Drinking Deeply

Wednesday, November 08, 2006 at 5:07 PM

TULIP (2.5) - Who is this double-minded man?(2)

This post is in response to jefe's comment on a previous post. He is blockquoted and my responses are below his.
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.
I would say yes and no. 7:5-6 almost exactly parallels 8:5-6 and it is natural to see 8:5-6 as reemphasizing and clarifying 7:5-6, but 7:21-23 is not a general statement, but a personal one. So yes, same issue is being dealt with (law of sin), but not the same situation.
The situation paul describes in ch. 7 is one that requires salvation ("Who will save me from this body of death?").
Yes. But I would say that it's the Romans 8:23 cry rather than "How then can we be saved?" This is driven, of course, by my conclusion that Romans 7 refers to Paul speaking from the position of a believer struggling with indwelling sin.
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.
But how does this support your conclusion that Romans 7 does not apply to one type of people but both. If anything, it supports the position I was arguing against (that Romans 7 is written from a non-Christian perspective). Look at v. 4 of Romans 7:

1There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.[a] 2For the law of the Spirit of life has set you[b] free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. 3For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin,[c] he condemned sin in the flesh, 4in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. 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. 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.

To summarize: No condemnation. Those who are in Christ have been set free from the law of sin and death. We've been set free. How? By God who has sent His Son and condemned sin in the flesh, so the righteous requirement might be fulfilled in us. Righteous requirement of the law is fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh, but according to the spirit.

He goes on to describe the characteristics of those who walk in the flesh and those who walk in the spirit. One results in death, other results in life. One is hostile to God and does not submit, nor cannot.

Romans 8:2 is clarified by 8:4, which describes what God has done in fulfilling the law for us, who walk according to the spirit and not the flesh. Thus Romans 8:2 is a Christian experience (those who are in Christ) and not a general humanity one. If Romans 8:2 is describing being set free from 7:23, then 7:23 does not describe both types of people, but just one, those who are in the flesh.

Of course, that raises up the question, isn't Romans 7 then about deliverance as a pre-Christian experience? My conclusion from the previous post is "no." I still stand by it.

This is how I would paraphrase the relevant passages of Romans 7-8 -

7:15-25 "I'm wretched! I'm a sinner! I love God with my mind, but my flesh hates God. Who can save me? But praise be to God, Jesus Christ does!"

8:1-11 "I have been set free from the condemnation of the law, that though I fail with my body, I am secure in Christ, who has set me free from what my fleshly nature previously was like, being hostile to God and completely unable to please Him. I now await the redemption of the physical body, which is promised because the redemption of my mind is a firstfruit of what is to come"
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 "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.
I agree, Romans 7 depicts a war within a person. And Paul is standing between the already and not yet of victory. How does that cause us to conclude that this war within a person is one that happens within all people? I don't follow your logic here. And isn't Romans 8 primarily about the victory for Christians? After all, for a non-Christian, this war is not even won yet. There is no aspect of "already" to their lives.
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.)
I think I would use two definitions of the word "cannot." The "cannot" for a Christian is a lack of physical ability. Paul writes, "7:18For 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." Their minds delight in the law of God, but their bodies (still cursed by sin) do not obey.

The "cannot" for one set upon the flesh an inability of desire. Not only are their bodies cursed and thus they are unable to please God, but their minds are set on the flesh and thus are hostile to God. Romans 8:7-8. This is the "cannot" that I'm arguing for with my original post. There is no good in them (no sign, or even a flicker of obedience).

I also see no evidence that Romans 7 implies a comprehensive "cannot please God." It does make a good argument that Christians will be unable to please God at times, but to claim that Christians are unable to please God until the last day seems to be stretching it. In fact, Ephesians 2:10 (for we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them) states that we aren't to boast in our good works, since it was God prepared them in advance so that we would walk in them. If it were impossible for us to do good works as Christians, his argument would be meaningless, as there is nothing to boast in. I've posted on this previously.
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.
Thank you for your comment. I am very thankful for a dialog between Christians that can be done with grace even though two people may disagree on a major point of doctrine. I do hope that you come around to see things as I do (and I'm sure you hope the same for me).

In summary, I see no indication from Romans 7 that would lead me to conclude that people in the flesh actually have a war between their mind and flesh. I find that reading to be contradictory to the statement that a person in the flesh is hostile to God, his mind is set on the flesh, and cannot please God. I would say that the end of Romans 7 is Paul's personal struggle with indwelling sin as a Christian, transitioning to a proclamation that even though he cannot win the battle there is no condemnation now, because he is in Christ and the Spirit is in him.

As a side note, the way the verse is phrased 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.) seems to imply that "does not" is a weaker statement than "cannot submit." You treat them as the same. I think that's an additional argument for my point of view.

I'm going to move on (Lord willing). I feel I've said all that's needed to be said and I would just be repeating myself. You are, of course, welcome to have the last word on this post, or disagree on other posts if you like. Please do continue commenting. Other comments from those who agree or disagree are welcome as well! I can't promise I will respond to everything, but I certainly will read it (Lord willing!).


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Blogger jefe said...

thanks for engaging so thoughtfully. i couldn't get my response into a few short paragraphs either, so instead of posting here i've posted at my own blog, so you can pick it up there.

i understand if you're tired out of this topic, or if you don't have anything more to say--but in case you do, i hereby forfeit my "last word". i would really like to hear any response you have to my reading of romans. my goal is not to win an argument; it's to get this right.

and thank you, mxu, for your tenacity, your thoughtfulness, and your submission to the scriptures. keep up the good work.  


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