Please see part 1 of this series:Choose Biblical Counseling Not Psychology: Part 1
The Doctrine of Man
Before discussing why the doctrine of sin is important, I will first discuss the importance of the doctrine of man. There are four major reasons why the doctrine of man is important: man is the pinnacle of creation, man’s relation to his Creator, negative implications of the false views of man, and the importance of applying biblical truths of man to contemporary issues.
Man is the Pinnacle of Creation
Man is the high point of God’s creation. He was the only created being of God that was made in His “image” and “likeness” (Gen. 1:27). For more information on humans being made in God’s image and likeness, please see this link: Created in God’s Image.
From the creation account, not only was man made in His image and likeness, but man was given authority by God to have dominion over the earth and man was given the authority to give names to all the creatures God created (Genesis 1:26). No other created entity was given this kind of authority.
If man does not understand this creation account of his authority coming from God, negative implications for society will be generated dramatically. He does not rule in his own autonomy, but rules under the sovereignty of God. He must do only what God tells him. To do the contrary, would be to sin before Him. Sadly, our nation at this point and moment of time has deviated further and further from God’s rule (Psalm 24:1).
Relation to the Creator
In terms of man’s relation to God, the Bible helps us understand who we are before our Creator. The Bible alone dictates our relationship before Him. The Bible is the only standard. The individual must come to a realization that he is small and God is bigger than His life. He was created from dust, but God was never created because He is eternal. And this eternal Creator that reveals Himself in nature (Psalm 19:1-7; Romans 1:18-20), Scripture, and via His very Son, is authoritative; and His revelation does not rest upon any relativistic human opinion or unreliable and tentative sources. There is nothing more epistemologically authoritative that can hold stand the test of time, apart from what He has disclosed via His revelation.
If the Bible is not accepted as the only standard, epistemology authoritative or morally ultimate from what God disclosed to humans, then humans will use their own standards to dictate how their relationship should be before their Creator. That approach is untenable because that means everyone’s standards will be relative. And if it is relative, no one has a right to say their standard in terms of defining their relationship before their Creator, is better than the standard of another person. They have no authority to authenticate their own standards. That is why we need God in order to avoid these relativistic implications. Because of the inconsistency of man’s standards, man does a disservice not only to God, but also to his fellow man. But with God’s standard, there is absolute truth and consistency. Since that is so, it is wise to look to the Bible to determine our relationship before God. Every minutiae and every fact we come across must be understood in light of Christ (Colossians 1:16).
Negative Implications of the False Views of Man
Studying the doctrine of man is imperative when it comes to refuting false views of man. If you just take a look at the world, there are countless differing views of man. For example, Freud sees man as an instinctual animal that has a conflict between the Id, Superego, and Ego. Adler sees man as being born weak and small and needs to control his or her fate at an early age in order to survive. Other psychologists like Skinner believes that man’s problem are a result of his environment. And because of the environment’s influence on man, he says that man may keep practicing the behavior with the proper incentives until the person does not feel guilty anymore. In other words, repeated behaviors are like allergy shots; and the effects will still be there until you are immune from it. The differing views I stated earlier concerning man are just examples from hedonists who have their own standards of man outside of God’s words. But what you could see already is that when you go outside the Bible, man has distorted views of man. Once, I get into the doctrine of sin, you will see the correct view of man in accordance with Scripture.
Biblical Truths and its Connection to Contemporary Issues
In lieu of all the other three points I mentioned: man being the pinnacle of creation, man’s relation to his Creator; and refutation of false views of man, we should also study the doctrine of man so that as Christians we maybe able to apply biblical truths in regards to modern issues that are facing us today such as: abortion, euthanasia, and other pertinent modern issues facing us. But before we do that, we need to touch upon the doctrine of sin.
If you study church history, before the Modern and the Enlightenment Era, there was a large consensus that man was born with a depraved nature. This concept was ushered in with popularity not only by John Calvin, but also by Martin Luther who testified in disgust over his sinfulness. But when the Enlightenment came into the scene, the traditional view of the sinfulness of man began to lose its effect. People started to view man in general as being good.
If you study the history carefully, the traditional view of man’s sinfulness probably waned due to the rise of man’s education, technological advancement, science, health, etc. As you know, the advancement of human knowledge continues to persist today. But even with man’s advancement, man can not be good because if you take a look at the twentieth century, it shows that humanity witnessed the most bloodshed and evil when compared to any century. Well, I have said much regarding the background to this discussion. I will now transition to reasons why the doctrine of sin should be studied.
First reason why the doctrine of sin should be studied is due to its link and relation to God. This truth is important and sobering because before one is regenerated, he or she was enslaved to sin prior to his or her regeneration (Ephesians 1:1-3).
What is sin? The Westminster Catechism, which is not infallible, but is a biblical statement nonetheless, says this about sin, “Sin is any want of conformity unto, or transgression of, the law of God.” In other words, to sin is to conform to our sinful ways and to transgress against His ordained laws (Psalm 119:4). When we sin against a Holy God, we need to exemplify David’s heart when he sinned. He understood the reality of sin and he understood that sin was an attack against God (Psalm 51:4).
The second reason why I study the doctrine of sin is because sin directly affects who we are as humans. Sin is a destructive force that not only brings about death, but it affects our thoughts, which influences our deeds. If one understands the doctrine of sin well, I believe that the Christian will be able to explain the problem of evil against an opponent of the Gospel; and one will be better prepared to counsel one who has just lost a loved one.
The problem of sin is inseparably linked to the problem of evil. How one responds to a unbeliever or a love one in Christ will be dictated on how one understands the problem of evil. People need to understand that sin was brought into this world by Adam who rebelled against God when God prohibited him (Gen. 2:16-17). Man is to be blamed for the sin that was brought into this world. In the beginning, God gave our parents volition and free will before the Fall. In his original state, he had the ability to choose between good and evil. Since then, he is enslaved to sin; and is in desperate need of the sovereign work of the Holy Spirit to synergistically open his eyes to the truth.
Man ultimately chose evil and he paid the price. For time’s sake, I cannot devote an entire paper regarding the problem of evil. Basically, my intention was to give a snapshot of how the doctrine of sin is inseparably linked to helping one explaining the problem of evil.
Although sin is a horrendous enemy, it is also glorious. It is glorious in the sense that it has some direct bearing to the doctrine of salvation. This may be ironic to you, but it brings much glory to God. For example, take a look at Acts 2:23. In Peter’s sermon, he says, “This Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death.” God predetermined Jesus’ death before the foundation of the world. Why am I bringing up this verse? Well, what happened to Jesus was sinful and evil, but at the same token, His bloody sacrifice brought salvation! So yes, the evil event that happened to Jesus was sinful (of course God did not sin by offering His Son), but it was a spectacular type of sin that brought hope to humanity.
Another major reason why I study the doctrine of sin is because it affects how I do ministry. When I see humans sin before God and others—by the grace of God, it causes me to have patience with sinners because the goal is to bring reconciliation to them. Only the transcendent Word of God can free man from his enslavement to sin, not psychology.
As many you know, this year has been a year of carnage. We have witnessed the Sandy Hook shooting and the Boston Marathon bombing. Whenever carnage is done in this soil, the media will often bring in psychologists or psychiatrists to explain why carnage exists in our world. They will give you their explanation. But it is superficial. They will avoid human responsibility and will say that the person’s act was due to mental illness. The Bible is clear about those behaviors. For example, Matthew 15:19 says “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders.”
Greg L. Bahnsen, Van Til’s Apologetic: Readings and Analysis (Phillipsburg, NJ: P & R Publishing, 1998), 201.
All Scripture is quoted from the New American Standard Bible: Update.