Counterfeit, errant dogmas always creep around the Christian church. In fact, Revelation chapter two records a warning from Jesus against dangerous doctrines that led His people astray. In the contemporary church the “carnal Christian,” a sin-friendly doctrinal hybrid, is worming its way into Christian orthodoxy.
One outspoken proponent of this carnal Christian doctrine is Dr. Tony Evans. All of Dr. Evans’ statements quoted in this article are from his booklet The Carnal Christian which is posted on his website. Contrary to Christian history, but in accordance with his alma mater, Dallas Theological Seminary, Dr. Evans harvests this theory from 3 verses in 1 Corinthians chapter 3:
And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able. For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men? 1 Cor 3:1-3
“Notice that Paul calls them brethren,” wrote Dr. Evans, “which means that he believed they were a part of the family of God…it is possible,” insists the learned Dr. Evans, “to be on your way to heaven but be of no earthly good because you compromise your faith.” Tony Evans is correct dear reader, Paul did call the Corinthians “brethren” and this does indeed mean “that he believed they were a part of the family of God.” From this passage, however, Tony Evans dives headlong into a gurgling cauldron of scripturally unfounded assertions:
“Simply defined, carnality is a spiritual state in which a born-again Christian knowingly, willingly, intentionally and persistently lives to please and serve self rather than Jesus Christ.”
[The carnal Christian] “is a sick Christian, attempting to keep one foot planted in two mutually-exclusive worlds.”
Does Paul’s reference to the Christians at Corinth as “brethren” and “carnal” (or worldly) automatically mean that they might remain carnal and unrepentant and yet be welcomed into paradise as Dr. Evans imagines? The answer: not a chance. Remaining in an unrepentant, carnal state wasn’t an alternative for the Corinthians. Paul’s reproof of the “carnal” in 1 Corinthians 3 is spelled out in greater detail soon after in the same book (note that Tony Evans ignores this passage):
Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. 1 Cor 6:9-10
Paul isn’t the only one to disavow the “carnal Christian.” Not even a hint of this dogma can be found in any teacher, confession or catechism that I have researched from Christian history. From the Ante-Nicene Fathers to the Westminster Confession and the Baptist Confession of 1689 no carnal Christian dogma may be found. From Martin Luther to James Arminius or John Calvin no carnal Christian dogma may be found. From Jonathan Edwards and George Whitefield to John Wesley or Charles Finney no carnal Christian dogma may be found. Tony Evans’ “carnal Christian” is not true.