgment is another such circumstance.

  5. November 2, 2007 at 9:21 am

    For the sake of discussion, I will purposely hijack the thread in order to isolate one of Lance’s statements for analysis.

    Lance said,

    God CANNOT sin because God WILL NOT sin.

    Here are some questions (in a Socratic sort of way):

    1) If God wanted to sin, how would he go about doing this? Is there a law somewhere, a law that is higher than God, to which God willingly submits himself, and which He could transgress if He should choose? Is not the law of God a reflection of his holiness and righteousness, so that God could only transgress His law by denying himself?

    2) If God decided to sin, how would we know that He had done so? Since whatever God does is righteous and holy, including damning men to Hell, while saving some who deserve damnation, how would we know that “in this one case, God did evil?”

    3) If God sinned, how would we determine that it was sin? How would we judge it to be sin? Who would expose this sin? Who would point it out and say, “that was sin”? And how would that person know to call it sin?

    4) The ultimate question here is this: Where does our ethic, our morality come from? Is there an ethic that is higher than God, or is God the ultimate standard of righteousness and holiness? And if God is the ultimate standard of what is right and wrong, then how could we ever say that it is possible for God to sin?

    Because I believe that good is defined ultimately by what God is and does, I cannot accept the idea that God could sin if he wanted to. He CANNOT deny himself (2 Tim 2:13).

  6. November 2, 2007 at 10:07 am

    Brother Dave,

    I agree with your post and your “Socratic” questions and conclusion in response to Lance’s post.

    The statement “God will not override our free will” is an interesting problem in and of itself. In essence God overrides all free will in fulfilling His will for the ages.

    I honestly believe the problem with the “Calvinistic” and “Arminian” crowds is their desire to explain the unexplainable. How is God sovereign and yet allows us to choose? How is our redemption secure “from the foundation of the world”, but not real until the time of repentance and faith?

    I am glad that God is sovereign enough and powerful enough to accomplish what He said He would do, but still give me a choice. I don’t understand How He did it, but that’s because He is God, not I.

    As the old song says,

    “I know not how the Spirit moves,
    Convincing men of sin,
    Revealing Jesus through His Word,
    Creating Faith in Him.

    But I know whom I have believed
    And am persuaded that He is able
    To keep that which I’ve committed
    Unto Him against that day.”

    This is true salvation: Turning from sin and placing total faith and trust in the only One who can keep what we have committed unto Him against that day! Quick prayer-ism never reaps this kind of fruit.

  7. Michael Marshall
    November 2, 2007 at 2:17 pm

    Art – great points.

  8. November 2, 2007 at 7:57 pm

    Brother Dave,

    You say, “I cannot accept the idea that God could sin if he wanted to.”

    Why would God want to sin?

    God CANNOT sin because God WILL NOT Sin.

    He WILL Not sin because it is completely contrary to Who He is.

    We are saying the same thing. “He CANNOT deny himself (2 Tim 2:13).”

  9. John Carroll
    November 29, 2007 at 8:00 pm

    Mr. Millinak,

    I believe your article about the doctrines, philosophies, and methodology of Dr. Jack Hyles are a farce. As a former member of his church for ten years, and a careful student of the Bible as instructed by the Bible, I must admit that I have not heard Dr. Hyles preach what was not the Bible-straight from the Bible since I’ve been there. Most people go on Web sites on the Internet and read about a person, assume it’s true and begin their own slam campaign against the man not knowing if what they are slamming him for is true.

    You may have read some articles against him or read something on the Internet but do you have any court proof evidence he said anything. Do you have any sermon tapes, and DVDs, any CDs, any books, anything credible to show me that he believes these things? If not, then you are going off of someone else’s work. And who is to say that that persons’ work is credible.

    The closest to credible evidence I’ve found was the book written by Vic Nischik back in the 1980’s and even he didn’t have his own facts straight. His appendices killed his case. So please answer that question for me about this article.

  10. November 30, 2007 at 6:15 am

    Welcome to the discussions, John.

    I am not Brother Dave, but I will answer one thing for you. I have heard Jack Hyles preach in person several times, and I have heard him on tape many more times. Does this qualify me for saying whether he taught wrong doctrine?

    Quite frankly, I never heard anyone other than Peter Ruckman say more un-scriptural things and “extra-scriptural” things from a pulpit in my life. And, just like Peter Ruckman, his followers said “AMEN” very loudly, he was praised in print and radio, and given a pass for his wrong doctrine.

    His books on the home, for example, have a lot of “silly” and some downright “wrong” doctrine about husbands’ and wives’ roles. But, I digress. I believe Jack Hyles preached “from” the Bible, but nearly every time I personally heard him, he did NOT preach the Bible.

    Sorry for the slamming, but you asked…

  11. John Carroll
    November 30, 2007 at 11:38 am

    Mr. Dunham,

    Primarily, I do not feel the need for you to use the word “slam.” It did not feel like you were insulting me personally in your post, you were simply stating your side of things. That is not common in places like this, let me assure you.

    Secondly, you say that Dr. Hyles has wrong doctrine, okay. What proof do you have? Can you give me specific quotes and then say according to the Bible what is wrong with what he said? Can you offer specific sermons he preached where he said something undoctrinal? Please give me this proof so that I may see it for myself, and if you’re right, I will agree with you according to the King James Bible.

  12. Bobby
    November 30, 2007 at 1:12 pm

    John,

    I’m not wasting my time doing your work for you. Just listen to the sermons of Hyles and make sure your Bible is open and your brain is engaged. If you don’t see what is wrong then it is time to do some self-examination.

  13. November 30, 2007 at 3:15 pm

    I’ll have to second Bobby on this, and also point out something (again) that we consistently encounter with the Hylots. That is, the “what proof do you have” kind of questions. We have listed our sources on here. There are plenty more. We quoted actual sermons. Now, is John Carroll going to deny that Hyles preached these sermons (like “The Helpless God”). Or will he ask whether we personally saw him preach these things, or heard these sermons with our own ears, and the voice of Jack coming through our speakers, multiple throat clearings and all. One way or the other, John will deny whatever evidence we bring. It will not meet hisrules of evidence.

    Why? Because Jack Hyles was good. And therefore, he couldn’t have been not good.

    We quoted from Hyles book “The Enemies of Soul Winning,” particularly from his chapter on “Misunderstood Repentance.” We gave specific quotes and then said according to the Bible what is wrong with what he said. We even linked to it. John Carroll could read this for himself, though it is too late for him to read BEFORE commenting on here.

    But this is a strategy. Read all our evidence, and then simply deny that it is evidence. Wins the debate every time.

  14. HammerJacks Blacklisted Donkey
    December 1, 2007 at 12:45 pm

    John,it’s nice to see someone on my side of the fence.
    I agree that so far they have not shown any evidence of their claims.I also think your ten years of attendence at FBCH is a greater witness then the one year that Dave spent there.
    As far as the evidence posted on this sight,……I have read ‘Enemies To Soul Winning” both on the websight and in the book,as well as listening to the tapes,and I found their claims to be untrue.
    I’ve also debated them on the issue of repentance,and what they claim Hyles said about the issue,and found that they play alot of antics and semantics.( The devil did this in the garden,and it’s a common trait of many false teachers) They also use alot of circular reasoning,defining words with other words,it’s enough to make some dizzy…….deceiving the elect if it were possible!

    As far as the Jig Jigler aproach they claim Hyles used,…….the N.T. shows Christ used and taught some of the same methods.
    ( I know I’ll have to debate and explain this )
    A sales rep was sent to Africa to sell shoes.After a few months he wrote back,..”no one here wears shoes please bring me home”
    A few months later,another rep was sent out,he wrote back after a few months,..”everyone here needs shoes,please send me more”

    As far as this “the Helpless God” thing is concerned I see that the only real thing Hyles is guilty of is terminology.Again the leaders of ‘HammerJack” are playing antics and semantics.
    God don’t need anyones help in the area of salvation He’s already done all the work,but an individuals salvation does depend on our free will to choose!Weather you hold ‘HammerJacks” postion or the “Hylot” postion,…to repent from “unbelief” or “sin” still requires a choice!!!!!!!God will get involved to a point but He will not take away our feedom of choice,and this is what Hyles was unvailing.

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