Monday, September 12, 2011

Overcoming Depravity

Depravity robs the human being of any capacity for any impetus toward God, but does not incapacitate the human being from any response to God. A thoroughly depraved person can respond to the touch of God, the appearance of God, or the unseen spiritual influence of God without having to be re-plumbed or regenerated in order to do so. All that is required is for God to express himself sufficiently to that depraved person so as to stir that person's empty spirit.

Because of the autonomy of humans (an aspect of the image of God, marred though it is in them), whatever interaction the Spirit may bring to him or her is not guaranteed to overcome that human's depravity. If Adam and Eve could go their own way in Eden, then a depraved person under the influence of the Holy Spirit can do so as well (in fact, they're much more likely to). There is nothing irresistible about grace, anymore than there is anything not resistible about any instance of sin. That freedom of will is intended by God is readily evident in mankind being made in his image.

Ultimately, life as God would have it lived will require a complete rebuild. The combination of soul, spirit and body we have been born with since Adam and Eve is not capable of experiencing life as God would have it. Meanwhile, in the here and now, sufficient grace can be brought to bear upon our condition to at least enable reconciliation to and relationship with God. As any of us are naturally, we can be encountered by God and respond to him with faith; we can then even be regenerated and reborn in spirit despite our dying bodies; and therein do we overcome our natural depravity.

4 comments:

  1. The actual *mechanism* of conviction relies on the fact that the ancients used the term "heart" to refer to that part of the mind of man that generates thoughts, while Jesus and Paul used the term "inner man" to describe that part of man that "perceives" those thoughts and makes decisions based on those thoughts. To translate to modern terms, we do not as much "think" as we perceive thoughts, while the actual creation of thoughts is "nonconscious": We cook and eat the sausage of thought, but the actual MAKING of the sausage is out of sight.

    For the most part, the interplay between "heart" and "inner man" is cooperative, having such a short "cycle time" between "thought generation", "thought perception", "decision" and "feedback of decision back to the "thought generator" that we should be forgiven for thinking that our "hearts" fully cooperate with us. THIS IS NOT TRUE: the heart is deceitful and desperately wicked, who can know it? The lost man of Romans 1 fully accepts what his heart tells him, and does them. Like the antedeluvians, "the thoughts of every man's heart were evil continually". The problem that Romans 1 men have is a "broken" heart that generates evil thoughts.

    Biblical Conviction arises *only* by the direct interaction of the Holy Spirit in the heart (where He resides after conversion). Because He indwells the heart, He cannot be directly perceived because the heart itself is inperceptible: perception arises FROM the thoughts generated by the heart. From this location, the Holy Spirit generates thoughts that the human's inner man would perceive as thoughts that, other than the subject, are indistinguishable from the thoughts generated by the heart. The only clue that they come from the Holy Spirit rather than from the heart is that they are thoughts that tell the inner man of God's requirements. Almost all the time, this is usually done when that man is hearing the gospel so that the thoughts the Spirit generates have a rational context within which to be thinking. (Convicting thoughts that arise "of their own" without any external context would be indistinguishable from "angst". While I believe the Spirit to be economical, I have not come to a decision whether *all*thoughts identifiable as "angst" are actually Spirit-generated thoughts apart from a Gospel context.)

    There are two aspects of this "independent thought generation" worth noting. The first is to realize that man's resistance is not direct resistance to God (a futile thing), but rather resistance to *thoughts* generated by God the Holy Spirit. If God directly siezed a man and dunked him in water, he's gonna be wet regardless of his feelings about it. However, if God sends the water in the form of rain, that same man can take shelter from the rain, by choice, and thus escape being wet. God the Holy Spirit mediates His presence in men (temporary or permanentlyby communicating with them via thoughts, and thus leaving intact men's liberty to resist Him, in the same way that God mediated His presence among men via the incarnation of His Son, Jesus Christ, thus leaving intact men's liberty to resist Him. It is by intermediation that God can communicate with men while preserving their liberty to resist, which is at the core of free will. Calvinists apparently have a problem with the practice that God uses direct intermediaries, probably deeming them "inappropriate" for a being of God's Majesty. Arminians note that God was born in a stable, so is clearly not as picky and nitty and so self-consumed with His image as the Calvinists presume He is.

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  2. part 2 of above:

    The second thing to note is the fact that human thought originates and is intermediated by physical changes in neuro-chemistry and neuro-electricity. I.e. thoughts have a physical component, and there is no *human* thought that does not have a physical component to it. For the Spirit to generate thoughts of a specific nature (i.e. conviction) that the natural heart would NOT generate (due to depravity), this would require that the Spirit directly and physically interact with the *SAME* neurons to generate the electrical and chemical emissions that the heart uses to generate thoughts. One must think of the heart as a player of a multi-billion key organ called the brain, with the songs being produced as the thoughts that the Inner man hears, judges, and tells the player what to play next. The rebellious heart plays what he wants to play. Calvinists believe God comes in to the "elect", kicks the heart out of its seat, sits down, and plays the tune he wants on the brain. My take (and I believe that of Arminians) is that the Holy Spirit sits down along side the heart and plays his own tune, and it is up to the inner man which tune to listen to or request. Conviction is the Spirit playing the tune of the gospel, while Conversion is the inner man deciding he believes the Gospel and wants to hear more. The Spirit THEN replaces/renews the heart AND comes to live in the heart permanently.

    The key thing to realize from the above paragraph is that the Spirit, to generate thoughts of conviction, must necessarily interact with the physical brain of the man if he is to think thoughts that his heart would not *naturally* think. The strict school of Physics would regard this as a bona-fide miracle. It is not Conversion that is a miracle, but Conviction.

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  3. poart 3 of above:

    As a "theory" of how Conviction arises, this not only supports the Arminian contention that God's interactions with men can also preserve their free will to resist, but points the way to a clinical methodology for relieving the Romans 7 man. The Romans 7 man is saved, but his heart is generating corrupt thoughts. However, God promised to take out the heart of stone and put in a heart of flesh, so why is the heart, now renewed, still generating corrupt thoughts?

    The answer lies in the fact that God renewed the heart, but not the memory. The heart is merely a machine that rummages through the memories stored in the memory of man. Change the memory, change the man, but if God does that, then God is not saving *that* man, but one whose memories he created. To use our organ analogy, the renewed heart cannot play anything other than honky-tonk songs because it honestly does not know any other tunes. The "body of this death" that Paul speaks of is the "body of memory". A good man cannot pull good treasure out of a heart that contains no memory of good.

    By accepting this as the origin of the dilemma of the saved but fleshy man of Romans 7, then the solution of Romans 8 makes perfect sense: the heart/inner man *learns to play new songs by playing along with the Holy Spirit*. One reads the bible. One listens to men of God preaching by the leading of the Spirit. ONe's mind is renewed as one stores good treasure into the heart, giving the now good heart something to work with.

    More importantly, the Spirit can help the heart/inner man by *suppressing inappropriate thoughts*. This is done by recognizing that EVERY neurotransmitter that has a specific effect has a counter-part neurotransmitter that produces the exact opposite effect. Thus, every thought is composed of a specific mix of neurotransmitters that can be cancelled out by a specifically tailored "anti-thought" that can be composed by substituting every neurotransmitter comprising the throught with the neuro-transmitter that produces the opposite effect. Naturally, the inner man cannot affect this process because the inner man only PERCEIVES thoughts AFTGER they are generated. However, the Holy Spirit can! And he does!: once I realized the above, I gave the Spirit permission to generate such thoughts, and I *immediately* lost much of my compulsive thoughts for pornography. (Don't laugh, by the way, at the idea of the Spirit chemically manipulating what the brain thinks: chemical manipulation of the brain is BIG BUSINESS in the United States, and many of the suppliers of such chemicals of the illegal sort are literally killing each other for market share)

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  4. Gerald,
    All very interesting, but highly speculative.

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