Wednesday, February 16, 2011

What Is Reformed Theology?: Radical Corruption and Moral Inability (Part 2)

     "For I will take you from the nations, gather you from all the lands and bring you into your own land.  Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols.  Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.  I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances" (the New Covenant in Ezekiel 36:24-27).

     "The mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.  However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you.  But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him." (Romans 8:7-9).  Emphasis mine.  

     "Our first parents, by this sin, fell from their original righteousness and communion with God, and we in them whereby death came upon all:  all becoming dead in sin, and wholly defiled in all the faculties and parts of soul and body."  Chapter 6:2 of the 1689 London Baptist Confession.
(Romans 3:23, 5:12; Titus 1:15; Genesis. 6:5; Jeremiah 17:9; Romans 3:10-19)

     In our next video, Dr. Sproul continues in the study of the doctrine of total depravity.  To state the crucial questions again: What did man become in relation to God after the Fall?  Does fallen man have free-will to choose true righteousness and God on his own?  If so, in what capacity is his will free or in bondage relative to God's moral law?  The Reformed stance on these questions is that the natural man or a man in the flesh is neither willing nor able to come to God on His terms and must be saved by the sovereign work of God.  In the 16th century, the Reformers renewed the 4th century debate on this issue between Augustine and Pelagius as Luther refuted Erasmus' view of free-will in his classic work, The Bondage of the Will.  The debate continues today with immense implications on how a church conducts her ministry and how the gospel itself is communicated.  Is man's sin the result of merely poor choices or from a sinful nature/sinful inclination?  Can man remedy his status as a sinner through better education and instruction?  Does he merely need a 2nd chance with God?  Is spiritual understanding simply a matter of intelligence?  Or, does man need to be completely renovated, reborn, made a new creation, given a new heart, regenerated, quickened, made alive, etc., etc., etc., by a sovereign work of God in order to love God and His law?
     Another important contribution to this conversation is that of the Scottish puritan Thomas Boston.  Boston's classic early 18th century work, Human Nature in Its Fourfold State is immensely helpful.  In this Reformed classic, Boston gives us a biblical anthropology that further simplifies a very difficult subject.  A summary of Boston's great work, describes man in 4 historical conditions as Augustine did previously:
  1. Man in Primitive Integrity:  Man in the garden in a pre-fall state of innocence but also under  probation/Covenant of Works. Augustine's stance here was: man able to sin and able not to sin.  Man's will was free to love and obey God, but also free to sin pre-fall.  
  2. Man in Entire Depravity:  Man banished from the garden in post-fall penalty of death.  Human posterity is born in sin and lives perpetually in a sinful state.  Even good deeds in this state are not acceptable to God because they are not motivated out of unfeigned love for Him and with His glory as the aim.  Augustine stance here was: man able to sin and unable not to sin.  Man's will is free to act according to a sinful inclination in bondage to sin in this state.  
  3. Man in Begun Recovery:  Man in a state of grace though faith in God's Redeemer of Genesis 3:15.  Man is given regeneration, repentance, and faith in Christ, a new nature, and true inclinations to holiness according to God's moral law by the indwelling Spirit, but also has a battle with indwelling sin which remains.  Augustine stance here was: man able to not sin and able to sin in this state.  Man's will is free to love God with a renewed will and free to sin simultaneously.  The Christian life in the present age (Gal. 5:17; Rom. 7)! . . . sound familiar to anyone out there?! 
  4. Man in Consummate Happiness or Misery:  Man in either the New Heavens and New Earth or in Hell for eternity.  In glorification, man is eternally free from the presence of sin and death.  Augustine's stance was: man able to not sin and unable to sin in his final state of glorification.  In the final state, man's will is completely free to love God forever or his will is completely unable not to sin forever.   
     Is Reformed Theology making biblical and historic sense as we consider these grand topics?  In Reformed Theology God gets all the glory for His great salvation!
    Here is a re-posting of video from Dr. John MacArthur's address at the 2008 Together For The Gospel Conference . . . this is a must see if you are struggling with free will/total depravity.

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