Christian Perspective

Being Open to Critique: A Precursor to Reviewing a Fellow Blogger on the Doctrine of Original Sin

I have a sin problem. I am a sinner. This acknowledgement is not based upon experience (although my experience certainly confirms this), but because the Bible tells me so.

To some, I am sure that sounds like believing in an old wise tale or just utter foolishness on my part. Of course, if I were to ask why you believed the things that you did, you would have no better answer forthcoming. Someone told you so. Whether it was your parents, or your teachers, or your pastors, or a philosopher you look up to, or a historian, politician, scientist, etc. the point is you have come to believe what you do based on the testimony of another. Perhaps the knee jerk reaction is to deny this, but if you are honest with yourself (and others) and you do an introspective investigation of your base assumptions about reality/knowledge, then you—even you—will necessarily admit that this is true.

And there is nothing wrong with that. That is how you were (are) made to function. The problem is not that you do this, but rather what you lean upon as authoritative. What authority do you depend upon? Who are you dependent on? To whom do you turn to for advice? Where do you go in order to know things? And if you are a relativist that claims you really know nothing, I must honestly ask this question: “Are you telling me that you know that is true? If you are, then on what grounds do you claim to know nothing—for that is a claim of knowledge whether you choose to admit it or not.”

If you are a blogger, you are writing something because you have something to say. You are saying something because you believe you know what you are talking about. You know what you are talking about (or at least believe you know) in light of the authority to which you submit. Yes, submission is the natural aspect of life when you are a dependent being; Kids submit to parents, students submit to teachers, citizens submit to law enforcement agencies and the church submits to Christ, who submits to the Father who sends out the Holy Spirit into the world in submission to both the Father and Son.

How a Christian shows submission to their Creator is by being dependent upon His Word. To come before God in fearful submission “is the beginning of knowledge…and wisdom” (Prov 1.7; 9.10), “For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding; he stores up sound wisdom for the upright…” (Prov 2.6-7a). Thus, when Jesus says that his true disciples “abide in [His] word” (John 8.31) enabling them (you/me) to “know the truth” in order to be “set…free” (John 8.32), we know that means we are to “test everything; hold fast what is good” (1Thes 5.21; cf. Phil 2.16) in light of God’s Word not man’s (cf. 1Thes 2.13).

As a Christian I am indebted to Jesus Christ. He saved me from my sin. He took away my guilt and made peace between me and God my Creator. Something I could not do, for I was incapable of doing so, He did for me. Someone the Bible declares as ungodly, and an enemy of God (Rom 5.8, 10); and yet, as a Christian I can affirm with much assurance and confidence “Christ died for us” (Rom 5.9) …for me. He paid for my life through the shedding of His blood (cf. 1Cor 6.20; 7.23; Heb 9.22; 1Pet 1.18-19). He freed me from my bondage, to that which I was enslaved before I knew Him—sin (see John 8.21, 24; 34-36; Rom 6.6-7).

But you say, “You said at the beginning of your post that you had a problem, you are a sinner. How can that be if what you say is true that faith in Christ frees one from their sin? How can you say that Jesus paid the price for your life with His own, if you are still a sinner?”

Great question, I am glad you are paying attention.

This is not a contradiction, although I will grant at first glance it appears to be one. Christ’s atonement truly frees us from our former bondage to sin, but this breaking of the bonds does not eliminate our sinning indefinitely. If that were the case, then we would have no need for a continual intercessor before the Father on our behalf. If that were true, then we would not need an advocate for us who when we confess our sins is ready and able to forgive us of our sins. Freedom from bondage is not the elimination of sinning, but a definite curbing of the necessity. In plain terms we no longer sin by necessity, but we do sin because of an internal war1 between what is right and wrong (cf. Rom 7.14b-25; Gal 5.16-17).

Nor, is this permission for the Christian who recognizes he still sins, but those sins are covered by God’s grace: “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?” (Rom 6.1-2; also see 1John 3.9). Though the standard before us is to “be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt 5.48; cf. 1Pet 1.15-16), there are times when our sin seizes the opportunity to cause us to fall (Rom 7.11).

What difference is there then, in the Christian and the unbeliever? The difference is found in the fact that the Christian readily recognizes that the law of God is holy, spiritual and good (Rom 7.12, 14). The difference is found in the fact that the Christian—the one who has the mind of Christ as opposed to those who do not (1Cor 2.12-16)—”delights in the law of God” (Rom 7.22a) and desires “to do what is right” (Rom 7.21). Whereas, the natural man is said to have an opposite position regarding God’s Law-Word: “For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God” (Rom 8.7-8), because they refuse to draw near to God in fear and faith (Heb 11.6).

Okay, so where am I going with this post? Let’s do a quick review and then I’ll tell you what’s coming down the pike.

In this post, I have admitted that I am a sinner—I sin—but that I am also a sinner saved by grace. Jesus Christ died for me, and it is He in whom I place all my hope. Without Him, I am utterly lost.

In this post, I have also pointed out that what we believe is in some fashion based on the testimony of another. That testimony, regardless of the source(s), is viewed as having authority in our lives. To this reservoir of truth, we submit our thinking; to this testimony we are dependent. The problem is not in our dependency, but in what we lean upon as authoritative in our lives. In short, every person on the planet has faith-commitments that they turn to in order to make sense of the world in which we live.

In this post, I said for the Christian that source of dependency is upon God the Father, Christ our Rock, and the Holy Spirit our guide. Ultimately, for the Christian it is by the Word of God (the Holy Bible) that we are enabled to truly know anything. That truth sets us free. That truth is our rule of life and we must, like the apostles and prophets before us, learn to know what it means to not go beyond what is written (cf. 1Cor 4.6).

Finally, in this post I mentioned that as a blogger we are putting forth our ideas, thoughts and convictions in order to share with and teach others what we know/believe. Since this is a public forum, we must also recognize that this puts what we say under the lights of scrutiny. Our teachings are rightly opened to critical thought.

This is not a popular concept in Western thinking today. The underlying assumption by many is that we have a right to say what we wish, but are free from critique. Having our ideas examined is not a pleasant experience to be sure, but it is a necessary part of growing up. Little children are the ones that say “Nuh-uh, I’m not listening to you! Nanna nanna boo who.” The immature scream for you to be silent. They are the ones that cover their ears and shut their eyes, gnashing their teeth in bitter hatred as they threaten you.

“Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another” (Prov 27.17). This process can only happen when the two opposing substances meet. This is only possible when we dialogue with each other.

With this in mind I want to offer a thank you to Haden Clark, who has graciously put up with my interaction with some of his own thoughts. For those who are followers of his blog, I want you to know that I am not seeking harm your friend or loved one. His posts have been a great boon to myself, as they have caused me to reflect deeper on what I believe, while patiently dealing with an opposing opinion.

In Scripture we are commanded to “contend for the faith” (Jude 1.3 and to “correct [our] opponents with gentleness” (2Tim 2.25a) “doing [our] best to present [ourselves] to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth” (2Tim 2.15). Therefore, as “Priscilla and Aquila…took [Apollos] and explained to him the way of God more accurately” (Acts 18.26) I would like to continue to offer a corrective thought concerning the doctrine of original sin. I do not deny Clark’s profession of faith in our Lord, but it is on those grounds that I earnestly appeal to him.

Some may wonder why and prefer I keep my nose in my own business. That is not a Christian attitude. As Christians we are to be in each other’s business contrary to what the current culture may desire. We hold each other consistently to the Word of God, praying for and entrusting one another to the Spirit’s leading. More importantly, as ministers2 of the gospel we are charged with an enduring faithfulness to biblical tenets. More is at stake than either one of our names or egos being trampled on, for we must be especially sensitive to stepping into error. If nothing else, it is my hope that Clark will consider to search the Scriptures as he learns to more consistently lean upon and submit to God’s Word in all areas of thought. I want to help him believe (if I may be so bold to use the name of his blog—helpmebelieve.com) in the doctrine of original sin.

A response to “Why Romans 5:12-21 Does NOT Say we Are Born Guilty” forthcoming….

______________________

ENDNOTES:

1 Why the internal war? According to Scripture the internal war is due to our flesh waging against the Holy Spirit abiding within us. Why does the Bible make the continual distinction between the two: flesh and Spirit? There are two opposing principles that fight against each other. Principle in the sense of “laws” where one will is found acting against the other—i.e. the law of sin contra the law of God (Rom 7.23). Jesus did not have this problem because Jesus, although man was not born of Adam. We may struggle with that distinction, but the Bible does make it. Jesus’ two natures were divine and human, of which John’s gospel goes to great lengths describing to us in his prologue (John 1.1-18). But Jesus condition had more akin to Adam before sin entered the picture in terms of human nature, than our own. After the Fall, something changed. The question is what?

2 I use this term “minister” in a very general sense here, although I am specifically a minister of the gospel and an elder of a SBC church.

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