Dedicated to the devotional, exegetical and philosophical study of theological paradox in Conservative, Thoroughly Biblical, Historically Orthodox, Essentially Reformed theology . . . to the glory of God alone!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

The Legitimacy of Paradox as a Theological Model - Part 7

Pastor Richard Ostella of Westminster Reformed Church in Plymouth, Michigan has graciously granted permission to re-publish his March 2009 ETS paper on theological paradox here at THEOparadox. To understand these thoughts in context, please begin with part 1.

2) Free will doctrine misrepresents human nature 

 Fallen man does not have free will because he cannot decide, choose, or act outside of his evil nature. Like a diseased tree, he cannot bear good fruit16 (Mat. 7.18) and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil (Mat. 12.35). Free will doctrine teaches that the evil person out of his evil heart brings forth some good (at least when he chooses to submit to God in faith), but this idea misrepresents the teaching of Jesus that character determines conduct. To make the point by inversion, consider that fact that a loving mother cannot intentionally harm her child; she cannot act outside of her character as a loving mother. Nor can unloving evil people bear good fruit.17 Also, note both strands of this paradox: 

a) moral inability is here: the evil heart cannot bear good fruit (Mat. 7.18) and the evil person (Mat. 12.34, you are evil) cannot speak good things (12.34, You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil?). 

b) Full responsibility is here: on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak (Mat. 12.36).18

 Therefore, free will teaching misrepresents human nature by affirming that fallen man can act contrary to his evil nature. 

Pastor Ostella's Footnotes 
16 The Christian is a good tree and his inability to bring forth bad fruit is eschatological. For the non-Christian, the inability to do anything good is part and parcel of the present evil age.  
17 However, if character determines conduct, what then do we say about character determining choices such as the choice to study the Scriptures regularly to be shaped by them in submission to Christ for the glory of God? That character determining choice arises from Christian character already, from the renewal of the heart by the Holy Spirit that gives “newness of life” (Rom. 6.4). Otherwise, the natural man cannot submit to the law of God (Rom. 8.7). He must be set free from his slavery in order to be free for righteousness (Rom. 6.18).  
18 Jesus teaches that there is moral inability (because you are evil, you cannot speak good words) and the fact of full responsibility (you will give account for every careless word, which is a fortiori for absolutely every word). Before the Genesis flood, every inclination of man’s heart was only evil continually, Gen. 6.5. Being so gripped by their rebellion and sinfulness, they could not do anything good, but they were fully accountable as the judgment of the flood showed. That judgment is an anticipation of the final judgment. As an accountable and inexcusable lawbreaker (Rom. 1-3), the natural man cannot submit to God or His law (Rom. 8.7, 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). Noting that submission to God is a quality of faith’s submissive obedience, it is clear that the natural man cannot come to Christ in faith and coming to Christ is surely something good.  

PART 8 - Click Here

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