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.