Thursday, September 4, 2008

Just How Depraved Are We?

The natural spiritual state of mankind is both the subject of theological debate, and homespun philosophy apart from any consideration of religious doctrine. Folksy conclusions drawn from the observation of life can be stated succinctly, running along a spectrum, from "nobody's perfect," to "everyone has some good in him," to "children learn what they live." The parallel theological spectrum runs from Calvinistic total depravity to Pelagianian free will. One would think that Paul put the issue to rest with Romans 7, but the debate lingers on.

In trying to assure that God gets all the glory in salvation, many feel they have to diminish man in order to elevate God. I wonder, does God need us as a step ladder? While the desire to glorify God is commendable, diminishing his stated plans, purpose and design for man in order to do it is, at least, misplaced assistance. So, how does Worm Theology glorify the Creator in whose image the "worm" was made and the Son of God was incarnated? Of course, in the opposite vein, overstating the quality or abilities of natural man will induce self-dependence, which can only result in frustration and loss.

The problem outlined in Romans 7 for natural mankind is not that a sinful person is unable to perceive the goodness of the law, nor even to understand what is good conceptually, but that he has something within him which frustrates his ability to actually do anything about it. Now I should add, there is no clue that the natural person is able to derive what is good on his own or has any desire to (although he is able to discern the nature of God that way). However, the natural human is definitely capable of seeing it when God graciously presents it.

The godly sorrow that results in that perceiving, as their ensuing exasperation burgeons, is what leads the natural man to abandon self-reliance and to put trust and hope in Christ. To the depraved Christ proclaims his life saving message, "Repent, and believe the good news!" For those that do, the frustration of personal depravity yields to the peace of his ability.