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.


10 comments on “Edwards: Part 4 – Sin vs Sins

  1. Beth'sMomToo says:

    This issue came up exegeting Romans 6:10
    “For what (death) He died, He died once for all time (with reference)to sin, but what (life) He is living, He is continually living (with reference) to God.” [sin is singular there]

    “sin” = the root (Rom.3:9 “we are all under sin”)

    “sins” = the fruit (1Cor.15:3 “Christ died for our sins…”)

    [don’t you just love definitions that rhyme? ;)]

  2. Beth'sMomToo says:

    HEY…the branches of my life just crossed over and touched. John Locke? Isn’t that a character in LOST? And that character is FULL of Enlightenment ideas. Did they do that on purpose? How did we miss that?! Duh…

  3. Ian says:

    Rousseau (the crazy French Lady), too. He was another big Enlightenment guy.

  4. Beth'sMomToo says:

    You’re right! Now I’m wracking my brain for the last names of the other characters… (I don’t believe there was an Enlightenment philosopher named Hurley. πŸ˜‰

  5. T-Bone says:

    mom, you never saw that? Rousseau and Locke… i thought we had talked about this when we were talking about Locke earlier.

  6. Beth says:

    We’re totally depraved?

    (ha just kidding)

  7. Beth'sMomToo says:

    I think I may be compartmentalizing my knowledge at little too stringently. πŸ˜‰ Honestly, I don’t think we discussed it before. YOU ALL got it…I’m just a little slow on the uptake…as I said – over compartmentalizing..BUT I knew hieroglyphs! (I may milk this one for a while…)

  8. Ian says:

    The thoughts of “will power” and the “endowments of nature” were taken up later by Neitzche. This thought process says that it is the naturally strong that have the right to rule over the meek. Not only does this deny the essential commonality of all men being made in the image of God, it also says that the physically strong, etc, have the right to rule over the weak. However, don’t the Scriptures themselves say that it is the meek that shall inherit the earth? Neitzche turned “will power” into “the will to power” and went so far as to say that religion, Christiantiy specifically, was idiotic and weak. I believe it to be very good advice not to attribute too much “christianity” to our founding fathers.

  9. Beth'sMomToo says:

    Wasn’t it Nietzsche who eventually went insane? So much for “superman”! πŸ˜‰ [Although I think I read that some think his insanity may have been due to syphilis.]

    But you’re right, once you get away from the revealed will of God as the source of Truth, you can end up in strange places. Philosophy may not mean much to many of us, but you would be amazed how much it has influenced government policy, education, and even everyday American thought.

  10. Ian says:

    I think the most dangerous thing about philosophy is that not everyone realizes that they have one.

    And, yah, Neitzche died in an insane asylum. Der Ubermenche, indeed.

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