Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Sin as act or sin as condition.

The Rev. R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Souther Baptist Theological Seminary, has created a furor by publishing and article entitled, "Is Your Baby Gay? What If You Could Know? What If You Could Do Something About It?" Click here to read his article.

The furor comes over his admission that there could be a genetic cause for homosexuality and if so, could there be something done about it. Gays, of course, are up in arms over this because they still mix a strange worldview wherein they want free will but at the same time want to uphold that free will by saying they don't have free will (hence the genetic arguments).

But that's not the issue I'm going to pick on. In a news article written by David Crary for the Associated Press, he reports that "Proof of a biological basis would challenge the belief of many conservative Christians that homosexuality - which they view as sinful - is a matter of choice that can be overcome through prayer and counseling."

I'm glad he says "conservative Christians", but actual conservative Christians aren't interested in a list of sins, but rather the sinful condition. Historic Christianity says that all human beings (save for one) exist in a fallen state wherein it is in their nature to sin. Martin Luther, in his work Bondage of the Will, expounds on the biblical concept of sin and mankind's fallen state, reiterating the Christian doctrine that "all have sinned and fallen short of the Glory of God". The reason we are all sinners is because our wills are in bondage to sin, and the only solution to that problem is a savior, Christ the Lord.

I'm not certain about the assertion that we should look into a medical treatment for homosexuality. It's my belief that the cure would turn out to be curse. I would be curious as to whether anyone would be interested in a cure for, say, hateful thoughts, or gossip, or depraved indifference to fellow human beings. But that's a discussion for another time. People do need to understand that just because another person's sin seems greater than yours does not make you less in bondage to sin than another. Both Albert Mohler Jr. and the gays that assail him need to understand this.

Lord Grant your command, In Jesus name. May it be so.


mwdiers said...

The assertion that finding a genetic cause for homosexuality would in any way invalidate the judgment that homosexuality is sin, is a common misconception which may be attributed to those who deny the total corruption of man from conception on. There way well be a genetic disposition towards theft, adultery, murder, or any other imaginable sin, including homosexuality. Should this surprise anyone, leastwise Christians? What else does Psalm 51 mean: "Behold, I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me."

The idea that a genetic disposition would in any way change the cure or ongoing treatment of sin is also a fallacy. Oratio, tentatio, meditatio (prayer, suffering, and meditation). These are the only things that one can do to address sin in this life, no matter what the source. Confession and absolution. This is the only cure for sin, no matter what the source.

Matthew said...

Nicely said. I would ask what you mean by "cure for sin". According to St. Paul, sin still exists in our members, and it seems as though no matter what he (or we) can do about it, it's still there. Although we can clean up our act in this life and make a tiny bit of progress towards holiness, we will never reach the level some people say they have achieved.

mwdiers said...

Granted, the cure is ongoing. And yet it surely is a cure in the final sense when, because we have been completely absolved by the suffering and death of Christ, our Father can look at us in the life to come and say, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant!"

Yet even in this life, the absolution which is pronounced upon the sinner is true absolution. Those sins are, in fact, actually put away. They are not merely suppressed. They are addressed and removed. Drowned in the depths of the sea.

So yes, our flesh remains corrupt and can only be actively held in bondage to God's Word by prayer, suffering, and meditation. Both, then, are necessary, the struggle (which is prompted by the Spirit of God working in us through the means of grace), and the cure (where the actual sins which a man has committed, in other words the flesh in motion, is put away).

Matthew said...

What if my sins don't seem to be "put away" by the cure? Even though it appears that I'm cleaned up on the outside, there's still a lot going on inside me that's rank and dirty. What hope to I have?

mwdiers said...

I am not talking about perfect sanctification (which only exists in heaven). This has nothing to do with an externally godly life (which is always as sham). This has to do with the reality, the real sin which afflicts us our whole life long.

Even for the internal dirt and grime of our nature, the "cure", so to speak, cannot fail. This sin is actually put away. Not the pious externals, but real sin, right down to the thoughts and inclinations of the heart. Absolution is a declaration of God Himself. If He has put away those sins, those sins are truly put away, be they buried ever so deep within us.

Yes, the sin nature still remains. The filth is still there working in us. That is not what I mean by cure. But if it is not true that Christ has effectively put away even our inherent corruption, then God could still condemn us for what we are. Christ must be the answer, the cure, also for the sin which continually afflicts us, or He is no Savior at all.

This then, is the hope, of every sinner, that God, in Christ has actually reconciled the world unto Himself, and has committed unto us the Word of reconciliation which effectively pronounces this absolution upon the sinner. That proclamation is always valid, even right down to our inner corruption.

Therefore we must direct the sinner who is afflicted by the Law to Christ, no matter what. Nothing must stand in the way. We must make it absoultely clear that just as the Law condemns us not only what we do but what we are, so also does the Redemption of Christ provide the cure for both.

Matthew said...

Ok, at this point I have to say something. First, by saying the following:

"But if it is not true that Christ has effectively put away even our inherent corruption, then God could still condemn us for what we are."

You have made Jesus out to be an imperfect savior. That there is some extra work done inside of you that is also necessary to achieve salvation is not what the gospel is at all. In fact, that is a category of Rome, and as a Lutheran I must object.

The declarative absolution that is Justification is God's pronouncement that, through the Blood of Jesus Christ, He has solved the problem by HIMSELF. Not by anything done by us nor by anything wrought in us, but for the Sake of the holy, innocent, and bitter sufferings of Jesus ALONE.

That is the Gospel. It's not about what has been done inside me, but rather what was done two thousand years ago by Jesus on the Cross. The reason homosexuals never recieve their "cure" is because we keep telling them about some miracle that is going to be done inside them, when the true miracle was actually done OUTSIDE them. If they try Christianity at all, they soon fall away because their experience shows that they still have homosexual tendencies, it's not buried deep down and it's not put away. In fact, were it to be taken away, probably most of them would turn into pious hypocrits spouting off about the wonderous thing God did for them, driving others to dispair and NEVER once proclaiming the true Gospel. (Sound familiar?)

St. Paul warned us that sin is still in our members. It's the one doctrine of Christianity that is observable.

mwdiers said...

I'm sorry, but you entirely misunderstand me. You are rather quick on the draw my friend.

I said nothing about what a man must do within. You are reading my words as if I am a pietist, when that is the very thing I am condemning.

The very point that I am trying to make is that if it is not true that Christ redeemed also our innermost corrupt nature, and put away that sin, then He is indeed an imperfect Savior. I am not denying the sin that is still in our members. Far from it. I am saying that it continues in us until death, but that the cure is the same, for Christ is a prefect Savior.

That external redemption which He accomplished, that finished work which He has already done, addresses not just our external sins, but also our inner nature. Therefore we direct the homosexual, who is convicted by God's Law and finds the unholy desires of his heart continue even after he is converted, not to any inner struggles (about which I said nothing) but to the finished work of Christ.

Will that end the impurities of his flesh so that he is no longer afflicted by them? No. That is why he needs Christ every day! But thanks be to God the one finished work of Christ is the cure for sin not just once, but our whole life long.

Matthew said...

No, I didn't misunderstand you. Rather, you misunderstand me. You said in the first place:

"But if it is not true that Christ has effectively put away even our inherent corruption, then God could still condemn us for what we are."

Our Faith is not in what has been done inside us. It's a wrong way to divide law and gospel. It's a true doctrinal statement that our sins have been put away, but any time our new man looks in the mirror he sees only a sinner, and a miserable one at that. I'm trying to put a very fine edge on this. Even though at face value it seems good to tell someone that Christ has put away our sin, we hear that as a law statement when we examine ourselves and realize our sin is not "Put away". It's not that St. Paul is wrong, nor is it that God is wrong in declaring the law to us, but it is wrong for us to misinterpret Gospel as law.

Therefore, the gospel states that salvation is by Grace alone, through Faith alone, for the sake of Christ alone, Not for the sake of Christ's work alone. That's a very fine edge, I know, but still a necessary edge.

In the second place and still on the same topic, the category of "cure" is I believe, a category of infusion. "Cure" infers that a condition is healed and is gone, and in many quarters that's how "grace" is defined. Grace is often defined as a sort of medicinal stuff that, when poured into us, works a change in our hearts. The right definition is the same definition that the Bible itself uses, which is unmerited favor, mercy and love. As you have rightly said, there is no "cure" that is wrought in this life in us that is complete. In fact, much of the time it seems to us as though we are actually getting worse rather than better.

Objective Justification is a category of imputation. I would offer as an interpretation of the act of Christ "putting away" our sins, that through the imputation of Christ's righteousness to us, our sins are put away from the sight of God so that we may enjoy his unmerited favor, mercy and love.

I have to apologize, here, because in a way I've been pulling you along. I believe that, as lutherans, we have to learn to put a fine edge on these things because the rest of evangelical america is trying to dull the edge. It's time for us to take back Christianity, take it away from the hobbiest and proclaim the Gospel rightly.

mwdiers said...

"Our Faith is not in what has been done inside us."

Correct. And perhaps the word "cure" is a mistake because it is too easy to misunderstand.

I believe we were arguing against two different positions entirely, as I think I agree with everything you have stated (but have a question - see below).

I only meant, from the beginning, that the sinner who is in the midst of the soul struggle should look to Christ and see the absolute surety of his Redemption. The declaration of God's righteousness is absolute, and made in full knowledge of what we are. Christ redeems us from all sin and death, not just from the deeds, but from the source also: our very nature. This gives great hope and strength to the man who struggles against a sin such as homosexuality, for he then knows that even though his flesh still serves sin (that "other law" working in his members), yet with the mind, he still serves Christ knowing that God's redemption stands sure.

I would like, however, to explore this statement regarding "not for the sake of Christ's work alone." When you say "work" do you mean the work of Redemption, or are you referring to the work that God does in the sinner? If the latter, then I agree with your statement. Faith can never be in what God accomplishes in us. But if the former, I would like you to elaborate more. In once sense is our faith not also in the finished work of Redemption? That is a fine edge indeed, and I am not sure where you are going with it (if that is indeed what you meant). Perhaps that could be the subject of a new blog entry.

Matthew said...

You're right, in fact, Just as a fortaste, it will be on John Chapter 6. First, Jesus feeds the five thousand, then after they all got a good look at that miracle, they wanted to sieze him and make him king. He withdrew from them.

Then later after he had crossed over the water to Capernaum... Remember what he said to them?

More later. Good idea for an article. Thanks alot. :)

the big test

Since someone, somewhere, has seen fit to deprive the world of Issues etc and take a huge bite out of confessional Lutheranism at the same time, I will not take up the mantle of working to see that those who did it answer for their actions.
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