Friday, February 15, 2013

Original Sin, and Middle Knowledge

My email to Dr. Bruce Ware:

Dr. Ware,
I have been listening diligently to your lectures on Systematic Theology through podcasts, so I do not have the luxury of interacting in the classroom. I have a few questions that I hope you might be able to shed some light on. First, concerning the origin of sin, how was it that Lucifer a creature with a good will was able to sin? Lucifer could not have had a libertarian free will for that would mean his choice was arbitrary. The account in Scripture implies he had a desire to be autonomous or as you have said independent. He wanted to be his own god. Where could this desire in Lucifer arise from in a creature that was good? I am truly struggling with this because I cannot consider any creature having a libertarian freewill.
Let me give you my account, for you to judge if it is misguided. Lucifer was a creature that was created good. This can only be the case because God is by nature God, therefore, all of his creation was good. God who is the only perfect being, independent, self-sufficient, and impeccable (by necessity of his nature) created creatures to glorify Himself. His creatures like Lucifer were good (this would seem to imply impeccable), but they were not perfect, independent, or self-sufficient. His creatures where created to be completely dependent upon Him. Thus in some sense God's creatures where deficient needing God for all things. They were and are, completely dependent upon Him. From a human perspective the deficiency in the creatures made it possible for sin to come into existence. Sin originated in the good will of Lucifer who choose the lesser good instead of the Ultimate Good. He choose to love himself, which is a good thing (self-love) more than God, which is sinful. Lucifer asserted his love for himself more than God thereby creating / authoring sin. This account would still be compatabilistic. Lucifer acted according to his nature even when he chose to sin. 
Concerning Middle Knowledge does it not reduce to entrapment? For if God knows what creatures would do in any given circumstances with their compabilistic wills, and puts them in certain circumstances to act; does not this entail entrapment?    
To my final question what is sin or more specifically what is our sinful nature? Sin cannot be physical for the fallen angels would have a sinful nature, so what is it? I know it is a ruling principle Romans 6 makes it really clear, but how is it that one can have a sinful nature? I agree with the Traducian tradition, so it comes through heredity by Adam, but what is it? Is it that our souls are sinful and our bodies are simply instruments? This cannot practically be the case because when a person is regenerated he or she does not get a new soul, nor is the noetic effects of sin removed.
Jonathan Edwards seems to be the only one I found that has attempted to give an explanation. To sumerize Edwards. Within man God originally created two principles: the inferior, and the superior. The inferior principle which can be called the natural principle dealt with self-love, appetites, and self-preservation. The superior or Supernatural principle was the grace of God supplying man with the ability to communicate and love God which comprised true happiness for man. However, after the fall the supernatural principle was gone because God by His holiness could not continue to dwell in man. God withdrew himself from man because of sin this resulted in the inferior principle replacing the superior principle making man’s focus himself. This is like a candle that lights a room when it is removed it becomes dark. This is what happened to the heart of man it became darkened. From Edwards I conclude that at regeneration God does not reconstitute the Supernatural principle as originally, but instead bestows man with His grace and Holy Spirit. It is as if God brings light into the darkened hearts of the unregenerate making them new creations with new desires to serve Him. However, man still posses a slavish mentality to serve sin, and still contains some sort of desire for sin after regeneration.        
Jonathan Edwards explains:
"There was an inferior kind, which may be called NATURAL, being the principles of mere human nature; such as self-love, with those natural appetites and passions, which belong to the nature of man, in which his love to his own liberty, honor, and pleasure, were exercised: these, when alone, and left to themselves, are what the Scriptures sometimes call FLESH. Besides these, there were superior principles, that were spiritual, holy, and divine, summarily comprehended in divine love; wherein consisted the spiritual image of God, and man’s righteousness and true holiness; which are called in Scripture the divine nature. These principles may, in some sense, be called SUPERNATURAL being (however concreated or connate, yet) such as are above those principles that are essentially implied in, or necessarily resulting from and inseparably connected with, mere human nature; and being such as immediately depend on man’s union and communion with God, or divine communications and influences of God’s Spirit: which though withdrawn, and man’s nature forsaken of these principles, human nature would be human nature still; man’s nature, as such, being entire without these divine principles, which the Scripture sometimes calls SPIRIT, in contradistinction to flesh. These superior principles were given to possess the throne, and maintain an absolute dominion in the heart; the other to be wholly subordinate and subservient. And while things continued thus, all was in excellent order, peace, and beautiful harmony, and in a proper and perfect state. These divine principles thus reigning, were the dignity, life, happiness, and glory of man’s nature. When man sinned and broke God’s covenant, and fell under his curse, these superior principles left his heart: for indeed God then left him; that communion with God on which these principles depended, entirely ceased; the Holy Spirit, that divine inhabitant, forsook the house. Because it would have been utterly improper in itself, and inconsistent with the constitution God had established, that he should still maintain communion with man, and continue by his friendly, gracious, vital influences, to dwell with him and in him, after he was become a rebel, and had incurred God’s wrath and curse. Therefore immediately the superior divine principles wholly ceased; so light ceases in a room when the candle is withdrawn; and thus man was left in a state of darkness, woeful corruption, and ruin; nothing but flesh without spirit. The inferior principles of self-love, and natural appetite, which were given only to serve, being alone, and left to themselves, of course became reigning principles; having no superior principles to regulate or control them, they became absolute masters of the heart. The immediate consequence of which was a fatal catastrophe, a turning of all things upside down, and the succession of a state of the most odious and dreadful confusion. Man immediately set up himself, and the objects of his private affections and appetites, as supreme; and so they took the place of God. These inferior principles are like fire in a house; which, we say, is a good servant, but a bad master; very useful while kept in its place, but if left to take possession of the whole house, soon brings all to destruction. Man’s love to his own honor, separate interest, and private pleasure, which before was wholly subordinate unto love to God, and regard to his authority and glory, now disposes and impels him to pursue those objects, without regard to God’s honor, or law; because there is no true regard to these divine things left in him. In consequence of which, he seeks those objects as much when against God’s honor and law, as when agreeable to them. God still continuing strictly to require supreme regard to himself, and forbidding all undue gratifications of these inferior passions — but only in perfect subordination to the ends, and agreeableness to the rules and limits, which his holiness, honor, and law prescribe — hence immediately arises enmity in the heart, now wholly under the power of self-love; and nothing but war ensues, in a constant course, against God, As, when a subject has once renounced his lawful sovereign, and set up a pretender in his stead, a state of enmity and war against his rightful king necessarily ensues. It were easy to show, how every lust, and depraved disposition of man’s heart, would naturally arise from this private original, if here were room for it. Thus it is easy to give an account, how total corruption of heart should follow on man’s eating the forbidden fruit, though that was but one act of sin, without God putting any evil into his heart, or implanting any bad principle, or infusing any corrupt taint, and so becoming the author of depravity. Only God’s withdrawing, as it was highly proper and necessary that he should, from rebel-man, and his natural principles being left to themselves, is sufficient to account for his becoming entirely corrupt, and bent on sinning against God."
The things of God outside of Scripture are some what speculative if not mysterious, but to be a good student I feel I need to connect the dots as Theologian and Apologist.
I hope this is not an annoyance.
In Christ,
Ryan Dozier
Dr. Ware's reply: 
As you know, email is not the best format for such complex questions.  Please understand that I must be brief – MUCH briefer than these deserve.
1. You are on track, as I also see things.  Lucifer had “freedom of inclination” (as we all do) and hence he always did what he most wanted.  I think Gen 3:1-7 is instructive, since it shows how free agents can be influenced to have their inclinations changed and so want, for the first time, as their strongest inclinations, to go against God.  Something like this happened to Lucifer who perhaps contemplated some portion of the vast created order that was NOT his, and he began to wonder why he should not have it – after all, he was so magnificent, why should it not be his?  So, the same kind of mental transformation occurred in Lucifer as happened with the woman in Gen 3 (see esp. v.6), but it took place in his own mind w/o external temptation occasioning it.    Your point about his dependency fits in here, since he was finite, created, and hence did not have everything (in contrast to God).  Well, so freedom of inclination works to provide a plausible explanation.
2. No, it is not entrapment so long as the free agent does exactly what he most wants.  The ordering of circumstances provides the occasion for the action, but it does not coerce or constrain the action. 
3. The sinfulness that continues to mark (and mar) our new natures in Christ is the inner “drive” or “impulse” or “urge” to strike out in independence from God (which sin’s deepest urge is where ever it shows up).  God chooses not to end this “urge for independence” w/in a believer, though he could!  (Consider 1 Jn 3:1-2 – in a moment, it will be ended!!!).  So, why not?  I think because he wants us to learn more of the horrors of sin, and our need for grace (there is much in this answer that I can’t unpack).
Hope these brief responses help some. 
Blessings in Christ,
Bruce Ware

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