Daily Archives: August 17, 2008

Bondage of the Will II: Scriptural Proof

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A copy of Barclay’s Amoy translation, opened t...

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In my last post on the bondage of the human will, I established the existence of a moral law outside of ourselves. Atheists and theists can agree on the presence of such a law, but we cannot agree on its source. The atheist thinks that memes or evolution produces it; the theist believes that God produces it. Either way, we have arrived at the same point: a law exists.

I also established that man, more often than not, transgresses this moral law. It may be something small, such as a little white lie, or it might be huge, like a murder. Mankind isn’t generally good as many churches today teach. Man isn’t sick in sin, he is dead in sin. Man is generally evil.

The Bible deals with this issue in many places. The first good place to look is Romans 1. Paul begins by talking about the pagans living in Rome at the time, and finishes with this description of them:

And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them. (Rom 1:28-32)

Paul immediately follows that with this description of the Christians living in Rome:

Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things. We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things. Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God?  Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?  But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.

He will render to each one according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury. There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. For God shows no partiality. (Rom 2:1-11, emphasis added)

So whether the reader is a Jew or a Greek, it doesn’t matter, for both are full of unrighteousness. This careful argument builds until its climax at chapter 3, verse 23: “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Paul even includes himself as a sinner in chapter 7:

For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? (Rom 7:18-24)

I think that if we are honest with ourselves, we will see the same pattern in our own lives. We wage a war with our mind to do what is right, but our flesh is weak and we give into it and do what is wrong. That’s every last one of us wretched human beings–we are not sick with sin, we are dead in sin. Look at Ephesians 2:1-3:

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. (emphasis added)

But it isn’t just us; it is all of creation. It goes back to the Fall in Genesis 3. The Fall affected not just man, but all of creation. All of creation groans under the pains of childbirth (Rom 8:22). And the worst part is, according to the book of Proverbs, we don’t see this: “All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the spirits” (16:2). This is why so many churches today preach that man is generally good. And what does Proverbs say about people who are wise in their own sight? “There is more hope for a fool than him” (26:12b).