Priebe has asked the wrong question. His question is “ what is the sin that makes man guilty ?” He has assumed already that guilt is the problem. His question should have been, “what is man's real problem?” Neither he nor Larson ask this question. They assume that guilt is the problem and when they make that assumption they only have one approach. They have to look at the gospel as a method of dealing with guilt, and this is exactly what they do.
Is Guilt really the problem?
I could not understand why, if my son does something wrong I can simply say, “I forgive you,” but God says, “I can't forgive you, I've got to have blood!” Now we may say it is required by justice, but what is justice? God's justice is simply a reflection of God's nature, so if you say that justice requires it what you are telling me is that God requires it! You are really telling me that God is the kind of Person who cannot forgive unless blood is first spilt! So if we take it into the realm of guilt and leave it there, it leaves more questions than answers.
God's character distorted?
If guilt is the main reason why the sinner must die, then it would seem that God is mainly responsible for the problem because it is He who set up a system which demands death as the penalty of sin. Of course if we look at it from the point of view of original sin it is even worse. The teaching of original sin says that God set up a system to make you guilty of another person's sin! But both concepts make God out to be the person who is the source of our problems.
So when men began to think that guilt was the problem do you know what they set out to do? They set out to change God's mind because in their thinking, God is the one who imposes condemnation upon us. So what is it that needs to change? God's attitude is what needs to change and because of this humanity has built up different concepts of the gospel where they try to do things to appease God's wrath. They believe that when they offer a sacrifice its purpose is to make God happy. They believe that all our worship is simply aimed at persuading God to change His mind. The focus is on changing God, not on changing us.
With this concept, people think of God as some kind of tyrant who needs to be appeased. Every heathen religion builds around this belief that God has something against us and we need to do something to get Him to change his mind. But how do we do that? According to the concept of popular Christianity, God says, “you are guilty but your guilt is such a terrible thing and my justice is such an inflexible thing I cannot forgive you unless I have blood! And if I don't have your blood I must have somebody's blood, so do you know what I'll do? I'll kill my Son and when I see the blood I will change my mind about you!”
But guilt is not the main problem of mankind. Something caused the guilt. Something was at the root of those actions which made me guilty and that is the main problem. If God forgives a person a thousand times in a day and the person's nature remains the same, He must forgive him a thousand times all over the following day, because his problem will never be solved as long as God keeps on dealing only with guilt!
I remember my father telling a story of a lady who kept praying at prayer meeting every week, “Lord, please take these cobwebs out of my life.” She continued this prayer week after week, month after month, until one night a wise brother prayed, “Lord, please kill the spider that is making these cobwebs in our dear sister's heart!” The cobwebs are not the real problem at all. They only reveal that there is a problem. The problem is the spider. He has got to be dealt with or the problem will never be solved.
In James 2:10, we read:
“For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. (James 2:10)”
Now is this reasonable? You tell a lie and God charges you with murder, stealing, adultery, dishonouring your parents, covetousness and every other crime in fact. But all you did was tell a little lie! If you look at it from the point of view of just dealing with superficial guilt it does not make sense. You think, “what kind of God are you, why do You do this. If I told a lie charge me with telling a lie! Why do you put every crime to my account?”
The point is, the man who tells a lie demonstrates that his entire life is out of harmony with God. There is nothing right about him. All his commandment-keeping means nothing because that lie demonstrates that his nature is out of harmony with God, so everything is wrong. It is not the individual action which makes him guilty of all, it is the fact that the root of sin is alive and what is that root? It is the sinful nature, the sinful mind, the mind separated from God.
The Carnal Mind
No wonder we have struggled and fought for so long! We have looked at the gospel as a device whose main purpose is to change God's mind about us rather than something designed to change our lives! But the fact is, before I was guilty I had a problem. I needed help before I became guilty for I was born with a carnal mind. I was born with a nature that was at enmity with God and if that is not changed, whether I am guilty or not I am an enemy of God and I cannot be saved in that state. This is the reality that the gospel must deal with. These men don't touch that in their articles, they have viewed it entirely as a question of guilt and many false ideas have arisen from this misconception.
What then is the truth? It is true that we are born originally with corrupt, fallen flesh. Nobody has to be taught that. You have a body that is dying and you can tell. It is weak. The cravings for what is wrong are built into our bodies and we do have a conflict with our bodies when they call us in a certain direction. But we are also born in a condition where we are separated from God, resulting in minds which are corrupt and sinful by nature, totally incapable of good.
Anybody of the race of humanity who is not born again cannot see the kingdom of God, nobody is excluded. Before a person can make a choice he does have a problem which makes it necessary for him to be born again. That is the critical truth.
Now again Elder Larson objects to this fact. First, Elder Larson quotes from Edward Heppenstall as follows:
“God respected Adam and Eve's free will and choice and withdrew from the human race. All Adam's offspring came into the world without God. Every child is born with an impossible self centeredness. All men except Christ are born without God.” (Edward Heppenstall - The Man who is God, pp.107)
Elder Larson comments,
“this is certainly a depressing picture of parenthood and childhood....”
“the idea that God withdrew from the human race leaving every child to be born without God must be laid aside too. It does not bear up under investigation.”
What he is saying is that children are not born in a state of separation from God. Now if this is so it means that children do not need to be born again.
When Adam committed sin in the garden he separated himself from God. In other words the life of God that was in him departed from him. He gave a heritage to the human race where we are born in a state of separation from God. This is why everybody needs to be born again. When we are born again what happens? The spirit of God comes again to live inside our bodies isn't that right? But the only reason why we need to be born again is because the way we were born the first time is not good enough. We were born separated from God and we cannot be saved in that condition!
This is not to say that God is not working with little children. But the act of being born again where the spirit of God dwells in your heart and controls your life is something that awaits the new birth and until a person experiences this, he is in a state of separation from God. So every man must be born again.
Now I know the question arises, suppose somebody dies when he is a baby, does that mean that he cannot be saved? If a baby dies too young to make a choice, too young to be able to decide if he wants Christ in his life the gospel makes provision for that child and this provision involves a change of nature. But if he lives he has to make a choice and if he does not make that choice he cannot be saved. He must be born again. Something must be introduced into him that he was not originally born with.
Brothers Priebe and Larson believe that children are not born separated from God and so all a person has to do upon coming to the age of accountability is just to choose the right actions. Everytime a person has to make a decision he must make the right choice and after a while he will be doing all the right things and so he will be a perfect person. They say this is what Jesus did and because Jesus did it we can do the same thing.
To be frank, I find Priebe's and Larson's concept appalling. They have developed a large following among independents and have become very influential and I am honestly disappointed at discovering how simplistic and inadequate their concept of the gospel is. Even more disappointing is the realization that some who have embraced the truth about God have been taken in by the false gospel which these men present.