Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Is Unbelief Sin?

Unbelief is not sin in itself. Sin is the exertion of will (decision, determination, action) in opposition to God. Unbelief is a gut reaction, an assessment of God's character and his word. Adam and Eve did not believe God nor what he said to them, and the result  was choice exerted in opposition to God. The unbelief wasn't the sin, the action it led to was. Unbelief is a state of heart and mind in regard to God which leads to sin.

Unbelief, therefore, is not a sin that can be condemned or forgiven, though the sin it leads to certainly can be. Unbelief itself is merely the spiritual and soulish framework from which sin arises, but not sin itself. As such, neither faith nor unbelief can properly be thought of as works as sin can. They underlie works but are not works themselves.

Whereas it is true that a sinful heart is unbelieving, and it is an undeniable consequence that an unbelieving heart will be sinful; sinful and unbelieving are not synonymous. They are interrelated but not equivalent. Whatever is not of faith is sin, which I think is about the same as saying whatever is of unbelief is sin. The sin is not the unbelief, the unbelief is not sin, sin is what happens when one acts without faith.

To those who argue that if Arminian tenets are true, faith is a work and unbelief is a sin which cannot be forgiven, I say think again! Unbelief is only a state which keeps one from entering into God's promises. It is not unbelief that results in judgment, but unbelief that keeps one under the condemnation for their sin. So, unbelief is not a sin for sin is an act of the will, but unbelief is the state of heart and mind that produces sin and keeps one under the judgment for it.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Who Did Jesus Die For?

As in almost anything that observers look upon, one observer can see a thing from a different angle or direction than can another. The two may describe a thing in terms virtually opposite of each other, and yet both be correct, and I would add, objective. Only a view that captures more angles, including those observers', would be more accurate. This is certainly true about our title question.

Calvinists assert that Jesus died only for those that were unconditionally selected to be saved. To say that there is even a hint of truth in such a perspective seems to fly in the face of the scriptures which universally assert that Christ died for everyone. Not everyone gets saved, however, which leads one to question in what way did he actually die for all when only some are benefited. Certainly, there is no doubt that he died for those who are benefited.

From one perspective, looking at efficacy, there is no argument--Jesus death was for some and not for others. From eternity looking back on time, such an assessment would seem to meet the facts as they will be: the repercussions of his death and resurrection will affect some, but not others. To look at that reality from that perspective and say Jesus died for the benefited is a spin that one could technically make and be accurate as far as it goes.

The problem with this view arises when the horizon on the subject is stretched to include intent. Since intent in this regard involves the counsels of God, humans can only know what God tells us about his intent. We cannot figure out the mind of God in this regard, nor infer what our reason tells us he must have been thinking. That is error prone when done between humans, it is idolatry when done concerning God.

God has spoken concerning his intent in offering Christ as the atoning sacrifice for humanity's sin, and has done so conclusively. Christ died as a bonafide sacrifice for all. Whosoever will may lay their sin stained hand upon the head of the scapegoat and tap into its benefits. That anyone who does so requires the intervention of God to do so does not mitigate or limit the expansive intent of the offer, anymore than does the outcome. Jesus is the savior of all men, but especially for those who believe and are benefited.

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.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Death and Depravity

Depravity and death are cut from the same cloth. When Adam and Eve sinned, the sentence pronounced upon them was death at the time of consummation. The flavor of God's proscription on the act was clearly that the death sentence would be carried out virtually immediately. However, Adam and Eve went on to live long natural lives before that ultimate reality finally caught up with them--or did they?

When we contract an illness, say rabies or bubonic plague, we do not die at the moment of infection. We go on for some time, not even necessarily feeling ill, before the disease runs its course and we stop running ours. Yet, we were diseased from the moment we were infected, and the writing was on the wall. For the human race, death did strike at the moment our primogenitors bit the apple, but it's first evidence was not cessation of natural life, but the emptiness of depravity.

Adam and Eve's physical life and physical capacities continued when they were struck spiritually dead, howbeit diminished and diminishing. Even their soulish capacities continued, though darkly, without the breath of God enlightening them. Death, in its immediacy, was in terms of separation rather than respiration. That is still the most fundamental quality of human depravity for all who were born of Adam and Eve into their condition--body alive but dying, spirit empty and uninspired.

One cannot take a bath if the tub is unplugged, and the soul has no good nor desire for it when God's Spirit is sucked out. Take God out of the image of God and the result won't look like God. This is what depravity is--God missing from the human soul. Will is still there, desire is still there, creativity too, but everything is twisted, off target because God is gone.

Left to our own devices, humans cannot and do not produce godliness. We have soulish capacities one would think capable of producing such, but apart from God our souls are unable. Ultimately, humans need to be rebuilt and re-inspired if they are to live as God intends. That doesn't mean, however, that we are incapable of being influenced by God as we are should he desire to come near. 

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Emptiness of Depravity

I believe the scriptures teach the total depravity of natural man (see thisthis, and this, e.g.). Human beings, left to their own devices, would not seek after God nor do good. It's not that efforts along that line cannot be nor are not made by humans; it is that those efforts can only end up being idolatrous on the one hand, or productive of a "righteousness" that at best is merely self-congratulatory on the other. If man is to know God or God's way, it will take God revealing it rather than mankind discovering or enacting it--God alone is good.

Which brings us to the practical core of depravity. Depravity is not defined so much by what is in us as it is by what is lacking. Depravity is emptiness, a lack of something necessary if one were to be other than depraved. When Adam and Eve sinned and they (and the offspring "in their loins") fell into depravity, what they fell into was a separation from God. Sin broke their oneness with God--it de-Spirited us, if you will.

Under such a view, our inability exists not so much in an absolute incapacity, but in that God is not sharing himself with us. In the natural, we are still creatures with a spirit (capacity) even though we are without the inspiration of the Spirit (ability). Depravity is what comes out of us when God is not rubbing off on us, so to speak.  Such an inability is not so intrinsic to our nature that it would continue if God came near, any more than idle iron filings remain so if a magnet is passed near. There is no need to posit that a person would be unable to respond to God without first being reengineered.