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Survey of Theology 6. The Doctrine of Human Nature, Sin, and Grace

PDF (Adobe Portable Document Format) and .doc files (Microsoft Word format) of the overheads used in this presentation are available from the Survey of Theology Page or the Download page.

 

Topics

1. The Place of Humanity in Creation

1.1. Implications of Being Made in the Image of God

1.2. Image of God Versus the Likeness of God

 

2. The Pelagian Heresy

2.1. Pelagius

2.2. Pelagius' Teachings

 

3. Augustine's Doctrines of Sin and Grace

3.1. Human Free Will

3.2. Sin

3.2.1. Individual Sin

3.2.2. Original Sin

3.3. Grace

3.4. The Basis for Salvation

 

4. Thomas Aquinas' Doctrine of Grace

4.1. Grace as God's Presence Versus Grace as a Divine Infusion

4.2. Habitual Grace

4.2.1. The Need for Habitual Grace

4.2.2. The Three Facets of Habitual Grace

4.2.3. Habitual Grace as the Basis for Salvation

 

5. The Doctrine of Justification by Faith

5.1. Luther: The Alien Righteous of God and Forensic Justification

5.2. Calvin: the Double Grace of "Mystical Union"

5.3. The Differing Terminology Used by Reformers and the Catholic Church

5.3.1 The Reformer's Terminology

5.3.2. The Catholic Terminology

 

6. Predestination

6.1. Augustine's View of Predestination

6.2. The Reformed Orthodoxy View of Predestination

6.2.1. Synod of Dort

6.2.2. The Angst of Calvinist Spirituality

6.3. Arminianism

6.4. An Anglican View on Predestination

 

7. The Fall = Original Sin

7.1. Where Did Sinful Human Nature Come From?

7.2. Classic Explanation of Sinful Human Nature

7.3. Problems with the Classic Explanation

7.4. The Mystery of "Original Sin"

 

References

 

 

1. The Place of Humanity in Creation

1.1. Implications of Being Made in the Image of God

"

So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them."

- Genesis 1:26-27 (NRSV)

 

 

"

- Talmud (Derech Eretz Zutta 10,5)

 

 

Implications of humankind being made in the image of God (Latin: imago Dei):

  • establishes the fundamental dignity and righteousness of human nature

  • humanity has the capacity to relate to and partake in the life of God

 

 

"

- Philip Sherrard

 

1.2. Image of God Versus the Likeness of God

"Image of God" versus "Likeness of God" was a distinction made by some early Church Fathers, and by the Orthodox Church today:

  • "Image of God:"

    • the human potentiality for life in God

    • what we possess at birth

  • "Likeness of God:"

    • the realization of our human potentiality for life in God, fully achieved only in the world to come

 

Redemption involves bringing the "image of God" in us to fulfillment -- into the "likeness of God"

 

 

2. The Pelagian Heresy

2.1. Pelagius

Pelagius

  • British monk who came to Rome to teach early in the fifth century

  • In 409 A.D. or so after German General Alaric's sack of Rome, he moved to Carthage in North Africa, where his views on human nature, sin, and grace brought him into conflict with Saint Augustine, Bishop of Hippo in North Africa

 

 

2.2. Pelagius' Teachings

Pelagius:

  • Any imperfection in man would reflect poorly on God

  • Humanity therefore had an unflawed freedom of will that was not compromised by any "diseased" tendency to sin

  • God knows exactly what we are capable of and requires of us no more or less

  • We are fully capable of obeying all commands from God

    • ". . . since perfection is possible for humanity, it is obligatory."

  • Not obeying God's commands is sin, a willful act for which there is no excuse

  • Grace is:

    • 1. God's gift of human reason, which allows us to recognize what is sin, and human will, which allows us to choose not to sin.

      • human reason and will are gifts of God and therefore good – not compromised or corrupted in any way

    • 2. God's external enlightenment to guide our actions. Examples:

      • The Ten Commandments

      • the moral example of Jesus

  • Humanity is justified by its merits. Our good works are the product of our autonomous, independent free wills choosing to do what God has commanded us

 

 

3. Augustine's Doctrines of Sin and Grace

3.1. Human Free Will

Human Free Will

  • God has given human beings a free will

  • Our free will has been weakened but not destroyed by sin

    • Our weakened free will is like a pair of scales, one good, one evil, biased on evil side

  • God's grace is necessary to restore and heal our weakened free will

 

 

3.2. Sin

3.2.1. Individual Sin

Individual sin is:

  • a perversity of the will, turning away from God, from that which will bring us happiness

  • a form of bondage, keeping us from that which will bring us happiness

 

 

3.2.2. Original Sin

As a consequence of "the Fall," every human being is born with a disposition to sin which we cannot by ourselves overcome ("original sin")

Analogies for "original sin:"

  • 1. a hereditary disease

    • The Grace of God heals us

  • 2. a power which holds us captive

    • The Grace of God liberates us

  • 3. a guilt passed from generation to generation

    • The Grace of God brings forgiveness and pardon

 

 

3.3. Grace

Grace heals and liberates us, and brings us forgiveness

 

Augustine defined three categories of grace:

  • 1. Prevenient Grace

    • God active in human lives before conversion, preparing the human will for conversion

  • 2. Operative Grace

    • God "operating" on the sinner without any human cooperation

    • Prevenient Grace is an example of Operative Grace

  • 3. Cooperative Grace

    • God working in "cooperation" with a liberated/healed/forgiven human will

 

 

3.4. The Basis for Salvation

The basis for our salvation is:

  • We are "justified" and "sanctified" through the grace of God:

    • The Prevenient Graces of God operate in us and prepares us for conversion

    • The Cooperative Graces of God work with ("cooperate" with) our fallen but liberated/healed/forgiven human will and allow us to perform good works

 

 

4. Thomas Aquinas' Doctrine of Grace

4.1. Grace as God's Presence Versus Grace as a Divine Infusion

  • Augustine: grace is God's gracious attention to humanity

    • simplistically "God the healer" working in us

  • Thomas Aquinas: grace can be like a substance,  a divine infusion working in us and changing our natures (created grace), as well as God's direct presence in us (uncreated grace)

    • simplistically created grace is like "God's medicine" working in us, healing us

 

 

4.2. Habitual Grace

4.2.1. The Need for Habitual Grace

  • Because of the fall, there is a great gulf between God and humanity

  • Human nature is so weakened, so corrupted that God cannot dwell there

  • God gives us a special, permanent grace, a supernatural substance or infusion, a created grace called Habitual Grace, that changes our nature permanently so that we become acceptable to God, so that God can dwell within us

    • habitual = permanent

    • Now commonly termed Sanctifying Grace in the Roman Catholic Church

 

 

4.2.2. The Three Facets of Habitual Grace

Three facets of Habitual Grace:

  • arises out of God's love

  • is a gift

  • causes a response in us (fundamentally changes us)

    • called created grace because the grace includes the aspect of our created response and changed natures

 

 

4.2.3. Habitual Grace as the Basis for Salvation

The presence of Habitual Grace in us is the basis for our salvation, for it changes our nature, making it acceptable for God to dwell within us (slogan: gratia gratis faciens: "grace which makes pleasing")

 

 

5. The Doctrine of Justification by Faith

5.1. Luther: The Alien Righteous of God and Forensic Justification

Luther:

  • asked What makes us righteous / acceptable to God?

  • shared Augustine's view of human nature and will as weakened, biased towards sin

 

Whereas Augustine said:

  • prevenient grace works within us, preparing us for conversion, healing/liberating/forgiving our fallen nature, making us acceptable (i.e. righteous) to God

  • the righteousness is imparted to us, becomes a part of us

Luther said:

  • God imputes (not imparts) righteous to the sinner

    The righteousness does not become a part of us, but remains outside the sinner. Luther called it the "alien righteous of Christ"

  • God "reckons" the sinner righteous even though the sinner is internally unchanged: termed "forensic justification" (the justification, so to speak, is recorded in the forum of a heavenly court)

  • The righteousness of Christ "clothes" us, externally covering / shielding our inner sinfulness in the sight of God. 

    • We are thus both "righteous" and sinners at the same time

  • To be "declared righteous," by God, all that is required is the faith of the sinner (and faith itself is a gift from God)

 

 

5.2. Calvin: the Double Grace of "Mystical Union"

Calvin:

Faith unites the believer to Christ in a "mystical union." This union provides a two effects (a "double grace")

  • 1. believer justified, i.e. declared righteous before God

  • 2. believer can begin process of being made Christlike ("regeneration")

 

 

5.3. The Differing Terminology Used by Reformers and the Catholic Church

5.3.1 The Reformer's Terminology

The terminology used by the Protestant reformers (Luther, Melanchthon, Calvin):

  • Justification

    • The individual "declared just/righteous"

    • The "Justification is by faith alone:" God is active, the human being is passive

  • Sanctification

    • The individual is "made just/righteous"

    • Once justified, the believer can grow in holiness, be made Christlike

      • The beginning of sanctification is called "regeneration"

      • Both the human being and God are active

 

 

5.3.2. The Catholic Terminology

When Roman Catholics at the time spoke of  "Justification" they included in the one term "Justification" what the Protestant Reformers had divided up into "Justification" and "Sanctification." Catholics felt that justification included a sense of both the beginning and the continuation/growth of Christian life. They considered these two aspects of the same thing. The two aspects of the Catholic sense of justification were later divided up into: 

  • Objective Justification = equivalent to Protestant "Justification" = "declared just/righteous"

  • Subjective Justification = equivalent to Protestant "Sanctification" = "made just/righteous"

 

Catholic View:

Catholic Justification = Reformer's Justification and Sanctification

  • Augustine would say: we are justified by God's grace (prevenient and later cooperative) healing / liberating / forgiving our sinful natures

  • Thomas Aquinas would say: we are justified by the God's habitual grace within us, permanently (habitually) changing our sinful natures, making us acceptable for God's indwelling

  • Council of Trent: "we are said to be justified by faith, because faith is the beginning of human salvation, the foundation and root of all justification. . ."

 

"

- McGrath

 

"Protestants speak of a declaration of justice and Catholics of a making just. But Protestants speak of a declaring just which includes a making just; and Catholics of a making just which supposes a declaring just. Is it not time to stop arguing about imaginary differences?"

- Hans Küng

 

 

6. Predestination

6.1. Augustine's View of Predestination

There is a "dark side" to Augustine's doctrine of grace, an extreme that his battles with the Pelagians may have driven him to:

  • Grace is a gift. God can choose to give or withhold this gift.

  • Therefore God's grace is particular, not universal. It is granted only to some individuals.

  • Since human nature is corrupted from the Fall, God's grace is required for it to be healed/liberated/forgiven. That is to say, God's grace is required for salvation

  • Hence only some will be saved

 

From this argument followed the idea of predestination: God chooses who will be saved (the "elect") by deciding who will be given God's grace

  • this is not unjust, for we are all sinners and deserve only condemnation

  • God's choice is inscrutable

 

At least once Augustine suggests there is "double predestination" -- God elects some to salvation -- and elects the rest to damnation. Most of the time, Augustine speaks only of "single predestination" -- i.e. of God electing some to salvation.

 

 

6.2. The Reformed Orthodoxy View of Predestination

6.2.1. Synod of Dort

The views of Calvin and Theodore Beza were formulated by Reformed Orthodoxy in the Synod of Dort 1618-19. The doctrine of this council is often remembered by the mnenomic "TULIP"

  • Human nature Totally depraved

  • Election is Unconditional (not based on merit, achievement, etc)

  • Atonement is Limited. Christ died only for the elect

  • For those who receive God's grace, it is Irresistible. The elect are infallibly redeemed

  • The saints Persevere: those predestined cannot defect from their calling

 

 

6.2.2. The Angst of Calvinist Spirituality

The Angst of Calvinist Spirituality: "Am I really among the elect?"

  • Good works are not the grounds of salvation, but, good works are "the testimonies of God dwelling and ruling within us" (Calvin)

    • a good tree bears good fruit

  • Answer: a believer who performs good works is among the elect

 

 

6.3. Arminianism

Jakob Arminius (1560-1609) was a reformed Minister who opposed the Reformed doctrine of limited atonement (= "particular redemption"). His teachings:

  • Christ died for all, not just the elect

  • God predestined not individuals believers, but a specific group of people for salvation – those who believed in Jesus Christ

  • Individuals who believe in Jesus Christ become part of that predestined group

 

 

6.4. An Anglican View on Predestination

The classic Reformed Orthodoxy view of predestination is not "good news" (= gospel).

 

"God wills to save all people, to bring them to their fulfillment in relation to God and to their fellows (1 Tim. 2:4). God does not will to save only certain persons and to reject others. The doctrine of double predestination turns God into a monster who does not deserve our worship and obedience. It also undercuts human freedom and responsibility and makes the mission of the church pointless."

- Owen Thomas and Ellen K. Wondra, In Introduction to Theology. Third Edition, page 216

 

 

7. The Fall = Original Sin

7.1. Where Did Sinful Human Nature Come From?

The Problem:

  • Human nature is weakened, corrupted, biased towards evil

  • A good God who creates only that which is good could not have intended this. We are made in the image of God.

  • What happened?

 

 

7.2. Classic Explanation of Sinful Human Nature

The classic explanation for a sinful human nature is the idea of "Original Sin":

  • Adam and Eve, our first parents, sinned, losing the holiness God created them with.

  • Sin caused God's wrath and the punishment of death

  • The consequences of this "original" sin is transmitted to all human beings as:

    • a corrupted human nature. It is impossible for us not to sin

    • an inherited guilt for Adam's sin

      • even infants are born with the guilt for Adam's sin and thus under condemnation

 

 

7.3. Problems with the Classic Explanation

The problem with this classic explanation of "original sin" is that the story of Adam and Eve is not historical fact, but must be considered a myth telling us something of the nature of human existence.

 

What is the story of the fall of Adam and Eve and the classic doctrine of Original Sin telling us about human existence?

Haight suggests:

  • "Human existence is fallen, not from a past state, but from its essential potentiality and what it is designed by God to be"

    • "Paradise is not a state at the beginning of the human race, but a utopic symbol of the goal of human existence"

  • Human beings do not simply participate in individual sin, they discover it as an objective power that is already present prior to the exercise of their human freedom

  • The origin of sin is not God. Sin seems to emerge out of the tensions within human freedom.

 

 

7.4. The Mystery of "Original Sin"

The ultimate explanation for why:

  • human beings are created by a good God

  • yet possess a nature such that:

    • all human beings are disposed to sin

    • all humans beings do sin

must be considered a mystery that is related to the mystery of theodicy (the problem of why there is evil and suffering in the world)

 

 

References

"The Doctrines of Human Nature, Sin, and Grace," Chapter 14 in: Christian Theology. An Introduction. Third Edition. Alister E. McGrath, Blackwell Publishers, Oxford, 2001

"Sin," Part 6 in: Christian Theology, Second Edition. Millard J. Erickson, Baker Books, Grand Rapids, 1998

"Sin," Chapter 9, and "Election and Predestination," Chapter 13 in: Introduction to Theology. Third Edition. Owen C. Thomas, Ellen K. Wondra. Morehouse Publishing, Harrisburg, 2002

"Sin and Grace" by Roger Haight, Chapter 7 in: Systemic Theology. Roman Catholic Perspectives, Volume 2, Francis Fiorenza, John Galvin (eds.), Fortress Press, Minneapolis, 1991. 

"God as Creator," Chapter 3 in: The Orthodox Way, Bishop Kallistos Ware, St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, Crestwood, NY 1979

 

 

 

Survey of Theology

 

1. The Doctrine of God

2. The Doctrine of the Trinity

3. The Doctrine of the Person of Jesus, Part 1. Classic Christology

4. The Doctrine of the Person of Jesus, Part 2. Modern Views and Concerns

5. The Doctrine of Salvation in Christ

6. The Doctrines of Human Nature, Sin, and Grace

7. The Doctrine of the Church

8. The Doctrine of the Sacraments

9. Christianity and the World Religions

10. Last Things: The Christian Hope