EXCLUSIVE COVENANTS OF PROMISE

covenant
An exclusive covenant
Thesis #40 of 95 - Justification within the exclusive covenant sealed with Christ's blood is by faith in Christ as Lord and Saviour

BIBLICAL REFERENCES

Heb12:24 Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks better than the blood of Abel

Heb10:29 How much more severe punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was consecrated, and has insulted the Spirit of grace?

Jn6:44 No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him, and I will raise him up on the last day

Acts13:48 When the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord; and those who had been appointed to eternal life believed

Eph1:5 He predestined us to adoption as sons and daughters through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will

Eph2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not of yourselves, it is the gift of God

Jn15:2a Every branch in (Christ) that does not bear fruit, God shall take away

COMMENTS

What is being drawn attention to in this thesis is the exclusive and elective nature of the New Testament Covenant sealed in Christ’s blood, referred to by Paul as a Covenant of Promise. Such also was the Old Testament Covenant that God initiated through Abraham, its exclusive nature also evident from the fact that Abraham’s son Ishmael, who had been blessed by both God and Abraham and circumcised by the latter, was not admitted. It was the offspring of Ishmael’s half-brother Isaac who were to be the children of promise, and such is the Church today (Gal4:28).

But as the above biblical references indicate (to which more could be added), those incorporated into the body of Christ are there, not through their own choice or merit, but by God’s good pleasure. In Paul’s language they were predestined; in Luke’s language, appointed; according to Jesus, drawn by His Father. Truly, if these were the only covenants between God and humanity within each testament period, it would (to put it mildly) be a problem in terms of what it would say about God, His providence, His nature and His justice. I am here to affirm that this is simply not the case. The Covenant of Promise does not concern “who goes to heaven when they die” but who shall have a joint inheritance with the Lord of Glory. The previous post drew attention to a transhistorical inclusive covenant eluded by the churches’ theologians, whilst the brief extract from my book below places both covenants within their providential context:

Everyone in God’s covenants enters them by grace alone, i.e., divine favour and generosity not dependant on merit. Unmerited grace clearly applied to a Jewish baby born within the Abrahamic Covenant; equally to the Christian baby baptized by the Church and incorporated within the Covenant of Christ’s blood. Likewise, to the adult convert, divinely appointed to eternal life (Acts13:38) having been given faith to apprehend the gospel of Christ (Eph2:8) and go on to receive Christian baptism. And the human baby, starting with Cain as the world’s first infant, freely incorporated within the Universal Covenant of life through the two-way age-enduring merits of Christ’s righteous act that universally nullifies Adam’s act of disobedience (Rom5:18).

“The issue then becomes how one retains the benefits of that covenant as opposed to defaulting. The answer is faith or faithfulness [same word in biblical Greek] evidenced by fruit. The Jew who turned from JHWE to idolatry defaults his covenantal privileges; those in Christ who fail to produce fruit may remain in the Church but will not participate in the marriage of the Lamb, for every branch in Christ that fails to bear fruit will be removed (nota bene: Jn15:2). Members of the human race who fail to produce any fruit in the form of compassionate love (agape) like Cain and the Matthew 25 “goats” remain on earth but become alienated from God’s loving care; they have a new master to look after their interests, and at least as far ahead as Scripture permits us to foresee will not be incorporated within God’s eternal Kingdom but will receive post-mortem punishment

Extract from The Little Book of Providence chapter two

The full 95 theses

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THE UNIVERSAL COVENANT

Cain and Abel – participants within a universal covenant
RE-FORMATION THESIS #39 of 95. "Justification" or acceptance before God within the inclusive Universal Covenant is by evincing a God-given quality (faith/faithfulness), manifested by the exercise of compassionate love

BIBLICAL REFERENCES

Gen4:7(Masoretic) – If you (Cain) do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, Sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it.”

Gal5:6 – For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but faith working through love.

COMMENTS

It took a full chapter of my book to explain what this all about. I will quote a few paragraphs which summarize what is meant by the Universal (or “lost”) Covenant and suggest reasons why it has been eluded by theologians.

                                                                                                                                     i

Theologians cannot rely on a single passage in Genesis but must compare Scripture with Scripture, and the concept of a Universal Covenant for fallen humanity implicit in the Cain and Abel story (explicit utilizing the Masoretic text) does not fit well with much else as it has been historically and universally interpreted ever since Christian doctrine was systematized. Moreover, the Greek Septuagint (LXX) renders the key verse about God’s warning to Cain differently and that is the version to which most of the apostles and the early Church referred. The Hebrew (Masoretic Text) is no less reliable but it was not utilized by the apostolic Church, the Greek language being lingua franca for the Roman Empire and therefore the Greco-Roman Church.

“It is therefore no surprise that the apostles do not make direct reference to Gen4:7 in this context whilst the early Fathers always quote from the LXX, which refers to Cain’s incorrect division of his offering and that he should “be at peace and rule over him”; the “him” or “it” presumably referring to the devil. Such obscurity will have been an intentional veiling on God’s part regarding an understanding of a Universal Covenant, yet it is not dependant on this verse alone but can be deduced from Cain’s punishment and curse in which he became excluded from the nature of the relationship with God that his brother, his fallen parents and Cain himself experienced before the fratricide (Gen4:11-14).

“But the main reason for what in a dual sense might be termed “the Lost Covenant” concerns the nature of the Bible itself. This divinely inspired library of books was never intended to be a comprehensive account of God’s creation. For example, relatively little is disclosed about the angelic realm from which evil had sprung and with which mankind will one day participate. Scripture’s focus is the salvation history for the world centred on Christ and His peculiar peoples – the Jewish nation and the Church. Hence Abraham is a vastly more significant figure than Abel. Both were representatives within covenants, but Abraham initiated the exclusive covenant by which God would work from within through an elect people to enlighten and reconcile the world to Himself. The inclusive covenant in which Abel was declared to be righteous and Cain defaulted does not have a direct role in that salvation story. That is firstly because it pertains to that which is intuitive, so is not dependant on special revelation, and secondly because individuals are not “saved” through it, i.e. they are not cleansed from sin and spiritually empowered to maintain in life the integrity of the intellectual vessel the soul currently inhabits (1Thes4:4).

The Universal Covenant determines a person’s post-mortem fate, but also prior to that his involvement or otherwise with Satan as an agent within God’s mysterious providential role for evil (chapter six). That is why the type of those rejected from it being Cain was brand-marked and protected rather than destroyed. These issues are, as it were, the unilluminated side of the revelation globe, pertaining to the final Mystery of God.

“Consequently, biblical theologians have for ever been attempting to fit three square pegs (soteriological categories) into two round holes (soteriological outcomes). Hence the numerous, seemingly intractable tensions in Scripture typified by the “narrow way” leading to life that few will attain on the one hand and frequent intimations, not least by Paul, of God’s broader scale intentions to reconcile all redeemable humanity to Himself on the other.

It is also to be observed that Adam had three sons as did our postdiluvian Patriarch Noah, and from these have sprung all humanity: Adam’s son Seth and Noah’s son Shem represent the elect line; Adam’s son Abel and Noah’s son Japheth the “righteous” within the Universal Covenant whilst Adam’s son Cain and Noah’s son Ham were the accursed defaulters albeit that only one of Ham’s sons was cursed (Canaan) as Ham had already received a blessing.

Once we arrive at the Abrahamic Covenant, Isaac represents the elect line resulting in Israel whilst Abraham’s other son Ishmael who was also blessed by God and remained in His favour and care was not elected to the exclusive Covenant of Promise. Yet such as he, representing most of humanity, remain within the inclusive Covenant of life from which Cain defaulted provided they do not follow in his way (Jude11) .

Such multi-dimensional effectual grace (innate and celestial) can only be distinguished and systemized within a sacramental and synergetic soteriological framework so it is no wonder that such a schema has yet to be established, for on the one hand it undermines some early (fourth/fifth century) Catholic biblical theological groundwork whilst on the other is incompatible with the Protestant conviction of total depravity, sola fide and sola gratia. The Reformed concept of “common grace” is not linked to the Atonement, does not pertain to the individual and is deemed ineffectual for forgiveness or the avoidance of perdition.

Since Vatican II through the Spirit’s prompting the Catholic Church has effectively acknowledged a third soteriological category being the “people of good will” who do not find their way into the Church but will ultimately be accepted into God’s eternal Kingdom. What has been lacking for the last fifty years from the Catholic side is a workable biblical underpinning for such a proposition, for that cannot be provided without substantial doctrinal deconstruction involving contradicting earlier conciliar pronouncements that the Church deems to be immutable”.

[Excerpt from The Little Book of Providence – chapter two]


The 95 theses for the re-formation

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GOD’S IMPARTIALITY

Angel appears to Cornelius
Thesis #38 of 95 - Regardless of race or creed everyone who fears God and seeks to do what is right is accepted by Him

BIBLE REFERENCES

Acts10:4 – Cornelius looked at (the angel) intently and he became terrified, and said, “What is it, lord?” And the angel said to him, “Your prayers and charitable gifts have ascended as a memorial offering before God”

Acts10:34-35 – Peter said, “I most certainly understand that God is not One to show partiality but in every nation whoever fears God and does what is right is acceptable to Him

Heb9:14 – How much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works in order to serve the living God?

COMMENTS

This thesis is simply a restatement of Acts10:35 (above). The background to Peter’s proclamation was the revelation he had received concerning how God regarded the Gentiles that he recounts in Acts11:5-9. That had led to his meeting with the Roman centurion Cornelius. He and his household were described as devout, God-fearing, generous and prayerful.  This Gentile non-Christian’s good works and prayers had been acknowledged by God (Acts10:4). Cornelius was already participating in the cause of God’s chosen people “giving generously to Jewish causes”.

The case of Cornelius is perhaps the clearest example in the New Testament of a non-Christian who feared God, acted virtuously and was accepted in God’s sight. It is an account that puts paid to the “Reformed” notion I long held that God is at best uninterested in human good works. On the contrary, God delights in human efforts to please Him, help others and do what is right, exemplified by Jesus’ acceptance of the Mt25 “sheep” who had shown kindness to those in need. As I showed when commenting on that passage, it is not the works themselves that justify a person before God but the “faith” from which they spring. And as demonstrated in the last few theses/posts, the very act of responding positively to the dictates of conscience is itself an act of faith – in view of that faculty’s spiritual nature (cf. Heb9:14), from Whom it is derived and the Law to which it witnesses.

The 95 theses for the re-formation

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A SUFFICIENT OBJECT OF FAITH

Saint John Henry Newman

RE-FORMATION THESES #35-37

Thesis #35 of 95 – In taking heed to conscience one is effectively responding to something or Someone superior to oneself

Thesis #36 of 95 – Conscience is therefore a sufficient object of faith, being man’s positive response to the divine revelation he has received

Thesis #37 of 95 – Those who defer to the dictates of their conscience are exercising a form of godly fear

BIBLICAL REFERENCES

Heb11:6 Without faith it is impossible to please Him, for the one who comes to God must believe that He exists, and that He proves to be One who rewards those who seek Him

Rom2:15 (Gentiles] demonstrate the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience testifying and their thoughts either accusing or else defending (a particular action)

Ps51:5 I was formed in iniquity and in sin did my mother conceived me

COMMENTS

Conscience is the eluded medium of effectual common grace and pertains to the human’s spirit, also largely eluded since the time of Augustine. Conscience pertains to natural law, and in the absence of a personal knowledge of Jesus Christ is “the impression of a divine Light within us, a participation of the eternal law in the rational creature” [ref#1]. As such, conscience as the universal revelation of God, anterior to the Gospel and supreme over all other human faculties provides everyone with “a clear and sufficient object of faith” [ref#2]. The quotations are from an earlier and far more scholarly Calvinist-turned-Catholic, John Henry Newman (pictured) – and he was right. For “faith” in its essence is man’s positive response to what has been revealed to him from God, be it innately through his spiritual faculties or religiously through a creed. Either way, one comes to discern the nature of right and wrong and senses a benefit in practicing the former to be at peace with oneself. As Newman also observed, the cardinal truth that conscience teaches is that God rewards the good and punishes the wayward; again, a facet of faith as the bible defines it (Heb11:6).

The faculty derives from the fact that the human spirit is created in God’s image and has been enlightened by Christ (Jn1:9KJV). In contrast, the vessel that temporarily houses our spiritual essence is drawn to worldly lust like a magnet. For unlike the God-given spirit it was conceived in sin and shaped in iniquity (Ps51:5). But by habitually taking heed to the dictates of conscience, the soul/spirit is responding to something greater than itself. Hence such a person is regarded as exercising faith in God and so is justified through the merits of Christ’s atonement. For by habitually taking heed to the dictates of conscience, the soul/spirit is effectively relating positively to something, ultimately to Someone superior to itself. Hence the person is regarded as exercising faith in God and so is justified through the merits of Christ’s faithfulness (Note#1).

QUOTATION REFERENCES

#1 John Henry Newman: “Grammar of Ascent” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grammar_of_Assent

#2 Ibid.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grammar_of_Assent

NOTE

#1 Greek: “ek pisteos Christou” – as in Rom3:22, Gal2:16; Gal3:22, where it is usually (wrongly) translated as if referring to a believer’s faith in Christ rather than Christ’s own faithfulness (to His redemptive mission).

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LIGHT OF CHRIST

The light of Christ

THE THESIS

Re-formation thesis#34 of 95 - The conscience reflects the light of the incarnate Word/Logos that is diffused within every soul that comes into the world

BIBLICAL REFERENCES

Jn1:9 (NKJV) – That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world

Col1:16 – By Christ were all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones, or dominions, or rulers, or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him.

COMMENTS

The previous theses affirmed that the human’s spirit is planted by God and will one day return to Him. It would therefore be surprising if it did not include A BLUEPRINT FOR HUMAN BEHAVIOUR. And so it does: the law of God written on the “heart” (Rom2:15). This divine blueprint manifests itself in the faculty of CONSCIENCE. It is also described (but often mistranslated) as the light of Christ that enlightens every man coming into the world (Jn1:9). That translation is indicated by the Greek word order; apart from which it is hardly likely that John writing in the late first century would be informing his readers that the Light (Christ) “is coming” into the world” (e.g. NIV NASB). As with certain translations of Rom2:14-15 regarding the innate working of conscience, it is an attempt to obscure any positive role Scripture might ascribe to “natural law”.

Particularly in this context, natural law is not alluding to “Mother Nature” but to the very law of Christ. For all things, INCLUDING NATURE HERSELF and the precious human soul/spirit were created by the pre-incarnate Christ as Logos, through Him and for Him (Col1:16). Amongst the earliest Church Fathers such as Justin Martyr and Clement of Alexandria, this principle was articulated in terms of the divine Logos (Word) whom they recognized had provided every age, race and each individual with seeds of divine truth – the “Logos spermatikos”, leading everyone to some knowledge of God and His law, however fragmentary. Origen specifically regarded the seed of reason provided to all men equipping them with a measure of wisdom and justice as the essence of Christ Himself, as did Justin Martyr (ref#1).

From such a perspective Christianity does not supersede natural law but rather builds on it. Even pagan literature, philosophy and mythology contain wisdom that could be regarded as a preparation for the gospel, and that is how the apostle Paul utilized it. For example, he drew upon a Greek poet Epimenides and a Greek philosopher Aratus in his sermon in Athens (Acts17:26-28). Such insights as they had in turn had sprung from the Light of Christ provided to all people. Whilst that light will have been fragmentary, in those who encounter Christ through the gospel it should fill the whole being and radiate out to the world.

REFERENCE

Ref#1 The first apology of Justin Martyr chap. 46

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MIND OF THE SPIRIT

RE-FORMATION THESIS #33

Thesis #33 of 95 - The guiding principle or engrained law within the human's spirit is the conscience

BIBLICAL REFERENCES

Rom2:15 – (Gentiles) show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts either accusing or defending (their actions)

Rom7:23 – But I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members

Jn1:9 – (Christ) was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world (NKJV/KJV)

COMMENTS

Like Paul in Rom7 (vv15-25), this thesis is contrasting the law of the human spirit with what the apostle refers to as the “law of the bodily members”. Clearly, the latter law must pertain to the brain, for the bodily members in themselves cannot possess moral law. With that in mind, the language in Rom7:23 quoted above is particularly interesting. For Paul writes that the law in his body “wages war against the law of my mind”. What “mind” can he be referring to? It cannot be the brain – that gives rise to “the law of the bodily members” with which his mind is at enmity. What I mean is, a man’s eyes see a beautiful woman – he lusts after her. His eyes see desirable, luxurious objects – he craves them and envies those who possess them. But of course, it’s not really the eyes – it’s the brain that processes the images they capture.

This will appear to be stating the obvious, but bear with me, the implications have significance to what recent posts have been covering: the three rather than two components of man and the three rather than two soteriological categories of the soul. For answering my own question, it is the mind of the human spirit which Paul is saying is at war with the mind that controls the body. The “law” (or motivating principle) that governs the body is the brain; the “law” governing the spirit is the conscience. And it is God’s Law (Rom2:15 above), to which even those who do not know the Creator in a religious sense nevertheless defer. Their consciences either approve or accuse them with respect to a particular action (Rom2:15b). And as the previous verse affirms, they often do by nature the things contained in God’s Law. They often suppress the urge to lust after another woman and remain faithful to their wives; they may observe luxuries they do not possess but remain content and thankful for what they have. As a result, they are at peace with themselves. However, when they knowingly transgress, they develop “a guilty conscience”. However, as considered in the previous post, there is a category of person who does not possess such a guiding principle, for their spirit is dead and their conscience fails to function. For like Cain they are not “of God” (1Jn3:12; cf. Rev10:7). But as Paul affirms, especially in Rom2 and Rom7, that is not man by nature, Christian or otherwise. Hence there are three soteriological categories with distinct moral characteristics and divergent eternal destinies.

The mind of the spirit

Subsequent posts/theses will focus on the conscience itself – what I am principally drawing attention to in this post concerns the two minds within man that Paul alludes to in Romans7. But so in effect does Jesus in His teaching on the subject. The self-mutilation passages recorded in Matthew5:28-30 and Mark9:43-48 are referring to the need to control the bodily members so that the soul or “heart” is not polluted. It is clearly allegorical for it is obvious that cutting off an arm does not make someone a better person: they will still find a way to steal if that is their inclination. Jesus is highlighting the need for a disciple to keep his bodily members under tight control otherwise the whole person (soul) will be damaged and require post-mortem purification (i.e., salting – earlier post). However, the key point I am making regarding Jesus’ teaching pertains to His use of reflexive pronouns: “If your eye offends you pluck it out; if your arm ensnares you hack it off” etc. As with the apostle’s teaching, this pertains to the disparate moral dispositions of spirit/heart and body. The “you” that is offended, ensnared or led into sin is the spirit/soul/heart, being that which is from God and survives physical death; the offenders or ensnarers are your bodily members driven by the physical senses processed through the brain pertaining to the temporary earthly tent or vessel.

Again, it may appear inanely obvious to mention it, but it is something that eluded my thinking prior to the revelations I received. That is that the brain, being part of the mortal body is buried or incinerated at physical death – yet that part of us that continues into eternity clearly has a mind of its own, even before any resurrection. For it is the body including the brain that Paul and Peter refer to as our vessel or tent. And what usually is more important in everyday life – the vessel or what it contains? In anthropological terms, the precious content of the earthly vessel is the eternal soul and spirit. In terms of our time on the current earth, what differentiates the Christian from everyone else is that the believer has been provided with the spiritual resources to “possess his own vessel in sanctity and honour” (1Thes4:4). And by cooperating with divine grace the Christian is enabled to “put to death the deeds of the body” (Rom8:13). That is so as to Live, love and serve the living God even whilst in mortal flesh – and to have souls ready prepared for something still more unspeakably glorious in the ages to come (Rev3:21).

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FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT

RE-FORMATION THESES #29-32

fruits of the spirit

THE THESES

Thesis #29 of 95 – The human’s spirit (not to be confused with the human spirit) is often mistaken for the Holy Spirit when interpreting the Pauline epistles

Thesis #30 of 95 – The fruits of the spirit pertain to man’s spirit, for those currently devoid of the Holy Spirit also produce good fruit

Thesis #31 of 95 – The inner conflict described by Paul in Romans 7 arises from conflicting motivations derived from the processing of the brain on the one hand and the conscience-directed spirit of the “inner man” on the other

Thesis #32 of 95 – Such an inner conflict is not restricted to the Christian, but to everyone with a functioning conscience

              

BIBLE REFERENCES

                                                                                                                         

Rom8:6 For the mindset of the flesh is death, but the mindset of the Spirit (sic) is life and peace

Gal5:22-23: But the fruit of the Spirit (sic) is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law

Rom7:23 But I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members

COMMENTS

The above related theses again pertain to a fundamental flaw in the Augustinian derived biblical theology the Western Church has relied upon for the last 1600 years or so. It is one of his several “twos-for-threes” for those familiar with my ditty. In this case, contrary to the teaching of Paul and the writer to the Hebrews, he insisted man consisted of body and soul alone rather than body, soul and spirit (cf. 1Thes5:23; Gal6:18; Rom8:16; Heb4:12). He also came to reject soul creationism – i.e., that the spiritual part of man (that which returns to God after physical death) is directly planted by God into the embryo (what Paul and Peter sometime refer to as our tent or vessel). For Augustine well knew its implications, whereas many creationists, including within his own Church have either failed to think it through or are content “to hold in tension” the notion that God would condemn a person for the soul/spirit He has just provided to them; indeed, that He would plant what was morally deficient within them in the first place.

The resulting denigration of both divine and human nature is resolved when what has been taken as read – that a human soul is either “saved” or “damned” is demonstrated from scripture to be a fallacy. Indeed, few souls proportionately speaking are in either category [note#1] in the context of what the bible actually means by salvation. Whilst those (starting with Cain) who are reprobate/cursed/damned/children of the devil are an eluded sub-category that has been lumped together with “the unsaved”. In terms of the Church’s evangelical mission such a misclassification has not essentially mattered (which is why God has permitted it for so long – cf. Rev10:9. For the Church must preach the Good News of Jesus as Lord and Saviour, practice justice and offer compassion to all in the world, regardless of how deserving or otherwise the recipients may be.

But it does matter in terms of human perspectives on God’s providential care, mercy and justice – whether such is munificent or draconian. And it does matter in terms of our understanding of human nature and how we perceive our fellow man. Is it sinful in its entirety as Augustine and the Protestant Reformers assert? Is it liable to corruption yet capable of maintaining its integrity through a self-discipline verging on ascetism – as Pelagius allegedly taught?  Or is human nature basically sound – at worst neutral and capable of living a life that is pleasing to God without any enabling grace on His part?

With, I am clear, the Apostle Paul I would reply “none of the above”. Fallen human beings are indeed sinful by nature in view of the flesh. “The flesh” can be taken absolutely literally – from a creationist perspective it is the procreated material part of us: the body and brain. “Flesh” is not referring to our “sinful nature” as some bible translation infer (e.g. NIV in Rom7). For our nature is sinful, but not (normally) in its entirety: “For I know that no good whatsoever dwells within me, that is, IN MY FLESH” (Rom7:18a). And how does he complete the statement? “For the willing (to do good) is present in me, but the capacity to do the good is not (18b). In other words, human nature is dualistic. Why? Because its component parts although ultimately derived from God arrive in in the embryo from two different immediate sources: God plants the spirit whilst the corrupted intellectual vessel (body and brain) is procreated via the wondrous but entirely material processes of human childbirth.

Hence the psalmist’s lament: “Behold, I was shaped in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me” (Ps51:5). But she did not provide his eternal soul – that had been God’s domain. What has been materially procreated results in what Paul describes as “the body of this death” (Rom7:24YLT). “This death” for he is referring to what he had been describing in that passage – the willingness to do good and adhere to the spirit of God’s law on the one hand; the inability consistently to practice it in view of “the law in the bodily members” on the other. The resulting transgression results in a defilement of the conscience leading to “death”, being a disruption in the access to the One who is the source of “life” – that abundance of spiritual Life Jesus came to give (Jn10:10 cf. Rom8:13). And through the Saviour’s death He provided what was needed for those His Father has chosen for His Son (Jn6:44): even “the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God to cleanse your conscience from dead works so as to serve the living God(Heb9:14).

Applying the above to our theses, in terms #29 (interpreting “spirit” as “Spirit”) I have already cited a verse in which the human spirit is understood by most bible translators to be the Holy Spirit. That is Rom8:13 and there are two others quoted above under “Bible References”.  The one pertaining to the fruit of the spirit (thesis #30) is particularly important and is one I find especially irksome – for two reasons. Firstly, it is both observable and biblical that those who are not Christian are well able to produce good fruit. For acts of compassion, courage, bravery, endurance and the like are good fruit. To imply even indirectly that man by nature is incapable of such is abhorrent. I know from personal experience that such teaching can poison the soul – in my case regarding my attitude and behaviour in my Calvinist days towards my loving, caring but non-Christian parents.

Secondly, even in the case of the Christian, it is not the Spirit’s good fruit, it is the believer’s – the efflux of his or her own human spirit. Clearly, God the Holy Spirit’s fruit would be good, perfect in fact. Man’s rarely is – but it is his own and can be a blessing to others. In which case God delights in it and shall reward it as if it were performed to succour Christ Himself (Mt25:37-40). [The Mt25 “sheep” were actually justified by “faith” which I have explained elsewhere]. What Paul is contrasting in Gal5 is the fruit of the human spirit contrasted with that of the flesh (thesis #31). As for Jesus’ own teaching, “let your light should shine before people in such a way that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Mt5:16). Glorify the Father indeed, for though you or I may perform good works, it is a result of the grace given us to do it. But we, of ourselves and in accordance with our own will, perform the good. The Greek text does not lend itself to be interpreted as alluding to the Holy Spirit’s enabling as many understand it, it is either the human spirit or Holy Spirit’s produce that is being referred to. Likewise, when Jesus speaks of “trees” producing good or bad fruit, it is clearly people he is referring to, not God or the power of God within them (e.g., Mt7:17-19).

A cause for boasting? By no means. “What do you possess that you have not already received? And if you receive it, why would you boast as if you had not received it? (1Cor4:7). What has been received? The light of Christ in the spirit God gives to all at birth and that returns to Him at physical death (Eccles12:7; Jn1:9KJV). For unlike lesser creatures, “God formed man of the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and man became a living soul” (Gen2:7). But the main point being made here is that grace (in this context being the benevolent enabling of God) is not restricted to the Christian but is present in measure in all who have a functioning spirit (thesis#32). However, not all do possess a functioning spirit or a working conscience (theses#6-10), hence the three soteriological categories being outlined. In terms of category threes in the context of Rom7, there can be no inner tension for the twice dead (Jude1:12), merely a scary serenity – spirit and flesh have become united in evil. For the flesh like everyone by nature is “dead in trespasses and sins” whilst the spirit and its faculty of conscience has been rendered unsensitive (Greek: κεκαυστηριασμένων -1Tim4:2). The seed of their humanity no longer remains (1Jn3:9); God’s image has been obliterated. And though they may not believe in such a being, they have, like Cain, joined the devil’s party (1Jn3:12). This scripturally subliminal mystery of evil actually works to humanity’s advantage (for our Sovereign God has superintended it). Why that is the case would take considerably more explaining. The Little Book of Providence and some later theses will expand on the matter, but here’s a pointer from Scripture: Heb2:10.

NOTES

Note#1 – In terms of the bulk of humanity being neither elect nor cursed, this has effectively been the case since the Flood. One of the sixteen postdiluvian ancestral lines was cursed, stemming from the lastborn son (Canaan) of Ham who had exposed his father’s nakedness; one was the elect patriarchal line stemming from the firstborn son of Noah’s firstborn son leading down  through a line of firstborns to Abraham; whilst the remaining fourteen of the sixteen postdiluvian national patriarchs retained the blessing imparted to Noah and his family on leaving the ark but were not the elective line of firstborns from which Abraham was drawn. God takes no pleasure in destroying anyone (Ezek18:23); He wishes rather to redeem all that can be redeemed within humanity but does not intend that all should go on to marry His Son.  That is a role for which proportionately few are being prepared, still less shall be found worthy, having “overcome” (Rev3:4 & 19:7).

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BODY SOUL AND SPIRIT

RE-FORMATION THESIS #27

A dire analysis of human nature
An overly optimistic one

THE THESIS

Thesis #27 of 95. Man is composed of body, soul and spirit. The human’s spirit is also referred to in Scripture as the heart or inner man

BIBLE REFERENCES

1Thes5:23 – Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ

Rom8:16 – The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God  

 Rom7:22-23 – I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man but I perceive a different law in my bodily members warring with the law in my mind and bringing me into captivity to the sinful law that is in my bodily members

COMMENTS

There is considerable overlap with this thesis and the ones covered in recent posts. Again, the key point is that contrary to Augustine’s teaching upon which so much theology has been based, the human being comprises body, soul and spirit – one of “Aug’s twos-for-threes” referred to in my recent ditty. For especially after his fracas with Pelagius, the fearsome bishop was insistent that God had failed to provide mankind with any effectual enlightening or enabling spiritual faculties following the Fall. Consequently, he believed every soul to be doomed to perdition, apart from an act of sovereign grace reserved for the minority: “Many more are to be left under punishment than are delivered from it in order that it may thus be shown what was due to all”. By “punishment”, Augustine was referring to eternal torment of the soul. Surely a delight to the Adversary’s ears, for such teaching maligns the Creator’s character as much as it demonizes humanity. It profoundly disfigures God’s providential care of the world that His Son suffered so agonizingly to save, turning the Christmas angels’ message of “good news of great joy for all people” into a cosmic catastrophe.

Such was the consequence of this sainted churchman’s rejection of any positive role for natural law (innate spiritual enlightenment/enablement) combined with his bipartite anthropology. The latter also had the effect of confounding Paul’s teaching on human nature, especially the critical passage in Romans 7 concerning the conflict of flesh and spirit within man, impacting upon the very nature and process of salvation itself. For example, where Paul writes in Rom8:13 that “if you live in accordance with the instincts of the flesh you shall die, but if by the spirit [note#2] you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live”. Clearly, the Holy Spirit once present in an individual does not thereafter act independently, effectively becoming a human faculty, otherwise it would follow that every Christian would attain an equal and perfected state of sanctification. Rather He is the divine Enabler with whom the believer must cooperate. Indeed, the God-given human spirit (whose existence Augustine had denied) has been provided to all men to enlighten them such that they possess effectual free will to act with integrity and compassion, even at times altruism, but not to attain what the bible means by “salvation” (previous thesis/post).

So, Pelagius went too far and compromised the gospel if he actually taught that man had an innate ability to avoid sin altogether, being effectively able to master his own flesh (Paul’s “body of this death”) through a life of asceticism. For Paul makes clear that as a result of the Fall, a personal relationship with Jesus Christ is required to overcome the malign moral influence of the procreated intellectual vessel (body and brain) with which the eternal soul/spirit are temporarily associated (Rom7:24-25). Whilst innate spiritual faculties may enable a person to fulfil the spirit of God’s Law (Gal5:14; Rom2:14) and be finally accepted as a citizen of God’s Kingdom through the exercise of compassionate love towards their fellow man (cf. Mt25:34-40), common grace/natural law cannot provide what is necessary to experience a two-way living relationship with God whilst in mortal flesh. Celestial grace and the spiritual resources of the gospel are required to “possess one’s own vessel in sanctification and honour(1Thes4:4). Such who do shall attain a scarcely imaginable degree of glory, providing they persevere in the Faith and gain victory over the morally malign intellectual vessel their soul currently inhabits: “He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat with My Father on His throne” (Rev3:21).

So much for Pelagius’s overly optimistic assessment of fallen human nature and its innate spiritual potentialities, yet virtually all Augustine’s distinctive teachings [note#2] need to be deconstructed if the munificence of God’s providential intentions towards those He created in His own image is to be perceived. Such has been an irksome (for many) but necessary facet of my book, in which I commented: “A bible-based articulation of God’s munificent providence will taste as sweet as honey in the mouth of every child of God, whilst in the gut there will be a bitterness and an urge to be rid of what had historically been understood concerning the harshness of God’s justice and the limited nature of His salvific intentions [cf. Rev10:10]. The true scope of God’s plan of loving goodness will redound even more to His glory, for it is entirely dependent on the atoning death of the Son He adores, the length, breadth and height of whose love passes all knowledge”. [Excerpt from The Little Book of Providence chapter one].

NOTES

Note#1 – Likewise Rom8:4 – “The requirement of the law is fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the spirit”. The early scribes who penned the Textus Receptus knew Paul to be referring to the human spirit not the Holy Spirit, hence πνεῦμα, not Πνεύμα [Rom8:4 Greek]

Note#2 – I emphasize “distinctive teaching” for as a Catholic, the Bishop of Hippo taught much that was faithful to the written and verbal tradition of the Apostolic Fathers, not least his reaffirmation of the sacerdotal nature of the Church, the Eucharistic sacrifice and the substantial presence of Christ’s body and blood at the altar [https://stpaulcenter.com/st-augustines-theology-of-the-eucharist/].

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MYSTERY OF THE BRAIN

REFORMATION THESES #25-26

The mystery of the brain

THE THESES

Thesis #25 of 95. Since the soul and spirit are immortal the human psyche cannot be confined to the physical brain

Thesis #26 of 95. For the soul/spirit that leaves the human body when the brain dies is itself an intellectual entity with a memory of its bodily existence

BIBLE REFERENCES

Luke16:25 – Abraham said (to the rich man in Hades), Child, REMEMBER that during your life you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus bad things; consequently [νῦν] he is being comforted here whilst you are in agony

Rom7:22-23 – I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man but I perceive a different law in my bodily members warring with the law in my mind and bringing me into captivity to the sinful law that is in my bodily members

COMMENTS

 It may be stating the obvious to some, but if one believes in an afterlife then our motivations whilst in human flesh potentially derive from two sources: the brain (that wondrous organ in our head that is nevertheless heading for the grave) and the internal “psyche” or whatever you wish to call the intellectual, memory-retaining spiritual entity that leaves the body after death – for it is itself an intellectual memory retaining entity (Lk16:25). So, within fallen man there are two psychological motivating forces in tension as Paul teaches in Romans chapter 7. They have opposing laws or governing principles: “For I am gratified by the law of God in my inner man, but I perceive a different law in my bodily members warring with the law in my mind and bringing me into captivity to the sinful law that is in my bodily members” (Rom7:23). Clearly our “bodily members” are not laws to themselves – Paul is referring to the bodily senses as they are processed through the brain.

The point the apostle is making which few have grasped is that our sinful inclinations derive from the procreated intellectual vessel, not the eternal spirit, “inner man” or “heart” as it is elsewhere described. As creationists better understand, the spirit/soul has been provided by God and is governed by the spiritual faculty we know of as conscience. I say “spiritual” for it is not identifiable within the brain itself; indeed, it has only relatively recently been clearly ascertained which part of that organ is responsible for processing the conscience’s responses [note#1].

A spiritual faculty indeed, for as Paul himself affirms in Rom2:14-15 (NIV/NASB not the KJV), the conscience witnesses to the Law that God has placed in the “heart”/inner man/spirit, enabling many who are devoid of a particular creed to do by nature what God’s Law would wish them to. [The KJV amongst others obscures that facet of natural law in Rom2:14 – the Greek will not permit it]. But as a result of the Fall, the instincts of the brain itself no longer accord with God’s law as reflected in the conscience. The fleshly organ’s instincts have become concupiscent, i.e., lustful for the things pertaining to this currently disordered world (1Jn2:16).

I refer to this issue a lot for it pertains to what the Christian is being saved from (Rom7:24). As for what such salvation is for, it is in order that as the first fruits of God’s new created order (Jam1:18) we might, through an interest in the Saviour’s blood and a purified conscience, serve the living God even whilst in human flesh (Heb9:14). That in turn is so that those predestined to the role become conformed to the image of God’s Son (Rom8:29), with souls ready to be incorruptibly reclothed and maritally associated with Him in the ages to come (Rev19:6-7).

NOTE

Note #1 – The “lateral frontal pole prefrontal cortex” appears to be responsible for the processing of moral decisions and empathetic responses. Amongst mammals, only humans possess this feature which is not the conscience itself (for that is spirit) but the area of the brain in which its promptings are processed. It is an area of the brain that has been found to be clearly and visually underdeveloped in the case of certain psychopaths that have been studied, for in their case there is less to process.

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THE EVENT OF THE CENTURY – TO DATE

Most Rev Justin Welby – gave the sermon

As a British citizen born just a few days after Princess Elizabeth became HM Queen Elizabeth II, I have spent much of today observing BBC’s coverage of the state funeral of the late queen. There is much I COULD say regarding this royal transition, not least in the context of my usual subject matter. For now, I will briefly comment on the service, Archbishop Welby’s sermon, the pageantry and the broadcast:

SIMPLY PERFECT.

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A book exploring the mystery of divine providence

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