Friday, May 1, 2009

Finally Finished Part II of "Original Sin"

Today I finished the final section of Part II of Wesley's "Doctrine of Original Sin." These last pages dealt with Redemption and Regeneration. John Taylor, who Wesley is refuting, wrote that the doctrine of Original Sin was a creation of monks and priests of the Catholic Church and that the truth of the matter is that mankind is through education of the same status before God as Adam was before the Fall. As proof that the doctrine was not Biblical, Taylor maintains that no where in the Gospels does Jesus teach Original Sin to the disciples, therefore, we are not in need of redemption. Wesley disagrees. He states that though the Gospels do not overtly express such teaching, it is implied. The doctrine is treated at length in the Old Testament and is a necessary backdrop to what the Gospels teach us concerning sin. The fact that such teaching does not appear prominently in the sermons of the apostles in Acts is no proof either of Taylor's assertions. Wesley points out that the accounts of these sermons in Acts are only portions of what was preached. One example of the teaching of Original Sin in the Gospels appears in Matt. 18:10, dealing with sharing the Gospel with children who have yet had not the opportunity to sin greatly. They were born in a state of sin. Even the pagan writers were aware of Man's sinful state; Wesley provides quotations as examples. Wesley also points out that Jesus told the disciples that He only taught them what they could bear at the time and that later the Holy Spirit would guide them into all truth. Before such a time, Jesus avoided teaching deeply on this subject because of the disciples unruly tempers and littleness of knowledge. (I suppose that the disciples were still of the same mind as the Pharisees on this subject, thinking that because they were Jews, they were more favored by God than the Gentiles.) Wesley goes on to inform us that he himself does not teach the full doctrine of Original Sin to unbelievers. It is enough to warn them of their own wrong relationship with God; to go into detail concerning this doctrine before the Holy Spirit enlightens the understanding puts a stumbling block in the way of acceptance of the Gospel message.

Now we move to the subject of Regeneration. Taylor states that the doctrine of Original Sin is an insult to God's creation since he insists Man is in the same moral state as Adam when he was created. Taylor believes that it is through our own power that we can live a holy life; so why, he asks, do we need to be born again? Wesley's reply: To be born again transfers us from a state of sin to one of holiness, we become renewed in the image of our creator; we become holy.Without holiness, no one shall see the Lord. We cannot be holy without change from within by the Holy Spirit (whose work on our behalf Taylor minimizes). If we are born in sin, then why should we suffer punishment for failing to be born again? (Taylor) Grace is available to save all. If one is not born again, that person is to blame for failing to avail themselves of such grace. (Wesley) If Adam was created as a righteous being, why did He need a further test? (Taylor) God expected Adam to exercise the holiness God had already endowed him with. Had he obeyed, Adam would have increased in holiness and happiness. His right state did not entitle Adam to a full reward without the exercise of of the holiness already given him at his creation. "Entire holiness does not exclude growth..." (Wesley) What is the effect of the doctrine of Original Sin? We were born dead in sin, children of wrath. Knowledge of this leads to repentance, a true knowledge of ourselves. This leads to a faith in Christ and a true knowledge of Christ crucified. Faith produces love by which we become holy in heart and life. (Wesley)

I still have over 150 pages to read in "Doctrine of Original Sin." Before I proceed any further, I will take notes on Part II. These notes will be the basis of a series examining this work by Wesley on my main blog. When that will appear, I don't know. I will also return to "Jesus and the Eyewitnesses" by Baukham. Also in the works, returning to the four volume work by Tom Oden on pastoral ministry as practiced by the Church from the Church Fathers to the Reformation. I will also begin reading articles by Biblical scholars from the Internet. The first of these will focus on the use of the Old Testament by Jesus and the Apostles.

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