by Natalie Hardt


(Stillwaggon, 2014, pp. 67)

The very reason humans cannot see their true state of depravity that leads to eternal suffering, death and destruction is because of their inability to understand and comprehend who God is, who they are, and the true destructiveness of sin.                                                                                

The Fall has left humanity depleted of grace; however, what remains is an innate ability and basic knowledge of good and evil (McQuilkin & Copan, 2014). There is an ‘ah ha’ moment and a revealing of sorts when a believer becomes cognizant and humbly aware of how blissfully Ignorant they have lived their life up to that point. The believer has been given ‘new’ eyes and ears.

A true believer cannot love God and the world (Matt 6), and will experience the following:

1. Battle between flesh (selfishness) and spirit (other-centered) as the flesh desires to have what it wants and what it wants is sinful pleasures all the time.

2. Heart and mind continually undergoes a process of transformation as they grow to become more Christ-like, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2 ESV).

3. Hold a Christian worldview that sees the world differently than before; truly for what it is, dark, unjust, unfair, cruel, idolatrous, and deceiving with its ruler, Satan (enemy, devil, prince of this world).

4. Expect to be rejected by friends and family; Jesus was hated, expect the same (John 15:18).

Original sin results in the chasm that separates the human race from God, Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross bridges that gap so that believers may enter in relationship with God the Father. Good can only come from good; therefore, God being love, good, holy, and unique to anything that ever was, is, and will be, only creates goodness out of His goodness (Bird, 2013). In Matthew it is confirmed that “A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit” (Matthew 7: 18 NIV). We can establish that the Creator God made Adam and Eve “good”, in addition to blessing them with some of God’s divine attributes (Bird, 2013). Additionally, God through His love bestows freedom on His creation. With freedom comes risk; consequently, it turns out that Adam and Eve’s freedom results in rebellion against God and in turn causes humanity and the world to spiral down in a state of depravation. The door of the knowledge of good and evil opens and affects not only Adam and Eve individually, but also humanity on a whole referred to as Original Sin (Highfield, 2008). Through the coercion of the serpent in Genesis 3, Adam and Eve desire to be more like God, “…when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:4 NIV). The Old Testament clearly presents Original Sin and humanity’s propensity to sin, as Bird says, “there is a clear solidarity between Adam and his progeny so that what is true of the primal representative is true of those whom he represented” (Bird, 2013, p. 681). Examples of this are seen from sin going from eating the fruit, to Cain killing Able, to sacrificing of children to Baal, to the crucifixion of the Messiah.

This corrupt nature of man is not something added nor present in the beginning, but rather was something taken away and became unreachable within the being of the human. In Romans, Apostle Paul addresses the human essence by comparing how humanity was first “in Adam” and then has been redeemed by the “second Adam” in Jesus Christ (Romans 5:12). It is through Jesus that God gifts to humanity the means of bringing His creation back to a state of goodness and holiness so that creation can have a relationship with Him again. The Gospel further illustrates how humanity can find its way from its depravation in mind, body and soul to becoming healthy again and fully human.

When studying the Old Testament and the New Testament, we learn that humans were meant to be healthy. In Psalm 8: 4-6, the psalmist refers to humans as lower than angels and yet were “crowned” with “glory and honor”; and in the New Testament, Hebrews goes on to specifically state that it is through Jesus of whom shared in our humanness while living on earth that shows humanity how to find their back to this state of glory and honor, “shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who hold the power of death – that is, the devil – and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death” (Hebrews 2:14-15 NIV). Back in Genesis 3, it is evident the evil serpent knew exactly how to entice and appeal to Adam and Eve’s desirous nature located in the lower part of the soul (Berkhof). Again, it is because of what human beings lack that has sickened their nature. The New Testament is filled with numerous incidents where Jesus heals the physical, mental, and spiritual infirmities of people. As Matthew puts it, Jesus healed “those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed; and he healed them” (Matthew 4:23-24 NIV).

Sin is the devil’s thoughts becoming our thoughts; what begins as a thought amounts to nothing until it takes root and becomes a stronghold . Biblical examples of how people overcome their sinfulness, include Moses, King David, Daniel, and Apostle Paul (Daniel 3, Psalm 3, Ephesians 5, 6). For instance, Moses was a murderer and had a temper that eventually resulted in not being allowed to enter the Promised Land (Numbers 20:9-11).

Sin attacks in every way possible. Thomas Aquinas held that Adam and Eve had original justice until Genesis 3, “Desire as a fundamental aspect of material existence manifests itself in a more complex manner in Aquinas’ account of beings’ natural desire toward their teleological perfection” (Stillwaggon,2014, p. 65). This is essential in that it shows how desire was “guided by divine intellect, also known original justice” (Stillwaggon, 2014, p. 67); therefore, simply put, “original sin just is the due lack of original justice, the lack of justice that ought to be present by Adam’s will” (Houck, 2016, p. 77). Houck goes on to explain that because something is lacking in human nature, does not mean human beings are not responsible, but rather the responsibility rests on the human will (Houck, 2016). Through classical theology, we learn sin derives from humanity’s lower soul (Berkof). These are characteristics such as ‘self-centeredness’ as opposed to the Godly attribute of ‘other-centeredness’, and ‘enslavement’ as opposed to the Godly attribute of ‘freedom’ (Bird, 2013). As cited in Bird (2013), Kevin Vanhoozer says, “evangelicals need to recapture a passion for biblical formation: a desire to be formed, reformed and transformed by the truth and power of the gospel” (Bird, 2013, p. 31). Desire is not bad until it is rooted in sin; therefore, as written in Romans 8 and Galatians 5, and as Bird (2013) states, human beings can “live obediently to God, to deprive flesh and desire of their power in sin” (Bird, 2013, p.155).

God is the only God and the Creator of all things, as John shows with his words that tie back to Genesis, The Word (Jesus) was present during creation, “through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind” (John 1:3-4 NIV). The concept of humanity from its potential to actual can only be achieved through God of whom is “pure actual” (Highfield, 2008). When Apostle Paul states that through Adam, one man, sin came into the world (Romans 5:12) suggest that although human behavior, if left to our fallen nature, a result of the fall, “we are still agents with intentionality and continue to be referred beyond ourselves to something more wherein lies our final destiny and definitive identity” (Novello, 2009, P. 187). The fact that humans feel guilt is also indicative that our human nature is lacking (Novello, 2009). These feelings of guilt are necessary in that it shows human beings that they are not right by God (Novello, 2009). And we can see how this guilt is able to transform as Isaiah puts it when confronted with feelings of his guilt, “Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched my mouth and said, see this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for” (Isaiah 6:6-7 NIV). Prior to that moment for Isaiah, in verse 5, he becomes aware of his fallen state as a human being and does not think himself worthy to live or even be in the presence of God. In the New Testament, Apostle Paul continually calls himself a “wretched man” (Romans 7:24, 25). Apostle Paul is a great example in the New Testament of being given grace and mercy, and only through Jesus Christ is being restored back to God. When Jesus was on earth, He spoke about the Kingdom of Heaven, and when that comes to its full realization, all of humanity that believes in Jesus as Lord and Savior will be redeemed.

God’s redemption is possible because of His grace, mercy, love, patience, and forgiveness. And the human body, consisting of mind, body and soul, was given by the Creator some of His divine intellect; and if not lost, would have continued in the nature of the human being (Stillwaggon, 2014). Apostle Paul also goes on to say Romans “For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time” (Romans 8:20-22 NIV). As the result and according to John Calvin, all of creation is subject to God and thus according to God’s justice has been cursed (Lamoureux, 2009). God, through His love and omnipotence and omniscience immediately put His plan in motion with Jesus coming down to earth to teach humanity how to live. And when Jesus was set to depart from earth, He sent another Advocate, the Holy Spirit to be among humanity to comfort and guide. Jesus tells His disciples that when He leaves them, He “…will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever – the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. Bur you know him…” (John 14:16-17 NIV).

The Gospel is the good news found in Jesus Christ, where one finds salvation by the grace of God through the power of the Holy Spirit. Because of sin through Adam and Eve, all are sinners from birth, “The Lord saw how great the wickedness of humanity had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time (Genesis 6:5 NIV). Humanity goes from seeing sin when confronted with God’s Law in Exodus and Deuteronomy to gaining some understanding of the human beings’ purpose through Jesus. Guilt is part of the process in dealing with sin resulting in further knowledge of our need of a Savior. As Apostle Paul says, “We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate to do.” (Romans 7:14-15 NIV). Paul acknowledges that humanity lacks the essence of things Godly such as divine nature that is good and holy. Through the Holy Spirit, humanity has been given a path to regain the privation of the good that has been made hidden because of Original Sin (Bird, 2013). It is through our second Adam, Jesus Christ, that humanity has been given hope; therefore, humanity must cling to God through faith and be thankful for His grace and mercy. This then leads to repentance so as to cleanse our sinful human nature so that we may share in everlasting life with God.

Bird, M. F., (2013). Evangelical Theology: A Biblical and Systematic Introduction. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing.  Retrieved from: http://www.gcumedia.com/digital-resources/harpercollins/2013/evangelical-theology_a-biblical-and-systematic-introduction_ebook_1e.php

Berkhof, L.. Man in the State of Sin in Part Two: The Doctrine of Man in Relation to God. Systematic Theology. Retrieved by: https://www.monergism.com/thethreshold/sdg/berkhof/systematic_theology.html

Highfield, R. (2008). Great is the Lord: Theology for the praise of God. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing. Retrieved from: https://lc-ugrad3.gcu.edu/learningPlatform/externalLinks/externalLinks.html?operation=redirectToExternalLink&externalLink=http%3A%2F%2Fgcumedia.com%2Fdigital-resources%2Fwm-b-eerdmans-publishing-co%2F2008%2Fgreat-is-the-lord_theology-for-the-praise-of-god_ebook_1e.php

Houck, D. W. (2016). Natura Humana Relieta est Christo: Thomas Aquinas on the Effects of Original Sin. Archa Verbi, (13), 68-102. Retrieved from: https://lopes.idm.oclc.org/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=123947781&site=eds-live&scope=site

Hybels, B., Mittelberg, M. (1994). Becoming a contagious Christian. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan. ISBN-13: 9780310210085. Retrieved from http://gcumedia.com/digital-resources/harpercollins/1996/becoming-a-contagious-christian_ebook_1e.php

Lamoureux, D. O. (2016). Beyond the Cosmic Fall and Natural Evil. Perspectives On Science & Christian Faith, 68(1), 44-59. Retrieved from: https://lopes.idm.oclc.org/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=113835293&site=eds-live&scope=site

Novello, H. L. (2009). Lack of Personal, Social and Cosmic Integration: Original Sin from an Eschatological Perspective. Pacifica, 22(2), 171-197. Retrieved from: https://lopes.idm.oclc.org/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=58618677&site=eds-live&scope=site

Stillwaggon, J. (2014). The Problem of Propagation: Original Sin as Inherited Discourse. Studies In Philosophy & Education, 33(1), 61-73. doi:10.1007/s11217-013-9362-7. Retrieved from: https://lopes.idm.oclc.org/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=93447361&site=eds-live&scope=site c



Sinful Creatures in Need of a Good God

By Natalie Hardt | 2019

The greatest Christian on earth was the Apostle Paul, of whom saw and acknowledged his wretchedness, “For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do – this I keep on doing” (Romans 7: 19 NIV).

Human beings cannot know God without the Holy Spirit’s transformative work in and through their lives. Galatians 5:22 identifies the Spirit as “love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (NIV); and goes against human nature that is “sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissentions, factions, and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like” (Galatians 5:19-21 NIV). To better understand the war taking place within those that allow the Spirit to guide and grow them, it is important to understand the origin of why human beings are prone to sin. Let me go on a quick detour by saying how essential it is to acknowledge one’s true human nature and deceiving heart. The world likes nothing better than to convince people they are fine the way they are, and if not, well there are plenty of self-help books to make them ‘be their own guide’, so that they can have things ‘their way’ so that they are in ‘control of their destiny’. Advertisements alone bombard with how good and powerful we are without God; this is all part of the enemy’s (Satan/devil) plan. Devil means ‘deceiver’ and Jesus calls out the devil for what he is “the enemy” (Matt 13:39); “a liar” (John 8:44); “a murderer” (John 8:44); “evil one” (Matt 13:38); and “prince of this world” (John 12:31; 14:30). I have encountered non-believers that want to avoid using the word ‘sin’ as if it somehow does not apply to them. This is another subject that can be developed in another discussion; for now, the main point here is to address aspects of humanity’s redemptive story by discussing sin and how we can work in tandem with God’s Spirit to help combat it.

Part of the redemption story is about how the human race has been given the New Covenant, a renewal and final covenant, previous covenants are the Abrahamic, Noahic, Mosaic, and Davidic. Jesus Christ is this New Covenant that replaces the written (Letter) Law given to the Israelite community on Mt. Sinai in Exodus 31:18. The Law was never meant to save, but rather show humanity its sin and its need of a Savior, God Himself. Many Old Testament prophesies point forward to the day when God’s people will be justified through His sanctifying work that will restore His grace once lost because of obeying Satan and not God. This is what Thomas Aquinas refers to as “original justice”, “in eating from the tree of knowledge, the original humans rejected divine wisdom, instead relying upon reason they believed they could internalize, symbolized by the ingestion of fruit from the tree of knowledge, in an act of autonomy” (Stillwaggon, 2014, pp. 67). Where the Law instructs animal sacrifices, because the “wages of sin is death” (Roman 6:23 NIV), the New Covenant replaces and justifies through the Spirit. Faith and not the Law is what saves, “…small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it” (Matthew 7:14 NIV). Once believers respond to the Spirit, natural desire is stirred up within the heart to serve God and others and always consists of sacrificing the flesh and picking up one’s cross to follow Jesus as Lord and Savior. This is how justification through sanctification fulfills God’s promises in the Old Testament and the New Testament.

Formation and Informational

There will be suffering and blessing, sadness and joy throughout a believer’s life as both natures, human and Spirit, live at odds. A changed life is a life that takes on the formative work of the Spirit through His imprinting of Godly attributes that then triggers believer response of performing spiritual disciplines (Strobel, 2013). For example, turning the other cheek in Matthew 5:38-40 which refers to not being offended and is evident in present day America, is a struggle when a Christian is not being led by the Spirit. Willard (1998) says regarding turning the other cheek minus love (God) that “If all you intend is to do that, you will find you can do it with a heart full of bitterness and vengefulness. If, on the other hand, you become a person who has interior character of Christ, remaining appropriately vulnerable will be done as a matter of course, and you will not think of it as a big deal.” (Willard, 1998, pp 107)

Posturing oneself through scripture study, meditation, prayer, and contemplation, the believer invites the Spirit to engage in changing one’s mind and heart. This causes self-reflection that leads to knowing God and oneself more resulting in relationship growth. It is important to state that the more believers see the nature of God’s beauty (the light), the more human nature is evidently seen as darkness and evil. This acknowledgment of sinful nature drives one to repentance; Foster (1988) speaks about the believer’s conscious effort of discipline working together with God’s grace and identifies three catalysts as repentance brings humility, prayer is power, and encouragement from others in Christ (Foster, 1988). The Spirit validates and motivates the believer to repentance, obedience, and self-reflection when the believer invites His glory through engaging in disciplines, not as a good works, but rather in truth and love (Chapell, 2001). Dallas Willard, as cited in Vos (2012) says “prayer has a ‘spiritually strengthening effect’ on every aspect of our personality. It builds our faith and confidence in God. To be done well, prayer will almost certainly be linked with other disciplines…” (Vos, 2012, pp. 104). For instance, prayer can lead to expressions of love that reflects other centeredness as one truly listens to others in need.

Believers through faith are under God’s protection as they experience the Spirit’s sanctification, grace, and mercy; however, as mentioned previously, they are subject to temptations to disobey God, similarly the way Jesus was subject to Satan’s attempts in Matthew 4:1-11. Apostle Paul identifies this duel between a believer’s sinful human nature and God’s holy nature as the process of transforming mind and heart from the “pattern of this world” that results in “test and approve what God’s will is -his good, pleasing and perfect will” (Romans 12:2 NIV). Believers are instructed to put “…on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes” (Ephesians 6:10 NIV). For example, the discipline of ‘prayer’ helps ward off the enemy, as Chapell (2001) puts it, “…we do not have sufficient desire to resist…” and seek to get rid of sin at the same time desire it; therefore, we “pray in the Spirit” so that He may “stir up within us a greater zeal for God” so that we may combat enemy attacks (Chapell, 2001, pp. 150).

Character Formation in Daily Life

Through faith and hope and as I continue to experience character formation, I realize the importance of diligently practicing the spiritual disciplines so that I may be part of what it means to “…go and make disciples of all nations…” (Matthew 28:19 NIV). Having true thanksgiving for the Spirit’s work in my life, as well as my response to Him, requires I develop and cultivate internally obedience through the disciplines. This internal purity will naturally manifest in the external world evident in how I live as I represent the Gospel appropriately. As ambassadors to Christ, the goal is to spread the Gospel and make more disciples; therefore, as I grow, I naturally find I want to do God’s work. I have encountered His blessing that then lends to a deeper intimate experience with Him. Much in the same way any human relationship depends on how much effort one puts in it, whether a husband and wife, friend to friend, or parent to child, my actions matter concerning praise and worship on an individual and community level. Spiritual formation basically requires going beyond recognition to actual experience as a believer feels disconnected to this world and connected to God’s world, His Kingdom on earth, also known as the church (Pettit, 2008). The church is a community of love representative of a family, in the same way the Trinity consists of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Spirit. I am a living testament and have a story to tell about my conversion, who I was, and who I hope to become, that is reflective of my love for God and love for others. This is consistent with the Gospel individually and in community, as one hopes to reflect outwardly the Spirit’s work within the heart (Pettite, 2008).

Always remaining in the Word through study and application remains evident in my life when proper contextualization and interpretation is undertaken. Rather than live in isolation, or hide my faith, I find it freeing to live outwardly, as Matthew puts it, “Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house” (Matthew 5:15 NIV). Unafraid driven by true desire to live one’s faith in a forsaken world, leads to experiencing true joy. Also, the act of partaking in the Eucharist becomes an experience with raw emotion as I commune with Jesus and others in community.

I find mediation and solitude more fruitful when done in nature, away from worldly things and its noise; consequently, contemplation and evaluation concerning my true motives and desires calm me into a demeanor of humility. This results in being better able to listen and respond to God’s will so that my functional call is in line with the Spirit’s will for my life (Pettit, 2008). In those moments in which I am not sure if it is the Spirit’s voice speaking to me, I instantly turn to prayer and at the appropriate time, meditation. I find prayer on the spot and in the moment helpful to my spiritual formation, and when the Spirit convicts me of sin at any time during the day, I immediately respond in prayer and repentance.

Chapell, B. (2011). Holiness by grace: Delighting in the joy that is our strength. Wheaton, IL: Crossway. ISBN-13: 978-1433524424
Foster, R. J.  (1988). Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth. San Francisco: Harper & Row
González, E. (2016). Jesus and the Temple in John and Hebrews: Towards a New Testament Perspective. Davarlogos, 15(2), 39-65. Retrieved from https://lopes.idm.oclc.org/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=121475542&site=eds-live&scope=site
Pettit, P. (Ed.). (2008). Foundations of spiritual formation: A community approach to becoming like Christ. Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications. ISBN-13: 978-0825434693
Stillwaggon, J. (2014). The Problem of Propagation: Original Sin as Inherited Discourse. Studies In Philosophy & Education, 33(1), 61-73. doi:10.1007/s11217-013-9362-7. Retrieved by: https://lopes.idm.oclc.org/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=93447361&site=eds-live&scope=site
Strobel, K. (2013). Formed for the glory of God: Learning from the spiritual practices of Jonathan Edwards. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Books. ISBN-13: 978-0830856534
Vos, B. (2012). The Spiritual Disciplines and Christian Ministry. Evangelical Review of Theology, 36(2), 100–114. Retrieved from https://search-ebscohost-com.lopes.idm.oclc.org/login.aspx?direct=true&db=rlh&AN=75190759&site=eds-live&scope=site
Willard, D. (1998). Spiritual Disciplines, Spiritual Formation, and the Restoration of the Soul. Journal of Psychology & Theology, 26(1), 101–109. Retrieved from https://lopes.idm.oclc.org/login?url=https://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=rfh&AN=ATLA0001001817&site=eds-live&scope=site