Reading Romans 7:17-23 "But now I no longer work it out, but the sin dwelling in me. 18 For I know that in me, that is in my flesh, dwells no good. For to will is present to me, but to work out the good I do not find. 19 For what good I desire, I do not do. But the evil I do not desire, this I do. 20 But if I do what I do not desire, it is no longer I working it out, but the sin dwelling in me. 21 I find then the law, when I desire to do the right, that evil is present with me. 22 For I delight in the Law of God according to the inward man; 23 but I see another law in my members having warred against the law of my mind, and taking me captive by the law of sin being in my members."
This clearly shows that we all have an inherently wicked sin nature and are powerless to be free from its influence except for (shown in the surrounding scriptures) our choosing to accept Jesus and then choosing to no longer dwell in our flesh but instead to dwell in the Spirit. So my question is, where did this sin nature come from except that it was always there? And this would seem to agree with Calvin's position but also conflict with Deuteronomy and maybe the parable of the sower. But scripture cannot conflict with itself, which means that we need to determine the scriptural context as a whole.
In the parable of the sower, all of the last three soils seemed to recognize their depravity and need for a Savior (otherwise, what were they rejoicing about?). The reference to "fertile soil" would seem to be those that especially saw the need for a Savior and were so thankful that Jesus came to make the way that their entire being was changed to seek and love Him (forgiven much=love much). It doesn't seem to do so much to counter the idea of an inherently wicked nature and maybe agrees with it.
As for the Deuteronomy scripture, it would seem that maybe we are born a clean slate with a capacity for either direction (not good or bad) and our sin nature has not had a chance yet to train us to its voice. The only scripture that I know of that would lend itself to this is Isa 7:15, speaking prophetically about Jesus, "Butter and honey shall He eat, that He may know to refuse the evil, and choose the good." Some balk at applying it to Jesus, but regardless, it supports the point.
So what are your thoughts?
Who is "email"?
You are right. Scripture is always true, because it comes from God, and God "cannot lie" (Titus 1:2). Therefore, all of Scripture will agree with itself. And, any apparent conflict resides in our own understanding and self-consistency - not in the Word of God. We must dig to refine our understanding of these passages until we harmonize all of the pertinent verses.
This discussion should not be about Calvin. It should be about the teaching of the Bible, but nonetheless, Calvin would not have agreed with your conclusion. You would have not gone far enough for him. He and his followers believed that we are all born completely depraved and entirely incapable of understanding good, much less wanting to do it, or even doing it. For you to say that Calvin may have taught that "we are born [with] a clean slate with a capacity for either direction (not good or bad)" would have made Calvin roll over in his grave. :) He believed that we were born sinful and sinners, completely disgusting, vile, and ruined - with zero capacity for good, because wickedness had already completely taken hold from even before birth. I think if you look at the quotes from Calvin's writing and similarly minded confessions, you will find this to be their view. But, this is only for trivia's sake...
Now, let us return to harmonizing Deuteronomy 1:39; Romans 7:17-23; and Matthew 13:1-9; 18-23:
First, Deuteronomy 1:39 flatly says that the children had no knowledge of good and evil. Therefore, like the state of Adam and Eve, who had not yet eaten of the "tree of the knowledge of good and evil", these children were innocent. Like Adam and Eve, they would have been born spiritually "good" (Genesis 1:26-31), having unstained souls bestowed by their spiritual Father (Genesis 1:26-27; Hebrews 12:9). Since the children of Moses' day existed in this same state, I do not see how one can accept a universal, total, hereditary depravity of mankind.
Second, does Romans 7 agree or disagree? Please allow me to requote for broader context and to add emphasis:
I believe you suggested that we start with a "clean slate". With this, I would agree, because I believe so teaches the Scriptures. As you see above, there is a time in our lives when we are alive, spiritually speaking, of course. (Furthermore, how can something be killed, if it is already dead? So, we must be born alive!) However, sin, not our sinful nature, but sin itself deceives us and kills us. Notice, Adam did not kill us. Adam did not deceive us. But, we were deceived, we sinned, and we died. This eliminates any hereditary depravity, because it is something we do - sin. James focuses on the mechanics of this process a little more:I was alive once without the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died. And the commandment, which was to bring life, I found to bring death. For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it killed me. Therefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good. Has then what is good become death to me? Certainly not! But sin, that it might appear sin, was producing death in me through what is good, so that sin through the commandment might become exceedingly sinful. For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin. For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do. If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good. But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? (Romans 7:9-24)
Please notice that the occasion or catalyst for sin is our own fleshly desires and lust. If we do not check those desires, then unrestrained, they produce sin, which leads to condemnation. ... If Calvin was right, there would be no process - only death. In Calvin's world, we could never say they we were each "alive once" and then "died", especially before we knew Christ!But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death. (James 1:14-15)
This harmonizes with Deuteronomy 1:39. There is a time in each of our lives, as newborns and children, where we are naive, innocent, and without knowledge of good and evil. However, as we age, we become aware of morals, and we become responsible for our actions, knowing right and wrong. This corresponds to the "coming of the commandment" in Romans 7:9. Eventually, each of us are drawn away by our fleshly desires and we sin. The flesh is weak (Mark 14:38; Romans 6:19; 8:3). When we follow its desires, we are easy prey for the Devil (Romans 8:5-8; 13).
Furthermore, in Romans 7, we see that awareness of God's command, followed by disobedience to it, brings an awareness of sin and a loathing of it. However, sin taints the mind, the conscience, and the soul. Each sin weakens us, making it even easier to sin - even impossible to stop without God's help. Therefore, we become slaves to sin, enslaved in bondage to repeat it and to suffer its wages - death (Romans 6:23). If this process continues unchecked, eventually the conscience is seared, and the person becomes totally depraved. However, such people become reprobate through personal repeated, willful, deliberate sin - not through birth (Romans 1:21-28; I Timothy 4:2; Ephesians 4:17-19; Titus 1:15-16).
It is the consequences and degeneration of sin that makes us unable to stop sinning. Our flesh is contaminated with our sins, and it is without spiritual strength, making us vulnerable to sin. It is only in this way that we can understand the term "sinful flesh" (Romans 8:3). However, it is our own sins that enslave us and condemn us, not our flesh. Otherwise, we make God to blame for our sins and guilt, since He clothed us in flesh.
Thirdly, yes, the parable of the sower does suggest that there is a joy of salvation and a temptation to sin. I have no disagreement, even with Calvin, that man does have a sinful nature. The disagreement is over the cause and timing. Calvin taught that we are guilty from Adam's sin and condemned with his depravity - born unable to understand, desire, or obey good. However, I believe the Scriptures teach that people exhibit varying degrees of hardness (depravity), depending on each man's degree of sinfulness. They only become totally depraved after repeated rejection of God's message. What do we see in the parable of the sower?
We see one hardened soil, but no explanation as to how it became that way. Therefore, the passage is ambiguous on the origin and timing of his hardness, which neither helps nor hurts either side. However, the variation in the soils' receptiveness teaches degrees of hardness. The passage does show people who became saved and fell away (2 soils), which hurts Calvinism (Perseverance of the Saints). And, it shows people who had some level of integrity and morality before they heard God's Word. Therefore, they were not totally depraved before being implanted with God's Word, which also badly hurts Calvinism. They had a respect, admiration, and value for God's Word without the direct operation of the Holy Spirit, which further hurts Calvinism. This parable teaches that the power is in the message, the Word, the gospel, the seed (Luke 8:11; Romans 1:16) - not a miraculous, direct operating of the Holy Spirit apart from the Word. Any one of these points dispute Calvinism. But, combined ...
In conclusion, I think you are much farther away from Calvinism than you know, if you hold to your concluding paragraph:
The only point in your conclusion, with which I would disagree, is your use of "sin nature". I have also heard this new Calvinism stated this way:As for the Deuteronomy scripture, it would seem that maybe we are born a clean slate with a capacity for either direction (not good or bad) and our sin nature has not had a chance yet to train us to its voice.
As I stated previously, I think Scriptures speak of us being born with a weakness to sin, not an invariable tendency or inevitability to sin. Depending on what is meant by this phrase, this phrase can indicate a much softened version of Calvin's belief of total inherited depravity; however, it still suffers from the same root error: It ultimately lays the blame on God! ..."I was not born full of sin, but I was born sinful. I was not born a sinner, but I was born given to sin."
I am a sinner, because I have chosen to sin. The Devil may have seduced me. But, I am responsible. The Lord may have not given me the strength to prevail in my flesh. But, that does not mean that He did not provide a way of escape (I Corinthians 10:13). However, I, and virtually all of my accountable human brothers, have foolishly relied on that weak flesh, leaving us unprotected from sin. (It's the contrapositive of II Corinthians 12:10. When I think I am strong, then I am weak.) I stood condemned, because I chose and I sinned, not because of Adam's choice, and not because God set me up. No one else is to blame, but me. This resulted in the displayed trap of Romans 7, from which God thankfully and graciously redeems.
To summarize our harmony, Deuteronomy 1:39 shows the state of children, initially being like that of Adam and Eve - created innocent and pure. Romans 7:9-24 picks up with that picture, beginning with those who are alive without sin. However, it also depicts the fall of Paul, and figuratively each man, unto sin, which condemns and entraps us. The passage ends with the joy of redemption, which is where Matthew 13 continues up the story. Here we see the seed and message of redemption being sown, each man having an opportunity to respond. But, because each man has a different heart, each man will respond differently. Some are already so hardened by their sin, that the gospel does not penetrate. Others respond favorably and therefore rejoice. However, some fall away because of worldliness or shallowness. Others who had a good, honest, and noble heart, persevere to produce much fruit! Their heart, based on their choices, determines their fate, since the gospel invitation is already extended to all. The only question that remains is, "What kind of heart do we have?"
I pray this helps. I look forward to your review and hearing from you soon.
May God help us to have a sincere love of truth,
Calvin couldn't possibly be absolutely wrong on absolutely everything though, and peoples objection to his claim that we are inherently sinful didn't seem all that wrong. I guess the fine point of where their objection lies and exactly what he meant was not clear to me.
As for my mentioning our sin nature, perhaps our difference is in semantics. My reading of scripture on this point is that it comes down to that at birth there are two "voices", that of the enemy and that of Yaweh (Isa 7:15).We have the capacity to obey both but are easily seduced since our flesh is so weak. Our choice to listen at all to the wrong voice creates a gulf so large between us and Yaweh, it took the blood of the perfect sacrifice to make a way for our hearing to be restored.And that hearing develops as we make the choice to learn how to be in the realm of the Spirit and not our flesh. I am responsible for every time I have chosen to listen to either voice.
What do you think, semantics?
Who is "email"?
May I close with one warning? Calvin's theology is incredibly tight and logical - if one is willing to make certain assumptions. If a person has begun to accept certain pieces of Calvinism, he will invariably accept all of it in time, unless he reverses his course or stagnates. Consistency will drive a person to either reject or accept all of Calvin's unique tenets.
(You are right, Calvin did teach some truth. For example, he believed in Jesus and the inspiration of the Bible. However, his view of God is so radically different from Scripture's view, that Calvinism must be labeled as blasphemy, once it is fully understood and appreciated. There is THAT much gap!)
Be careful (I Thessalonians 5:21)! Be diligent (II Timothy 2:15)! Study hard (II Timothy 3:16-17; I Timothy 4:13-16)! Study honestly (II Thessalonians 2:9-12)!
I hope you will continue to find our articles on Calvinism to be helpful:
http://www.insearchoftruth.org/articles ... #calvinism
And, our forums, with a section specific to Calvinism, should be up and working again too:
Let me know what you think about our article on baptism and God's plan of salvation, if you would like to discuss an early point, where "the rubber meets the road":
Thanks! And, may God help us to have a sincere love of the truth,