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Daniel of Doulogos Name:Daniel
Home: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
About Me: I used to believe that evolution was reasonable, that homosexuality was genetic, and that people became Christians because they couldn't deal with the 'reality' that this life was all there was. I used to believe, that if there was a heaven - I could get there by being good - and I used to think I was more or less a good person. I was wrong on all counts. One day I finally had my eyes opened and I saw that I was not going to go to heaven, but that I was certainly going to suffer the wrath of God for all my sin. I saw myself as a treasonous rebel at heart - I hated God for creating me just to send me to Hell - and I was wretched beyond my own comprehension. Into this spiritual vacuum Jesus Christ came and he opened my understanding - delivering me from God's wrath into God's grace. I was "saved" as an adult, and now my life is hid in Christ. I am by no means sinless, but by God's grace I am a repenting believer - a born again Christian.
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Daniel's posts are almost always pastoral and God centered. I appreciate and am challenged by them frequently. He has a great sense of humor as well.
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His posts are either funny or challenging. He is very friendly and nice.
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[He has] good posts, both the serious like this one, and the humorous like yesterday. [He is] the reason that I have restrained myself from making Canadian jokes in my posts.
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Saturday, November 11, 2006
An Answer To Buggy
(I am too verbose for the meta)
Carnal Christianity Part II
If we walk by the Spirit we will not obey the lusts of the flesh...Clearly, I am a hopeless windbag. I began to answer Neil in the meta of my previous post, but found that once again, I was writing as though people have all the time in the world to sit and read my plodding thoughts and opinions...

Anyway, here is what Buggy said in the meta of my previous post...
Hi Dan,
I fear for my health, debating Romans with you. Be gentle with me? ;)

Do you think Paul sinned after conversion? Ever? Once a year? Monthly? Daily? More than once a day?

My Pastor once told me that he sinned many times each and every day. He was not a 'carnal' Christian, should such a thing actually exist. To the best of my knowledge, and I knew him well, he was a man of God. He was humble and dependent upon God. His realistic assessment of his thoughts and actions and his tender conscience revealed to him that he was a frequent lawbreaker.

I used probably an unfortunate phrasing when I said 'regularly fell into sin'. What I meant, was that Paul was saying in Romans 7:18-24 that he sinned many times, and in ways that frustrated and perhaps surprised this very humble man. I understand that it was said in the context of broader points, but it was said. Paul uses his own frailties as an example in the discourse. Paul says in pretty plain language that he did fail, and did sin, and far too often. I believe that he did sin and was not fully sanctified while here on earth, and so when he says his flesh betrayed him again and again I believe him.

His mind was set on God, but his body in the here and now failed him. He sinned. He sinned regularly, unless I misread it entirely. The man who says 'O wretched man that I am' is speaking anguish. His conscience is testifying to his breaking of the law.

The reason I used this example in my post was to make the point that all of us are carnal, in the sense that we are still in these bodies, and in the sense that sanctification lags justification, and in the sense that we will not be fully sanctified while still in these bodies. Thus, we are all susceptible to temptation all of our days, just like Paul. I was trying to show that opportunistic sins appealing to our carnal flesh can take the legs out from anyone, including the most sanctified Christians. It's not an enslavement. It's not living according to the flesh. It's an unforeseen stumbling.

What do you think?

Here is the reply I began to work on, but decided to make a post out of instead:

Let us hope that rather than debate, we simply look at the text and learn. I don't hold onto my understanding of Romans so tightly that I would debate over it - if I come with a heart set on debating "my view", I cannot be taught - but if seek only to share what I understand, and with a heart willing to take instruction in the matter (and I do), then perhaps I will be edified. This is one of the ways God teaches me, and I want to be a willing student.

Do you think Paul sinned after conversion?

Yes I do. I believe that every Christian offends God and most of us on a daily basis. If I had any doubt in the matter, scripture plainly teaches that Peter, even though he was mightily filled with God's Spirit at Pentecost and powerfully used by God for a multitude of miracles - yet at Antioch he was more concerned about his reputation as a "law keeper" than about making the gospel plain - that is, Peter allowed his pride to get the better of him, and the stink of that offense presented a very false image of the kingdom of God to the Jewish converts at Antioch - which is why Paul withstood him to his face, because he was guilty Paul rebuked him in front of everyone - because as an elder, Peter should not simply have known better - he should have "walked" better.

So the question about whether or not a genuine believer -can- sin is answered in scripture by example - yes, every believer -can- sin after conversion, of that there can be no sober doubt. Even if conversion could wipe out of our memory every sin we had ever sinned so that we were intellectually a perfectly clean slate, that would only make us like Adam in the garden, we would remain as capable of sin as Adam was, and eventually, left to our own devices, we would sin as surely as Adam.

But the Christian has not been left to his own devices has he? While God never offered Adam the indwelling Holy Spirit, he not only offers but gives the indwelling Holy Spirit to every genuine believer. So at the very least we see a difference, spiritually, between ourselves and Adam.

I am currently in the middle of a study on carnal Christians, and the timing of your post is most interesting. I am still working on post that describes what a carnal Christian is, and I believe God's hand is at work in the timing of this, because I was going about showing what a carnal Christian is without really touching on Romans Seven - and in beginning to comment on your post, I suddenly saw that this was where I should have started the post on Carnal Christianity.

I mention that because you mention that your pastor was not a carnal Christian and by the way you mentioned it, you suggest that in your own mind at least, you are not sure that such at thing even exists.

There is a Jewish rabbi, who, while he rejects Christ and Christendom, never the less demonstrates a powerful love for the God of Torah. He is not insincere, but truly an orthodox man of God, well, at least a man of God according to the amount of light he is willing to receive. He is a humble fellow, dependent upon the only God he recognizes. His own realistic assessment of his actions and his own tender conscience reveal to him that in spite of all his best efforts, he is truly a law breaker. Few Rabbis are as sincere, tender, and introspective as this particular one - for were you to meet the guy, you would never imagine that he was anywhere near the miserable wretch that he knows himself to be. He is an outstandingly gentle and conscientious fellow, generous, and kind - would that we had more men (outwardly) like him in our churches! But let's be fair - his humility, his kindness, his gentleness, his admission that he is a sinner even when he is a respected Rabbi - these all point to a man who is not willing to lie about his experience just to impress others or build an unearned reputation - yet for all his humility, sincerity, and introspection - he is not a spiritual man - these things do not make or even identify him as Spiritual. This Rabbi is carnal as a pagan - he is just morally aware, and working to conform himself (with zeal) to a form of godliness that lacks any real power.

The idea of a carnal Christian was not invented by myself or others, it comes from Paul, recall in 1 Corinthians 3 where Paul recognizes that he cannot instruct the people at Corinth as though they were mature in Christ, but rather as infants, it is this infancy that Paul refers to as people of the flesh, or if we use the older English, as carnal. Paul says, "But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ..."

So our rabbi in the example above, would not be a carnal believer, but simply carnal - that is, he would not be "of the flesh" by virtue of spiritual immaturity, but rather by virtue of a spiritual vacuum - that is, by not being in possession of the Holy Spirit.

Consider the theology professor, or the biblical Greek scholar who although respected in their field remain avowed Atheists. Their knowledge of scripture and ability to bring others to the truth is not a reflection of spiritual maturity - it is not their spiritual gift, it is their natural talent.

Now consider Nigel, I met him while waiting for a bus one day. He was a special needs fellow who was absolutely sold out to Christ. His love for Christ shone out of him like ten suns going super nova. He was ready in season and out because he was utterly and completely given in his heart to the service of the Lord. He probably couldn't tell you what propitiation meant, but he could tell you what it was like to love God and obey him always.

My point is that we err if we imagine that spiritual maturity is tied to knowledge or position. There are plenty of people in the church who know the bible better than the pastor, and there are plenty of people in the church more sincere than the pastor, and even - dare I say it - more mature than the pastor. To be put in the role of pastor, one ought to be mature spiritually speaking, but (and I am being frank here), more often than not spiritual maturity is not weighed in obedience to Christ, but in knowledge and personality. If a man looks to be a good leader and knows the bible, can teach it well enough, and believes himself to be "called" (whatever that is), then we say this man is good enough to be a pastor.

And if all we want in a pastor is someone to lead us to truth on Sundays, marry our children, bury our dead, and administer the ordinances of baptism and the Lords table - we will pretty much be satisfied with anyone who can fit that bill in an amiable way.

Twenty years can roll by under such a pastor, and while the knowledge in the church increases, and while everyone likes him - yet it can happen that the sheep still sinning daily, and the church remains a sanctified sinners club, where people have to be coerced into doing anything spiritual because they have never grown spiritually, they have only grown in knowledge.

I hope I can paint that truth with some clarity - there is a world of difference between being spiritual and being knowledgeable, there is a world of difference between being spiritual and being humble and generous and kind. Ghandi was all of these, and probably a more humble fellow than your pastor, but that doesn't make Ghandi spiritual, and it doesn't make your pastor spiritual either.

That is, whether or not your pastor is a great guy, humble, and worthy of all praise is not the point, there many people who are more so than he on all points who are not even Christians. In other words, these things carry no clout with me in a discussion about what scripture is saying. I want to be careful here Neil - I am not suggesting that you are not making good points and whatnot - I am just saying that I am held by scripture to think one way, and that as clear as your examples are to me, they must fail to persuade me because they do not add anything to the biblical case, and can be dismissed with other examples from our worldly experiences. Surely you will concede that our history records profound humanitarians whose personal humility, kindness, generosity and sincerity actually dwarf the best our pulpits have to offer, or at the very least, and significant to our discussion, give me room to suggest that the goodness and sincerity of your frequently law-breaking pastor do not merit a comparison to Paul by virtue of these traits, since these traits are found in abundance outside of Christianity.

Given that, what you seem to be saying, in essence, and correct me if I am oversimplifying your reasoning, I am not trying to paint your words in any one way - I am just taking them apart in a way that illustrates (I hope) why I am not convinced by them. You seem to be saying that your own humble pastor because he is a frequent lawbreaker, and because he is humble and wants to be free from this same law breaking - that is, because this passage in Romans Seven describes your own pastor - it therefore stands to reason that what Paul was discussing in Romans seven what "spiritual maturity" looks like (since the presumption is that your pastor is spiritually mature).

Now, I hope that I have shown that the description you give of pastor in no way demonstrates spiritual maturity to me, unless you will admit that the great atheist humanitarians of our history were equally mature spiritually for having shown the same traits, and moreso. That is, your point seems to fall apart because it relies on the presumption that your pastor is spiritually mature, a presumption that, for reasons demonstrated, I cannot weigh with any real clout. That is, if I am going to learn something from this text, I cannot begin it by saying, this man whom I regard to be godly is a regular sinner, therefore Paul is talking about godly men in Romans seven.

Paul is talking about slavery to sin. What does slavery look like? Consider the stereo typical plantation slave: I want to be free from my master, and so I run from the plantation - but every time I run, my master gets a hold of me and puts me back on the plantation. I don't want to be on the plantation - I hate it here, but whenever I try to escape it, I fail because my master is bigger, and more powerful than me, and no matter how I try to escape, he always wins - I am his slave, and even though I don't want to be his slave with all my heart - yet I can do nothing about it, because the running away that I want to do, I find that I cannot do, but the remaining on this plantation that I hate is the very thing I find myself doing.

Do you see that the slave doesn't want to be a slave, and that no matter how he tries, he find himself enslaved at the end of the day? Has this slave overcome his enslavement? Not if he is still on the plantation he hasn't - nor has he overcome his slavery merely because he hates it and tries to escape it. That isn't freedom, that is slavery.

Now lets say that the north wins the war, and legally speaking, the slave is at liberty, but he doesn't really believe it. I mean, he knows that legally he is free, but when he tries to run, the master snatches him up again, and brings him back to the plantation. So long as he continues to obey that old master, his "freedom" exists in name only, not in practice. That is a very, very, very, very important thing to understand. Even though Christ has set us free if we continue to obey sin we continue to be enslaved by it. Paul makes that absolutely clear in Romans six.

Now, if we have been set free from sin, and we continue to sin - that makes us sin's slave and not free. We don't have to be sin's slave, but we are "free" to remain slaves as long as we continue to obey sin.

Romans Seven, as I explained, teaches not what spiritual maturity looks like (for surely the least spiritual babe in Christ has no desire to sin, but finds themselves sinning in exactly the same way as described), but what living without grace looks like. Paul's argument, you will remember, is that we were no longer under the law, but under grace.

By saying -that- Paul differentiates between the two ways men were trying to conduct themselves as believers. Jewish believers were under the law, and as such they had a list of rules that they tried to keep. They had no power to keep them, they wanted to do good, that is, to keep the law, but they found that they had no power to do so. That was what the law couldn't do - it couldn't empower you to keep it, it could only condemn you when you didn't. The pericope in Romans 7 describes what being under law looks like, and in doing so it describes two types of people:

First it describes the righteousness of a Jew. The Jew wanted to keep the law, but had no power to do so other than their own sheer will. Try as he might, eventually his attempts to suppress the sin nature within failed, and he sinned. The good that he wanted to do, he found he could not do consistently, and the evil that he hated, he found himself eventually giving in to.

Second it describes the efforts of a Christian who doesn't understand grace, to be righteous. Having no understanding of grace, the immature Christian also looks to his own arm to save him from sin - and in the strength of his own will, like a good Jew, he tries to suppress sin, in the exact same way a Jew would, with methods and techniques that seem good and religious, but amount to little more than asceticism which, as scripture teaches, has no power against sin. So these baby Christians are taught coping techniques and methods by which one can break habits - whenever they are tempted, they are instructed to respond in a predetermined way - recite Romans six to yourself (for instance) - what shall I say, shall I continue to lust so that grace may about - certainly not! How shall I who died to lust continue to lust? etc. And that is great for breaking habits - you don't need to be a Christian to do this - that is how every false religion in the world deals with habitual behavior that doesn't agree with its morality - that is how you clean the outside of the cup - you don't need to be a Christian to train yourself to stop sinning outwardly - you just need to be serious about it. But while such techniques will break all sorts of nasty habits - they have no power whatsoever against the real problem. We call such techniques, whatever they are (auto suggestion, positive thinking, etc.) we call that suppressionism - because it does absolutely nothing to deal with the source, but instead deals on a case by case basis with the symptoms - you suppress what is really there. It is like the man who snips all the apples off his apple tree. Doing so does not turn the tree into an orange tree - even if he can snip the buds as they come, and even if he can hang oranges on it that he in his own strength has produced - yet the tree is an apple tree as will be demonstrated the moment the man stops his monumental self effort in snipping the buds.

The problem is, that for many of us, this second way of being under the law has been presented to us as "walking in the Spirit" - but that is a great deception. We honestly think that it is normal and okay if the fruit that is constantly being produced in us is entirely and always carnal fruit. We might even convince ourselves that the good we have learned to approximate in our behavior is really "spiritual fruit" - as though our "tree" were honestly producing two kinds of fruit simultaneously spiritual and carnal - or if we are clever enough to see the impossibility of that, we might imagine that our "tree" actually flips and flops between producing one kind of fruit or the other. Truly, we believe that as long as we can nip the fruit that is really being produce in the bud, and as long as we can approximate in our behavior what genuine spiritual fruit would look like - we are willing to thread water in our Christian life and remain deceived about what kind of tree we really have.

Being under grace means that the tree no longer produces carnal fruit. It means that the spring no longer gives bitter water.

The Holy Spirit does not produce sin in a Christian - if sin is being produced it is coming from the flesh. But Scripture teaches in Romans six, that those who are in Christ have been united in his death for the very purpose of rendering this power inert - that is, to free the Christian from this very bondage. The flesh will not be redeemed until Christ's return, that is, the flesh will -always- tempt the Christian, but the Christian is no longer in Romans seven, that is, the Christian is no longer without power with regards to sin - rather they have been set free from sin's rule.

That means that any Christian who knowingly disobeys God, does so because he or she has chosen to do so. They don't have to, sin no longer has dominion over them - but they do because they want to.

That is what spiritual immaturity looks like.

Picture an ornate glass bottle. You pour hot lead into it, and the lead takes on the exact shape of the bottle. You allow the lead to cool - and viola! you have a form that resembles exactly the inside of that ornate bottle. Now you break the bottle and "free" the lead from its bottled slavery - but guess what? The lead has "hardened" into its current form.

That is what a baby Christian looks like. They have been poured into a worldly mold, and hardened into a life of obedience to sin. When the gospel sets them free, the bottle shatters and they are no longer bound into that shape by the mold that previously confined them, but they are still hardened into the shape of the bottle by their own hardness of heart.

Maturity has nothing to do with defining the bottle, or the environment around it - and has everything to do with conforming it into a new image. The trouble is that the lead has been hardened into the shape of sin and in order to be conformed into the image of Christ the lead has to be heated up and reshaped. That is, it must surrender itself to the furnace.

Immaturity tries to conform to the image of Christ through every other way except surrender. That is, the immature believer retains in themselves the "right" to disobey when things get too stressful.

I do not drive through amber lights as a rule. If the light turns amber that means "do not enter the intersection" and as a law abiding Christian, I abide by the law. Except if I happen to be in a hurry... then I will drive through an amber light. I will feel guilty because I know I have compromised what is "right" on the alter of "Daniel's in a hurry" - that is, I am willing to obey right up until doing so inconveniences me in a way I am not willing to surrender to. That is not a picture of surrender - it is a picture of compromise - I am willing to compromise what I want to approximate a genuine surrender - right up until I have to actually surrender - then I go it "my way."

The average "sincere" Christian is like that. They are willing to set aside all manner of sin because, lets face it - they don't really need it, and they are happy to be rid of it. But they reserve for themselves the right to "give in" whenever they want to. They look great on the outside - these are our pastors, our deacons, our elders - the men of substance, our deaconesses, our Sunday school teachers, the ones who are willing to minister - they all have learned how to polish the outside of their cup.

But the mature Christian is the one who does not reserve the right to "give in" - the mature believer does not make room for disobedience in their walk - the mature believer does not knowingly disobey God.

This is what scripture teaches.

Now, that is not to say that the mature believer doesn't sin - we all offend in many ways, and we may well be unaware of the magnitude or variety of our sin - that is, no one can say "I have not sinned today" with any certainty - but there are some who are mature and can say, "I have not disobeyed God today in any way that I am aware of"

A humble and mature believer will readily admit that he very likely sins in many ways each and every day - but not by actively disobeying God as a result of failing to surrender to him - rather he accepts that in his ignorance he has likely offended God in a way he himself isn't aware of.

That being the case, at least according to my limited understanding, when someone says that Paul is describing himself in the Romans 7 pericope, I am confounded, because it is the antithesis of everything Paul and scripture teaches about how to be a Christian.

Jesus came to save us from our sins - that is, to deliver us from sin's power; to free us from sin's dominion! We are no longer slaves of us, so how can it be that Paul is describing himself as a slave to sin? It can only be if Paul is doing so as an hypothetical and parenthetical thought used to illustrate a point he is making - which is exactly what the text shows. Romans six says you are not under law but under grace - Romans seven shows what being under law looks like, Romans eight shows what being under grace looks like. The flow is natural and comprehensible - so long as we don't tell ourselves the one lie that makes all if it confusing...

What is that lie?

The lie is - "I can't help sinning."

If we say that we cannot help it, we say that we are enslaved, and we say that everyone else is too. We have no hope in understanding Romans seven as an hypothetical parenthesis - since it is describing our own experience. Surely, that is why I used to preach from the rooftops that Paul was speaking of the healthy normative Christian experience. It was my own experience, and I took a great deal of comfort in knowing that since no one is ever truly freed from sin, my own enslavement was excusable.

Every argument I have ever heard to defend Romans seven as the normative Christian experience ends in this lie, no matter where the conversation is dragged to, the one defending this idea must admit, they themselves are entirely convinced, contrary to scripture, that even if scripture says they are free from sin - they will admit that in practice they are not - and this demonstrates that the problem is not that they cannot understand the truth - it is that they have hardened their heart against it.

I am sure that some of you reading this are sincere and intelligent people. I am equally certain that (if your take on Romans is that it describes normal Christianity) you are indeed convinced that way because your own experience demands that interpretation.

Somewhere in the last century or so, it has become a Christian taboo to suggest that Christians can actually -stop- sinning. Every time scripture says something as plain as "sin shall no longer have dominion over you" or as simple as "everyone who is born of God does not keep on sinning," or as straightforward as, "no one who abides in [Christ] keeps on sinning" or as blatant as, "no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him" we quickly douse whatever fire God's word would have started in our soul with an extra-biblical and carnally comforting caveat: "but that doesn't mean you can ever -really- stop sinning..."

Seriously - Christians are called to obey Christ, and empowered by God Almighty to do just that. Failure to obey doesn't happen because we are "fallen sinners" it happens because we are not walking with God in the same way as we received God - that is, in absolute surrender (see my previous post on this) - we are not walking with God "in the Spirit."

You see, Jesus walked with God in the Spirit to show us that it can be done - and to illustrate what it looks like. Paul walked the same way - in the Spirit. When we walk in the Spirit we do not fulfill the lusts of the flesh, that is because we are surrendered to God in the same way we were surrendered at the moment of our conversion - that is, surrender opens the door that allows the Spirit of God into our lives in the first place, and into our walk thereafter. Just as God's Spirit quickened us to obey the gospel in the first place, so too the Holy Spirit gives us grace to obey when we surrender. That is why Christ's yoke is light and his burden easy - because if we take the yoke (surrender) we don't carry its weight (obey)alone, but God carries it with us. If we do not surrender, our obedience is going to come out of our own effort, and we are not walking in the Spirit, but in the flesh.

That is why many Christians think that Romans seven is the normal Christian experience - because they don't really know the first thing about the yoke of Christ - they think that obedience is the yoke, when in fact surrender is the yoke - and so they attempt to live the Christian life without really surrendering - that is, without walking in the Spirit - and all who do so are carnal Christians even if they are currently "obeying" the law. Obedience to the law does not make you spiritual, just as it doesn't make the obedient Jew spiritual. Surrendering to Christ, that is, dying daily to our own control over our life - that is what a spiritual walk is - and those who walk thus grow more mature in their faith, those who do not simply grow older in their faith.

There is a man who is close to God, he isn't close because he has been in the church the longest or because he knows the most - he is close to God because he has learned to surrender.

I was trying to show that opportunistic sins appealing to our carnal flesh can take the legs out from anyone, including the most sanctified Christians. It's not an enslavement. It's not living according to the flesh. It's an unforeseen stumbling.

I believe that the only person that opportunistic sin can take the legs out from under, is the one who has is not surrendered to God, and is therefore taking the temptation in the flesh and not in the Spirit.

"Sanctified Christians" are not simply those who have the best track record with regards to suppressing sin in the past - as if, being able to snip sin in the bud made you sanctified - it doesn't, it just keeps you busy, and threading water to boot. Even a person has done so for years, and in doing so has given the impression of being an orange tree - they are still an apple tree if what is produced in them is apples. A great track record doesn't necessarily indicate a sanctified believer, it only indicates that a believer has kept himself from sinning for a time. I would argue that so long as one not surrendered entirely to Christ, even though they have been set free from sin, yet in practice they are very much enslaved to it, and remain thus until they through surrender they overcome that enslavement. The way is open, but they have to actually walk as Christ walked - in the Spirit.

That is not to say that the one who begins to walk in the Spirit is going to be perfect in their obedience. As a believer surrenders they will stumble in places they didn't even know they were being disobedient - and when they do they will surrender - but they can be surprised and see the sin only after the fact. No one who is in the Spirit is going to actively disobey God however. So yes, there is a stumbling into sin - but it doesn't happen with your eyes open, it takes you unawares. Not a giving into temptation - but a realization that something is sinful, and an immediate surrender to God so as to never do that again - we call that "repentance." Weeping, and feeling bad that we are so enslaved is not repentance. Crying and "trying" to do better is not repentance. Holding a secret place in our heart that says, "I haven't really turned from this, I am just stopping it for now because I don't want to offend God further" is not repentance - that is trying to pacify God, but it is certainly not surrender, it is certainly not spiritual - dare I say it - there is nothing "Christian" about it - it is a false way, and a perversion of the truth, and is not overcoming sin, but giving into it, and making provision for it.

The Christian has been set free from sin, for freedom, and not for slavery. They path is not obedience sans surrender, but surrender avec obedience. The one produces carnal Christians, the other spiritual - they may look the same on the outside (clean cups), but only one has a clean inside (surrender).

Let me know if this makes sense. I would be glad to expand any point that doesn't make sense or answer any questions my stumbling and wandering narrative produced. These are, in my opinion, the most important truths of Christianity, and they deserve our full attention to see whether these things are so.
posted by Daniel @ 8:10 AM  
  • At 10:52 AM, November 11, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Let us hope that rather than debate, we simply look at the text and learn.

    Amen my friend.

    I won't be able to read through this for a while, because if I don't get the bathroom finished today there will be two females not completely happy with me.

    Talk to you in a day or two, Dan.

  • At 11:29 AM, November 11, 2006, Blogger Daniel said…

    No rush - I expect to on about this for the next few decades at least. ;-)

  • At 1:08 PM, November 11, 2006, Blogger Even So... said…

    And if all we want in a pastor is someone to lead us to truth on Sundays, marry our children, bury our dead, and administer the ordinances of baptism and the Lords table - we will pretty much be satisfied with anyone who can fit that bill in an amiable way.

    Twenty years can roll by under such a pastor, and while the knowledge in the church increases, and while everyone likes him - yet it can happen that the sheep still sinning daily, and the church remains a sanctified sinners club, where people have to be coerced into doing anything spiritual because they have never grown spiritually, they have only grown in knowledge.

    Bullseye, of course, but the chocolate picture hurt my feelings....

  • At 4:19 PM, November 11, 2006, Blogger Daniel said…

    JD. My wife felt personally singled out by the chocolate as well.

  • At 7:15 PM, November 11, 2006, Blogger Jim said…

    Wowsers, that was one long post!

    I really can't argue much with what you have written here. I think you definitely see the differences between these two types of christians; however the Corinthian ones were actually quite "bad", they did not even attempt to polish their cups.

    I think as we begin to understand this more and more, the feeding of our flesh will become loathsome to us. Much of our temptation is self induced, by making provision for the flesh in one way or another.

    I think this may have been a typo though?

    "Romans six says you are not under law but under Romans"

  • At 11:27 PM, November 11, 2006, Blogger Daniel said…

    Jim - can you imagine how annoying that would have been to read in the meta? ;-)

    It was sort of a typo - it started off as a spelling error, that the spell checker was supposed to correct but ended up mangling, then when I fixeed the mangle by hand, I must have put "Romans" instead of "grace" either way I am glad you noticed it, and told me about it. (Good Eye!) I fixed it.

    I think people (Christians) need to realize that Christ didn't just tell us to stop sinning, he died to free us from sin's power. Trying to be a Christian without the Holy Spirit's enabling is like pushing a car that is out of gas. We can do it, but it is not the same as running on fuel.


  • At 11:38 PM, November 11, 2006, Blogger jazzycat said…

    Interesting thoughts. It seems to me that your definition of a carnal Christian in the next to last paragraph would be sort of a Christian being legalistic. I did a Sept. 14 post on 2 Cor. 13:5 titled 'Test yourself'. Would you check that out and see if it is not similar to what you are saying in this post. It is not very long.


  • At 7:09 AM, November 12, 2006, Blogger Daniel said…

    Jazzy - your post on Sept 14 is more in line with my first post on Carnal Christians - that is, that one variety of people who earn the label are in fact not even Christians.

    In the paragraph preceding the one in which we find 2 Cor. 13:5 (the last paragraph in 2 cor 12) Paul gives some context to the testing he mentions in verse 5 of chapter 13, he gives a pretty standard list of carnal fruit (contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, backbitings, whisperings, conceits, tumults) and then laments for those who have sinned before and not repented of their uncleanness, fornication and lewdness.

    When Paul gives the exhortation to examine themselves it is with respect to these carnal fruit as contrasted to the proof of Christ in him [Paul]. Paul says of himself, that he was crucified in weakness, yet lived by the power of God. That was the heart of the examination Paul was exhorting - Are you still in the same sins that you used to commit? Have you failed entirely to repent? Are you still in your weakness, or has the power of God delivered you from these things?

    It is key to note that the examination is for the purpose of determining if one is actually -in- the faith that they are professing. That tells us that even in the early church there were some who were professing a faith that they were not walking in.

    I don't believe for a second that any faith that hasn't begun in utter surrender to God (repentance) is genuine. Notwithstanding, I don't belive that genuine Christians can become "unjustified" the moment their repentance becomes incomplete.

    All unbelievers are carnal, even if they attend church, pray regularly and read their bibles - even if they acknowledge the same truths about God that I acknowledge - unless they have come into Christ, they are not Christians. But those who -have- come into Christ can fall out of perfect surrender, and the moment they do they are walking in the flesh and not the Spirit - and they moment they do, they are carnal Christians.

    I plan to post on how that looks, and explain exactly what I mean by that in a coming post, so I won't belabor it here. The important thing is that I -do- believe that there is such a thing as a "carnal Christian" - I associate the same with spiritual immaturity, and I would say that most of what we call "Christianity" today is in fact walking in the flesh, and not the Spirit, and is therefore carnal - from the pew to the pulpit - I think it is an epidemic so widespread that while most Christians understand that something is wrong, they haven't the perspective to articulate it. I hope to do that in a coming post.

    How is that for a pregnant statement?


  • At 2:05 PM, November 12, 2006, Blogger jazzycat said…

    I look forward to that post. I hope you will distinguish the difference between the false converts of your first post with the traits of your concept of a carnal Christian.

    In Jonathan Edwards book "Religious Affections" he went into detail explaining the differences in the characteristics of true Christians and those of false Christians.

    Your discernment has certainly touched on something that needs a close look and you are making some excellent points that I have never considered.

  • At 11:51 AM, November 13, 2006, Blogger Brad Williams said…


    I think I heartily disagree with you...maybe. Could you define sanctification?

  • At 6:48 AM, November 16, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Hi Dan, I'm still chewing on this post, so my only comment at this point is as it relates to the post at my place and our subsequent conversation. I realize that this is tangential to your series on carnal Christians, but hey, you quoted me (twice)! ;)

    This post and your previous one sound in tone like rebuttals of that point I had made, that if even the illustrious Paul fell regularly, then everyone is subject to falling daily, and possibly especially when presented with "little victimless sins," and so the insurance claims adjuster has to be on the watch for that.

    Yet, I've read through them several times, and I really don't understand your issue with my post. You said that
    "That means that any Christian who knowingly disobeys God, does so because he or she has chosen to do so. They don't have to, sin no longer has dominion over them - but they do because they want to.

    That is what spiritual immaturity looks like."

    By this definition, Paul was spiritually immature. He knowingly disobeyed God regularly. By this definition, every single Christian is spiritually immature. This may very well be true, but then the definition has little use for us until we are fully sanctified and mature in our new bodies. Nor do I think it nullifies using Paul's own description of himself to show that anyone can fall.

    I wasn't saying it's okay to sin, or that we can't help it so why worry about it. I was saying that Mr. Insurance Adjuster needs to be shrewd, because the claimant may very well choose to sin, even if the claimant is the most "spiritual" Christian imaginable.

    Whatcha think?

  • At 11:50 AM, November 16, 2006, Blogger Daniel said…

    Neil - Sorry if I made you think these posts were intended as rebuttals, they are not intended that way. I was reading something in the meta of Mark's (Bluecollar) blog regarding carnality in Christians, which prompted the series. Your understanding of what Paul was describing in Romans seven simply sparked what approach I took to engage this series in - and was never meant so much as a rebuttal, as an alternative that might be worthy of your consideration.

    To clarify, in reading your post on insurance adjusting (which was excellent and informative by the way), I found your take on it didn't line up with my own - and I wanted to share where I thought the discrepancies lay. In particular, you take Paul's remarks in Romans 7 to be autobiographical in nature - describing (according to your interpretation) his (then) present spiritual experience. You are saying that Paul is describing his own experience as a mature Christian in this snippet - and I think that interpretation is "bunk."

    Surely however, if the truth were always reflected in the most popular opinion, we would all believe, as the papists do - that is, I know my opinion is in the minority, and while that fact makes me far more cautious than I would be otherwise, yet I still find myself unable to unite what I know of the remainder of scripture to this particular interpretation.

    I am therefore -not- suggesting that Paul was spiritually immature - as though I thought that Paul was speaking of himself in his (then) current walk with God. I understand Paul to be describing (in the context of his discussion on bondage to sin) what bondage to sin under the law looks like - and he does so using the same literary technique that he uses elsewhere - he speaks in the first person. Thus I don't imagine that because the grammar fits a first person autobiography that Paul is necessarily describing his current condition - in fact, everything leading up to that demands that I interpret it otherwise.

    Consider if you will, (and I appreciate your humoring me in this) that Paul was -not- speaking autobiographically. Suppose that Paul was in fact describing what bondage to sin looks like in order to flesh out the point that he was still making at the end of Romans six - that we are no longer slaves to sin. Some of the statements that introduce this passage in Romans seven seriously point in this direction - "I would not have known sin except through the law;" - "for we know that the law is spiritual but I am carnal - I am sin's slave" etc.

    Paul had just finished saying in Romans six that he was =not= sin's slave, yet in Romans seven he says that he is sold under sin. Paul is not trying to contradict himself - he is making the same point, but using himself in the first person to describe what being under the law, as opposed to grace, looks like - he is describing - in his own words what it looks like to be carnal - to be sold under sin - that is, to be enslaved to sin. Paul is not saying that he =is= currently thus enslaved - he is just using the first person form to make the point that the law has no strength to save you from sin - and the point is made that the law has no power to deliver you because under the law (as opposed to under grace) the good that you would like to do (obey the law), you end up not doing, and the evil that you want to avoid at all costs (break the law), is the very thing you find yourself helpless to avoid - you are in bondage, and the law can do nothing but condemn you. That is the point that Paul is making - and the bondage that he describes is something that thanks God he is freed from in Christ.

    At the end of it, he isn't thanking God that his bondage is going to be overlooked by God, he is thanking God that he has been freed from that whole bondage thing in Christ.

    Paul was spiritually mature - meaning, he was no longer living in Romans seven, but had been set free from that very bondage in Christ. When I say that what is being described is spiritual immaturity, I am not saying that Paul behaved that way - I am saying that Christ saved Paul from that kind of behavior - that is what the cross was/is all about. We are saved not only from sin's penalty, but from the very bondage to sin described in Romans 7.

    That is not to say that the moment we are saved we stop sinning - it is to say that being in Christ means that we can be obedient, and that those who learn to walk according to the Spirit (instead of staying in the flesh) will become obedient to God. They may still sin in all sorts of ways that they are not aware of - but they no longer =actively= disobey God. Christians do not come out of the box like that, and as long as a believer is convinced that Romans 7 describes spiritual maturity, they will never progress beyond it.

    Let me know if that is more confusing that satisfying.


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