23 January 2008

Just Like Me

by Frank Turk

I don't normally rehash post from my blog here at TeamPyro, but given the content this week, this one is a post many of you haven’t read before, so it's worth a little reworking to suit us this week. It stems from a topic we were discussion here at my men's group, thinking about this passage:
    But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it-- the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
Think about this: every Christian will affirm these verses at least intellectually, or philosophically. We're all sinners, we say, and we are all sinful.

Then we see someone who does something completely insane, like the murder of a pregnant marine, or Britney Spears, or any headline you'd like to Google or Yahoo! and we think, "my God: what makes a person do something like that?" And we have people of all kinds and all sorts of confessions or beliefs asking the very obvious question, "How can God let something like that happen?"

I mean, isn't this God's fault? That's what some people think Calvinists ought to say: God did it, and that's enough -- no more questions. Somehow some people will say that Calvinists take refuge in a God who is completely without interest in human life. And some who are really questioning the foundation of the faith at a more rudimentary level will ask whether God can be either good or powerful if something like this happens.

And their point, of course, is that this kind of thing happens all the time. There is always some kind of murder or drunkenness or oppression going on -- always someone who is treating someone else like a disposable object meant for his or her own satisfaction. So the question of why God lets this go on seems pretty significant and in many ways demands an answer.

On the one hand, the consequences of that question are important. If God is not good enough or powerful enough (let alone all-powerful and all-good) to stop this kind of thing, what kind of God is that? Is he even God -- can't we say God doesn't exist if we can prove He's not what we, the Christians, say He is?

In that consequence lies the first part of the answer. Because look: if God doesn't exist, the only solution for these things -- the murders, the abuse of little one by parents, the kidnapping of daughters and sons, the long list of man's inhumanity against man -- is that man has to do better. We can all agree, I think, that murder and violence of this sort is on some kind of "thou shalt not" list, or at least a "you ought not to" list. But that means that if man has to stop this, man ought to have done so by now.

If it's that obvious to everyone that gunning down strangers is wrong, why does it still happen? Do we need more government to make it happen? Do we need more education to make it happen? How about more religion or maybe more freedom from religion -- is it religion that causes us to do these things?

Let me suggest something here that is not simply theology, proven by a first-grade Sunday school lesson in the book of Romans: let me suggest that man cannot stop doing this because these acts of violence are part of who we are.

"Cent, you're violating a way better post from your blog," says one person, "because now you're reading your theology into this situation and into all people rather than trying to get the facts together and then draw the conclusion."

No, I think not. When a disturbed kid guns down 30+ people and then takes his own life, we can see the extent to which men can be drawn to do what is wrong. But let's be clear about something: everybody is drawn to do what is wrong because we see them as viable and useful options. Everyone may not go out to buy weapons in a premeditated way in order to commit some act of community violence, but we all do things which treat people as disposable.

We start dating sometimes because we need someone else to fill in our own personal need for attention; we break up when we think someone else will better suit that need, or will make us more socially acceptable. We manipulate situations at work in order to get promoted, or perhaps to simply avoid being fired. We ignore people who are in need because we think they might latch on to us and cause us to lose some face in the community, and we despise people who do the same to us. We envy others who have what we want, and scorn others who can't have what we got. Yes: nobody dies most of the time, but once in a while some child gets aborted because we think our idea of a good time should include using another person's body for our own cheap thrills.

We don't want to admit it, but the truth is this: we are really are like Britney and Lindsey and Cesar Armando Laurean, even if it is not to the same degree.

That's what "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" means. It means that we are all under judgment, and that (if we take our Calvinism seriously for a moment) it is really only because God intends to save at all that any of us don't wind up going farther and farther down the dark alley of our own desires until we don't have any choice but to mug or be mugged, to rape or be raped.
It means that I am just like Cesar Armando Laurean -- not that I am unlike him and he's the one who did something God hates. I am like him. If I am honest, I can see in my own life the moments when I could have gone one step farther than I did in some sinful act and stepped into a life which would have meant that I was the one who would have allegedly murdered in order to cover up a more vicious and personal crime. I'm the one who could have harbored that kind of rage. I'm the one who could have cut myself off from other people until they simply became models in a video game simulation and not creations in the image of God. I'm the English major who could have written himself into a frenzy of confusion until I couldn't tell the difference between what's real and what's invented by my own distorted internal dialog.

He could have been me: I am a sinner, and I am the cause of sin.

So to ask the question, "Why does God allow?" has to go back to the issue of "What is God allowing?" The glib answer to the question is, "God is allowing evil deeds," but in fact God is allowing us to prove that we are what He has said we are. God tells us we are sinners -- and has provided the perfect Law to prove it to us. And in that, the solution God has on-tap is wrath against sin.

Think about that: the first solution in God's menu would rightfully be "wipe out all sinners" so that those who do wrong do not infect others with the wrongness, and so that God's own holiness is satisfied. But the problem is that God would have to wipe out everyone to get that done in a way that really solves the problem -- because if it's not Cho Seung-Hui, it's going to be Matt Gumm, or Phil Johnson, or Dan Phillips, or James White, or Pecadillo, or (most likely, in this list) me -- centuri0n.

What God is allowing now is the proof that we -- all of us -- cannot solve the problem of evil. But that is hardly the end of the story.

Because the next item of God's menu is "show love: be the one who is just and is the justifier". God can't abandon the question of evil -- He knows as well as you (and far better, since this is His work of Creation) that evil must be overcome and punished, but there is the question of whether He can punish and still love.

And in that, God has already loved the world so much that He gave us something which is precious to Him above all the rest of creation: His only Son. God gave His only son so that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life -- God didn't send the Son to judge this sick and sinful world in order to destroy it all, but in order to save it.

That is, to save it from our selfish relationships which violate the image of God in other men and women; to save it from the petty violence inherent in every lie, every theft, every murder; to save it from our cheap jealousy over cars and clothes and houses and lawns and clubs and herd-like solidarity; to save it from our dissatisfaction with our own spouses and from our imaginary fantasies that someone else's spouse would better satisfy us. And most of all, to save us from blaming God for the things we do willingly and consciously which other people recognize as shameful and sick but which we excuse ourselves from because we know we don't mean anything by it, really.

Why did God allow? Why does God allow you to do what you do, friend? Why does He allow you to harm other people -- or is that not what you meant?

God allows these things in order that a greater redemptive purpose can be manifest in Creation. So that nobody gets their nose out of joint more than I mean to put it, this purpose is God's purpose for God's own end and intention -- but it saves men.

A tragedy like this is about the essential, primary, necessary nature of the Gospel and the work of Jesus Christ to fulfill all the Law and all the Prophets. There is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.

Listen to the fear and the crushing sadness you hear in your own heart as you think about Cho Seung-Hui. It is not because he did something unspeakable: it is because he is just like you, and whatever the solution is for him, that solution is for you.


Jonathan Moorhead said...

Great post, Frank. As odd as it seems, the first thing I thought of when I saw the title to your post was a line from the latest Batman trailer, with the now famously dead, Heath Ledger. The trailer begins with the Joker (Ledger) speaking about the difference between Batman and himself and concludes that "you're a freak . . . like me." If it were not for grace . . .

Jonathan Moorhead said...

BTW, you can find the trailer here.

Johnny Dialectic said...

I do think about that, often: there but for the grace of God go I.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Rather humdrum post until I got this great zinger: "The glib answer to the question is, "God is allowing evil deeds," but in fact God is allowing us to prove that we are what He has said we are."

And from then on, it was a really great post. Superb exposition. Thanks Centuri0n.

Pax Dude.

donsands said...

This was an excellent teaching. Thanks Cent.

One thought: I remember trying to discipline members in the church at times, who were buried in deep sin, along with the other elders, and some would say, "You all are no different than me, where's the grace? I'm glad none of you was ever treated the way I was, or you'd be struggling too. Who are you to judge, where's the grace?"

I would say, "Yes we're all in the "same train wreck", as some say, but at this particular season the grace of God is upon us so that we're not caught up in the depth of chronic sin as you are my brother. We are here to help you, and help you through the Holy Spirit's power, and through the authority of His Word. Yes there's grace, but not cheap grace, and neither is there self-righteousness here, however we are to seek first His kingdom and righteousness."

S.J. Walker said...


Wow. You know what is really amazing? I also was compelled to write about this basic issue. It's funny the similarity we find in conclusions to problems when both of us go tot eh Word for explanation. We are starting to study 1st Timothy along side of Ephesians over my blog.


I think Someone is trying to tell me something...

Anonymous said...


You post really underscores why it is that we have such a hard time really grasping total depravity.
It's one thing to say "I am depraved", it's entirely another thing to say that the only thing separating me from Hitler is grace and opportunity.

I had someone get mad at me for saying that about me...never mind them...

Phil Johnson said...

Moorhead: "the first thing I thought of when I saw the title to your post . . ."

Paul Revere and the Raiders.

Someday three hundred years from now or so, someone will do a scholarly treatise on the disproportionate number of TeamPyro posts whose titles are borrowed from the Billboard Top 40 (with a particular preference for bad sixties music). And the scholars will no doubt argue that this trend (together with the cheesy Photoshop graphics) were directly responsible for the early demise of our blog.

S.J. Walker said...

Don't worry Phil, when this one dies you can come and write at mine--minus cheesy Photoshop graphics of course.

At least WE use Greek in our titles...ouch, oh ouch! I pulled a muscle patting my own back.

Stefan said...

Thanks for the sobering and edifying post, Cent. You illustrated the practical implications of "total depravity" quite well, in the life of everyman—who is all of us.

It makes one wonder all the more how anyone could hold up as his or her supreme paradigm, the principal of "the essential goodness of humankind"—and yet, that is what a great swath of the world appears to affirm, against all evidence to the contrary. Sin is not the exception to the rule (as the humanist would see it): it is the rule!

Terry Rayburn said...


A born-again believer is NOT "just like" Cho Seung-Hui.

We WERE the same, and Rom. 3:23 applies to both of us before we are born again, but the New Birth changes things.

1. It changes our heart as we are mde a New Creation (2 Cor. 5:17), given a new heart per the New Covenant promise of Jer. 31.

2. It changes our identity from Sinner to Saint.

3. It changes our motives, wherein the love of Christ constrains us (2 Cor. 5:14).

4. It changes our minds, the essence of repentance, and allows the renewal of our minds, a la Rom. 12:1ff.

5. I makes us a temple of the Holy Spirit, "Christ in you, the hope of glory".

6. It makes us no longer _______ (pick your old "self" as to our role).

"Such WERE some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God." - 1 Cor. 6:11

The old saints who questioned a person before allowing them to partake of communion asked,

"What has Christ done FOR you?"

But they also asked,

"What has Christ done IN you?"

As believers, when we are temporarily deceived by the world, the flesh and the devil, we are theoretically capable of virtually any sin.

But we are no longer like Cho Seung-Hui.

May we boast in our new difference?

Of course not.

It is all of Grace, and all of Christ, whom alone we boast in.

But that doesn't mean we aren't different.


centuri0n said...

Terry --

please re-read this post, particularly the part where I said this:

What God is allowing now is the proof that we -- all of us -- cannot solve the problem of evil. But that is hardly the end of the story.

You never did, and never will, solve the problem of evil. If you say you never sin, you are frankly a liar.

I would agree that we are therefore new creations in Christ -- that's a completely non-controversial statement. But we are not merely saints -- we are sinners who are declared holy by Christ's work and not by our work.

Strong Tower said...

And Vedar said-

You were right Luke, tell your sister, you were right-

Actually, not! The Christian reality is that we have been covered over by Christ.

Don't be decieved by the bear suit, it is the mangled mess of humanity inside who is the real me. Or, if you think this mask is scrary, you should see the clown behind it! O sumpen lydat.

Paul, we thank, that in his candidness, said that nothing, emphatically convinced, nothing at all that was righteous dwelled in his flesh. The only righteousness we have is foreign to us. If it were not for God, who makes us those things which are not, we would be darkness walking in darkness. As it is we are darkness who have come into the light so that what has been done may be seen to be the work of God. We are the light of the world because we reflect the Glory of the Son.

"Except for the grace of God," the drunk in the gutter said looking up at the spiffly dressed evangelist, "he would be different than me. O wretched men that we be!"

That is an incrediverse, the entire gospel in one breath.

Thank's OB Cenkenobi, lip smacking eruditious.

Terry Rayburn said...


I always hesitate to comment on your posts, because you are overly touchy, and I hate to see it come out in you. You are a terrific thinker and write much truth. But not all truth. Neither do I. We are growing and learning.

I did re-read your post. Your comment to me has little to do with what you said in your post, nor what I said in my comment.

1. I didn't say or imply that we could solve the problem of evil, so why would you bother saying that?

2. I didn't say or imply that I never sin, so why would you bother saying that?

3. I didn't say or imply that we are MERELY saints, whatever that means, so why would you bother saying that?

4. I didn't say we were declared holy by OUR work, so why would you bother saying that?

It is you who should re-read my comment, which simply (and lovingly, as I know my own heart) corrects the error that we ARE (post-regeneration) "just like" Cho Seung-Hui.

In other words the one point of correction that I made is the one point you didn't address, although you addressed several points that I didn't make, and threw me the bone that you agree we are new creations in Christ.

Is Cho Seung-Hui a new creation? If we say, "No", then there is a drastic difference between him and us (utterly by Grace).


Anonymous said...

So....gentlemen (Cent & Terry),

Does " Iwill remove your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh" relate to our very nature as saint vs. sinner, or does it merely mean to say that a stone heart is a dead heart, a flesh heart is a living heart?

Are we truly changed in nature or "added to" in nature.

Strong Tower said...

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me...For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.

The first of this sounds very familiar: Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works.

There is no doubt that we are new creations:Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

but it is also true: If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.

There remains then just who it is that is yearning to do good and who does good. Without a doubt we are born-again, with new hearts, and boy could we boast if it were not for the fact that our sin prevents us from such: But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me...For our boast is this, the testimony of our conscience, that we behaved in the world with simplicity and godly sincerity, not by earthly wisdom but by the grace of God, and supremely so toward you.

It is Christ that does it all, while we are in this world we remain depraved and except for the grace of God moving us to do according to his will, we would not do any good at at all. Surely we have changed, but then again, we are not seen, for our life is hidden in Christ. We are seated with him in the heavenlies, while it is He who is doing his will as it is in heaven.

Thank God, to him alone be the Glory.

Anonymous said...

And also this...

Romans 7

"23but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members... So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God's law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin."

So while we have a new nature, in a very real sense we also still have our old nature until we die.

Johnny Dialectic said...

Dust up!

As I read Cent's post, I did not think he was asserting that we, who are IN Christ, are still "like" those who are not:

"...think about Cho Seung-Hui. It is not because he did something unspeakable: it is because he is just like you, and whatever the solution is for him, that solution is for you."

My reading of this was that the solution is Christ, and we have that solution...and, I might add, the outworking of that solution is as Terry has described it. Sanctification, it's called.

We are no longer slaves to unrighteousness. Praise God.

centuri0n said...

So what answer can I give, now that I am classed as "touchy" which does not make me further the bad guy, Terry, except that you must be right, and I'll take my post down immediately?

I'm curious because I want to be a better person, a better Christian.

Strong Tower said...

I think you want your best life now, not later.

Anonymous said...

Frank, Terry! Boys, now stop that before I have to turn the water hose on you!

Our position apart from Christ: Sinner. Dead and depraved, enslaved to sin, as bad as any bad boy you can name. Only restrained by God's common grace from living out that position in our practice. As Augustine said, non posse non peccare.

Our position in Christ: Saint. Alive and freed from the bondage to sin, with a new nature that is renewed in righteousness, yet still with the remains of our old sinful nature. We are freed from the state of depravity, yet we still have the ability to sin. Even though it is contrary to our new nature in Christ. posse non peccare.

centuri0n said...

Here's what you -did- say, Terry:

As believers, when we are temporarily deceived by the world, the flesh and the devil, we are theoretically capable of virtually any sin.

But we are no longer like Cho Seung-Hui.

What exactly does that mean in the context that our "identity" is now "saint" and not "sinner"?

See: it seems to me that your view is that, in the first place, my post was significantly wrong -- because you are posting a correction of it, right? It needs to be corrected because my post doesn't talk about how sanctification works -- only about the problem of evil and man's hopeless state. You know: what Dan and Phil have been talking about the last 2 weeks.

And it starts with the passage from Romans, where Paul is making the point I am making, which is that all men need Christ because all men are sinners.

All the parts of Scripture you quoted? All true. These are the things which happen when one is, by grace, through faith, in Christ. No question.

It's just not what I'm talking about here. Your comment is a little vexing because, metaphorically speaking, it wants to check the air pressure in the wheels of a skate board -- it wants to do right-minded maintenance on something which doesn't require that kind of service.

I also find it offensive, btw, to dictate the terms of a dead man's heart. He and his famly were members of a local church -- are his family saved, Terry? It seems like his dad raised a mass murderer -- I'm interested in your soteriological assessment. When we paint the world in purely black-and-white terms like this -- especially when dealing with the new creation, forgetting the -eschatological- aspects of the new creation -- we harm our witness to the world.

I have no idea if this young man was saved or not saved. He was plainly plagued by mental illness -- which, I guess, means something spiritually, and I'd be willing to hear you out about whether or not someone who commits suicide as a result of mental illness is saved.

Your point, such as it is, has categorically-limited use. It is simply a high-brow version of legalism which really wonders whether or not someone who actually does sin can be saved -- because "theoretically" they should be able to not sin.

And I say that as a guy who has a great deal of respect for the doctrine of sanctification, and who has argued against the "Free Grace" perspective publicly. What's at stake here is whether or not human beings have an affection for sinning or not -- and they do. It is how we are like Adam. That has simply not changed.


Anonymous said...

So, as I understand it... (I'd forgotten about posse non peccare etc, thanks Doulos) we, as Christians, sin because we want to, while the unbeliever sins because he can't not want to.
So...we are now essentially unlike an unbeliever (like, say, Hitler) although we still sin. (One could almost argue that our ability to not sin makes our sinning even worse than an unbeliever...Paul hints at that I think when he addresses sin in the church ie. treating sinning Christians (you know what I mean!!) differently than sinning sinners, separating ourselves and all that.)

Anonymous said...

I posted before I read your comment Cent.

"Affection for sinning..." now that's a mouthful. How true.

Strong Tower said...

Are we there yet


Can I drive


You never let me drive

That's because you're dead

Yeah, but can I drive


Are we there yet


When we get there can I drive


You never let me drive

You got it

Can I drive


Johnny Dialectic said...

And while we're on the tangent, some encouragement:

1 John 3:9 - No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God.

1 John 5:18 - We know that anyone born of God does not continue to sin; the one who was born of God keeps him safe, and the evil one cannot harm him.

Rom. 6:18 - You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.

Rom. 6:2 - By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?

Rom. 6:11 - In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.

1Pet. 2:24 - He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.

1 Pet. 4:1 - Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because he who has suffered in his body is done with sin.

James 1:25 - But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it—he will be blessed in what he does.

Stefan said...

If as a born again believer I am presumed to no longer sin, then there's no hope for me.

When Paul writes the following in Romans 7:18-20, which is the "I" in that passage:
1. Paul before he was saved?
2. Paul at the time of writing, after he was saved?
3. A hypothetical non-believer before being saved?

This is not a rhetorical question: I really want to know the answer.

"For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me."

Strong Tower said...

But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it—he will be blessed in what he does.

Ah, Faith, that perfect law of liberty.

So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty.

Ah those works of Faith.

...he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror.For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like.

Ah yes that natural face, the man of flesh. That is who we are, from whom we have been set free. Blessed is the man who does this and in seeing his poorer brother, does not take him to the law, but knowing himself to be just as great a sinner, seats him at the front of the church.

Woe to those who boast in their spiritual attire all jewelled and fine linen, for they do not know how poor spiritually they are.

Stefan said...

And continuing in verses 21 to 25:

So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.

Stefan said...

And how do we reconcile the passages Johnny Dialectic cited with the reality we face?

Are we forensically sinless through the imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ, yet still carrying the residue of our sin nature?

dac said...

Frank, touchy? Nah, not here.

Now over at his blog......

donsands said...

" For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being,"

Paul used to delight in the outer duties of the law he kept so flawlessly, and yet when Christ blinded him, so that he could see, he saw these things as dung, so that he could know Christ.

Christ replaces the law. He is our heart now.

Good discussion of deep things.
Douglas Moo, btw, interprets Romans 7 as Paul being an unbeliever.

But I would have think delighting in the law is a believer.

Rick Potter said...

akawpakzI love it when the meta is good - like this one. So much good information.

Would it be correct to say the the residue of sin is continually being washed away by the renewing of our minds (washing of the word).

I've done much Behavioral studies and have come away from those with the understanding that behavior is not an immediate change. And even after great changes in our lives, as we (christians) continue to sin, we newly reinforce those "conditioned reflexes" that have the tendency to temporarily negate (seemingly) our progress (as in progressive sanctification). Has our positional sanctification changed - Of course not....and I think Cent's post demonstrated this very well.

Strong Tower said...

Are we forensically sinless through the imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ, yet still carrying the residue of our sin nature?

Depends on what you mean by forensic. We are so in a declaritive sense, but not yet so in an evidentiary sense.

It is the sin nature which has been circumcised from us, but the body remains. We have a new nature, or heart if you will. Even at that we are hidden in Christ. There is One who is good, that is righteous, and that will never change. He causes us to walk according to his righteousness and does not impute the penalty of our sin to us so David said, we are blessed.

Don't let it drag you down, the reason we sin is explained in Hebrews 12. It is necessary for your training in righteousness, that is, training you that there is only One who is.

Rick Potter said...


"Douglas Moo, btw, interprets Romans 7 as Paul being an unbeliever."

So does Robert Reymond in "A New Systametic Theology in the Christian Faith" (Appendix F - page 1127)

Strong Tower said...

Albert Ellis, shades of RET-


Rational Emotive Therapy formed a large part of my Senior Research Thesis-

Interesting how an unbeliever understood Scriptural Principles of renewal of mind without crack the Book.

Rick Potter said...

I have always understood "forensic" to speak to Justification rather that Sanctification. Maybe I missed Frank's point of the post.

Rick Potter said...

Strong Tower:

"Interesting how an unbeliever understood Scriptural Principles of renewal of mind without crack the Book."

I think you just described it. And I like your choice of words.

See, we've had those here (in the meta) lately who have taken Phil to task concerning whether one is regenerate first and then comes to faith, or comes to faith and then becomes regenerate. So, now back to your statement. How can one "understand" those [scriptural,(you didn't say spiritual and I appreciated this from you)]things "without having cracked the book" or "without having heard the gospel". God is the judge of the heart and it may be that He was preparing Ellis.

Anonymous said...

Being as Romans 7 is written in first person present tense, I'm not sure how it can be taken to be Paul as an unbeliever.
Does not his assessment there mirror our own lives?

David Smithey said...

This is such a Great post! I am reading John Owen on the Mortification of Sin.

I was thinking about this subject driving into work this morning.

Thanks Cent!!


Strong Tower said...

Ellis later realized that for his Christian clients, something was lacking. In his later work he included the spiritural aspect as important, at least for some.

I do not know what became of his faith system, though initially he was functionally atheistic. Still, I was amazed at his insights which seemed to coincide with Scripture somewhat.

Stefan said...


"Forensic" is the first word I could think of, but not necessarily the best word, because of its specialized use in the context of the doctrine of penal substitutionary atonement. But it was the best word for the idea I was trying to get across: "effectively sinless"; "equivalent to being sinless"; "counted as sinless"; etc.

stratagem said...

My only criticism of the article is that for lack of punctuation, it makes it sound as though Britney has been murdered. I'm surprised the website's not been linked into by the Drudge Report by now! :)

As far as the question of whether I'm like Cho So-and-So, all I know is this: In my heart of hearts, I know I've repented and trusted the Savior. I also strongly suspect that given unlimited power, I would become a monster. Whether that makes me fundamentally different that Cho or not is a question that will probably consume a lot of time stroking the chin, but not accomplish much, if anything, useful in the end.

SolaMeanie said...

You want touchy?

I'll show you touchy! Grrrr.

Terry Rayburn said...


First, my biblical point was not to judge Cho's salvation. He could theoretically have been regenerate, and did his deeds "in the flesh" or "out of his mind" or whatever. Granted.

My point is simply that if he was NOT regenerate, than he is not "just like" a regenerate person.

If he WAS regenerate (which I doubt, after hearing his "testimony", but am not denying categorically), then he indeed is "just like" us.

The purpose of my point is to counter the common bumper sticker theology that "Christians Are Not Perfect -- Just Forgiven". While it's true we are not perfect in every sense of the word, neither is it true that we are JUST forgiven. We are also changed.

And therefore an unregenerate mass murderer is not "Just Like Me". In fact, an unregenerate sweet little servant nun is not "Just Like Me", since she remains dead in sins and trespasses, and an enemy of Christ.

Terry Rayburn said...

To all...

Nowhere in Scripture is it indicated that we have two natures. Your "nature" is your very "being", your "essence" or "essential self". This is expressed in Scripture as our "spirit", and we don't have two of those.

Biblically, we had ONE nature when we were unregenerate. It was an enemy to Christ, and loved sin.

When we are born again, we still have ONE nature. But it's New (2 Cor. 5:17).

We don't get a second nature to live alongside our now-schizoid "sinful nature". We are "regenerated", given a new nature (new "man"). The old nature (old "man") has been crucified -- "dead" for those in Rio Linda.

We still have the "flesh" to contend with, which while admittedly mysterious, is much more physical than usually thought of by those who incorrectly think we still have a "sin nature".

This flesh might be compared to an old computer program, with its habitual thought/behavior patterns still warring with our new spirit (our new nature).

Thanks to modern science, we know that our brains are quite literally physical/chemical/cellular "river patterns", which can be physically stimulated to cause things to happen in our minds. Things like remembering a birthday party from age 3, or "feeling" exhilaration as we remember going down a roller coaster, or thinking murderous thoughts as we probe some cell of a long-lost memory of injustice.

Thus our minds need to be "renewed" to establish new habit patterns of thought, which align with Scripture and the Holy Spirit.

But the flesh is not our "sin nature" because it is not our nature at all. In it (in our "members") dwells this thing called "sin", but Paul was careful in Rom. 7 to say that while "sin" dwelt in his members, his flesh, the sin was not him ("I find it's no longer *I* that do it, but sin which is within me.")

The New International Version (NIV) has done a great disservice to the Church by translating "flesh" (sarx) as "sinful nature" in Romans 7. It's an interpretational mistake which furthers the error of our having two natures.

The English Standard Version (ESV) made the same mistake in the earliest translations, but the translators became convinced that this was wrong, and have since corrected it to read "flesh".

I comment here only because I think biblical Anthropology is very important. It makes the difference between the believer who thinks it's "natural" for him to sin, and the one who thinks it is *against* his nature to sin (the latter is the correct one).

If we correctly think that is *against* our nature to sin ("Consider yourselves dead to sin, but alive to God through Jesus Christ"), we have a greater understanding in seeking to walk by the Spirit (the Holy Spirit, as well as our new spirit in which He dwells), and not by the flesh.

Paul in Romans 7 is clearly speaking of a believer walking by the flesh, with sin residing in his flesh. Who will deliver him from this BODY of death (see how physical that is?)? The answer is Christ, as He indwells Paul's spirit (nature) and lives His Life out through Paul.

We can all identify with "doing what we don't want to do" sometimes. But can't we also identify with "doing what we DO want to do" sometimes, as He works in us "both to will and to do for His good pleasure"?

All things beings equal, when we KNOW we are changed, we have more of a tendency to ACT like we're changed.


pastorbrianculver said...

I was babysitting the other day (3 yr old grandson) and he said, "I want to be like you Papa!" He wants to be just like me. Wow. And then I started to think of all the things about me that he does not know. My thoughts, my words, my actions. I talk to him all the time about Jesus and he has a pretty good understanding (for a 3 yr old). He knows when he does something wrong and I know he will continue to learn right from wrong from his parents. I know that he is always watching me and his parents on what we do and say. When he sees that Jesus in our Lord and Savior, he will come to learn why we worship Him. I pray for both of my grandkids every day. Little David wants to be just like me, his papa. I want him to be like Jesus. I pray that he sees Him in the people who love him most!

Rick Potter said...


I understand you point now...and I concur.

Sorry for my obtuseness.

ReformedMommy said...

Cent - This post and its meta are really helping fill in the gaps for me after Phil's post on total depravity. As I commented there in the midst of all the Greeking out, my understanding of my depravity and its depth changed radically afer some of my most serious confrontations with my sin came AFTER my conversion. And it lead to more hatred for it, more humility towards others, and more love for God and gratitude for His mercy and love.

Terry - forgive me, but what you're describing sounds like some kind of pseudo-scientific gnosticism mixed with AA "every day in every way I'm getting better and better" and seems like it could lead to a whole lotta pride toward those who love Jesus but are battling with sin. But perhaps I'm not reading it right....

Johnny Dialectic said...

Terry, your last comment is absolutely right on, and cogently put as well. (I'm still not sure Cent would disagree here, but I'll leave that aside).

We are NOT "two natures," as you say, but a redeemed soul within flesh that is not redeemed YET. It will be, at our resurrection.

Oh, and BTW, we SHOULD be getting "better and better" every day. John MacArthur expressed it almost just that way in a broadcast last year. Mature Christians sin LESS.

Pride is not a danger if we understand that it is only through the grace of God and the power of the Spirit that we are able to "walk" in newness of life.

Does anyone here actually think that a regenerated Christian will live the same way, in practice, as he did before?

bi0dr0ne said...

Terry, thanks for that exposition, its quite interesting to nail down the concepts of the "flesh" and our "natures" (if they can be nailed down). I remember a big challenge for me before I became a Christian was understanding that I was just as sinful as anyone else including all the so called really really bad people. And now I still struggle with my tendency to sin, as If I think I ought to be sinless now. But if I keep my mind on what the Spirit desires I can keep in step with the Spirit and not gratify the desires of my flesh. Thats encouraging. thanks

Stefan said...

I agree that as redeemed Christians, we are to serve the Lord God, walk in His precepts, and obey His commandments. Like others here, I don't agree with the idea of "free grace," either, that we can just go on sinning, using the T in TULIP as our excuse. Not that I'm saying that instead, we should legalistically try to sanctify ourselves by our works, but rather let the Spirit sanctify us and work out God's will through us. Merely putting on our Sunday best, staying awake during the sermon, and dutifully giving our offering each week is not the answer; but rather trying to obey the Lord God viscerally, with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength, out of our gratitude for what He has done, and for the sake of His glory.

Terry: Oddly, our pastor preached a sermon a couple of weeks ago on Jacob's transformation (part of a series on Jacob), and he mentioned the bumper sticker you mentioned, and also similar his qualms with it. Being forgiven doesn't give us a free ticket to go on being the way we used to be.

Stefan said...

Oh, yeah: He said that more often than not, whenever he saw that bumper sticker, it was on a car that was about to cut him off in traffic—with a "friendly" wave. ;)

Roger said...

Thanks for a convicting and challenging post. I've often thought about how glibly we say, "But for the grace of God go I." and yet most of the time we're like the pharisee saying "I thank God I'm not like him." The truth is, as you so ably wrote, is that except for the grace of God, I would be a murderer or a drug-addicted drunk in the gutter. It's God's unmerited favor toward me and not anything in myself that explains why my sin hasn't carried me further down than it has. Praise God for His amazing grace!

ReformedMommy said...

You know, right after I hit "Publish" I said to myself "Oh great, they're going to think I don't believe in sanctification!!!" May it never be!

I am simply unsure about this idea that our latent sinfulness has its roots in our physical bodies, and concerned that sometimes when we say out loud "it's only by God's grace that I am different" that our attention becomes negatively directed at the person who is the object of that difference, instead of positively directed at the God Who has miraculously accomplished it. Perhaps another way to say it that in our dealings with others we must be mindful of our justification, but in our dealings with ourselves we must be mindful of our sanctification...

DJP said...

Yeah, but... why don't you believe in sanctification, RM?


donsands said...

" ..by those who incorrectly think we still have a "sin nature"." -Terry

Like Luther was wrong I suppose when he comments on Romans 7:25:

"This is the clearest passage of all, and from it we learn that one and the same (believing) person serves at the same time the Law of God and the Law of sin. He is at the same time justified and yet a sinner (simul iustus est et peccat); for he does not say: "My mind serves the Law of God"; nor does he say: "My flesh serves the Law of sin"; but he says: "I myself." That is, the whole man, one and the same person, is in this twofold servitude. .... The saints (believers) are at the same time sinners while they are righteous. they are righteous, because they believe in Christ, whose righteousness covers them and is imputed to them. But they are sinners, inasmuch as they do not fulfill the Law, and still have sinful lusts." -Martin Luther

I tend to agree with Dr. Luther. But I see your point.

Lin said...

"I comment here only because I think biblical Anthropology is very important. It makes the difference between the believer who thinks it's "natural" for him to sin, and the one who thinks it is *against* his nature to sin (the latter is the correct one)."

Thank you. Being Born Again means we now hate the sin we once loved. We still sin but are broken by it repenting daily and growing in holiness.

If we are saved, shouldn't we sin less and less as we are being sanctified and growing in holiness?

This brings me to the question: What is fruit? What does it 'look like' in a person? How do we know it is real fruit?

Strong Tower said...

Well let's see, we know we have a new nature, it is like Christ's, we, having been made partakers of the divine nature. Sin has been circumcised from us in Christ.

So it is true that we have had one removed, another put in its place.

The Jews were called of their father the devil. They did not have his nature, but one like it. Now, if we say that sin in our members has the same kind of nature, or a nature in kind as the nature that was removed, the root of sin, have we violated anything in Scripture? The devil has been defeated, do those who have not been made partakers of Christ, no longer have the nature of their father the devil because Christ has defeated the Devil? I think they do still have that nature.

The grand thing about our growing knowledge is that we know that DNA is present in every cell in the body. That even if we no longer have parents, we continue to share their nature. Cloning has shown us that even when the root is removed, the nature remains. We know that, even though the root is a root, the trunk is of the same nature, so is the fruit.

If we can observe from the world around us these things, if we can even recognize schizophenia, we can recognize that the multiplicity of personality is at least a possibility. If we observe the trinity, we must acknowledge that with a single nature, there could be a diversity of personalities all of that nature. And, if Scripture says that it is sin that does the sinning, who can say that there is not another mind, the mind of the flesh doing it? If indeed we know of the trinity as three personalities, three minds, yet one, it is at least conceivable that we in his image might have more than one mind in one being. Is it schizophenic? Well, let's let Galatians speak to that. Because, there it is the will of the flesh which wars against the will of the Spirit, but it is neither that is us. For we do not do as we thelo, will. The operative word is war. Sin is not a passive infection, but has desires, an opposition to the Spirit. So, it is not that we are simply a schizophenic duad, we are a schizophenic triad. At least in the view of Paul in Galatians which tightly fits Romans.

We all know the childish cartoon caricatures of good and evil shoulder dwellers, and for good reason. It is a reality. No one who is a Christian denies the struggle between the duad with the mind caught in the middle as Paul put it, where we worship the One and not the other. On the one, the Spirit of God is instructing us in the Way of the Word, the other, the voice of the flesh tempting us, opposing God, just as if it was the Devil, or the nature itself, and deceiving us if the Word does not prevent it. There are the three. To deny this is simply to deny the reality we know, and the reality as it is revealed in Scripture, which commands that we take every thought captive. Sounds as if we have an enemy mind making war against the mind of Christ, doin it?

Some cannot divide between the nature of the flesh which remains an active agent with a mind of its own, though it has been killed, and the nature described as the heart in Ezekial which has been removed. Like illegitimate children, like the Jews, the nature of the evil one is just as much a mind of the flesh as the Tempter was to Christ in the wilderness. Every man is tempted from within, and temptation is not without intent, and intent takes mind.

If you don't get this you will never be able to explain why you, with a mind of Christ, can think the rebellious thoughts, blasphemies, against Christ that you do. The mind of the flesh is emnity with Christ. But you having been born again have the Seed within you, and cannot sin. There we see, that Christ cannot deny himself, and we in our new man cannot, for those who have his Seed abiding in them, cannot sin. Therefore it is only the mind of the flesh that can deny him, only the mind of the flesh that can sin. We are hidden in Christ, and Christ cannot deny himself. Could Peter deny Christ? On the heals of the divine revelation Christ rebuked him for his denial saying that the things of God were not in his heart. One mind saying one thing, another saying another and Christ commends one and condemns the other, in one man. This would not be the first time that Peter denies him, either. Even after Pentecost, he denied him, which is all the more important for understanding the flesh and Spirit stuggle with poor Peter caught in the middle. So goes the book of Galatians.

The one who says he has no sin is the one that John said is a liar and Jesus said that out of the heart, that is the nature, proceed fornications. And we are all fornicators, sinners. Simply stated, the so called brother who says that he no longer has a nature that is sinful dwelling in his members, denies both John and Christ. While it is true that Christ has circumcised the root, the well of sins, or the source of sin, it is evident in all of us that the nature remains just as the unbelieving children of fornication who are unsaved remain throughout the world, even though Satan has been defeated.

centuri0n said...

Points to Terry for sticking this out, even if in the end he's going to deny everything he started off saying to me.

[QUOTE Terry]
First, my biblical point was not to judge Cho's salvation. He could theoretically have been regenerate, and did his deeds "in the flesh" or "out of his mind" or whatever. Granted.

My point is simply that if he was NOT regenerate, than he is not "just like" a regenerate person.

Now, let's make sure we understand a few things, Terry, before you revise and extend your remarks further. The first thing we need to understand is that the topic pro temp at TeamPyro is total depravity -- not sanctification or regeneration or what those things cause us to or for us do. So as I posted that piece -- which is almost a year old -- I had in mind the source of man's problem and the only solution for that problem.

That's what that final paragraph means. When I say something like, "whatever the solution is for him, that solution is for you," it means that his problem is a problem I also face, and the alleged problem of evil is not a metaphysical puzzler for the theologians to unravel but in fact a problem I have to face. Because it is my problem.

And for the record, that problem didn't go away for me because I "got saved". In the ultimate sense, God has certainly resolved the salvation from judgment for the elect. But in the immediate sense, I still have the Rom 7 problem. I have the James 1 & 2 problem. I have the Peter in the garden problem. I have the Paul- argues- with- Barnabas problem. I have the Corinthian church problems. I have the problems in Crete Titus faced.

The solution for the mass murderer is still the solution for me because I am just like him. I am not the solution to my problem. I am actually my problem.

Robert Reymond puts it this way:

[QUOTE Reymond, emph. in original]
Regeneration is not the replacing of the substance of fallen human nature with another substance, nor simply the change in one or more of the faculties of the fallen spiritual nature, nor the perfecting of the fallen spiritual nature. rather, it is the subconscious implanting of the principle of the new spiritual life in the soul, effecting an instantaneous change in the whole man, intellectually, emotionally, and morally [footnote: Berkhof Sys Theo], and enabling the sinner to respond in repentance and faith to the outward or public gospel proclamation direct to his conscious understanding and will.

Charles Hodges puts is this way in his Systematic Theology:

[QUOTE Hodge]
While denying that regeneration is a change either in the essence or acts of the soul, evangelical Christians declare it to be, in the language of Scripture, “a quickening,” a ζωοποιεῖν, a communication of a new principle of life. It is hard, perhaps impossible, to define what life is. Yet every man is familiar with its manifestations. He sees and knows the difference between death and life, between a dead and living plant or animal. And, therefore, when the Bible tells us that in regeneration God imparts a new form of life to the soul, the language is as intelligible as human language can be in relation to such a subject.

Kyper says it thus, underscoring that we are never completely dead to sin until we are dead:

[QUOTE Kuyper]
The word “regeneration” isused in a limited sense, and in a more extended sense.

It is used in the limited sense when it denotes exclusively God’s act of quickening, which is the first divine act whereby God translates us from death into life, from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of His dear Son. In this sense regeneration is the starting-point. God comes to one born in iniquity and dead in trespasses and sins, and plants the principle of a new spiritual life in his soul. Hence he is born again.

But this is not the interpretation of the Confession of Faith, for article 24 reads: “We believe that this true faith, being wrought in man by the hearing of the Word of God and the operation of the Holy Ghost, doth regenerate and make him a new man, causing him to live a new life, and freeing him from the bondage of sin.” Here the word “regeneration,” used in its wider sense, denotes the entire change by grace effected in our persons, ending in our dying to sin in death and our being born for heaven. While formerly this was the usual sense of the word, we are accustomed now to the limited sense, which we therefore adopt in this discussion.

Respecting the difference between the two—formerly the work of grace was generally represented as the soul consciously observed it; while now the work itself is described apart from the consciousness.

Moreover, and importantly, you did in fact intimate he was an unsaved person because that was actually your point. My point does not require that he be in the new birth or out of it: it only requires that he be a human who has the sin problem.

[QUOTE Terry]
If he WAS regenerate (which I doubt, after hearing his "testimony", but am not denying categorically), then he indeed is "just like" us.

That is frankly the end of whatever your original comment was trying to say, Terry -- because your original "correction" of my post hinges entirely on the difference between the saved and the unsaved, the "new men" and the "old men".

But compare that to your statement that "we are theoretically capable of virtually any sin. But we are no longer like Cho Seung-Hui." Christians, apparently, are those who are theoretically capable of living perfectly in this life, and the implication you advance is that the are incapable in practice of anything but minor sins.

[QUOTE Terry]
The purpose of my point is to counter the common bumper sticker theology that "Christians Are Not Perfect -- Just Forgiven". While it's true we are not perfect in every sense of the word, neither is it true that we are JUST forgiven. We are also changed.

And sadly, neither of these are what I was talking about. It's too bad that Terry can't just say, "you know what: cent was talking about the fact that man has a sin problem which requires a savior -- about which even Paul says, 'for there is no distinction'. I'm talking about something else, and let's just leave it at that."

Now it has to be about previously unreferenced bumper stickers and sloganized theology. I know those are easy marks, but they weren't in my original post.

[QUOTE Terry]
And therefore an unregenerate mass murderer is not "Just Like Me". In fact, an unregenerate sweet little servant nun is not "Just Like Me", since she remains dead in sins and trespasses, and an enemy of Christ.

I'll tell you, Terry, that the harder you try to make your point, the less I really care to help you try to make it -- because it is precisely this kind of truncated talk which ignores your place in your own salvation which make the Gospel sound like a horror rather than the greatest blessing in all creation. So let me say it frankly: your place in your salvation is like a mote of dust's place in a tornado -- and to see dusts outside of the cloud as somehow "not like you" because they aren't all blown full of the tornado and you are is, well, let me put it two ways:

[1] Even Paul has the audacity to say that he's the man who does what he doesn't want to do and doesn't do what he wants to do. Wretched man that he was, after all, chief of (wow) sinners.

But you: you're not like that. Right?

[2] See: I really -get- that you don't -mean- such a bad telling of the Gospel, but it's what you're -actually- doing. You are -actually- saying, "thank God I am not a sinner like that filthy publica... um, mass murderer."

Think about that. It's a hard word, but it's Jesus' parable. What he says about this stuff has got to have some kind of governance in how we see it.

ReformedMommy said...

djp: "Yeah, but... why don't you believe in sanctification, RM?"

Hey, I am a BIG believer in sanctification, especially for my husband, kids, pastor, you....

Terry Rayburn said...


You wrote:

"Terry - forgive me, but what you're describing sounds like some kind of pseudo-scientific gnosticism"

Gnosticism taught that only the spiritual was important, and that sinning in the body didn't matter because the physical doesn't matter. In that sense, they were antinomian. I, on the other hand, made it clear that as a New Creation we love Christ and hate sin, whether in body or mind.

"...mixed with AA 'every day in every way I'm getting better and better'"

Since I didn't mention anything about being "better" in ANY way, I can't imagine how you'd think I taught being "better" in EVERY way.

The flesh can't get any better, and the spirit is already made new, indwelt by the Holy Spirit, and is "one spirit with Him" (1 Cor. 6:17).

I hope you agree that we can be "transformed by the renewing of [our minds]" (Rom. 12:2).

"...and seems like it could lead to a whole lotta pride toward those who love Jesus but are battling with sin."

The Catch-22 is that those who are *truly* growing in Christ are doing so by Grace alone, and this mitigates *against* pride.

On the oher hand, those who are "looking good" in their self-strength Performance, but stifled in their growth in love and grace and the knowledge of Christ, and walking by the Spirit, will tend toward pride.

"But perhaps I'm not reading it right...."

That's what I think :)

ezekiel said...

Is sanctification something that God is powerless to deliver? If I am just as bad as the fellow you mention, if I am just like him, will I, can I, get over it?

Hebrews 10:26 For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. 28 Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. 29 How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has spurned the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace? 30 For we know him who said, Vengeance is mine; I will repay. And again, The Lord will judge his people.

1 Cor 11:28 Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. 30 That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. 31 But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged. 32 But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world.

1 Cor 15:34 Wake up from your drunken stupor, as is right, and do not go on sinning. For some have no knowledge of God. I say this to your shame.

Hebrews 12:14 Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.

Terry Rayburn said...


What bothers me *most* is not that you continue to misrepresent me. (I've listed several examples, but to list the latest barrage would take too much space).

And what bothers me *most* is not that you keep slipping away from the simple truth expressed by Paul when he wrote, "Such WERE some of you..." (1 Cor. 6:11), Paul thereby indicating that we are not "just like" Britney and Lindsey and Cho.

And what bothers me *most* is not the fact that you point the subject back to Total Depravity, as if I didn't know the Pyro subject of the last couple weeks. And as if the New Birth, our new identity in Christ, our co-crucifixion with Christ, our death to sin, and our new nature had nothing to do with Total Depravity.

(We WERE totally depraved, but now we have been regenerated. While we still have effects of the Fall in our flesh, and sin indwelling our members, to even imply that we are still totally depraved is biblically unsupportable.)

What does bother me *most* is that you have made your responses to my biblical arguments with virtually no reference to Scripture at all.

I have made the case that we are not "just like" the unregenerate, and I've taken pains to support the case with Scripture after Scripture after Scripture.

You have hardly even *mentioned* Scripture in your responses, and have most recently dragged out a bunch of Theologians' quotes to make some point that's so obscure I can't imagine why you even dragged them out.

Oh, you did cite the Scripture about the Pharisee who thanked God that he wasn't like bad people, and you accused me of being him.

But your attempt at that exegetical approach neglected that the Pharisee was unregenerate, self-righteous, and was simply wrong in saying that he was different. And thus has zero application to my points about regeneration and the New Creation.

So let me just quote YOU, from your original post, and cite the relevant Scriptures that I believe disagree with your suppositions:

1. You wrote, "...the truth is this: we really are like Britney and Lindsey and Cesar Armando Laurean..."


"It means that I am just like Cesar Armando Laurean -- not that I am unlike him and he's the one who did something God hates. I am like him."

The Scripture says that we WERE fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, effeminate, homosexuals, thieves, covetous, drunkards, revilers, and swindlers. And that such will not inherit the kingdom of God. (1 Cor. 6:9-11)

But we have been both declared righteous (Rom. 5), and actually changed (made a New Creation, given a new nature, a new spirit, made one spirit with Christ - 2 Cor. 5:17; 1 Cor. 6:17)

2. You wrote, "It means that we are all under judgment..."

Again, we WERE under judgment. But now there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Rom. 8:1).

Now my original comment was merely a side-note to correct those two assertions.

It wasn't a personal attack on you, nor a discrediting of your entire post.

It was merely part of my ongoing attempt to rejoice, and help others to rejoice, that God in His Grace, through Jesus Christ, has done a great miracle in the New Birth.

He has fulfilled His promise to take away our heart of stone, and replace it with a heart of flesh.

He has taken His elect, complete with their total depravity, and made them a New Creation. Old things have passed away, behold new things have come.

He has taken His enemies, and changed them into His friends, and has become a Friend to them.

He has taken anti-Christs, and made them Christ lovers and Christ worshipers.

He has taken us, who once had no fruit of the Spirit, and worked in us to have love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control [at least some of the time].

He has taken us who were in bondage to sin, and made us free to walk by the Spirit.

You may think this is all off-topic to Total Depravity, but I think any discussion of Total Depravity that doesn't acknowledge these wonderful truths is as lacking as a discussion of the ravages of polio, without mentioning that our vaccinations have made us "immune ones".

We once were blind, but now we see.

All glory to Him who did it.


centuri0n said...

Terry --

Thank God you're not a sinner like Britney, Terry. That's how you're reading Paul, and that's simply not at all what Paul is saying.

In 1 Cor 6, Paul is plainly talking about justification and sanctification (cf. v. the rest of v. 11), not about whether or not mankind suffers from the problem of sin. In your view, Paul is saying, "none of you have a sin nature anymore," when in fact in this passage, Paul is not talking about the sin nature but about the motive for doing other than what the world does.

His larger argument here is that there should not be lawsuits in secular (as opposed to "church") courts of believers against unbelievers -- because believers should not rely on the wisdom of the world but should rather should be wise enough to settle their disputes among themselves. (v. 1-6)

The reason "why" this is true is because people who do the list of sins, Paul says, will not receive the kingdom of God, but the corinthians used to be those kinds of people before they were sanctified and justified -- not that they have a new nature.

Listen: this is important especially in this passage because what Paul is saying here is that the Corinthians are having the same kind of petty squabbles people who are not saved are having! Paul is saying that the shame here is that the church is suffering because it is acting just like the world rather than something God has declared just which He has set apart for Himself.

That leads us to the 2 Cor 5 passage which is your fall-back where Paul calls the christian a "new creation". In the MacArthur Bible Handbook, Dr. MacArthur says plainly being a "new creation" is not itself regeneration, but "runs parallel to it" -- the "new creation" is a summary term used to describe one who has experienced reconciliation with God in general: propitiation, adoption, etc. (p. 387). It is not here used to say, "you no longer have a sin nature" but in fact here says "we are no longer worker of the world, but workers of the ministry of reconciliation".

But here's the place where I think it's fair to offer me the chance to come clean, apologize, and frankly take back everything I have said in this thread, Terry. Explain to me in what way your view of "regeneration" does -not- force you to agree with the Pharisee who, looking at the publican, says "Thank God I am not a sinner like him."

This is the crux of the matter. I have conceded every one of your points regarding what those scriptures actually speak to. The church is certainly called out from the world. But the question is if the church is made up of people full of bad programming, as you have said, or if the church is made up of bad people, sinners, who have to rely on grace and not themselves.

We are not glorified -yet-. We are not perfected -yet-. We are not incorruptable -yet-. We are holy -now- because of Christ. We are justifed -now- because of Christ. These things, are true not because we have a whole new nature with no affinity for sin, but because of Christ.

Explain to me how your view differs from the Pharisee's view of the publican, and I'll offer my sincere apology.

Jonathan Moorhead said...

Phil, thanks for the linkage to the Paul Revere video. For a fleeting moment I thought I saw Frank on that swing.

DJP said...

Well, I have an idea which I hope is helpful. I offer it as a brother, not with any authority; just a suggestion.

Could I get Frank to answer one question, and Terry one question; ask you both to read each other's answers, and then see how far you disagree? Totally up to you guys.

FRANK: how is a genuinely saved person different from an unregenerate person?

TERRY: how is a genuinely saved person similar to an unregenerate person?

NoLongerBlind said...

Great suggestion, Dan.

This was almost starting to resemble the Hatfields vs. the McCoys!

"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God."

ezekiel said...

I wonder what nature we saw in the pharisee?

Eph 2 1 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—

James 5: 17 Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth.

Do we practice unrighteousness or not?

2 Peter 1:3 His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, 4 by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. 5 For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, 6 and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, 7 and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. 8 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. 10 Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall.

Anonymous said...

I vote that we readers self-impose a moratorium on commenting until Frank and Terry have a chance to reply. I'm interested to see their comments (as I'm sure we all are).

Who hasn't wondered about this very thing from time to time? I sure have.

Johnny Dialectic said...

"Explain to me how your view differs from the Pharisee's view of the publican."

Without speaking for anyone else, I'd like to take a stab at this, as the issue of spiritual pride was brought up earlier, and one I take quite seriously.

Jesus' point in this passage, it seems to me, is specific and clear. The Pharisee did all this to exalt HIMSELF. His conduct was contrasted with the one who truly saw his sin and pleaded for mercy. That was the lesson.

But one can truly recognize he has been set free from the law of sin and death, and give all credit and glory to God. One can truly thank God that he has been made "new." (And what else does "new" mean except NOT like the "old"?)

centuri0n said...


The genuine differences between the regenerate person and the non-regenerate person are these:

[1] The regenererate person sees his position before God clearly (John 3 [regenerate] vs. Rom 1 [not]).

[2] The regenerate person as -already- received God's grace (1 Cor 1); the unregenerate has merely been -offered- God's forgiveness. (Acts 7)

[3] The regenerate person is enabled to do acts of obedience, but is not unable to do disobedient acts; the unregenerate person is unable to to acts of obedience, and only able to live in disobedience.

ezekiel said...

Anyone else see Bildad or Job in any of this discussion?

Job 25-27.

The difference is HOPE. Hope that at some point God in His Power will sanctify me and deliver me from those that think that it is ok to be like the world and act like the world while claiming to be saved.

What was the publican hoping and what was the pharisee hoping. Job 28

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

FRANK: how is a genuinely saved person different from an unregenerate person?

TERRY: how is a genuinely saved person similar to an unregenerate person?

The Right Balance (positively put)

The Right Balance (negatively put)

Going back for a popcorn refill!

Terry Rayburn said...


"how is a genuinely saved person similar to an unregenerate person?"

In the context we are discussing:

1. Both are able to sin.
2. Both do sin.

BTW, I agree with Cent's answer to your question.

Nicely done, Dan. Thanks.

DJP said...

Frank, Terry — thank you both.

Stefan said...

Good idea, Dan: Your twin questions distilled everything down to the essentials.

As an aside, in Knowing God (1973), p. 233, J.I. Packer treats Paul as describing himself post regeneration in Romans 7, but going on to show the solution to the redeemed Christian's predicament in Romans 8, with glimpses of the same hope that Ezekiel (the commenter, not the prophet) mentioned a few comments back.

Stefan said...

Not that just because so-and-so says so, it is; but I respect him as a sound teacher.

Brad Leber said...


Forwarded this to my entire email list...

It should be published in a small booklet/tract format!

Thank you.

Jim said...

Everyone is different. Some may consider one extreme and the other is not while another person is the opposite. God teaches is different through our sanctification. God's divine intervention BOTH WAYS. All circumstances can turn people to God. Romans 8:28-29 "And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them." Romans 9:18 Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden

I have learned to understand the true nature of the Christian life which is unpredictable and expanding called "sanctification". God does not desire to destroy my will, but to sanctify “my will into His will”. The primary work of Christ in redemption is to justify and sanctify believers. God works all things together for His purposes. I have learned that even though God does not always permit such serious life-changing situations in my life, but He did lead me into life-changing experiences that heighten my effectiveness in the ministry (or ministries) whenever and wherever He put me.

One side trials may be viewed as coming from God to bring out the BEST in me (See: Gen. 22:1-2, 15-18; Hebrews 11:17).

On the other side of the coin, Satan attempts to tempt us and trials to bring out the WORST in me (see: James 1:13-14).

I could have despise my trials instead of embracing them but I didn't because of God's grace.

DJP said...

Everyone is different


We do have that in common.

ba-dum bum!

centuri0n said...


This post only works if you are ready and willing to answer the question, "what must I do to be saved".

It also has a few typos.

C.T. Lillies said...

I think I'll keep my spot, standing at the back of the church hat in hand brothers and sisters. 'Woe unto me, a sinner...'

NWProdigal said...

I am completely in agreement with Terry Rayburn's take. Especially his 3rd and 4th replies.

My problem with the article lies completely within the context of paragraph thirteen. It rather assumes that we, as Christians, are still doing the things we used to do with the same disinterested lack of guilt.

The remark about using someone else's body for our own cheap thrills with the end result of an abortion seems rather callous and unrepentant. I realize it is a generalization, but it also appears to be a generalization of typical believers.

Forgive me if I misunderstand that part of the article, but that's where my antennae went up!

I agree with Terry that Paul, in Romans 7, is talking about his flesh, not his nature. And he is talking in the present tense, although he seems to exaggerate his propensity to not do what God wants him to. His life is evidence that he was more obedient than not, eh?

I recently came to understand what Paul means when he says "So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me." (Romans 7:17 ESV) This, as was noted by others, doesn't absolve us of guilt, if we do not crucify the flesh by refusing to obey it. But, it does mean we have a new nature that resists doing what we used to do, and did it without giving it a second thought.

Great discussion!

Michael Coughlin said...

What a breath of fresh air and a good encouragement to the saints at anytime.