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Thursday, March 02, 2006

Innate Inability 

All-righty then… Shall we begin?

Let’s start with the human condition. Even though God is first and foremost concerned with His own glory and the Bible is first and foremost about Him and not about us, I think it can be helpful to consider our own heart in the matter. When we come to the first point in the acronym – (T)otal Depravity – we are immediately confronted with the fact that we are utterly lost.

To some, this indictment is off-putting. They argue that humans cannot be "totally" depraved. There must be some "good" in them, right? To them I would offer that we think of this first doctrinal pillar as "Innate Inability". In Romans 3, Paul levels the following charge:

9What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, 10as it is written:
"None is righteous, no, not one;
11no one understands;
no one seeks for God.
12All have turned aside;
together they have become worthless;
no one does good,
not even one."
13"Their throat is an open grave;
they use their tongues to deceive."
"The venom of asps is under their lips."
14"Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness."
15"Their feet are swift to shed blood;
16in their paths are ruin and misery,
17and the way of peace they have not known."
18"There is no fear of God before their eyes."

In Romans 7:18 (in the midst of his doobie-doobie-do passage) he admits:"For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out."

He continues in Romans 8:7-8 "For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God."

But what of the supposedly "good" things that humans seem to be capable of? Paul surmises in Romans 14:23 that "…whatever does not proceed from faith is sin." The prophet answers this question with a bit of poetic understatement in Isaiah 64:
6We have all become like one who is unclean,
and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment.
We all fade like a leaf,
and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.
7There is no one who calls upon your name,
who rouses himself to take hold of you;
for you have hidden your face from us,
and have made us melt in the hand of our iniquities.
The phrase "polluted garment" is not found elsewhere in Scripture, but it borrows from the terminology for menstruation and is rendered in many translations as filthy rags. I think you get the picture. It’s not that our own attempts at righteousness merely fall short, they are radically corrupted and only add to our hopeless condition.

Paul affirmed man’s innate inability in 1 Corinthians 2:14 "The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned."

Jesus himself addressed man’s innate inability, as recorded in John 6:44 "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day." But this starts to broach another day’s topic.

So what about this thing called "free will"?

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Thank you so much for this awesome reminder...I know you were probably trying to start up some discussion...but after my last 24 hours you have no idea how much I needed just to read this blog this morning! :)


Do you deny free will in all things, or are you focused specifically on mans free will in salvation?


Jason -

I appreciate the question. If you are asking about whether I am a fatalist, then of course I would say no. We are all free to make individual choices. My argument is about whether we as morally bankrupt, lost, blind, hopeless, dependent, enslaved, condemned, dead people really have the freedom to make choices pleasing to God. It is not just about salvation, but about the utter inability to act outside of anything other than sinful motives. Don't miss the Friday top ten.


Interesting question ... what about this thing called free will?

I would maintain that man does indeed have free will. However, I think one really needs to define free will in order to argue if it exists or not. So with that, I'll offer my definition of free will. Or, perhaps more accurately, my working definition.

The free will I think exists is man's freedom to do anything he would like. But, that comes with a bit of a caveat. The caveat I offer up is that man is absolutely free to choose and act within the limits of his nature. Sin nature.

Given man's sin nature, I believe every man is free to race the race he would like to, as fast or slow as he would like to go. But no matter how man chooses to run his race, he ALWAYS races away from God.

So, in a sense, free will does exist. But man is limited to act within the bounds of his nature --- until grace lifts him out of the bounds of that sin nature and into something alltogether different and better.

Do we have the ability to make choices? Absolutely. Do we have the ability to make choices pleasing to God? Not without His grace.

So I suppose you could say I am all in with the innate ability. Man does own that attribute. But I think you have to address the term of free will, or more accurately, what you are defining as free will before you can affirm or deny it.

- Ted Neeves


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