Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Subtraction by Addition

How did mankind get so depraved? Adam was not depraved when he was created, and yet he sinned while in God's company in a perfect environment! I suppose had he been a lawyer, he could have pled temporary depravity, but I don't think the Judge would have heard that excuse from a shivering barrister hiding in the bushes. Figleaves were certainly not proper courtroom attire! The simple truth is that depravity had nothing to do with Adam or Eve's sinfulness.

If I'm reading Romans 1 correctly, the pattern of depravitization is laid out with emphasis. Three times (vs. 24, 26, and 28), we are told that "God gave them over." In other words, depravity was the result of willfulness being expressed against God (sin), and God stepping back from mankind leaving them to their own devices. Therefore, depravity is a lack rather than a possession: an absence rather than a presence. Sin separates us from God and depravity is the vacuum. Depravity did not lead to sin, sin led to depravity.

That mankind is born separated from God is beyond argument. We have been born in sin, dead in spirit and depraved as a result. We are capable of perceiving the good when presented it, but are always unable and often unwilling to do anything with it. It is our distance from God that ensures our depravity; but if that is the case, then the effects of it can be mitigated by God coming near. Ultimately, that will be perfected when we are incorruptible and the the dwelling of God is with man.

In the meantime, what depraved mankind needs is to be contended for by God. That does not ensure that we won't sin or walk away from God, it's not irresistible (remember Adam, the pre-diluvians and Romans 1), but it does open up the possibilities of faith and perseverance. Mankind can never gain righteousness by ridding themselves of their depravity. Depravity is a consequence of absence. It came as an addition by subtraction, it can only be solved by a subtraction by addition.

2 comments:

  1. I'd say it is like a feedback loop, Sin leads to lack of God intervention, which leads to rubbish and more Sin.

    There was a Buddhist guy who reckoned that evil came from poverty through grasping, but he had no alternative but to give up desire. We have a better one, in James for example, where we fit our desires to God's, and so are able to have that tree of life: Proverbs 13:12.

    We also have this conclusion from Solomon: God made man upright, but they have gone in search of many schemes; Ecc 7:29. By searching for our own way separate from God we have encouraged him to be separate from us, dangerous if he is the source of life and everything good.
    What is more I suspect that the knowledge of good and evil for the first time removed the protection of ignorance from Adam and Eve, like Jesus said, because they claimed they knew what they were doing, they were responsible, in a way animals aren't.

    It is only in Jesus that we can move from innocent created beings through rebellious understanding to true righteousness, choosing to take on the purpose of God, both because he made it visible to us, and because he dealt with the consequences of the last transition.

    There is definitely also that correlation that righteousness is the plumbline standard, and also closeness with God. I cannot help but remember that a plumbline is a dynamic system in relationship with the centre of the earth (near enough mathematically anyway), so it becomes a standard because it is continuously made more right by gravity.

    Wow, I've written more than I planned to! Just kept coming.

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  2. Hello Josh W,
    Your third paragraph was especially good, and I enjoyed reading them all!

    We are fearfully and wonderfully made, not just physically, but spiritually as well. We are independent, yet in bondage; like God, yet completely different; makers of plans, yet treading footsteps God ordains.

    One day, hopefully, we'll learn to trust God and walk humbly with him.

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