The “Old Man” Fallacy has done more damage than many other erroneous teachings combined. The reason and tactic of the enemy is simple: If we have a faulty idea of who we are in Christ, we are open to a mountain of deception including legalism, and mysticism, both of which are running rampant in the church today.
David Needham has been my favorite Christian author since the 80’s when his book: Birthright; Christian Do You Know Who You Are? was first published. It was through Dr Needham’s book that I first understood what the new birth really was, and that the key to living the Christian life was found in understanding who we truly are in Christ and living our lives in response to the love that was bestowed on us – We don’t live the Christian life to gain anything (we’ve already been given everything!) or preserve anything (such as our salvation). It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Gal 5:1
I find it telling that the “Old Man/New Man” fallacy was first taught by none other than Cyrus Scofield, creator of the Scofield Bible!
While this article specifically addresses the Fundamental Baptist website “Sword of the Lord” and the subject of abuse within marriage (and the freedom Christians have to leave such a marriage), the message presented is important for all church abuse springing from the “Old Man/New Man” fallacy.
Birthright: Christian Do You Know Who You Are is out of print, but you can still get used copies on Amazon and used book sites. If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it.
The following lines are taken from the doctrinal statement that appears at the Sword of the Lord website. Sword of the Lord is a publication that has been around for decades, promoting KJV only, separatist, soul-winning fundamentalism. In the same statement, the Sword of the Lord insists that:
…the Bible, the Scriptures of the Old Testament and the New Testament, preserved for us in the Masoretic text (Old Testament) Textus Receptus (New Testament) and in the King James Bible, is verbally and plenarily inspired of God. It is the inspired, inerrant, infallible, and altogether authentic, accurate and authoritative Word of God, therefore the supreme and final authority in all things (II Tim. 3:16-17; II Peter 1:21; Rev. 22:18-19).
Hmmm… I can’t find anywhere in those Scriptures they cite that make any mention of the KJV. But on to our main point in this article. Listen to this statement:
The Believer’s Two Natures
WE BELIEVE every truly regenerated, born again Christian is saved by the grace of God through faith placed in Jesus Christ and is thereby awarded a new and spiritual nature which he did not previously possess.
WE BELIEVE the old nature which we possess from birth is not eradicated but lingers yet within us.
WE BELIEVE it is for this reason that true Christians are not perfect people and they can still sin.
WE BELIEVE the new nature, if nourished properly, should begin to dominate the Christian’s life, and the old nature should be less and less prominent.
If you have ever read David Needham’s book, Birthright: Christian, Do You Know Who You Are? [*affiliate link], you will note that this idea that the Christian still has a very much alive “old man” is the very point that held Needham in bondage for so many years and which he wrote his book to refute. It has its roots in the footnotes of the Scofield Bible, though it may have been taught by others before that. I am not sure. [bold added]
Here is my thesis:
This teaching that the Old Man is still alive in the Christian and only “positionally” dead (decreed dead but not really dead – go figure), is often used by those who teach it to promote legalism and to justify sin. When a prominent preacher “falls,” for example, his grievous sin is easily chalked up to “well, it is sad. Brother Jones’ Old Man just rose up and got the best of him. And well, we must not be too judgmental. Any of us could do the same thing. We are still evil and we have to be sure we don’t drink, don’t smoke, don’t cuss, don’t miss church… or else the New Man will get defeated by the Old Man.”
The New Testament knows nothing of this spiritual schizophrenia dual personality. Listen to the Apostle Paul:
(Rom 6:1-7 ESV) Romans 6:1 ¶ What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. 5 ¶ For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 7 For one who has died has been set free from sin.
The “Old Man is still alive” theology justifies sin, it confuses Christians, it permits unsaved people to parade as believers, and it holds Christ’s people in bondage. Who are you, Christian? Who are you? Are you still that old man you were before Christ regenerated you, put you to death in Christ, buried you with Him, and raised you up as a brand new creation upon whose heart is written His Word? When you are tempted to sin, what is it that YOU really want? Yes, the New Testament says that our sarx (flesh) remains, but that is not the same as the Old Man. We still live in fallen, corruptible bodies and that is why there is going to be a literal bodily resurrection once day. These mortal bodies cannot inherit immortality. But YOU, in Christ, are not your flesh. You are a child of God, a saint, an heir, God’s beloved, new creations having died to sin.
(1Co 6:9-11 ESV) 9 ¶ Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
Such WERE some of you. But not any more. That old man is dead. Really dead. Crucified with Christ.
Once more, in contrast to this biblical truth, listen to this description of IFB theology from a brother who has seen it all personally from the “inside.” He points us to another article in the Sword of the Lord doctrinal statement:
WE BELIEVE that the command to get the Gospel to the world is a clear and unmistakable mandate, that this command is therefore, the commission of God to all of us who are saved. (Matt. 28:18-20; Mark 16:15; John 20:21; Acts 1:8; Rom. 10:13-15). [Sword of the Lord]
Our friend examines this for us:
Now read a few of the words alone; “clear and unmistakable mandate … to all of us who are saved.” This is the first psychological trap in the IFB movement, i.e. you’ll be told “You’re not saved if you’re not out soul winning for this church!” You think, “Oh crap, I want to be saved and it is a mandate! I better go!”
Here’s how the ‘standards’ get into the congregation. You can’t go soul winning if you’re providing a bad public witness. So, no soul winning for you if you’re going to movies or into bars, smoking, gambling, or even watching television. But, “Wait a minute!,” the sheep declare “I can’t be saved if I’m not soul winning!,” and consequently “I better not do those bad things in public,” the sheep continues “that will make me feel better – whew!”
What’s the problem with this, you might ask? It all started with no sincere personal repentance of answer in faith to the Gospel call, so the unregenerate man simply remained unregenerate. They declare the old man lives right beside the new man, and all sorts of insidious sin dwells privately in the congregation. As long as it doesn’t interfere with public witness or soul winning, then we just whisper about it together. People just quietly mourn the loss of another church member to “the old man.”
The theology of the Independent Fundamental Baptists is cultivating and protecting abusers with this Old Man/New Man doctrine. It is part of a false gospel that cannot save. All an abusive, wicked man need do is credit his very much alive Old Man with his abusive deeds. And he still gets to remain a Christian! According to this doctrine, professing Christians can virtually walk in sin, yet be confident that they are saved. After all, it is just the Old Man rising up when we get careless and fail to apply the prescribed remedies to keep him weak. And those prescribed remedies are often nothing more than legalistic, man-created rules and traditions that, in fact, only feed the sinful flesh. The law, after all, is the power of sin.
Now, add into this whole mix other doctrines which are claimed to be biblical (but which are merely the traditions of men) and you have an environment which cruelly oppresses the weak and oppressed. For example, think carefully about the following typical doctrinal points which we have taken from the doctrinal statement of a large IFB church. How do these teachings enslave people? Let us know in your comments (boldfaceing is mine) —
Lawsuits Between Believers: We believe that Christians are prohibited from bringing civil lawsuits against other Christians or the church to resolve personal disputes. We believe the church possesses all the resources necessary to resolve personal disputes between members. We do believe, however, that a Christian may seek compensation for injuries from another Christian’s insurance company as long as the claim is pursued without malice or slander. (I Corinthians 6:1-8; Ephesians 4:31-32)
Giving: We believe that every Christian, as a steward of that portion of God’s wealth entrusted to him, is obligated to support his local church financially. We believe that God has established the tithe as a basis for giving, but that every Christian should also give other offerings sacrificially and cheerfully to the support of the church, the relief of those in need, and the spread of the Gospel. We believe that a Christian relinquishes all rights to direct the use of the tithe or offering once the gift has been made. (Genesis 14:20; Proverbs 3:9-10; Acts 4:34-37; I Corinthians 16:2; II Corinthians 9:6-7; Galatians 6:6; Ephesians 4:28; I Timothy 5:17-18; I John 3:17)
Divorce and Remarriage: We believe that God hates divorce and intends marriage to last until one of the spouses dies. Although divorced and remarried persons or divorced persons may hold positions of service in a church and be greatly used of God for Christian service, they may not be considered for the offices of pastor or deacon of a church. (Malachi 2:14-17; Matthew 19:3-12; Romans 7:1-3; I Timothy 3:2, 12; Titus 1:6)
To protest against these kinds of things in a “church” where such doctrines abound and you had better be ready to duck and run. But the fact is, these are the things that are believed. And if pressed closely enough, one will find once again an example of how the IFB doctrine moves quite close to that of Rome.
“One man to rule them all, and in the darkness, bind them.”
Ducking and running now.