RCSaunders wrote: ↑Tue Aug 20, 2019 3:44 am
Hi again IC. It is refreshing to discuss something with someone who actually reads what is written and understands it.
I feel the same. I'm quite enjoying the conversation. Having someone with some background and some clear thinking really helps. One doesn't have to explain every detail, and can speak in "shorthand" a bit more, without fear of being misread.
Immanuel Can wrote: ↑Mon Aug 19, 2019 4:55 pm
However, after the Fall, things are obviously quite different. After that, every person born is born into a fallen world, and with not just an option
to sin but an inclination
to do so as well.
I would expect that to be your position, but I have found nothing in the Bible to persuade me it teaches men sin because of an inclination to sin or that they could not choose to live without sin.
Interesting. I see an awful lot to support that case. I guess we could swop quotations, but is that what you'd like to do?
What I should say, though, is that we both seem to recognize as Biblical, and value choice, and human freedoms and responsibilities. That is a great deal different from Neo-Calvinism, of course, because Neo-Calvinists insist that choice is not possible: all is predetermined by divine fiat, they say. But the idea of a sin nature, and the ability to exercise choice are not mutually exclusive: one can have inclinations toward what one decides, for various reasons, not to do. There's nothing unusual about that, of course. So I don't think we have to sacrifice the concept of the sin nature in order to affirm the reality of human freedom and choice. In fact, without human freedom and choice, I would argue we could have no human responsibility either -- and unless I miss my guess, you're on that page too.
The fact that the Bible states that everyone sins can easily be attributed to God's foreknowledge.
Well, yes: but not exclusively. After all, when one has a free choice, why would one ever do what was sinful, if sin is just a bad idea? There must be some attractiveness to it, and that attractiveness cannot but be located in the one being tempted. Of course, we could refer again here to James 1:14-15 here. But Jesus also develops this doctrine in the famous Sermon on the Mount. There, he extends the understanding of the Law beyond mere action, and gets to intention and inclination, particular in things like hatred and lust. (Matthew 5:21-30) He further says that these things come from inside the man, not from outside (Matthew 15:18, for example).
I could go on, of course, but swapping references can quickly become tedious, unless we're both engaged in precise systematic theology at the moment...then, it's necessary, of course. It's only my point at the moment to say what I personally believe, and to give you some idea of why, so you know I'm not just making stuff up.
I think the Bible makes it clear that both ability and knowledge are required for moral responsibility. It is not a sin to not do what one is unable to do, or to do what it is impossible not to do, or to do what one really does not know it is wrong to do. (II Cor. 8:12, Prov. 3:27, Lev. 27:8, Luke 12:47&48, John 15:22-25, John 9:40&41, James 4:17, Rom. 4:15)
Yes, I think that too. But I don't think, as the Neo-Calvinists think, that the sin nature is deterministic of all our actions. It may adequately describe our primary motives without God, perhaps; but it does not mean that we lack ability to do any good. After all, we are "created in the image of God," and that "image" is not entirely erased by sin.
Adults are often too quick to interpret chidren's behavior in terms of their own thoughts and feelings.
True. In a child's world, things happen on a different scale, and with different motives. But I don't find that different things
happen. I mean that I find human nature pretty predictable, from cradle to grave. And a sense of guilt and wrong-doing starts, in normal children, very early, in my experience.
I think all those things you are attributing to a guilty conscience are actually attempts to evade painful consequences (often unreasonable ones dished out by over-zealous parents).
That can be the case. But it is not always the case. However, whether or not the child has a sense of
guilt is not really the issue. One doesn't have to have a sense of guilt
in order to be genuinely guilty. True, one's guilt is greater if one DID have a proper sense of it, but that does not imply that if one had no sense of
guilt one had no guilt.
Consider sociopaths and psychopaths. They have no sense of
guilt. But they ought to. They would be better people if they did. And their lack of a sense of the moral status of what they've done speaks to something wrongly developed in their brains and characters. But that does not mean they have not done evil. It just means they aren't recognizing what they've done. And we don't feel any guilt ourselves when we lock them up; in fact, we're even more relieved than in the cases of those who had a sense of
Children have underdeveloped mechanisms for detecting the moral status of their impulses. That's not news to anyone. However, that does not suggest they are devoid of guilt for what they do; they are only deficient in a sense of
guilt. And I think it's really clear that, in normal humans, that sense of guilt comes on line pretty early; and good thing it does! If it did not, we might not just have the famed "terrible twos," but the "terrible tens and twenties" as well.
I was enlightened about the nature of conscience many years ago by some missionaries to New Guinea. The tribe they were working with were cannibals, who believed it was wrong not partake in eating the remains of defeated enemies, and if they refused, suffered a guilty conscience. Conscience is not a guide to moral virtue, it is an emotional reaction to one's choice to do what one believes is wrong. It is the reason men can do very evil things without suffering from conscience, because they believe what they are doing is right, even, "God's will."
I agree...they can. And conscience can be defective, as well. It's far from a reliable guide. It doesn't always tell you when what you are doing is wrong. I remember things I did at 19 or 20 about which I barely thought, but now realize were really petty or unkind. I should have realized: but I didn't. My conscience was, if active at all, very much on "mute" at the time.
But I have not found a case where my conscience DID alert me, where a little reflection did not reveal to me that I was indeed going wrong. It seems the thing is a bit like a smoke alarm -- those things don't always go off, especially if the batteries are dead; but if one goes off then you're best to check for fire anyway.
Immanuel Can wrote: ↑Mon Aug 19, 2019 4:55 pm
Partly true. But sometimes, the "thing" itself is not in itself wrong; but the way
one indulges it is wrong.
Sex is not wrong, for example. In fact, it's a positively great thing. But there are contexts in which it is wrong, such as pedophelia and rape. The desire for sex isn't bad; but the way that is gratified certainly is.
I think we agree enough on this for me to make my only point, that for desire to lead to sin it does not have to be a special kind of "sinful" desire, but that plain old garden variety desire is sufficient to do it.
No, it's true that even a good or natural desire can be twisted into evil. But sometimes the desire is, indeed, evil. Sin's a complex thing, to be sure. But here's the real question: from where does the "twist" come? It doesn't come from God, so where? If mankind's nature is just good, or even merely neutral, how is it that evil has any appeal at all? That "twist," to say nothing of something like burning hatred or delight in others' suffering, has to have a cause, a source, an origination point of some kind. Where's that bad energy coming from, if not from, as Christ said, "within the man"?
I'd like to come back to this [Adam and Eve] another time. I have very serious questions about the whole Genesis account.
Yes, sure. I'd be glad to.
Immanuel Can wrote: ↑Sun Aug 18, 2019 5:07 am
Both Calvinism and Arminianism assert that human beings are depraved...
True. But that's why I'm also not an Arminian. I don't believe the Doctrine of Total Depravity. Arminius also did not believe what's called Eternal Security. I do.
I didn't mean "total depravity," I only meant depravity in the sense of an inherited, "corrupt," sinful nature.
Interestingly, Calvin himself, it seems, did not believe in the same sort of Total Depravity Doctrine currently being pushed by the Neo-Calvinists. As you've read Calvin, you know that he thought that sin had "infected" all categories of human activity, but only in partial measure; he did not think it had rendered all those categories nothing but
wicked -- which Neo-Calvinists would insist. For Calvin, sin tainted but did not destroy utterly the human potential for good; but Neo-Calvinists say it's a total ruin. Not only that, but Neo-Calvinists understand "depravity" to refer not just to bad actions, but to a dementia of mind that makes even a rudimentary awareness of God impossible to the unregenerate man. In other words, the world is filled, for the Calvinist, but nothing with immoral lunatics, who have to be rescued by arbitrary fiat of God, because they cannot even see the offer of salvation, let alone take it, without God first picking them out of the masses and forcing (they say "compelling") them to bow to it.
All this is not the correct doctrine of the sin nature. It's a peculiar Neo-Calvinist version of it, which I see as highly problematic, but Scripturally and logically. Personally, I'm not a fan of it. I say that so you'll know that maybe what you might be reacting against is not actually a package of ideas I would accept. So I really don't know if there's any sense in which I can be called a "Calvinist." It's certainly a badge I'd never take on.
Most Methodists I have known believe in both a sinful nature and eternal security, but also believe in sanctification (as separate form salvation) and that one can, "fall away." I think there is a lot of Scripture evidence for both.
Right. I think the Methodists have a deficient view of sanctification, too. They fail to see that Scripture uses the term three particular ways, and so they use it only one. And this causes them to make some serious errors, like "fall away" doctrine.
But that's a big topic too. I think I'll let you take the conversation in the direction you prefer, rather than fleshing that out at the moment.
I do not have direct evidence that Augustine derived his dualistic views from Manichaeism, though he was one.
Yeah, that's the correlation-causality thing I was pointing to. It would be very hard to say that the latter caused the former. But if it did, Augustine is not God. He's just another guy trying to systematize his ideas about God. If he failed in some way, it troubles me not at all; I would expect it. It would simply be on me to correct it, if I came across it.
I'm not comfortable basing much on 'suppose,' except for hypothetical consideration.
That's fine. But hypotheticals are very useful for showing us what is possibly different from what we may imagine to be the case. If they do that, they do enough.
Verses 17-19 of Romans 2 make it clear this entire passage, from Romans 1 on, was being written to the Jews in Rome,
Well, no. I see why you think that, but what about everything up to 2:17? All of that is earmarked to Gentile believers: see verses 4-7, 13-16, 18...repeatedly, the passage is explicitly directed to them. What he's doing in 2:17-19 is dealing with the objection that all the things he said earlier were ONLY true of Gentiles, and NOT of Jews. That's why he says, "But if you bear the name 'Jew,' and rely upon the Law..." and so on. Note the IF, the hypothetical there: Paul is saying, "If you say to me that you are different, you are sadly mistaken." He then goes on to show, for about a chapter, that Jews are not a special category of holier-than-thou folks, simply because they had the Law, the covenants and the promises. But he ends that section sharply in 3:9
"What then? Are we (the Jews) better than they (the Gentiles)? Not at all; for we have already charged that both Jews and Greeks are all under sin; as it is written,“There is none righteous, not even one; There is none who understands, There is none who seeks for God; All have turned aside, together they have become useless, There is none who does good, There is not even one.”
Paul's going to return to the special problem of convincing Jewish believers that they aren't above Gentile believers. He'll come back to that in chapters 9-11, and really give it full treatment. But it will remain a theme softly playing in the background in all he says to the Gentiles as well. In chapter 12, he's speaking again to the entire group of Christians in Rome, without Jew-Gentile distinction. And that's how he finishes.
Anyway, that's how I see the breakdown. I refer to the markers Paul uses when referring to his audience(s), and to track his thought-flow. It's clear to me that the addresses to the Gentiles and the combined Jewish-Gentile believer group in Rome bracket the specific remarks he directs to "Israel," or "my brethren according to the flesh," (as distinct, obviously, from "my brethren according to the Spirit").
But now we're getting into specific exegesis. Are we too far into it?
I too have enjoyed our conversation. I will make a confession, in case it is not obvious. I am intentionally attempting to keep the discussion within the context of Biblical Christianity. I personally hold no views that could be called religious, and I do not believe in any form of the supernatural, but I'm not interested in changing anyone else's views. So, I'll continue to accept your view of the authority of the Bible, including it supernatural teachings and attempt to write from that position, though, honestly, I do not personally agree with those views. Are you comfortable with that?
Of course. That's eminently fair. And I, for my part, will make no assumption about you having to believe before you get a right to talk about it. Fair enough?
If you wonder how I could possibly be interested in what I do not believe, here are a couple of reasons. I find most people who believe differently from me (which is almost everyone) both interesting and enjoyable as individuals, including their thinking, and I especially admire those who live their moral principles consistently and enjoy their lives. Something does not have to be "real" for me to enjoy it.
I get it. I'm very interested in Atheists and agnostics in precisely the same way. I don't agree with them, but I get a kick out of figuring out how they're processing things. I'm reading Jung right now, as a matter of fact. And I've always enjoyed Hardy, and Beckett, and Camus, and Rand. I've read a fair bit of Nietzsche, and found that interesting as well. And Freud. And some of Marx. And so on. I've tried to do some diligence in that regard.
...the delightful fantasies of C.S. Lewis...
I was a big Narnia reader as a kid. I just read his space trilogy recently. It doesn't age well, but it was very inventive for his time. What I really enjoyed were his essays. He's got in common with people like Chesterton and Orwell a real ability to turn a phrase.
I have long been bewildered by the fact that so many people claim the Bible as their authority, but have never bothered to read, much less study it, even once, all the way through. Doesn't that amaze you?
No, it saddens me. The greatest work of Western literature, the key document of Western civilization, really, is not read well, even by many of the people who claim most affinity with it -- or so the surveys tell me. However, I attempt to do my best to not add my name to the list of those whose familiarity with it is cursory, shallow or zero. There are enough of those already.
Good talking to you.