The Helpless Hyles
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 Godâ€™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 isnâ€™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 wonâ€™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 Hylesâ€™ 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 hadnâ€™t made that choice.
And thus, we see where the whole “easy-believism” of Hyles comes from. Since Jesus wonâ€™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 sinnerâ€™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 â€“ as in John 3:16), and comes presently and particularly by the will of man (man choosing to ask), the soul winnerâ€™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, manâ€™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, Christâ€™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 manâ€™s free will” would deny much of what Hyles taught about evangelism. And rightfully so. Hylesâ€™ 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 doesnâ€™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 Godâ€™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.Â 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.