MYSTERY OF THE MIND

THESES FOR THE RE-FORMATION #22-24

brainmystery
The mystery of the brain
Thesis #22 of 95 - The intellectual vessel that the soul/spirit inhabits is innately corrupt, governed by a triple concupiscence
Thesis #23 of 95 - Paul refers to the intellectual vessel that the soul/spirit inhabits whilst on Earth as "the body of THIS death", referring to its current spiritual status
Thesis #24 of 95. Paul's "law within his members" or "flesh" pertain to the governing principles adopted by the human brain as it processes the senses of the body

BIBLE REFERENCES

1Jn2:16 – All that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father but is from the world

Rom7:23 – For 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

Rom7:24 – Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?

1Thes4:4 – That each of you know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor

COMMENTS

In commenting on each thesis, I endeavour to place it and any related biblical citations in their broader context. As a result, I have already covered most issues pertaining to these three related theses in earlier posts. But to reiterate the main points:

By “procreated intellectual vessel” I am referring to what comes out of a mother’s womb minus the spiritual element that (as creationists recognize) is placed there by God and later returns to Him (Eccles12:7). Paul and Peter both refer to this fleshly component as a vessel, tent or tabernacle. Of course, a vital part of that temporary fleshly vessel is the brain, hence my reference to it being intellectual. For it tends to be forgotten that the spiritual component that all Christians acknowledge leaves the body after brain-death is itself an intellectual entity – rational and memory retaining (Lk16:25). It follows therefore that whilst in mortal flesh there are two distinct intellectual entities within man. They are not in union but oppose each other morally and spiritually. The fleshly component is “dead” in terms of its spiritual relationship with God, whilst that which God has planted is unsurprisingly alive in that respect. That is, in most cases but not all, for the devil’s children are twice dead. For in such, like Cain (Jude11-12), flesh and spirit no longer are in tension. And it is a scary prospect; the spiritual and fleshly parts of these human devils (Jn6:70) have both died to God and become united in evil, devoid of a functioning conscience, being a faculty of the spirit, whose very existence Augustine and consequently much subsequent theology rejects.

Not so the apostle Paul on either count. He knows a human being to comprise body, soul and spirit (1Thes5:23). He also knows and has articulated in Romans chapter seven that the instincts of the flesh (i.e. the bodily senses as they are process by the brain – thesis #24) are at odds with the instincts of the spirit perceived in the promptings of the conscience, being God’s law written on the heart. Paul cannot be referring to himself as a Christian within that passage (Rom7:14-24) as even Augustine rightly acknowledged, but many later commentators do not. In so doing they contradict what Paul goes on to outline in the very next chapter (8:12-16). For the Christian is not a slave to the flesh whereas man by nature is. It prevents him consistently practicing what he knows in his heart to be right and just. Not so the Christian who is enabled in Paul’s words “to possess his own vessel with sanctification and honour”. For he has become one spirit with Christ and is further empowered by the Holy Spirit to overcome the deceitful enticements of this world (1Jn2:16).

The latter is what thesis #22 is referring to – the triple concupiscence which has governed the brain since the Fall, exacerbated by the influence of he who is still the prince of this world. Paul refers to our earthly vessel as the body of this death (thesis #23). The “this” (v24 – τούτου), often subtly omitted or misplaced within the translation, is important for it shows that the death to which he refers is not “a state of damnation” but what he is describing in the passage – the inability to overcome the desires of the flesh as long as the soul resides in mortal flesh (cf. 1Pet4:6). That in turn results in a breach of God’s laws that are referenced by the conscience (Rom2:15) such that even those who have a sense of right and wrong and seek to practice the former are currently innately unable to serve the living God (Heb9:14). [They are nevertheless justified by “faith” evinced by love through the merits of Christ’s faithfulness, but that is for a later thesis].  As Paul concluded, for those called to divine service and spiritual worship whilst still in mortal flesh so as to be fitted for yet more glorious service in the ages to come, there is only one solution – a personal relationship with Jesus Christ (Rom7:25).

Even then, the matter is not finally resolved until the body itself is redeemed and replaced with that which is equally material yet incorruptible, having a brain spiritually attuned to God and the things of God. Note carefully, that is the eventuality Paul refers to as the Christian’s point of adoption (Rom8:23) – not the day of his conversion or when the soul goes to heaven but when he finally receives a resurrection body. For man is incomplete (“asleep”) without a body – and it was the temporary version that had been the source of his problem with sin. As Peter affirmed, the lusts of the flesh war against the soul – not within it for they do not derive from it (1Pet2:11). Nevertheless, such a soul can potentially be damaged (corrupted) to the point of requiring the painful remedy (salting) Jesus spoke of in Mk9:45-50. That is one of the more troublesome passages of Scripture for many Christians. It was considered in some detail in the previous post.

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THE LITTLE BOOK OF PROVIDENCE & ITS 95 THESES

THE LITTLE BOOK OF PROVIDENCE & ITS 95 THESES

Periodically I issue this post for any who stumble upon one of my blogs for the first time and wonder what it’s all about. The full picture is set out in The Little Book of Providence and I’m currently explaining the 95 theses that summarize the main points. I am not a scholar but someone who has received a prophetic insight concerning how the bible should be interpreted. The results are as follows:

THE MUNIFICENCE OF DIVINE PROVIDENCE

1.1 God’s benign providence and the global benefits of Christ’s saving work are vastly broader than traditionally understood

1.2 In terms of a theodicy, the evil and sufferings in this world are in fact the NECESSARY PREPARATION for those God had created from dust for them to fulfil a destiny superior to that of the angels – such a reordering arising from the incarnation of the Word of God AS A MAN – cf. Heb1:4; Heb2:7-11; Rom8:20)

THE MYSTERY OF EVIL

2.1 Satan and his people (1Jn3:12) paradoxically shown to have fulfilled a role in helping to bring this about through the suffering, adversity and challenges they have caused to mankind – such suffering being the grist for glory (cf. Heb2:10).

AUGUSTINIAN THEOLOGY REVISITED

3.1 Augustinian-derived narrow dualisms are deconstructed and replaced by a coherent synopsis of the bible, the outworking of which accords with God’s self-described compassionate nature and munificent providence

3.2 Augustine (not exclusively but above all others) shown to have led churches into error, especially in the West. Revered by many for he also taught much that was good, yet his distinctive teachings on human nature, original sin and the economy of grace barbarize God’s nature and disfigure His providence. He taught that it is Christ intention (Jn5:22) that the bulk of people who have ever lived should endure pain and misery through eternity (The City of God Book XXI): “Many more are to be left under punishment than are delivered from it, in order that it may thus be shown what had been due to all” (ibid chap. 12). In starkest contrast, the Christmas angels brought a  message of “Good News of great joy that shall be to all people” (Lk2:10)

THE RE-FORMATION

4.1 As was the case in the first millennium of the Christian era, there can only be one united, catholic, apostolic Church in which the sacrificial, re-presentational and sanctifying role of the Eucharist offered up by the Church as priesthood for the world is affirmed and participated in by all true followers of Christ.

4.2 Only then can the world receive a COHERENT account of God’s Good News of the Kingdom at the point Christ returns. He Himself has affirmed it, such a gospel SHALL be preached “as a testimony to all nations, then the end shall come” (Mt24:14). That can only occur if the churches are re-formed as one.

4.3 The necessary precondition for such a reunion to occur is for ALL traditions to be shown to have been in substantial error (cf. Rom11:3).

IDENTIFYING THE SOURCE OF SINFULNESS WITHIN MAN

5. Key to such errors has been what the bible means by “salvation” – what it is FROM and what it is FOR. Regarding the former, that it is the procreated intellectual vessel rather than the God-given soul or spirit that is the SOURCE of human sinfulness (cf. Rom7:21-24). In terms of what gospel salvation is FOR, it is not directly related to whether the soul goes to heaven; rather, it is to partake of the divine nature whilst still in mortal flesh (proto-theosis) so that those God has chosen for the role can be fitted to participate in Christ’s Government of the age to come (note #1). The related key error being that religious faith or the lack of it does not determine the destination of the soul immediately after death. That pertains to –

NATURAL LAW AND LOVE

6.1 To recognize that natural law is effectual and normative – not for what the bible means by salvation (above) but for humane living and final acceptance with God. In particular, those who genuinely care for the needy are regarded and rewarded as having served Christ Himself (Mt25:40). In so doing they demonstrate that they are “of God” (1Jn4:7 cf. 3:12) and fulfil the ultimate purpose of God’s Law which is defined by Paul in one word: LOVE (Rom13:9; Gal5:14). Hence the joyful news that many more souls are to be reunited with those they have loved and lost in life and finally be received into God’s eternal Kingdom.

HELL – A DIVINELY ORDERED ESTABLISHMENT

7. I commented on this in a recent post from which I quote:

7.2 “It is insightful to refer to Jesus’ teaching in Mt5:22, carefully noting THE GRADATIONS. “I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be answerable to the court; and whoever says to his brother, ‘You good-for-nothing,’ shall be answerable to the Sanhedrin, whilst whoever says, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to experience hell fire”. This shows the absurdity of traditional Western teaching on hell: It could never be “all or nothing”. Nevertheless, for those whose misuse of their bodily members and senses has compromised the integrity of their soul (Mt5:29-30), Jesus affirms directly in the context of hell’s punishments that such must “be salted with fire, SALT BEING GOOD. However, if the salt becomes unsaltable, “how will you make it salty again? Better to have salt in yourselves and be at peace with one another” (Mk9:49-50).

7.3 Neither is hell administered by demons with pitchforks as depicted in some medieval paintings, but by God, His saints and angels (cf. Lk16:25 – that is strictly Hades and note the overseer – Abraham). For, Jesus had insisted, EVERYONE MUST BE SALTED, if not in this life, then in the next (cf. Lk6:24-25). My book explains why this must be (ch.7). The churches have largely failed to grasp this mystery, which pertains to para 1.2 above.

7.4 Hell incorporates an element of punishment (for sure) and is best avoided by having salt in yourself. But for most attendees it is primarily a place of learning (the hard way), self-enlightenment, moral correction, purification and preparation. For there is no distinction between the fires of hell and “purgatory” either in the bible or the writings of those who had received the Faith directly from the apostle. And whilst we have a pardoning God, pardon per se is not sufficient for souls that have been poisoned or corrupted. Pardon is one thing; fittedness for divine service is another. Purging and salting will be necessary for some; neither will it necessarily be devoid of suffering – sensual or mental. Yet even that shall not avail for all.

7.5 For in the worst cases, in view of what a few individuals have become in life (lawless, hateful and irredeemably corrupted), they could never exist within “new heavens and a new earth where righteousness dwells” that Peter sought after. In Jesus’ words it were better they had never been born – and better both for themselves and everyone else that after due punishment they cease to exist. For they are UNSALTABLE, good for nothing, to be cast out and trodden under foot (cf. Mt5:13). These are those who may have gained much in the world but lose their soul in the process (Mt16:26).

7.6 God’s hatred of evil, proportional punishment and redistributive/compensatory justice are the OUTWORKING OF HIS LOVE, as all who possess the mind of Christ should discern. In the starkest contrast to Augustine, such was third century Origen’s perspective on God’s punishments: “God confers benefits justly and punishes with kindness; since neither goodness without justice nor justice without goodness can display the real dignity of the divine nature” (Origen de Principiis Book II chap5 para 3).

GOD’S SECRET PLAN [Eph3:9-11)

8.1 “To turn the hearts of fathers back to their children, and the disobedient to the good sense of the righteous, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord”. Such had been foretold of John the Baptist’s mission. He did not fulfil it – he was beheaded, whilst the One he heralded was also rejected by those expected to be “the children of the Kingdom” (Mt8:12). This pertains to the most remarkable and eluded mystery of all, even though Paul refers to it in Ephesians 3 and Romans 11: that in terms of Old Testament Scripture, the current age is effectively an inserted epoch . Many OT prophesies have been deferred to the age to come (e.g. Is11:4-9 which like most can only relate to earth not heaven). It reaffirms the reality of a further terrestrial age (note #1)

THE SYNERGISTIC NATURE OF SALVATION

9.1 As well as turning the heart of the fathers back to their children, John’s other task, that in view of para 8 has also been deferred to the conclusion of the CURRENT age, was “to turn the disobedient to the good sense of the righteous, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord”. That is, to inculcate a right understanding of what is required on the believers’ part in the process of sanctification, required of those who are to be re-formed into Christ’s image whilst still in mortal flesh (Rom8:29). So shall the children of promise who are alive at Christ’s return be suitably prepared for their role in the age to come.

THE NATURE OF THIS DISCLOSURE

10.1 That these disclosures are perceived for what they are – not entirely new revelation, which they could never be, but new insights as to how the bible should be interpreted.

10.2 A recognition that such a disclosure as this was foretold in Scripture, to be set out in writing and made universally and freely available, and that it simply could not have happen until now. For God knew that the preparation, free and universal propagation and verification of such writing would require the research and digital printing facilities of the internet.

10.2 I have come to understand that such an eventuality was symbolically alluded to in Revelation chapter ten and explicitly referred to in the Book of Enoch (93:10 & 104:11-14 Charles Version).

——————————————

NOTE #1 – As Wikipedia affirms under the heading “Premillennialism”, such a perspective was the prevailing understanding of the early Church. The first recorded “Christian?” opposition was from Marcion, a heretic who rejected the incarnation of Christ and the canonicity of the Old Testament. More significantly, third century Origen came openly to oppose the doctrine, having an over-spiritualized perspective on events relating to the second coming of Christ. Still more influential was Augustine’s change of mind on the subject. That typically ensured the doctrine was dropped by the Church thereafter. For as a leading Anglican scholar in the wiki article rightly observed, all medieval theology is essentially Augustinian – and the Protestant Reformers built on it. [If Augustine got it wrong, we are all in trouble, so here we all are]. Apart from the witness of those early premillennialists who had most immediately received the Faith from the apostles, my point concerning God’s secret plan (the inserted epoch) reinforces the rationale for a terrestrial age to follow the current one.

LINK #1 https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/The_Book_of_Enoch_(Charles)

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THE INNOCENCE OF THE SOUL

RE-FORMATION THESES 19-21

Thesis #19 of 95 - The God-given soul and spirit of man is innocent but pliable (liable to corruption)
Thesis #20 of 95 - Apart from gospel grace or infantile death the soul is bound to experience a measure of corruption
 Theses #21 0f 95 - The soul/spirit of man is not intrinsically corrupt having come from God, unlike the procreated vessel into which it is planted at birth

BIBLICAL REFERENCES

Eccles12:7 – Then the dust will return to the earth as it was, and the spirit will return to God who gave it

1Thes5:23 – Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your SPIRIT AND SOUL AND BODY be kept complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Rom7:22-24 – For I joyfully agree with the law of God in the inner man I see a different law in the parts of my body waging war against the law of my mind, making me a prisoner of the law of sin, the law which is in my body’s parts. Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God, it is through Jesus Christ our Lord!

Gen6:3 – God said “My spirit shall not perpetually strive with man for he is flesh, so his days shall be (reduced to) 120 years [Note: this cannot be referring to the Holy Spirit, for fallen man by nature neither encounters nor possesses the Holy Spirit. Rather, he possesses a spirit from God which is constantly at enmity with his fleshly parts (body and brain) – so God does man a favour by reducing his time in the flesh].

1Pet4:6 – Therefore the gospel has been preached even to those who have died, so that though they have been judged in the flesh as people, they may live in the spirit in accordance with the will of God.

COMMENTS

Three theses have been lumped together in this post as they are closely related, and each one hopefully helps explain the other two.      

The biblical references are firstly to confirm that Paul (together with the writer to the Hebrews and the witness of the early Church) asserts that a human being consists of flesh, soul and spirit. As all Christians will agree, the spiritual essence of man is eternal, but the reference from Ecclesiastes affirms its origins as well as its destination. Man’s spirit came from God and shall return to Him when the body is laid to rest. Many Christians (“traducians”) effectively believe that the eternal soul/spirit is somehow derived through human procreation. Others (creationists) believe the spiritual essence of man is directly created by God and planted into the human embryo at some point before birth. These theses affirm the latter. Creationism is the official teaching of the Catholic Church, although in practice many (not least Augustine himself) have struggled with it in view of incompatibility with his distinctive teaching on original sin that the Western Church (alone) adopted. For it would imply that the God who is love personified implants a morally degenerated soul within man and then condemns him for possessing it. The traducian notion is equally illogical and irrational, for how can that which is spiritual and eternal be generated from what is mortal and material? – apart from which, as already indicated the notion is unbiblical.

The matter is resolved by Paul’s teaching in Romans chapter seven, that is when taken literally. The spiritual essence of man (which Paul refers to here as the “inner man” – elsewhere to the heart or spirit) is not the source of mankind’s problem with sin, for it instinctively loves what is good and in accordance with God’s law (7:22). The problem stems from what the apostle refers to as law in the body parts, by which he must mean the bodily senses as processed through the brain. It might appear blindingly obvious but I for one did not previously think the matter through – at death, the brain returns to the ground with the rest of the body. What goes into eternity, being the invisible spiritual essence planted by God is itself an intellectual entity, rational and memory-retaining. The parable of Lazarus and rich man confirms as much (Lk16:25 – note also from that verse why the rich man and Lazarus were experiencing what they were – to be covered in later theses). It is the moral tension between the fleshly and spiritual intellectual entities within man that Paul is describing in Romans 7, prompting him to ask, “Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” All Christians know Jesus Christ to be the answer, and Paul confirms it (v25). But what of the question? It pertains to the very purpose and nature of what the bible means by “salvation” – what it is from and what it is for (previous thesis).

The innocence of the soul

It is not the God-given soul and spirit but the procreated intellectual vessel they inhabit that prevents man by nature rightly relating to God in the present. Only the Christian is provided with the spiritual resources to “possess his own vessel in sanctity and honour” (1Thes4:4). That is so that his soul can be fitted for immediate divine service in the world to come. In the meantime, the Christian is to present his mortal body to God as a living sacrifice. That, says Paul, is his reasonable service (Rom12:1). But it is not what the apostle regards as the ultimate purpose of salvation, neither is “going to heaven when you die” which the bible (including Paul) describes as “falling asleep” (Acts7:60; 1Cor15:6). No, here is the focus and cosmic outworking of Paul’s gospel and it is line with the message of the Christmas angels: Good news/great joy/all people (Lk2:10) –

 “The creation was subjected to futility, not of its own choice but because of Him who subjected it, in the hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. That whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. And not only they, but we also who have the first fruits of the Spirit – we also groan within ourselves waiting eagerly for our adoption, being the redemption of our body(Rom8:20-23)

This is not my gospel, it is Paul’s. Some of his teaching was new revelation; none of mine is, nor can it be. Rather, it is new interpretation that will appear alien to many. That is to be expected – for the Roman Church has long regarded Augustine as their preeminent doctor whilst the founder of the Protestant Church’s introductory statement for his 95 theses at Heidelberg declared Augustine to have been “Paul’s most trustworthy interpreter”. The Spirit has shown me something very much to the contrary, the supernatural aspect of the revelation testified to in a number of earlier posts. The resulting synopsis has been set out in The Little Book of Providence, made freely available to all as a PDF. What is more, I believe that such a course of events was foretold in Scripture – cryptically so in Revelation chapter ten, more overtly so in the non-canonical yet inspired and biblically quoted Book of Enoch – another earlier post refers.

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SOUL CREATIONISM

RE-FORMATION THESIS #18

body soul and spirit
Thesis #18 of 95 - The eternal soul/spirit of man, being that which returns to God is not procreated but directly created by God

BIBLICAL REFERENCES

Eccles12:7 – Then the dust will return to the earth as it was, and the spirit will return to God who gave it

Heb4:12 – For the word of God is living and active, and sharper than any two-edged sword, even penetrating as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart

1Thes5:23 – Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept 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

Gal6:18 – The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers and sisters. Amen.

COMMENTS

I comment a number of times on soul creationism and the tripartite nature of man in my book. Here is one such reference:

Primarily through Augustine’s influence and his prosecution of the Pelagian controversy, the post-Nicene Church defected from the orthodox  tripartite understanding of most earlier Fathers who believed man to be comprised of body, soul and spirit [note#1]; the latter being provided directly from God and the means by which one receives sound reason and a pure conscience, the Light of Christ by which little children cannot but “believe” in Jesus the Word (Mt18:6). This has exacerbated difficulties when interpreting Paul’s epistles; the “spirit” not being conceived by most readers to be a separate entity (a component of human nature) distinct from the Holy Spirit. Paul refers more frequently than others to the human spirit because of his substantial handling of the inner struggle concept. On one occasion he refers to body, spirit and soul together (1Thes5:23) in terms of sanctification. Likewise, the writer to the Hebrews speaks of the word of God penetrating between soul and spirit as it does between the joints and marrow (Heb4:12). The latter two materials of the body are closely related yet distinct, as are the soul and spirit.

In terms of the witness of the Apostolic Church, Justin Martyr spoke of the soul housing the spirit just as the body houses the soul (ref#2) the latter being a kind of ethereal interface formed in the outline of the body enclosing the spirit – invisible when it leaves the body at death yet clearly visible in the realm it inhabits prior to resurrection (cf. Lk16:23). Irenaeus concurred: the soul possessing the figure of the body in which it dwells (ref#3) whilst “the complete man is composed of flesh, soul and spirit. One of these does indeed preserve and fashion the man – this is the spirit; whilst as to another it is united and formed – that is the flesh; then comes that which is between the two – that is the soul which sometimes when it follows the spirit is raised up by it but sometimes it sympathises with the flesh and falls into carnal lust (ref#4). In the New Testament the Greek word for soul (psuche) is often translated as “life” for it more often relates to the physical: “Take no thought for your “psuche” what you shall eat or what you shall drink” (Mt6:25).

Ref#1 Historical background to trichotomy: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tripartite_(theology)

Ref#2 Justin on the resurrection chap. 10

Ref#3  Irenaeus against heresies Book II chap. 19 (6)

Ref#4  Irenaeus against heresies Book V chap. 9 para 1

[Quote from The Little Book of Providence chapter two]

As a bishop in the 4th/5th century Catholic Church, Augustine will not have been a total maverick, but without doubt he was the most influential voice (and pen) the Church possessed during its most formative period in terms of doctrinal development and biblical interpretation. Most of his distinctive teachings were accepted by the Catholic Church of his day and built upon later by the Protestant Reformers. Denying the existence of the human’s spirit was such an example, even though I have just demonstrated from Scripture and the testimony of earlier Church Fathers that it was initially well understood that man consisted of body, soul and spirit (the ditty in thesis#13 refers). For Augustine, the idea that fallen man possessed any spiritual enlightening or enabling faculties didn’t fit with his interpretation of original sin, namely that through Adam’s disobedience, every soul was doomed to perdition apart from an act of sovereign grace, reserved for the minority. Such seemingly inexplicable justice, undermining as it does God’s munificence and self-declared salvific intentions, stemmed in part from a misunderstanding of what the bible actually means by “salvation” – i.e., what it is from and what it is for.

These early theses are focussing on the former: what man by nature must be delivered from, not to avoid perdition but to relate to God whilst in human flesh. Later theses shall touch upon the especially glorious destiny awaiting those who do embark upon such a relationship through a divinely orchestrated encounter with Jesus Christ so as to be sanctified in body, soul and spirit (Jn6:44; Rom8:29; 1Thes5:23). In the meantime, note Paul’s closing benediction to God’s chosen people in Galatia: “May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers and sisters. Amen” (Gal6:18).

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CONTEXT OF INFANT BAPTISM

RE-FORMATION THESES 16&17

infant baptism
Thesis #16 of 95 - Infants do not experience spiritual death until in Paul's language "the law comes" being a clear sense of right and wrong; for where there is no law sin is not imputed and the conscience is not defiled
Thesis #17 of 95 - Adam and Eve's offspring do not inherit their parents' guilt but through procreation inherit an intellectual vessel that has been "shaped in iniquity" acting as a malign influence on the soul

BIBLICAL REFERENCES

Rom5:13 – Until the Law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law

1Cor15:56 – The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the Law

Eccles12:7 Then the dust will return to the earth that it was, and the spirit will return to God who gave it

COMMENTS

I commented in thesis #12 on Augustine’s teaching that infants who died unbaptized must experience mild sensual pain through eternity. Thankfully this is one of his teachings the Catholic Church did not fully endorse, instead teaching the more palatable notion that such souls would be in a state of limbo – happy and at peace but not fit to experience heaven itself. But as the Church readily acknowledges such a concept had “no clear foundation in revelation”. Their 1992 catechism progressed to the position that “infants who die without baptism are entrusted by the Church to the mercy of God”. Still more recently, in 2007 the Church’s International Theological Commission concluded that in light of historical cultural and religious formation, we might “hope that infants who die without baptism may be saved and brought into eternal happiness even if there is not an explicit teaching on this question found in revelation.

These two related theses demonstrate that the whole matter should never have been an issue in the first place, causing as it has, unnecessary distress for many of the faithful through the centuries, not to mention incredulity from many outside the Catholic Church. The problem largely arose from the Western Church’s interpretation of original sin which deemed that not only Adam’s corrupted nature but his personal guilt was imputed to his offspring, resulting in spiritual death and alienation from the light of Christ from birth. As explained in recent posts/theses, not only was Adam’s sin not imputed but the corrupted nature that has been passed on to his offspring pertains to the procreated intellectual vessel (fleshly body and brain) that the soul inhabits, not the spiritual essence itself, i.e., that part of us that returns to God at physical death (Eccles12:7). As the same verse affirms, that spiritual essence was given to us by God – it is innately pure. But it is also pliable, i.e. liable to corruption – from the morally degraded fleshly intellectual components with which it is temporarily associated. Hence the need for gospel salvation for those God elects to relate to Himself in Christ and become conformed to His image whilst in mortal flesh (Rom8:29; Jn6:44). But in terms of infant baptism, substantive corruption of the spirit cannot occur before a person attains the age of reason. For in Paul’s language, sin is not imputed when there is no law, in this case an infant’s sense of right and wrong. As Paul also wrote concerning the progression of his own life: “There was once a time when I was alive without the law, then the commandment came, sin came to life and so I died” (Rom7:9).

Once these principles are grasped, infants dying unbaptized cease to be an issue. And the fact that the temporary body/brain rather than the eternal soul/spirit is the source of mankind’s problem with sin (covered in the previous thesis) is a truth that has broader and yet more favourable implications for human destiny that we shall continue to unravel.

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STING OF DEATH IS SIN

RE-FORMATION THESIS #15

The sting of death is sin
Thesis #15 of 95: Death results from sin but Paul indicates sin is itself a result of death arising from the corrupt intellectual vessel in which the human soul is planted

BIBLICAL REFERENCES

Ps51:5 – Behold, I was shaped in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.

1Cor15:54-56 – When this corruptible puts on the incorruptible and this mortal puts on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written: “Death has been swallowed up in victory. Where, O Death, is your victory? Where, O Death, is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the Law

Rom8:23 – Even we who have the first fruits of the Spirit groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, being THE REDEMPTION OF OUR BODY!!!

COMMENTS

One needs to observe carefully what the apostle writes concerning spiritual death: “The sting of death is sin and the strength of sin is the law”. The converse idea, namely that the sting of sin is death is better understood and Paul quotes as much from Hosea. But once again the apostle intends exactly what he writes. It confirms among other things that when Paul speaks of death it is not a reference to a state of damnation for in this case sin results from death, not leads to it. Something being spiritually dead has resulted in sin, that something being the mortal body and brain. In responding to the body’s natural inclinations, the soul rebels against the divine light of conscience and so disrupts the relationship with the Source of its spiritual life. For what had been conceived in sin (Ps51:5) has “died” leading in turn to sin that destroys Life once the “law” (a sense of right and wrong) is perceived and inevitably breached (Rom7:9).

Hence the need for heavenly grace by which one can be spiritually purified, receiving ongoing cleansing of the soul so that those predestined to it may serve God whilst in mortal flesh. The apostle had further asserted that “death will be swallowed up in victory”, yet even celestial grace does not fully resolve the problem of mortal embodiment. God intends to save our soul and body, but He does not do so simultaneously. So even the Christian is tempted to sin whilst in mortal flesh which is why it is his body that is to be offered as a living sacrificeso that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk after the flesh but after the spirit” (Rom8:4). For it is the spirit that having been supplied by God loves His law and wishes to serve righteousness. Not until “this corruptible” (body) has been transformed at resurrection will death (physical and spiritual) finally be swallowed up in victory when the body itself is redeemed (Rom8:23). [Note – to Paul, salvation’s apotheosis is not the soul going to heaven but bodily resurrection]. The soul’s vessel in its current degenerative state is the cause of the human problem being the outworking of original sin; the final solution will not be for the soul to lose a body altogether and be eternally at rest in the spiritual realm (a spurious dualism), but to be re-clothed in a new body which is from heaven (2Cor5:2) and to be united to the Man who is God and actively participate within His realm; that will be joy unspeakable and full of glory.

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LAW WRITTEN ON THE HEART

RE-FORMATION THESIS #14

conscience – witness to God’s law written on the heart
Thesis #14 of 95: Spiritual death arises as soon as the conscience is defiled, for that faculty has a spiritual dimension

BIBLICAL REFERENCES

Rom2:14-15 (New Jerusalem Bible) When Gentiles, not having the Law, still through their own innate sense behave as the Law commands, even though they have no Law, they are a law for themselves. They can demonstrate the effect of the law engraved on their hearts, to which their own conscience bears witness; since they are aware of various considerations, some of which accuse them, while others provide them with a defence

Rom13:8-10 Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for the one who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the Law. For this, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and if there is any other commandment, it is summed up in this saying, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the Law.

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 to serve the living God?

COMMENTS

The three references above cover the essential meaning of this thesis. Paul’s teaching pertains to humanity as a whole and to natural law. The New Jerusalem Bible translation of Rom2 is amongst the more accurate. In terms of Protestant bibles, NASB for example is fine, whereas KJV/NJKV are not so – they amongst others imply Paul is being condemnatory towards the Gentles’ response to conscience whereas it is quite the contrary – they “behave as the Law demands”. Indeed, with the exception of the children of the devil featured in earlier theses, the rest of humanity possess a working conscience and often act upon it. Quoting Paul “through their own innate sense (Gentiles) behave as the Law commands, even though they have no Law, they are a law for themselves”. Anyone who shows compassion to another does just that – fulfilling the spirit of the Law (Rom13:8-10; Mt25:40; 1Jn4:7).

Note, the previous paragraph already covers two spiritual/soteriological categories – those who defer to the faculty of the human spirit we know of as conscience, and those who do not. That correlates with those for whom truth, compassion and integrity matter (albeit they do not consistently practice it) and those who are narcissistic psychopaths. This in turn correlates with those who retain something of God’s image and those who have entirely lost it (1Jn3:8-10). Secular society may apply different language, but they generally recognize such a distinction. Regrettably many Christians are less inclined to, thanks to the binary theology referred to in the previous thesis‘ ditty. According to their understanding (and mine in the past), whilst they may acknowledge degrees of punishment, all who do not respond to the gospel (as the various denominations interpret it) are deemed to be bound for perdition.

Repudiating such a notion is central to this work; for it is an offence to God’s nature and providential care, being a misrepresentation of humanity’s standing before God. Nevertheless, what is true about the above two categories of people is that neither is saved in the gospel sense. But what is such salvation from and what is it for? The “from” was covered in the last few theses: it is to be delivered from what Paul refers to as the body of this death. For whilst through the faculty of conscience working within their spirit, the first category may “joyfully agree with the law of God in the inmost being, they are aware of a different law (principle) in the bodily senses waging war against the law of the mind, making them a prisoner of the law of sin within the bodily members” (Rom7:23-24). The second category on the other hand knows nothing of such inner moral turmoil, nor any guilt or shame for their sin. Their whole being is united in evil – they are quite different from the rest, for they are not “of God” (1Jn3:10).

But thanks be to God, there is a third category who are being saved. And what are they being saved for? The Hebrews text I have quoted refers: “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 to serve the living God?” Such are to be the servants of God on earth – they need to know Him, love Him and serve Him now whilst in mortal flesh, and be fashioned for still nobler service in the future, i.e., immediately Christ returns in glory. For such honourable service they need to be cleansed in Christ’s blood. Peter describes them as “the elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father through a hallowing of the spirit leading to obedience and the sprinkling of the blood of Jesus (1Pet1:2 – to be clarified in later theses). As Hebrews affirms, that is so that their consciences may be cleansed from the works that result in death (as previously defined). Again, this is indicative of the spiritual nature and origin of the faculty of conscience – being as Paul stated, the witness to the Law of God written on the heart. A more substantial post on the role of the conscience is HERE.

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FORBIDDEN FRUIT

95 THESES FOR THE RE-FORMATION #13

The forbidden fruit
Thesis #13 of 95: Our first parents "died" immediately they ate the forbidden fruit

BIBLICAL REFERENCES

From the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die (Gen2:17)

For the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own free will, but because of Him who subjected it, in the certain hope that creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God (Rom8:20-21).

In the days of the voice of the seventh messenger, when he starts sounding off, then the mystery of God will be completed, as has been announced to His servants the prophets (Rev10:7).

COMMENTS

Humanly speaking, the Little Book of Providence and these theses related to it arose from applying a highly literal (some might say pedantic) approach to scriptural interpretation. Every word, including how it is parsed in its original language has been taken into consideration. Usually, such a literal approach results in seeming contradictions with other passages, indeed many passages of the bible. But that is not the case with The Little Book; interpreted in the way that I have been shown the bible should be results in total coherence, at least to the author’s satisfaction.

So here is an example: “In the day you eat from it you shall surely die” (Gen2:17). Eating the forbidden fruit did not result in our first parents merely becoming mortal and liable for punishment, they died on the day the fruit was eaten [Heb: אֲכָלְךָ֥ בְּי֛וֹם]. What they experienced that very day is what Paul was referring to in my earlier thesis with regard to his reference to individuals by nature being “dead” in trespasses and sins – a defiled conscience resulting in a disruption in their relationship with their Creator.

For as we know, Adam went on to live for centuries, and as the earliest Church fathers rightly testify, he was neither cursed nor damned. The first man to experience that fate was Adam’s firstborn son Cain (Gen4:11). As a consequence of his parents’ folly, Cain’s soul like everyone else’s must inhabit a corrupted intellectual vessel (body and brain) with instincts alien and opposed to God’s law (Rom7:23-24). But in Cain’s case he was also dead in spirit, i.e., twice dead (Jude1:12). Body, soul and mind had become united in evil, hateful towards God and humanity. He had succumbed to the Evil One (Gen4:7); become a child of the devil (1Jn3:12) and the archetype of a theologically eluded third soteriological category of humanity. Counterintuitively, this is great news for all of us, as is the related Rom9 passage considered in thesis#10. If you’re not yet acquainted with The Little Book of Providence, this is likely to appear🤣. So, it’s time for a ditty:

 “A snake and trees,

Aug’s twos for threes,

Disaster now at last shall please

Ref: Rom8:20; Rev10:7 quoted above
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ORIGINAL SIN

THESES FOR THE RE-FORMATION #12

original sin
Thesis #12 of 95: Original sin is a reality and the "death" described in the previous thesis is its result

BIBLICAL REFERENCES

Rom5:14 – Death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the violation committed by Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come.

Rom7:23-24 –  I see a different law in the parts of my body waging war against the law of my mind, and making me a prisoner of the law of sin, the law which is in my body’s parts. Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God, it is through Jesus Christ our Lord!

Rom8:23 –  We who have the first fruits of the Spirit, even we groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body!

COMMENTS

By “original sin” I mean that the effect of Adam’s sin has been passed on to his offspring (i.e. all humanity) through procreation, that effect being “death” as described in the previous thesis/post. This is assuredly not “original sin” as Augustine defined it in which, partly through a mistranslation of biblical Greek, he believed that all humanity was deemed to have sinned in Adam and that his guilt had been imputed to all. Augustine’s misreading of Paul is no longer such a matter of controversy and is perhaps most clearly contradicted in Paul’s statement that “death reigned from Adam to Moses even over those who had not sinned in the manner of Adam.” (Rom5:14). The father of Western theology’s error here, as with so many of his distinctives, disfigures divine providence and depicts human nature as innately abhorrent . It resulted in his assertion that God’s intention for those made in His image was that “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” (De Civitates Dei XXI chap. 12). Even little children who died unbaptized must endure “mild sensual pain” for all eternity (New Advent Catholic Encyclopaedia -“Unbaptized infants – teaching of Augustine”).

Such misrepresentations of divine providence and the underlying goodness of the human spirit will have delighted Satan’s heart, especially as it has impacted upon the presentation of the gospel to this day. The reality is so very different: God IS love and He created the universe and especially those creatures made in His image so that He might lavish His love upon them; ultimately to unite them to Himself starting with those He chooses to become associated with His Son whilst still in mortal flesh.

Theological resolution occurs when the source of mankind’s problem with sin has been rightly ascertained. It is not the God-given soul/spirit but the procreated intellectual vessel (body and brain) that temporarily houses it, referred to by Paul and Peter as our tent or vessel (2Cor5:1-4; 2Pet1:13-14). The outworking of original sin is in fact what Paul is depicting in Romans7, as this quote from The Little Book of Providence explains:


As a result of original sin, the divinely created human spirit finds itself within a morally sickly environment. Expressed another way the soul/spirit is required to operate through an impure medium – the procreated body of death. Physiologically the physical and spiritual entities (body and soul/spirit) are in union, yet they have opposing moral impulses.

Paul exemplifies this in Romans chapter seven: the material (fleshly) and spiritual components of man have opposing moral inclinations as a result of which the human mind becomes a battleground, receiving conflicting advice or motivations from each: the selfish creaturely inclinations derived from the bodily members processed through the brain on the one hand; the more idealistic sometimes altruistic impulses arising from the conscience that governs the God-planted spirit on the other. It is not that the immaterial part of man (the soul and spirit) is in any Platonic sense generically superior or purer than the material housing or “vessel” (the body) because the former happens to be immaterial. The dualism in the form of moral antagonism arises from the immediate source of the component parts; the spiritual components are pure not because they are immaterial but because they are from God; the body is impure not because it is material but because it originates from the loins of fallen Adam and carries the contagion of sin. Paul explains how precisely that affects human morality and how for Christians the matter is partially remedied by gospel salvation, yet not wholly so for anybody until resurrection. Such anthropological duality was recognized by the very early Christian writers. In the epistle to Diognetus (c. AD130), Mathetes, the anonymous disciple likens the soul’s relationship to the body to that of the Church to the world: the latter (equating to the flesh) wars against the former (the soul) and hates it because it is perceived to restrict its worldly enjoyment, whereas the Church (the soul) loves the body (the world) and seeks to preserve and sanctify it. Likewise, Cyprian (A.D.200-258) recognized the body to be of the earth and the human’s spirit to be from heaven and that through the Fall they have opposing natures. He affirms that Paul’s references to the spirit being opposed to the flesh are not (as many translations infer) referring to the Holy Spirit but the human’s spirit; similarly, the fruits of the spirit. 

The consequence of original sin is that the physical component’s latent instincts as they are processed within the brain are intrinsically corrupting, tending to concupiscence (disordered desire), and will inevitably gain the upper hand over the divinely planted spirit unless aided by divine grace. The inner struggle is not between human nature in its entirety and the Holy Spirit as most have come to understand Paul in Romans 7, for it applies equally to those who do not possess the Spirit. Rather it is a conflict between the inclination of the bodily members (Paul and Peter’s temporary vessel or tent) and the influence of the human’s spirit; the one governed by concupiscence, the other by conscience; the one having been created after God’s own nature, the other created originally from God’s good earth but degenerated through the Fall and procreated therefrom. “O wretched man that I am; who can deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God it is through Jesus Christ our Lord”. Truly, this is the essence of Christian salvation, for in the believer that battle is aided and can be turned into victory by becoming one spirit with Christ.

Excerpt from The Little Book of Providence – chapter two
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DEAD IN TRESPASSES AND SINS

THESES FOR THE RE-FORMATION #11

“Dead in trespasses and sins” (Eph2)
Thesis#11 of 95: When Paul speaks of non-Christians being "dead" he is not referring to damnation but to the disruption of the incarnate soul's communion with the Source of its spiritual life

BIBLICAL REFERENCES

Eph2:1-2: “And you were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you previously walked according to the pattern of this world”

Rom7:24: “Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? [Greek: ἐκ τοῦ σώματος τοῦ θανάτου τούτου]

Col3:2-5 Set your minds on the things that are above, not on the things that are on earth.For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.Therefore, treat the parts of your earthly body as dead to sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which is effectively idolatry

Jn6:53: “Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves

COMMENTS

Regarding what Paul actually means by death in the context of the gospel, in Romans 7 he describes the temporary vessel our souls inhabit as “the body of this death”. Regrettably, “Somatos tou thanatou toutou” is often inadequately translated, for example in the New Jerusalem Bible utilized by Catholics where it is “the body doomed to death”. That is not what the Greek relays and entirely misses the point. The apostle is not referring to the human body’s fate but its current condition that he had outlined in the previous verses. Hence his reference to the body of this death, as the KJV, NASB and Greek literal translation among others rightly relay “τοῦ σώματος τοῦ θανάτου τούτου” . The effect of that condition is summarized in his earlier statement: “Whilst I joyfully agree with the law of God in the inner man, I am aware of a different law in my bodily members waging war against the law of my mind, making me a prisoner of the law of sin, the law which is in my bodily members” (vv22-24). For Paul is affirming that it is the degenerative procreated intellectual vessel that leads the divinely planted soul into death (i.e. disruption in divine communion). Such deprivation is what the apostle means by “this death”. It is not damnation or total depravity, which would pertain to the soul or whole person. The mortal body is indeed “doomed to die”; an obvious fact but not the point Paul was making; for that issue can and will be resolved at resurrection. The body of this death on the other hand requires a more immediate remedy for those chosen to relate to God whilst still in it – so that their soul may be fashioned for a still greater destiny.

That remedy is participation with Christ – but note from the Col3 reference Paul states “For you (Christians) have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God”. The Christian is (or should be) “dead” in terms of his worldly allegiances and aspirations, just as he was previously dead to things pertaining to the Spirit, the gospel and the world to come. That is the sense in which Paul utilizes the term “death” (and Jesus “life” – Jn6:53) in the context of the gospel, and the next few theses will elaborate further.

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A book exploring the mystery of divine providence

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