We are, everyone of us, corrupt

I was doing some research the other day and, as a result, was led to Leviticus 15 as a reference. Someone I was reading was using this particular chapter as proof that a certain things would be sin because of the examples of uncleanness listed in this chapter. And many of these things are simply natural functions of a person’s body!

What I think Leviticus, in general, is showing us is that we human beings are truly and really broken and corrupt creations, at least compared to what we were originally designed to be. The commandments God gave Israel concerning so many things that God considered unclean, and yet were purely normal bodily functions, shows us how very unclean and unholy we human beings are to God. We are far, far removed from attaining what we once were. But, we will attain this perfection when Christ returns!

This makes it so incredibly amazing that Christ Jesus would lower himself to associate Himself not only with us, but as one of us!!

Thank you Lord Jesus! What a sacrifice to come and dwell with those whom you can barely stand to tolerate from your place high in Heaven! But, as John Stott says, “We would be mistaken to think that the Son was coerced or that He was begging God by dint of His suffering. No, the plan of salvation was agreed upon and put into motion by the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.”

Can an unbeliever in God or Christ Jesus be tempted?

 If so, how? James clearly states that no man is ever tempted by God. Instead, as the Total Depravity adherents will tell you, we are tempted by our own lusts and selfish desires. That is not only scriptural, but also self-evident in any strata of human life. People today are praised for their “self-determination” even when the end result has nothing to do with the good of others. Good may come of their work or their purposes, but that is usually in spite of the intent that drives these self-made people.

 On the other hand, if a person who is not “born again” is totally depraved then he or she would, logically, never resist doing something that hurt others if it profited them. There would be no conscience to guide or reprimand what the natural and narcissistic want. Indeed, everyone would be living in a truly “dog eat dog” kind of world where “survival of the fittest” wasn’t just a philosophy, but a fact of daily life.

 Unlike animals, humans have the image of God implanted in their very nature. That is the only explanation for things like good-hearted and benevolent atheists, agnostics, or even deists (the majority of our founding fathers). Even in the most heathen of peoples, there is always a sense of right and wrong, even if their sense of it is markedly different than that of our culture. These folk, such as the cannibalistic tribes of the Pacific islands or the headhunters of South America, are depraved indeed, but it is primarily because they have no written laws or codes, and thus have only their individual consciences to compete with the day to day survival demands and peer pressures of the group they live with and know.
 
At the same time, humans have a propensity for cruelty far beyond that of any animal and genocide is a historical and present day fact. We wonder how a Hutu could kill a Tutsi, or vice versa, so cold bloodedly? How the Khmer Rouge could massacre so many millions of their countrymen? People claiming to be Christians participated in the Rwandan genocides. Clergy as well as laymen were witnessed killing other people from a tribe that wasn’t their own. I needn’t mention Hitler’s Holocaust, Stalin or Mao Tse Tsung’s purges, either, to make my point.

However, a person who wants to be good and wants to do what is right, can be found in any nation or location in the world. Persons who do not even know the gospel or the name of Jesus Christ have been known to be extraordinarily good people. Think of Gandhi as one example. Are, or were, they righteous? No, but neither are any of us outside of Christ.

On the other hand we have people who claim to be believers and who purport to be truly holy and righteous, because they have been perfected. Yet we know that any believer is still very capable of doing wrong and being evil. Else, there would be no reason for temptation or the flesh would indeed no longer be weak. Does this make believers depraved? I doubt anyone who believes in spiritual rebirth would agree. Rather, while all humans, saved or not, have a propensity toward evil, those who are in Christ Jesus have a motivation (hope) and a new spirit that compels them to do the right things. Paul makes it clear, I believe, that what actually changes in a new born Christian, is their mindset. Read Romans 8 and tell me if you don’t see that emphasis. Paul also points this out here:

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.“ (Romans 12:2 ESV)

Being holy in Christ Jesus is a mindset that wars against our natural inclinations:

“For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.” (Galatians 5:17 ESV)

This mindset may sometimes appear to be simply an application of willpower, but our hearts will follow the Spirit when push comes to shove. This is where I believe the difference between a converted person and a “good” unconverted person can be seen for what they are. Very few people are willing to be “good” if it means they may lose their lives or property for it.

And yet, we have people throughout history who burned themselves to protest war, starved themselves for a political cause, sacrificed their life for another, and so on. If mankind was completely depraved we would not have what appear to be examples of unconverted people outdoing, in many cases, the works of so-called believers.

Nevertheless, when people devote their lives for the sake of eternal souls and the name of Christ, it completely outweighs any other form of sacrifice. What appears to be very commendable actions, if they do not have eternal significance, they are worthless.

Augustine developed the view of Total Depravity from his conviction that every person is born with ‘original sin” and is thus guilty of sin from birth. From this came the view that even innocent babies were hell-bound (I hate the term “hell” because it is NOT where people who refuse God’s grace will end up – hell and death will be destroyed according to scripture Rev. 20:14), which is antithetical to Jesus’ view of children in Mark 10:13-16.

I would like to remind anyone reading this, that the “Fall” was caused by disobedience before the “Fall” itself! And the true effect of this “Fall” was the acquisition of the ability to know both “good and evil”. Only then were Adam and Eve condemned by their awakened consciences. This did not make them depraved, but added the propensity for sin that did not exist beforehand.  If mankind from that point was totally depraved, then how do we account for the righteous people of the Old Testament?

Was Noah depraved? Abraham? How about Moses? Which leads to the question: were they converted somehow? Samson, a man dedicated to God from before his conception and who was empowered by the Spirit of God, was a very depraved person in many ways. But, would God have used a totally depraved person to be the leading warrior for his chosen people?

This is where both concepts of Christian Perfectionism and Total Depravity fall apart, I believe. If man, in this present life could be made perfect, then the Adamic nature would have to be removed, as is claimed. However, the fact that these so-called “perfectly holy” Christians still have a propensity to sin (or at least can sin by their own will) belies the idea that they have had this fallen nature excised. Anyone who would have the nature of Adam removed would also lose the knowledge of evil. Only then would a person become truly pure and only good.  And, as a result they would be truly eternally secure because they would be unable to sin, not even knowing what that is.

So, are we humans “Totally Depraved”? Absolutely not, but neither can we be “Totally Holy” outside of Christ’s righteousness. We must depend on His righteousness, because we are, all of us, depraved, yet not completely.

“Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

(2 Corinthians 5:20-21 ESV)

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12 responses to this post.

  1. Nicely argued, brother, but I disagree with your foundational principle that there are men “doing good” here and there. Take another look at Romans 3:10-18 and note the occurrence of “none” and “no one”…..That’s who is not depraved: n-o-n-e.

    Whatever action of man is not aimed at glorifying God is selfish and depraved. Yes, someone might benefit from it, but it is born out of self-interest; the heart of the depraved man is focused inward thinking “what can I do for my own good?”

  2. Dear brother Ed,

    I appreciate your gracious disagreement on this point. If I may, however, I’d like to ask a question in return.

    Since what Paul quotes was written by David, was David saying this of himself? Certainly David had sought God, hadn’t he? And how can anyone be turned aside unless they were on the path at some time, or how can they become worthless, if they were already worthless?

    I know I am pressing the point here, but I really believe there is a bit of hyperbole at play here in Paul’s re-use of this scripture. My own point is that we are corrupt and it is a result of Adam’s sin, but I fail to see that everyone is completely and totally corrupt or depraved. If that is true then how can anyone argue against baptizing babies? Why do firefighters or others knowingly endanger their own lives (which is quite un-selfish behavior) in order to save or help others?

    I have always felt that much of the good done in the world is done out of selfish reasons, so I agree with your view of ulterior motives at play, but I cannot extend it to all people. Yet, I cannot prove that I am correct based on appearances, because God alone knows the hearts and intents.

    I realize I am using a lot of human logic here, but perhaps I see the effect of civilized rules and restrictions at work more than people’s actual natures.

    We are defintely fallen, broken, and from God’s point of view, irredeemably depraved without His intervention. That I agree with. And that is all that counts…God’s point of view, not mine.

  3. Posted by sreneetn1 on October 20, 2009 at 2:42 am

    PK,

    Thanks for the post and I realize every day that I am a fallen and broken (wo)man…the thoughts that unexpectedly pop in my mind confirm this – and a long with that I am also a regenerated child of the King, for His Spirit arrests those thoughts and they do not become fertile. This is such a paradox – or maybe something that our human mind just cannot grasp – I don’t know – maybe both – I just know, by His grace, that I will keep dusting myself off and look to bring glory to Him through this broken life of mine. Though I have no faith in myself, I do trust Him.

    PK, you stated, “(I hate the term “hell” because it is NOT where people who refuse God’s grace will end up – hell and death will be destroyed according to scripture Rev. 20:14), which is antithetical to Jesus’ view of children in Mark 10:13-16.” …could you please, when you have the time, elaborate on your thoughts of hell? I think we touched on this a little over at FD – I am not sure, but I would love to hear your view.

    Many thanks for your passion to follow our LORD and for sharing.
    sherry

  4. Posted by Andy on October 22, 2009 at 3:40 am

    Hi Steve,

    I think that there is a common misunderstanding as to what is meant by “Total Depravity” in that often the wrong connotation is applied to the word depravity.

    Here is a small extract from a sermon by John MacArthur on it:-

    By the way, this diagnosis of man has been the conviction of Christians through the centuries. You can read statements of the Council at Dort, and Westminster Confession and all kinds of other theological creeds through history, and this is how man is understood biblically. This doctrine has been called “Total Depravity.” But I feel that the total depravity is a misleading term. If you look up depravity in the dictionary, it’s a synonym for viciousness. It’s a synonym for being vile. In fact, to be depraved, according to the dictionary, is to be degraded, debased, immoral to a dangerous degree like rapists and serial killers. The word depraved sort of connotes a level of evil that’s just not applicable to everybody. To say someone is totally depraved, you know, you think of Jeffrey Daumers or Charles Manson or somebody who has not a vestige of human goodness and void of all normal affection and restraint. To call someone totally depraved would set them outside normal people as vicious perverts. That is not what is meant when theologians refer to total depravity because not everybody is as bad as they could be, and not everybody is as bad as everybody else. What we’re talking about here is what I’ve chosen to call absolute inability. What is true of everybody is we have no ability to respond to the gospel. We are completely unable to raise ourselves out of a state of death. We are completely unable to give our blind hearts sight. We are completely unable to free ourselves from slavery to sin. We are completely unable to turn from ignorance to truth. We are completely unable to stop rebelling against God, stop being hostile to His Word. We are not only unable but we are unwilling to do that, unwilling to repent, unwilling to believe. And if we are to repent and to believe, then it must be like it was for Lazarus where God who commands the dead to rise has to also give them the power. And in 2 Timothy chapter 2 verse 25 Paul says that we are to treat people gently if perhaps God may grant them repentance. Wow, couldn’t be clearer. Leading to the knowledge of the truth they may come out of their…they may come to their senses, escape from the snare of the devil. The only way you can escape from the snare of the devil is to come to your senses. The only way you can come to your senses is to have the knowledge of the truth. The only way you can have the knowledge of the truth is if God grants you repentance.

    You can find the full sermon at http://www.gty.org/Resources/Sermons/90-276.

    Also picking up on your point about Hell can I point you to this sermon:- http://www.gty.org/Resources/Sermons/66-79

    which explains that Hades in Rev 20:14 isn’t the eternal Hell, here is a brief excerpt.

    Let’s look at verses 14 and 15, “And death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire, this is the second death, the lake of fire, and if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life he was thrown into the lake of fire.”

    Now he starts out by saying, “And death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire.” What are death and Hades? Well it’s just the grave and the place of the ungodly dead, terms that any student of the Old Testament would be familiar with, and any student of the New would be familiar with. They just represent the place of the dead which is a place of torment and incarceration in flames of remorse, guilt, sin and pain. And when he says they’re thrown into the lake of fire, he simply means they go out of existence, they’re swallowed up by the final hell. This is the eternal realm of punishment.

    And people who are suffering now are suffering in their spirit only because there’s been no resurrection of their body. So that when the resurrection occurs and they have some kind of a supernatural body joined to that spirit, the conditions of their suffering have to alter, that’s why the eternal hell has to be different than the current Hades. It’s amazing how specific Scripture is. This is the hell that is utterly separate from and outside the prior created universe in which exists the prior Hades. When the universe goes out of existence, Hades goes out of existence with it, the place of the ungodly dead goes out of existence and a new place is prepared. Something outside and beyond this created order as we know it.

    You remember I told you that creation as we know it, matter as we know it will cease to exist. It will turn into energy, and that divine energy again will recreate a new heaven and a new earth not like anything we’ve ever understood or even comprehend.

    You say, “Is God preparing hell now?” Yes. Hell is prepared for the devil and his angels. We could assume that it’s prepared. There is an eternal heaven already prepared outside the universe as we know it, it would have to be because the universe is touched with sin and fallenness and why not already a place for the devil and his angels to occupy? But hell at this point is unoccupied. The first occupants are indicated, as you know, back in chapter 19 when it says in verse 20 the beast, that’s the Antichrist, and the false prophet who perform signs in his presence and so forth, these two were thrown alive into the lake of fire which burns with brimstone. Technically they become the first occupants of the eternal hell. And then a thousand years later, verse 10 of chapter 20 says the devil is thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and the false prophet are also. We can assume the devil and all of his angels go together into that place.

    I hope that the resources I have mentioned here will be of assistance as you grapple with these knots.

    God bless,

    Andy (FD)

  5. Thank you Sherry, for your kind words.

    Yes, we did broach this subject of hell once on Faith defenders, but I backtracked about some things once I realized I was presuming too much with my “Open Theism” ideas. I have renounced Open Thesim as completely human based reasoning and it solves no real issues for us.

    The same could almost be said for the following, but I am rather adamant about what I believe scripture says more plainly than not.

    The idea of an eternal Hell is such an ambiguous, yet concrete in some minds, belief that I just simply do not see it as an everlasting form of punishment. I may be wrong and by God’s grace I won’t ever know if I am, but I cannot accept the idea that God allows mankind anything from one day (or whatever the age of accountability is) to 120 years of life and decision making, then punishes those who by free will reject Him….forever.

    It simply isn’t revealed in the nature of our God that He:

    a) tolerates evil in any form forever (much less eternally)

    b) would derive any pleasure from torturing even the most wicked people without end

    c) has given Satan any authority in or over hell (in fact the demons “Legion” were worried that Christ might torment them before the ‘time’), much less over those who join him there

    Simply put, I believe that eternal destruction, eternal punishment, everlasting torment all mean essentially the same thing:

    a) there will be degrees of punishment (how that will be adjudicated, I don’t know)

    b) evil, incarnate and spiritual, will be destroyed (eventually)

    c) the Lake of fire is called the “second death”. Death means separation, true, but it also means the end of any knowledge of life. I do not buy into the Platonic view that everyone has an immortal soul. We all have that potential, but only those, as Christ said, “who are counted worthy to attain to that age”. Paul is very clear in 1 Corinthians 15 that he is speaking only of those who have “fallen asleep in Christ”. In Romans 2:7 only one class of persons will be given immortality.

    d)Christ gave multiple examples of evil or slothful servants who are thrown into prison, cut into pieces, and receive different punishments (Luke 12:45-48)

    When Jesus said, “fear Him who can destroy both the body and the soul”,I take that literally. That is the only way, in my human understanding, that the new heaven and the new earth will be replacements for the current universe, “in which righteousness dwells”. God, it seems to me, MUST finally and completely destroy any and all evil.

    Whew!

    Anyway, these are MY thoughts and I may be wrong. But, I also don’t believe the scriptures constantly tell us that the dead are asleep and don’t mean what they say, either! A whole other subject, though!

    Peace and grace, dear sister!

  6. Andy, brother, I don’t really contend that we are depraved. Mankind certainly is. But, I reject the idea that babies have original sin to the extent that they are totally depraved, since that certainly implies, as Augustine inferred, that babies must suffer eternal death if they die before coming to repentance.

    I misspoke when I wrote “hell” off as being tossed into the “lake of fire”. I am aware that hell in this context is literally “the place of the dead” or the grave. The only other time “hell” is referred to outside of the grave, Sheol, or Hades, is when Christ refers to it as “Gehenna” which literally pointed to the valley of Hinnom where things were burned up and destroyed. Since Christ used a literal place as a figurative description of the wicked person’s end, I also see the end of the person being the same.

    I am glad to see that MacArthur agrees that the final destination for the wicked is indeed unoccupied at present. I also agree with his statement “And when he says they’re thrown into the lake of fire, he simply means they go out of existence, they’re swallowed up by the final hell.” I wonder though, why he doesn’t also believe that everything else that’s thrown into the lake of fire will also go out of existence?

    Thanks for the input. And again, my argument here is really to confess that I, as much as I want to serve and obey God, am also depraved and hopeless without the Spirit of God in me to help to quench that nature. and the fact that I can overcome my depravity is the witness to me and you that we do indeed have the Spirit in us.

    All praise and honor to God through Christ Jesus!

  7. Steve, sorry to be so slow in responding. Andy did a good job on the idea of total depravity, better than I would have. The only thing I would add is this: as in any debate, the first step is an agreement between the sides as to “meaning of terms”….we have to have a definition of “total depravity” which suits us both, or we can’t intelligently discuss it. All major theological sources (all that I know of, I should say) stipulate that “total depravity” does not preclude what they usually call “civic goodness”….that this doing of good deeds by the unregenerate does not negate “total depravity” which is concerned with man’s attitude toward God.

    Now, I see you’ve ventured into annihilationism…..and said several times “I might be wrong”…lol, I think you know you’re wrong but have the oft-seen sentimental approach along the lines of “God wouldn’t do that mean thing…..”

    I’m not going to bombard you with proof-texts but suggest a look at the use of the word “everlasting” or “eternal”–αἰώνιος (Strong’s G166)

    Do we have “eternal life” “everlasting life”…..this is the word used there.

    It is also the word used in Matt 18:8 (everlasting fire); Matt 25:41; Matt 25:46 “everlasting punishment” and on and on.

    If our “life” is αἰώνιος so is the fire and punishment of the damned.

    One last verse and I’ll hush…

    They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might,
    (2 Thessalonians 1:9)
    (and, yes, ESV says “destruction” but don’t go all wild over that..it could just as easily be translated “punishment”…it does certainly, linguistically imply “long term action”)

  8. Oh, I had a “funny” line and forgot to use it:

    Too much Fudge in your diet?

    (no need to post this…..I just wanted to use the line when I had the chance…lol)

  9. Ed,

    Your posts are just fine. I am certainly not offended by any of them!

    I don’t want to wrangle forever about words, and I have not read Fudge, although I am aware of him. I have also not been influenced (to the best of my nowledge) by any other theologian or quack concerning what I see eternal destruction, or punishment, being. I just cannot reconcile myself to the idea of a God who takes eternal pleasure in torturing finite beings by making them immortal (I don’t see that promised to anyone bu th the faithful) and then causing them to suffer excruciatingly uncountable ages for choices they made over a matter of days, comparatively.

    If God cannot destroy evil once and for all, eliminating it entirely, then how can we be sure the error of Adam and Eve cannot be repeated? That’s not the God I believe Jesus showed us.

    The Bible is full of metaphor, hyperbole, symbolism, and not inclusively or least, Jewish idioms. It cannot be taken completely literally OR figuratively. There must be a balance that makes God, in the end, holy and just and merciful; not a mean spirited and essentially unforgiving one who delights in punishing His created beings forever.

    I just don’t buy it and I don’t like Augustine’s approach to these things. He was a man of his age…the Dark Ages. God is not interested in a “City of God”. Rather He is about adding to the body of His dear son. It will be punishment enough to miss out on eternal life and eternal reward. The second death is irrevocable, which is why I see it as the final separation from LIFE in God. Death is death….or it’s not.

  10. Posted by sreneetn1 on October 27, 2009 at 5:02 am

    PK,

    I appreciate your insight into this. I have struggled with this, and continue to do so, for like you I cannot reconcile what I was raised on about hell with God’s character. I am in no way rejecting hell; I am just rejecting the time frame that has been placed upon it – this eternal torment just cannot find peace in my mind. But of course I have to admit that I am not settled with my thoughts on this subject and am cautious with my thoughts; for I do not want to be persuaded by my emotions, but at the same time I cannot help but lean in the direction that you affirm.

  11. Sherry,

    I only know this for sure: none of us have it all figured out. In fact, most everyone is wrong about something. Otherwise we wouldn’t have 33,000 or more denominational bodies.

    I also know that if eternal damnation/destruction/punishment/second death is truly everlasting torment, then God is somehow just and righteous to demand it. I certainly can’t figure it out and maybe I shouldn’t try that hard. What will be, will be. What we know for sure is that Jesus became one of us to save us from this fate. So, it must be pretty awful in any case.

    Take care dear sister. And don’t give my thoughts more weight than they desevre. I’m a seeker, not a prophet.

    God bless.

  12. Posted by sreneetn1 on October 31, 2009 at 2:44 am

    Well PK, I find myself in complete agreement with you once again with this statement, “I only know this for sure: none of us have it all figured out. In fact, most everyone is wrong about something.”…but with that “agreement”, I am not putting you up on a pedestal – I understand full well that none of us have all this walk correct, especially me, but I make no apologies for being thankful for your guidance. Saying this however, I understand your concern with having me, or anyone, put too much into what you say – and I respect that – but even still I will continue to seek God First and will also be thankful for who He places in my path to direct me to Him.

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