Thursday, November 17, 2011

Civil War

Do you have a split personality?  
Are you schizophrenic?  
One of the definitions of schizophrenia in is: a state characterized by the coexistence of contradictory or incompatible elements. 
Does that describe you?

Paul, in Romans 7 describes a heated battle going on right inside of himself.  He describes a dilemma in which he wants to do good but can't.  He doesn't want to do wrong, but does it anyway.  He says there is a power within him that is at war with his mind.  It's sin.  
We also call it the 'natural man' or the 'flesh'.
Paul's description of his struggle is so bleak that some have concluded he wrote these words prior to being converted.  I don't think so.
Have you noticed the same struggle going on within you?  Do you ever ask yourself, "why did I do that again"?  Can't I ever get that right?  God must be mad at me, I'm always failing.

How should we deal with this struggle?  Just keep trying to be good?  
Is there honor in the never-ending struggle?  If you didn't care, there would be no struggle.

Also, who is the real me?
Is the real me the 'spiritual me'?  Or is the real me the 'natural me'. Or are they both me?

I tend to think in terms of the real me being the natural me.  It's the part that wants it's own way, is selfish and prideful, dislikes the things of God.  That was me prior to salvation.  Is it still me?  
2 Corinthians 5:17 says I'm a new creature and the old has passed away.  
But I find old desires still present.  Am I a new creature or some kind of hybrid?  Old and new?

In Galatians 6, Paul is writing to Christians.  In vs. 8 he says: Whoever sows to please the flesh will reap destruction, whoever sows to please the Spirit will reap eternal life.  
As a saved Christian, can I sow destruction for myself?

Also related:  What is my standing before God as a Christian who sins?
I've heard it said, and repeated, that Christ died for ALL of my sins.  That includes past, present and future sins.  Others contend that while my salvation is secure, since I still sin I'm in need of forgiveness from those sins.  Ongoing sin is not forgiven.  What is this difference between sin that is forgiven and allows me entrance into heaven and sin that does affect me?  
And how does it affect me?

A lot to think about.  

I think a useful model may be one where you consider your 'natural man' as getting fed all the time from the world, culture and selfish actions.  He's always pretty strong.  The 'spiritual man' needs to be fed and exercised also.  We do this by reading the Word (eating, man does not live by bread alone), doing what it says or applying what we've learned (exercising), and by prayer.  It would be important to keep the spiritual man as healthy as possible in order to be able to effectively combat the enemy within - whatever you call him and whoever he is.


  1. Kory wins the contest for exceeding the limit of 4,096 characters in a blog response.

    Therefore, I'll post it as 2 posts:

    A few thoughts to throw into the mix here. The fall brought about a rupture in four relationships: God and man, man and man, man and the earth, and man and himself. God's work of restoration or new creation includes all four of these ruptured relationships. The Triune God is at work to mend all that is broken, right all that is wrong, and bring about the unity that was intended to mark his entire creation. I think it is helpful to keep the larger project of redemption in mind as we zoom in on the God's work to restore the individual.

    As Christians right now we are living in the overlap of the ages. God has invaded this ruptured world in Christ and has begun the restoration project. He has accomplished all that is necessary for our salvation although we await the fulness of that experience. We live in that tension between the already and the not yet. That tension is so pervasive in the New Testament that it seems almost everything that has happened to us in Christ has an already aspect and a not yet aspect. The kingdom has come and is coming, we are saved and will be saved, we are sanctified and will be sanctified, we are adopted and will be adopted, etc etc.

    As individuals we are experiencing the tension and difficulty of living in the overlap of these two ages: the old and the new. Just as the kingdom of God exists in the midst of and right alongside the kingdom of darkness so we live with as new creatures struggling with our old natures. When it comes to the nature of a human being I hold to a position that is often termed holistic dualism. I believe that we are fashioned with an inner man and an outer man. These two components are vitally interconnected and function together as a whole. I understand the inner man to be synonymous with the heart, soul, spirit, and mind. It is my understanding that these various descriptions of the inner man often overlap. I understand the outer man to be the physical body. This being said I do not drive a wedge between soul, spirit, heart, and mind in my thinking about our nature. My understanding is that sin ruptured both our inner man and outer man. God is at work to restore all that is broken about me. Every part of me was touched by sin and every part of me must be touched by redemption.

  2. Kory part 2

    I agree with Luther in terms of how we should view our current condition. We are "simultaneously righteous and a sinner." Paul had no problem with affirming his perfect righteousness in Christ while at the same time admitting to be the chief of sinners. In terms of the work of transformation God is working in us we are new and old at the same time. Romans 6 is really helpful in this vein. We are people who have the capacity to use our bodies as instruments of righteousness or instruments of sin. At times we submit ourselves to the old man, old nature, flesh (I take them all as synonymous). As new creatures the Spirit works in us new desires and empowers us to fight who we were in Adam.

    The key weapon of our warfare is the gospel. This is Paul's point in Romans 6 in his discussion on fighting sin. We come back to the finished and secure work that you are talking about again and again. The key thing is that we continue to cling to this. We will sin and know the guilt of that sin but as we continue living a life of repentance that holds fast to the gospel we are on solid ground (1 Cor 15:1-2, Col 1:23). Again there is a tension and one I don't think we can escape. The Bible would have us live on the promise and certainty of eternal life and at the same time heed its warnings. If Scripture assures us that all of our sin is dealt with than we can be confident that it is so and if Scripture nevertheless calls us to an ongoing life of repentance to appropriate that finished work then we must also heed this instruction.

    Luther had an interesting take on battling with the old man. He said we must drown him in tears of repentance every day. In Romans 6 and 8 I think we are directed to throw off all self-reliance again and again, despairing of ourselves, and clinging to the gospel afresh---this is how we battle sin. The deeds of the flesh are not just the vice list of Gal 5. These deeds focus primarily on lawless activity. The deeds of the flesh also include the attempts at establishing our own righteousness. Both lawlessness and legalism should be understood under the umbrella of the deeds of the flesh. In my view, both types of deeds are repeatedly murdered as we embrace the gospel. The gospel leads us into death that we might live.

  3. I agree that there's a tension. There are so many warnings for the Christian to persevere, and about the consequences of not doing so, it seems to suggest that 'security' is not necessarily 'eternal'. In other words, our relationship with Christ must be maintained. I realize this is a controversial statement. The eternal security camp would say an individual that 'lost' salvation was never saved. The Calvinist would say man has nothing to do with getting it or losing it.

    You're not talking about that but I think it's related. You're saying that even though I am saved, I'm still going to be in need of saving in the future. Why is that? Ongoing sin in my life that must be compensated for?

    I agree that legalism is an ever present and ever encroaching threat. See the blog entitled Insult to Injury and comments.

  4. Sorry, I accidentally posted the above 3 comments to the Speed of Life blog originally. Hope I didn't confuse anyone.

  5. Kory's response

    Yeah in terms of the tension. I think we are in danger if we let go of either side. The warnings must be genuine and the promises must also be genuine otherwise Scripture contradicts itself (unless of course we do something else with the warnings---which is what many do). Authentic faith is a faith that perseveres. Both warnings and promises in Scripture both serve to aid in persevering us to the end. They both have their place. I believe the promise undergirds everything and the warnings serve the promises. As far as your thought about being saved and needing saving doesn't Scripture speak of salvation in the past, present, and future tenses? If so, how should we understand that type of language. Isn't that to say we are saved and yet need saving. Since sin has touched our entire existence salvation must also if we are to be fully restored. Salvation therefore includes the restoration of the whole person. Our future glorification (the resurrection of our bodies to an immortal and sin free state) is as much a part of our salvation as is our justification. Hebrews 9:26-28 is helpful here. We see salvation split across the continuum of initial faith to Christ's return. It's that already not yet once again. We are secure in what he has accomplished (that cannot be taken away) as we await the completion of what he has begun (this is also absolutely certain).

    Going back quickly to our dialogue on the battle between the old and new man. Sin touches the whole man (every component) and therefore salvation must also if we are to be healed. The work of regeneration touches the entire person (except the body, at least not in the same way--- it does have affect). When we walk in the Spirit and according to our new nature it is our whole person doing so. When we walk in the old nature rebelling against the Spirit and stifling our new nature it is the whole person who does so. Romans 6---our vessels can be controlled for righteousness or for sin---the question is who is in the driver's seat. Again this understanding flows out of a view of man that emphasizes the unity of the various parts rather than the distinction. The control center of this whole battle is our desires according to Galatians 5. The desires of the flesh and the desires of the Spirit wage war (James 4:1-5 says as much). The desires that win out control our entire person--inner and outer man. Thus we can as whole persons walk by the Spirit or walk by the flesh.

    To some of your questions in the email. There is nothing eternal in man. If a person exists forever it is because God upholds them and determines that it is so. It is not due to something intrinsic in a human being (I got a great article on this if you ever wanna read it). As far as regeneration goes it touches the whole of the inner man not just one part of him. The spirit is another term that refers to the soul. I would understand emotions, will, etc to be functions of the heart, soul, mind, or spirit. Again I view them as overlapping ways of describing the unseen part of the human being. Am I understanding you correctly that you are arguing for what has been traditionally called the trichotomy position? Man is made up of three parts--body, soul, and spirit. If so, it may be helpful to note that dualists and trichotomists often come out in different places in their thinking on sanctification. Our biblical anthropology has big implications for other areas of our theology.

    This is a very interesting and helpful discussion.

    For a great book that describes what I believe to be the best position on the perseverance issue see The Race Set Before Us by Tom Schreiner and Ardel Caneday. They do a great job of holding together the warnings and promises of Scripture without letting either go.

  6. Thanks for your time and effort in this discussion.
    I appreciate the sharing of insights and knowledge you provide.

    I like the sound of what you're saying (warnings and promises are genuine, we have been saved and we are going to be saved), but that doesn't make it necessarily true.
    However, you provide good support, so lets analyze.

    In order:
    Tension between warnings and promises.
    There couldn't be a genuine warning about losing salvation, AND a genuine promise of eternal security at the same time could there?
    There are some very pointed warnings, such as Heb. 6:4-8, there are many others such as the parable of the sower, Paul's not wanting to be disqualified, Jesus' warning about putting the hand to the plow and looking back, abide or remain in me in John 15, as though there's an option to NOT remain, and many others. I'm sure there are some explanations for some of these, but with the abundance of warnings, it doesn't seem they could all be explained away. You agree it seems, but believe that the promises are more primary.
    That's an interesting phrase - the promises undergird everything and the warnings serve the promises. I can see how the warnings can help support the promises, but you either are, or aren't, able to be 'disqualified' (1 Cor 9) or are unable to be brought back to repentance (Heb 6), or cut off and burned (John 15, Heb 6), etc. Right?

    Needing to be saved while already having been saved.
    This gets into the main question you and I have been talking about recently. I think it deals with this question of whether or not all of our past and future sins are forgiven at salvation. I talked with Charlie about this last Sunday. He said, during the sermon, that all of our future sins were taken care of at salvation. You have questioned that, and I'm not sure how to view that. Afterwards, he said sin disrupts our fellowship with God but not our relationship with Him. I can see that from a human perspective in the Father-Son relationship.
    I know we are taught to confess sins AFTER salvation, which I guess speaks to 2 different types of repentance - a saving repentance and a maintenance repentance. Or are they both saving? Does 1 John 1:8-9 speak to the Christian or the unconverted? Also, James 5:16 talks about confessing sins to one another. How could this be for forgiveness from God? It would be from each other. Of course, there's also scripture that talks about what is forgiven on earth will be forgiven in heaven. Maybe that's out of context. The Lord's prayer has us asking for daily forgiveness. On what basis? Christ hadn't even died yet. Was that a different model than ours? If not, it appears that I need to ask for forgiveness of sins AFTER salvation, at least in the instance of the Lord's prayer (not a lot of teaching on this?). Why? Can sin derail my salvation if not addressed? Or can my relationship with Christ never be derailed, only my closeness to Him? If all my future sin was forgiven at salvation, then I shouldn't suffer any negative repercussions from it. Or is that why I'm in need of future salvation? Because I continue to sin? If I AM saved already, then I WILL be saved at any time. But then how does ongoing sin factor in? Disrupts the fellowship but not the relationship?

    Eternity in man
    I know that there is nothing intrinsically eternal from man. But God places that in him. So some aspect of man is eternal, whether redeemed or not. Eternity for the unredeemed man is in hell. Therefore, he has an eternal component without salvation, correct?

    2 or 3 part man
    I have assumed a trichotomy with man but that may not be so. Is the dichotomous view one where the only distinction is physical and spirit? Is that your view?
    How is sanctification impacted by these views?

    I will check out The Race Set Before Us.

  7. Also, Heb. 9 is very interesting when it says in vs. 26 that sin is done away with, due to Christ's sacrifice, but in vs. 28 He is coming back, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him. Your point is a second or future salvation. But if he's not going to bear sin again, and it says He bore sin only once, and that He doesn't have to offer himself again and again like a priest, then all future sin was paid for. What is the second salvation? Just the name of entering eternity? Salvation from existence in the world, since it's the second coming? And again, what is our situation as a Christian who sins? Can that sin affect our relationship or only our fellowship?

    Also, I don't understand your comments about the 'whole' person walking in the Spirit, or rebelling against the Spirit. Rom. 7 describes elements of both at the same time. Sinning while recognizing it's wrong. Doing what you don't want to do. Logically, that statement doesn't even make sense. How can we ever be doing what we don't want to do. Even if we are at gunpoint, we give our wallet away because it's what we want to do. Because the thought of potential death is worse. I would think I sin because I want to. If I don't have a choice then how am I culpable? But Paul says he does the things he doesn't want to do.