Total Depravity: Theological Finesse Needed, Part 1
July 15, 2013 Kurt Jaros

Total Depravity: Theological Finesse Needed, Part 1

Posted in Forum Post

I have recently read a few blog posts which argue in favor of total depravity. You can read a couple of those by Aaron Brake and J. Warner Wallace.  In this post, I would like to write briefly on false dichotomies and the terms basic vs. essential.  In my next post(s), I will address certain Bible verses pertaining to this issue.

Before I begin, it would be important to define total depravity. The great Wikipedia (or whoever wrote that portion of the article) has given us a great definition: total depravity “is a theological doctrine derived from the Augustinian concept of original sin. It is the teaching that, as a consequence of the Fall of Man, every person born into the world is enslaved to the service of sin and, apart from the efficacious or prevenient grace of God, is utterly unable to choose to follow God, refrain from evil, or accept the gift of salvation as it is offered.”

Something that I have often found in the theological literature is a lack of finesse in dealing with this issue.  Many times I’ll come across false dichotomies and/or improper or lack of necessary distinctions. It is evident that there is room, logically speaking, for alternative views in the Augustinian-Pelagian controversy. And I’m not alone in my observation.[1]  Furthermore, I think some of these logical alternatives can stay true to the biblical text (from a conservative approach, too!).  For instance, one can believe that the Fall did taint and corrupt human nature (contra Pelagianism) yet still believe that Fall did not affect humans in such a way that they are unable to do anything toward their salvation (contra Augustinianism).  But the question remains whether this view fits with the biblical text. I don’t think Augustinians would give me a hard time for disagreeing with Pelagius. Though, they might try and argue that if one doesn’t agree with them, that it entails Pelagianism (which doesn’t follow).

Much like the theological literature I come across, I have found that Brake’s dealing with depravity is wanting.  To Wallace’s benefit, he writes more to the falleness of humanity, which is something I would absolutely agree with.  Yet, in his citation of Brake’s post, he presents a view of man that I don’t think lines up with the biblical text.  Of course, determining if my claims are correct may require much thinking, writing, and research.  And I won’t be able to address everything in one post!  So, in the following series of posts, I’ll provide some reasons for thinking why Total Depravitists haven’t sufficiently demonstrated that their view is true.  Today I’ll make some brief remarks  to the idea that man is not “basically” good.

My first problem with Brake’s treatment of this term is his failure to describe what he means by “basically.”  In our culture we have given the term “basic” or “basically” a couple of definitions/meanings.  I believe that Brake desires to correctly explain not only what the text does say regarding how screwed up we are but that this is evident experientially.  However, “basically” doesn’t tell us precisely what is meant, here.  For all we know, it might be the case that “basically” means a general view, or gist, of humans; that is, humans are generally bad.  If by “basically,” “generally” is meant, then I have no problem.  If, however, by “basically,” “essentially” is meant, then I have a problem.

The Scripture teaches us that man is essentially (or intrinsically) good. God created mankind and saw that it was good; God created humans to be a little lower than the angels.  God created humans with a purpose, with intellectual ability, creativity, power (dominion over the animals), and with ethical choices.  Humans are created with moral, spiritual, mental, relational, and physical aspects, all of which speak to God’s glory.  And these things are true even for the most wicked, and these things will remain true when sin exists no more.  Lastly, God’s image and likeness are still retained past the Fall.  Wayne Grudem affirms this and is also correct in saying that “God’s image is distorted but not lost.”[2]  But the question we must ask is, ‘To what extent?’  And this is where I find myself in disagree with statements like the following by John Calvin (Institutes of the Christian Religion, 2.5.19):

the mind of man is so entirely alienated from the righteousness of God that he cannot conceive, desire, or design anything but what is wicked, distorted, foul, impure, and iniquitous; that his heart is so thoroughly envenomed by sin, that it can breathe out nothing but corruption and rottenness.

But more than citing Bible verses supporting the idea that man is essentially good, it is evident that man is not essentially bad because we understand that one can be a human and be without sin.  This means that sin is not what defines a human.  The old adage from Alexander Pope, ‘to err is human,’ is wrong.  Rather, to sin is to be inhuman.  I think it would be more accurate to say that sin can be used as a description of fallen humanity, but sin is not what essentially makes something a human.  Sinning is not acting in accordance with proper teleology.

In my next post(s), I’ll interact with theological statements and biblical interpretations made by Total Depravitists to see if they (the statements and interpretations) can withstand scrutiny. Thanks for being interested!

 


[1] Augustine Casiday, “Rehabilitating John Cassian: an Evaluation of Prosper of Aquitaine’s Polemic Against the ‘Semipelagians,’” Scottish Journal of Theology 58, no. 3 (August 2005): 270-284. http://dro.dur.ac.uk/2660/1/2660.pdf?DDD32+dth1ac+dth4ap+dul0jk

[2]   Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), 444.

Comments (29)

  1. taco@tacos.net
    taco 5 years ago

    You would do better to use an understanding of Total depravity from LBCF chapter 6. especially to help with some category confusion you seem to have with respect to image of God and the will of man and the moral pronouncement God made of all His creation.

    1. What specifically about chapter 6 do you refer to?

      By the way, I disagree with what chapter 6 affirms, especially “wholly defiled in all the faculties and parts of soul and body,” “the guilt of the sin was imputed,” and “utterly indisposed, disabled, and made opposite to all good.”

      1. taco@taocs.net
        taco 5 years ago

        What specifically about chapter 6 do you refer to?

        All of it. You seem to be quite confused. It isn’t a matter of your agreeing or disagreeing, it is a matter of you understanding what you are trying to critique (with finesse).

        1. Ah, I see what you meant, now.

          Well, my biggest beef with Total Depravity is the aspect of Inability and following that, Inherited Guilt. So the wiki definition served as an acceptable example for my purposes.

          1. bigbadbamafan@gmail.com
            Justin M. 5 years ago

            Kurt,

            you said,

            “Well, my biggest beef with Total Depravity is the aspect of Inability and following that, Inherited Guilt.”

            Why do you have beef with this? Adam introduced sin into humanity, and we all stand condemned? Do you disagree that is a teaching of Scripture? (1 Kings 8:46; Rom. 3:9-23; 5:12; 7:18;1 John 1:8-10)

            What about inability? Do you disagree that we are dead in our sin (Ephesians 2:1-4) Does this have intellectual implications [not just misbehaving, but problem of the heart, that is intellectual, willful, and affectional opposition to the truth ] ? (1 Corinthians 1:18-24,Romans 1:18-20)

            If this is the case, as a Christian, why do you find the biblical model of man problematic?

            This doesn’t in any way alleviate our responsibility of preaching the gospel and defending the faith, because we are still commanded to do it. But we don’t put those things aside just because we find those things “counterproductive” to the way we’d like it to be. This should produce humility and our sense of reliance as servants of the Most High God, who is with us, and those people who are not consumed by His Holiness .

          2. Kurt Jaros 5 years ago

            Justin, I replied in the comments section down below. Our comments system only allows so many replies to each comment, so I’ve started another one for us.

  2. JonathanB84@gmail.com

    >>Something that I have often found in the theological literature is a lack of finesse in dealing with this issue. Many times I’ll come across false dichotomies and/or improper or lack of necessary distinctions… For instance, one can believe that the Fall did taint and corrupt human nature (contra Pelagianism) yet still believe that Fall did not affect humans in such a way that they are unable to do anything toward their salvation (contra Augustinianism).

    Not sure who you have in mind that lacks that “finesse”. But Reformed folk have always recognized what you say about believing the fall tainted and corrupted human nature, yet not so as to deprive man of libertarian freedom in regards to salvation. It would be pretty hard to deny such an approach, since it has sort of been the center of debate between Calvinists and Arminians as well as Roman Catholics.

    >>Though, they might try and argue that if one doesn’t agree with them, that it entails Pelagianism (which doesn’t follow).

    The Calvinists I know of and have read have never argued that if you’re not a Calvinist you must be a Pelagian… I’m surprised you haven’t heard the term semi-Pelagian, since they use it a lot to describe those who disagree with Pelagianism but aren’t entirely Augustinian either.

    >> So, in the following series of posts, I’ll provide some reasons for thinking why Total Depravitists haven’t sufficiently demonstrated that their view is true.

    I look forward to interacting as time permits.

    >>The Scripture teaches us that man is essentially (or intrinsically) good. […] God created humans with a purpose, with intellectual ability, creativity, power (dominion over the animals), and with ethical choices.

    I think you’re talking past the issue of what people usually mean when they address the question of whether humans are basically good. The question has to do with moral disposition. Is man morally disposed to the good or to the wicked? That has nothing to do, per se, with whether God created humans with a purpose, with intellectual ability, creativity, etc. It may be that having intellectual ability is a “good” in some sense. But that’s not what people are addressing, as I understand it, when they want to affirm or know whether humans are basically good.

    >> Lastly, God’s image and likeness are still retained past the Fall. Wayne Grudem affirms this and is also correct in saying that “God’s image is distorted but not lost.”

    Which is exactly what Calvin said (cf. Institutes 1.15.4).

    >>And this is where I find myself in disagree with statements like the following by John Calvin

    Let me give some context to the Calvin quote. You have a period at the end of your Calvin quote, but that’s not actually where the sentence ends in Calvin’s Institutes!

    Calvin is responding to a specific argument used by some to demonstrate that man is not entirely “dead” to spiritual truths or God. Calvin says the argument, based on a parable, is misguided and then he says:

    “But be it that this allegory is good evidence, what can they extort out of it? Man is half dead, therefore there is some soundness in him. True! he has a mind capable of understanding, though incapable of attaining to heavenly and spiritual wisdom; he has some discernment of what is honourable; he has some sense of the Divinity, though he cannot reach the true knowledge of God. But to what do these amount? They certainly do not refute the doctrine of Augustine—a doctrine confirmed by the common suffrages even of the Schoolmen, that after the fall, the free gifts on which salvation depends were withdrawn, and natural gifts corrupted and defiled (supra, chap. 2 sec. 2). Let it stand, therefore, as an indubitable truth, which no engines can shake, that the mind of man is so entirely alienated from the righteousness of God that he cannot conceive, desire, or design any thing but what is wicked, distorted, foul, impure, and iniquitous; that his heart is so thoroughly envenomed by sin that it can breathe out nothing but corruption and rottenness; that if some men occasionally make a show of goodness, their mind is ever interwoven with hypocrisy and deceit, their soul inwardly bound with the fetters of wickedness.”

    The last line which you left out of your quote indicates that Calvin’s position isn’t so extreme as you make it out to be by only quoting a part of his sentence. Furthermore, you should read what he says just a few sections *prior* to this quote in 2.3.3. To quote just part:

    “In every age there have been some who, under the guidance of nature, were all their lives devoted to virtue. It is of no consequence, that many blots may be detected in their conduct; by the mere study of virtue, they evinced that there was somewhat of purity in their nature. The value which virtues of this kind have in the sight of God will be considered more fully when we treat of the merit of works. Meanwhile however, it will be proper to consider it in this place also, in so far as necessary for the exposition of the subject in hand. Such examples, then, seem to warn us against supposing that the nature of man is utterly vicious, since, under its guidance, some have not only excelled in illustrious deeds, but conducted themselves most honourably through the whole course of their lives.”

    I quote that portion of 2.3.3 only to “whet the appetite” for seeking out a more nuanced understanding of Calvin on this issue. We need finesse in dealing with Scripture, sure. We also need it in dealing with others.

    >> it is evident that man is not essentially bad because we understand that one can be a human and be without sin.
    No “Total Derpavist” thinks man is essentially sinful in that sense. So now it looks like you’re knocking down a straw-man.

    >> This means that sin is not what defines a human. The old adage from Alexander Pope, ‘to err is human,’ is wrong. Rather, to sin is to be inhuman.

    I think everyone would agree with this.

    1. “But Reformed folk have always recognized what you say about believing the fall tainted and corrupted human nature, yet not so as to deprive man of libertarian freedom in regards to salvation.”

      That’s not quite true. Calvinists, Arminians, and even Roman Catholics believe that God must perform some act of superadded grace to counteract the effects of the Fall. Wesleyans and Catholics (from the Council of Trent) affirm prevenient grace. I am calling into question that the Fall affected humans so badly that God needed/needs to perform some extra act of grace for the individual. (I believe that God did perform an act of grace in the Incarnation, Ministry, Death (Atonement), and Resurrection of Christ, but whether something for the individual is necessary I doubt.)

      “Semi-Pelagian”
      I’m quite familiar with the term “semi-Pelagian.” Luther was the first to use it. I use to call myself that until I discovered that a “semi-Pelagian” is someone who affirms what the Eastern Orthodox church holds.

      “I think you’re talking past the issue of what people usually mean when they address the question of whether humans are basically good. The question has to do with moral disposition. Is man morally disposed to the good or to the wicked?”

      This is why I’m proposing that we need finesse; we need to be careful with how we use our language. Brake’s essay doesn’t make this (important) distinction. I have no problem saying that man has a propensity to sin. But that is saying something different than “man’s essence is evil.” That statement is false, given that one can be a human and not be evil.

      “Calvin”
      Providing a broader context doesn’t change Calvin’s conclusion. I believe that man is spiritually dead. But I don’t think “dead” means what Calvin thinks it means. And I would charge Calvin with a contradiction. How can man have “some discernment of what is honourable” if he can only “conceive, desire, or design any thing but what is wicked, distorted, foul, impure, and iniquitous”? The fact is, man is not “so entirely alienated from the righteousness of God” if he can have “some discernment over what is honourable.” One can’t have their cake and eat it, too.

      “No “Total Derpavist” thinks man is essentially sinful in that sense.”
      I’ve met some Calvinists that would say this. Granted, they weren’t exactly analytical thinkers, so they probably didn’t understand precisely what they were saying. 😉

      Thanks for your interest, John. I look forward to your comments in reply or the next set you’ll bring to my next post!

  3. JonathanB84@gmail.com

    >>Calvinists, Arminians, and even Roman Catholics believe that God must perform some act of superadded grace… I am calling into question that the Fall affected humans so badly…

    Thanks for the clarification there.

    >>Brake’s essay doesn’t make this (important) distinction.

    Brake also doesn’t say man is essentially sinful, from what I could find.

    >>Providing a broader context doesn’t change Calvin’s conclusion.

    Of course it doesn’t. But it does change the reader’s understanding of Calvin’s conclusion. As I said, given your quote it gives the impression that Calvin wouldn’t have recognized that an unregenerate man can do anything good.

    >>How can man have “some discernment of what is honourable” if he can only “conceive, desire, or design any thing but what is wicked, distorted, foul, impure, and iniquitous”?

    That’s why I pointed to 2.3.3. In short, common grace.

    >>I’ve met some Calvinists that would say this. Granted, they weren’t exactly analytical thinkers, so they probably didn’t understand precisely what they were saying.

    “Essentially” in common usage differs from the philosophical usage you give it. I don’t think it’s fair to criticize someone on the basis of your philosophical usage when you concede they probably aren’t thinking philosophically to begin with. But a small point eitherway.

    1. Re: Calvin,

      Yes, Calvin thinks that without God’s (superadded common) grace, the unregenerate man can do absolutely, utterly nothing good.

      This is precisely what I call into question. I think this idea is contrived on the basis that people who affirm it merely do so because they 1. think the Scripture tells that man can no longer do any good action according to his own power and yet 2. observe that unregenerate men do good things, so therefore 3. it must be by God’s superadded common grace.

      I think 2 is correct, but 1 and 3 are false.

      Hope that helps.

      1. JonathanB84@gmail.com
        John Bowling 5 years ago

        >> I think this idea is contrived on the basis that… observe that unregenerate men do good things

        That’s incorrect. Whether intentional or not, you paint it as though the Reformed person is attempting to reconcile Scripture with experience that doesn’t line up with their interpretation of Scripture. But if you actually read what the Reformed theologians are saying about this issue you’ll see that they (1) give Scriptural support for the idea of common, restraining grace and (2) give Scriptural support to the fact that unregenerate men do good things (e.g., Reymond’s Systematic Theology, p. 451-452). So in fact they think Scripture supports 1, 2, and 3.

  4. JonathanB84@gmail.com

    By the way, if we are going by what some “guy on the street” (so to speak) has told us then there are plenty of Arminians etc. who don’t know about or adhere to superadded grace or prevenient grace.

    1. I’m not convinced I’d call such people Arminians, then!

      Olson and Horton both believe that the vast majority of Americans are so called “Semi-Pelagians.” I think that’s a misnomer, but I think they are right.

      1. JonathanB84@gmail.com
        John Bowling 5 years ago

        Then why would we call people who deny that one can be a human without sin Christian, since they would have to affirm some form of heresy regarding the incarnation?

        1. Christians can have beliefs that are wrong. And I imagine that many people haven’t thought well enough about the issue if they believe that humans cannot be human unless they sin.

          1. JonathanB84@gmail.com
            John Bowling 5 years ago

            Sorry I haven’t been very clear here.

            A while ago you said “Calvinists, Arminians, and even Roman Catholics believe that God must perform some act of superadded grace…”

            I initially just said thanks for clarification, but my follow up “BTW” was meant to be an addendum to that. So I was saying when it comes to Total Depravity you are willing to say that some Calvinists believe that sin is an essential part of what it means to be human per se–even though it’s obvious that no Calvinist would want actually affirm this had he simply thought about what you are saying he says. But when people who identify themselves as Arminians don’t affirm prevenient grace you want to say they aren’t *really* Arminians. But then why not call those Calvinists you mention not *really* Christian? Now you say that they are just Christians who haven’t thought through the issue well enough. Well then why can’t we say the same for the Arminian who doesn’t affirm prevenient grace?

            Anyway, not an important point for either of us I suspect 🙂

        2. You’re right that this is not an important point for us.

          One point on potential confusion and another to answer your question

          Potential confusion: You changed your statement in your previous comment to read “people who identify themselves … ” That’s a distinction you didn’t make in your first comment. Your initial comment read, “there are plenty of Arminians …” which I took to mean that you were describing them as Arminians. But, if they were to self-identify as Arminians, then I think perhaps they have given themselves a mislabel because …

          (the answer to “why would we call people who deny that one can be a human without sin Christian?” is that) one can still be a Christian by most definitions and hold to the belief that man is essentially/intrinsically sinful. But one couldn’t be an Arminian by most definitions and not hold to prevenient grace (a distinguishing feature contra Calvinist regeneration, Wesleyan common grace, Lutheran illumination, etc.).

          1. JonathanB84@gmail.com
            John Bowling 5 years ago

            >>You changed your statement in your previous comment to read “people who identify themselves … ” That’s a distinction you didn’t make in your first comment. Your initial comment read, “there are plenty of Arminians …” which I took to mean that you were describing them as Arminians.

            If a person calls themselves Arminians and holds to the basic points of Arminianism then I describe them as Arminians. Now you will probably want to point out that prevenient grace is part of the fourth article of Remonstrance, and surely the articles of Remonstrance represent the basic points of Arminianism. That’s true in the same way TULIP or the Canons of Dort represent the basic points of Calvinism. But some Calvinists misunderstand Total Depravity, yet I think most would still call them Calvinists. In fact, isn’t that what you’re pointing out: a misunderstanding of TD on the part of some who think it means to be human = to be sinful? I’ve met Arminians who think they affirm the fourth article simply by affirm that God’s drawing to salvation is resistable, without adding the qualification of prevenient grace into the mix.

            Seems to me they are Arminian, but if you want to call them something different but not do the same for the person confused over TD, then whatevs 🙂

  5. Justin M.,

    “Why do you have beef with this?”
    Because I don’t think the Bible supports those two notions (Inability and Inherited Guilt) within Total Depravity.

    “Adam introduced sin into humanity,”
    Agreed!

    “and we all stand condemned?”
    We all stand condemned for our own sin, not Adam’s.

    “Do you disagree that is a teaching of Scripture?”
    The second part of that sentence, yes.

    “Do you disagree that we are dead in our sin”
    No, I don’t disagree. But I probably understand it differently than you do. Spiritually (literally) dead beings can’t commit sinful behavior, nor can they be under God’s wrath. So I take it Paul means something different than how most Reformed folk interpret it.

    “Does this have intellectual implications”
    Absolutely! But I don’t think it’s as severe as Reformed folk do.

    “If this is the case, as a Christian, why do you find the biblical model of man problematic?”
    I don’t find the biblical model of man problematic. I find the Reformed view of the biblical model of man problematic.

    I’ll address some of the biblical passages you mentioned in future posts. Also, if you could refrain from loading your questions as if your view is the only option, that’d be great. This is what I’m talking about regarding finesse.

    Thanks for you interest!

    1. bigbadbamafan@gmail.com

      Thanks for your reply Jared, it is much appreciated!

      I will respond to our points of disagreements, in hopes to clarify what Reformed folk (following Scripture, I think!) believe.

      We both agree, that Adam introduced sin into Adam, and as a result, the curse of death.

      However you go on to say;

      “We all stand condemned for our own sin, not Adam’s.”

      I find Paul’s statement in v. 13 interesting, for he says

      “for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law”

      I would understand this to mean that the law had not yet been given in written form, as it was to moses. Paul goes on to say in 14

      “Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who had not sinned according to the likeness of the transgression of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come.

      so in v. 13, we know that sin was in the world before the mosaic law, and that where there is no law, but sin is not counted where there is no law. However in v 14 says that the punishment of sin viz. death, continued from Adam to Moses, even though the transgressions was not alike to Adam’s sin.

      So we know that Adam is a Type of Christ. (v. 14) How so? Because in Adam, our representative, we inherit the righteousness that comes by birth. In Christ, we are born again and made right with God.

      V.18 caps this off
      “Therefore, as through one man’s offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man’s righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life.”

      The judgement of death has been declared on us in Adam because he represented humanity in sinning, However, it is in the second man, Jesus Christ, Righteousness and Life come. This is why we use the federal language, and why we speak of covenant heads. We are in Adam, or in Christ. Spirit wrought faith in Christ leads to the other.

      I’ll address some of your other points another time, but I wanted to clarify what the scripture says here, and speak on behalf of what the confessions, creeds, canons, and catechisms teach here.

      I’d also like to address “death” in eph 2, and what Paul means there, but I will save that perhaps for another time.

      I hope that I’ve made a few things a bit more clear in this area! Thanks again!

      Blessings!

      1. Justin, I’m familiar with the Federal Headship and Augustinian Realism views. I deny both.

        This idea of Adam bringing guilt to each individual directly through his sin* is hardly found in the Greek church fathers. David Weaver, writing on the meaning of Romans 5:12 (the Scriptural crux for inherited guilt), observes, “Whatever their opinion on the grammatical question, the Greek writers without exception understood this inheritance to be an inheritance of mortality and corruption only, without an inheritance of guilt—which for them could only result from a freely committed personal act.”
        David Weaver, “From Paul to Augustine: Romans 5:12 in Early Christian Exegesis,” St. Vladimir’s Theological Quarterly 27 (1983): 187-206.

        Alister McGrath agrees: “The idea of transmitted guilt, a central feature of Augustine’s later doctrine of original sin, is totally absent from the Greek patristic tradition.”
        Alister E. McGrath, Christian Theology: An Introduction, (Oxford: Blackwell, 1997), 426.

        I plan to write a post on Romans 5, so I’ll let you know when it is up in a few weeks.

        *One might be able to understand the phrase “Adam brought guilt” in a different sense: “Adam brought corruption to each human person, and through each person’s own sin they acquire guilt. Therefore, Adam (indirectly) brought guilt.”

        1. JonathanB84@gmail.com
          John Bowling 5 years ago

          >>*One might be able to understand the phrase “Adam brought guilt” in a different sense: “Adam brought corruption to each human person, and through each person’s own sin they acquire guilt. Therefore, Adam (indirectly) brought guilt.”

          What do you mean by corruption? Is this some sort of moral corruption? Does it give persons some innate inclination toward sin?

          1. Kurt Jaros 5 years ago

            John, I would certainly affirm that what Adam passed on to his posterity was a propensity/inclination to sin. He passed on a fallen human nature that is debased, tainted, corrupt, etc.

            By corruption, I might understand something to be corrupt when it is not perfect. One blemish in a painting or document would warrant the label “corrupt.”

            I’m not precisely sure what you mean by “moral corruption,” but I would say that the fallen human nature has affected our ability to make moral judgments, though perhaps not to the extent that Reformed folk might think it has.

          2. JonathanB84@gmail.com
            John Bowling 5 years ago

            Thanks for the clarification. Would you say that such a corrupted person, if theoretically he never went on to personally sin, would still need the atonement of Jesus?

          3. Kurt Jaros 5 years ago

            That’s a tough question.

            As you point out, this is strictly theoretical/hypothetical. The Scripture teaches that as a matter of fact, all humans sin.

            But it does appear as though living perfectly by the Law would merit salvation:
            James 2:10, “For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all.”
            Ecclesiastes 7:20, “There is not a righteous man on earth who [always] does what is right and never sins.”

            At the same token, said person, though not worthy of spiritual death, still physically dies (because of the corrupted nature that we are born with). So, God’s grace, perhaps through Christ’s atonement, would be effective for the physical renewing of the body on the day of resurrection.

            But again, this is strictly theoretical since there is no such person.

        2. bigbadbamafan@gmail.com

          “Justin, I’m familiar with the Federal Headship and Augustinian Realism views. I deny both.”

          Yes, you made that clear that you denied the views, but it’s one thing to *deny* them, and it’s quite another to demonstrate why you do. I understand why you use the distinctions you use and the labels that have been attached to the nuances, but to be quite honest, unless there is an exegetical reason to distinguish Federal headship and what you call “Augustinian realism” from the views you espouse, then it remains abstract speculation.

          “This idea of Adam bringing guilt to each individual directly through his sin* is hardly found in the Greek church fathers.”

          While one could get caught up going through the ECFs, and the issues they discuss, ultimately speaking, one needs to realize that our final authority, and final reference point is God speaking in Scripture. The Church is obviously helpful and useful in pointing us to the scriptures, but the church’s authority is derivative from Scripture. It’s not enough to find a ECF who disagrees.

          “David Weaver, writing on the meaning of Romans 5:12 (the Scriptural crux for inherited guilt), observes, “Whatever their opinion on the grammatical question, the Greek writers without exception understood this inheritance to be an inheritance of mortality and corruption only, without an inheritance of guilt—which for them could only result from a freely committed personal act.”

          This contradicts what Paul goes on to say in V. 13 and 14

          “for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. Nevertheless, death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come.

          1. sin was in the world before the written law
          2. sin wasn’t *counted* where there was no law.

          The question that arises here is “why did these men die, if their sin was not counted against them?”

          Obviously following Adam, the corruption was indeed present, but Paul seems to go on to say that though the corruption was present, because of the curse, the *sin* itself was not counted, because there was no written law. It particular that period in redemptive history. However, as Paul says “nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses”, on whose account? Was it each individual? Paul denies that notion! Paul goes on to speak in “Federal terms” comparing Adam as a “figure” or “type” of the one to come. v. 16 “the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification.”

          So the one man Adam, representing humanity brought condemnation to all men, we are united naturally to Adam. Christ, the second man, brings the heavenly benefits (redemption from the condemnation and slavery of the corruption of sin) to those who are united to him by faith. David himself knew this when he said “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, And in sin my mother conceived me.”. He was particularly referring to the human nature in which Adam was a representative. The human nature stands condemned because our representative declared war and rebellion.

          “Alister McGrath agrees: “The idea of transmitted guilt, a central feature of Augustine’s later doctrine of original sin, is totally absent from the Greek patristic tradition.”
          Alister E. McGrath, Christian Theology: An Introduction, (Oxford: Blackwell, 1997), 426.”

          Again, I have no problem with that, the greek fathers had their strong suits, however, they weren’t correct about everything. Which, given their situation and context, is understandable. They didn’t seem to distinguish between justification and sanctification. That being said, there were points of agreement and points of disagreement, even between their own. You seem to make statements like that as if Reformed Orthodoxy is totally ignorant of their works. Many of us who are concerned about church history recognize God’s revelation to us in Scripture, and how it worked it’s way out in the church from year 1 until now. but I’m not really interested in getting into a quote fest with the greek fathers, I’m interested in helping you understand Reformed orthodoxy, whether you agree with me or not, so that it will create some talking points between us.

          “I plan to write a post on Romans 5, so I’ll let you know when it is up in a few weeks.”

          Thanks Kurt, I will look forward to reading it!

          *One might be able to understand the phrase “Adam brought guilt” in a different sense: “Adam brought corruption to each human person, and through each person’s own sin they acquire guilt. Therefore, Adam (indirectly) brought guilt.”

          One may understand it that way, however scripture teaches both. It teaches corruption and condemnation relative to our own sins, and it teaches corruption and condemnation relative to Adam’s sin. That is why what is most basic to our salvation is union with Christ. He removes the condemnation imputed and inherited, by taking it on to Himself His sufferings and death, and we experience the benefits in being raised up with Him into new life, we are no longer condemned, and we are being conformed to Christ’s perfect image.

          1. Kurt Jaros 5 years ago

            Justin, I’ll hold off on directly replying as much of this might be addressed in my future Romans 5 post.

            But I’m curious, what is it that makes you think I need to understand Reformed orthodoxy? Or rather, what is it about what I’ve written that makes you think I don’t understand orthodox Reformed theology?

  6. bigbadbamafan@gmail.com

    “Justin, I’ll hold off on directly replying as much of this might be addressed in my future Romans 5 post.”

    Alright Kurt,

    thanks for your gracious responses

    “But I’m curious, what is it that makes you think I need to understand Reformed orthodoxy? Or rather, what is it about what I’ve written that makes you think I don’t understand orthodox Reformed theology?”

    Well, you noted that none of the Greek Fathers (which is quite a bold claim) agreed with the doctrine of Sin and Man as understood by the Reformed tradition of thought, namely, the Federalism. But anyone whose familiar with the writings of Reformed theologians, would know that there isn’t any ignorance of the greek fathers as a whole, (an in the particulars). There was much ink spilt in the interactions with the works of the eastern church (as well as the western)

    As far as original sin is concerned, one would need to be reminded that the greeks did not have the leisure or time to develop their thought, as they were in constant interaction with gnosticism, and spent most of the time combating that, rather than developing a working doctrine of sin, and the implications. So we would need to be careful before we use that as a “go to” to discard the doctrine. Not to mention, the church Eastern or Western has never been in full agreement all around. If we found ourselves, like Athanasius “contra mundum” for scriptural reasons, we would need to recognize this, and continue to strive for biblical consistency, in any doctrine of Scripture.

    In any case, I will await your response, and I don’t say any of this to you out of arrogance. but for the sake of edification, and unity.

    Thanks Kurt,

    Justin

Leave a reply