Christianity 201

April 20, 2020

Redemption of the Body

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:35 pm
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It’s been awhile since we’ve heard from Russell Young as he’s been busy working on his next book. Today he sent us a much longer piece (just under 8,400 words; usually we’re around 840 words here) and I decided to share the introduction with you, and then if you’re interested in reading it all, send me a direct message or leave the words “send full article” in a comment (your email will not be visible) and I’ll send it to you.

Redemption of the Body

by Russell Young

Understanding Paul’s presentation of the “redemption of the body” is critical because he attaches it to being adopted as a son of God and a brother of Christ. “We ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.” (Rom 8:23)

Paul considered himself to be a wretched man because of the evil that had made him a prisoner to sin.1 He explained that his problem existed because although he delighted in God’s law in his inner being– his soul–, the members of his body always waged war against the law and desires of his mind. The demands and temptations of his body always conflicted with God’s law and what his mind wanted. He concluded that his rescue came through Christ. The Lord also had to fight the temptations of the flesh2 and he required God’s help to be victorious.3 The flesh wields great power over righteous living if not defeated and it must be conquered if the body is to be redeemed from its ungodly interests.

All believers will recognize Paul’s plight and can rejoice in the solution that God has provided. The solution, and the hope of humankind, comes through the presence of Christ in the confessor.4 Only through him, the Holy Spirit, can a person meet God’s righteous requirements. Although the members of the body may continue to wage war against a person’s godly desires, victory can be had. “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.” (2 Pet 1:3) “Through them we can participate in his divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.” (2 Pet 1:4) Peter has presented that God’s divine power comes through our knowledge of him. Knowledge only has power if it is used however, and knowledge of him allows the believer “to participate in his divine nature.” The corruption of the world caused by a person’s evil desires must be overcome.

In Romans chapter 8 Paul has clarified the means of being rescued through Christ, and it must be understood as focusing alone on that issue and its solution.

To make sense of Paul’s understanding, an awareness of the nature of humankind needs to be appreciated. People are a trinity. They are comprised of body, soul, and spirit.

  1. The Body: The human body is physical and was meant to function in a physical world. Like all things physical, it deteriorates with time and use, and for survival must accommodate the pressures of its environment. Because of those influences, it acts to find peace and comfort with its surroundings. It is natural for people to protect their physical being because abuse or injury could cause death and the natural person cannot see any existence beyond his or her physical presence. Consequently, accommodating the physical takes precedence above all else.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Basic Needs identifies the following as issues that the body strives to achieve: survival, safety, love and belonging, self-esteem, and self-fulfillment. These are needs of the natural person and are powerful forces in his or her life. The soul of each person strives to meet his or her basic needs in its own way and to its own degree as well as the body’s desire for comfort. The nature of the body’s needs as understood by the soul of a person often differs from God’s understanding.

The flesh interacts with its environment through the senses: taste, touch, hearing, smell, and sight. Although it gains information through the senses, it lacks the power to respond other than through the built-in autonomic nervous system which regulates key involuntary processes (heart rate, breathing, etc.) allowing its systems to sustain functioning and life. The voluntary actions of the body such as walking, talking, eating etc. are directed by the mind and will, which are part of the soul.

Observation teaches us that all will die and that the body will eventually suffer from injury or disease. Eternity cannot exist in the bodies that those who walk this earth possess.

  1. The Soul: The soul is “the spiritual, rational, and immortal substance in man, which distinguishes him from brutes; that part of man which enables him to think and reason, and which renders him a subject of moral government. The immortality of the soul is a fundamental article of the Christian system. Such is the nature of the human soul that it must have a God, an object of supreme affection.”5 It must be appreciated that the soul is not a substance, however. It is the rational aspect of a being, one’s reasoning ability, or his or her mental disposition. It might be recognized as the aspect of a person that identifies with his or her personality. A soul is within everyone and individuals can be identified by the nature of their souls.

Humankind was created with the unique ability to take in information, to reason and rationalize, to remember, and to direct their actions. Although a soul lacks power, it does have the authority to permit or to reject a spirit’s influence and persuasions. God gave humankind freewill through decision-making and this ability is what distinguishes a person from all other created beings.

It is the soul of a person that controls his or her decisions and the influence of spirits, including the actions of the natural spirit, in his or her life. The way a person habitually responds is known as his or her nature or natural disposition.

  1. The Spirit: The spirit is the life force in a being. Without it a person is absent of the ability to function voluntarily in any manner. The Greek word for spirit is pneuma and means a current of air.6 It is the activating force or essential principle influencing a person’s will. It formulates its decisions based on the functioning of the mind from gained information for the achievement of a person’s goals.

The Bible reveals many aspects of the human spirit.

1. There is a spirit in man (Job 32:8)

2. The human spirit is the part of man that God enlightens. (Proverbs 20:27)

3. The human spirit in believers will be renewed. (2 Corinthians 4:16)

5. When the human spirit departs, the body is dead. (James 2:26)

6. The human spirit was intended to glorify God. (1 Corinthians 6:20)

7. The human spirit was created in God’s image. (Genesis 1:27)

8. The spirit of man can be revived. (Genesis 45:27)

9. The spirit of man can feel suffering. (Exodus 6:9)

10. Various spirits can be given by God (wisdom, knowledge, understanding, all kinds of

workmanship, prophecy). (Exodus 28:3)

11. A person can possess a “familiar spirit.” (Leviticus 20:27)

12. A person can possess disruptive spirits (jealousy). (Numbers 5:30)

13. God can remove unhelpful spirits and place them where He wishes. (Numbers 11:17)

14. God can harden man’s spirit. (Deuteronomy 2:30)

15. God can give evil spirits, lying spirits. (1Samuel 16:14, 1Kings 22:23, Isaiah 19:14)

16. God can stir up (agitate) one’s spirit. (1Chronicles 5:26)

17. Some spirits can talk. (2Ch 18:20)

18. God can motivate one’s spirit for the accomplishment of His purposes. (Ezra 1:5)

19. The spirit can give visions. (Ezekiel 11:24)

20. God is to be served in the spirit, not through the law (flesh). (Romans 7:6)

21. God gives the spirit and it returns to Him at death. (Ecclesiastes 12:7)

It is called a spirit because it relates not to matter but to mind, soul, and feelings. Spirits can be loving, harmless or dangerous, fleeting or powerful, discreet or haunting, helping or hurting. They can inhabitate places, memories, books, or people. The most important fact about spirits is that they have to obey the commands of Christ. If we feel under the power of a spirit we do not want, we can command the spirit to leave in the name of Christ since we are His people, and the devil’s forces have no power over Christians unless they cooperate. It may be simply a matter of a single command spoken in trust of God, or it may be a spiritual battle (Eph. 6:10-17) where we need to draw closer to God in faith and let go of attachments to passing values (1 Tim. 6:6-12).”7

The difference between the soul and the spirit is that while the soul is the psychological aspect or personality of the person, including his or her mental acuity, the spirit is the agent of interaction of the soul with the physical and spiritual worlds and provides motivation for a person’s actions…the dynamic aspect of the person.

The spirit has power, but that power is permitted or denied by the soul. The power of a spirit exists in its source and in its persuasiveness on the soul. The Spirit of God is always more powerful than other spirits8, but those who possess him can deny the exercise of his life in them.

A person can possess many spirits if he or she permits them into his or her life. People need to be careful concerning their engagement with the spirit world. Peter has stated that Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand has angels, authorities and powers in submission to him.9


1 Rom 7:23−24

2 Heb 2: 17−18

3 Heb 5:7

4 Col 1:27

5 Webster’s 1828 Dictionary

6 The Greeks would have understood that without air going into the body, it ceased life. Today, however, we might

think of the spirit more as being a driving force, that which animates the body.

8 1 Jn 4:4 “greater is he that is in you than he that is in the world.” (KJV)

91 Pet 3:21−22



Eternal Salvation - Russell Young - 2Russell Young is the author of Eternal Salvation — “I’m Okay, You’re Okay”– Really? (Lettra Press) 

To read all of Russell’s contributions here at C201, click this link. There is also an extended article at this link

Leave a comment (your email address will not be visible) to receive today’s article in its entirety.

June 28, 2012

Apologetics in Action

I hope none of you feel cheated when I use a video post instead of text, but today I’ve actually got two for you.

The first is Ravi Zacharias shown at his best, taking questions from the audience during what I presume to be a university appearance.  This one is on the subject, ‘Are people born to be good or born to be evil?’

Do you feel Ravi answered her question? Or was he trying to answer, ‘the question behind the question?’

The second one is an audio reading from C. S. Lewis.  It’s a really great explanation of how God can permit free will even though within the range of that free will we choose that which is not God’s ‘will’ for us.

I would like to be able to memorize this (in more contemporary language) to the point where I was able to present this to others. I’ve listened to it three times now, but would next need to take notes to follow the logic of the presentation.

Interesting enough, the Lewis clip was posted to YouTube on the channel ‘Islamic Worldview.’

I Peter 3:15 Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it. (NLT)


Here’s a previous edition of Apologetics in Action from December, 2011.

… And almost exactly a year ago, we featured a number of Ravi Zacharias Quotations.

…Finally from January, 2011, C. S. Lewis on Life, Atheism and God.

March 16, 2012

The Two Worlds Within

To be a Christian is to be following Christ in a world that is dominantly following other standards, other passions, other rules of engagement.  But there are actually several different aspects to this.

The first has to do with time. Have you ever gone ‘state straddling?’ That’s where you stand with one foot in one state and one in another. There are parts of the Canada/US border where you can actually do ‘country straddling,’ with one foot in the USA and one in its northern neighbor (or more correctly in this case, neighbour with a ‘u.’) As believers, we straddle a fence between two realms.

The first Venn diagram I ever saw that talked about the Christian living in two worlds depicted the intersection of ‘this age’ and ‘the age to come.’ We live in that intersection, as part of earthly kingdoms, and part of a kingdom yet to be realized. Fully grasping this is fundamental to understanding salvation in terms like, ‘We were saved, we are saved, we will be saved.’ Such is the complexity and fullness of all Christ accomplished at the cross.

But there is also the dynamic of place. In this world, we are to be called out and set apart to live in the middle of a world that follows different marching orders. There are two forces wrestling for control of each and every one of us, the kingdom of light and the kingdom of darkness.

We’re called to be in this situation, but not of it. We’re called to live in a world where all type of influence may come into us, but where what comes out of us is what matters. We’re called to be affected by all kinds of external stimuli, but to respond uniquely and unexpectedly as strangers and aliens by going the extra mile, turning the other cheek, giving the coat off our back, etc.

But there is a third intersection which takes place entirely within. It has nothing about it that would register externally. There is no behavioral component where person ‘X’ is seen struggling with wanting to do right but finding himself/herself doing wrong. It is completely unseen.

It’s the stuff that today’s scripture quotation (in the graphic above) from Philippians 2 refers to. We were created with ego. That’s it. Pure and simple. We were created with a survivalist instinct that runs completely contrary to the idea of  preferring others. In the NIV, the verse reads,

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves…  (vs. 3)

This type of behavior is not natural. It must be labored at, worked out with fear and trembling. But even then, it can only be fully attained if there is a model for us to follow, to imitate. If someone has gone before and shown us by example that it is possible to live in this time and this place under a law of love.

This third type of internal struggle is for many the most difficult at all. You may live in a mostly Christian culture — even if it’s nominal — where your Christian beliefs are widely held. You may live in a situation that is somewhat devoid of persecution compared to other parts of the world. But I guarantee you that you do not escape the conflict between your egotistical nature and the type of servanthood that the New Testament teaches.

The greatest battlefield we face as Christ-followers is often the battlefield within.


Today’s reading directly alludes to a number of Bible passages without listing references. For homework, see if you can identify the texts underlying what’s written in the paragraphs above. (You can use the comments section to post scriptures suggested in what you read today.)


Today’s graphic was found at the website of Liam Byrnes formerly in England, now serving in Southern Africa with All Nations helping people in poverty. I tried to figure out which translation was used in the graphic but never did. He and his wife also have a ministry blog.

I tried to find a graphic for the first type of Venn diagram online, but couldn’t, so I created one below:

 

December 7, 2011

Deconstructing Depravity, Totally

Oh Oh! We’ve used up our three wishes. Apparently Jim Greer’s writing has already graced the pages of Christianity 201 three times, including some rather recently.  But how could I let this one pass? It’s just too good not to have you all consider this topic. So you can do the polite thing and click over to Not For Itching Ears, or you can simply keep reading the post here which I have stolen borrowed. Jim, I promise, one more and we’ll put you on the payroll.  For the rest of us, I guess instead of reading at the newsstand, we should just buy a subscription…  (Click now!  This means you! Yes, you!)

Could the Doctrine of Total Depravity be Totally Depraved?

Over here at Not For Itching Ears we like to discuss issues that challenge our view of Christianity and the Church.   It is healthy to consider what one believes about the Christian faith and how we express that faith in our corporate church life.  If all we ever do is listen to ourselves, we can inadvertently become the kind of people Paul warned Timothy about:  People who surround themselves with “teachers who say what their itching ears want to hear.”  Today’s post is an attempt to counter that tendency among us as we discuss the Doctrine of  Total Depravity.  To do this, we turn to a passage from  “Reconsidering Tulip”by Alexander J. Renault.  It is written from an Orthodox perspective.

Like many of you, I have always assumed that Total Depravity was a doctrine universally accepted by the church of all ages.  But I was wrong.  It is a rather new concept.  In fact the early church fathers, categorically rejected the idea.  That troubles me a lot.  If Paul understood humanity to be totally depraved or to have a total inability, why did his disciples and the disciples after him flat-out deny it?  Calvinism doesn’t work without this idea, so I can see why we would hesitate to even discuss it.  It wasn’t until Calvin that this idea became the unquestionable doctrine it has become.

I don’t think this article settles the question, but the author does bring out some interesting things that most of probably have not considered.

So, let the Discussion begin…

“The immediate concomitant of the first sin was the total depravity of human nature. The contagion of his sin at once spread through the entire man, leaving no part of his nature untouched, but vitiating every power and faculty of body and soul.” Louis Berkhof

The ontological problem with Total depravity is with the word “nature.” According to Total depravity, our very nature has changed. But what is a nature? In technical terms, “nature” refers to the essence of something—that which makes a thing a thing at its deepest level.

The early church Fathers used the term ousia for nature or essence. God is one nature (ousia) and three persons. Christ and the Father are of the same ousia. The incarnate Christ has two natures—human and divine.

So, if humans are intrinsically sinful in their essence (i.e. “sinful nature”), then God created sin. The Reformed will of course argue, “No, man was created with a good nature, but that nature changed.” But how can a nature change? A nature is the definition of a thing, and can only be defined by the one who creates the thing. What is the nature of a brick, for example? It’s a small, rectangular, hand-held fire-baked building block. If a single brick is broken, it doesn’t change the definition of brick nature. even if someone destroys every brick in the world, that still doesn’t change the definition of what a brick is. It doesn’t change brick nature. A man cannot change his nature any more than a brick could change its nature. Only God can change the nature/definition/essence of a thing. But to do so would make God the author of sin. . . . . . .

To take it to a more personal level, did God make you personally? Did He knit you together in your mother’s womb? If not, then God is not your creator, and I suppose it doesn’t matter what He thinks. But if He did create you, then what kind of nature did He create you with? A good nature, or a sinful nature? The answer that the church has historically given is that you are created with a good nature. You are created in the image of God. You are created to be an icon of God—a picture of God, here on earth.

But like a gold ring in a pile of manure, we are glorious creatures bound by sin and corruption. The nature or value of the gold ring doesn’t change, even if the environment does. Likewise, it is difficult for our true nature to be seen when we’re buried in a stinking pile of death and rot.

. . . . . Again, if sin is intrinsic to humanity, then Adam wasn’t human before he fell, nor will we be human when we’re in heaven, where there will be no sin. But if sin is foreign to our true nature, foreign to the image of god, then it makes little sense to say that we have a “sinful nature” . . . .

. . . . Another major problem is encountered when we confuse person with nature. What is a person? We might say that it is a unique manifestation of a nature. The early greeks used the term hypostasis for person and ousia for nature. Christ is one person (hypostasis) with two natures (ousia). The Trinity is one in essence, but with three persons (hypostases). There is only one human nature (or “humanity”) expressed uniquely in six billion different human persons. . . .

. . . The doctrine of Total depravity states that we are “utterly unable to choose to follow God or choose to turn to Christ in faith for salvation.” This is because, as Berkhof says, we have depraved natures, and we only choose what our nature dictates. In other words, we cannot help but to choose sin, because we have a sinful nature. But is choice a function of person or of nature?  Do people choose to do things or do natures choose to do things? I believe it’s a function of person, not nature.

Think about this idea of person vs. nature with the Trinity: God is one divine nature (ousia) and three persons (hypostases). can “holiness” be separated from God the Father, Son, or Holy Spirit? No, because holiness is an aspect of God’s nature. It is a natural attribute. Can “incarnation” be separated from God the Father? Yes. God the Father was not incarnate, but the Son was. Thus, incarnation is a personal attribute of the second person of the Trinity, not a natural attribute shared by all three persons of the godhead. . . .

. . . . Likewise, sin is a personal attribute and not a natural/essential one. If our choice to act sinfully was from our nature, then that would imply that all of our actions are simply the result of what our nature dictates. But the problem with that line of reasoning is that God Himself couldn’t help but to create, redeem, etc., because it’s His nature and not His personal free choice. This would mean that God created the world not because He chose to, but because He had to, according to His nature. He saved us not because He chose to, but because He had to, according to His nature. I’m inclined rather to agree with St. Patrick of Ireland, who said that the lord “gladly and of His own free will pardoned me.”

We can begin to see how a confusion of person and nature leads to a very limited God with no free choice. . . .

. . . . of vital importance to the discussion on Total depravity, and unfortunately all but neglected by most Reformed in my experience, is the doctrine of the incarnation. This brings the discussion of human nature out of the simply anthropological realm and into the christological realm.

The crux of the matter is this: if Christ did not have a human nature, then He cannot save us. If Christ was fully human, but not fully God, then He cannot bring us up to God. If He is fully God but not fully human, then He cannot come completely down to us and bridge the gap between us and God. The first several ecumenical councils of the church all dealt with this issue.

It is generally agreed among the Reformed that Christ was fully God and fully human. Unfortunately, the implications of this are not always understood by the Reformed. For if Christ is fully human, then He must have a human soul, a human will, a human mind—in short, a human nature. And yet He was without sin. This tells us that sin is not an integral part of human nature, and that one is still human apart from sin. Otherwise, either 1) christ was just as sinful as we are, or else 2) christ wasn’t fully human and can’t really save us.

John 1:14 – And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.

Heb 2:11, 17 – For both He who sanctifies and those who are being sanctified are all of one, for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren … Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High priest in things pertaining to God, to make expiation for the sins of the people.

This Hebrews passage is especially significant regarding Christ’s  human nature. It says that “in all things” He had to be made human.   And yet He was without sin. This would suggest that “sin nature” is in  fact foreign to true “human nature.

For Another interesting discussion on a topic you may have always assumed could not be challenged, see our series of articles called “A Compelling Argument AGAINST Sola Scriptura (Scripture Alone) or our series called “A Strong Argument Against Calvinism?”

~Jim Greer

For today, I’m closing comments here in order to encourage you to generate discussion at the source blog, where Jim is, I’m sure, more prepared to deal with issues arising from today’s discussion than I would be !!  I’m sure that for some of you this strikes at the heart of all you hold dear, but remember that ‘holding dear’ shouldn’t be the basis of establishing a personal, systematic theology for any of us.