A Look of Innocence But

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You may have thought that my blog has fallen from cyberspace. However, I am back. Because of my academic schedule as well as a needed face lift for my website and blog, I have been delayed in posting anything for a few weeks.

This past summer we had a large portion of our family visit us. We had a wonderful time and especially loved being with our youngest granddaughter, Baylea, who at the time of the above picture was about 2 years old. Her smile and blue eyes give her a look of innocence. Though she is such a beautiful baby and loved by all, her innocent looks are deceptive because behind those blue eyes and innocent looks is a “bundle of total depravity.”

When I have told some people that Scripture teaches that all people are totally depraved and unable to please God, they often object or just attempt to ignore me. However, whether or not they agree with or ignore me is irrelevant for Paul states this position clearly in Romans 8:7: “For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot” (to read about this, click this link). To briefly elaborate, all people born through procreation in the line of Adam are hopelessly corrupt and unable to save themselves. This incurable condition of humanity began with Adam and Eve in the the Garden of Eden. When Adam ate from the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, Adam and Eve were eternally condemned and were internally changed into a state of total depravity, including the loss of their original state of unconfirmed creature holiness (to read two posts that I have done on this, click here and here). This truth even includes my adorable granddaughter.

What is a parent to do when he/she recognizes that their children are totally depraved? First, we should recognize that not all children raised in Christian homes are elect. It is only God’s gracious electing purposes that brings salvific life to anyone. Second, parents must resolve to raise their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Eph 6:4). Third, while raising their totally depraved children, they must diligently pray for the Spirit to perform the miracle of regeneration so that their child does repent and believe in Christ. As a grandparent, my wife and I regularly pray that our children are diligent in raising their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord and that the Spirit will regenerate our grandchildren.

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An Apologia for the 24-Hour Day View in the Creation Account (Part 3)

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On Friday, March 20, I began a three-part series at Sharper Iron defending the 24-hour day interpretation of the creation account. As I noted in my first part, because the tradition of Christian orthodoxy has a legacy of interpreting Genesis as a historic narrative, the prevailing interpretation of Genesis 1:1–2:3 has been that it is a record of God’s creative activity in six, consecutive, literal days followed by a literal seventh day of rest. The point of my first post was to provide a fourfold biblical justification for the 24-hour day interpretation of the creation account.

With my second post, I summarized four of the most prominent alternative views that have arisen largely as a result of the advent of modern geology and its claims about the (old) age of the earth.

With my third and final part that is posted today, I present three areas of weakness and a questionable presupposition that each view shares. To read this third post, go to “An Apologia for the 24-Hour Day View in the Creation Account (Part 3).”

The Life-Giving Work of the Spirit: Regeneration

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In my post "Total Depravity 2," I concluded it by noting that the nature of a person’s total depravity demands that God must regenerate a sinner if he is to have any hope of eternal salvation. This is to say that without the Spirit’s work in regeneration, a person is helplessly condemned to an eternal condemnation. I also concluded my post by drawing your attention to some helpful sources on the doctrine of regeneration. However, to complete my description of regeneration, I would like to add a few additional observations.

If you have been following what I am arguing for with the doctrine of totally depravity, then no one be saved? What this means, contrary to modern expectations, is that not even a counselor can save a totally depraved sinner. With any person it is impossible for this person to save himself; however, with God all things are possible (Matt 19:25–26). Only God can change a person’s totally depraved heart of stone into a renewed heart of flesh (Ezek 36:26). It does not matter whether one lived before or after the Cross, or even where they lived, there is only one way to overcome spiritual death, and this is by God giving a dead sinner spiritual life. By the very nature of total depravity, no one has the desire or capability to come to God. Jesus recognized the ramifications of a person’s total depravity when he said to Nicodemus in John 3:3, 5 that “unless one is born from above he cannot see the kingdom of God…. Unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God." Jesus again recognized the necessity of God enabling man to believe in John 6:44, 65: “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him…. No one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father.” In both passages, Jesus recognizes the absolute impossibility of man creating in his own being any type of spiritual life so that he could come to God, and he affirmed that it is only through divine enablement that anyone can come to God. Of necessity, Jesus’ remarks in both passages affirm that if anyone is to faithfully follow Him, a person will only come because the Divine Progenitor has given him spiritual life. Just as it is impossible for any person to cause his own physical birth, so it is impossible for any depraved person to bring about his own spiritual birth. The term that theologically describes this “monergistic” work of God in the soul of a radically corrupt sinner is regeneration. In both contexts, Jesus emphatically rules out any type of synergistic activity with God and man cooperatively working together to produce new life (see Hoekema, Saved by Grace, p. 101). Since total depravity has been the true state of man since the Fall, Jesus’ remarks strongly suggest that fallen humanity can only come to a saving knowledge of God through the Spirit’s life-giving work in regeneration.

Regeneration may be defined as an implanting of spiritual life in the spiritually dead. Such a definition is certainly related to the biblical description of man as being “dead in trespasses and sin.” More specifically, regeneration involves the impartation of a new disposition, a new complex of attributes, including spiritual life, in a pervasively corrupt man. In keeping with this, regeneration, according to Berkhof, “is that act of God by which the principle of the new life is implanted in man, and the governing disposition of the soul is made holy” (Systematic Theology, 2:469). If this governing disposition is correlated with the new nature (see Combs, “Does the Believer Have One Nature or Two?” pp. 82–87), regeneration can be defined as “the decisive impartation of the new nature to a spiritually dead man" (Snoeberger, “Priority of Regeneration to Saving Faith,” p. 55). While the Old Testament does not have a Hebrew term that precisely corresponds to the term regeneration, it uses other concepts that overlap with regeneration, such as having “a new heart,” “new spirit,” “heart of flesh” (Ezek 36:26), and a “circumcised heart” (Deut 30:6; Jer 9:25; Ezek 44:7, 9). In the New Testament, the term regeneration is only used in Titus 3:5. Other parallel NT concepts include: “made alive" (Eph 2:5, Col 2:13 “born" (John 1:13, 1 John 2:29, 3:9, 4:7, 5:1), “born again" [or, "born from above"] (John 3:3, 7) or “born again" (1 Pet 1:3, 23)(see ibid., pp. 53–54). These various terms used for regeneration reflect the initial activity of the Spirit in his life-giving ministry as he implants a new nature in the hearts of men who are spiritually dead. Therefore, regeneration is a soteriological necessity for a fallen man redemption in any era because his corruption permeated his being.

I have included the above picture, The Raising of Lazarus, by the renown 17th century Dutch painter and etcher, Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn, because he places Christ in a prominent place when he raised Lazarus from the dead. In this picture Christ’s role is as it should be for, when Christ raised Lazarus from the dead, Lazarus was a passive recipient in his state of death and Christ was the active agent in creating life in this dead man. Christ’s raising Lazarus from the dead illustrates the point that I am making about regeneration. When the Gospel is preached, the Spirit imparts a new nature to an elect sinner so that the sinner repents of his sin and trusts the finished work of Christ. This is to say, a person does not repent and believe to be born again; rather he repents and believes because he has been born again. Thank God for his monergistic work of regeneration.

Total Depravity 2

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The above picture of my three granddaughters was taken in January 2005 (the oldest is Briana, the next in age is Maryn, and the youngest Peyton). From a grandfather’s perspective, I think my granddaughters are adorable and innocent-looking. The picture below of our family, taken in 1981 when I was at Grace Theological Seminary, has two of my granddaughters’ parents (Amy is the oldest [Briana’s mother], Bob is the middle child [Maryn’s & Peyton’s dad], and Joshua the youngest). As you look at three generations of our family, you can see that our family has certain physical similarities. While our family members share a few physical features, each one shares a more disadvantageous bond. This bond that our family members share is that each one was born with a humanly incurable and fatal corruption: total depravity.

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With my two previous posts about “Total Depravity,” I defined total depravity as teaching that every person since the Fall who is conceived through procreation has an inborn moral and spiritual corruption that permeates his entire being. In my post “Total Depravity,” on 12/16/07, I defined what I mean by total depravity. Genesis 6:5 summarizes my point: “Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” To clarify my point about how pervasive this corruption extends in a person’s makeup, let me provide further details about the Bible’s teaching on this subject.Man’s mind is presented in Romans 8:7-8 as being hostile to God: “The mind set on the flesh [sinful nature] is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, and those who are in the flesh [sinful nature] cannot please God.” Paul further describes man’s mind as “being darkened” in “understanding,” “excluded from the life of God,” having a “hardness” of heart and being callous; and this results in man giving himself “over to sensuality for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness” (Eph 4:17-19). Further, Paul describes the man outside of Christ as having a defiled mind and conscience: “To the pure, all things are pure; but to those who are defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure, but both their mind and their conscience are defiled” (Tit 1:5). Paul personally testified about the extent of his depravity with this: “I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh [sinful nature]” (Rom 7:18). In light of these passages, the explicit teaching of Scripture about depravity is that it continuously pervades man’s mind, emotions and desires, will, and conscience. In these passages, the term heart is used to reflect various internal processes, such as thinking, desiring, resolving. In these passages, man’s heart, as well as his other inner faculties are described as being “evil,” “deceitful,” “sick,” “hardened,” “excluded from the life of God,” “callous,” “darkened,” “defiled,” and even as “hostile to God.” The various writers of Scripture describe depravity in the most hideous terms. In the final analysis, the focus of all these passages is that total depravity pervades man’s inner being and that this life-long condition is described as being hostilely antithetical to God. In short, depravity is total because it pervades man, extending to the very core of his being.While the writers of Scripture present man’s total depravity with horrendous expressions, there is one item that Paul includes in Romans 8:8 that is crucially decisive in picturing man in the bleakest condition: “Those who are in the flesh [sinful nature] cannot please God.” To be “in the flesh” is to be controlled by sinful nature, as the NIV renders it: “Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God.” In other words, there is nothing within man’s internal framework that makes him capable of pleasing God. In light of Paul’s assertion, the biblical picture of total depravity must be further qualified as including the concept of man’s total inability. Total inability means that man is incapable of changing his sinful character or acting in a way that is inconsistent with his pervasive depravity. As Jeremiah said in 13:23: “Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard its spots? Neither can you do good who are accustomed to doing evil” (NIV). Total inability argues that man never desires to please God and that he is incapable of pleasing God. In Ephesians 2:1, Paul described fallen humanity as being “dead in trespasses and sin.” Paul further describes total depravity as a condition of slavery in Titus 3:3: “For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another.” Sinful man is so enslaved to sin he has no internal capability to turn his life over to God. In short, total depravity means that man is “dead in trespasses and sin,” “enslaved” to his sinful character, and unable to “please God.”If total depravity means that all people are dead in trespasses and sin and if this death renders them entirely unable and unwilling from the very core of their being to positively respond to God, then fallen man is left with a pervasive internal problem that he cannot correct in any conceivable way. In this theological scenario, the inescapable conclusion is that only through the Spirit’s life-giving work in fallen man is he enabled to come to God. Because man’s total depravity is antagonistically antithetical to God’s nature, the doctrine of total depravity helps define what the Spirit must renew in his life-giving ministry: the core of one’s being, one’s direction and outlook in life.As such, the nature of man’s depravity demands that God must do something to change the depraved sinner’s nature if a person is to have any hope of redemption. Without the Spirit’s work in regeneration, a person is helplessly condemned to an eternal condemnation. The hope that sinners have is in the new birth, regeneration. Jesus describes to Nicodemus in John 3:3 the significance of the new birth: “Unless one is born again [or more preferably, “born from above”] he cannot psee the kingdom of God” (for a discussion of John 3:5, see my article “The Meaning of ‘Born of Water and the Spirit’ in John 3:5“). He further states in John 3:6-8: “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” These verses in John 3 describe the Spirit’s monergistic work in regeneration. Theologically speaking, regeneration is the impartation of spiritual life, the new nature, to a totally depraved sinner with the inevitable result that the quickened sinner repents of his sin and trusts in the Lord Jesus Christ (for a solid exegetical and theological defense of this view of regeneration, see Mark Snoeberger’s article “The Logical Priority of Regeneration and to Saving Faith in a Theological Ordo Salutis“; for other helpful sources, see J. I. Packer’sRegeneration: The Christian Is Born Again, Robert Reymond’s chapter “Regeneration,” and R. C. Sproul’s“Regeneration Precedes Faith.” For helpful sermonic material on regeneration preceding faith, you should listen to the following sermons by John Piper: “You Must Be Born Again: Why This Series and Where Are We Going?,” “What Happens in the New Birth?” “What Happens in the New Birth? Part 2″,” “Why Do We Need to Be Born Again? Part 1,” “Why Do We Need to Be Born Again? Part 2.” May God give us eyes to see and ears to hear.

Total Depravity

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The innocent looking baby in the above picture is my granddaughter Maryn, taken about 4 years ago when she was 11 months old. Because she looks so innocent with her big blue eyes, some might think that she was not totally depraved at birth. In contrast to this type of understanding, the Bible provides abundant evidence that every person in the fallen line of Adam is totally depraved. On December 9th, I posted a brief note entitled “Total Depravity Includes Inability.” Though my post mentions that human inability is only one aspect of our sinfulness, I gave an incomplete presentation of total depravity. In order to clarify my understanding of total depravity, I plan to post two more concise articles that outline the biblical material about fallen humanity’s corrupt state (for more biblical support, see "Total Depravity (Inability) Verse List)".

According to this doctrine, every person since the Fall who is conceived through the normal procreation process is so pervasively polluted with his internal corruption “that every aspect of his being and personality is affected by it” (Storms, Chosen for Life, p. 4). Man’s incurable condition began with Adam and Eve in the pristine glory of the Garden of Eden. When Adam ate from the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, Adam and Eve were eternally condemned and were internally changed into a state of total depravity, including the loss of their original state of unconfirmed creature holiness. In keeping with the Pauline analogy in Romans 5:12–21, comparing the representative roles of Adam and Christ (1 Cor 15:21–22), God imputed to those whom Adam represented, the human race, both Adam’s guilt and his corruption (for a definitive defense of the immediate imputation view, see Murray’s The Imputation of Adam’s Sin and Reymond’s Systematic Theology, pp. 434–39). According to v. 12, sin entered the world through Adam: “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned.” The “all” who “sinned” were connected with Adam as their representative when he initiated sin into the world through his act of disobedience and this connection resulted in death for all men (S. Lewis Johnson, Jr., “Romans 5:12—an Exercise in Exegesis and Theology,” in New Dimensions in New Testament Study, pp. 312–14). The comparative conjunction, “just as,” that introduces verse 12 indicates that this verse is a protasis; however, its apodosis is not found until vv. 18–19, with vv. 13–17 functioning as a theological parenthesis (for a discussion of the grammatical construction found in these verses, see Moo, The Epistle to the Romans, pp. 318–29 and Schreiner, Romans, pp. 271–72). The apodosis in vv. 18–19 summarizes Paul’s argument in this section and stresses that the imputation of Adam’s guilt resulted in eternal condemnation, in an analogous way to Christ’s triumphant act of righteousness being imputed to us: “So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men. For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous.” The expression “made sinners,” like “made righteous,” reflects a forensic aspect of Adam’s transgression. This act of disobedience also had the result of making his posterity totally depraved.

The word depravity refers to moral and spiritual corruption, the disposition towards evil and against good. All the descendants of Adam through normal procreation inherit a totally depraved nature at conception and are alienated from God. David stated it like this in Psalm 51:5: “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me." Romans 5:12–21 provides a theological basis for Paul’s discussion of hamartiology in Romans 1:18–3:23. Because of humanity’s connection with Adam, sin has been transmitted to all people. And the sin transmitted from Adam is so pervasive in man’s being that he has no desire to seek after God. Paul makes this very point in Romans 3:10–12: “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.’” He further describes, in vv. 13–18, how sin permeates a person’s being: body and spirit. Man’s problem is systemic: “by nature children of wrath” (Eph 2:3). Man’s nature is so hopelessly corrupt that Paul describes it as being “dead” in “trespasses and sin” (2:1). As such, man’s inner being by nature is enslaved to his pervasive corruption and this corruption goes back to his conception and birth.

The adjective total is used to qualify depravity in order to communicate that this corruption pervades the whole of a person’s being, extending to the core of his being. Depravity pervades man’s mind, emotions and desires, heart, will, and conscience. In Scripture, the evil intentions of man’s heart are pictured in Genesis 6:5 as continuously evil: “Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” The perversity of man’s heart extends back to his youth, according to Genesis 8:21: “The LORD smelled the soothing aroma; and the LORD said to Himself, ‘I will never again curse the ground on account of man, for the intent of man’s heart is evil from his youth.’” The author of Ecclesiastes affirmed in 9:3 that the hearts of men are “full of evil and insanity…throughout their lives.” According to Jeremiah 17:9, man’s heart is “more deceitful than all else, and is desperately sick; who can understand it?” The answer to Jeremiah’s question is that no man can understand the depth of man’s depravity. In Mark 7:21–23 Jesus described man’s radical corruption as the source that produces all types of evil activities: “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man.” This post provides some basic information about depravity. However, Scripture has more to say about this subject. But this is for a subsequent post.

Total Depravity Includes Human Inability

The doctrine of total depravity teaches that every person since the Fall is conceived with an inborn moral and spiritual corruption that permeates his entire being. According to this doctrine, a person is so pervasively polluted with his internal corruption “that every aspect of his being and personality is affected by it” (Storms, Chosen for Life, p. 4). In order to show how radically corrupt a person is, I think we should include the term inability. Man is totally unable to please God. Paul stated it like this in Romans 8:6-8: “The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God.” We should note that Paul says our unregnerate minds are so hostile to God that we are unable to please God. Only the monergistic work of the Spirit in regeneration can enable anyone to embrace the Gospel in repentance and faith. Understanding man’s total inability clarifies aspects of total depravity. Along this line, take a moment to read Charles Spurgeon’s concise and helpful insight on Human Inability.

Powlison On the Seduction of Physical Beauty

“One of the most conspicuous obsessions in our culture is the quest for physical beauty. Concern about what we look like pervades our social relationships and seduces us all, men and women both, to some degree or other. The typical impact of culture is like the effects of air pollution: what you inhale tends to slowly and steadily alter you. Our culture besieges us with voices that comment on what we look like, what we ought to look like, and the blessings and curses that presumably attend success or failure. Our mass media culture silently beguiles us with images of the same,” as David Powlison begins his insightful article.

One of the great seductive forces of American culture is that “image is everything.” Regretfully, American Christians are often influenced by the values of the world rather than doctrinal purity and the fruit of the Spirit. Powlison’s article is a must read for all of us who are evenly subtly influenced by our culture’s obsession with physical beauty. Go to “Your Looks: What the Voices Say and the Images Portray.”