Division In The Church - The Fall of Man
Division In The Church
The Fall of Man
It is with this doctrine that a rift begins in the ranks of the believers. As we begin this chapter the individual believer must, through his or her study of God's Word, define the fall of man and the effect this has on his free will. All of Christendom believes in the fall of man:
United Methodist: "Original sin standeth not in the following of Adam (as the Pelagians do vainly talk), but it is the corruption of the nature of every man, that naturally is engendered of the offspring of Adam, whereby man is very far gone from original righteousness, and of his own nature inclined to evil, and that continually."
Presbyterian: from "The Westminster Confession of Faith", 1647 I. Our first parents, being seduced by the subtlety and temptation of Satan, sinned in eating the forbidden fruit. (Gen. 3:13, II Cor. 11:3) This their sin God was pleased, according to his wise and holy counsel, to permit, having purposed to order it to his own glory (Rom. 11:32). II. By this sin they fell from their original righteousness and communion with God, (Gen.3:6-8; Eccles. 7:29; Rom.3:23) and so became dead in sin, (Gen.2:17; Eph.2:1; Rom.|5:12) and wholly defiled in all the faculties and parts of soul and body .(Tit.|1:15; Gen.6:5; Jer.17:9; Rom.3:10-19) III. They, being the root of all mankind, (Gen.1:27-28, 2:16-17; Acts 17:26; Rom.|5:12, 15-19; I Cor.15:21,22,45,49) the guilt of this sin was imputed, and the same death in sin and corrupted nature conveyed to all their posterity descending fro m them by ordinary generation. (Psa.51:5; Gen.5:3; Job 14:|4, 15:14) IV. From this original corruption, whereby we are utterly indisposed, disabled, and made opposite to all good, (Rom.5:6; 7:18; 8:7; Col.1:21; John 3:6) and wholly inclined to all evil, (Gen.6:5; 8:21; Rom.3:10-12) do proceed all actual transgressions. "(James 1:|14-15; Eph.2:2-3; Matt.15:9)
Evangelical Lutheran: from "The Augsburg Confession" Art. II- Of Original Sin "Also they teach that, after Adam's fall, all men begotton after the common course of nature are born with sin; that is, without the fear of God, without trust in him, and with fleshly appetite; and that this disease, or original fault, is truly sin, condemning and bringing eternal death now also upon all that are not born again by baptism and the Holy Spirit. They condemn the Pelagians, and others, who deny this original fault to be sin indeed; and who, so as to lesson the glory of the merits and benefits of Christ, argue that a man may, by the strength of his own reason, be justified before God."
Free Methodist: We believe God created man in his own image, innocent, morally free, and responsible to choose between good and evil, right and wrong. By the sin of Adam, man as the offspring of Adam is corrupted in his very nature so that from birth he is inclined to sin. He is unable, by his own strength and work to restore himself in right relationship with God and to merit eternal salvation. God, the Omnipotent, provides all the resources of the Trinity to make it possible for man to respond to his grace through faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. By God's grace and help man is enabled to do good works with a free will.
Independent Baptist: Since each Baptist Church is different in its wording three different statements will be given: 1. "We believe that man was created in the image and likeness of God; that he sinned and thereby incurred not only physical death, but spiritual death which is separation from God; and that in Adam's sin the race fell and inherited a sinful nature, and became alienated from God; and that all human beings are born in sin and are totally depraved and, of themselves utterly unable to remedy their lost condition. Thus man is a sinner in thought, word, and deed, and must be born again to be accepted of God. (Gen.1:26,27; Rom.3:22,23; 5:12; Eph.2:1-3,12; Rom.5-12; John 3:1-21)" 2. "Man- We believe that man was created in the image of God; that he sinned and thereby incurred not only physical death, but also that spiritual death which is separation from God. We believe that all human beings are born with a sinful nature, and in the case of those who reach moral responsibility, become sinners in thought and deed by choice." 3. "We believe that man was created in innocence (in the likeness and image of God) under the law of his Maker, but by voluntary transgression Adam fell from his sinless and happy state, and all men sinned in him, in consequence of which all men are totally depraved, are partakers of Adam's fallen nature, and are sinners by nature and by conduct, and therefore are under just condemnation without defense or excuse (Gen. 3:1-6; Rom.3:10- 19;5:12,19; 1:18,32)"
Evangelical Friends: "Man- His Fall- We believe that man fell from this original state by a voluntary act of disobedience. In this fall man suffered the immediate loss of his perfect relationship to God, making self the center of his life, by this act, he suffered spiritual death, and sin entered the world and death by sin, so that death passed upon all."
All doctrines received are parallel in thought to the statements made above. Man, through the action of his free will, chose to disobey the command of God and through this disobedience became alienated from his Creator. Where one rift begins, so far as this student can determine, is basically in the definition of the term "total depravity". There are two schools of thought concerning this aspect of the fall:
A. Man is totally depraved to the point that he has no ability or desire to reestablish the lost relationship he had with God. His will is unable to acknowledge the presence of God and the regenerative action in his or her life is solely through the work of the Spirit. The ability to make the choice between good and evil so far as spiritual things are concerned comes only after regeneration.
B. He retained, after the fall, the ability to acknowledge his lost state when revealed to him by the Holy Spirit. It is then up to him to make the choice to once again restore the fellowship with God, thus exercising a free will. The ability to make the choice between good and evil, in this belief, comes prior to regeneration.
To show what is meant by this, a comparison will be made using doctrinal statements of opposing views:
Augsburg Confession: Art. IV and V- "Also they teach that men can not be justified (obtain forgiveness of sins and righteousness) before God by their own powers, merits, or works; but are justified freely (of grace) for Christ's sake through faith.......For by the Word and Sacraments, as by instruments, the Holy Spirit is given: who worketh faith, where and when it pleaseth God, in those that hear the Gospel, to wit, that God, not for our merit's sake, but for Christ's sake, doth justify those who believe that they for Christ's sake are received into favor."
The Westminster Confession Of Faith, 1647 Chapter IX paragraph III and Chapter X paragraph I- "Man, by his fall into a state of sin, hath wholly lost all ability of will to any spiritual good accompanying salvation; (Rom.5:6; 8:7; John 15:5) so as a natural man, being altogether avers e from that good, (Rom.3:10,12) and dead in sin, (Eph.2:1,5; Col.2:13) is not able, by his own strength, to convert himself, or to prepare himself thereunto. (John 6:44,65; I Cor.2:14; Eph.2:2-5; Titus 3:3-5) All those whom God hath predestinated unto life, and those only, he is pleased, in his appointed and accepted time, effectually to call, (Rom.8:30; 9:7; Eph.1:10,11) by his Word and Spirit, (II Thess. 2:13,14; II Cor.3:|3,6) out of that state of sin and death, in which they are by nature, to grace and salvation by Jesus Christ; (Rom.8:2; Eph.2:|1-5; II Tim.1:9,10) enlightening their minds, spiritually and savingly, to understand the things of God. (Acts 26:18, I Cor.2:10,11; Eph.1:17,18)
Church of the Nazarene: Article 7- Free Agency: "We believe that man's creation in Godlikeness included ability to choose between right and wrong, and that thus he was made morally responsible: that through the fall of Adam he became depraved so that he cannot now turn and prepare himself by his own natural strength and works to faith and calling upon God. But we also believe that the grace of God through Jesus Christ is freely bestowed upon all men, enabling all who will to turn from sin to righteousness, believe on Jesus Christ for pardon and cleansing from sin, and follow good works pleasing and acceptable in His sight."
The Christian And Missionary Alliance: Articles 5-6- "Man was originally created in the image and likeness of God; he fell through disobedience, incurring thereby both physical and spiritual death. All men are born with a sinful nature, are separated from the life of God, and can b e saved only through the atoning work of the Lord Jesus Christ. The portion of the impenitent and unbelieving is existence forever in conscious torment; and that of the believer, in everlasting joy and bliss. Salvation has been provided through Jesus Christ for all men; and those who repent and believe in Him are born again of the Holy Spirit, receive the gift of eternal life, and become children of God."
Thus we can see two definitions of the fall of man. Both views have their avid defenders and much scripture to substantiate their claims. This rift, unseen in the early church, grew during the reformation as the leaders of the reformation in breaking with the church of Rome denounced any and all human responsibility in regeneration placing the action totally in the hands of God. Today the rift has become a mighty chasm as brothers in Christ stand toe to toe in the argument of "free will" vs. "election". It is sad on this believer's part to hear some preachers even going to the point of doubting their brother's salvation because of this difference. The advocate of free will cries out that a God of love would never allow anyone to die in their sin without an equal chance at salvation, (Ez.33:11; I Tim.2:3-4; Ez.18:23) while those who favor election retort that God can do what he pleases with His creation. (Rom.9:18-24; 11:7; Acts 13:48).
What if any is the common ground upon which both views are based?
1. Both believe in the fall and separation of man from God by Adam and Eve's disobedience.
2. Both believe that the action of the Holy Spirit enlightens man to his lost state.
3. Both believe that the command to repent is given to all men.
4. Both believe that the regenerative action of the Holy Spirit is necessary for the sinner to retain his or her lost fellowship with God.
As far as this student is able to comprehend the difference is not in the action itself (both parties agree to the same actions) but in scope of action (to what degree are man and God responsible to each other in the salvation process).
Did man fall completely so that even if he was shown the truth he would still, because of his Adamic state, choose the evil or has he still retained the ability to perform a righteous act of obedience toward God by accepting Christ as his or her Savior? Does the believer believe because the regenerative work is completed in his life, or must he believe in order for the regenerative work to be done? Does God give each offspring of Adam the benefit of His Spirit or does He chose to withhold it from some, offering salvation and commanding them to be saved, but withholding the only tool they have to attain it, thus allowing them to receive the punishment their sinful nature demands? Would God cease to be sovereign and omnipotent if He desired all men to be saved and all men were not saved?
These are hard questions. The answers to them are found in God's Word, but do they necessitate doctrines which churches must adhere to for fellowship or are they personal beliefs between the individual and his God? To be sure one of the doctrinal stands above is based mainly on the Word of God and the other contains much of man's reasoning. There are men of God in both courts who are heros of the faith, instant in season and out of season, reproving, rebuking, exhorting with all long-suffering and doctrine. Enduring afflictions, doing the work of an evangelist, and making full proof of their ministries. We have been saved by the same precious blood of Christ and are looking forward to spending eternity together with Him in heaven. Perhaps, instead of using the pulpit as a means to denounce each other, they should openly give both sides of the argument and allow the Spirit of God to reveal the truth to the individual, praising God that He even saw fit to give His children a second chance at eternal life through Christ.