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MAKING SENSE OF GOD'S ELECTION: a Digest of the Essentials of the Work by Donald R. Shell - http://www.nepaugchurch.org/election/elmss925.s.htm
MAKING SENSE OF GOD'S ELECTION: a Digest of the Essentials of the Work by Donald R. Shell
Part II: Examining Scripture On The Will-Related Doctrines
Chapter VIII: Examining Human Depravity In Scripture
B. Pertinent New Testament Passages And Conclusion On Human Depravity
- In our studies on efficacious grace, God's alleged effectual call in the Gospel and the authorship of salvation faith, we found God does not conclusively appear to author the human choice to believe.
- We must then answer the Calvinist's question of how God's salvation is totally gracious regardless of our implying man's will may author the faith he expresses in Christ. We must explain how man's nature would be fully depraved (Jeremiah 17:9) and yet have no need for God to author his faith.
- We continue by viewing pertinent New Testament passages and making a conclusion on depravity:
- Romans 2:14-15 - Though Paul here reports God placed a conscience in man to inhibit his acts of sin, we know from 1 Timothy 4:2 and Ephesians 4:19 that men can sin deeply enough to harm the capacity of the conscience to exhibit any guilt. Thus, the conscience itself is not the volitional cause in man, and we are left looking elsewhere to determine the presence or degree of freedom of volition in fallen man.
- Romans 3:11 - Though Romans 3:11 states no fallen man seeks after God, it does not clarify fallen man has no capacity to believe the Gospel of Christ were God graciously to send the truth his way. We again are left depending on other Scripture passages for insight into the volitional cause in fallen man.
- Romans 5:12
- For centuries, theologians have debated over what this verse teaches on how man became depraved.
- The Greek phrase, eph ho pantes haymarton rendered (word for word) " . . . for that all have sinned" (KJV) comprises the battleground of the debate, and this phrase can be interpreted five main ways to bear main theological views; we present and critique each one (as follows):
- First, Jerome's Vulgate takes eph ho to mean "in him," i.e., in Adam; however, the antecedent, "one man" is far removed from the phrase, making this translation unlikely ( Barnes' Notes on the N.T., 1962, reprint (Grand Rapids, Kregel Publications, 1975), p. 584).
- Second, one could make death the antecedent of ho, but that would reverse the Biblical view that death is sin's product, not its cause, and Barnes writes it would not be a logical view anyway, Ibid.
- Third, the Pelagian view takes the prepositional phrase idiomatically to mean "because" to say death passed on all men because "all men have sinned in their own persons," Charles Hodge, Com. on Romans, rev. Ed., 1886, reprint (Grand Rapids, Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1974), p. 148-155. Yet, as Murray notes, this view has serious theological problems: (a) infants die without having committed acts of sin, dismissing the Pelagian view outright; (b) verses 13-14 in the context teach the opposite, that death reigned over those who had not sinned like Adam had; (c) five times in the context, Paul claims one man's sin caused the many to die (verses 15-19) so that death came by Adam's one act of sin! (d) Paul's whole Epistle to the Romans argues against the self-merit idea in Pelagian soteriology of a self-help ability in man to save himself, cf. John Murray, NIC Com. On the N.T.: Romans, 1968, reprint (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1980), vol. I, p. 183-184.
- Fourth, one can treat eph ho as an idiom with causal meaning so all men are said to have sinned in Adam's sin, Ibid., p. 184. However, this approach contrasts with Paul's use of haymarton elsewhere in his writings where it never means a single trespass in Adam, but personal acts of sin by individuals (cf. Rom. 3:23 et al.), cf. W. Hendriksen, N.T. Com.: Expos. Of Rom., Vol. I, Chapters 1-8 , p. 178-179.
- Fifth, one can take haymarton to be personal acts of sin, but without Pelagian theology: one can understand the sin as acts arising out of inherited depravity through Adam upon taking the eph ho expression idiomatically as causal, but in the inferential sense where eph ho equals epi touto hoti ("for this reason that" or "since"), Ibid., p. 178, ftn. No. 152. Paul would then say as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin, so death spread unto all men as is evidenced by the fact that all men have sinned since Adam. This translation is preferred since it treats haymarton like all of Paul's uses of its elsewhere, and it readily explains the abrupt break in thought introduced by verses 13-14: Paul felt impelled to explain how men had committed acts of sin between Adam and the Law when, as his critics might charge, Paul was saying that until the law there were no sins, Ibid., p. 179. [Hendriksen is well within lexical and syntactical bounds to understand eph ho this way, for the authorities vary widely on its interpretation: Moulton & Geden's vernacular Greek lexicon takes the expression mainly to be "on condition that," and cites one reading that translates as "to the effect that," (p. 232-233); the classical Greek lexicon (Liddell & Scott) treats the eph in Rom. 5:12 as "whereupon," being an exception to the usual causal sense, p. 621-623 and C. F. D. Moule makes it read "inasmuch as" though letting its appearance in Phil. 4:10 mean "with regard to which." (Moule, An Idiom-Book of N.T. Grk. , 2nd ed., 1959, reprint (Cambridge Univ. Press, 1975), p. 132).]
- Thus, since Paul claimed that through Adam, sin and death passed on the whole human race (Rom. 5:12a), we may conclude Paul taught depravity came only by way of inherited sin natures.
- In any event, Romans 5:12 does not prove man's capacity to will was itself affected by the fall, so we are again left looking elsewhere for proof on the source of will authorship in fallen man!
- Romans 7:14-25
- If one views this description to be that of an unbeliever, man's will and fallen nature are separate entities as they are then viewed to be in conflict with each other, meaning fallen man's will would be free to choose under the convicting ministry of the Holy Spirit so that man author's faith.
- However, more data is necessary to discern if the unsaved person can express will independent of the sin nature, for the Romans 7:14-25 context may possibly relate to the carnal believer, cf. Bible Know. Com., N.T. , p. 468.
- 1 Corinthians 2:14
- Paul here claimed the carnal, natural man does not understand God's spiritual truths, a statement one might explain reveals the need for divine efficacious grace for unregenerate men to believe to be saved.
- However, 1 Corinthians 3:1-3 in the near context shows carnal believers in the same state of being unable to comprehend spiritual truths, meaning if efficacious grace were the cause of faith, these very believers should quite possibly not have been this ignorant of God's truths!
- One must thus look elsewhere to prove the existence of efficacious grace!
- Ephesians 2:3 - Though this verse reveals unregenerate men are by nature the children of wrath, it fails to explain the degree of the liberty of human will or its lack in fallen men.
- Revelation 22:17 - Though this verse urges all who "will" to come to Christ for salvation, it does not reveal who or what or how that unsaved party believes.
- Conclusion on Human Depravity in Scripture
- Throughout Scripture, we find no clear explanation as to how fallen man is totally depraved as Jeremiah 17:9 describes, and yet is the sole author of his salvation faith.
- Also, our studies in this manuscript have not produced evidence that man's will was affected by the fall, and as our studies on divine election and predestination, divine foreknowledge, the extent of the atonement, the alleged efficacious call of God in the Gospel, efficacious grace and the authorship of faith ALL have not indicated the human capacity to express volition was itself in any way altered in man's fall into sin, we conclude the Scripture's many apparent declarations on faith's authorship are to be taken at face value: the human will is free to express volition toward believing the Gospel in spite of the totally depraved, fallen nature of man.
- We can validate this conclusion by observing a revealing error in the major Arminian and Calvinist views on human depravity: (a) Arminianism holds the human will and nature are a unit, thus sacrificing the total depravity of man's nature for a partial one to give man will (A. H. Strong, Syst. Theol., 1907, reprint (Valley Forge, PA.: The Judson Press, 1970), p. 601. (b) Conversely, the Augustinian view behind Calvinism also unites man's will and nature into a unit to make both entities fully depraved, Ibid., p. 619. Yet, doing so requires God to author salvation faith, thus leaving no logical need for faith's expression in a step that conflicts with the Bible's inerrancy (as we saw in Part I of this work).
- Accordingly, the human capacity for volition is distinct from man's sinful nature to keep from violating what Scripture reveals on both man's sin and God's salvation!
- Romans 7:14-25 then applies to the carnal believer as well as to the unregenerate: Paul there revealed a divergence between man's capacity to express a choice and his sinful nature itself by the very conflict he admitted occurred between these two entities!
- We conclude fallen man's nature is totally depraved in extent and amount, Ps. 51:5 (7); Genesis 6:5-7; 8:21. Yet, man's capacity to express a choice is itself a nondepravable capacity that must belong to that part of fallen man that yet adheres to "the image of God," cf. Genesis 3:6-24 and 9:6.
- Accordingly, divine efficacious grace and the divine effectual call are doctrines that are not taught in Scripture and which are in fact contrary to God's Word, and salvation faith is authored by man alone!