Edwards: Part 5 – Is God the Author of Sin?

John Taylor (remember him? See Part 3) objected to the Doctrine of Original Sin as being “unreasonable” because if true it would make God the author of sin. Edwards responded in his book “Original Sin” by explaining how God PERMITS sin without being the AUTHOR of sin.

Adam and Eve originally possessed two natures: a lower “natural” principle of mere human nature (including self-love, natural appetites and passions) and a higher “supernatural” principle that was “spiritual, holy and divine, summarily comprehended in divine love”. As long as the higher nature of love towards God reigned, it controlled the lower nature. They were perfectly happy, yet they had the ability to choose evil. When they did so, spurning God’s love by means of their disobedience, God withdrew the higher principle, or nature, leaving them with only the lower one.

The lower nature had not been evil as long as it had been tempered by the higher nature. But now the restraint of that nature had been removed. God, by withdrawing the higher spiritual nature, thus permitted mankind to naturally choose evil. Once the higher nature was removed, Adam and Eve had only the lower nature to naturally pass on to their posterity. Acorns will always produce oaks, Edwards illustrated. Righteousness cannot be inherited or naturally acquired. It must come to an individual according to a much higher spiritual principle – by God’s grace being grafted into the tree of which Christ is the root.

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Stay Classy San Diego- pics to come!

This past weekend the wife and I had our real first vacation since our honeymoon and we went down to San Diego for the weekend. We stayed at a place called Humphrey’s that was designed to look like Hawaii. It was a really beautiful place. the pool area was great, a heated pool surrounded by palm trees and tropical flowers, with a nice 12 person hot tub off to the side. Then there was a little bar that you could order drinks from and a phone to order food out to the pool. We spent each night relaxing in the hot tub, broken up by time in the heated pool to cool down.

After arriving we went to downtown San Diego and walked around a shopping area and dined on some Mongolian BBQ. We barely made it alive, since Leah kept telling me to go the wrong way on a one way street. (Side note: never try to find a parking spot in San Diego. They are all controlled by the people who own the parking structures that make you pay $10 to park for just dinner. I know the people that own them are parking their cars and taking up every single spot on the streets.)

On Saturday we went to the San Diego Zoo.

Before we left for the weekend, it looked like it was going to rain, and that morning everyone was saying it was going to rain, but ended up having a great day. It was a little cool, but that was good because we did a lot of walking. We started by riding around the park on a bus, taking in the whole zoo. First of all, its huge. We walked all around and still didn’t really see everything. Second of all, they have some great displays and set ups.

We started by seeing the Koalas (which are not bears, but marsupials). There were some tree kangaroos there too that more walked around than hop, and they were the size of Koalas. From there we walked down to some monkey displays and then saw the Pandas.

they had just had a baby in the last year, and had the momma and daddy separated and the babby with the momma. they were really beautiful animals and the baby just hung out in the tree.

Before lunch we also saw the

polar bears, lions, ibex, leopards,

a black panther,

zebras (they tell which one is which by the print around their butts),

giraffes,

and brown bears.


We saw these little guys called a dorcus something and Leah thought they were really cute. this is her doing her sign language for ‘cute’.
We ate lunch on this patio that overlooked a lot of the park and hung over the panda pen. It was such a great view up there. After lunch we headed to the monkey section of the zoo. We hung out and watched the apes for awhile. they were great! There was a young ape that kept messing around and chasing what seemed to be the mother. they kept flying all around trees, over hills and around the other apes. There was this huge silver back ape that was definitely in charge. One time he charged a couple of the apes and cleared them out and then came charging up to the glass where Leah and I were standing and stopped right on the other side. it was really scary because you felt like if he wanted to, he could just break right through and break us in half.


then there was this other ape that seemed to be the reject of the group. he was sitting in front of us for a little while, staring at me, looking at Leah, and then started to get up and walk away. Before he got up, i saw him pick up a bunch of pieces of his own fecal matter and walked over to the other side of the viewing area. There he progressed to rolling up such pieces and began to consume them. it was so gross. we were joking around that the other apes were going over to him as an intervention, “Hey man, what are you doing?! You’re making a fool of yourself! Get a hold of yourself, man! You’re making us look bad.” Then he walked up the hill, grabbed some more poop, and walked back down and kept on eating them.

We took off after sitting and watching the apes for awhile and watched some smaller monkeys for awhile. There were these walkways in the air so you could look down on the monkeys and we sat up there and watched them clean each other and pick at themelves. It was really neat to see them look things over and pick at things with their little fingers. so human like. of course not one of them said hi to me or even waved, so there are still quite a few differences.

we finished the day off looking at the reptiles and the petting zoo. they had a bunch of suffolks and a couple southdowns in the petting zoo that were not very friendly. the only animals that were really friendly were the stupid goats, giving sheep a bad name and making people think they like goats. they needed to get some hampshire sheep in there, to make the group better looking and more friendly.

After leaving the zoo we drove through the rest of Balboa park and want to go back there sometime. they have some great huge, old buildings and its just a great place to walk through. We then headed up to Sunset Cliffs to watch the sunset over the ocean. It was a little cloudy right on the horizon, so we couldn’t see the sun go all the way down, but it was still a great sunset.



On Sunday we ordered room service for breakfast, packed, played a few games of croquet, which Leah won 3 games to 2. Then we took off to La Holla (pronounced Hoya for you non spanish speaking people). We walked up the coast after practically having to park in Mexico, and saw some seals up on the beach. Apparently at least one of them was pregnant and was ready to give birth, so they weren’t letting people near them on the beach. We walked up to this place called ‘La Holla Caves’ and paid $5 to walk down into it and see the only cave that could be accessed from land. These were a series of six caves that the water had created by pounding against the cliff. We were expecting a little more than about 200 steps down to see a big hole in the rock. rip off. they wanted us to pay $4 each, but I only had $5 on me. they made it seem like you could walk through these cool caves, but you could only walk down and stand on this little deck built in the opening.

Finally, we headed up north, only after returning back to the hotel after discovering that Leah had left her pillow in the room. We got home safe and sound that evening, and had to hit the books and get back to work right away. the weekend was very relaxing and we’re looking forward to our next chance to get away!

Edwards: Part 4 – Sin vs Sins

With the Enlightenment dismissal of the doctrine of Total Depravity and a biblical understanding of the sin nature, there was a change in the way sin was perceived. Individuals might feel guilt for particular sins, but they were completely impervious to the ruling SIN of their rebellious hearts against a just God. John Locke’s writings, in particular, fostered an ideal of self-responsible independence. Many colonials were beginning to think of themselves as having “individual rights” which were “self-evidently endowments” of NATURE, ideas advanced by Locke. (Is this beginning to sound familiar?! Be careful when you attribute too much “Christian” influence on the founding of the United States. There was a lot more influence from Enlightenment thought than biblical Christian thought.) By focusing on particular sins, one could attribute their failure to a lack of “will power”, which could be overcome by exercising greater “self-control”. Edwards believed this thinking was undermining the gospel itself. He called the teaching “almost inconceivably pernicious”. He stressed that in order to be reconciled with God it was necessary for individuals to be “properly convinced of their real guilt and sinfulness in the sight of God, and their deserving of His wrath.”

Edwards’ concern was well founded. Over the next two centuries “Christianity” would increasingly emphasize guilt for and victory over known individual sins, instead of focusing on THE sin of a rebellious heart toward God and rejection of Christ. God’s power would become seen more frequently as cooperating with or working through the natural powers of the sovereign individual will. These are issues I think we need to consider when witnessing to the unsaved. How many gospel messages have you heard where they ask, “Have you ever lied?” “Have you ever disobeyed your parents?”, etc. Let’s not concentrate on individual sins, but on THE sin…rejection of God and his gracious gift.

Edwards: Part 3 – Virtue

Central to its dismissal of the doctrine of original sin, Enlightenment thought redefined “the nature of true virtue”. Virtue was believed to be a universally natural human trait, and as such should be the source and object of religion, as well as the basis for society. Edwards considered the problems he had encountered with his Northampton church, leading to his dismissal, to have been the fruit of this encroaching thought. He found his congregation’s willingness to accept “naturally” virtuous citizens as communicants, qualified to participate in Communion, to have been an indication of the influence of the current delusive optimism regarding human nature. [Admittedly, his famous grandfather, the former pastor at Northampton, Ma., had started the church down this route by agreeing to The Half-Way Covenant and his even more objectionable practice of serving Communion to anyone “of virtue”, whether they claimed regeneration or not. The goal of such practices had primarily been to enable more men to vote. At that time you had to be a male landowner and a church member in order to qualify to vote.]

In particular, John Taylor’s anti-Calvinistic teaching had spread from his native Scotland to the colonies. His emphasis on human freedom and man’s innate capacity for virtue contributed to the conclusion that men could control their own destinies (an interesting change of belief that helped lead to the American Revolution). Edwards wrote the book “Original Sin” as a response to Taylor. He insisted it was necessary to start with the revealed character of God when considering true virtue. He desired to demonstrate that biblical positions were more consistent with experience and reason than the Enlightenment alternatives. He pointed to the propensity of man towards sin as an indication of his innate sinful nature. The chief commandment of the Bible was to love the Lord God with all your heart, soul and mind (Mt.22:37), yet the human race was not naturally inclined to obey. They WERE inclined to reject the gospel of Christ in favor of lesser pleasures.

BAR, what has happened?

Yesterday, I received the new issue of BAR in the mail. This issue is the first one since BAR had merged two other magazines into it. The first thing that popped out to me was a nice new lay out, but then I opened it up and started ripping out the little inserts. There was one that was a complete page advertisement for some books from The Discovery Channel Book Club. Normally I wouldn’t read these things, but there was something that caught my eye. The three books are as follows:

Lost Christianities: The Battle for Scripture and the Faiths We Never Knew
Basically this book is about the beliefs that have been lost. It announces that people believed in a malevolent creator and some believed in a god for every day of the year. ‘Christians held a chaos of conflicting tenets’.

Lost Scriptures: Books That Did Not Make It Into the New Testament
“For the first 350 years of Christianity, it was a religion of numerous sacred texts and traditions, until the Church ruled on what was canonical and banished the rest. This eye-opening anthology of newly translated sacred writings- Gospels, Acts, Epistles, and Apocalypses- features the writings that didn’t make it into the New Testament, including the Gospels of Mary, Magdalene, and James, the brother of Jesus.”

Secrets of the Bible
This book basically just shares the truth behind some stories, like “What is the true story of Moses and the Red Sea?” and “What really destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah?”

So who knew that The Discovery Channel was the keeper of lost sacred writings? And for only 5.99 membership in the Book Club, these books can be yours, to burn. Hey, its cheaper than oil!

Edwards: Part 2 – "Free Will"

In his book “Freedom of the Will” Edwards addressed the Arminian view of human free will. His opponents claimed it was necessary for the human will to be self-determining, or sovereign, in order to truly be considered as “free”. On the contrary, Edwards wrote that “free will” simply referred to a person’s power of choosing. The will itself does not have some hidden, innate power of free choice. Rather it is the INDIVIDUAL who has a will, the power of choosing. It didn’t make sense to say the will must be free from the controlling disposition of the person who is doing the willing. Free will means one is free to do what one wants to. Otherwise, there would have to be an agent called “will” inside us that was free to NOT follow our own strongest inclinations…an absurdity. God allows mankind choices that are THEIR choices. We choose what we want to choose. The genius of Edwards’ treatment is that he was defending “free will” in the highest intelligible meaning of the term, not denying it. It was the Rationalist view of “uncaused free will” that was the logical absurdity. “Edwards’ unrelenting commitment to the sovereignty of God led him to marshal his formidable dialectical skills in an assault on one of the seemingly impregnable fortresses of modern thought.”

The Edge of the Mind of Jonathan Edwards: Part 1

When Tim asked me to contribute to his blog, he suggested I write about some of the things I have learned studying Edwards. This will take several posts, but I’ll try to simplify. Please keep in mind that it will take the rest of my life to understand all Edwards wrote! But this is a good start and I believe it’s helpful for apologetics.

Background:
Edwards lived in a time when the revolutionary scientific and philosophical thought of the Enlightenment was having an immense impact upon Christendom. Being well-read, he found the writings of Locke and Newton exhilarating, but he disagreed with the conclusions they drew. He agreed there was a unifying worldview, but he believed it was a God-centered one, not one of human reasoning.

The Rationalist view believed universal truths of reason and morality should be the standards by which Scripture is interpreted. Edward’s philosophy always started with his theology. His opponents’ logic began with principles of human morality and psychology and then inferred from that what God’s moral government of the universe must be like. Edwards began with what God is like. He wished to prove that what Enlightenment proponents “took to be the sun was only a dimly reflected light”.