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Archive for the ‘total depravity’ Category

revamped-logo1-e1402512175915There is a youth conference in Southern California that has been going on for three years already and this year they tackled on the difficult issue of Sin.
Here are the three videos from the three main session.

Session #1 – I’ve Fallen Down and I Can’t Get Up

Session #2 – Burning the Tares: The Punishment for Sin

Session #3 – Jesus: Savior of Sin

 

 

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Folly of NYT Coverage of Chris Plaskon Connecticut School Stabbing

One shocking news from last week was of a junior in high school name Chris Plaskon who stabbed a fellow student name Maren Sanchez.  It happened on Friday morning in a hallway at Jonathan Law High School in the state of Connecticut.  Apparently Plaskon had a crush on the girl and he stabbed her since she did not want to go to prom with him.

I do not want to focus my post on this story as much as a piece over at the New York Times about this unfortunate event.  The article can be accessed by clicking HERE.  Its title is quite indicative of what I’m trying to critique: “Suspect in Stabbing at Connecticut School Is Described as Popular.”

From a Christian worldview one can’t help it at times to see the folly of what the media spew out which reflect their inability to grasp a deeper understanding of what is going on or what’s really the issue (see for instance my post ““).  Theology does matter:  A wrong view of morality and ethics (depending on whether it’s source is from God or not) along with a wrong view of man (is he basically good or sinful) will shape how interpret the new story at hand.  I think this NY Times piece is a good case in point.

With pun intended, the writers and editors for this news article aren’t very sharp.

Let us begin with the title: “Suspect in Stabbing at Connecticut School Is Described as Popular.” So a guy stabs a girl to death for not going to prom and the headlines for national news is that this guy is popular?  I’m surprise the two journalists in the article didn’t gives us the friends count of Plaskon’s Facebook account or the stats of how many people followed him on twitter.  I think it is unfortunate that the title for the article  concentrated on something superficial.  As the maxim goes,  one ought not to major on the minors and minor on the majors.

In the writers’ defense, I acknowledge that sometimes its the editors who can manipulate a news article’s title in order to get attention for people to read the news piece.  It’s unfortunate today that people in the media who aren’t witty compensate by being sleazy.  We may fault the editors, but is it justified that I fault the writers?  To answer that, we must look at the content of the article itself.

The article reported an ignorant coach saying the following:

But a day after authorities say Mr. Plaskon, 16 and a junior, fatally stabbed a classmate in a school hallway, teachers and students were struggling to make sense of the incomprehensible: how a student whom many described as funny and popular could suddenly be accused of killing Maren Sanchez, 16, a well-liked honor student and his longtime friend.
“They’re looking for the kid in the black cape and the fangs and the black fingernails, but there was no sign,” said Mark Robinson, 38, who was Mr. Plaskon’s football coach before retiring last season. “He wasn’t a kid who was in the shadows. He was a well-liked kid. He was funnier than hell. That’s what makes it really strange.”

Note how this coach was quoted as saying they expected the suspect to fit a certain mold: it must be someone who enjoy wearing black apparel.  “In the Shadows.”  Not liked.  Of all the people interviewed and all the things people say, one have to wonder why these two writers have to put into the news article an unhelpful stereotype?  Now don’t get me wrong I’m not “emo,” but just because someone’s gothic or anti-social or an awkward weirdo don’t mean they are the suspect you know.  Seriously how low (superficial) can the mainstream media go?  Black fingernails doesn’t determine guilt.

Lastly I want to note what this coach Mark Robinson said in the end of his quote: “He wasn’t a kid who was in the shadows. He was a well-liked kid. He was funnier than hell. That’s what makes it really strange.”  This is a good example of how Christian theology is relevant.  Note that Robinson assumes that because a kid is not in the shadows, he’s not going to be one who commit such an atrocious sin.    He says the same thing for the “well-liked kid.”  And the kid who is funnier than Hades.  What makes it strange for Robinson is that Plaskon were all these things and yet he turned out to be the suspect.  But should a Christian be surprised that a well-liked funny kid is able to commit such heinous acts?

A Christian wouldn’t be totally caught surprised if he or she believes in the sinfulness of man as it is taught in the Bible.

This sinfulness of man began at birth.  Note the words of the Psalmist David: “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, And in sin my mother conceived me.” (Psalm 51:5)

Biblically, the sinfulness of man is universal in scope.  That is, the state of man’s sinfulness is is true of everyone as Romans 3:23 states: “for all [a]have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”  Psalms 14:2-3 also testify:

The Lord has looked down from heaven upon the sons of men
To see if there are any who [a]understand,
Who seek after God.
They have all turned aside, together they have become corrupt;
There is no one who does good, not even one.

The Bible also teaches that man’s sinfulness ultimately is not the result of his environment or outward appearances but the inward self, what the Bible calls the heart.  Note Jesus’ words: “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, [a]fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders.” (Matthew 15:19).  Jeremiah even cried:  ““The heart is more deceitful than all else And is desperately sick; Who can understand it?” ( Jeremiah 17:9)  Apparently Jeremiah tells us that our sinfulness in our hearts tells us constant lies.  Fortunately God understands this and tells us in His Word.

The above is bad news to an already bad news.

But the Good News is that God has a plan to save us from our sinfulness and the eternal consequences of our sins.  To play on what the coach Robinson joked about earlier, you can’t “be funnier than hell” as a well of escape.  Instead our guilt before God is dealt with through the person and work of Jesus Christ:  “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).  This is indeed a free gift to those who trust in Him as their Lord and Savior.  It is not something earned but given by God as Ephesians 2:8-9 testify:

For by grace you have been saved through faith; and [a]that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God;not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.

The Bible helps lay the foundation for us to properly assess the human condition and therefore what’s important and what’s trivial when it comes to current events.  But ultimately it is for us to properly assess ourselves and therefore come to understand and trust in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior.

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Every year my favorite speaker for the Shepherd’s Conference is Al Mohler.  I am thankful for this man of God.

Al Mohler

 

Here’s my notes from the evening message that Dr. Mohler gave on March 7th during the Shepherd’s Conference for 2014:

We are here because of John MacArthur’s preaching expositionally.

Introduction

Look at Romans 1:16-32

There are some passages of the text that is touchstone text that you turn to again and again.

By the time this letter was written, Jews and Gentiles are in the church in the city of Rome.

ROMANS 1:16-17

When we read Romans 1:16 too quickly we miss the wonderfulness of this truth.

Why did he mention “ashamed”?  Remember the Greco-Roman culture that has a high view of honor and shame.

Romans 1:16 is the foundation of which we stand: It explains the Gospel, explain the people of the Covenant of God

It’s like Romans 1:16-17 we have two volumes of biblical theology of justification.

But we see Romans 1:18 as well.

If we authentically preaching the Gospel we will also give the bad news!  The wrath of God is revealed already—in the mirror, the news and all around us.

The end of Romans 1:18 is so important, it reveals a universal conspiracy of humanity of suppressing the truth.

You don’t understand the fall until you understand the fall unless you understand the noetic effect of the fall

Noetic effect of sins is an epistemic sin, a sin intellectual in nature

Note the rational, intellectual acts from Romans 1:18 onwards

The problem is not with revelation but the preciever:  It’s not we cannot but we will not see what is right before our eyes

Noetic effects explain why we forget things, why we don’t see life is one perfect logic and why we see things wrongfully

Again, suppression of Truth is important; it is important to understand who we are, why people won’t come to salvation and human intellectual endeavor

It is suppressed in unrighteousness

Where does this all leads?

We have two things said three times

1.) Exchange (v.23, v.25, v.26-27)

  • There has never been people who came over in confession of being guilty of being an “exchanger…”
  • What does it mean to exchange of God?
  • An exchange for a horrifying idol
  • An exchange for a lie
  • An exchange for a natural function
  • This here is an argument from lesser to the greater, it is progressive:  horrifying idolàlieàunnatural function.
  • Paul wants us to show us that the final exchange is the existence of homosexuality
  • But we must be careful here:  Paul is speaking here of all humanity and holding a picture of “them,” but rather we are talking about ourselves!
  • Humans are all involved, but playing a game of “I won’t call your sins sins, if you don’t call my sins sins.”
  • Think of social effort of intellectually excusing sin via psychological models, etc; think of political effort for homosexuality, etc
  • We also mis-read nature: Is/Ought fallacy; also don’t forget about things as they are because it’s a fallen world!
  • Don’t forget we commit these exchanges
  • We must be thankful that sin doesn’t have full reign and that natural revelation restrain even sinners

2.) God gave them over (v.24, 26, 28)

  • Here we see God is pro-active in giving us over to the identity that we want for our sins
  • We must remember we can commit noetic, epistemological but also hermeneutical and homiletical sins
  • Some say that God giving over means we have no more hope; but there is hope in the Gospel
  • We do ourselves a disservice when we preach what is sins and the sins of others but we need to see that it is everyone
  • It is God’s special revelation that reveal to us

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TOTAL DEPRAVITY AND THE IMPLICATION FOR APOLOGETICS

Introduction

It might seem counter-intuitive that one’s theology should direct and inform one’s apologetics (defense of the faith).  For decades, Cornelius Van Til, the professor of Christian Apologetics at Westminster Seminary, has been calling for other Christian apologists to have theology drive their apologetics, rather than the other way around.  As a result of Van Til’s ministry, a school of apologetics called Presuppositionalism was formed, with one of its chief tenets being that Biblically based theology should dictate the goals and method of Christian apologetics.

Why does theology matter in apologetics?  A good example of the importance of theology to the field of apologetics can be found by looking at what the Scripture teaches concerning sin, and its implication in the believer’s task of apologetics.  Since the endeavor in defending the faith require the rational faculty of the mind, this paper will begin with a discussion of key terminology found in the Scriptures which captures this aspect of man.  This is followed by an assessment of several Biblical passages that shed some light as to the devastating effect of sin on the nature of man’s faculties (reasoning, volition, etc), which apologists typically appeal to.  Then a summary of the ramification of man’s total depravity is stated, and a conclusion is given of the necessity of the Gospel and the Word of God in addressing the problem that total depravity presents in the work of apologetics.

Key Terminology in Scripture

For the Christians who are interested in the rational defense of Christianity within a Biblical framework, the first question to be asked is whether or not the Bible has anything to say about man’s rational aspect.  This is a reasonable question, for if the Scripture does address man’s reasoning ability, the Christian apologist engaging in reasoning must come to grip with what God has to say about the matter.  Identifying key terminology concerning man’s rational aspect in the Bible has two critical importance in this paper: (1) it demonstrates that man does has a rational aspect to him and (2) these terms are the tag indicators for any observer to recognize when Scripture has something to say about man’s rational capacity.

Confirming that man does have a rational faculty, “the Old Testament Scriptures are clear that there is a nephesh in man that transcends the life principle and to which is attributed reason, emotion, will and worship” (Morey, 48).  The Hebrew word for “heart”, leb or lebab, is found in the majority of Old Testament instances as a term to emphasize the rationality of man (Zemek, 17).  This point is establishes in places such as in Job 12:3, where the context in the verse has the rationality of Job in view, reinforced by the fact that Job’s response to his friends brought up the fact that he “knows”.

Continuing into the New Testament, the Greek word kardia for heart corresponds with the Hebrew word for heart in its multi-faceted aspect, including the emphasis on man’s thinking ability.  It could be used to “stand for man’s entire mental and moral activity, both the rational and the emotional elements” (Vine, Vol. II, 206-207).  The New Testament adds more richness to the available terminology of man’s rational aspect, such as the Greek word for mind, nous. This term can express “the inner orientation or moral attitude” of an individual (Behm, 958).  Another commonly used Greek term for the mind is dianoia, or literally “a thinking through, or over, a meditation, reflecting, etc” (Vine, Vol. III, 69).

Assessment of sin

To begin with, the Scripture is very clear that sin is a prevalent reality in everyone’s lives (Romans 3:23).  The origin of sin goes back to the Garden of Eden with the original man and woman that God created (Genesis 3).  In the Garden, Eve was tempted by the serpent with the offer of “knowing” (Genesis 3:5).  Yet, this “knowledge” was offered in violation of God’s direct command (Genesis 3:4-5; cf. Genesis 2:16-17, 3:2-3).  It is interesting to note that the appeal to “knowledge” in violation of God’s Laws still continues today by those who attempt to rationally attack the faith.

The consequence of original sin has far reaching consequences.  It has led to man’s total depravity.  In defining total depravity, R.C. Sproul writes, “Because total depravity is so often poorly defined, let me substitute another phrase that means the same thing: radical corruption. We are depraved in the radix or root of our being, and that core depravity influences everything we do. In the fall we became radically depraved, which means that corruption pervades every area of our lives” (Sproul).

The effect of total depravity includes the mind of unbelievers. In summarizing Ephesians 2:3, Kent observed that “man apart from God’s saving grace has even his rational faculties deranged spiritually” (Kent, 35).  God has revealed in Ephesians 4:17 the nature of the unregenerate mind.  Using the Greek word nous, which emphasizes the seat of rationality within man, the writer Paul describes the Gentiles mind as mataioteti, which has the idea of vanity, worthlessness, nothingness and futility (Bauernfeind, 523).  The description of the consequence of the futile mind is continued in the next verse, Ephesians 4:18.  Using another Greek word for mind, dianoia, the Apostle Paul described the unregenerate’s thought as being darkened.  Furthermore, the cause of why the Gentiles are excluded from a relationship with God is revealed as being because the nonbelievers have hardened their hearts.  It is clear that sin has affected man’s mind and thought.

The effect of total depravity includes the human heart.  This is evident from what Jeremiah 17:9 teaches.  Nothing is more deceitful than the human heart.  The heart is so wicked that Jeremiah is led to ask whether anyone can understand it, the heart’s condition being so depraved.  In the New Testament, Jesus is recorded in the Gospel of Mark affirming what Jeremiah 17:9 taught.  Jesus revealed the source of evil thoughts, fornications, thefts and other sins: the human heart (Mark 7:21).  One commentator noted the Greek word for man’s mind here is dialogismos, and that, “in his own mind a person frequently carries on a dialogue…In nearly every instance—Luke 2:35 is a possible exception—the deliberations, inner reasonings, or devisings are of a definitely sinful nature” (Hendriksen, 286).  These inner dialogues “give rise to actions and stimulate inner drives” (Hendriksen, 286).  Thus, sin has affected the heart, which aspects include man’s rationality.

There should be no doubt that sin has tainted the mind and the will (Luke 5:22, 6:8, 9:46, 47; Romans 1:21, 14:1; 1 Corinthians 3:20, Philippians 2:14).  The extent that sin has affected the nonbeliever’s rational faculty reaches to the point that the unbeliever will suppress the truth of God (Romans 1:18).  In fact, sin has resulted in the nonbeliever rejecting God’s truth as foolishness in his/her own mind (1Corinthians 2:14).

In summary, man’s sin has totally devastated the faculty of man’s reasoning and will to be persuaded.  This truth can leave the apologist on a pessimistic note, with the impossibility that the apologist faces.  However, here is where the Christian apologist trusts not in his own wisdom of his own mind, but rather on God and His Word as the solution to the dilemma of total depravity’s implication towards apologetics.

The necessity of the Gospel and the Word of God

Dr. MacArthur’s admonition, while directed towards Pastors is also appropriate for the apologist as well: “If we do not understand the theology regarding man’s nature, then we might think that we could manipulate His will by our clever words, music, or programs” (MacArthur, 373).  A Christian apologist who properly understands man’s nature will not be trusting in his own clever words or program of apologetics.  Nor will they be dependent upon the outlook of those who are not saved.  As one who takes Ephesians 4 as Biblical understanding of human nature seriously, Christian apologist Greg Bahnsen writes, “Paul tells us in Ephesians 4 that to follow the methods dictated by the intellectual outlook of those who are outside of a saving relationship to God is to have a vain mind and a darkened understanding” (Bahnsen, 11).  The Christian apologist will not adopt the same thinking patterns and presuppositions of the World.  He will acknowledge that He has to depend on the work of the Holy Spirit.

Knowing that the nonbeliever’s mind is carnal and unable to grasp spiritual truths, the Christian apologist will have to trust in the Word of God and the ministry of the Holy Spirit to convert souls unto salvation.  Romans 12:2 will be the apologist’s hope.  It is nothing short of the work of God for anyone to have their minds renewed, which goal is transformation.  Thus, the Christian apologist must share the gospel, and not only present extra-biblical evidences, since it is in the preaching of the gospel that the true hope for the nonbeliever to have true faith is found!

Finally, the Christian apologist who truly understands the doctrine of total depravity will admit that nonbelievers can suppress the truth and with all their heart, willfully reject the truth.  Yet, the apologist will remember the Sovereign God who is able to work in the nonbeliever’s heart, just as God promised to Israel so long ago, that He will take the initiative to cause the people to have a changed heart so they can love God (Deuteronomy 30:6).

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Bahnsen, Greg.  Always Ready: Directions For Defending the Faith. Nacogdoches, Texas: Covenant Media Press, 2004.

Bahnsen, Greg. “The Crucial Concept of Self-Deception in Presuppositional Apologetics.” The Westminster Journal 57 no. 1 (Spring 1995): 1-32.

Behm, J.  “Nous.” In Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. 5 volumes. Edited by Gerhard Kittel.  Translated by Geoffrey W. Bromiley. 4:951-960. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1942.

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Hendriksen, William.  Mark. New Testament Commentary. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1980.

Kent, Homer A., Jr.  Ephesians: The Glory of the Church. Chicago: Moody Press, 1971.

MacArthur, John F., Jr, Richard Mayhue and Robert Thomas, L., Rediscovering Pastoral Ministry : Shaping Contemporary Ministry With Biblical Mandates, Electronic ed., Logos Library Systems. Dallas: Word Pub., 1995.

Pink, A.W. The Doctrine of Human Depravity. Pensacola: Mt. Zion Publications, undated.

Sproul, R.C. Before the Face of God : Book Two: A Daily Guide for Living from the Gospel of Luke. Includes indexes. electronic ed. Logos Library System; Before the Face of God. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House; Ligonier Ministries, 2000, c1993.

Van Til, Cornelius. The Defense of the Faith. Philadelphia: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1955.

Van Til, Cornelius. The Intellectual Challenge of the Gospel. London: Tyndale Press, 1950.

Vine, W.E. An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words With Their Precise Meanings for English Readers. Old Tappan, New Jersey: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1966.

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