Archive for the ‘philosophy’ Category

Perception Changes Everything   Leave a comment

If we want to reach our culture with conservative political/economic principles and/or Christianity (I recognize that not everyone believes as I do), we need to understand the thought processes of the culture around us. That can be sort of hard when the world view of our culture is in flux.

Politically, Modernism strongly influenced the United States. “We hold these truths to be self-evident” is a modernist statement. The following clause “endowed by Our Creator” is evidence that early modernists did not reject faith as having a place in reality. There is truth, our Founders said, and we can know truth if we are open to it.

Unfortunately, Modernism took a nasty turn. It became dictatorial. It increasingly focused on scientific studies as the only way to see the world. Metaphysics were shunted aside in favor of that which could be understood by the slide-rule and microscope.

Postmodernism reacted against Modernism, recognizing that scientists are often wrong and that our understanding of reality is influenced by our perceptual apparatus.

Here’s an example.

To my husband’s sister, it is a verifiable truth that the world is overcrowded. She looks outside her window in a East Coast state and sees a mass of people living in houses that are squeezed together on tiny little lots. She drives crowded highways and shops in crowded malls. She sees television shows that show the throngs of people in Mumbai and Singapore. Clearly, the world is overcrowded.

To me, the world is not all that overcrowded. I look outside my window in Alaska and I see houses on larger lots with just a few people living inside each. My brother can’t even see his neighbors from his deck. I drive on highways that are only briefly crowded during rush hour. I go hiking in the woods and see nobody for days. I wonder why people in Mumbai choose to live on top of one another. I know, because I’ve studied, that the entire human population could fit in the state of Texas standing up with elbow room, and that only about 25% of American land is even lightly used. Clearly, the world is not so overcrowded.

We both are educated people who have access to the same evidence, but our different perspectives color how we view the world. That acknowledgment is a gift of Postmodernism. It’s often stated as “truth is relative”, but in reality, the perception of truth is subjective.

An atheist can look at the evidence of the natural world and say there is no god and there is no necessity for god because the natural world is sufficient in and of itself to create and sustain itself.

A person of faith can look at the exact same evidence of the natural world and praise God for creating and sustaining it.

Perspective changes everything. And, we owe Postmodernism a debt of gratitude for teaching us that. Had we stuck with Modernism, Christianity would have been doomed by the constant insistence that only scientists are qualified to make truth statements. Postmodernism allows for freedom of thought, for divergent opinion. That’s a good thing because in that evironment, if it actually existed, Christianity would just be another point of view with equal validity.

Unfortunately, that’s not really the world we live in, which is why we do not owe Postmodernism our souls and we should be relieved that the postmodern era is slowly giving way to the next.

For once, it might be a good idea for Christians to decide our reaction to this cultural movement early on rather than coming late to the party and looking foolish. This warning also operates for political conservatives. There’s a sea change coming. Are we ready for it?

Posted September 30, 2013 by aurorawatcherak in Common sense, philosophy

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A True Conservative Response to Afghanistan   Leave a comment

I don’t agree that the United States should pull back into its borders and reduce our military to the point where we can only defend our borders. I don’t believe that will stop radical Islam from coming after us. In fact, I think it will embolden them. Peace through strength is a sensible option that protects our sovereignty. And, we should never back down when attacked.

However, the neoconservative idea that we need to be perpetually at war or at least sticking our noses into conflicts all over the world is crazy. Yes, crazy! Unsustainable! Dangerous! At odds not only with our founding principles, but also with liberty! Our nation can be strong without being meddlesome and imperialistic.

Pragmatically speaking, it’s hard to say where founding principles would put us today in the Middle East. We would probably have supported Israel to at least some extent because it is a democratic country and because, quite frankly, the United States of American knew about the Holocaust a long time before our entry into the war and, for that, we owed the Jewish people a homeland. Had we taken a somewhat different view with the Israelis on some issues (consistent with our principles!), there’s no way to know what changes might have occurred in the surrounding countries. The Islamic people have long cultural memories and a strong sense of multigeneration revenge. It’s easy to anger them and hard to repair things once you’ve done it. That shouldn’t keep us from upholding our own principles. Maybe if we were more consistent with that, we’d have less trouble because those who oppose us would respect our adherence to principle over politics.

Again, I’m going to break with my libertarian leanings and say we should have supported the mujahideen against the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan, which was a puppet state of the Soviet Union. We did support them covertly, but we should have been more open about and we should have given them a great deal more arms and aid. They eventually grew into a democratic movement that formed the Islamic State of Afghanistan under Ahmad Shah Massoud, which tried to institute democratic elections and civil rights reform involving women. They faced an uphill battle against the Pakistan-backed Taliban and could have used our help. Would Afghanistan have been more or less prone to shelter al-Qaeda had the democratic Islamic State remained in charge? The Islamic State became the Northern Alliance that helped with the invasion of Tora Bora; in the areas they controlled during the reign of the Taliban, they instituted tribal self-government with democratic reforms and civil rights for women … consistent with our principles. There’s no way of knowing now how that might have worked out, but parts of this former administration are still active in Afghanistan today as the political party of the National Coalition of Afghanistan – still pushing for democratic reforms.

Here are some things to consider – looking at what-if the United States had adhered to our founding principles in the Middle East. Supporting the Islamic State was consistent with our principles. Giving the Pakistan government millions of dollars in support would not be. Yes, Pakistan is a democratic parliamentary federal republic, but it was supporting the Taliban attack on a democratic reform movement in Afghanistan. Pakistan is a fairly moderate Islamic regime within its own borders – women can run for president – but it was supporting a totalitarian state in the Taiban. If we had not been giving Pakistan foreign aid money, it would have made it more difficult for them to fund the Taliban and no doubt al-Qaeda.  Instead, we played politics, giving too little support to the mujahideen and then stopping the support as soon as the Islamic State seemed ready to stabilize the country AND also funding neighboring Pakistan that was working to bring the Islamic State down.

What was our government attempting to accomplish? Knowing someone who is (retired) counter intelligence for the Army, I know that THEY were not confused between the Islamic State and the “mujahideen” who were to become the Taliban. That’s something they wanted civilians to believe, but they knew the difference. Why they lumped them together to convince Congress to defund aid there doesn’t make sense to me anymore than why we were funding Pakistan at the same time as the mujahideen. Maybe someday they’ll declassify a document that will answer that question. I don’t know. I do know we should have been supporting the move toward liberty and not funding the opposition to it.

I’m going to insist that the neoconservatives were quite comfortable with what we did and with the outcome because it plays very well into their version of foreign policy where we’re constantly at war or sticking our noses in where we should not.

So, what-if wasn’t and al-Qaeda struck us. We were not wrong to hit back hard because it was an attack on our sovereignty. What should we have done after we brought down the Taliban? Again, we were funding Pakistan, which we should not if we’re going to be consistent with our principles. So, don’t support Pakistan financially and, now that our temporary allies have kicked the Taliban out of Afghanistan – being consistent with our founding principles, what should we have done?

Say What You Believe   2 comments

You really want to believe in Christ, but it’s going to affect your career, your marriage, your standing in the community. So isn’t it enough to accept Christ in your heart and keep it to yourself? I was asked this question not long ago and the inquirer made a good point. What if someone accepts Christ then dies before they have time to confess their salvation?

Hmmm?

I’ve often accepted as a given that someone could accept Christ on their death bed and be accepted into Heaven, but what if that person were not able to speak and therefore unable to confess their salvation? Okay, now I’m stumped and I will confess that I remain stumped on that portion of the question. My only answer is that God knows what was in that person’s heart and He is the ultimate arbitrator of who gets to enter His kingdom. I don’t know the answer, but I’m convinced that God not only knows the answer, but that Jesus Christ is the Answer, so I don’t really need to know. I think it’s narcissistic of us to believe we have to understand God totally. No, we don’t. He’s God, we’re humans. We’re like ants to Him. We will never fully understand Him and that should be fine with us.

Corinthians tells Christians to judge their fellow believers, so I’m turning from metaphysical questions to the more pragmatic part of the question. Can a person believe in Jesus Christ, but not confess that belief before men and still consider himself saved.

At the risk that you won’t read the rest of this post … NO!

Romans 10:9-10 says “because if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and thus has righteousness and with the mouth one confesses and thus has salvation.”

There are those who try to explain away the meaning of these words and there are those who adhere to them like barnacles to a boat hull, but what is really the answer beyond dogmatism.

First, someone will note that Paul puts confession before belief in verse 9. That’s because (in verse 9) he’s quoting Moses’ words from Deuteronomy 30:14 and that’s how Moses wrote it. In verse 10, Paul’s own words and instructions appear — believe and then confess, which is really the only chronology that makes sense.

The word “confess” here is homologeo the same as used in 1 John 1:9 and means to “say the same thing about something as others have said”. Early Christians risked their lives by saying “Jesus is Lord”. First, the Jews tried to kill them for blasphemy and then the Romans tried to kill them because Caesar was “lord” in their society. So the simple statement “Jesus is Lord” was the most common confession that Christians of the 1st century made and it carried a great deal of importance.

In verse 9, Paul directly states that believing and confessing are both essential for salvation. In verse 10, while believing and confessing are now set apart into two separate clauses, confession is still declared to result in salvation. Confession (homologeo) in this context cannot be as easily explained as that which takes place in the heart as a private act before God as some might hope. The term “mouth” implies an oral confession. God does not need one to “confess with the mouth” for his benefit. He can see into the heart to discern our faith, and grant us justification at the very moment of faith.

Yet the vast majority of NT passages mention faith as the only condition for eternal life. What is more, the Gospel of John, written for the precise purpose of clarifying the condition for receiving eternal life (20:30-31), nowhere states that our eternal destiny is determined by “confessing with the mouth.” In fact, John wrote the very opposite—that one can trust Christ for eternal life (and actually receive it), but fail to confess the Lord publicly. He wrote, “Nevertheless even among the rulers many believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess [homologeo„] Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue…” (12:42). John knew of those who did not openly identify with Christ for fear of persecution and rejection, yet they had come to faith that brings eternal life.

To find Paul’s meaning in Romans 10:9-10, we need to investigate the book itself more deeply. In Romans, it is undeniable that Paul’s favorite term for redemption is the heavily theological word, “justification” (dikaiosune). For Paul justification is a legal or forensic term referring to the imputed righteousness the believer receives at the moment of faith. Paul discussed justification in great detail in 3:21–5:11, climaxing his treatise with a discussion of a few of its marvelous blessings (5:1-11). Paul’s thorough treatment of justification was been completed in Romans long before he arrived at the Romans 10:9-10 argument.

In the 3:21–5:11 passage, Paul made absolutely no mention of “confessing Jesus as Lord” in order to receive justification. In these early passages, the apostle repeatedly stressed the need for faith alone, just as the Reformers later discovered. It seems rather strange that in chapter 10 Paul would add to justification by faith the need for “confession” —a concept he completely excluded in the early chapters of his epistle. In fact, Paul never mentioned confession as a requirement for justification in any of his other epistles.

Practically speaking and theologically accurate, justification means “to be declared as righteous as Christ is righteous.” If you’re as righteous as Christ, what more is needed for eternal life? The answer should be evident: nothing more is needed to get to heaven than to be justified in the sight of God (Romans 3:20; 4:2). This is why Paul combined the two concepts in his phrase, “justification of life” in 5:18. For Paul and his epistle to the Romans, there is nothing more needed to get to heaven than to be justified by faith in Christ alone. But nothing in Romans 10:9-10 contradicts this. Romans 10:10a reads, “For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified…” (italics added, NIV). In chapter 10, Paul is in perfect harmony with his own teaching in the other parts of his epistle.

It’s important to note that Paul is discussing Judaism just prior to this verse and is, in fact, quoting Deuteronomy 30 in verses 6-8, demonstrating that Israel should have listened to the exhortation of Scripture that pointed her to the need for divine help issuing from faith. Romans 10:9-10 is in reality a further interpretation of the truth Paul finds in Deut 30:12-14, namely that the righteousness that comes from faith is available to all, and so is the divine help (salvation) that can follow justification. Deuteronomy 30:11-14 reads,

For this commandment which I command you today is not too mysterious [difficult, NASV, NIV] for you, nor is it far off. It is not in heaven, that you should say, “Who will ascend into heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?” Nor is it beyond the sea, that you should say, “Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?” But the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may do it.

The context of the Deuteronomy passage is the speech Moses gave to Israel as they were about to enter the land of Canaan. Moses warned the people against rebellion and predicted that in their disobedience they would be scattered far beyond their own borders and relocated in many nations as a result of God’s judgment of them. But one day (at the Second Coming of Christ) God would bring them back to Himself, circumcise their hearts to be fully devoted to Him (the New Covenant of Jeremiah 31), restore them from their captivity, and bring them into the land to possess it (30:1-11). Nevertheless, Israel at the present time should not complain that God’s revelation was so difficult it could not be obeyed or so unclear that more revelation was needed before it could be believed. They must not think that someone should go up to heaven or cross to the other side of the sea to bring back divine truth and make the people able to obey it. Revealed truth was not distant, but as close as faith in the heart. That which was not revealed belonged to God alone, but what was revealed was given to be believed and obeyed. Divine help was also right at hand. If Israel would only turn to their Lord for help He would assist them in obedience. This help was as near as calling on the Lord, invoking His help with their mouth. In Paul’s interpretation of Deuteronomy, Christ is God’s present revealed truth given to all people in the gospel. Justification through faith in the heart and divine help for obedience to Christ (sanctification) are readily available to all, not just the Jew. Gentiles too can believe in the Lord Jesus and call on Him for help of all kinds. After all, Christ is rich to all that call on Him for deliverance. But first, one must believe in Him before he can call on Him.

One should observe that three times, once in each verse of Deut 30:12-14, the passage adds that Israel must “do” the requirements of the revealed will of God in the law. Paul does not include this phrase in his citation of Deuteronomy 30 but this must be in his thinking. Otherwise, Paul has taken an OT passage that distinctly speaks of obedience to the law and finds in it a principle of faith alone, apart from obedience to the law. This would involve a gross aberration of the original context of Deuteronomy 30. What Paul finds in Deuteronomy 30 is that faith for justification is the supreme prerequisite of calling on the name of the Lord and must precede any confession with the mouth. Calling on the name of the Lord can be done only by one who has first experienced the righteousness that comes from faith (10:6). So faith is the first and foremost response to God’s revealed truth. Therefore, Paul can also summarize both faith in the heart and confession with the mouth with the phrase, “the word [Greek, rhe ma] of faith which we preach” (10:8).

The “word is near” in the sense that when the listener expresses faith in Christ in his heart, Christ will draw near in giving him righteousness (i.e., justification). Once a person is justified before God, Christ can also be near to him for deliverance when she publicly confesses He is Lord and calls on His name. This is the meaning of the phrase, “The word is near you, in your mouth.” The author of Deuteronomy has led the way to this impression with the only other reference in the Book to the nearness of God: “For what great nation is there that has a god so near to it as is the LORD our God whenever we call on Him?” (italics added; Deut 4:7, NASB).

For many Christians Romans 10:9-10 is a favorite series of verses for evangelism. Generally, these verses are cited in order to emphasize the need for faith. You can’t get a requirement for public confession from the verses. The Greek doesn’t support it. However, the practical lesson of this passage is that publicly identifying with Christ has a cleansing and sanctifying effect on our lives. If nothing else, openly confessing Christ makes the Christian conscious of his lifestyle. He now knows that non-Christians will quickly respond to his inconsistencies and compromises with, ‘I thought you said you were a Christian?” Inevitably, the vocal Christian becomes careful to live a godly life because he or she never wants a non-Christian friend to confront him with hypocrisy. The world is certainly watching Christians. But it is watching Christians who can be identified as such. I can be a secret Christian, but I can never be a victorious, secret Christian. One vital principle for victorious Christian living is the public, vocal, regular identification with the Lordship of Jesus.

A Broken Compass   Leave a comment

I live in Alaska, which is far to the north. It is so far to the north that our compasses don’t point north. They point northeast, toward Greenland, where magnetic north is located. For this reason, if we rely on a compass at all, we adjust it about 23 degrees so that it points toward true north.

A few years back, my family and I traveled to the Northeast to visit relatives and while we were there, we thought it would be fun to go hiking in a forest in the White Mountains in New Hampshire.

Let’s settle a misconception at the outset. The White Mountains are not mountains. By Alaskan standards, they are hills. In fact, we have a few “mountains” here in Interior Alaska that have a higher elevation than Mt. Washington and we call them “domes” because they just don’t measure up to the larger mountains surrounding them.

The lack of mountainous terrain may have resulted in less preparation than we normally would have taken. We essentially grabbed some sun screen, some water, my daypack and set off into the woods. We had a trail map, but it wasn’t the terrain maps we normally carry for Alaskan wilderness treks. In fact, I think I’d want a better map for taking a subway in New York.

But, hey, we’re almost professional hikers, so no problem! Right?  Uh ….

About an hour into the hike, I recognized that the sun was in the wrong place compared to where we should have been on the map. We were faced with multiple choices in paths and it was clear we’d taken the wrong one. I dredged my compass out of the back pack and my husband and I charted a new route designed to take us back to the road. Only it didn’t. Night comes very quickly in New England. In Alaska, we may only have 2 1/2 hours of daylight in the winter, but there’s two hours of dusk at either end of that, so when the sun started to lower, we weren’t worried — until it got dark. Oh, my!

Our daughter announced that she was pretty sure we were traveling in circles. She’d seen this rock formation before. She’s got a photographic memory, so we paused again. There was a moon, which any hiker knows rises in the east and sets in the west after traveling along the southern horizon and it had just come up, so we knew which direction east was. My husband stared at my compass, shooting little glances at the moon.

“Did you change the declination on the compass?” he asked.

Uh, no. We were never planning to need the compass and … oops. After an oh-so-very-polite discussion of how many degrees to remove (we eventually decided to disable declination entirely), we charted yet another course on the less-than-helpful trail map and started out again. We were all greatly relieved when we found blacktop only a half-mile from where we’d left the car.

Lesson?

If your compass is pointed toward the wrong object of attraction, you will get hopelessly lost even in conditions that don’t seem all that threatening, even if you think you know what you’re doing.

Spiritual lesson?

If you think that something other than Jesus Christ is going to save you, you are lost and you will never find your way out of whatever woods you’re in until you admit that you’ve got your moral compass pointed toward the wrong object of attraction.

There are a lot of philosophies out there that seem wise, loving, beneficial, etc. But truth isn’t a multiple choice option and Jesus Christ is the Truth.

Humanity Still Sucks   1 comment

The misconceptions surrounding the doctrine of man’s total inability (or total depravity) do not negate the implications of the doctrine.

(1) Because man is totally depraved, salvation is necessarily a supernatural phenomenon. Those who are “dead in their trespasses and sins” do not normally or naturally become alive in Christ. Many of us are not convinced of this. Our thinking goes somewhat like this:  If only the gospel were explained clearly enough, then anyone would turn to Christ for salvation. How do we explain the “failure” of Jesus to convert all but a few of His hearers? Intellectually, man is so affected by sin that a totally convincing argument will fall on deaf ears. The gospel is not logical to the lost, but foolishness:

For the word of the cross is to those who are perishing foolishness, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God (1 Corinthians 1:18, 19-31).

While some people suppose we can reason the lost into heaven, there are others who believe that we can nag them into eternal life by breaking down their resistance to the point of surrender. That is why we play 29 stanzas of “Just As I Am” and plead with the lost. That is why some wives persist at trying to wear down their husbands with the message of salvation, over and over, sneaking in a tract here, setting up a meeting with the preacher there, and so on. Others will try to use emotions to scare unbelievers into a decision for Christ by threatening them with hell fire.

Do not misunderstand me! I am not saying that the gospel can’t be sloppily and haphazardly explained. We should make the message of salvation as clear as possible. We should address the whole person—intellect, emotions and will. But after we have done the best possible job of proclaiming the gospel, it is only God Who can bring a dead man to life. Salvation is a supernatural experience and we mere humans must not rely upon our own strength or devices. If people are to be saved, it must be because God has used us and our words. We remain continually be dependent upon Him for success in evangelism.

(2) Even children are totally depraved. I know that statistics reveal that most people are converted in their youth. A famous Southern Baptist study showed that 80% of all conversions take place before the 21st birthday. I’m not going to refute these figures. Yet, logically speaking, if we are born in sin and rebellion against God, children are just as dead as adults. They are no more inclined to trust in Christ than anyone else. Granted, they have not become hardened in their sins (1 Timothy 4:2), but they are no less dead. All that we have said above applies to children, as well as to adults.

Children, because their desire to please, will often go through the motions of conversion, but that does not save them. Children, like all others, must be convinced of sin, righteousness, and judgment (John 16:8). They must be born again. Unclear statements of faith, such as “having Jesus in your heart” often lead to professions without any concept of what salvation means.

(3) Because salvation is a supernatural matter, no one is ever too lost to be saved. Some people are far more aggressively opposed to the gospel than others. This leads us to conclude that an agnostic is more likely to be saved than an atheist, but who could have been more opposed to the gospel than Paul, who referred to himself as “chief of sinners” (1 Timothy 1:15)? Salvation rests with the ability of God Whose power is infinite. No man is less dead than another. The most hardened and resistant sinner is no obstacle to the grace of God. No one is beyond God’s salvation.

(4) The bad news of total depravity is really the good news. The most difficult aspect of salvation is not getting man saved. I’ts in convincing him that he’s lost in the first place. After all, who needs to be saved who is not hopelessly lost? Total depravity means that man cannot save himself and must look to another for salvation. Christ came to the world to save sinners. He did not come to heal those who are well, but those who are sick (Mark 2:17). If you are lost in sin, there is hope, there is help, for Christ died to save sinners. When people come to the point of despair, realizing their own inability, it is also the point of hope, for where else would they look but to the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation and deliverance. Soft-soaping mankind’s total inability to save himself will not hasten the process of salvation, but probably will hinder it.

(5) We must be careful not to cushion the consequences of sin so as to minimize the desperate condition of the sinner. The prodigal son wised up to his situation in the pig pen, far from his father in a foreign land, eating the pods which were pig food. As much as that father loved his son, he realized that he would not be reconciled to him until he saw the folly of his ways. He had to be lost before he was found; he had to be dead before he could receive life (Luke 15:32). Many of us are tempted to build a pig pen in the back yard, trying to soften the blows of sin. While we must surely grieve at the sins of those we love, sometimes we must allow hard times to come upon them before they will recognize the seriousness.

(6) If man is totally unable to save himself or to contribute to it in any way, then all of the praise and glory for our conversion must go to God.

But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, that, just as it is written, “Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 1:30-31).

Perhaps it is in our prayers that we are most likely to confess the fact that our salvation is solely from God. As B. B. Warfield put it,

He who comes to God in prayer, comes not in a spirit of self-assertion, but in a spirit of trustful dependence. No one ever addressed God in prayer thus: “O God, thou knowest that I am the architect of my own fortunes and the determiner of my own destiny. Thou mayest indeed do something to help me in the securing of my purposes after I have determined upon them. But my heart is my own, and thou canst bend it. When I wish thy aid, I will call on thee for it. Meanwhile, thou must await my pleasure.” Men may reason somewhat like this; but that is not the way they pray.

To God be the glory, great things He has done!

Humanity is Responsible   Leave a comment

Humanity is totally depraved. We’re born in sin as a result of Adam’s original sin in the garden, but then we choose to disobey God whenever we have a choice in the matter. Even Christians fail God’s standard all the time. Humanity sucks, but we can’t use that as an excuse to sin. A truth as crucial as that of man’s depravity has many implications for Christians as well as non-believers, but it’s important to understand what it does NOT mean.

(1) Total depravity does not mean that man is as bad as he could be. The adjective “total” in the term “total depravity” does not mean 100% so that every man is completely corrupt, totally evil. In fact, some men are more wicked than others. This is why Luke 12:47-48, Matthew 10:15 and 11:21-24 provides for degrees of eternal punishment. During the great tribulation men will be given the liberty of pursuing their wicked desires without restraint (2 Thessalonians 2:6-10), until then, total depravity refers to the condition of man whereby every aspect of his nature—intellect, emotions, and will—have been tainted by sin. Not every molecule of bread is yeast, but yeast affects the whole loaf. Total depravity works in the same way.

(2) Total depravity is never intended to reinforce sinful psychological self-abuse. Many Christians fail to appreciate who they are in Christ. They demean themselves as unlovable and unworthy. We are unworthy of God’s grace—that is what makes it grace. Though we are worthy of condemnation, we are also divinely created and fashioned by God in the womb (Psalm 139:13). God valued man enough to send His Son to die for us, while yet sinners (Romans 5: 6-8). If we are true believers, we are in Christ, and He is in us. Every Christian has a spiritual gift which equips that saint for a function and calling within the body of Christ, the church (Romans 12:3-81 Corinthians 12:1). When the Christian is self-demeaning, he or she is depreciating the work of God. In my opinion, that’s a pretty serious sin. If you will remember, it was the steward who thought he had the least to offer his master who was inclined to be slothful with what he was given (Matthew 25:14-30).

(3) The doctrine of total depravity is never an excuse for sin in the life of any Christian. I’ve heard self-proclaimed Christians excuse the sin in their life with a flippant, “But I’m totally depraved; what did you expect from me?” The answer to such a statement is, “No, if you are a Christian, you are not totally depraved.” Paul wrote in Ephesians “You were dead in your trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1). That’s past tense. In Romans 6, Paul again addresses the subject of sin in the life of the Christian. The rhetorical question has been raised; “Are we to continue in sin that grace might increase?” (Romans 6:1) Paul emphatically answers, “God forbid!” The reason that a Christian must not continue to live in sin is because he has died to sin:

Now if we have died with Christ we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin, once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus (Romans 6:8-11).

Christians must leave the old life of sin behind to begin living a new lifestyle of righteousness. In Romans 7 tells us that a strong desire to shun sin and practice righteousness is still not enough to overcome sin’s influence in our lives. In Romans 8, we find that no Christian must live in sin because God, through His Son, has brought forgiveness, and through His Spirit, has brought power to live according to His righteous requirements.

Total depravity means that man will always choose to do evil, because that is his disposition. Since, in Christ, “old things passed away” and “new things have come” (2 Corinthians 5:17), we now are able to choose righteousness and flee evil because of God’s enablement. No Christian must sin because total depravity speaks of the condition of lost men and women.

We who were dead in sin are now alive in Christ, free from sin and forgiven of its penalties (Ephesians 2:1-10). We are presently being conformed to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29). Our lives are being transformed by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2). The Holy Spirit enables us to comprehend spiritual realities (1 Corinthians 2:6-13). The Spirit of God gives us power to live according to His demands (Romans 8:1-4).

(4) Total depravity does not mean that an unsaved person has no choice to make, but it does mean that fallen man will always choose to go his own way rather than submit to God. Early in Romans, Paul demonstrates that all men are worthy of God’s eternal wrath, not just because Adam sinned, but because all men are given some revelation about God, which they must accept or reject, and, given this choice, men always choose to reject God. The lost must be confronted with the gospel of Jesus Christ, for apart from a hearing of the word, men cannot be saved:

“Whoever will call upon the name of the Lord will be saved.” How then shall they call upon Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring glad tidings of good things!” (Romans 10:13-15)

All men are faced with the choice of submitting to God or rejecting Him, but man’s nature determines man’s decision. Man, in his lost state, has the same free will to become a Christian that a lion has to become a vegetarian. This is why salvation is always initiated by God and not by man:

But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born not of blood, nor of the will of man, but of God (John 1:12-13).

For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. … For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, … (Philippians 1:6, 29).

(5) Man’s total inability in spiritual things does not mean that it is futile to proclaim the gospel to the lost. Man will never respond positively to the gospel in his own strength, but the Bible makes it clear that those who are saved have been the recipients of divine enlightenment and enablement.

And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord; and as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed. … And a certain woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple fabrics, a worshiper of God, was listening; and the Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul (Acts 13:48; 16:14).

Because it is God Who saves men, we may proclaim the gospel boldly knowing that those whom He has chosen will be saved. And when we pray, we need not pray that men will have the intellectual ability to believe, or that their wills may be open to divine instruction, but that God will give them life, effectually call them, and draw them to Himself. If it is ultimately God Who saves men, then we can plead with Him for the souls of men, knowing His desire to save (1 Timothy 2:4), knowing He delights to answer our prayers (1 John 5:14-15), and knowing He is able to save any whom He chooses (Acts 9:1-22).

And even when men do not believe the message of the gospel, God is glorified by its proclamation:

Then I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?” Then I said, “Here am I. Send me!” And He said, “Go, and tell this people: ‘Keep on listening, but do not perceive; Keep on looking, but do not understand.’ Render the hearts of this people insensitive, Their ears dull, And their eyes dim, Lest they see with their eyes, Hear with their ears, Understand with their hearts, And return and be healed” (Isaiah 6:8-10).

In evangelism, as in every area of Christian living, we are never commanded to be successful, but only to be submissive to His will and obedient to His word.

Humanity Sucks   Leave a comment

Ouch! Does it seem that I have a very low opinion of human kind? I do. I look around the world and see the depravity of man and agree wholeheartedly with the Bible that the human race, apart from God, sucks. Oh, there’s people out there who do a good turn for others from time to time and there’s even one or two exemplary folk who do a lot of good, but taken as a whole, human kind shows more evidence of hell than heaven.

The Bible got there a long time before I did. God watched Adam sin, but He knew before He ever breathed life into Adam that His creation was going to spit in His eye. God only ever created two types of creature with a free will — angels and man — and both rejected His love.

Theologians and philosophers have argued this point for centuries, ever since Pelagius (a Briton living in the fifth century) suggested God wouldn’t hold mankind accountable for obeying Him if He hadn’t also made us able to obey Him in our own right. Bible theologians like Augustine refuted Pelagius sternly, arguing for the traditional Christian belief in the depravity of mankind, but others found comfort in a synthesis view, whereby mankind was damaged by sin, but could seek God in our own strength. Both those heresies remain with the modern church.

The Bible is clear that mankind is fallen, so badly damaged by Adam’s original sin that there is no hope of recovery without God’s intervention. We are not made sick by sin. We are dead in our sin.  “‘There is none righteous, not even one;  There is none who understands. There is non who seeks for God; All have turned aside, together they have become useless; There is none who does good, There is not even one. Their throat is an open grave, With their tongues they keep deceiving. The poison of asps is under their lips; Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness; Their feet are swift to shed blood, Destruction and misery are in their paths, And the path of peace have they not known. THere is no fear of God before their eyes” (Romans 3:10-18).

Romans is a systematic exposition of the gospel of Jesus Christ as it relates to both Jews and Gentiles. In the first three chapters of the letter, Paul lays a foundation by establishing a universal need for salvation. His conclusion is found in the expression “all have sinned” (3:9, 23). The pagan is rightly under divine condemnation because God’s creation reveals His “eternal power and divine nature” (1:20), but man has willfully exchanged this truth for a lie and has chosen to worship the creature, rather than the Creator (1:23, 25). Man is further condemned because he fails to live according to the standard by which he condemns others (2:1-3).

The Jew is even more culpable, because he has received the written revelation of God contained in the Old Testament. Some not only hold God’s word to be authoritative, but are teachers of it, and yet fail to live by its commands (2:17ff.). All men, then, from the pagan who has never heard of Christ to the Jewish Rabbi who teaches from God’s word, are under divine sentence of death. And this must mean that those of us who now have the revelation of God contained in both the Old and New Testaments are even more responsible before God. Our difficulty is surely not the shortage of revelation, but our failure to live by it.

In verses 10-18 man’s desperate and damned condition is depicted by citations from the Old Testament. The extent of the depravity of man is underscored so as to force us to conclude that man is not sick but dead. First, Paul proves that when viewed corporately man, without exception, is found to be unable to do what God views as righteous. Second, individually man is rendered helpless by sin in every part of his nature: intellect, emotions, and will.

When it comes to sin, we’d all would like to think of ourselves as the exception to the rule. If Paul had said that most men were sinners, we would probably assume we ourselves among the few who are not. Thus, Paul must show that all men, without exception, fall under the wrath of God and need the salvation provided only in Christ. Four times in these nine verses Paul uses the word “all” to describe man’s fallenness. To prevent any misunderstanding, twice he clarifies his point by affirming that “not even one” is righteous in God’s eyes. So far as God’s righteousness is concerned, “there is none righteous, not even one” (3:10).

Paul did not limit man’s sinfulness to one particular age or culture. The truth of these verses can be amply illustrated throughout history. By referring to the Psalms and Isaiah, this broad historical perspective is accented. When Paul reminds us that “destruction and misery are in their paths” (verse 16), we know that this is as true today as it was in Paul’s day or-the prophet’s. In a day when a president and a pope can be shot within weeks of one another, we need not be urged to accept the fact of the violence of man.

Having established from Scripture that man, without exception, is a sinner, Paul also proves irrefutably that every dimension of a person’s nature is tainted by sin, incapacitating every person where righteousness is concerned.

In verses 13-18 Paul speaks from the perspective of a physician, showing that every organ in our body becomes the instrument of sin due to our depravity. Beginning at the head, Paul deals with the organs which generate speech. The throat is a grave, corrupted and defiling, and the tongue is deceitful (verse 13). The lips of man, much like the viper, conceal deadly poison; they are instruments of destruction. The mouth is full of curses and bitter words (verse 14). The feet hasten man to deeds of evil (verse 15). The sum and substance of this anatomical analysis of man is that from head to foot man is dominated by sin. His organs are instruments of sin (6:12, 13).

Morally, every man falls short of the standard of righteousness which God has set. “There is none righteous” (verse 10), “there is none who does good” (verse 12). Understand, this does not mean that individual people cannot do anything that his fellow man considers good. It is obvious that some who do not profess to know Christ personally at times live by a higher standard than some who do know the Savior. Unbelievers may be kind to their wives, give to the poor, and help the helpless … all commendable deeds. However, the Bible teaches that no one will ever be justified that is, be declared righteous, by his works:

Because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin (Romans 3:20).

The Law was not given to save men but to condemn them, to show them their sin and the need for a savior. Legal righteousness could only be earned by obedience to the whole Law, without any violation, ever:

For as many as are of the works of the Law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not abide by all things written in the book of the law, to perform them” (Galatians 3:10).

For whoever keeps the whole Law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all (James 2:10).

Anyone under the Law is obliged to keep it completely, lest the Law condemn him. Further, the Law, while it provides the standard of righteousness, does not give the strength to do what is righteous:

Does He then, who provides you with the Spirit and works miracles among you, do it by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith? (Galatians 3:5).

Is the Law then contrary to the promises of God? May it never be! For if a Law had been given which was able to impart life, then righteousness would indeed have been based on law (Galatians 3:21).

For we know that the Law is spiritual; but I am of flesh, sold into bandage to sin (Romans 7:14).

For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit (Romans 8:3-4).

Righteousness, then, cannot be earned by good works or the attempt to keep the Law of God, for fallen man is incapable of overcoming sin apart from divine enablement. Beyond this, those deeds which may appear to be righteous in the eyes of man may be evil because they are accomplished out of evil motives. Good deeds, if they are done to earn God’s approval and blessing (that is, righteousness), are based upon an evil motive. God has said that we cannot please Him by our works, for they are as filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6). Most often we do good deeds in order to obtain man’s approval and acclaim, which negates any possibility of divine approval:

“When therefore you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full” (Matthew 6:2).

Unsaved man may perform deeds of human kindness and charity. Man may do those things which win the approval of others. But men, apart from God, cannot please God. They cannot do anything which God calls righteous or has merit in His eyes.

The unsaved man’s will is always contrary to God’s. It can thus be said that no man seeks God (Romans 3:11). Frequently man willfully turns from God for Paul reminds us, “all have turned aside (3:12) so as to become useless. Man is born in sin (Psalm 51:5), and is thus an enemy of God by nature:

And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest (Ephesians 2:1-3).

Intellectually, man’s ability to comprehend spiritual matters is nullified by the effect of sin. Paul wrote, “there is none who understands(Romans 3:11). Man has made great strides in the fields of science and medicine, but even the most elemental spiritual truths are beyond the grasp of the most brilliant person, who is still in his sin:

But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised (1 Corinthians 2:14).

This I say therefore, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart (Ephesians 4:17-18).

We are therefore driven to the conclusion that all men are sinners by nature and by practice. Man is not sick in sin, but dead. We don’t not need a doctor to treat our weakness, but a medical examiner to pronounce us slain. We do not need God’s help; We need life. The Westminster Confession of Faith states this same truth:

Man, by his fall into a state of sin, hath wholly lost all ability of will to any spiritual good accompanying salvation; so as a natural man, being altogether averse from good, and dead in sin, is not able, by his own strength, to convert himself, or to prepare himself thereunto.

The early Christian church understood this painful truth and taught it to all who they evangelized. Christianity spread throughout the known world over three centuries without the use of violence or the means to coercion. Yet today we reject this cornerstone of the gospel for fear that modern man will not accept a God who thinks we’re not perfect. Or perhaps its that we think modern man would reject any gospel that takes him out of the driver’s seat of his own destiny.

More on that subject later.

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