Drinking Deeply

Tuesday, November 07, 2006 at 11:48 PM

TULIP (2) - Who is this double-minded man?

jefe left a comment on the last post. I'm going to quote it at length and interact with it to help clarify my position.

i think i mostly agree with you here, but i'd like to offer some further clarification. thing is, there are different claims that could go by the name "total depravity": all christians agree to some of them, and only some agree to others. i'm going to lay them out here (and make up some catchy names) in the hope that they'll contribute to the discussion.

Mere Depravity (MD): humanity is sinful.

Global Depravity (GD): all of humanity is sinful. (this is the version that gets the most play in the new testament, especially with respect to the fact that neither jews nor gentiles are exempt. e.g. romans 3)

Universal Depravity (UD): every person is sinful. (note that this is stronger than GD: for instance, if all of a blanket is checkered, that doesn't mean every piece of it is checkered--some pieces are solid. i think some of the passages often invoked to support UD really only support GD.)

Total Depravity (TD): every aspect of every person is sinful. (By "aspect" I have in mind faculties like the will, mind, emotions, body, etc.)

Total Total Depravity (TTD): every aspect of every person is entirely sinful. I.e. there is nothing good in anyone.

Extreme Depravity (XD): every person is as sinful as they possibly could be.

these are in order from weakest to strongest: each one is implied by the ones below it, but not the other way around.

i'm pretty sure all christians agree that Mere Depravity and Global Depravity are true, and just about all of them agree that Universal Depravity is true. similarly, just about everybody will agree that Extreme Depravity is false (we're not all mass murderers, as you say). that leaves Total Depravity and Total Total Depravity in contention.

i think i'd affirm something close to TD, but not TTD.

These distinctions are excellent. I am arguing for TTD and not ED.

if you take romans 8 in context with the end of romans 7, it doesn't look to me like it supports some of the claims you're pulling out of it. when paul describes the situation that god saves him from through christ, he says this:

"When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God's law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members." (Romans 7.21-23)

he wants to do good--and in fact his "inner man" is a "slave to God's law" (v. 25). but his "inner man" is captured by the flesh (i prefer to stick to this translation, with the qualifications that you pointed out), which works out sin through him. and so, because his mind is "set on the flesh" (8.7) his life is opposed to god, and he is unable to please god.

but this doesn't sound to me like TTD--in fact, it doesn't even sound quite like TD! paul's description isn't that there is no good inclination in him at all: it's that his good inclinations are entirely overridden by the sin at work in him.

it's a tricky passage, and there's room for disagreement on the interpretation, but i think this is a faithful reading. what say you?

I think you're very right that it's a tricky passage, and I will acknowledge that there are people with more education than I that would affirm that Paul is speaking of his former unbelieving life in Romans 7. Fortunately (or un), that doesn't stop me from disagreeing with them here. I think that Paul is speaking of his wrestling with his flesh as a Christian.

Notice Romans 7:22-23, which reads (ESV):

22For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, 23but 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.
Paul is saying that in his inner being he delights in the law of God. Yet in his members there's another law that wages war against the law of his mind. Notice the identification of law of mind here with delighting in the law of God in the “inner being.” To put the concepts together, in his mind he delights in the law of God. (Note, I would also use this text to argue for a dichotomy of man, mind/soul/spirit/intellect and body, against a trichotomy of soul, spirit, and body)

But if we look at Romans 8:5-8

5For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.

For those who live according to the flesh, their minds are set on the things of the flesh. If we read Paul as saying he was living according to the flesh in Romans 7, then that means his mind was set on the things of the flesh. But if we go and apply that to 7:22-23, it would seem that Paul's mind “delighting in the law of God” was setting the mind on the flesh.

6To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 7For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot. 8Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

Reading on, we see that Paul is saying that the mind set on the flesh is hostile to God, it does not submit. But that's not compatible with Paul claiming:

7:25“Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.”

We simply cannot read Paul saying that he serves the law of God with his mind (7:25), yet his mind does not submit to God's law. (8:7)

So yes, I would affirm a genuine contradiction between those two interpretations. If we affirm that Paul is speaking of his time in the flesh in Romans 7, then at one point he would be serving the law of God with his mind, and at the same point he would be hostile and not submitting to God's law. I submit that a more plausible interpretation is to understand Romans 7 as speaking from the perspective of a regenerate Christian, with Paul in Romans 8:5-9 reflecting upon non-Christians. They are hostile to God, unable to please him.But for the grace of God, there go us.


Links to this post:

Create a Link

Anonymous theocentric522 said...

I think you are right on about Romans 7. Paul is talking about the duel nature of a regenerate person, while in Romans 8, Paul clearly makes a distinction between "us, who DO NOT walk according to the sinful nature" (v.4) and "those who live according to the sinful nature" (v.5)...then verse 9's "You, however..." makes another constrast. The distinction here is between a Christian and a non-Christian.  


Blogger Eric said...

I'm inclined to agree with you about what Romans 7 is referring to, but I don't see how that gets you to TTD. Perhaps it would be helpful to reflect for a bit on what is meant by "sinful," "good," and "[un]pleasing to God?"  


Anonymous mxu said...

Eric -

This post was intended to support my previous post, where I pointed to Romans 8:7-8 to prove that those who are not regenerate (set their minds on the flesh), are unable to please God. Not only do they fall short, but they are actively hostile to God and all that they do is opposed to God.

Jeff brought up the objection that Romans 7 seems to be incompatible with that conclusion, since it seems that Paul is trying to please God but not able to. I am arguing that Paul is speaking from the perspective of a regenerate Christian (who actually is able to do good works) and not as a non-believer.

Some off the cuff definitions:

Sinful - something that is, in action and/or in deed, against God's commands.

Good (action) - What is in accordance to God's commands. In heart and body.

An action that is pleasing to God is one that is good.

I would say a sinful action is never a good one and is not one that is pleasing to God.

sinful == not good == not pleasing

And I think I need to make the "two wills of god" distinction in the future, but these definitions fit the discussion at hand.  


Blogger jefe said...

Those are good points you raise, mxu. But i don't think that i can go along with simply aligning the ch. 7 situation with the "life according to the spirit" in ch. 8. Here are some considerations that i think tell against that reading:

Consider romans 7.5: "For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death." I think this clearly maps up both to being "captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members" (7.22), and also to those who "live according to the flesh" (8.5). That is, it looks like all three of those passages are describing the same situation.

The situation paul describes in ch. 7 is one that requires salvation ("Who will save me from this body of death?").

And then there is the clear contrast between the state of being "captive to the law of sin" (7.23) and being "set free ... from the law of sin" (8.2). Looks to me like paul is saying that the ch. 7 situation is precisely what we are delivered from through christ.

Still, though, as you pointed out the ch. 7 situation doesn't match neatly with "the mind set on the flesh" either.

Here's one thing that i think may help make some sense of this: along with the "double-man" in ch. 7, we also have a "double-torah": "the torah of sin and death" and "the torah of the spirit of life" (8.2). (The first of which, paul insists, is not to say that the law is sin (7.7), but that sin was "producing death in me through what is good".) I'm not sure i can explain what's going on here, but that duality is certainly important.

Really, i don't think the ch. 7 situation describes either "the mind set on the flesh" or "the mind set on the spirit", and similarly i don't think that it's just a simple matter of identifying the first with non-christians and the second with christians. What in ch. 8 is discussed as if it were a contrast between two different kinds of people, in ch. 7 is depicted as a war being waged within the person---the war that began when the law made "sin come alive" (7.9), and which will be finished when "he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you" (8.11). So when paul says "You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit", he is standing between the now and not-yet: the war is won; the war will be won.

That's all a little sketchy and mixed up, but it's the best sense i can make of the passage as a whole so far.

What does this say about total depravity? Well, first, i think it implies that all of us are unable to please god--except in the forward-looking sense that we will stand approved before god, a promise which is sealed now by god's spirit living in us.

What about the one "who does not have the Spirit of Christ"? Well, they too are unable to please god, and cannot submit to him, just as those who do have the spirit cannot ("For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out." 7.18). But does this entail that there is nothing good in such a person? I don't see any entailment like that. (Indeed, I think the most natural reading is that those people too are in a state of war--a war which involves good as well as evil.)

But i'm just trying to work out a hard text with little knowledge; so i submit this for your consideration (all of you) and hope for correction where it's due.  


Blogger mxu said...

Ok. I said I would reply in the comment thread. That was me being presumptuous, assuming I could deal with all the necessary arguments in a few paragraphs. I was mistaken. I have posted a response to jefe's comment here.

As a side note, I need to find a better numbering/organization system. =p  


Drop a thought