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July 27, 2020 12:01 am
What does the Bible mean when it teaches all people are in bondage to sin unless the power of the gospel sets them free? Today, R.C. Sproul studies Jesus' words concerning sin's effects on the freedom of the will.
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Today on Renewing Your Mind with RC Sproul. If there is anything that Jesus ever taught in his lifetime that not only does the pagan world not accept but in the main church of our day does not accept either is the idea that we are by nature slaves to sin. If you listen closely, many Christian circles today. Quite often you will hear the term. Many people say that God would never violate. We all have the ability to choose God. Let's carefully consider what we just heard RC say are we really free to make moral choices during Jesus earthly ministry as we know from the New Testament. He was engaged frequently in some serious debates and at times bitter controversies with many of his contemporaries from the Jewish community. Obviously it was the Sadducees and the Pharisees that were most hostile toward Jesus.
As we read in the account of Matthew's gospel, but perhaps nowhere in the New Testament do we get more insight into these disputes that Jesus had with his contemporaries. Then we find in the Gospel of John and John frequently will simply make reference to the Jews in a somewhat negative vein of reference.
Not one of those controversies that erupted between Jesus and his contemporaries is recorded for us in the eighth chapter of John's Gospel, where in verse 31 in John eight we read this comment that Jesus made to those Jewish contemporaries did embrace him and follow him. Jesus said to those Jews who believed him. If you abide in my word, you are my disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free. Now this positive promise that Jesus gives to those who have embraced him seems somewhat innocuous on the surface, and it's hard to imagine why anybody would take umbrage at that meaningful promise that if you continue on my word, then you are my disciples, you will know the truth and the truth will make you free. That's the last part of that statement that provoked so much antagonism from his enemies. We read in verse 33 they answered him, we are Abraham's descendents and have never been in bondage to anyone. How can you say you will be made free so we see what they objected to. In Jesus statement was the idea that somehow people were going to be made free because in order to be made free presupposes that you are experiencing prior to that liberation some kind of captivity.
Now, obviously, Jesus was not speaking to people who, at the moment were being held in prisons of the day he was speaking to people who were walking around normally outside and for all outward appearances free.
Jesus said to these people.
He was going to make them free, suggesting that they of course in some manner were not yet free and this was the response of his opponents since we are Abraham's descendents never been in bondage. How can you say you will be made free. Jesus answered them, most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin and a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever.
Therefore, if the son makes you free, you shall be free indeed. I know Jesus said that you are Abraham's descendents, but you seek to kill me because my word has no place in you. I speak what I have seen with my father and you do what you have seen with your father and I answered and said Abraham is our father. Jesus said to them, if you are Abraham's children, you would do the works of Abraham. But now you seek to kill me, a man who was told you the truth, which I heard from God. Abraham did not do this. You do the deeds of your father. Now these men are proud of their heritage. They are the descendents of Abraham.
I believe that is the descendents of Abraham. They are the heirs of all of the covenant promises of God, and they don't have to apologize to anybody for their condition.
But Jesus tells them that they are slaves. Slaves who need to be set free and he makes this striking comment anyone who commits sin is a slave to sin only suggest to you at the outset of this study of free will that if there is anything that Jesus ever taught in his lifetime that the modern world does not believe and not only does the pagan world not accept but in the main the church of our day does not accept either is the idea that we are by nature slaves to sin. Now that raises a whole controversy over the nature of man. The nature of human freedom. The nature of free will and what were going to be doing in this course is to look at the historical debates that have raged inside and outside of the church over the whole question of the freedom of the will. But I want to set the immediate context for this discussion, and in this inquiry.
In this dispute that took place in the first century between our Lord and those who were hostile to the one of the things that we see immediately is that those who were disagreeing with Jesus. Assessment of the human condition, though they stood in the tradition of Old Testament Israel and had the benefit of the knowledge of divine revelation that had come down to them through the pages of the Old Testament, though they had been instructed in the historical teaching of the fall of the human race.
Nevertheless, the belief system that they obviously had embraced at this time in history was one that included a pagan understanding of humanity. It was an early form of humanism that had an exalted view of the innate inherent indestructible goodness of human nature, it was inconceivable to these people that they were in fact caught up or held captive in their own souls to the enslaving power of sin in the dispute that Jesus has here is a dispute that Judeo Christianity has had in every century since the days of Jesus.
The dominant view of mankind in our culture today is that of humanism which has a pagan understanding of human nature.
If you look at the polls and read the analysis and hear the assumptions of the modern commentators. Everyone will acknowledge that there is something rotten in Denmark but no one is perfect, that all of us to some degree to our is human. We are told. Nevertheless, the basic thesis of humanism is that however frequently we may stumble and trip into unrighteousness or into evil forms of behavior. Whatever evil affects us is something that is really external to our hearts that basically at the root we are good. Just last year. A Gallup poll was taken among professing evangelical Christians over two thirds of those who were asked the question, do you believe that man is basically good. The respondents answered in the affirmative. I think that's significant because evangelicals more than anyone else have been crying. The pagan influence of so-called secular humanism and all of the evils of modern society have been laid at the door of the secular humanists and this battle of our day between evangelical Christianity and secular humanism is something that is so well-documented. I think were all very much aware, but the irony is that here this poll indicates that the majority of professing evangelicals who decry the pagan influence of secular humanism have already embraced secular humanism and capitulated to secular humanism at the point of their anthropology. That is, we have been influenced by a pagan humanistic view of man, particularly as we seek to understand our own moral power of freedom. In other words, we live in a time where free will has been so exalted in our society that the concept of free will that informs most of our thinking is not a concept of free will that comes to us from the pages of Scripture, but is rather a view of human freedom that has its roots in pagan and humanistic thinking. Now, the issue of free will is a theological question that comes up in several scenarios and several contacts whenever we talk about theology, but fundamentally the whole question of free will relates to to distinct though related theological issues that if were going to deal with the question of free will. It's as though we are engaged in a war that has two fronts to distinct outposts of concern. One has to do with free will as it relates to the sovereignty of God. How do we understand God's being sovereign and our being responsible as free moral agents. That's one question will look at somewhat briefly in a few moments the other issue that comes up with respective free will has to do with the relationship of our freedom to the fall of Adam and Eve that is how our free will is to be understood in light of the theological doctrine of Original Sin.
This, in passing, let me remind you that the doctrine of original sin is not a doctrine that describes the occurrence or the event of the first sin of Adam and Eve, but rather the doctrine of Original Sin has specific reference to the consequences of the fall to the results of the sin of Adam and Eve, and it has to do with the question whether we have inherited from our first parents a corrupt human nature. Now we know there are all sorts of theologies buying for acceptance in our world and in the church out of regards the nominations, but virtually every church that's ever been in the world Council of churches has formulated in their creeds and in their confessions. Some doctrine of Original Sin, not all churches agree at every point as to the extent and to the degree of severity or to the scope of Original Sin, but at least there is this much agreement that there is such a thing as Original Sin and that we are not today in the same moral condition that Adam and Eve were created in but that something has gone wrong and that we are part of a fallen humanity, and I think the reason why every church historically has had to formulate some doctrine of Original Sin is because one cannot read the Scriptures and take them seriously at all without being brought face-to-face with the repeated teaching of sacred Scripture that there is a problem of natural corruption within our souls and our hearts. And so the question then is to what extent has the fall influenced what we call our free will. So again the two distinct issues one hand how free will relates to divine sovereignty questions of predestination and the like, and on the other. How free will relates to our fallen humanity. Now again when we talk about free will or about human volition.
We understand that there are various theories of cosmology and of anthropology that we could subsume under the heading of determinism and determinism in the main simply teaches that the decisions that human beings make which we may assume, arise out of our own desires and out of our own free choices are in fact determined that by something outside of ourselves and a pure naturalistic determinism denies any reality to a human free will, we hear various forms of determinism mentioned in bandied about in conversation.
One is the term fatalism.
Now I don't suppose there are very many if any persons in our society today who believe in fatalism in its classical sense. The term fatalism comes from the ancient mythology that postulated in addition to the existence of the gods and goddesses in the Muses, and so on. You had the face who were somewhat capricious, impish creatures who would torment human beings. Quite apart from the agreement of human beings and from that came the idea of a grimly determined fate over which no one had any control in the idea of karma or fate or destiny is something that some people say is determined by the courses of the stars in the sky says the astrologers would say that you removed your behavior, your fortune today is determined by the conjunction of planets, one to another, and what your birth sign is people every day. Read the horoscopes that appear in the newspapers to see what fate has in store for them in the next 24 hours but that's kind of a crass form of determinism that teaches that our lot or destiny is determined by the stars or by some impish diabolical themes that are sub deities messing around with her a lot more sophisticated forms of determinism are those that are related to a mechanistic view of the universe that argues that everything that happens in the universe happens. According to fixed natural causes that operate like a machine.
And they grind away inexorably and that we are, as it were victims of these physical factors that determine our existence.
Even our thoughts, our feelings, our hopes are all in the final analysis reducible to biochemical reactions that are going on inside of our bodies or on the determining influence of the society around us we remember managers books written a few years ago entitled whatever became of sin and shortly thereafter, an attorney, well-known attorney, made the prediction that in the near future. Murder will no longer be deemed a crime because of the prevailing attitude that people act out their behavioral patterns.
As a result of fixed forces that shape their personality. The influence of their environment. The influence of their home and no one can be really held responsible for their actions because they are not really free to punish somebody for a crime, whether it be murder or theft or anything else is to hold them responsible and to make the assumption that they are able to respond that they do have a say in the matter, and they're not just being carried along by the winds of chance, the idea that our lives are controlled by chance is another one that is closely related to this determinism as irrational as it may be since we know that there is no such thing is chance chance has no power, because it has no being. But this idea of physical determinism has made a quantum leap in our societies thinking in large part due to the behavioral sciences in some degree.
As a result of the influence of BF Skinner who wrote his best-selling book entitled beyond freedom and dignity in which he is saying that we have to disavow ourselves of any illusion of real freedom because we are the net result of the collision of atoms that take place physically and deterministically in our environment and we have to give up our allusion of the dignity that comes from thinking of ourselves as having some determining influence on the outcome of our destinies are of our lives. One of the ironies of course of Skinner's work is that he took the time to write a major book to try to persuade people that there thinking was determined by what they ate, or by their biological makeup, not by a response to same arguments and yet he tried to give a sane argument to convince people that they were never convinced by same arguments, which was self-defeating. Of course, and fell by its own weight and is one critic of Skinner articulated.
He said the only thing that is beyond freedom and dignity or slavery and indignity. Yet that is the conclusion that many have reached that free will is an illusion. In light of the forces of matter that control our destinies and these are impersonal forces, the forces of nature with no reference to God whatsoever and that again free will is an illusion. It is a kind of Pollyanna-ish hope that we have for significance because it's hard for us to imagine that every decision we make has been ordained by natural causes and that we are not really free, and we have no influence over our own lives that reduces us to things rather than acting choosing subjects and takes away any hope of dignity, but there are those, as I say in the culture who are willing to take that step being so convinced that we are the victims of naturalistic determinism.
I will look in the next session of how that relates to the determinism or determination of God as God relates to the decisions we make. That's an important distinction. Are we free to make choices will continue to explore that question all week as we continue Dr. Hersey's role series willing to believe. Thank you for joining us for this Monday. Addition of Renewing Your Mind. Ugly web.
Have you found the topic of free will to be confusing. It's easy to get lost is in it. In the midst of competing opinions on the subject. We like to send you this full series 12 messages on three DVDs when you contact us today with your gift of any amount you will explore important insights regarding free will and divine sovereignty, sovereign grace and the bondage of the will call us at 800-435-4343 to request your copy of willing to believe you can also make a request to give your gift online and Renewing Your Mind.org during his 50 years of ordained ministry.
Dr. Spruill was a prolific author and lecturer. He was known for his ability to communicate deep spiritual truths in an easy to understand way. RC devoted his life to teaching the great doctrines of the faith. This series is a prime example of that.
It is a difficult topic to be sure, but we believe it's important to address it. So contact us today and request the three DVDs that you can call us at 800-435-4343 or you can go to our website and Renewing Your Mind.org. Here's a preview of what will hear tomorrow if God knows that something is going to happen in advance. It's absolutely certain that it will happen. Does that mean that he has forced it to happen.
Does his foreknowledge carry with it the idea of free determining what is going to come in the past. We hope you'll join us Tuesday or Renewing Your Mind