drawing “lightening tree” and bad theology

charcoal drawing lightening tree

I’m discovering that I haven’t had a very healthy image of myself. I’m realizing that I grew up nurturing and being nurtured in a very negative self-view as well as of all humanity together.

I fell in love with Reformed Theology in my seminary days. I passionately studied John Calvin, Luther and all the others that followed in their wake. I still have a deep appreciation for Calvin and all that theology. My library is full of books in that vein. I felt it came to me as a gift.

But I’m just starting to see that we actually choose our theology. Our theology rarely chooses us. I am convinced that we always choose ideas that support what we already believe. We find proofs to buttress our worldview.

Like this tree struck by lightning, forever damaging its life, I can now see that much of what I have believed has only deepened my own pre-existent self-deprecation. There’s all kinds of theology out there that will reinforce our self-hatred and keep us down.

I’ve also discovered that we have no idea how dangerous this is to our health and wellbeing. Theology that supports a low view of humanity is a self-fulfilling prophesy. It actually creates the milieu for the complete defeat, destruction and death of the human spirit. Which is what it desires.

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About David Hayward

David Hayward runs the blog nakedpastor as a graffiti artist on the walls of religion where he critiques religion… specifically Christianity and the church. He also runs the online community The Lasting Supper where people can help themselves discover, explore and live in spiritual freedom.

  • Ed

    Speaking of a theology that supports a low view of humanity, what are your thoughts about the “theology’ of Ayn Rand?

    Many politicians, as well as non-politicians, claim to be both devout Christians and also great admirers of Ayn Rand. Are they aware of her most controversial views: Her hatred of religion; her hatred of altruism; her contempt for the poor and the weak? I don’t think the two worldviews are compatable. What do others here think?

    I started a blog that compares and contrasts her views of morality with that of Jesus, specifically, the beatitudes. If anyone is interested, here is the link: http://aynrandhatedjesus.blogspot.com/

  • http://conthis.blogspot.com Joe Sewell

    “Theology” must always take a back-seat to what God’s Word says. Sometimes that’s like trying to revive a dead tree with our own tools & abilities. Usually we say “cut it down & replace it.” But that’s never what God says, no matter how worthless or useless we feel we are.

    It also means we’re not worthless or useless when we spell “lightning” wrong. ;)

  • http://nakedpastor.com nakedpastor

    my titles aren’t always real words. like “recept” for my sculpture the other day. “lightening” has the double-entendre of “lightning” and “enlightening”. thanks though. because I did spell it wrong in the body of the text… which i corrected.

  • http://marthaorlando.blogspot.com Martha Orlando

    We are struck down, struck blind, struck stuck by what the world would have us believe.
    We need to be about the business of heaven, searching with an open heart and mind for God’s presence through His word and His grace in our lives.
    A low vision of humanity? Aren’t we His children? What could be better than that? More freeing? More liberating?
    “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God, and His righteousness . . .”
    Blessings, David!

  • http://theoldadam.wordpress.com Steve Martin

    I never liked or agreed with that theology that says we are “totally depraved”.

    We are not. We are capable of a lot of good in this world. And we ought endeavor to do as much of it as we can.

    But for righteousness sake…we fall woefully short. And for the standard that is acceptable in Heaven, “all our righteous deeds are as filty rags.”

    There are two plains when it comes to theology and human goodness.

    One needs our good efforts and selflessness…the other needs only God and His effort on the cross.

    Good theology recognizes the difference.

  • http://magdalenaperks.wordpress.com Magdalena

    I’m in the odd and awkward place of holding a theology that is both orthodox and classical, but the church in which I learned it has decided to be something else and leave its theology behind. Lex orendi, lex credendi. But our prayers have become self-serving and egotistic. Praying to hear our own voices raised rather than to invite the still small sound that is God. I feel as if I am standing alone in a deserted, almost-ruined cathedral, and the rest of the church is building a new church out of reeds and string, disregarding the rising wind.

  • Scott Smith

    Being a “Lutheran,” of course, I find more value in Luther than I do in Calvin. And, as you already know, Luther, though holding to humanity’s weakness, was never consistent in articulating just what that looked like. His disposition lent itself to overstatement of the negative often enough, but that wasn’t all he had to say.

    Of course, I think the point you make about always self-serving our theology is true to a large degree (not barring the work of the Spirit, obviously). However, this is true of “positive” views of humanity just as much as it is of “negative” views. And both, in regards to discipleship and growth, can lead to some terrible dangers.

    Ultimately, I think the Gospel solves both problems, though to varying degrees and in different ways throughout our life. Having our focus constantly arrested by what God does and has done puts all other speculation in it’s proper context (if not doing away with it altogether, which might perhaps be best more often than not).

  • http://nakedpastor.com nakedpastor

    Hi Scott: Nice to meet you. I have thought a lot about Luther lately. His book “Bondage of the Will” is still one of the most influential theology books for me personally. But I’ve been thinking of his conversion experience. He already loathed himself. And the theology that emerged from his reflections was that he needed complete forgiveness, even of his personhood almost, rather than that he wasn’t that bad or that God loved humanity and accepted him before his repentance. (It’s early and pre-coffee, so I didn’t articulate this well.)

  • Mar

    Agree, David … I am starting to realize the damage that “worm theology” has done to my soul (“you’re disgusting, but God loves you anyway, because He loves the dirty and depraved.”

    You’ve added another layer by pointing out why I found that theology “true”… Because I already believed I was unworthy of being loved. That theology resonated as true because I was already sitting in shame.

    Wow.Thank you.

  • http://nakedpastor.com nakedpastor

    thanks mar. thanks for sharing.

  • Scott Smith

    I agree… Bondage of the Will is something else; but, I don’t think it was all he had to say. Plus, I think it was a product of the situation from which it arose.

    Aside from that, I think it depends on who’s biography of Luther you read (regarding Luther’s self-view); some paint him as a tortured soul, others as a man of his times who was (relatively) happy to be so prior to entering the monastery.

  • http://thoughts-brigitte.blogspot.com Brigitte

    Amazing how that message of self-loathing took off around the world like wildfire.

  • Marty M

    Dear David,
    I ask this with all gentleness that written word has so much trouble conveying:
    Could you clarify in what way you still have a deep appreciation of Calvin? I found that line dissonant with everything else I’ve come to appreciate on this site. I don’t mean this as a challenge or an insult, so please humor me…

  • Christine

    @Steve:

    “I never liked or agreed with that theology that says we are ‘totally depraved’.

    We are not. We are capable of a lot of good in this world. And we ought endeavor to do as much of it as we can.”

    I am surprised to hear you say that. I would have expected a wholehearted “But we *are* depraved!” from you.

    If good theology really does recognize both planes(?) of human goodness, then maybe you should give some consideration to how you balance the two. You seem quite eager to point out people’s sinfulness, yet fight me at every turn when I suggest only what you have just said – that we should endeavour to do more good.

  • http://www.wheneftalks2.blogspot.com/ Eric Folkerth

    I grew up somewhat confused, theologically. I attended a United Methodist church, where God’s grace and love was regularly espoused. But I attended a Lutheran elementary school, very conservative, where sin, and our sinfulness even as small children, was routinely drummed into our heads.

    I do remember being confused about this, often. And, years after I had become a Methodist pastor (only went to the Lutheran School until the 7th grade…) I found a “Who Am I?” essay that I’d written at the beginning of the 5th Grade. It went something almost exactly like this:

    “I am a boy. I have a dog. I have two sisters. I am a sinner. I like baseball. I like to ride my bike…”

    “I am a sinner” just gets dropped in there, along with all sorts of other delightful childhood truths. When I read it as an adult, with enough distance from it, it literally made me laugh. Although, I remembered the guilt and shame that boy sometimes felt, and that sometimes sneaks back in.

    This is not meant to slam all Lutherans. I know some lovely Lutherans. But the *distinctive* part of their theology that stays with me is a specific kind of self-loathing/guilt that I’m glad to be mostly rid of.

  • Paul D.

    Once you realize that all theology is invented by humans — whether Augustine, Anselm, Luther, Calvin, or someone else — it gets easier to ignore it.

  • http://nakedpastor.com nakedpastor

    Eric: a perfect story perfectly told. thanks!

  • http://thoughts-brigitte.blogspot.com Brigitte

    So Eric, just wondering. In the Methodist church you are no longer a sinner? You are perfect now, isn’t this how it goes? What are those people who are not sinners? I’ll take my side by the publican.

  • http://nakedpastor.com nakedpastor

    Brigitte: I met Eric. He IS perfect.

  • Christine

    @NP,

    LOL.

    @Brigitte,

    So, what does “being a sinner” mean to you? Do you think that all fifth-graders, for instance, have already done something for which the most fitting punishment is an eternity of hell-fire and the complete rejection of God.

    (I know you believe in grace and mercy, too, so it doesn’t need repeating. I’m asking what you think that fifth-grader *deserves*, even if you don’t necessarily believe it’s what s/he will get.)

  • http://www.wheneftalks2.blogspot.com/ Eric Folkerth

    Brigitte: Despite what David says, I’d never claim to be perfect. ;)

    But the idea that a fifth grade child, on his own, would simply come up with the line “I am a sinner” is ludicrous. Which, as I said, is why I laughed when I read it as an adult.

    That line was clearly *given* to me…I was parroting back what I was taught….over and over…in the school classroom and in weekly chapel.

    But, parrot anything enough, and it comes to indwell your soul. Say it enough, and you will believe it. So, yes, I remember, as a kid, believing that I was a horrible, horrible sinner. As a fifth grader, looking back, I am most certain that I believed it.

    I remember feeling a guilt for the world, and a guilt for my own existence, that looking back was most certainly not healthy for me. I constantly worried about my failures…and even as writing that (“my failures”) seem ludicrous to me.

    What “failures” did I have as a fifth grader?

    But it was how I felt then.

    I remember fretting about whether or not I was being good enough for God. I remember many chapel lectures on precisely how it was we were to pray, and many a day worrying that I was doing my prayer wrong (sitting wrong. holding my hands wrong. saying the wrong words) ….and worrying that God would be mad at me because of it.

    This sense of being “at fault” was buried deep within me for a long time.

    I failed polygraph tests for high school jobs, not because I was lying, but because I was so *fearful* that I *might* be, somehow, *unintentionally lying* to the test-administrator.

    Looking back, what I see is this: THAT is was healthy.

    As a child, I had bad allergies and bad asthma. Both of these improved, I believe, as my self-imagine improved over the span of my life. Is all this attributable to Lutheran theology? Of course not. Many other factors had a part.

    But the ONLY place I remember the concept of sin being *pounded* into my head…over and over…was at school and school chapel.

    Gradually, over time, I have learned to listen to the truth of God’s grace. That God’s grace is overwhelming and over-powering.

    God’s grace and love has saved me, not an ever-vigilant, hyper-awareness of sin…my sin, or in anybody else’s for that matter.

    God’s grace gives me an assurance and a trust that I am loved by God, and that so is everybody else.

    So, now I speak lovingly to that fifth grader, who I find is still around now and then.

    I reassure him that, contrary to the way he felt at the time, God loved him, and he was God’s good child….no matter what he feared was the case.

  • http://thoughts-brigitte.blogspot.com Brigitte

    I am glad to hear that Eric is a great guy. I’d probably love him to bits if I met him, too. :) I think when we are young, many things make deep impressions on us. For Eric, somehow being a “sinner” is troublesome. For me, it was in the pietistic circles all this talk about miracles and demons, and what not, and needing to be sooo good, with your ego off the throne and Christ on top of it, none of which rang any bells with me, except produce anxiety.

    The other day, and I mentioned that already, I think, my pastor’s wife talked about Pentacostal church in Barabdos with the pastor yelling and screaming and she coming home feeling that God was going to send her to hell. Her comfort came from listening to the Lutheran hour.

    Anyhow, we all have different experiences, different ways for processing them and remembering them.

    Nevertheless, it is still true that we are indeed sinners, and children can learn this also, hopefully from sensitive adults and balanced with the love and mercy of God. As Luther’s explanations to the commandments always start: we should fear and love God so we don’t do this or that, but instead do … There are the two sides. No sin, no grace. And grace is all the better when we know our condition.

    When I was little we always prayed: “und Jesu Blut machen allen Schaden gut.” “And Jesus blood makes all the damage, good.” i.e. at the end of the day, Jesus takes care of it all. Good thing. Good night.

    I don’t recall that I have taught any kids vividly about hell fire and such. All the pictures in my house for the kids, were Jesus holding them, loving them, caressing them.

    What we do need to admit, however, and this came out very first thing in the Reformation, in the Heidelberg disputation, that “a mortal sin must be feared in all our so-called good deeds.” (I am sure the disputation can be found on-line.) This is a major point because in all our clamour for merit, we end up either in despair, because we don’t measure up or do enough, or proud because we think that we have done good. Both are wrong. The solution lies beyond those two things of pride and despair, and it is the free gift. (Yes, yes, yes; it’s a beautiful thing!)

  • http://nakedpastor.com nakedpastor

    Marty: About Calvin… I appreciate him because of what he did for me personally first of all. He dragged me into the deep end. I don’t agree with everything he says, but his separation of God and humanity is a necessary idea. He carried it to a deadly extreme though.

  • Christine

    @Brigitte,

    You ignoring me now?

  • http://thoughts-brigitte.blogspot.com Brigitte

    Christine, I was baptized as a baby. I’ve never heard a lot about hellfire or talked about, but always about God’s love. So as a sinner, I have been redeemed and that from little on. My job is to share forgiveness. The fear of punishment we seem to have naturally, already, along with the law written on our hearts.

    I believe I explained above how everyone is a sinner even when they seem to be doing right.

  • Christine

    @Brigitte,

    But you didn’t attempt to answer my question: what does it actually mean to you to be a sinner? If it doesn’t mean “deserving of hell” or “someone who is guilty of wrongdoing” (as even small children, presumably infants, are sinners), then what does it actually *mean*?

  • Dr Campbell

    David. I had you pegged as a Bonhoeffer guy. I figured this was very good example of Life Together Prayer book of the Bible.

  • http://conthis.blogspot.com Joe Sewell

    Wow, tons of commentary. Might I dare to summarize what I’m seeing here?

    What I’m seeing is an epidemic imbalance in God’s view of ourselves. I’m there, too, though not because of any childhood church experiences … the town church in our little rural community had kicked my parents out long before I was born. My self-image problems were totally secular in nature.

    Regarding “total depravity,” I like what Pastor Tullian Tchividjian (yes, I did look up the spelling :) ) wrote on the subject. He noted that the “totality” of our depravity didn’t refer to the breadth — in other words, to the range of our thoughts, words, and deeds — but the depth of our depravity. We are depraved to the deepest part of our being. We have sinned, and will continue to sin, because we are sinners. We aren’t sinners because we sin, we sin because we are sinners. We cannot escape being a sinner on our own, any more than we can become Superman by wearing tights and a cape. Yes, the totality of our deeds and being isn’t depraved, but we are totalled in the righteousness department without Jesus.

    At the same time, though, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. While I was a totally depraved, hopeless sinner, Christ died for me! As a T-shirt design says, He thought I was to “die for.” And He thought that while I was totally depraved!

    The balance is to be found in accepting both of these statements, for one is worthless without the other. OK, you may wish to use a less-tainted word than “sinner” or “depraved,” or even “Luthern” or “Calvinist” or “theology” or “lightening” (sorry my mind wasn’t “oh-pun” at that moment :) ), but the idea remains. Hellfire and brimstone is a bit Biblical, but only when presented with the hope of Heaven and the Way, Truth, and Life to get you there. Another Tullian-ism that I like: Jesus plus nothing equals everything! Then there is no condemnation in Christ. John 3:16 is followed by John 3:17-21, and preceded by the first 15 verses of the chapter. Anything less is imbalanced.

  • http://www.wheneftalks2.blogspot.com/ Eric Folkerth

    Part of my abiding confusion with this kind of theology thinking is around this question: Why does there have to be “balance?”

    What does balance have to do with anything?

    To me, it’s God’s grace that’s the overwhelming force at work in the universe. Human sin doesn’t stand a chance against it. There’s no “balance” to this, whatsoever. I don’t think God is worried about “balance.” I think God is worried about love and redemption.

    Can anybody explain to me why “balance” seems to be an important concept here? I am really and sincerely asking this. It’s not clear to me what it means, or why it’s important.

  • http://www.wheneftalks2.blogspot.com/ Eric Folkerth

    Brigette:
    I’m not sure it was “being a sinner” that was troublesome. What resonates with me here is the word you use a bit later: anxiety.

    It was the *anxiety* caused by constantly worrying/fretting about my sins that was troublesome. It’s the memory of that anxiety and how it made me feel, which I am now convinced is not at all how God would want me to feel, that is the worrisome memory.

    To everyone writing in here: Most of my responses have been to resonate with David’s original post….specifically the last three paragraphs…about how we *do* choose our theology.

  • http://thoughts-brigitte.blogspot.com Brigitte

    Great comment Joe Sewell. Thanks so much. Pastor Tullian Tchividjian has been writing excellent stuff!

    Eric, there is a tension in living the baptismal life, indeed. We are to stay on our toes. Daily dying and rising, watching ourselves, confessing and receiving. Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. It is the transparent life. Ultimately it is a gift, not a terror. I thought we are all seeking here this authentic community. Does it not involve deep honesty about ourselves and our shortcomings?

  • http://www.wheneftalks2.blogspot.com/ Eric Folkerth

    Brigette:

    I totally agree with just about everything you have said in the above comment.

    I still don’t understand how a “balance” of sin/grace fits in to the equation, or why it seems all that important to anybody, much less God.

  • http://thoughts-brigitte.blogspot.com Brigitte

    I still don’t understand how a “balance” of sin/grace fits in to the equation.

    Eric, I am not totally sure I understand the question but as Lutherans we say “simul justus et peccator”, we are at the same time sinner and saint, and that fully and completely, each. Though it is paradoxical, does it make sense?

  • http://conthis.blogspot.com Joe Sewell

    Well, I’m no theologian, and my Latin is rusty (as I’ve never been in an environment where I need to use it, other than 2 years of Latin in high school). Brigitte said it well, though: we still sin even though we are considered righteous in the sight of God.

    I tend to think in terms of “balance” more often than not simply because it seems easier to comprehend. (I may have been wrong in this case, but bear with me.) I’ve learned that, in general, given two opposite extreme views, neither one is totally correct. Yes, there are exceptions, and it’s easy to construct yes/no either/or situations. In most cases, though, there’s a continuum between the two. The balance is somewhere along that continuum — not necessarily the middle! — where you can acknowledge both sides and see them from the proper perspective.

    In this case, though, I defer to Brigitte’s paradox rather than my “balance.”

  • http://conthis.blogspot.com Joe Sewell

    Oops, forgot about the “anxiety” part.

    I agree 100% with you, Eric, and with David’s last 3 paragraphs. For too many people there is anxiety and an unhealthy fear of the Lord because of a lack of security. We see the “sinner” side, and miss seeing the “grace side.”

    One thing that has always gotten me down and/or anxious is the consequences of my actions. My pastor, John Forsythe of Calvary Chapel Surfside in Indian Harbour Beach, FL, discovered that one view of mercy is in taking care of those consequences, at least from an eternal perspective. That’s where Romans 8:28 and similar verses of hope come into play.

  • http://thoughts-brigitte.blogspot.com Brigitte

    The classic work on distinguishing law and gospel in pastoral ministry is C.F.W. Walther’s “Law and Gospel. How to read and apply the Bible.” (That’s the title of the new Reader’s Edition, reissued from Concordia Publishing House.) Actually some of this can be googled under distinguishing law and gospel rightly. I would highly recommend it.

    Thanks for confirmation, Joe. “Simul justus et peccator” can also be googled and great stuff found under it. It takes you off this progress treadmill (which Steve often refers to) and puts Romans 6 and 7 in right interpretation.

  • http://www.wheneftalks2.blogspot.com/ Eric Folkerth

    Here’s where I get thrown off on “balance”…

    I remember many a sermon where sin was the conversation, and the analogy was made about how there was a ledger with all my sins on it. (Don’t get me started on how, as a child, I worried about that ledger…)

    The way it was described to me, God’s grace and love come along, and “wipe that ledger clean.”

    Said another way, Jesus bleeding-out on a cross, two thousand years ago, “paid” for all the things on that ledger that I owed.

    The analogy was, as I heard it, “balance.” A scale that was negative, but is now perfectly balanced out.

    But! What I also heard far too often was that it was therefore a zero-sum gain.

    Credits matched debits, leaving us, not with love, grace and joy, but just at ZERO!!

    The implication was that it is enough to be grateful that we were just back at good old “0″ and not wallowing in our debt any more.

    This is that part that makes no sense to me now.

    It seems to me that to the extent that substitionary atonement makes any sense at all (and it really doesn’t to me, I’m just trying to understand…) what Christ does is not get us back to ZERO, but get us to a life of joy, peace, love…the “fruits of the spirit,” etc. etc…

    What I heard as a child, and still hear too much of, is talk of bloody sacrifice that simply gets us miserable slobs back to “0,” not to a life of joy, living in this incredible world that God has and is creating around us.

    That’s the part that I ingested too much as a child, and still choke on today.

  • http://thoughts-brigitte.blogspot.com Brigitte

    Christ really is something more than this ledger idea. The clean conscience we have before God now, initiates this grateful relationship of joy.

  • Christine

    Why don’t I just google “meaning of life” and trust that the ultimate and correct answer will be in the top ten hits?

    (In reality, I’m likely to find cults willing to take cash, credit or debit…)

    I’m all for links, references and suggestions… but we’re have to have a conversation. I want to understand the views of the people I’m actually talking to. Those authors aren’t hear to dialogue and answer questions. And if I want to know what theology to read, I’m going take the word of someone who seems to at least understand what they read enough to summarize it in a meaningful way…

    I don’t mean to sound snippy – again, all for links and such and I do read a fair amount of what people reference – but sometimes it f=just feels like a cope-out for people actually thinking for themselves or having to face questions they don’t have rehearsed answers to.

  • Christine

    Eric – I haven’t heard of “balance” in the zero-ing out way, but that does seem the logical extension of the “wiping clean” approach.

    Although, that would mean we *would* actually be credited with all the good we did, because the bad was cancelled out. But that would bring us back to works-based, and would mean a better reward for murderers who gave substantially to the poor over most anyone else who was slightly less generous.

    So, the whole thing seems wildly flawed as a concept.

    Perhaps if we get away from treating theology like arithmetic, where we’re trying to balance two sides of an equation. Doesn’t seem to make a great amount to sense.

    And “balance” in that sense isn’t the same as either tension – holding together seemingly contradictory truths. Tensions happens precisely when things *don’t* balance.

  • Christine
  • http://conthis.blogspot.com Joe Sewell

    Oh, wow! I had never thought of the algebraic (and I’m a software engineer!) or accounting versions of “balancing” before! That is definitely NOT what I meant! I need to factor [pun intended] that in from now on.

    Regarding the “zero-sum” idea, I’m reminded of a message Jon Courson of Applegate Christian Fellowship delivered several years ago. It was about substitutionary atonement, or as he called it, “the great switcheroo.” (For link fans, the video & notes may be found at http://www.calvaryccm.com/teachings/main/video/GS49.aspx) He made a very valid point: if the crucifixion was all there was to life in Christ, Jesus and His Father could’ve “done it over the weekend,” rather than take 33 years … especially that last week. So what was the significance of the 33 years? Courson put it this way: God made Jesus to die as though He lived my life, so that He could treat me as though I lived His life!

    I agree, though, that it’s not a zero-sum result that we can build upon with good works (another possible interpretation, I just realized).

  • Christine

    Thanks, Joe. Good to hear.

    Re-reading your post, though, I feel I need to disagree on the total depth of our depravity part. It implies that, without Jesus, we are nothing but depraved (with any sort of counterpoint coming only in Jesus). It says that on our own, and all non-Christians, are nothing but slime. With that as a starting point, I don’t think any type of a balanced view can be achieved. It negates the idea that there is anything good in humanity – or anything worth Jesus saving at all.

  • http://thoughts-brigitte.blogspot.com Brigitte

    Christine actually makes a good theological point. In our confessions, because this point arose right after the Reformation, this is laid out carefully and succinctly. If I may be permitted to quote in part and not summarize, here it goes below from the Epitome of the Formula of Concord:

    Is original sin really, without any distinction a person’s corrupt nature, substance, and essence? Is it the chief and greater part of his essence (i.e., the rational soul itself in its highest state and powers)? Or even after the fall, is there a distincion between original sin and a person’s substance, nature, essence, body and soul, so that the nature itswlefr is one thing and original sin is another, which betlongs to the corrupt nature and corrupts the nature?

    Affirmative Statements:

    We believe, teach, and confess that there is a distinction between man’s nature and original sin. this applied not only when he was originally created by God pure and holy and without sin, but it also applies to the way we have that nature now after the fall. In other words, we distinguish between the nature itself (which even after the fall is and remains God’s creature) and original sin. This distinction is as great as the distinction between God’s work and the devil’s work.

    We believe, teach, and confess that this distinction should be maintained with the greatest care. for this doctrine (that no distinction is to be made between our corrupt human nature and original sin) conflicts with the chief articles of our Christian faith about creation, redemption, sanctification, and the resurrection of our body. It cannot stand with them.

    God created the body and soul of Adam and Eve before the fall. But He also created our bodies and souls after the fall. Even though they are corrupt, God still acknowledges them as His work, as it is written in Job 10:8, “Your hands fashioned and made me.” (See also Deuteronomy 32:18; Isaiah 45:9-10; 54:5; 64:8; Acts 17:28; Psalm 139:14; Ecclesiates 12:1.)

    This goes on for two more pages. I wonder if this is different from Calvinist “total depravity” or not. We would, of course, also say that contra Roman Catholicism that we do not have this “spark of goodness” with which we can and should get going on the road of salvation, so God can add what’s missing to what we have managed to accomplish. It is and remains all Christ’s work, or else we’re back with merit and pride and despair.

  • Christine

    @Brigitte,

    The quote gets somewhat closer to answering my question: What “being a sinner” actually means to you. Can I assume, then, that you equal it with the “original sin” as discussed in the above? But that is just substituting one ambigous phrase for another. In your mind, how does that play out in practice?

    On the it being “all Christ’s work” part, this seems to imply, again, that non-Christians are not good or can’t do good or their goodness isn’t valued. Do you believe this to be true?

  • http://thoughts-brigitte.blogspot.com Brigitte

    There is such a thing as “civil righteousness” which unbelievers can have and have often. This is a different “good” from “good” done out of gratitude to God for his good gifts. Since God cares about the heart, this latter point is important.

  • http://conthis.blogspot.com Joe Sewell

    Christine:

    Rather than try to paraphrase further what Tullian Tchividjian was trying to say, let me suggest you do a web search for his name with “total depravity” and let him speak for himself. :)

    I accept no creeds or confessions other than what Scripture makes clear, even though I may have no disagreement with any of them. I do not give them the authority Scripture has. (In a sense, that’s my “theology.”) What I see in there is that our “worth” defined in any other way other than God’s love for us that sent Jesus to die for us is … well, “worthless.”

  • http://thoughts-brigitte.blogspot.com Brigitte

    Good point. Thanks, Joe.

  • Christine

    @Joe,

    I think I was clear. I’m not interested in this instance with what Tullian Tchividjian said. If I am, I will read him as you suggest. (I would have no way of knowing whether Brigitte’s summary of him would be reliable, so I would not ask her to understand him).

    I am interested in what Brigitte thinks, which is why I asked her. That’s why all the “you”s are in there…

    “I accept no creeds or confessions other than what Scripture makes clear…”

    I read this as “I accept no creeds or confessions”.

  • http://conthis.blogspot.com Joe Sewell

    Christine:

    I didn’t realize this had turned into a private discussion. There’s no need to get rude about it.

    As for creeds and confessions, I said what I said, not what you said. Obviously there’s no need for me to continue what I thought was “contributing” to this discussion.

  • Christine

    @Joe: I was responding to this:

    “Christine: Rather than try to paraphrase further what Tullian Tchividjian was trying to say, let me suggest you do a web search for his name with “total depravity” and let him speak for himself.”

    Didn’t mean to come off as rude. I just don’t care at the moment what Tullian Tchividjian was saying, so I didn’t get why you would suggest I look him up.

    I didn’t mean it was a private discussion, either. I’m just here because I’m interested in the views of people here. (If I’m interesting in certain authors, I will look them up.) I would be interested in your personal view as well.

    On a completely separate note, the “I read this as” part was meant to imply that I don’t think there are any “creeds or confessions [that Scripture makes clear”. You want to provide an example of what you think qualifies?


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