Martin Luther on Original Sin

According to the apostle and the simple sense of him who is in Christ Jesus, it is not merely the lack of a quality in the will or indeed merely the lack of light in the intellect, of strength in the memory.  Rather it is a complete deprivation of all rectitude and of the ability of all the power of the body as well as the soul and of the entire inner and outer man.  In addition to this, it is an inclination to evil, a disgust at the good. a disinclination toward light and wisdom; it is love of error and darkness, a fleeing from good works and a loathing of them, a running to what is evil.

– Martin Luther

as quoted by Sproul, R.C.; Grace Unknown: The Heart of Reformed Theology; Baker Books; Grand Rapids, MI; copyright 1997; p. 124

John Calvin on the Augustinian View of Human Corruption

John Calvin followed Augstine in this view of human corruption:

This is the heredity corruption to which early Christian writers gave the name Original Sin, meaning by the term the depravation of a nature formerly good and pure…when it was clearly proved from Scripture that the sin of the first man passed to all his prosterity, recourse was had to the cavil, that it passed by imitation, and not by propagation.  The orthodox, therefore, and more especially Augustine, laboured to show, that we are not corrupted by acquired wickedness, but bring an innate corruption from the very womb.

– John Calvin

as quoted by Sproul, R.C.; Grace Unknown: The Heart of Reformed Theology; Baker Books; Grand Rapids, MI; copyright 1997; p. 123-124

Pelagius Aimed His Guns at This Doctrine

Augustine argued that grace not only facilitates our efforts to obey God, but  because of our fallen nature, grace is necessary.  Before the fall, the requirement for moral perfection was already present.  The fall did not change the requirement, but it did change us.  What was once a moral possibility became, without grace, a moral impossibility.  Augustine’s view is rooted in his doctrine of original sin.  As the debate escalated, Pelagius aimed his guns at this doctrine.

Sproul, R.C.; Grace Unknown: The Heart of Reformed Theology; Baker Books; Grand Rapids, MI; copyright 1997; p. 122

Radical Corruption, Total Depravity and Original Sin

The condition of radical corruption, or total depravity, is the fallen state known as original sin.  The doctrine of original sin does not refer to the first sin committed by Adam and Eve, but to the result of that first sin.  Original sin is the corruption visited on the progeny of our first parents as punishment for the orignal transgression.  Virtually every Christian church has some doctrine of original sin.  Though liberal theology, deeply influenced by humanistic assumptions, often decries original sin, all the historic confessions include the doctrine.  To be sure, the degree of corruption involved with original sin has been a perennial point of debate among theologians.  The consensus of historic Christianity, nevertheless, is that the biblical view of the fall requires us to affirm some concept of original sin.

Sproul, R.C.; Grace Unknown: The Heart of Reformed Theology; Baker Books; Grand Rapids, MI; copyright 1997; p. 121

Is Total Depravity the Same as Utter Depravity?

The term total depravity, as distinguished from utter depravity, refers to the effect of sin and corruption on the whole person.  To be totally depraved is to suffer from corruption that pervades the whole person.  Sin affects every aspect of our being: the body, the soul, the mind, the will and so forth.  The total or whole person is corrupted by sin.  No vestigial “island of righteousness” escapes the influence of the Fall.   Sin reaches into every aspect of our lives, finding no shelter of isolated virtue.

Sproul, R.C.; Grace Unknown: The Heart of Reformed Theology; Baker Books; Grand Rapids, MI; copyright 1997; p. 118

Covenant of Grace

The Westminster Confession declares this about the covenant of grace: “Man, by his fall, having made himself incapable of life by that covenant, the Lord was pleased to make a second, commonly called the covenant of grace; wherein He freely offereth unto sinners life and salvation by Jesus Christ; requiring of them faith in Him, that they may be saved, and promising to give unto all those that are ordained unto eternal life His Holy Spirit, to make them willing, and able to believe.”

Sproul, R.C.; Grace Unknown: The Heart of Reformed Theology; Baker Books; Grand Rapids, MI; copyright 1997; p. 111

The Covenant of Works

The initial covenant God made with mankind was a covenant of works.  In this covenant, according to the Westminster Confession, “life was promised to Adam; and in him to his posterity, upon condition of perfect and personal obedience.”  It is important to note that a “condition” is attached to this first covenant.  The condition is personal and perfect obedience.  This is a condition of works, and this is the covenant’s chief stipulation.  Life is promised as a reward for obedience for obedience, for satisfying the condition of the covenant.

Sproul, R.C.; Grace Unknown: The Heart of Reformed Theology; Baker Books; Grand Rapids, MI; copyright 1997; p. 109

The Covenant of Redemption

The first covenant we consider in the scope of Reformed theology does not directly include human beings, but is nevertheless critically important.  The covenant of redemption involves the parties who work together to effect human redemption: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.  This covenant is rooted in eternity.  God’s plan of redemption was no afterthought, designed to repair a creation run amuck.  With the eternal and omniscient God, there is no such thing as “plan B.”  God worked out his plan of redemption before creation and even before the fall, though he conceived this plan in light of man’s fall and designed it to effect redemption from the fall.

Sproul, R.C.; Grace Unknown: The Heart of Reformed Theology; Baker Books; Grand Rapids, MI; copyright 1997; p. 108

Two Things About God’s Convenants

Two things must be noted in the preambles and prologues to covenants God makes with his people.  First, God has a name.  He is personal, not an abstract force or an amorphous “higher power.”  He is not only a supreme being, but also a personal being who enters into a personal relationship with his people.

Sproul, R.C.; Grace Unknown: The Heart of Reformed Theology; Baker Books; Grand Rapids, MI; copyright 1997; p. 102

Council of Chalcedon, 451 A.D.

At the Council of Chalcedon (451 A.D) the church declared that Jesus was truly man and truly God (vere  homo, vere Deus).  His two natures were not mixed, confused, separated, or divided.  These four negatives established  the borders that guarded against heresy of the monophysite heresy of Eutyches and the separation heresy of Nestorius were rejected.

Sproul, R.C.; Grace Unknown: The Heart of Reformed Theology; Baker Books; Grand Rapids, MI; copyright 1997; p. 84