Total Depravity – Kieran & Steve’s answers to Mark and Micah’s questions

1. On what Scriptural basis do you limit the effects of the Fall to the physical realm, when Romans 5:12-21 clearly states that Adam’s fall brought “condemnation for all men”, and that “many were made sinners”, and that Jesus as the second Adam brings “justification of life” and the gift of “righteousness”, both spiritual?

ANSWER: When Paul used the Adam/Christ contrast in another place, it was in the context of physical death (1 Cor 15:21-22). Here too, it is the context that causes us to take our position.

Death entered the world through Adam’s sin. He was barred from the “from the tree of life” to stop him from eating and living forever (Gen 3:22-24). His posterity physically died too, for in him they also lost access to this tree.

(Verses 13-14) From Adam to Moses “sin was in the world” (referring to the personal sins of mankind), “but sin is not imputed” (the apostle is speaking about the penalty of sin, which in this context is physical death) “when there is no law” (demanding the death penalty.) “Nevertheless, death reigned” (people physically died) “even though they did not sin in the likeness of the offense of Adam” (under a law threatening them with physical death for its violation). Therefore, the death that reigned was not due to their sins, but to the sin of Adam; “a type of Him who was to come.” But the similarity involves just one point; there is also a contrast.

(Verses 15-16) The “free gift” is not like the transgression, in that it arose not merely from Adam’s sin, but from all the sins of mankind. The contrast between ‘of one’ and ‘of many trespasses’ in these verses is damning evidence against our opponent’s view that death means spiritual death. According to them “the judgment” and “the free gift” have arisen from “many trespasses,” destroying the contrast that Paul is making. Their view simply will not work in this context.

(Verse 17) The effects of Christ’s obedience is “much more” comprehensive because the resulting justification covers the “one transgression” and the “many transgressions.” By the transgression of the one physical death reigned through the one (unconditionally). “Much more, those who receive (conditionally) the abundance of grace (the reconciliation) and the gift of righteousness (forgiveness and being counted righteous by God) will reign in life through One, Jesus. “The effect of Adam’s sin comes upon all when they are joined to Adam (by physical birth); the effect of Christ’s act of obedience is potentially for all, but is only actually experienced by those who are joined to Christ in baptism (cf. 6:3). (L.A. Mott, Life Through One Man: Jesus Christ the Second Adam, 58)

Verses 18-19 returns to what happened in Adam and how the death of Christ counteracts (unconditionally) the curse of physical death that befell all of us because of Adam’s sin.

Verses 20-21 shows how the proliferation of personal sins (under the Law) is covered along with the sin of Adam, in the free gift. By implication “the justification to life” of verse 19 leaves room to incorporate those who (conditionally) receive the abundance of grace.

So the reign of sin in death (both temporal and eternal) is broken. Grace now reigns through righteousness to eternal life, for those who (conditionally) receive the abundance of grace.

2. One of the main points of our first post was the inability of man to obey God apart from the indwelling Spirit, based on Romans 8:7-8’s clear declaration of that fact. Given Romans 8:9 explanation that the difference between ‘natural man’ and ‘spiritual man’ is the indwelling Spirit of God, how is it that you believe unbelievers are able to do the opposite?

ANSWER: “But those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit.” Having been born again we are a new creation (Jn 3:3,5; 2 Cor 5:17). However, there is still a struggle between spirit and the flesh (Gal 5:17). We do not become robots when the Spirit indwells us. It is only those who willingly choose to let the Spirit control their lives through His word, who are rightly identified as “according to the Spirit.” The Scriptures teach that the Spirit can be resisted (Acts 7:51). We can grieve the Holy Spirit by rebelling against God’s will (Eph 4:30; Isa 63:10). We can “quench the Spirit”; the fire of His power can be snuffed our in the Christian’s life (1 Thess 5:19). The Spirit of grace can be insulted through rejection and abandonment (Heb 10:29). Only those who walk by the Spirit are “led by the Spirit” (Gal 5:18).

The mind set on the Spirit is not an absolute mindset. Christian’s sin, “If we say we have no sin we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us” (1 Jn 1:8 ). The Corinthian Christians were fleshly. “And I brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to babes in Christ.” In verse 3 he calls them “fleshly” and accuses them of “walking like mere men.” All Christians have to be warned, “Do not to love the world, nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 Jn 2:15-17 ). Christians may even fall from grace, “You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by the law; you have fallen from grace” (Gal 5:4).

Micah and Mark teach “the mind set on the flesh” is also absolute. They see “the hostility,” the “cannot subject” and “cannot please God” as absolute. Scripture contradicts an absolutist position. That is why before Paul became a Christian he wished to do the good that was in God’s law? “For the good that I wish”? (Rom 7:19). God justified the sinful tax-gatherer. Who “was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God be merciful to me, the sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other” (Lk 18:13-14). Jesus in the parable of the Two Sons teaches us that we can change from rebellion to obedience (Mt 21:28-32). The parable of the Sower affirms that people can have good and honest hearts before they become Christians. “And the seed in the good soil, these are the ones who have heard the word in a good and honest heart, and hold it fast, and bear fruit with perseverance” (Lk 8:15). So, “the mind set on the flesh” is not absolute and irreversible either.

3. Romans 8:9 also states that those who do not have the Spirit dwelling in them “do not belong to Christ”. Yet you claim in your rebuttal that “people effected by the “natural man” syndrome” include people from the “immature Christian to the Atheist”. How is this possible given the verses declaration to the fact that all who belong to Christ have the Spirit indwelling and those who do not have the Spirit indwelling do not belong to Christ?

ANSWER: The natural man is one who lives only by the information that comes to him through his five senses. “In the flesh” is a physical condition (2 Cor 10:3) and a mind-set (Rom 8:5). It becomes a mind-set when in our youth we high-handily decide to defy God and live with the mind exclusively focused on the flesh, its desires and needs (Ps 25:7). In this way the sinner becomes master of his own life. At this point he may decide to be an atheist or count himself agnostic. Whatever he decides he still looks to nature and the wisdom of man for all the answers to life. A person like this does not accept the things of the Spirit, for they are foolishness to him. He cannot see God, Christ, redemption, heaven etc., therefore the natural man rejects them. The natural man also refuses to be guided by revelation. Under these circumstances faith is impossible for him.

Having said that, the natural man still has free will, so the syndrome is not necessarily permanent or irreversible. God sees to it that there is constant pressure on the natural man to give credence to the spiritual world. God has set eternity in his heart (Eccl 3:11), so he will never be entirely satisfied with this life alone. The evidence for God is within him (Rom 1:19). The will, the ability to reason, even conscience is a constant reminder “It is He who made us, and not we ourselves” (Ps 100:3). The glorious creation also witnesses constantly to the Creator (Rom 1:20; Ps 19:1). Even the futility of life plays it part by coercing the natural man to look for something better (Eccl 2:11). Combine these subtle pressures with circumstances that rock the world of the natural man, and his unbelief can turn to faith. Remember the Ninevites! (Jonah 3:5, 10). Ordinarily, the natural man is unwilling to come to Jesus (Jn 5:40), but because of free will, that can change.

Some natural men can be mildly interested in the spiritual or even attend church regularly. The Corinthian Christians who had the indwelling of the Spirit had reverted back to the natural man mindset. “And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh . . . for you are still fleshly. For since there is jealously and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men?” (1Cor 3:1-3). The natural man can be reached by the word of the Spirit. “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek” (Rom 1:16). The word of the Spirit alone is powerful enough to open our hearts (Mk 16:15-16).

4. If you are not guilty for Adam’s sin, why do you “suffer the consequence of his sin”? Since Scripture state that “the judgment arose from one transgression resulting in condemnation”? Who is the one who judges and the one who condemns?

ANSWER: I have already explained. God had warned Adam and Eve “But from the tree of knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you shall surely die” (Gen 2:17). Because they willingly chose to disobey God, they both died spiritually that day. Sin had entered into the world. God judged and condemned them by driving them out of the garden. Doing this He accomplished two things. 1. He broke His intimate communion with them. 2. He removed them from the tree of life (Gen 3:22). Adam and Eve no longer had anything to sustain their physical bodies indefinitely. From the day they were put out of the garden, they began aging. The long slow process of deterioration eventually led to their demise. When Adam was barred from the tree of life, we (his posterity) also lost access to the tree of life (Gen 3:22-24). In this way aging and physical death passed to all his descendants. “By one man sin entered into the world and death through sin and so death spread to all men, for all had sinned” (Rom 5:12).

Although I am not personally guilty of Adams sin, because he is the father of the race I suffer the consequence of his sin. Let me illustrate, in Dublin Ireland there was a child happily playing on the footpath of the street in front of her house. A car driven at speed by a drunken driver turned into the street, as he turned the corner the drunk driver lost control. The car mounted the pavement and pinned the child to her own garden wall. Her injuries were horrendous and as a result she died. Question: was the child guilty of drunkenness? Obviously not! But had she suffered the consequence of the man’s drunkenness? Yes she had! The main consequence of Adam’s sin (and there are others Gen 3:16-19) is that every man woman and child who would ever live will die. They will die whether they sinned in the likeness of Adam’s sin or not, that is, whether their sin had a death penalty attached to it or not. For example, the mentally handicapped die and babies die; scandalously some even before they see the light of day. In the same way all men suffer the consequence of Adam’s sin, which is temporal death (1Cor 15:21-22). According to God (who judges and condemns), we cannot inherit our father’s sin, nor his guilt, nor his punishment (Ezk 18:20).

5. Can you give one lexical source that gives the definition of “justification of life” in Romans, as the “ability to be the raised from the dead” (i.e.” righteous to the degree that the curse of death has been removed from them”…and “This “justification of life” counteracts Adam’s sin; so all men can be raised from the dead”)?

ANSWER: The purpose of lexicons is to define words; they are not commentaries! Hence we did not look up this expression in any lexicon. So we don’t know what they say or if they say anything at all about the expression “justification of life” in Romans 5. Our understanding of the phrase is based on the context.

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Micah and I agreed that the short answers would not exceed 500 words per question – Kieran

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