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Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Totally Depraved

I've always believed in the inherent goodness of man.
That is, until I looked a little further into the controvery of the Augustinian stance of Total Depravity vs. the Pelagian views of Inherent Goodness. In reading 'What is Reformed Theology' by R.C. Sproul, he explores the two, and makes a compelling argument for Depravity that I can't help but agree with... It resonates with my own perceptions of the condition of the wild beast that is Man's heart.
The monk Pelagius held tight to a Humanist view of free will; that God gave man free will and power to do good or bad, and the Law was given to discern between the two. He believed that people were inherently good, but strayed towards evil post-Fall. St. Augustine argued that scripture indicates that post-Fall, the human heart is entirely incapable of doing "good" (from a godly standpoint) and the Law was only given to make us realize the extent of our own sinfulness and the unattainable nature of righteousness. Pelagius stated that God would not demand perfection without giving us the means to attain it. Augustine stated that God demanded perfection so that we would relent our hope in self, knowing fully that our only hope is truly in Christ. Our own totally depraved state enhances appreciation for grace.

*Sproul makes a distinction I think is important to note, between utter depravity (being as wicked as possible) and total depravity (every aspect of being is in some way tainted).

Scripture, as well as real-life observations, would support the human condition of total depravity. Sproul addresses arguments about free will, saying that though man's will is free it is wholly bent towards disobedience and even enmity towards God. We may in fact do things that appear "good" from a human standpoint, but will always be colored by self-preservation, desire for praise, self-promotion, etc.
Romans 3:12 gives a blanket statement covering all of humanity, which may be taken literally or as a superlative. "No one does good, no not one."
Romans 7:7-25 supports that the Law is given to show us our sinfulness... and is followed by a context of grace and despair in our own power to fulfill the commands of a perfect Deity. For if we had it in our power to fulfill the Law, there would have been no reason for Jesus' sacrifice. For He said, "I have not come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it."
There's something sort of freeing in relenting my belief that I could strive for righteousness. All the trying and failing always led to shame and frustration, pulling me farther from God. But depending on Jesus to be my righteousness and my daily bread pulled me closer, grateful and unashamed. The gratitude increased my love, and here's the kicker... my love increased my desire to be obedient. The system works, and though I believe Pelagius had a genuine walk with God I have to side with Augustine and Paul when I say, "Christ came to the world to save sinners... among whom I am the worst."

Monday, February 3, 2014

Naked and Unashamed

My favorite part of the Genesis description of life in the garden was the phrase noted several times, "they were naked and not ashamed." I've read a couple studies on Genesis and my favorite one emphasized this point: that Adam and Eve were in such close communion with God, their sense of security and self-assurance was so perfectly intact, that they did not even realize their own nakedness.

I've found this beautiful concept coloring my alone time with God in a new way. I used to dislike my devotional time, seeing it as a chore and an obligation. Now I see it as time to be transparent and naked in the most freeing way. Going about daily life, we all hold our cards close to our chests. There is some vestige of a blockade 'round our hearts, even around closest friends and family. Fear of social pressures, fear of rejection, fear of saying/doing the wrong thing are nearly constant. Pressure to look our best and behave comes from every angle. Time alone with my Savior means I can finally drop every form of self protection and step into the blessed state of being fully known and fully loved. Naked. Naked, and unashamed. I run my fingers over Words from a living Savior and the weight lifts. I breathe a sigh of relief and feel breathe and sun on my skin, fresh like a newborn.

What a relief.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Ezer Kenegdo, the sustainer beside him

Once I was in a hot tub with a group of girls from a church I visited about two years ago. We were discussing relationships and what we desired for our future marriages. One of the girls to my right tossed her damp ponytail and chirped, "I feel like all we women really ever wanted was a strong man to be a cheerleader for!" All heads 'round the circle nodded curtly in agreement as I swallowed hard against the bile I could taste in my throat. Was I broken? Am I built wrong that I wanted to have my own adventure, rather than tagging along someone else's?

My mother, bless her heart, taught me to be a strong woman. My father, bless his heart, taught me to be a strong man. She taught me to not be lazy, to go after what I want, to love big and never stop pursuing the heart of God. My father taught me to shoot, fight, camp, survive a zombie apocalypse, plan ahead and never compromise my values. Being a strong woman is my burden and my blessing. The biblical role of a woman is something I've rebelled against my whole life. Independence and selfishness steered me towards dating men who allowed me to be the leader, and I thoroughly enjoyed the sense of power and control. But despite feeding into my sin nature in a satisfying way, I could feel how poor a fit it was. But the curse of being a strong woman is that I know that for a relationship to work, he must be an even stronger man. Yikes. I found it impossible to allow the men in my life to lead me, but I realized it wasn't because I was broken... but it was because I hadn't found the right man! I started asking myself some difficult questions regarding my dating life.

-Do I see active growth in his life, and a passionate pursuit of God?
-Do I trust him, both in day-to-day life and in matters of the Spirit?
-Can I respect this person, even when we don't agree?
-Am I guarding my heart?
-Am I in a good place spiritually to be lead, to encourage, and to uplift?
-Are we both surrounded by godly, intimate community able to speak truth into the relationship?
-Does he have a good character to endure in tough times? Do I?
-Is he strong enough in character and faith to lead me when I stumble?
-Is he considerate and gentle with me?

It's quite a laundry list, I know... But I believe in God's design for relationships. I believe it because I've done the opposite for years and it is such a poor substitute. *Sigh* This is going to be another one of those half-baked posts to process through some thoughts, forgive me. I'll do another when my brain isn't so scattered. Goodnight!